Gorleston food and drink kiosk plan re-heated

A CONTROVERSIAL seaside kiosk, sensationally ‘sunk’ last year by local planners, has been re-floated by a Government inspector.

The project to turn the old first aid hut at Gorleston into a food and drink outlet was turned down a year ago by planning committee members, acting against the advice of officers who backed the scheme.

Now the scheme has been given planning permission on appeal, with the inspector taking an opposite view to those who held their hands up against it saying it will “add variety” and be a “significant benefit” to the area.

Campaigners, some of whom ran businesses on the nearby parade, fired off letters and collected a petition saying they wanted to protect the character of Gorleston, saying the resort was a magnet for families who liked it just the way it was and valued its untouched charm. Others said the redundant building, where children were once treated for weaver fish stings, should be knocked down to make way for more seating and that the scenic seafront was fine just as it was.

Planning inspector John Felgate, however, sided with the applicant Jay Formosa, whose efforts modernising and remodelling Jay Jay’s Beach Cafe, also in Gorleston, last month earned him a prestigious tourism investment award.

Mr Felgate said there was no evidence the hut would drain trade away from other nearby outlets, also selling snacks, teas and coffees and ice creams, or threaten the viability of the parade.

The prospect of people queuing there was also not a problem he added, the footway being wide enough for everyone.

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He also noted that 11 of the 18 units on the Lower Esplanade are cafes were takeaway shops – one more being unlikely to have an effect on vitality – and that the kiosk added to the vibrant seaside scene.

“Pavement kiosks and stalls are a feature of the seaside and are appropriate to the character of a holiday resort, adding variety and activity to the street scene and a convenient facility for tourists.”

The proposed new roof and alterations would bring improvements within a conservation area and bring and unsightly structure back in to use, he said, adding: “In my view this would be a significant benefit to the area. I fully recognise the strength of local feeling on all matters raised, but I must determine the appeal objectively, on its planning merits.”

However, Tracey Kelly, of Dimascio Ice Creams, who with other traders fought against the scheme, said she was both astonished and disheartened by the inspector’s decision, given that he had visited and seen the spot for himself.

There was nothing in the report, she said, to dispel fears about blocking the way for people out for a seaside stroll. “I think there will still be a lot of people up in arms about it,” she added. “The report does not seem very fair but he visited out of season – so maybe that did not work in our favour.”

Traders launched a rival plan, which was unsuccessful, to provide a police point at the first aid hut, pooling �8k a year to take it over. Ms Kelly added that some people had “mixed feelings” saying the applicant had done a good job at the beach cafe and were prepared to wait and see.

Mr Formosa said he had no plans to develop the first aid hut for the coming summer season, and hoped that his proven track record of adding an improved facility at Jay Jay’s would help win over some of the doubters.

Outdoor seating will not be allowed at the site, which is opposite the trampolines and inflatables.

And, because of its distance from homes, will have unrestricted opening hours.