People power wins in Gorleston prom parking battle

JUBILANT campaigners are hailing the success of a determined public rebellion against plans to add parking to Gorleston’s popular lower prom.

Protesters have held hands up against the scheme raising petitions and staging a mass rally, saying there was sufficient parking locally and that adding more spaces would impact on safety.

But this week, having listened to local views at the end of a three-week consultation, the borough council signalled it was ready to bow to public pressure and withdraw the controversial proposal - the subject of dozens of letters to the Mercury.

Dennis Durrant, 76, of Brett Avenue, Gorleston who formed Gorleston Action Group (GAG) to fend off the scheme said success was the only possible outcome against a “muddled” proposal.

Although thrilled that Gorleston had stood up so vehemently against the plan he said the saga could have been nipped in the bud at the outset had the council consulted people first.

“To paraphrase my ward councillor - it’s a good thing,” Mr Durrant said. “I woke up in the night and all that was on my mind was this blessed plan. It had no dimensions and one of the spaces looked like it was directly at the bottom of the Avondale Road steps. I wondered if I had dreamed it. I think the council had a funny moment.

“But they spent an awful lot of money doing the plan before they consulted. If they had listened to the 1,600 people who signed the petition first then things might have been different.

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“I was 100pc positive that we would be successful. Everyone I was meeting was absolutely inflamed and I thought ‘I am going to win this one’.”

Sally Smith, of Victoria Road, a prominent campaigning voice, said it was “a victory for common sense and democracy”, adding: “The difficulty for Gorleston is that it is not represented by its own town or parish council. If we do feel strongly about something we just have to crawl out of the woodwork and do it ourselves.”

Charles Reynolds deputy leader for the Conservative group and portfolio holder for parking said he was surprised the “well-intentioned” plan had stirred so much strife.

Conceived as a way of helping visitors and traders in the peak summer months he said he had expected the extra free parking to be welcomed as a “relatively easy and inexpensive” solution.

He said: “Having been the person responsible for initiating the proposed extension to car parking on a small section of Gorleston lower promenade, I was responding to calls from local residents, business and traders for some extra parking in the immediate area. Earlier in the year I visited the site on many occasions, only to see a constant stream of cars full of families trying to park in the area, then turning round and leaving because the area was full to capacity.

“It seemed to me that an extension to the parking onto the lower promenade, would be a relatively easy and inexpensive way of assisting local people and traders. At the time we thought it might add around 40 to 50 extra free parking spaces. By the time the plans went in, this was brought down to 26 spaces because of the size of area proposed, and the need for cars to turn safely.

“This was a well-intentioned plan to assist business in what are very difficult economic times, however after listening to local residents, and considering the consultation documents, it is clear that this plan has been overwhelmingly rejected by local people, and after talks with cabinet colleagues and Gorleston local councillors the application will be withdrawn.”

A three-week consultation period ended on Friday leaving officers in no doubt that residents not only opposed the proposal but felt there was adequate parking.

Steve Ames, group leader, said: “Planning applications have to follow due process and this application was no different. The planning process allows for local people to submit their views on an application and the council then considers those responses, before making a decision.

“On this occasion it is clear that residents in Gorleston do not want an increased amount of parking on the Lower Esplanade and feel that parking in the area is already sufficient.

“Great Yarmouth Borough Council is a listening council and as such we have heard the views of Gorleston residents and we have withdrawn the application.”

Trevor Wainwright, leader of the Labour group said: “I am pleased that the Conservative administration has listened to both residents and Labour councillors, and decided to withdraw the planning application for car parking on Gorleston’s Lower Esplanade.

“I now hope that they listen again to the residents of Great Yarmouth, and support the retention of residents parking in Zone A.”

Meanwhile Mr Durrant said the action group, buoyed by success, was ready to man the barricades in defence of Gorleston on a number of other issues. “I think we have set up a template,” he said.