Should Gorleston have its own town council?

Your Town - Gorleston. The busy Gorleston High Street. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Your Town - Gorleston. The busy Gorleston High Street. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

Where does Great Yarmouth end and Gorleston begin?

Most people would locate the boundary at the junction between Beccles Road and High Road, near Gorleston Fire Station.

Julie Woods, manager of the Shrublands Youth and Adult Centre Charity Trust, agrees.

But the question is not only about geography.

"People think Great Yarmouth represents Gorleston, but we're separate, we're different," Ms Woods says.

Julie Woods, manager of the Shrublands Youth and Adult Centre Charity Trust. Picture: Daniel Hickey.

Julie Woods, manager of the Shrublands Youth and Adult Centre Charity Trust. Picture: Daniel Hickey. - Credit: Archant

"We've both got the seafront and the High Street but Gorleston just does things slightly differently.

"Gorleston is a more stable community, whereas Great Yarmouth is more of a transient community."

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When we asked people in Gorleston how they feel about the town some of the most frequently used words were "quiet", "friendly" and "community".

Ms Woods speaks about "keeping the Gorleston identity separate from the Great Yarmouth identity".

Gorleston seafront. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Gorleston seafront. Picture: Jamie Honeywood - Credit: Archant

Our survey also suggested that some people perceive interference from the borough council in the character of Gorleston.

The feeling is that Town Hall wants to make money out of the town, especially the seafront, and therefore make it more like Great Yarmouth, more commercial.

Cllr Carl Smith, the council leader, said: "Gorleston seafront has seen significant investment by the council in a new free-to-use splashpad and the fantastic new beach huts.

"Neither of these great new facilities are currently available in Great Yarmouth and the aim of this public investment is to enhance Gorleston's distinct offer, boost visitor numbers and grow the economy for everyone's benefit."

But when residents were asked what they would like to see change about the town some mentioned a separate council, outside the borough.

If this were ever to happen it would be part of a trend.

Over the last decade more than 350 new parish and town councils have been created across the country.

Justin Griggs, with the National Association of Local Councils (NALC), says it is "quite common, with people wanting more power over local issues".

"The wider context of this is people do feel as though they could have more control over their communities.

"It is no surprise the creation of parish councils is on the increase," he says.

Gorleston is made up of four wards - Gorleston, Claydon, St Andrews and Magdalen - with ten borough councillors representing an electorate of almost 18,000 people.

The town is also represented at the borough level by the Gorleston Area Committee, where borough and county councillors meet with representatives of various local community and neighbourhood groups every couple of months in the town's library.

Concerns over identity, maintaining and nurturing what makes the town unique and not a suburb of Great Yarmouth, are not new in the town.

The uncertainty can be traced through Gorleston's history, with one local expression - "Gorleston was Gorleston 'ere Yarmouth began" - suggesting the town was built before its bigger sibling.

While that bit of history is debated, less in doubt is that until the 19th century Gorleston was part of Suffolk.

It was not until 1832 it became part of Great Yarmouth for electoral purposes and three years later became part of Norfolk.

Councillor Trevor Wainwright, of Magdalen ward, does not think there is an appetite for a separate council.

"It was talked about once for Gorleston but they couldn't get enough support for it, and it kind of fizzled out," he says.

"Gorleston is part of the borough, which runs from Hopton to Winterton.

"We are very supportive of Gorleston and want to see it retain its unique character.

"Things come up, like Ferryside, or planning applications on the promenade.

"These come up as part of the normal planning process.

"Sometimes people in Gorleston do get concerns, because everybody talks about the Golden Mile and Great Yarmouth but Gorleston tends to be forgotten, but it's certainly not forgotten by the local councillors."

Councillor Marlene Fairhead, of St Andrews Ward, said: "This has been an issue since I've been a councillor.

"I know that some people would say we should have our own council.

"Look at Belton, Hopton, Caister, have parish councils which can deal with issues.

"Because Great Yarmouth and Gorleston don't have those.

"We have a very good area committee we hold in the library, we do get people who come along with issues.

"It is a big feeling that we should have our own council.

"There are people in Gorleston who say Gorleston was here before Yarmouth and Gorleston should be in charge," the councillor says.