Traders appeal to Pontins site owners
FRUSTRATED beachside traders sent a clear message to the owners of the former Pontins site in Hemsby this week: Do something!At a packed meeting in the village on Wednesday there was applause after businessman Lewis Bevan told Northern Trust representatives: “If you don't know what to do with it, put a For Sale sign up and let one of us buy it.
FRUSTRATED beachside traders sent a clear message to the owners of the former Pontins site in Hemsby this week: Do something!
At a packed meeting in the village on Wednesday there was applause after businessman Lewis Bevan told Northern Trust representatives: “If you don't know what to do with it, put a For Sale sign up and let one of us buy it.”
Pontins closed suddenly in January 2009, bringing to an end the site's 90-year association with the holiday industry.
Northern Trust had called the meeting at the Lacon Arms for villagers and traders to come up with suggestions on what they want to see on the 22-acre beachside plot.
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As well as suggesting ideas and voicing concerns, many among the audience supported what has been dubbed the “Eden Project of the East”.
The meeting was the latest in a number of public consultations, and comes after previous suggestions by Northern Trust to use the site for housing divided opinion and met fierce resistance from some quarters, including Great Yarmouth Borough Council which doesn't want to see the loss of a valuable tourism site. The housing suggestion was prompted after consultations with villagers, many of whom wanted it to go for new homes.
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John Anderson, representing Northern Trust, told the audience: “We are here today to hear your ideas, as it is you who run the businesses here and you who know the customer best. Anyone who has suggestions for something they think might work, would benefit the area and be profitable we are happy to listen to - it's an open forum.”
Other suggestions put forward for the site - which it was agreed could potentially be split up and given mixed use - was a tourism centre, a sports complex and a crafts centre.
But the “Eden Project” attracted most support, with one businessman saying it could be a “world class attraction.”
The man behind the project, Simon Middleton, whose company Norfolk Leisure hopes to put in a bid for the site in May, clarified that, despite its “Eden” nickname, his project would only be similar to its namesake in appearance and eco-friendliness.
Describing a “high value” holiday resort, in which around 600 people could stay, he reassured villagers that facilities would be available for them to use and that it would not be a “closed site” but one in which its visitors “used the community around it”.
The widespread show of support for the suggestion was in contrast to the cynicism when repeated attempts to hear what specific ideas the company had for the site were felt to be evaded, and some of the audience labelled the meeting a PR exercise.
Mr Bevan, whose family run a number of businesses in the area, added: “There is an unwritten contract between people in the tourist industry around here and Pontins let us down.”
However, the audience were told that a wide range of options were still being considered by Northern Trust, and that discussions were taking place with interested parties.
Alexis De Pole, a planning consultant working for Northern Trust, said: “It's not in anyone's interests to let this drag on, but these things take time, and it's probably an indication that we are really listening to all the options being presented.”