Yarmouth Jetty: Council accused of “secrecy”

THE council has been accused of “secrecy” after it emerged demolition workers were signed up to rip the historic jetty apart nearly three months ago.

Campaigners say they first learned that the famous landmark, with links to Admiral Lord Nelson, was to be destroyed when diggers rolled up to the seafront on Monday morning.

And while the council voted to destroy the dilapidated jetty because the �350,000 repair bill was too high, the final decision was made by bureaucrats 180 miles away in Birmingham.

The contract to demolish the jetty was let on October 20 last year and final approval was given by the Government Office for the West Midlands on behalf of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

Michael Boon, former chief executive of Great Yarmouth Port Authority, was a leading light in the campaign to save the jetty. He said: “It’s sneaky that the demolition started before anyone had the chance to do anything about it.

“It’s a poor state of democracy when something like this can be driven through against so much advice.

“I think I will be writing to the council about how this has been carried out.”

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But Cllr Charles Reynolds, deputy leader of the council and chairman of the development control committee that sealed the jetty’s fate, insisted everything was above board.

“No-one’s trying to hide anything,” he said. “Everybody was more than well aware of what was going to happen after the announcement was given that the jetty wasn’t going to be listed.”

He said the council had hoped to knock the jetty down in spring 2011, but after planning delays set them back they decided to wait until after the holiday season to avoid disruption at the seafront.

And when they ran into further difficulties last October, work had to be delayed until this week.

Campaigners have also voiced concerns that contractors are ripping the jetty apart without an archaeologist watching on to ensure ancient parts of the structure are not damaged.

Planning conditions mean the council must “allow access at all reasonable times to any appropriately qualified archaeologist nominated by the local planning authority” to allow them to preserve any finds of historical worth.

But while the county council’s archaeologists are aware of the demolition, no-one has been on site.

David Gurney, historic environment manager at Norfolk County Council, said this is because there was nothing of historical worth in the fabric of the jetty - having decayed over time.

He added: “Everybody recognises what’s there will not have any historic significance, but as a place and a main way into Yarmouth from the sea it’s got significance.”

Contractors are also required to extract the jetty’s piles vertically, so the surrounding ground will not be disturbed.

Demolition and refurbishing work is costing around �90,000.

A council spokesman said the contractor was aiming to be able to recycle some of the steel and concrete, and the jetty would be marked with a plaque at the sea end once it is gone.