Is Norfolk infected by a debilitating fear of change?

PUBLISHED: 08:24 13 September 2019 | UPDATED: 12:46 13 September 2019

Arcady in Holt Road, Cley, which is owned by theatre director Adam Spiegel, has caused outrage locally 
Pictures: David Bale

Arcady in Holt Road, Cley, which is owned by theatre director Adam Spiegel, has caused outrage locally Pictures: David Bale


Is the row over an eyesore home in Cley really about planning laws?

Norfolk is beautiful.

Hardly a controversial statement that. Who wouldn't fall in love with the quaint villages, sparkling waterways and sprawling coastline?

And Cley and the surrounding area in the north of this extraordinary county is quintessentially Norfolk - pretty, bucolic and, sadly, often violently resistent to any kind of change.

Humans and change have a troubled relationship. That is understandable. If the current situation is comfortable why shake it up?

The Harvard Business Review lists 10 reasons why people fear change: Loss of control, uncertainty, surprise, things seeming different, loss of face, concerns about competence, things becoming harder, ripple effect, past resentments, pain.

The Review states that leaders who want to enact change need to overcome the majority of these problems to make any new regime work.

And yet it is change that brings progress. Change, or evolution, is what makes species stronger.

Cley is currently rocked by a planning row. London theatre producer Adam Spiegel and his wife Gay have been accused of turning their bungalow into an "eyesore".

Personally I like it. But then I have a picture of west London's hugely divisive Trellick Tower on my bedroom wall. The brutalist masterpiece - designed by Erno Goldfinger and opened in 1972 - is loved and hated in equal measures. James Bond creator Ian Fleming even named one of 007's toughest adversaries after the architect.

The Spiegals' striking new home is no Trellick Tower though. Called Arcady it is a tasteful, modern building behind a large gate and even boasts a swimming pool.

But blimey ... it has caused an almighty brouhaha in sleepy Cley.

It appears the couple did not have the required planning permission and the council have demanded their country retreat is razed to the ground. Appeals have been lodged to save Arcady and what happens next is anyone's guess.

Obviously planning laws are there for a reason. But I fear the real reason behind the anger locally is not that but a deep-rooted fear of change which infects not only Cley but great swathes of Norfolk.

Full disclosure - I am not a native. I have been out East for some time now but I originate in Yorkshire. The first time I ever visited this glorious county was back when I was a student - and it took me hours and hours to get here from the North thanks mainly to the A47.

Chatting in the pub after my horror journey I asked the question: "Why hasn't the government sorted the A47?" Back home we were blessed with two and three lane roads linking major towns and cities.

The response from one local stunned me: "We don't want a new road. We don't want a load of folk coming here." Basically "we fear change".

Just because something is new or different shouldn't make it bad. Is the real anger aimed at the Spiegals' home because they apparently haven't got the correct permissions or is it because it looks like nothing else nearby? Or is it just because they are out-of-towners?

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Let's park the row over Arcady.

What is more important here is whether this fantastic county actually wants to progress. Do we want a modern, thriving Norfolk that has super-fast 5G broadband, better infrastructure and distinctive buildings in our towns and cities and beyond?

Or do we want the managed decline that comes with standing still?

Already there are plenty of examples of Norfolk losing businesses and jobs because of the criminally bad road system connecting Norwich to the rest of the country.

Norfolk needs to be more aggressive - build that road, build that housing estate, build that modernist mansion and swimming pool (planning permission permitting of course).

Embrace change Norfolk. Or risk stagnation.

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