Hoveton villagers’ close to securing staithe as public area
Villagers hope historic Granary Staithe in Hoveton will be in public ownership in time for the holiday season.
Norfolk County Council (NCC) has accepted the parish council's £100,000 bid for the site next to Wroxham bridge and contract negotiations are in the hands of solicitors.
The council's vision is to create a pleasant public area with planting, extra seating and a crossing over the dyke at the side of the staithe to provide another entrance to the Riverside Centre.
Interpretation panels will tell the history of the staithe where wherries once moored to unload grain for the site's former granary.
Parish councillor and local businessman Peter Howe has steered a fundraising appeal since the site –presently an eyesore in a key holiday area – was put on the market at the end of last year.
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Public meetings were held to gauge local opinion on the project and since then Hoveton residents and businesses have contributed about £20,000 in donations. The parish council has taken an £80,000 low-interest loan from the government loan board to cover the rest.
Mr Howe said: 'Although there was a rival bid of a higher figure, NCC accepted ours because of the public interest.
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'Nevertheless, although our bid has been accepted, we cannot yet consider the staithe to be ours until the contractual negotiations between our solicitor and Norfolk Property Services' solicitor are concluded.
'We don't expect that these negotiations will be protracted.
'Many thanks are due to all the parishioners who supported our plans and those who have donated so generously to our appeal.'
He stressed that it would not be necessary to raise the parish precept to cover the repayments as the council had made provision for this eventuality.
A parish council working party was already making plans to tidy up the staithe and to consider what needed to be done in the way of improvements.
Mr Howe said: 'We would like to bring together a small group of local residents to form the nucleus of a team to be responsible for the day to day upkeep of the area.
'Even if we have not exchanged contracts by April we will be talking to NCC about clearing up litter and making it tidier in advance.'
In the longer-term, the parish council will be consulting villagers about a second phase of improvements which would require extra funding.
Ideas already put forward have included building a bandstand for musical entertainment. Villagers have also suggested that the staithe could be used for craft markets and events such as morris dancing.
If you are interested in becoming a 'Staithe Guardian' contact Mr Howe either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 01603 783096.