Cromer’s unique architectural heritage goes under the microscope

Cromer's unique architectural heritage is set to go under the microscope with the first full-scale review of the town's conservation area in 36 years.

Public views will be sought over the coming months on a draft plan which includes proposed boundary changes, excluding two areas of Cromer within the current conservation area.

Planners are also keen to recognise the contribution of modern 'signature' buildings which they believe have enhanced the townscape in recent years.

North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) conservation chief Phil Godwin believes the 'long overdue' review will give Cromer the best possible protection against 'gradual erosion' of the town's character.

It would also help preserve the results of mid-1990s investment in historic building repairs and public areas.

Mr Godwin, conservation, design and landscape manager, said Cromer also had to guard against insensitive alterations and extensions to properties, and national retailers erecting 'clone town' shop fronts and signs.

NNDC has been in a long-running and unresolved dispute with frozen food giant Iceland over the signs used on its Church Street store in the town.

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Mr Godwin told a recent meeting of the council's Planning Policy and Built Heritage Working Party that Cromer had one of the most outstanding conservation areas in the district and the view back along the pier was among the most impressive in the whole of the east of England.

Among Cromer's key characteristics he listed landmark structures such as the parish church, pier and Hotel de Paris, distinctive architectural styles and details, dominated by the Victorian and Edwardian periods, an impressive landscape setting with the town perched on the cliffs, and a resort atmosphere.

But views were blemished by large caravan sites to the west and some 1950s buildings, including parts of Church Street, were unattractive, he said.

Mr Godwin said there was 'minimal' public money available at present for improvements but he added: 'What we can do is use our role as the Local Planning Authority to encourage people to do the right thing. It doesn't necessarily follow that you need money to make quite substantial improvements.'

Raising public awareness of Cromer's built heritage, re-defining the conservation area's boundaries and drawing up a list of buildings of local interest would all help give planners clout when dealing with applications unsympathetic to the town's character.

Working party members agreed with Mr Godwin's view that Cromer's contemporary Rocket House Cafe and the North Norfolk Information Centre were both worthy of inclusion in a local list of natable buildings.

The draft conservation area plan follows the existing boundaries - from the beach, into and beyond the town centre - but excludes an area to the west of the town, including Morrisons supermarket, the town end of Central Road and the old cemetery, and a second area to the east, at the back of The Meadow, including The Croft and Richmond Court Gardens.