Opinion: Why didn't the G7 organisers pick Norfolk?
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Can you imagine the deep green envy on the faces of Norfolk’s tourism chiefs as they watched Cornwall getting absolutely masses of free worldwide TV exposure earlier this month, with the leaders of the world’s seven most important economies strutting their stuff on the golden sands of Carbis Bay in front of the world’s media?
They might legitimately be asking: if the organisers of the G7 summit were searching for a venue which could offer stunning scenery, the best of the UK’s food and drink, peace and quiet, and a real showcase for Britain – why didn’t they pick Norfolk?
As any estate agent will tell you, there are many similarities between our county and Cornwall. Both are in huge demand from house buyers from London and the southeast, and important though things like countryside and affordability are, they both offer the same magical ingredient: lifestyle.
Those overseas journalists and diplomats whose only previous experience of Britain was London must have thought they had landed in a different country when their planes touched down on the Newquay Airport tarmac.
The whole pace of life, the relaxed demeanour of the locals, the relative lack of stress: all of these must have made an impression. As they do on everyone who ends up moving their life to the far southwest. And just as everyone who makes Norfolk their home soon finds out.
So should we be pitching our county to host the next big international diplomatic summit? And if we did, what could we offer organisers to lure them in?
You might be surprised how many of the answers to that second question are equally relevant to attracting buyers looking to make a new start in their lives.
First, of course is the scenery. We might not have Cornwall’s soaring Dartmoor hills, but our north Norfolk beaches match anything the Cornish can offer.
Then there is the food and drink. Pasties and cream teas are all very well, but Norfolk is the county which produces a full ten per cent of the nation’s food, and our produce easily surpasses that of our southwestern competitors.
Demand has driven up the cost of accommodation in both counties, whether it’s holiday cottages or homes to buy; but according to Rightmove, average house prices are still about ten per cent cheaper in Norfolk.
Cornwall might have more top-end hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants than us, but with new openings such as the Harper in Langham, we are catching up. And in Norwich we have a true regional capital city, something singularly lacking in Cornwall.
Would we want the hassle and the disruption of a G7 summit in Norfolk? Despite the undoubted economic benefits and boost to the county’s reputation that it would bring, I suspect many would say ‘no thanks’.
We seem to be attracting people here through word of mouth, and it’s important that we don’t destroy that very quality of life which brings people here by overselling ourselves. Do we really need posturing politicians to get the message across? Probably not.
The Norfolk magic is very similar to the Cornish allure; perhaps the main difference is that we like to keep a little of it to ourselves.
Jan Hÿtch is residential partner at Arnolds Keys.