Bid to find tourism compromise for former Hemsby Pontins site

The Former Hemsby Pontins Holiday camp.

The Former Hemsby Pontins Holiday camp. - Credit: Nick Butcher

A fresh move to provide a new tourist facility on a former holiday camp has been launched after a plan for new homes was thrown out by borough councillors.

An application to build 200 houses on the former Pontins site in Hemsby was refused by six votes to five at Tuesday night's meeting of the development control committee.

Now, committee chairman Cllr Charles Reynolds has asked the borough's chief planning officer Dean Minns to go back to landowners Northern Trust before it has a chance to launch an appeal to see if they would look at incorporating a small tourism or leisure facility at the Beach Road end of the site.

Cllr Reynolds said: 'I thought one more try would not go amiss. I generally feel if they come back with a small tourism use on Beach Road they could achieve what they are needing and it would answer some of the objections from Hemsby.'

Alexis De Pol, a planning consultant working with the owners of the site Northern Trust, said they would wait for the borough council's planning decision notice to come through before they made up their minds about launching a planning appeal.

The borough's refusal came despite a recommendation in a report by the planning officers that the outline plans should be accepted.

The plans put forward by Northern Trust would have seen the 21-acre site turned into a housing estate with two acres allocated for commercial use with a community facility.

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Keith Kyriacou, chairman of Hemsby Parish Council, said he was pleased with the decision.

'We are a village not a town. Three or four brownfield sites are going to be built on in the village over the next five years. Will the infrastructure be able to cope then?

'We know houses are going to be built in Hemsby, that is not a problem. Just let them give something back for tourism.'

Mr Kyriacou said: 'I personally feel the government is blackmailing councils into letting houses be built anywhere.'

On Tuesday councillors were told the borough could get £1.5m from the government's new homes bonus if the homes were built, but they may lose this if they were built following a successful planning appeal by the applicant, as the government is currently reviewing the bonus.

The council could also be liable for any costs of a planning appeal if they were to lose.

At the planning meeting Alexis De Pol, representing Northern Trust's plans, said the derelict site offered nothing for the local community in Hemsby and is an eyesore.

He added: 'This proposal will not only regenerate the site but also contribute to helping the borough in meeting its significant housing requirements.'

Mr De Pol said the site had been marketed for sale a number of times between September 2010 and early 2015, but no potential buyers had come forward who were committed to retaining the site for tourism use. He said the land had been offered for sale in parts and no minimum land cost was put in to try to entice a buyer.

Cllr George Jermany questioned why no price had been set when the site was marketed.

Mr De Pol said: 'The purpose of not putting a price on is not to put off any potential buyers. Northern Trust explored every use possible and did not turn anything down.'

Cllr Michael Jeal asked whether the site would be more valuable if it was sold for housing or tourism.

Mr De Pol said an offer was accepted for part of the site to be used for tourism but the potential buyer walked away.

Around 30 people filled the public gallery in the council chamber and were vocal throughout the proceedings.

Cheers erupted when it became clear the plans had been refused by councillors.

Four public meetings were held in Hemsby where over 400 people turned out to voice their opinions.

The holiday centre closed eight years ago, and at its peak could accommodate more than 2,000 people. It had boasted a swimming pool and arcade, both of which were closed in the years before the site shut.

When the site finally closed in 2009, 55 jobs were lost in the village and it has since fallen into disrepair.

The boundary for Hemsby parish runs around the site with homes on one side and holiday lets at Bermuda Holiday Park and the Florida Estate on another.

Plans to build houses on the site had already been rejected three previous times before the decision on Tuesday.

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