Controversy over lack of big screen action

STEPHEN PULLINGER The controversy caused by a Norfolk resort's decision to buy three big screens at a cost of £900,000 has reignited after it emerged one of them has been out of action for more than six months.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

The controversy caused by a Norfolk resort's decision to buy three big screens at a cost of £900,000 has reignited after it emerged one of them has been out of action for more than six months.

Despite more than £3,500 already having been spent on replacement parts, the landmark screen in Yarmouth Market Place is still in the dark - as are council bosses to the underlying cause of the fault.

The three screens - the first to be seen along the Norfolk coast - were bought out of the borough council's £16m InteGreat regeneration budget with the aim of promoting events and attractions in the resort.

However, the breakdown of the £200,000 Market Place screen has led to renewed claims that the purchase has been a “colossal waste of money”.

Town centre manager Jonathan Newman said: “I was miffed when I noticed half the picture missing at the start of November because I had been getting ready to use the screen to advertise our Christmas fair and late-night shopping.

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“Christmas came and went, and then Easter, and now we are missing the chance to advertise the town's beer festival later this month and summer events, including the music festival in July. This is what I thought the screens were about.”

Council spokesman John Hemsworth confirmed the screen had been damaged by a power surge, and there had been an

initial wait of several weeks for the delivery of parts.

The replacement of these parts, including nine power supply units costing £435 each, had failed to fix it and engineers from the supplier had now been called back to investigate the true scale of the damage and what it would cost to repair.

Opposition Labour leader Trevor Wainwright last night said he would be calling for an urgent report on the screen's failings through the council's scrutiny committee.

He said: “We are in the 21st century and it is an absolute nonsense that it has been out of action for so long.

“It is outrageous when you think the screens represent nearly £1m of InteGreat money.

“Two of them are only used on the seafront during the summer and, with hindsight, it looks like they have been a colossal waste of money.”

Mr Wainwright questioned whether the screens could and should have been protected against the power surge that caused the breakdown.

Bert Collins, the council's cabinet member for tourism, denied claims the screens had been a waste of money, highlighting the successful way the two on the seafront had been used to broadcast World Cup matches last summer.

But he admitted: “We did expect to get more out of them than we have done, and possibly we rushed things at the beginning to get the screen in the Market Place operating in time for Christmas 2003.”

He stressed that money for the screens had come out of European funding rather than council taxes, and the authority was investigating whether it could claim for the ongoing screen expenses on its insurance.

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