Flats plan for key Cromer site described as “old persons’ barracks” as application thrown out for a second time

Cromer's closed courthouse and police station.

Cromer's closed courthouse and police station. - Credit: Archant

An application to demolish Cromer's old police station and courthouse and build retirement flats on the site, has been thrown out for a second time by planners.

Members of North Norfolk District Council's (NNDC) development committee believe the McCarthy and Stone scheme for 34 apartments and communal facilities would be a 'mediocre' replacement for the loss of part of Cromer's history, dating from 1938, within its Conservation Area.

Earlier this year NNDC rejected a similar plan for 35 apartments because of concerns about the cramped site, and design. McCarthy and Stone has appealed against that decision and a hearing is due to take place next month.

The amended plans were described in an officers' report to the committee as 'largely the same', on the same footprint, but with an altered frontage.

Tim Bartlett, who spoke against the plan at the meeting, on behalf of Cromer Town Council, said that tourism was vital to Cromer and many visitors arrived at the railway station across the road from the site.

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The town council was 'dismayed' at the prospect of visitors being greeted by a keynote building which 'only signals its use as an old persons' barracks,' said Mr Bartlett.

Phil Godwin, NNDC's conservation, design and landscape manager, described the building as 'monolithic' within the Conservation Area and at a very important entrance to the town.

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He did not believe its public benefits outweighed the harm which would be done to a heritage asset.

'It is not a positive contribution to Cromer in the long run,' said Mr Godwin. 'It isn't 'architecture of our time'. It's mediocre and should be resisted.'

He added that McCarthy and Stone were all ready advertising the apartments on their website which Mr Godwin said was an 'insult' to the committee.

Martin Mence, on behalf of McCarthy and Stone, said the building represented a multi-million pound investment in Cromer and its residents would spend their money in the town.

It met a need for housing in an area with a high population of elderly people.

The character of the current buildings had been very much diminished by poor-quality later additions, said Mr Mence.

McCarthy and Stone had addressed concerns raised when its original plan was refused and the new building reinforced the significance of the site, reflecting the characteristics of the building.

But councillor Pauline Grove-Jones said the revised design took architecture backwards.

She added: 'If this is modern architecture, God help us. This is a utility building which maximises the developer's profit.'

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