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'Surprise' as council puts brakes on North Lodge car park plans

PUBLISHED: 12:02 15 December 2016 | UPDATED: 17:18 15 December 2016

North Lodge Park campaigners Chris Boddy and John Edwards welcomed the decision. Picture: ALLY McGILVRAY

North Lodge Park campaigners Chris Boddy and John Edwards welcomed the decision. Picture: ALLY McGILVRAY

ALLY McGILVRAY

North Norfolk District Council's development committee has voted against the local authority's plans to build a car park at a local beauty spot - because they breached its own policy.

Campaigners have welcomed the decision which it says safeguards the future of one of Cromer’s top visitor attractions.

North Norfolk District Council had applied for a change of use for the former tennis courts at North Lodge Park to pave the way for a new 47-space car park and public toilets.

But, earlier this year, local residents voiced their objections to the plans in a parish poll.

Speaking after the development committee meeting at local authority headquarters this morning (Thursday), local resident Chris Boddy said: “I am absolutely delighted. It’s good to see the will of the people being listened to.

“Whatever happened there never seemed to be any justification for a car park. We could not find a reason why the council was investing so much time and so much aggravation without any proper reason behind the proposal.

“I hope they won’t come back. I hope they will spend some of the money they have on a very good children’s playground in the area and that will bring more people into the town for the benefit of the traders and everybody else than a car park would ever.”

The council had argued it needed to find more ways of making money to avoid a £1.5m budget deficit over the next three years and, it claimed, the new car park would drive more visitors to the area - and boost businesses in the east end of town.

But Glaven Valley councillor Karen Ward revealed she was “surprised” members were being asked to approve the application when it breached the council’s policy to protect open spaces.

Councillor Sarah Butikofer, who represents The Runtons Ward, agreed. She said: “If we go contrary to policy on our own application how can we not go contrary to policy on other applications?”

The local councillors for the Suffield Park Ward - where the car park was proposed - were divided on the plans.

Councillor John Lee withdrew his support after the council refused to attach a condition to the plans which would prevent a future expansion of the car park - which he claimed would be “detrimental” to the park.

Councillor Nigel Pearce supported the plans, stating that the parish poll was not representative of Cromer as only 12 per cent of voters turned out.

He claimed the tennis courts should be considered a brownfield site and not a greenfield site because it was “a mess”.

Councillor Pearce said: “I can understand no-one wants to see a car park in front of their house.” But he added: “If a man or woman can’t bring their car into town they won’t come. I think it will benefit not only the park but benefit the Friends (of North Lodge) and the town centre.”

Four objectors were invited to address the committee ahead of the debate - Cromer mayor Tim Adams, local residents John Edwards, Mr Boddy and Ruth Bartlett - while only one - council officer Duncan Ellis - spoke in favour.

Mrs Bartlett said the park was an asset to Cromer and should be treasured.

The meeting heard creating a new entrance and exit to site from Overstrand Road, by knocking down the boundary wall and imposing on-street restrictions, would only result in a net benefit of 27 new parking spaces.

Mrs Bartlett said: “That wall is part of the architecture of Cromer and to bash a hole in it is not on. The park is an asset of seaside town and should be treasured - it’s a beautiful park.”

In the end, councillors voted 8-2 against the proposals.

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