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Residents’ anger after potential historic smugglers cellars ‘destroyed’ on building site

PUBLISHED: 11:04 28 November 2018 | UPDATED: 11:04 28 November 2018

The site of the building work on East Quay. Photo: Elizabeth Hurcombe

The site of the building work on East Quay. Photo: Elizabeth Hurcombe

Archant

A Wells resident has described the town’s ‘anger’ after building work on the site of historic cellars which may have been used by smugglers was told to continue.

Residents believe the cellars may be of historic interest. Photo: Elizabeth HurcombeResidents believe the cellars may be of historic interest. Photo: Elizabeth Hurcombe

The district council gave planning permission in October last year to JPC Environmental Services, a subsidiary of JP Chick & Partners Ltd., to convert land next to a holiday let into a two-storey property, despite objections from residents and the town council.

And residents now say they have spotted the top of half-buried cellar arches on the controversial site on the town’s East Quay.

But they say despite informing North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) and Norfolk County Council (NCC) of the site’s potential historical value, the developer was given the go ahead to continue working.

Elizabeth Hurcombe, who lives close to the site, said: “Quite a few people did alert NNDC [but] it was decided to allow them to carry on excavating.

They reported the find to NNDC and NCC who said building work could go ahead. Photo: Elizabeth HurcombeThey reported the find to NNDC and NCC who said building work could go ahead. Photo: Elizabeth Hurcombe

“Workmen destroyed the cellars before anything could be done.

“There is obviously a lot of anger in the town over the way in which this application has been supported by NNDC.”

District councillor Vincent Fitzpatrick said: “I was really excited to hear about the cellars.

“Wells has been a port for many years and they may have been part of a smuggling operation.”

Mr Fitzpatrick said there had also been a pub on the site from the 1830s , which he believed had been demolished in 1939.

He said: “I got in touch with our officer team to make sure appropriate steps were taken.

“Assessments were conducted but they didn’t have the capacity to inspect the site and said building work could continue.”

He added: “I know residents are very unhappy about him being granted planning permission.

“I fully understand why but it wasn’t in the council’s power to turn it down. I asked for it to be referred to building committee.”

He added: “I fully sympathise with the people who objected.”

County councillor Dr Marie Strong said NCC’s Historic Environment Team were alerted, who considered the application.

She said: “NCC Environment Service was contacted NNDC following concerns raised about the discovery of cellars.

“Photos were provided by of the remaining arch and a description was provided by the developer.

“NCC’s assessment is that the cellar is 19th century and of low significance as a heritage asset.”

READ MORE: Anger as widely opposed modern quay house gets planning approval

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