Setback for Holt parking plan

Long-awaited plans to relieve congestion and parking problems in the centre of Holt have suffered another setback.

Long-awaited plans to relieve congestion and parking problems in the centre of Holt have suffered another setback.

Local environmentalist and town councillor Dr Martin Jolliffe stunned a meeting of the town council by revealing that he had written to the secretary of state for communities and local government asking her to call in a decision to allow a 380-space car park on land off Thornage Road.

Describing himself as a committed environmentalist who joined the council with a blatantly environmental agenda, he said he had made the move to protect wildlife on land surrounding the proposed site close to the Glaven Valley.

But Dr Jolliffe incurred the wrath of both fellow councillors and members of the public. He said: "I made my position clear from the start when this was first proposed. I have been involved in issues concerning the Glaven Valley since December 1990 and have been consistent in my position. My agenda is to put any concerns of the Glaven Valley ahead of other commercial considerations."

Dr Jolliffe said he believed there were numerous alternatives to the Thornage Road site, including the possibility of a park-and-ride scheme.

The saga of increasing parking facilities for shoppers in Holt has rumbled on for more than five years.

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After years of searching for a site, officials finally thought the problem had been cracked when landowner Graham Chapman offered a field off Thornage Road in 2005.

Plans for the privately-funded and run car park were approved by North Norfolk District Council in January 2006, subject to conditions.

Secretary of state Hazel Blears has yet to decide whether she will call in the decision but if she does, it could hold up the start of building for months, which many in the town fear could have an impact on businesses.

Speaking during the meeting's public session, businessman and former town-council chairman Mike Hill, who runs Picturecraft in Lees Yard, said: "The town is now inaccessible and will fall in on itself if nothing is done.

"Instead of writing to the secretary of state, someone needs to get their head out of the sand and realise that we have a serious problem."

Last night, district councillor for Holt Michael Baker, who has fought for more parking for many years, expressed his concern at Dr Jolliffe's actions.

Pointing out that people coming from the surrounding area were the lifeblood of businesses in the town and that traffic fumes from cars waiting to park also had a huge environmental impact, he said: "This could certainly set the car park back again. Dr Jolliffe is out of step with the majority of people in Holt."

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