Work begins to transform Victorian Cromer toilet block into ‘unique’ surfing base

A 'unique' facility that combines a surf school and a lifesaving club looks set to be ready to launch in a vacant Victorian toilet block next spring.

After a series of delays, work began today to refurbish the block on Cromer promenade, at the bottom of the Red Lion steps.

North Norfolk District Council will rent the western half of the new facility to Ben Kewell, who will use it as a base for Glide Surf School, which he has been operating from the beach nearby for five years.

He also aims to use it for a surf equipment shop.

And the eastern half will be rented by North Norfolk Surf Lifesaving Club, which helps volunteer lifeguards and surfers to improve their fitness and lifesaving skills.

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The facility is believed to be the only one in the UK to combine the two. And the nearest surf shop is thought to be in either Kent or Scarborough.

Mr Kewell said: 'I've been building the surf school up. As soon as I got it established, I thought there would be potential for the shop to follow on from that.

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'There have been surf shops in the past that haven't quite succeeded, and I think you need the lessons to create the interest.'

He said he was hoping to get into the refurbished building before Christmas, with the aim of launching it in time for the new surf school season in spring 2012.

The toilets closed in 2006 when the Rocket House opened. With the pier toilets also available, the Red Lion toilets were deemed to be surplus to requirements.

A district council spokesman said: 'We hope, if the weather allows, that the work will be completed by Christmas, to allow time for the tenants to fit them out by next spring.'

He said the original costs of the project - �92,000 - were 'above what we could afford to pay'.

The costs were eventually reduced to the current �67,000, but he added that 'the original contractors then had to pull out through ill health'.

That triggered a second tendering process, which was won by Reeve Property Restoration of Stratton Strawless.

Karl Read, leisure and cultural services manager at the district council, said: 'It's fantastic news for Cromer. It's a good combination of a local community club partnering with a private business to provide opportunities for people in and around the town.'

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