Objection to Pontins plans

This is a copy of my formal objection to the current planning application to redevelop the former Pontins site in Hemsby.

22nd June 2018

Application Reference: 06/15/0441/O 

Dear Mr Minns,

I am writing to comment on the above application in my capacity as the elected Member of Parliament for Great Yarmouth, which includes the village of Hemsby.

Before commenting on the application in detail, I will set out a number of general observations in relation to the former Pontins site and the application. Hemsby is a vibrant village, with a strong community atmosphere, and, largely within the Beach Road and Newport area, retains a strong and proactive tourist industry. However, one of the most pertinent issues raised by local residents is the need to find a solution to the ever-decaying former Pontins site. There is considerable will amongst the local people, to find a long-term solution to the site, however, that does not necessarily mean that this application is the correct one.

It is clear to me that the majority of the local community wish for the site to be retained for tourist use. This has been evidenced by the strength of local opposition to previous applications, and also more recently when I conducted a community survey in the village.  This resulted in an absolute majority backing the retention of tourism use on the site. As such, whilst I agree with the applicant’s assertion that the village wants to see a positive future for the former Pontins site, it is clear that the villagers and applicants do not share the same definition of ‘positive’ in this case.

The former Pontins site remains the last large-scale site between the largely residential area of the village and the Beach Road/Newport Road holiday facilities, and as such is the most logical and viable area for any growth in the tourist offer of Hemsby. Significant sums have recently been invested in Hemsby by local businessmen. This, when combined with a number of other recent positive developments within the borough’s tourism industry, suggests to me that the viability of possible tourism uses is currently increasing, and the land could still be used for an employment-related purpose.

I should also make it clear that I am not opposed to development or housing construction. I fully appreciate the need for more good quality homes to be built within our borough, and also agree that there are many locations within our rural communities, where housing developments are appropriate and needed. However, that does not extend to blanket approval for all sites without consideration of the wider context of the borough’s local plan and potential impact on other tourism location within Hemsby and the borough.

Turning to the application itself, in its current form, I am unable to support it. The application would reduce the amount of land potentially available to tourism by over 75%, which is simply unsatisfactory to the local community. As I understand it the application area is still designated for tourism use and I strongly feel that the potential precedent set by this application could have negative longer-term consequences for the borough.

This application is contrary to several aspects of Section 8 of the Core Strategy (promoting tourism, leisure and culture). In addition, I don’t believe its development as a housing site is necessary to fulfil the council’s housing supply requirements. The Core Strategy Section 2 (sustainable growth),  clearly states that development in the first instance should be focused on the Main Towns and Key Service Centres, rather than Primary Villages such as Hemsby. Of the proportion of housing projected for the Primary Villages, I feel that this should be evenly, where possible, distributed amongst the villages and the inclusion of this application could place disproportionate and frontloaded development within Hemsby.

In summary, this application, if approved, would result in a significant reduction in the potential bed capacity of the Hemsby Tourism Industry, act as a hindrance to the future development of the Beach Road/Newport Road tourism hub, and place disproportionate development in a single Primary Village. As such, I hope that the Committee is minded to stand up for local residents and reject this application.

Yours sincerely,

Rt Hon Brandon Lewis MP

Member of Parliament for Great Yarmouth