I recently received an email from Barry Meadows of the Friends of North Lodge Park relating to a proposal by North Norfolk District Council for a car park and new public toilets in the Park.

My observations are as follows:

When I was growing up in Cromer the Park consisted of two hard tennis courts (site of the proposed car park), a bandstand/stage that was used for entertainment of the public (particularly at Carnival time), a bowling green, public shelters, well-used putting greens and gardens with public seating. Due to general neglect by the local authority and a lack of investment, the Park has gradually been allowed to degenerate over the years. The tennis courts are long gone, the bowling green has now become a football playing space for local youths, the putting greens are not in use, the gardens are unkempt and hedges uncut. The NNDC blames this sorry state of affairs on a lack of financial resources. That is a matter for debate as money is often found for projects many local people would consider of lesser worth.

Thanks to the work of the Friends of North Lodge Park the area has been improved over the last couple of years. The reopening of the cafe staffed by volunteers has been a great success and has brought the Park back to life again; however, as an asset for visitors to the town and the local people the Park is still lacking in some respects. In particular, there is no playground for children, the absence of which in a public park is somewhat odd. The site of the proposed car park would seem to be an obvious location for such a play area.

Cromer has over many years suffered from poor planning. There are obvious examples of this in some of the more “modern” buildings and the chaotic state of the traffic management in and through the town.

What are the main factors rendering this proposal a very bad idea?

  • The new access that will have to be made for vehicles to enter and leave the parking area will be too close to the sharp corner a short distance along the road.
  • The No Entry at the bottom of Overstrand Road with Cliff Avenue will aggravate the traffic situation. Motorists are confused by this ill-conceived restriction and often hesitate, stop suddenly or carry on to the lights completely ignoring the signs and road markings. A second traffic access point into the Park at this point would create further hazards for motorists and pedestrians.
  • The need for a car park at this end of the town to aid nearby businesses is a bit of a smokescreen. Many will remember there was a car park at the bottom of Cliff Avenue many years ago. The need for that was obviously not considered pressing because it was closed and the site built on.

The one good thing about this proposal is the construction of a new toilet block for the public on the site of the old stage building. The condition of the current toilets is poor and this improvement is overdue.

Many local authorities are struggling to balance the books these days and are cash hungry. This proposal is for a car park to generate revenue and with so few spaces the cost can hardly be justified. If it goes ahead another part of a public space that has been enjoyed for years by locals and visitors will be lost.

Mr Meadows sets out a strong case to oppose the plan in his mail below. If you agree with him please make your feelings known to the NNDC.

The car park proposal

Proposed Car Park North Lodge Park

North Norfolk District Council have submitted plans for a car park in North Lodge Park, with conversion of the old bandstand to public toilets.

In summary the proposals are:

  • a 48 space car park, with 6 disabled spaces, wholly on the old children’s play area (‘concrete area’);
  • conversion of the old bandstand into public toilets;
  • no trees to be removed and additional trees planted;
  • a new opening onto Overstrand Road to facilitate car entry and exit with styling to match the existing entrance; a ‘heritage style’ height restriction bar;
  • surface to be shingle style in a plastic grid;
  • lighting to be low level;
  • no other improvements to the rest of the Park.

There are a number of points to be addressed to improve these proposals, such as

  • one objective is for the car park to serve the businesses at the east end of Cromer, but there is no easy way for pedestrians to exit the car park onto Overstrand Road and to that part of town;
  • there is a lack of clear pedestrian routes through the car-park;
  • the rear transfer areas to the disabled spaces conflict with the routes for cars;
  • the number of parking spaces restricts available roadway in the car park which suggests vehicular movement round the area will be difficult
  • there are no details about intended traffic flow to and from the proposed car park, nor details of signage outside the Park and the impact on traffic movement in Cromer is unclear;
  • implementation of measures that reduce traffic into North Lodge Park itself through the current entrance from Overstrand Road should be within this project .

Putting the proposals in context

How would it benefit our Park?

The old children’s play area (sometimes known as ‘the concrete area’), where the car park is proposed is not a brownfield site: it is a core part of the recreational space in the Park.  The area has been left to deteriorate for a number of years, used for a waste transfer facility and more latterly a builders’ yard, but previous to that it has always been an area of recreation.  Key questions to answer are; “Is a car park the best use of this part of the Park considering the Park as a whole and how would it benefit our Park?”

Policy Questions

On paper the current proposals seem to be counter to many of the council’s core policies (see footnote).   These policies can be summarised to say that any development of an open space must improve that space.  It could be argued that the car park is an improvement to the current state of the old children’s play area.  But that’s a bit like saying putting a new uPVC front door on a dilapidated Listed house is an improvement while the rest of the house falls down.  The car park is like the new front door while the rest of the Park continues to deteriorate.

 The whole park

NNDC policies support our strong belief, that the Park needs to be seen as a whole.  NNDC are developing plans to work with a strategic partner for the long term sustainability of the Park (with a Prior Information Notice, PIN, providing information and seeking ‘bids’ from anyone interested in ‘managing’ North Lodge Park). We would like clarity on how NNDC see this project in the context of those plans for the proposed management of North Lodge Park.  The income generated by a car park would fund the Park and take away future costs and liabilities from NNDC.

Summary

It could be argued, particularly by the 50% of respondents to our latest survey who said that you could accept – with caveats – a car park in North Lodge Park,  that if a car park is inevitable then this proposal is about as good as we’ll get from NNDC.   However, apart from providing parking for the Park, thereby increasing accessibility and footfall, these proposals take from the Park rather than give.  These are proposals for part of the Park without the context, costs and benefits of plans for the Park as a whole.

This is a big decision for Cromer, and we need more information to make it an informed decision.  We have written to NNDC requesting the fuller picture and will keep you informed..

Do let us know what you think.  More importantly let NNDC know!

Barry Meadows

Footnote: NNDC policies that the car park proposals seem to be counter to.

  • NNDC’s Policy EN5 Public Realm states: Within areas designated as Public Realm proposals will be expected to enhance the overall appearance and usability of the area, and a co-ordinated approach to management will be encouraged; 
  • Core Strategy Policy CT1 Open Space designations states: Development will not be permitted except where it enhances the open character or recreational use of the land;
  • NNDC’s policy EN8 Protecting and enhancing the Historic Environment states: Development proposals … should preserve or enhance the character and appearance of designated assets … and their settings through high quality, sensitive design. Development that would have an adverse impact on their special historic or architectural interest will not be permitted. 

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