I have written elsewhere on the campaign to get a skate park up and running in Cromer, discussing the fact that whereas elderly residents are amply served by the community, young people, in particular, suffer for want of constructive activity or harmless ways to let off steam. Mrs Crox and Crox Minor are actively involved in a campaign to create a skatepark. It has the active support of the community in general, of all shades of political opinion, and the backing of our MP, ‘Stormin’ Norman Lamb. You can follow the campaign on Facebook.
Since I last wrote, the skatepark has secured a grant of £10,000, conditional on planning permission being obtained on the proposed site within a year. The site is part of an area of green space called ‘The Meadow’, next to an extant childrens’ playground that includes a zipwire, sandbox, swings and so on and so forth in like fashion. It is big, flat and not used for anything, and the landholders – North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) – are in principle happy to lease the land to the Skatepark Group. Plans were duly submitted to NNDC. There was every hope, even expectation, that the plans would be passed, that the skatepark campaign could claim its grant and use it as a kernel for the much larger sum they’ll need to develop the area.
The proposed skatepark site, earlier today. The existing playground can be seen in the distance. To the left is a high hedge, shielding the area from a road and a development of retirement flats located several tens of metres away. To the immediate right is woodland owned by the Cromer Hall Estate.
However, I also wrote that Cromer’s ruling gerontocracy will always find ways to thwart the ambitions of anyone wishing to further the interests of young people, no matter how well constituted their organization, and no matter how much support they get.
The plans received 23 letters of support – and also 11 objections, some possibly stimulated by an anonymous letter circulated to residents near the proposed site.
Despite the fact that the plans received more than two-to-one support, the number of objections meant that the plans had to be referred to a meeting of the Development Control Committee. Many at the committee spoke in favour of the plans. However, one councillor said that the skatepark should be on a different part of the Meadow – one that’s sloping and boggy – on the grounds that children would no longer be able to use the proposed site for informal games of football and other sports. Despite the fact that the councillor in question presented no evidence that the area is used for such purposes, the rest of the committee seemed easily swayed. The planning application for the proposed site was not exactly thrown out, so much as the skatepark group was invited to submit an application for a different and much less suitable area instead, with no guarantee that any subsequent application would be successful. In other words, back to square one, with the potential loss of a large grant that the skatepark group had worked so hard to gain.
Who is this councillor who wields such power that a few words from him carry such weight?
The man is one Benjamin Cabbell-Manners. Mr Cabbell-Manners lives at Cromer Hall, his ancestral pile, the possible inspiration for Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles – and an easy stroll from the proposed skatepark.
In addition, woodland next to the proposed skatepark is owned by the Cromer Hall Estate.
All of this is well known, but at no point during the session of the Development Control Committee, as far as I am aware, did Mr Cabbell-Manners declare an interest. Indeed, it should be a cause for raised eyebrows that he can serve on a committee that decides the fate of many developments, given that much land in and around town is owned by the Cromer Hall Estate. Even more remarkable, perhaps, is that his intervention at the Development Control Committee meeting, otherwise expected to approve the planning application, attracted neither criticism nor opposition.
The Cromer skatepark group is planning to appeal. Stay tuned.