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Inquiry call over quay

PUBLISHED: 13:52 06 February 2008 | UPDATED: 13:51 21 May 2010

Supporters of a £500,000 scheme to rejuvenate the fishing industry in Wells pledged to fight on after it was confirmed that the site for the proposed shellfish handling facility is to be the subject of a public inquiry in the summer.

Supporters of a £500,000 scheme to rejuvenate the fishing industry in Wells pledged to fight on after it was confirmed that the site for the proposed shellfish handling facility is to be the subject of a public inquiry in the summer.

And a senior local authority officer, who has been working on the project for three years, admitted that it would be a “tragedy” for the town and the fishermen if the scheme had to be abandoned.

Talks are taking part with the agencies that have put up funding for the scheme which is aimed at helping the fishing industry remain sustainable for the next two decades.

Head of economic development and tourism for North Norfolk District Council Robin Smith said that despite the 11th hour setback in a start on the project, the funding bodies were keeping faith and there had been initial positive response from discussions.

Former mayor of Wells and district councillor, Joyce Trett, said she felt that the 11th hour delay in starting the project was an “absolute disgrace” and she predicted a “public outcry” if the project was lost to the town and its fishermen.

Mrs Trett said North Norfolk District Council officers had worked above and beyond their remit to get the project to its start stage and people were always complaining that Wells never gets any funding for new projects. “This is the first thing that the town's fishermen have been given and they deserve as much support as we can give them,” said Mrs Trett

She added : “I would urge everyone to remain positive and not lose heart over the issue.” .

The project to construct a handling facility on the quay at the bottom of Standard Road in Wells is seen as a lifeline for the area's fishermen because it would provide them with state-of-the-art cooler handling and storage facilities

But opponents claim it is in the wrong place on the picturesque quayside and submitted an 11th hour application for the site to be legally designated a public open space.

It has now been confirmed that the application will be the subject of a three day public inquiry in Wells starting at the end of June. Evidence will be heard from both those in favour if the scheme and those who want it designated as an open space.

It could be some time after the inquiry before the result is known meaning that the scheme will be put back for many months.

The scheme is being funded by a number of agencies and North Norfolk District Council have felt so strongly that it is needed by the fishermen to protect the future of their livelihoods that they agreed to approve the scheme.

In a rare step NNDC underwrote the £240,00 Defra grant in a bid to get the initial pre-construction work started. The building work should have started in March in order to meet the funding deadlines.

Mr Smith, referring to the delay, said it would be a tragedy for the town and for the fishing industry if the scheme was not able to go ahead. He said it was regrettable that the issue of the public open space was not raised earlier.

On the positive side, there had been productive discussions with the funders and they had “kept faith” with the project, he said.

Businessman John Crook, who initiated the application to have the area legally designated an open space, has always maintained that he and his supporters believe it is the wrong place for the fishing facility. He believes a new site, away from the quayside, should be identified.

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