Battle for future of Norfolk fairground

Ed FossAn international acoustic expert was one of the main speakers at a planning appeal yesterday which should determine the fate of a lovingly-preserved Victorian fairground.Ed Foss

An international acoustic expert was one of the main speakers at a planning appeal yesterday which should determine the fate of a lovingly-preserved Victorian fairground.

The owners of The Pride of the South gallopers want to place their historic 1893 creation, which featured in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, at the North Norfolk Railway's Holt railway terminus for around 10 to 12 weeks during the main summer season.

At the moment they are limited to four weeks per year and need planning permission for any longer.

That permission was turned down last March by North Norfolk District Council because councillors believed homeowners and patients in Kelling Hospital could suffer as a result of the repetitive noise from the carousel's organ.

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Yesterday planning inspector Laura Graham visited the council's Cromer headquarters to hold an appeal hearing about the refusal.

Adrian James, who runs a company called Adrian James Acoustics which has completed more than 500 projects in ten countries including gas terminals, theatres, cinemas and concert halls, gave a large part of the evidence on behalf of the gallopers' owner Nikki Jones.

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The 36-horse set of gallopers were in use at the Holt station in the summer of 2008 for the short time allowed and the planning application followed this visit.

All parties agreed the first visit caused noise nuisance, but the thrust of Mr James' argument was that the council had failed in its planning application refusal to take into account a number of measures which would have been taken to remove this nuisance.

These were to move the ride to the north, change the direction the organ faced and use the railway's rolling stock to block some of the noise - although this latter action could not be guaranteed to be in place at all times in case the rolling stock was needed for operational reasons.

With such measures implemented, noise from the organ would be 'either inaudible or barely audible', said Mr James. He added that they would be happy to agree a planning condition not to operate the ride when the rolling stock was not present.

For the council, Peter Moore argued the main point was the well being of hospital patients, some of whom might be in the last few days of their lives and receiving palliative care, which was too important to risk.

Homeowners were also represented at the hearing, with one saying: 'After four or five hours of 'I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts', you just want to move house.'

Miss Graham will give her appeal findings in the next few weeks.

The gallopers, built by Frederick Savage's company at King's Lynn, were enjoyed over Christmas by families outside The Forum in Norwich.

If the planning appeal goes the way of the council, the ride can still be legally used at the Holt site for a maximum of 28 days in every calendar year.

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