North Norfolk widens street clutter cull

Towns across north Norfolk will see unlicensed tables and goods swept off their streets this time next year, as a pilot scheme now operating at Cromer is spread across the district.

Towns across north Norfolk will see unlicensed tables and goods swept off their streets this time next year, as a pilot scheme now operating at Cromer is spread across the district.

As the new rules - aimed at making streets tidier and safer - come into force at Cromer this month two thirds of the resort's goods and advertisements have disappeared from the pavements.

A dozen shops and cafes have been given licenses to have tables, chairs and goods outside their premises, where the pavement is wide enough for them not to be a hazard.

But many more have not applied because the path was too narrow and would not have met the requirements of the new laws, which came into effect on January 1.

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The same rules will be introduced to other towns - North Walsham, Sheringham, Holt, Fakenham and Wells, on January 1 next year, said North Norfolk District Council's environmental health manager Chris Cawley.

But one of the leading campaigners over the issue, Cromer butcher Icarus Hines has said the clampdown was coming at exactly the wrong time for hard-pressed traders in town centres, where experts were predicting one in 10 shops would be closing in the economic downturn.

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His fat plastic butcher called George has been at the forefront of this and earlier attempts to clear obstructions from Cromer's streets.

Mr Hines has previously voiced his anger that he had paid �260 for planning permission for George in the past, and was now faced with paying another �25 for the new licensing scheme.

'I was angry, but I will pay up, because I have spent 25 years building up this business. However I may not roll over so easily at Sheringham where the pavement is narrower and I could have more of a problem.

'It just seems the wrong time to be doing this with the state of the economy,' added.

Owner of Caf� Main, Laura Broughton, feared having to pay �400 in pavement rent for her tables and chairs, but was 'pleasantly surprised' to only have the basic �25 charge.

'It is good news. There would have been an outcry if we were having to pay rental, because times are hard for everyone at the moment,' she added.

Some shops in side streets have had to remove goods from narrow pavements and signs at the end of their roads.

Rodney Rayner, who runs the Thrifty's bargain shop in Bond Street, has managed to secure his sign legally to another shop, and is looking at other ways of mounting displays outside. 'It is hard, but we must stay positive,' he added.

Chamber of trade president Sue Brown the scheme had brought the issue to a head, and talks between the chamber and council officials had produced a scheme that was cheaper and more viable.

'We knew this was setting a blueprint for other towns, but people are not as affected as they feared, and there is flexibility in there,' she added.

Most of those getting licences were in the main shopping street with wider pavements, confirmed Mr Cawley, who said that despite concerns the rules would kill off the caf� culture and holiday feel of the streets, there was 'still a living street scene.'

The council would be monitoring the scheme to ensure shops were on their 'best behaviour' in the future as well as now.

If everything at Cromer went to plan, as it seemed to be, the system would be put into other local towns on January 1 2010.

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