READER LETTER: ‘Holt - the wealthy image vs the reality’

Holt's town centre. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Holt's town centre. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE - Credit: Archant

For many years now it has been apparent that what is needed is a 'high street for all'.

Holt mayor Maggie Prior. Picture: Archant Library

Holt mayor Maggie Prior. Picture: Archant Library - Credit: Archant

By that I mean our whole resident community and visitors alike. We need shops to provide the choice and variety required.

It has not been claimed that one should give way to another.

We need a living town, where our residents are happy to do their shopping but also meet each other, walk or cycle in with the children, because the offer is more than commercial.

Exceedingly high rents now dictate those who can start a business locally, or maintain one, and this has ironically created a growing image over many years of great wealth and success.

Sadly, this is a far cry from reality for the many whose families have lived in and built Holt for generations.

This is not a new thought. I have written on many occasions about just this subject. It's not something I do for pleasure; it has brought me a great deal of personal animosity.

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This is basically because I have dared to suggest that we are not that 'niche town,' as we have been labelled, and nor should we aspire to be.

Our town should be wonderfully inclusive because it serves all in our existing community and visitors.

The shame is that Holt hasn't naturally developed in this way.

At present 70pc of our population must, or choose to, leave Holt to do their regular family shop in other towns, such as Cromer or Fakenham.

The point to note here is that we are not losing these customers to the internet we are losing them to high streets in other towns. Even if the supermarket they visit is a large one and on the outskirts, it's very likely it will be that town they 'pop' into for other items. How can this possibly be good for Holt?

No-one has ever suggested that the tourist market or the luxury goods market should not still flourish, but surely, they can do this alongside useful outlets selling normal family products that we all need in some measure or other.

The problem is that we have gone way beyond the happy middle ground; hence the huge cost of rents now apply to everyone. Something must give.

It is not acceptable that people who come from generations of Holt families find it impossible to shop here, or indeed live here!

It is not an easy task to get anything adopted in Holt that might possibly change the present 'image', but it has become a necessity. The Town council have tried to put many schemes forward to make a more united town in terms of accessibility, affordability and choice.

I am sad to say that we are far too often met with antagonism regarding our ambitions for Holt.

These objectors have frequently managed to delay our work, because so much fire-fighting is imposed upon us, or prevent the fruition of our ideas altogether.

A farmers' market, at least once a month, is something I would love to see in Holt. It is well known that good markets bring footfall into a town. It would also benefit local producers and our residents.

However, this has been squashed by a very vocal few protesting in recent years; so we need to know if this is something that has the full support of our residents.

There is no doubt in my mind at all that we need a new supermarket in Holt and, indeed I sincerely believe this can happen. We also need shops supplying things specifically for children, 0-5 and school age.

Children's clothing is essential at reasonable prices.

A much larger chemist would be a real boon. I could go on, but we all have views about what is most needed.

I'm afraid far too much is thought to be possible in Holt 'just by putting in a car park'.

It should also be noted that North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) has absolutely no responsibility or obligation to provide car parks.

We were promised a professional parking assessment by NCC, but this has never come to fruition. So, at town council we worked with Gresham's School to bring forward their new car park very close to town centre.

It holds approximately 50 spaces all year round and in all the annual high spots we are offered a further 30 places. This provision has made a very big difference to our parking quantity and quality in Holt.

Therefore, since it's completion we should no longer be held to the common chant; ie 'There shall be no physical change in Holt town until parking is provided'.

It has now been provided and we are still being threatened at every suggestion for improvements for all to enjoy.

We are still suffering as a result of a self-fulfilling prophecy; ie that 'no-one can ever park in Holt'.

This has become a mantra which has done far more damage than the parking itself. What the people who have posted this in the press over the years really mean is that they want every slither of tarmac available for free parking as close to shops as possible.

These times have gone from most towns.

I don't know anyone who doesn't expect to pay to park in the towns they visit.

Why should it be any different in Holt?

It cannot be denied that the influx of buyers for high cost properties has shifted the demographic of our town and not just by age. I am not persuaded otherwise, when I am repeatedly told that we should be grateful because these buyers bring money to the town.

There are two reasons this does not convince me.

Firstly, it is usually someone very well-heeled telling me this and missing the point entirely that wealth is not the only value. Secondly, and by far the more important, is the case that enough numbers of smaller, genuinely less expensive houses should have been built proportionately over the years. Hence, the lack of affordable market housing and social housing for local people, especially our young people.

Councillor Maggie Prior

Holt mayor, chair of Holt Town Council

District councillor for Holt ward

MORE: LETTER: 'Holt needs a reality check'.

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