The North Norfolk coast is very special... it is vital we preserve its unique character - prospective parliamentary candidates put political differences aside to back calls for more investment
- Credit: Archant
More investment is needed in coastal communities throughout North Norfolk to stop them being swallowed by the sea.
Norman Lamb, who is standing for the Liberal Democrats in June 8's General Election, revealed he was 'surprised' North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) missed out on £2 million of funding for the Deep History Coast project to promote the area as a visitor destination.
However, he has pledged to continue to campaign for coastal communities if he is re-elected as MP for the area.
Mr Lamb said: 'We all share the view that the North Norfolk coast is very special. It is vital we preserve its unique character.
'I strongly supported the Deep History Coast project and was surprised and disappointed that it was rejected for funding. But we must not give up on the ambition.
'The North Norfolk coast offers wonderful natural beauty but it's history is absolutely fascinating. Bringing this to life could provide a sensitive and valuable boost to tourism.
'Government also has to confront the need to invest in safeguarding coastal communities and in protecting people from catastrophic loss when homes are lost to the sea. I have long argued for a solidarity fund to protect those most at risk from the sea.'
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From the Happisburgh footprints to the West Runton mammoth, the local authority had planned to develop a new discovery trail between Weybourne and Cart Gap to celebrate the area's history.
NNDC's original plans included the creation of a new geology hub in Cromer and improved toilet facilities at West Runton and Cart Gap, alongside new exhibition space.
It was hoped the initiative would encourage more people to visit the area for longer and generate an extra £35m for the local economy in its first two years.
NNDC confirmed it is planning to resubmit a new scaled down bid for cash when the fund reopens to applications later in the year.
And now all three prospective parliamentary candidates for the area have pledged to support the scheme.
James Wild, who is standing for the Conservative Party, vowed to extend the Coastal Communities Fund in a bid to ensure North Norfolk doesn't miss out in future, while Labour candidate Stephen Burke supported Mr Lamb's call for improved sea defences.
Mr Wild said: 'I am determined that we make the most of the great natural history along this uniquely beautiful and historic coastline and ensure that its importance is properly recognised.
'A Conservative government will extend the Coastal Communities Fund and as a Conservative MP I would get North Norfolk a better deal and do all I can to make sure a new bid to promote the coastline from Weybourne to Cart Gap as the 'Deep History Coast' is successful.'
As well as its unique history, beaches in North Norfolk are among the safest and cleanest in the country.
East Runton and West Runton have joined Cromer, Mundesley, Sea Palling and Sheringham in being awarded prestigious Blue Flag status, with the result being no other district council area in the country has more Blue Flags than North Norfolk.
But Mr Wild added more needed to be done to drive tourism forward.
'Tourism is hugely important to North Norfolk,' he said. 'We have wonderful scenery and now six Blue Flag beaches. But there is more that we can do to attract more visitors, whether it is making more of the coast or the heritage, in places like North Walsham.
'As part of Theresa May's team, I will campaign to secure investment in our facilities and tackle long-running issues, such as getting better mobile phone coverage, to draw more people to the area year after year.'
Thousands of visitors converged on the coast this week to take advantage of the warm weather.
Recently, a giant bone uncovered on the beach at West Runton believed to be two million years old was provisionally identified as the lower leg bone of a mammoth, which last walked the earth more than 700,000 years ago. And more discoveries continue to be made.
NNDC wants to recruit local residents as volunteer ambassadors to sell north Norfolk as a desintation to visitors by displaying Deep History Coast branding in their shops and businesses.
Stephen Burke, Labour's candidate for North Norfolk, said: 'This weekend's wonderful weather highlights what a fabulous coast we have. As the only candidate who lives and works in North Norfolk, I particularly love the coast.
'I live in Happisburgh where we have, amongst other things, wonderful beaches and sea for swimming; great cliffs for walking; historic buildings; beautiful views inland; a huge beer festival; and, of course, great people. And I haven't mentioned the erosion and ancient relics regularly found on the beach. Imagine living where we have the oldest evidence of human inhabitation in our great British isles.
'Happisburgh lighthouse is an icon. Visitor numbers to the lighthouse have increased significantly over the last few years and Happisburgh is now an all year round visitor destination.'
But he added: 'We need to invest more in infrastructure to support this growing interest in all 47 miles of the North Norfolk coast. That means, for example, universal mobile and broadband coverage to help local businesses, residents and visitors; better roads and transport; new business development; and of course proper coastal defences.
'Tourism is crucial to creating a sustainable economy here with more and better paid jobs. Above all, we could promote North Norfolk more effectively and therefore I support the Deep History Coast campaign.
'I just ask that we are ambitious in our plans. North Norfolk needs a champion as its next MP who will win investment in infrastructure and services for visitors and residents alike.'