KING’S LYNN CIVIC SOCIETY
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Developer and businessman James Lee, who restored and
replaced one of the small architectural gems which contribute so
much to Lynn’s townscape, became the second recipient of the
Desmond K. Waite Award for Conservation in October 2010.
Renovating the retail and residential premises at 112
High Street James replaced the distinctive little cupola that
embellishes the building, having brought it back from the
Norwich builder's yard where it was lying in pieces. He
restored it to the tune of £20,000.
It had been taken down a year before because it was
unsafe, but there had been little sign that it would be put back as
had been promised. Then James, who has a very good track
record with other period buildings in the town, took a hand.
“I was determined to return the cupola,” he says, “and I
made that part of the purchase deal – as well as making an
agreement with the previous owner that it would be repaired. It
was lying in at least a hundred pieces when I went to get it.
Thankfully the copper dome was still intact.”
The building dates back to a time when builders wanted
to ornament their developments and make them unusual –
idiosyncratic even. The cupola is made of wood with some
reconstituted stone at the base, and lead-glazed, coloured glass
windows to the front – just the kind of feature that is being lost
from town centres all over the country.
Now the Deck of Cards is trading on the ground floor
while the upper floors are two apartments
Presenting the award at the October lecture, our
president Desmond Waite applauded James: “Historic town
centre buildings are always at risk from the pressures of growth,
regeneration, computerised redevelopment and lack of
conservation commitment. In contrast James has now restored
six period, listed properties in our conservation area to a very
high standard. All are now occupied and trading successfully.”
2 King's Lynn Civic Society Annual Report 2010-2011
King's Lynn Civic Society
Annual Report 2010-2011
Making a difference
by Alison Gifford, Chairman
As I sit writing this year’s annual report I think back to the main
events and the little successes of the last 12 months in our Civic
I think firstly how successful Civic Voice, the new
national forum for Civic Societies, has been and that the
decision of your Executive Committee, not without discussion
and some dissent, to pay towards the costs of the start-up has
been vindicated. We need a national pressure group and Tony
Burton and his colleagues have been so enthusiastic and prolific
that Sally has been nearly overwhelmed by newsletters, stop-
presses and emails. Tony Burton came to our October (?)
lecture meeting which Ann Roberts organised very capably at
the Methodist Chapel and it was great to see several Borough
Councillors, including Cllr Nick Daubney, in the invited
Every Civic Society is different and it is useful to note
the variety of core activities undertaken. But I think that Civic
Societies can not be made to radically change or emulate other
Societies in other towns however dynamic they appear to be.
The King’s Lynn Civic Society is unique. It is the sum of its
members' aspirations and wishes for King’s Lynn to be the best
it can be – just that – and we do make a difference by believing
that there is a best and suggesting to those who can make a
difference how that might be achieved.
Another success story must be the little sub-committee
who organise responses to planning applications. Their work
rate is impressive with emails going backwards and forwards
King's Lynn Civic Society Annual Report 2010-2011 3
between the members every day and really well written, nicely
argued letters sent to the planners expressing their views with a
clarity and vision we can be proud to own. Ian Price is a new
asset to this team whose other members are our President,
Desmond Waite, Colin Johnston, Rick Morrish and Sally
Smith. Rick Morrish was co-opted to the Executive Committee
and his expertise in issues of sustainability within planning and
the environment is very much appreciated.
Liz James’ talk at our February lecture meeting enthused
members who learnt about the work undertaken to compile a list
of Buildings of Local Interest. You can read more about this on
pageXX. It is a government driven necessary undertaking and
the Committee members involved have given time and
knowledge to take this on. Jean Tuck has been the willing host
of this small but important team.
Then we had the usual five, or it may be two year, threat
to the arts, culture and heritage of our historic town. What kind
of society are we if the arts – theatre, music, drama and crafts
are so expendable? Not big – pretty narrow I think. But maybe
the agreement to form a Trust to run the Arts Centre complex is
the best outcome. I know things are difficult in Borough
Council budget terms and commend the support given by the
Council to many organisations and activities, the King's Lynn
Festival for example. I will take this opportunity to praise many
aspects of Borough Council activities with which Executive
Committee members also concern themselves.
Sally asked about the third lead stealing incident from
the roof of the Red Mount Chapel, and the long letter of reply
from Mark Fuller explaining in great detail the work undertaken
and the frustration they feel when some of the work and money
invested in this project is destroyed by criminals. was really
revealing. Nevertheless our lament during this last year, as in
those before, is the lack of enforcement when buildings cry out
4 King's Lynn Civic Society Annual Report 2010-2011
for Compulsory Purchase Orders so they can be returned to our
Heritage Open Day last September was very successful
thanks to our members who steward and our partner
organisations and all the kind people who open up their
wonderful buildings. Jean will be asking for stewards again for
Sunday 11th September, so thank you in advance. And thanks
to Jean again for wonderful tours (page XX) and days out.
Beryl Symonds has nurtured our financial resources for
several years and we have very healthy bank accounts. Beryl
has kindly agreed to continue as our membership secretary and
Ian Price will become our treasurer. Peter Putterill, who had a
long and impressive record in local government before
retirement, has resigned from the Executive Committee but will
act as our emissary to regional and national conferences.
I must thank Dennis Parsons for his general support, not
just coffee making and washing up along with Richard
Skerritt……? , but always having in the boot of his car the
extension lead or torch or piece of string always so essential in
an emergency. All our activities are coordinated by Sally
Smith, our Secretary, who is central to the smooth organisation
of this Society. My thanks to her from all of us.
You may recall Mrs Janet Johnston asking why our
phone boxes are so shabby. After weeks of chasing around I
finally made contact with Mark Wythe at Royal Mail. He
wrote: "I can confirm that the painting is in this year's plan."
PS Very soon you will be able to access our own King’s Lynn
Civic Society website.
The President says thanks
by Desmond K. Waite MVO FRIBA
Our Society has the expertise. Last year I wrote that the new
Planning Policy Statement PPS 5 (Planning for the Historic
King's Lynn Civic Society Annual Report 2010-2011 5
Environment) is in place, explicitly setting out revised
government guidelines in a stronger way, for conservation of
heritage assets. I summarised that, amongst other things, it
recommends that local authorities should, when appropriate,
take account of expert advice from in-house staff if they have
them, or seek that expertise elsewhere. It also recommends
seeking advice from voluntary sector heritage amenity societies
Our Council has expert planning administration. But
there are often ‘friendly’ differences of interpretation of some
sort to face. With respect for our Council’s Assistant
Conservation Officer, who is valiantly acting alone as a
conservation ‘team’, it would be quite helpful if an expert local
accredited Conservation Officer could be appointed again, even
part time, for significant applications, to give in-house technical
guidance to councillors and planners.
From the Society’s perception, the present Assistant
Conservation Officer is doing a grand job trying to keep up with
the ever-growing ramifications of conservation administration.
However, adequate accredited expertise as recognised by
English Heritage for the sake of the integrity and building
science of heritage assets in West Norfolk might further
minimise the risks during the application process and
implementation of proposals for listed buildings and those in
‘Heritage asset’ is defined as “a building, monument,
site, place, area or landscape positively identified as having a
degree of significance meriting planning decisions being valued
components of the historic environment”.
There are other matters for the Society to consider.
The executive committee members have an aptitude for
the interpretation of our Constitution targets, which in general
terms are for the well-being of our local culture and civic
6 King's Lynn Civic Society Annual Report 2010-2011
issues. Although I cannot attend executive committee meetings
now, most of the papers of the committee are sent to me, which
enables me to know what is happening and how the committee
is dealing with so many issues.
Amongst these are buildings at risk, trees, the arts, town
vitality and utility services, plus studies for ever-changing ideas
such as wind turbine issues and photovoltaic cells on roofs. The
Localism Bill will arrive soon with renewed government and
local policy documents to interpret and more!
There is also the need to sustain our membership with
interesting subjects for talks, lectures, and social expeditions.
I like to say thanks each year to our members for their
membership. In addition and in particular, our thanks to the
executive committee for its outstanding work in delivering the
targets embodied in our Constitution, which evolved from the
purpose intended by the founder Bernard Bremner in 1947 and
my days from 1959 when Mary Blott was secretary to organise
us. With George Bridge and several other chairmen, I
struggled then to keep the Society delivering a presence in the
scrabble for pedestrianisation, London overspill, wholesale
demolition, Borough status, and issues of conservation. Now
we have Alison Gifford and Sally Smith leading our committee
stalwarts – all with particular expertise, interest and endeavour
and doing a grand job.
Well done all. I hope new people will come along to
join in and gradually fill the gaps imposed by tempos fugit.
The year in planning applications
by Colin Johnston
We now have four members of the committee who form our
planning sub-committee and who contribute to our responses to
planning applications: Desmond Waite, Ian Price, Rick Morrish
and myself. We try to reach a consensus and forward this to the
King's Lynn Civic Society Annual Report 2010-2011 7
Society’s secretary for onward transmission to the Borough
Council. Out of the many applications affecting the town, we
commented on 37 during the past year, of which 13 were
objections – slightly more than the previous year. The
following is a selection of these.
Last year we objected to a plan to enlarge nos.17A & B
Tuesday Market Place (next to the “heart house”) and this
application was withdrawn. This year another application was
put forward which we considered much more acceptable,
although we made a few comments on the detail. This has now
been approved. This building is adjacent to Pattrick &
Thompson’s timber yard, for which an application for re-
development is expected soon.
At last there is progress on 6/7 Railway Road, the large
derelict building generally plastered with adverts for speedway.
An application was received about a year ago for its
redevelopment, retaining the front façade. We gave our full
approval to this while warning of the potential difficulties in
retaining the front. Planning approval was given. However a
structural engineer’s report has subsequently revealed that the
condition of the front façade is such that it would be extremely
difficult and dangerous to try to save it. Another application has
therefore been received to demolish it but we are pleased that
they intend to replicate it as closely as possible (without the
speedway adverts!). When this project is complete, it will
contribute greatly to the improvement of Railway Road.
We were appalled to receive an application for a car-
wash on the Church Street car park, immediately opposite the
listed houses on the west side of this street. We objected
strongly to this and were pleased that the applicant re-located it
on the other side of the car park. This has been approved.
A minor application, to which we objected, was for upvc
windows in a house in Checker Street. This was a retrospective
8 King's Lynn Civic Society Annual Report 2010-2011
application which followed almost immediately on the
installation of these windows. It is the policy of the Borough
Council (and of this Society) to oppose the use of upvc windows
in the conservation area. Although there are many such
windows already in Checker Street, we were pleased that the
Council rejected this application. Any other decision would
have opened the flood-gates to even more, which would
seriously detract from the character of the conservation area.
Many of the existing upvc windows have been installed without
permission (and after the street became part of the conservation
area) and it is regrettable that the Council has not taken
enforcement action against these.
Applications were received for the conversion of the
Belgrave Hotel into flats and also for the sub-division of no.9 St
John’s Terrace next door. We were pleased that both these
buildings are to be brought back into use and restored, though
sorry that no.9 is to be sub-divided. We objected to the
application for no.9 because the plan included a rather ugly
external stair at the back and a particularly unfortunate door-
way at its top. Another house in this terrace was sub-divided
without having to add an external stair. Our objection to the
stair was over-ruled but we were glad that our comments on the
door-way resulted in an amended design. Both applications
have been approved.
The look of the town by Jean Tuck
Those of you who are often in town have, I hope, noticed the
magnificent floral display in St James Park. Parks manager
Sarah Moore and her team are to be congratulated. The Walks
have looked particularly good with the variety of bulbs, which
incidentally was started many years ago when I was Chairman.
Several of us planted daffodils along Edward Benefer Way and
Springwood, and mixed bulbs outside most of the care homes.
King's Lynn Civic Society Annual Report 2010-2011 9
Edward Barber took on the responsibility for Grimston Road and I
must specially mention Dennis Parsons and his late wife Jane, who
planted all the daffodils along the West Lynn bank.
The thousands of snowdrops our members planted around the
Red Mount grow denser evry year. John Loveless takes the
responsibility of getting the bulbs supplied by the council, and is very
much involved in the work done by the Friends of the Waks on the
area around the little stream by the Seven Sisters Walk. Myself and
six of our members with others formed the Friends when the council
received the lottery grant to renovate The Walks.
Dennis and I still have monthly meetings with Chris Bamfield
and Pam Lynn of the council, where any concerns regarding the town
can be raised. Pam Lynn has taken over the conservation office role
since John Selby retired. Such areas of concern recently are the
various eyesores, some of which have been tackled but many, like
Zoots, are awaiting a developer. But at least the weeds have been
removed, so it's not all complaints. We also praise improvements, and
since Dennis and I stared these meetings there have been many
improvements. However, if you have anything we might help with do
let us know.
Anytime now I will be starting the somewhat daunting task of
dead-heading the daffodils. If anyone feels like a little gentle
exercise, just let me know.
Enforcement challenges by Sally Smith
The borough’s planning enforcement team was not going to escape
the inevitable cuts in staffing levels as the council juggled with
reduced funding, and so it has proved. While accepting inevitability
the committee nonetheless felt so strongly about the importance of the
team’s work, that we wrote to the council leader and chief executive
urging that, far from a reduction, it should be strengthened and given
the necessary resources to be effective.
We based our view upon the fact that in the previous six
months the number of live cases on the enforcement list had
increased, and the sheer difficulty the team was already having in
keeping up with the cases brought to its attention – some of which
10 King's Lynn Civic Society Annual Report 2010-2011
dated back as far as 2005. Our view was underlined by provisions in
the Localism Bill which calls for a greater emphasis to be placed on
enforcement of breaches of the planning laws.
Moreover enforcement does not apply to King’s Lynn alone
and its wealth of quality buildings and houses of all sizes and periods,
many of them listed. The borough covers an enormous geographical
rural area with no less than 43 different conservation areas. We
argued the need for fast and effective enforcement because if it is seen
that the law is not being enforced and that some owners are getting
away with neglect or worse, others will be tempted to follow
The borough does have a cross-departmental approach to
enforcement which involves the legal and housing departments as
well as the planning and conservation officers, but the sheer scale,
complexity and bureaucracy involved in every case is daunting: as
much paperwork to take action over a satellite dish in a conservation
area as what might be regarded as far more serious planning breaches.
In his response to our letter, council leader Nick Daubney
assured us that the authority does recognise the importance of
providing an effective enforcement team and does, in fact, provide
more resources to enforcement than any other council that he was
aware of. As part of the service reviews comparisons had been made
with other authorities and this exercise had highlighted that
BCKLWN “currently has the largest planning enforcement team in
the eastern region, unitary and district included, and this will continue
to be the case even following the review.”
However, the effectiveness of a service could not be
measured in terms of its size alone and one of the consequences “may
require us to look at priorities, processes and procedures as well as
opportunities to work both within and outside the council to deliver
We are in regular contact with the enforcement team and will
continue to do our utmost to assist it in its duties, at the same time
maintaining our watch on buildings and sites on our – extensive – list.
One of our activities is to report breaches through the borough’s
complaint procedure. So please contact me, Sally Smith, if you see
anything which should be reported. Tel KL 764422 or email
King's Lynn Civic Society Annual Report 2010-2011 11
Such reporting led to rapid action being taken with a house in
The Friars where replacement windows were installed without
planning consent. Within a very short time the owner had been
contacted and immediately sent in a retrospective planning application
which has been refused.
A year of Tuck's Tours by Jill Price
In March we spent a very pleasant weekend in Maidstone, Kent,
following our "Arts and Crafts" theme. To this end we visited a house
in Tunbridge Wells, which for years has been the HQ of Kent Fire &
Rescue service. Under the office additions the design is still there to
see, lovingly looked after, and some furniture still in place. The bare
bones of the garden design are still there as well.
We also visited Standen, looked after by the National Trust.
This dates from the 1880s and was designed by Philip Webb as a
family home – an atmosphere it still retains. Webb's designs for
everything from fireplaces to electric lights, William Morris
furnishings and ceramics by William Morgan are still there to
delight the eye. Sadly, the breathtaking views over the High Weald
were almost invisible, due to the damp and misty weather. Bu we
were still very satisfied with what we had. So two more houses to add
to our tally.
At Voewood, near Holt, we had a very interesting tour of the
house, lovingly restored, albeit by an owner whose tastes in
furnishings ranged far and wide beyond the Arts and Crafts
movement. But it all fitted sympathetically into the lovely 'butterfly'
shape of the house.
I sadly had to miss Grantham House (NT) and Ellys Manor,
but reports were that it was definitely worth the journey. The
Christmas Market visit to Bury St.Edmunds was so success-ful that
there will be a return visit this year, by special request.
We must thank Jean Tuck for all the time, thought and effort
she puts onto arranging these visits. I know what hard work it is, and
look forward to more of the same.
12 King's Lynn Civic Society Annual Report 2010-2011
Hanse House developments
Early in the year HRH The Prince of Wales was invited by the Mayor
to look over the Hanse House so he could take part in a meeting of
interested parties and find an acceptable way forward now that the
building is virtually empty and Norfolk County Council wish to sell
it. The concern of Prince Charles, The Mayor, Councillor Daubney
and Simon Thurley is that the Hanse House will be sold off and turned
into flats or offices with no respect for its history and no public
access. This building is unique in European terms as it is the only
surviving Hanseatic warehouse in England. It needs to be sensitively
renovated for mixed use including some community space with
guaranteed public access. I was asked to meet the Prince as a
representative of this Society and was wryly amused when Derrick
Murphy and a County Council officer denied that the building had
been put on the open market when they had agreed not to do so until
this important meeting had taken place and were completely flustered
when Prince Charles asked why a “For Sale” sign had been put on the
building that day.
We hope that the building has a future rooted in our
community as a reflection of our remarkable history. The Prince’s
Regeneration Trust has remained interested and under the right
circumstances grant funding and advice may be forthcoming.
King‘s Lynn Local List by Liz James
(formerly Buildings of Local Significance List)
Note the slight name change: increasingly these lists are being
referred to by this shorter name, reflecting the possibility that they
may include things which are not actually buildings but are still
During the past year the working party has virtually
completed work on the suburban and extra-conservation area parts of
the parishes of All Saints, St John’s and St Margaret’s. West Lynn
has been covered only recently and we are about to begin serious
analysis of Gaywood, for which we welcome the assistance of Colin
King's Lynn Civic Society Annual Report 2010-2011 13
Barton, whose knowledge of Gaywood buildings is encyclopaedic and
comes from many years’ study.
With regard to the first three parishes, we are still grappling
with the thorny problem of what to include/omit among the many
modest Victorian and Edwardian buildings. On the one hand we are
aware of advice from Peterborough’s conservation officer to set as
high a standard as possible in the first submission to the Borough
authorities, but we also recognise that the group value of many of the
less spectacular period buildings fulfils an important landscape role.
This first submission, the course of whose processing for
adoption is by no means guaranteed a speedy passage, is very
important as it will in effect establish and recognise the validity of a
Local List for the town. Once that has been done further instalments
can be added with perhaps more ease. The official guidance for
setting up such a list, published in the course of 2010, in fact
advocates ongoing compilation for Local Lists as a kind of circular
process. Nothing pruned out the first time around will therefore be
lost, as a secondary list will “keep safe” properties still under
consideration but not thought vital to the first submission. It must be
remembered that processing will require officer time at the Council
offices which is by no means unlimited at present, and a shorter initial
list has advantages for that situation.
However, a few months ago we met to give a presentation on
our work to officers from the planning section. This was our first real
discussion with them since the departure of John Selby in 2009 and it
was clear they took what we had achieved seriously. Meanwhile we
meet regularly for discussion and hope that before long we will be
able to report that an official Local List is in existence for Lynn.
Buildings still at risk by Ken Hill
The year has seen some improvement to certain of the long list of the
town's buildings the Society keeps an eye on. But not much. That
sadness is partly what drives the group of committee people who meet
to review progress and take what steps they are able to encourage
owners and the Council to exercise their ownership or guardianship of
buildings at risk.
14 King's Lynn Civic Society Annual Report 2010-2011
Seventeen such buildings were reviewed in March by our
Secretary with Pam Lynn, who now has sole responsibility for
conservation matters within the borough council.
Most blatant, perhaps, is Purfleet House, hard by the
Custom House and in the same ownership, but empty for twenty years
during which it could have made a positive contribution to the town's
waterfront. Instead, it just exercises visitor ingenuity as they try to
photograph the Custom House without showing the boarded-up
windows next door. Pam has been pressing to arrange an internal
inspection for some time, but without success.
The council is currently threatening the owner of a dilapidated
building in East Rudham with a Compulsory Purchase Order, so that
the council can then sell it on to a new owner in the hope that the
building will be renovated and used. Perhaps if/when that is
successfully accomplished there will be the will to take on Purfleet
So many shops in Lynn have living space above them which
is no longer used. In some cases the shops are not used either. In
Railway Road numbers 6 and 7 have been empty so long they are now
incapable of restoration and are due for demolition and reconstruction.
The old Courts shop in St James Street must be in danger of a similar
threat. And 51 London Road, next to the popular baker's shop,
continues to blight the area despite the offer from a neighbour to buy
it and bring it back into use as a shop and flats.
There have been planning applications submitted and
approved for the Railway Road and St James Street buildings. But
years pass without any meaningful change – and very obvious
The London Road shop will soon be entering its second half-
century of life as an empty and sad shell of its former self, which very
few people will now be able to remember.
Owners of buildings like these clearly feel they have every
right to treat them as they wish. Responsible neighbours, and those
who choose to visit or live in King's Lynn because of its attractive
streetscapes and history, feel that right should be challenged more
strongly every year ill-use continues.
King's Lynn Civic Society Annual Report 2010-2011 15
King's Lynn Civic Society
Registered charity 298916
President: Desmond K Waite MVO
Heather Bolt, Martin Clough, John Van Dyke
Chairman: Alison Gifford
Vice Chairman: Jean Tuck
Secretary: Sally Smith
Treasurer and Membership Secretary:
Assistant Secretary: Ken Hill
15 Queen Street, King's Lynn PE30 1HT