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Seafront fight was expensive exercise

PUBLISHED: 21:25 13 June 2008 | UPDATED: 20:37 05 July 2010

A WEALTHY businessman has claimed victory in a battle to ensure the public can continue to walk on a seafront site in Lowestoft - but fired a broadside at council bosses for spending £400,000 of taxpayers' money on legal costs.

A WEALTHY businessman has claimed victory in a battle to ensure the public can continue to walk on a seafront site in Lowestoft - but fired a broadside at council bosses for spending £400,000 of taxpayers' money on legal costs.

Mervyn Lambert has spent £50,000 to bankroll a group fighting Waveney District Council's plans to sell the North Denes caravan park site to a private operator.

The objectors' main claim was that people who had walked on the publicly-owned site for many years would be denied access once a private operator was brought in.

However, as reported in last week's Journal people will still be given access to the site after Park Holidays UK re-opens the caravan park at the start of next year's summer season.

Mr Lambert, who owns Norfolk-based Mervyn Lambert Plant Hire, said the decision to maintain public access justified the opposition by the Protect Our North Denes' Association (Ponda).

He added: “I'm very happy that public access is being provided. It is because of the work Ponda has done and it is very much a victory for us. However, if I hadn't spent my money, the public wouldn't have access.

“It has cost the public £400,000 and me £50,000. I believe if it had been done correctly from the start, all this money could have been saved.”

Ponda claimed that the council had no right to sell the North Denes site and has threatened several legal challenges. In response, Waveney Council spent about £400,000 on legal fees as it sought to defend its right to sell the land on a 99-year lease.

Park Holidays has secured North Denes for more than £1.5m and has pledged to spend a further £3m on regenerating it. Six permanent jobs will be created, with about a dozen more directly linked to the development.

It will feature 150 static caravans, about 70 pitches for touring caravans and an area for tents. A new play area will be built and 33 acres of land around the park will be landscaped.

Stephen Ardley, the council's portfolio holder for health and well-being, said: “This development will benefit a site badly in need of regeneration … and it is just a shame that fruitless legal challenges and delaying tactics at the taxpayers' expense have prevented it from happening sooner.

“Not once have we said that public access to the site would be limited and we have always been absolutely clear that any development must be for the benefit of residents as well as visitors.”

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