Postcards From Great Yarmouth | Town Hall 2020

POSTCARD DECAY

The English coastal town of Great Yarmouth is a picture postcard that the local government and many residents of Norfolk no longer see, leading to atrocious architectural planning decisions and requiring a new lens in which to view the town.

Header Photo: Venice, Norfolk by John McKiernan ©2020


Postcards From Great Yarmouth | Broad Row Sunset 2020

Broad Row at Sunset

Atrocious Planning

Seeing some hoarding with architectural visualisations for a new swimming pool due to blight the seafront from 2022 onwards, I decided to post this series of postcard-esque iPhone snaps of attractive locations in Great Yarmouth. Photographed over the past 9 months, while I have been living in the town, the intention is to foster debate and conversation, both inside and well beyond the town.

Some Caribbean Sunshine

Car Park Affliction

One of the strongest impressions on my first visit to Great Yarmouth in June 2019 was the sheer number of hideous car parks that afflict the town, see bottom of page. In conversations that have followed, it appears to me that the majority of people in Norfolk are almost blind to these unnecessary eyesores.

Postcards From Great Yarmouth | Desolate Beach 2020

Old Beach Building

In conversations with locals, I almost universally hear moans that the council is not doing enough to tarmac over more of the beachfront to create further parking spaces.

Protected Dunes


Protected Dunes

Although I have not personally met anyone locally who shares my horror at these monstrosities, clearly there are people who do fight to try and protect some of the natural beauty from car park developments. The dunes on the Caster side of the pier is the finest example I have noted.

A Mental Health Haven | Caster Dunes

Get Out More

My conclusion, or should I say assumption, from what I have learned is that people who make decisions in this town don’t travel very far and seem oblivious to how the market for UK visitors, and those from abroad, has changed – and changed dramatically.

Postcards From Great Yarmouth | Bike River 2020

Back of Asda

Seafront Blight

Swimming Pool Hoarding

Who is the new 25m swimming pool on the seafront for? Is it meant to be an attraction, and if yes, who will it attract? What is the business case for blocking off the seafront and creating even more parking spaces, when the existing 100,000 car spaces – slight exaggeration – are empty about 80% of the year!

And are major new build public building projects exempt from seeking to be net-carbon neutral and generate at least a portion of their own energy usage? If there is to be a solar-panel roof or photovoltaic cells or other forms of energy self-generation it is not clear from the promotion.


Rethinking Attraction

Britannia Pier 2020 (advertising 2019 events)

Great Yarmouth desperately needs to attract a new range of visitors who are not constrained by having a fixed daily budget to spend. Tourists can go anywhere to play slot machine amusements and there are many fine and attractive piers around the country. For most urban dwellers there will be a 25m pool within the borough they live and will not need to travel to Great Yarmouth to swim.

Postcards From Great Yarmouth | Windfarm Shelter 2020

Wind Farm Shelter

Photography, Port and Pursuits

When comparing Great Yarmouth to Margate, Hastings, Morecambe Bay, Torquay or even Brighton, it is pretty easy to see where the town has competitive advantages.

Structural Decay

The town does not need to build any more new buildings for visitors, it needs to broaden its understanding of what people outside Great Yarmouth like to do, then it could excel at a fraction of the cost.

Postcards From Great Yarmouth | Water Slide Sunrise 2020

Water Slide at Dawn

For photographers, urban geographers, historians, students and the general public interested in industrial design, architecture, urban change, history, environment, climate change, and so on, the town could be a mecca. It has everything from interesting structures, which are truly unique to the town, to open spaces that should really have World Heritage Status.

Surrounding Marshland

Year Round Visitors

Postcards From Great Yarmouth | Tree Wall 2020

Wild Tree

Great Yarmouth is much bigger than Margate or Folkestone in Kent, and any of the Essex or Suffolk seaside towns that I have visited. It would be difficult to cover the whole area on foot in one day. This presents a fantastic opportunity for the short stay market at any time of year as the light is always changing as is the port.

Postcards From Great Yarmouth | Wall Flower 2020

Wall Plant

The town is awash with stunning buildings going back through the ages, with the Medieval town walls dating back to the 1200s and King Henry III.

Great Yarmouth town has one of the best preserved and most complete Medieval town walls in England, dating from 28 September 1261 when King Henry III granted Yarmouth the right to enclose the town with a wall and a ditch to protect them from pirates and ensure taxes could be collected. As a Scheduled Ancient Monument, large sections of these walls and eleven towers still survive today.

More on the wall available on the Tourist Information website

Postcards From Great Yarmouth | AirBnB 2020

Airbnb Holiday Let

And there are plenty of more recent buildings that are not only of architectural interest but also perfect for repurposing.

Control Tower

Postcards From Great Yarmouth | Brutal Sunrise 2020

Brutal Shelter

Seemingly lost spaces will have design and architectural interest to many people and offer professional event organisers ample opportunity to develop interesting events that could pull a different audience to the town.

Postcards From Great Yarmouth | Barn Store 2020

Store House

The beach offers opportunities for a multitude of club activities, like open water swimming, which is an all year round pursuit and that could utilise the pier with competitors using the theatre changing rooms and as a warm up arena.

Glorious Beach

Nature Walks

Environment and nature walks, with two rivers, the Broads National Park and marshland that attracts migrating birds right on the edge of the town should be one of the biggest attractions for Great Yarmouth.

Postcards From Great Yarmouth | Bird Hide 2020

Bird Hide

At Portal B I have created the Paget Garden to begin highlighting the natural beauty that grows wild all over the town and particularly behind the huge Asda superstore and train station.

Sunset over Breydon Water and Rotting Jetty

The rebuilt Norman-era Minster Church of St Nicholas, along with the vast cemetery attached offers a further opportunity to entice nature lovers, walkers and historians.

New Cemetery

Allowing more wilding and becoming a nature reserve could quickly make this part of town a must see for the millions of annual visitors.

Postcards From Great Yarmouth | Cemetery Tree 2020

Minster Dawn

New Narratives

The local authority needs to realise that there is a whole new audience that can be attracted to the town beyond those wanting to play a penny-drop and buy an ice-cream or chips.

Discarded structures with fascinating histories can quickly establish new narratives through storytelling and repurposing.

Beautiful Structures

Fourth Industrial Revolution

The repurposing can be through events, with particular focus on new technology and putting Great Yarmouth at the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), which is also the main purpose of Fourth Portal. Creating work hubs and learning spaces are other purposes that can be suggested.

Commissioner’s House

Postcards From Great Yarmouth | Queen Street 2020

Restored Queen’s Street

Big Idea | The Winter Gardens

The best idea in town is Mark Duffield’s moving the 1800s Winter Gardens from its hemmed in location on the seafront to a desolate waste of prime riverside on North Quay.

North Quay | Potential Winter Gardens Location

As a local estate agent owner, whose business has been operating for several generations, Mark understands the history, the context and the risks to Great Yarmouth if it continues on the present trajectory. Shifting this heritage building offers a chance of a new beginning and provides a much stronger business case as an event and botanical garden, in addition to creating an iconic beacon on entry into the town.

Seafront Winter Gardens

Spending £27m pounds of scarce public money on a manciple swimming pool, double the £13.65m (BBCNews) new build cost of the Turner Contemporary in Margate is madness. Read more on the Ambitious Gateway post.

Dreaded Car Parks

As warned, just a tiny sample of some of the car parks that litter the town.

Car Park Afflictions

Great Potential

Great Yarmouth has Great Potential post Covid-19 if, – a huge IF – if the local authority and elected officials take a step back and ask, what does the world outside Norfolk look for in a trip to an English coastal town?

There are recent building projects around that show there is potential. The Venetian Waterways is a beautiful space enjoyed by locals and visitors alike and does not require vast sums of public money to be maintained, however this is a rarity.

Venetian Waterways at Dawn

Further Discussion

Regardless of your views, I do hope this post has sparked a few thoughts and I encourage comments below if you will please? A few more images to end the post.

From Outta Space

The Rows

Postcards From Great Yarmouth | Water Slide 2020

Water Slide

Britannia Aloft

Images: John McKiernan ©2020 No reuse or reproduction without express written consent.

John M

8 comments

  1. Reply

    The council are living in the past.
    About 35 years ago people would travel far and wide to the Marina centre swimming pool with its hugely exciting Wave machine.
    Perhaps they’re hoping for more of that. Sadly Yarmouth had a lot more to offer (besides the pool) back then.
    These are very expensive straws to clutch at.

    1. Thanks for taking time to comment Sam.

      Yes, agree with your central point. Pools with wave machines were, like dancing fountains and laser/paintball gaming, real crowd pullers because they were so novel and few places had them. That does not apply to the modern day or the future.
      I know what I would do with the space by the seafront where the pool is going, however I am more interested in reading what you feel should be there, if anything, and whether you know what other lovers of Great Yarmouth would want to see? Much appreciated. John M

  2. Reply

    Probably some kind of exhibition centre that could vary its offering fortnightly/monthly.
    It should be diverse and changeable to capitalise on trends in tech, food, fitness, design and youth/adult interest and offer street food stall opportunities for local businesses.

    They’ll build a swimming pool.

    1. Agree. Any new space has to have levels of future proofing included, particularly concerning the Fourth Industrial Revolution** relating to all areas that you highlight. The town needs a scalable attraction that could fill the hectares of static holiday homes throughout the year, as well as the hotels.
      ** What is 4IR https://haphazard.business/2019/12/17/what-is-4ir/

  3. Reply

    Yarmouth needs super fast broadband and Free WiFi not car parks. People will be more attracted to move there if they can work from home. New businesses and social enterprises need IT not parking. There’s a great train service from Norwich and you could cycle.

    1. At Fourth Portal B we are using the Phone Co-op for Internet WiFi and is excellent so far. Interesting 4G is actually better here than in central London or many of the wealthier parts of the country. One reason might be there is a particularly good connection, more likely reason is there is less draw from numerous demands; gaming, HD devices and programs requiring major bandwidth, like CAD or full Adobe packages. Greater Anglia have done a very good job with the GY-Norwich line despite early issues with trains and land the tracks are on. From GY to central Norwich can be almost as fast, if not faster than Golden Triangle to Centre by car during rush hour – just saying. Thanks for comment Abi.

  4. Reply

    I love sea swimming so surely lifeguards on the beach and showers and changing areas would be a good start and cheaper than a pool. Teach kids to swim and become lifeguards a skilled responsible job good on your cv and gives people confidence

    1. Thanks for the comment Abigail, I could not agree more. Although the North Sea can be pretty dangerous I would imagine (says a sea paddler rather than proper sea swimmer), with the right people leading it could be an exhilarating almost all year round activity would be my guess? By achieving the outcomes you outline I am sure it would also encourage self-belief and self-reliance through achievement, which of course is a lifelong benefit. It also offers the possibility to create a new entrepreneurial sector with all the spin-off potential with shops selling wetsuits, flippers and other paraphernalia. Great comment, thanks. John

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