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Eden Project vision proposed for Pontins site at Hemsby.

Eden project vision proposed for Pontins site at Hemsby

27th January 2010

A Norfolk businessman is hoping to create "The Eden of the East" on the derelict site of Pontins holiday park in Hemsby, near Great Yarmouth.

Simon Middleton has been working with local people to develop the idea for the giant indoor sub-tropical residential centre since spring 2009.

"The idea is to convert it into something very 21st Century," he said.

His idea has the backing of the Conservatives, Hemsby Parish Council and other local businesses.

Brandon Lewis, the Conservative candidate for Great Yarmouth, revealed his support for the project in his blog and believes it will benefit the local economy.

"This could be a very exciting project and I think many of us would love to see something like this develop," he said.

"It would be a boost to tourism and would be another destination point to aid the tourism for all of Great Yarmouth, not just Hemsby."

The idea is currently in its planning phase and Simon Middleton is looking for suitable investment for fund his "vision".

"There's an awful lot of work to be done. At the moment it's a vision where the gaps are getting gradually filled in," said Simon.

"We've got a picture in our minds of what it would look like and a picture of who would want to come and visit and stay at it, but there's an awful lot of practical stuff to do.

"The first thing we need to do is find some people who would be interested in investing in it, because it would be an expensive investment, but I think it has massive potential."

The new 800-person carbon-neutral centre, which Simon describes as a "flagship for Norfolk tourism", hopes to include lodges and big biomes [giant domes] that are temperature-controlled for people to camp in all year round.

At the centre where "Eden meets Centre Parcs", people could take part in activities such as canoeing and rock-climbing and there would be an adventure playground for children.

Residents could also learn about living a sustainable and ecological lifestyle.

Bold idea

Other businessmen from Hemsby are encouraging Simon's bold idea to regenerate the village's tourism into the new decade and stop the derelict Pontins site being used for housing.

"I think it's a brilliant idea. Hemsby's got lots to offer, we're close to all amenities," said James Gray, owner of Lost World Adventure Golf on Beach Road in the village.

"I don't think the infrastructure is there for much more housing. There are a lot of people who rely on the tourist trade here. Last year [2008] Pontins was full, this year [2009] it was empty and that's money we've all lost.

"The beginning of the year is a good time to be talking about it and hopefully by next year [2011] things will have progressed a lot further."

Lyndon Bevan, business owner and member of Hemsby Parish Council, says the idea would receive backing from the local community.

"The parish council is adamant that this [Pontins] cannot go for houses," he said.

"This idea is one of many ideas that we're trying to put forward to Northern Trust and we encourage them as the owners of the land to try and come up with some way of keeping it in the holiday industry, otherwise Hemsby is doomed!" he added.

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