By Lucy Clapham
Saturday, June 7, 2014
More than 1,000 people have backed a campaign to bring one of Great Yarmouth’s most historic tourist attractions back to its nostalgic best.
The famous boating lake in North Denes, which dates back to the 1920s, has sat dormant after the last tenant surrendered the lease in 2012.
Since then it has become victim to vandalism and water levels have dropped, as Great Yarmouth Borough Council thrashes out a viable solution.
But now an ambitious plan has been hatched to bring the attraction - and the neighbouring Waterways - back into use, which would see hire boats cutting once more through the waters.
Yarmouth man Jason Jerome has been in discussion with the council about the future of the lake ever since it closed, and has started an online campaign in a bid to get his plan started.
■ The Waterways and boating lake were built as Great Yarmouth became a leading holiday destination. The boating lake opened in 1926, followed by the Venetian-style Waterways in August 1928.
■ Borough Engineer S P Thompson designed the water gardens. They were build between January and June 1928 as a job creation scheme for the unemployed during the depression.
■ It is thought the channels were all dug by hand, using shovels and wheelbarrows, and more than 6,600 tons of soil were brought in from Caister to replace the sand.
■ The Waterways featured winding rivers for boats, paths through rock gardens, leading to pretty bridges and several thatched shelters.
■ As they grew in popularity more features were added, including illuminations, music and a model of HMS Nelson. The salt water was also replaced with fresh water so they could be used for ice skating in the winter.
■ They suffered some bomb damage in the second world war but they were open as usual for the 1946 season and continued to thrive.
■ The attraction was given a Grade II listing by English Heritage in 2002.
The dad-of-six, from Albany Road, has put forward proposals to take on a lease.
He said: “I’ve got a ten point list of the things I’d like to do there; repairing the lake, re-painting it, replacing the old paving stones and talking to a landscape designer about the gardens. It’s amazing the number of vehicles that stop there and people get out to walk to the lake, see it’s closed and then get back in their cars and drive away.”
Jason, 43, began his “crusade” two years ago when he was made redundant from his job in London as an IT manager.
His morning commute was replaced by the school run during which he noticed the site was shut and began writing to the council, asking about its future. After months of correspondence he worked up a business plan - complete with health and safety and water quality details - and was hopeful he could take it on as a leaseholder.
But after months of emails, phone calls - and a temporary offer which he said came too late - he has become frustrated by the lack of action and has now launched his petition and Facebook page.
“If the council hasn’t got the funding to do the work then surely by opening it and taking money from a lease, and allowing the leaseholder to start improving the site, that’s going to be a win-win for them.”
He was offered a temporary seasonal licence to operate the boating lake last year but he said it was not offered until June and he would have just two months of the season left, which did not make it a viable investment. There was also no guarantee the licence would continue.
Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust is investigating a funding bid to return it to its best.
Its chairman Bernard Williamson said grants were being looked at for the Waterways and the Winter Gardens, but other projects had taken precedence.
A council spokesman said: ”Until the boating lake is safe, the council cannot lease out the lake for commercial use. This would not be fair on the public or the lease holder. The lake must be fit for purpose before it is used – and this requires upfront investment.”