Runton Parish Council (PC) was responsible for the small villages of East and West Runton in north Norfolk.
During the 19th century both Cromer and Sheringham had developed into popular seaside resorts, especially after the coming of the railway in the 1880s. The Runtons, however, remained relatively undeveloped and seemed to appeal to holidaymakers who preferred a more ‘al fresco’ holiday whether from preference or financial necessity and the impact is reflected in the Minutes.
Conveniences and ‘arrangements’
Public conveniences were built at East Runton in 1930 and West Runton in 1931 both with attendants but this didn’t reduce the problem of ‘camping grounds’ and sanitation. In 1930 the PC agreed to send a ‘strong letter’ to Erpingham Rural District Council (RDC) ‘asking them to take any possible steps…to stop camps in Runton’. In August 1931, the situation was considered serious enough to ask the RDC to call in the Medical Officer of Health to visit all camps in the Runtons. A year later, after more complaints from residents, the PC asked if the RDC knew of any bye-law whereby camps must be at least 400 yards from houses – they didn’t. The situation was still unsatisfactory in 1934 when the Sanitary Inspector was asked to ‘make a close inspection of all camps in the Parish of Runton and that individual tents be examined to see if proper sanitary arrangements are made’.
Septic tanks at West Runton
These were situated at the beach entrance (or Gangway) at the end of Water Lane and presented an ongoing problem from 1928 to 1931. It’s not clear exactly what the issue was but there is a reference to ‘sewage deposits’ on the beach at West Runton in 1930.
A quotation for remedial work in September 1928 (from May Gurney) proved to be a significant underestimate and the PC felt that it was ‘unfair’ that they should foot the bill as the tanks were still not working properly ‘and if any more expense is needed then it is for Mr. Scott [May Gurney] to meet it’. Responsibility for ensuring the tanks worked properly lay with the RDC and if they didn’t act the PC ‘will consider reporting the whole matter to the Ministry of Health with a view to them sending an expert down to report as to the working of the tanks’. By February 1930 the PC was ‘strongly opposed to any more expenditure’ but did agree to the lengthening of the outfall to the sea. They would not agree, however, ‘to Mr. Scott having anything to do’ with this alteration as ‘they have had more than enough of his wasting public money…when he should have known that the system…would not do what the Council expected it would’. A few months later May Gurney requested settlement of the account but the PC considered it to be ‘an absolute waste of public money’. In January 1931 the RDC stepped in but the PC was adamant that the outcome was ‘totally unsatisfactory’ and Mr. Scott should waive any claim for his services. In March 1931, however, the PC grudgingly agreed to the payment of £31 as ‘there are no legal grounds for refusing’ but put it on record that they ‘consider it most unfair for Mr. Scott to charge any fees for work which turned out to be a complete failure’.
Noise and subletting
It wasn’t only campers causing a nuisance. In 1932 the PC received complaints from residents living near the Church Hall, West Runton about the noise ‘from people who were living in the Hall during the first week in August’. Some residents, however, were keen to benefit from the influx of visitors as in 1930 the PC agreed to ask the RDC to reconsider allowing council tenants to rent rooms ‘to summer visitors providing there is no overcrowding’ but without success.
Control of the beach
In 1931 the PC submitted beach bye-laws, based on those in force at Mundesley, to the RDC for approval and in summer 1933 appointed a Beach Inspector (£2 a week) to enforce them. Duties included ensuring that donkeys and ponies for hire kept to their designated areas; stopping bottles or tins being thrown; preventing any climbing or making of paths on the cliffs that was likely to cause damage to same and generally preventing ‘nuisance’ on the beach.
Motor traffic was also a problem and in 1928 the PC agreed to take measures to prevent ‘motors’ driving onto parish land on the cliffs and, in 1929, decided to erect posts to stop traffic driving over the Commons in West Runton. They, also, wrote to local landowners looking to rent land for car parks at both East and West Runton and in 1930 agreed to notices prohibiting cars from parking on the roads to the beaches at both Runtons. In summer 1932 the RDC was asked to schedule Water Lane, West Runton as ‘unsuitable for charabanc traffic’. There are several references to roads having to be ‘made up’ or tarred and in 1929 the Minutes note that ‘the need to find work for the unemployed is so urgent’ that they could be employed on the roads. Speeding was a problem and in 1933 the PC felt it necessary to draw the attention of the police to ‘the dangerous pace of certain motorists through the village’ – nothing changes! There were also complaints about aircraft noise and in September 1931 the Minutes record that the PC had repeatedly asked the RDC to stop the nuisance and when, in May 1932, the PC received a request from the RDC to find a field suitable for (presumably light) aircraft to land near Cromer the PC declined to help.
Compiled by A. Baker, NRO Research Blogger