Frinton is braced for loosening of moral standards

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The Independent Online
A SMALL boy was flying his kite on the greensward as his grandfather leant on his stick and looked on admiringly. The beach huts were shut for winter and the evenly spaced wooden seats looking on to the North Sea were empty.

A typical scene at Frinton-on-Sea, Essex, albeit out of season.

The picture is completed when one goes inside the Maplin Hotel on the esplanade and asks for a drink. Frintonians would not be so foolish.

Nick Turner, owner of the Maplin, bristled at the request. "No," was the short answer, followed by the fuller explanation: "Here, a full licence is a pub - a public house - which means the public can come into it."

He did not have one - and nor would he want to. A pub in Frinton would change Frinton forever, he said.

A level crossing provides a symbolic barrier between Frinton proper and the modern part of the town. "Inside the gates," as locals like to say, is the "holy part of Frinton", where all vulgar aspects of modern life have been resolutely resisted. Indeed, if Winston Churchill was to return today, he would be hard pressed to find any changes in the seaside resort where he holidayed during the world wars.

However, after Tendring Council's decision to allow JP Wetherspoon to build a pub on the town's main street, anything could happen. Or so Frintonians think.

Roy Caddick, 63, the secretary of the Frinton Residents' Association, described the day that the Wetherspoon proposal was accepted as the worst in Frinton since "the Luftwaffe beat up the town in 1945".

Subsequent word from nearby Braintree has reinforced his opinion. "A Wetherspoon pub has opened in Braintree and residents absolutely dread Friday and Saturday nights now. The youngsters descend on the town, tank up on cheap beer and cause mayhem," he said. "They slam car doors, they roar up the street, and there's vomit on the pavement the next morning. People don't have a drink in Frinton, but at least we don't get riots and all the other awful things that you read about elsewhere."

Win Shelton, 78, a long-standing member of Frinton `s town council, is equally apprehensive about the "late hours activity". She said: "You know, we haven't got all the razzmatazz that other places have. It's a haven. We don't have the candy floss or amusements."

JP Wetherspoon is anxious to allay the town's fears. The pub will be "straightforward and gimmick-free" with no music whatsoever, live or background. There will be wheelchair access and "nothing going on inside", said a spokesman.

But no amount of pandering is going to change the minds of the elderly residents, who are planning to take their "case of injustice" to the local government ombudsman.

John Lowe, landlord of the Essex Skipper, situated "outside the gates", and a self-elected founder member of the Fossils (Frinton-on-Sea Invisible Landlord Society), does not feel threatened by the arrival of a Wetherspoon pub.

"If they've got a better cook than my missus I'll jack it in - because I know they don't," he said. "I don't like the concept that you buy cheap, sell cheap and sod everyone else."

His pub has a dart board, jukebox and fruit machines and welcomes families (unlike Wetherspoon pubs).

The fact that the new pub will have "nothing going on inside" was no cause for cheer, he added. "It's just cheap beer and nothing else; it's not a community service."

However some residents - even some elderly ones - believe that the Frinton known to George Bernard Shaw and Edward, The Prince of Wales, and Mrs Simpson should wake up to the 20th century before the 21st arrives. The town described by Ursula Bloom, who also wrote under the name Lozania Prole, in her book Rosemary for Frinton, is laughably out of date. "I think we should have the pub," said George Francis. "It would revitalise the town, which would be a damn good idea."