A town council has been accused of ‘defacing’ a scheduled ancient monument.
Steps being installed at Castle Hill, in Thetford, have been labelled ‘monstrous’, ‘hideous’ and an ‘eyesore’ by residents.
The site of the town’s former medieval castle, Castle Hill is one of the tallest and steepest castle mounds in England and one of only five Iron Age Hillforts in Norfolk.
It also serves as a popular attraction for residents and visitors who climb up it to enjoy vistas of Thetford.
The problem is repeated climbing has caused damage and to try and preserve the site from further deterioration, in December Thetford Town Council was granted planning approval to install steps on the northeast of the motte and the outer slope of the moat ditch.
But the council, which received a £65,000 grant to carry out the work, has come under fire for ‘vandalising’ the much-loved monument with ‘crass and ugly’ steps.
Victoria Firman, who grew up in Thetford and still works in the town, believes ‘the postcard picture has been ruined by whopping great big metal steps’ which she would like to see replaced with ‘something more subtle and gentler on the eye’.
She said: “To be honest, I think they’re an absolute eyesore. They’re hideous and it doesn’t matter whether they put a bow on them or paint them green.”
“It’s nice to open up access to a wider audience but, quite frankly, they’ve defaced the front of an important part of Thetford’s history,” she added.
A petition started by Dan Anderson, who wants ‘the problem fixed as soon as possible’, has received hundreds of signatures.
In the petition, Mr Anderson states: “The steps IF needed should be made using sympathetic materials such as solid wood sourced locally in Norfolk. NOT the metal scaffolding that is currently being put in place.”
Posting on Facebook, Sean Russell said he felt ‘it was probably a good idea badly implemented’.
“Let’s face it the stairs stick out like a sore thumb,” he added.
“It looks like a huge scar on a beautiful face to me, an act of vandalism,” agreed Gary Connelly.
Steve Tarley Burkey’s post said: “This is a very bad idea that should not have been implemented at all. Archeological sacrilege!!!!! What next? Flatten Stonehenge?? Fill in grimes graves?? 1,000 years of Thetford history defaced by a galvanised staircase!”
“Rather crass and ugly,” said Gary Mayhew. “What buffoon thought they were appropriate?”
Thetford Town Council said the steps are made of composite fibre glass, not metal, and wooden steps would have required more foundations and had ‘greater need of costly maintenance and replacement’.
A spokesman for Historic England said: “While we accept the steps will change the visual appeal of the site, they also bring significant benefits in terms of increased public access and better management.”