It seems barely credible that it is just a year since the last council election. Your new councillors are settling in, learning the limits of parish council powers – we cannot for instance affect the space/time continuum – unlike the government which seems hell-bent on dragging us back to the 1930s. From memory that decade didn’t end well, though they did finally crack the unemployment problem.
The past year has been mercifully uneventful by recent standards. There was no repeat of the Tour of Britain cycle race hurtling through the village, tempting me to erect a banner saying “Two Wheels Bad, Four wheels Good”. But that would probably be too Orwellian. Next year (next council year that is) we have the Jubilympics, not to mention the Cley12 exhibition, to contend with – just how much excitement can the human soul take?
We have, thanks to the initiative and dogged perseverance of our Clerk, managed to restore our finances pretty much to the status quo ante. A huge vote of thanks to Di Dann. As a result we have been able to reduce our precept for the coming year from £8,000 to £7,000, the level at which it had been for several years previously.
On planning matters, the year saw the final resolution of the saga of the Fairstead garages site – a small cottage is even now in the process of construction, though at this stage it looks more like a double deck garage than a cottage. A much sorer thumb is sticking out at the end of Beau Rivage, Mark Johnson-Watts’ parting gift to the village (the word ‘Gift’ in German means ‘poison’). How the planners let that one through I’ll never know.
We continue to mow the grass and to chivvy the Highways about potholes in the roads: a particularly persistent pothole on the Deli corner lead to the entire road being resurfaced for about 30 metres either side of the junction with New Road, requiring the complete closure of the High Street for five days. Serves us right for complaining. Of the street name boards erected by the NNDC, the one outside the house known as The Anchorage has recently been wrecked for the second time. As it stands in front of a wall regularly damaged by tail swiping lorries, this is hardly a surprise. No doubt any replacement will enjoy a similarly brief life.
There has been a noticeable rise in the crime rate in the village – though it is still very low by national standards – coinciding with a halving of the number of Police officers attached to the Wells SNT. Even so, a couple of perpetrators were apprehended: one, a shoplifter as he alighted from his getaway bus, and the other a career criminal specialising in smash-and-grab raids who obligingly left a DNA sample when he cut himself on the glass he’d just smashed. Do’h.
Not cleared up yet are a burglary, several thefts of outboard motors and heating oil, and a couple of cases of criminal damage. Add in a couple of assaults (sorted) and complaints of nuisance and you can see our law officers don’t just sit around drinking tea waiting for the phone to ring. Our thanks to them, and in particular to PCSO Becky Taylor for looking after our interests.
A major change this year has been the launching of the council’s own website. It is hoped that this facility will revolutionise the way the council communicates with you, the voters. By offering advertising for local accommodation providers it is hoped the site will be self-sufficient and not cost the taxpayers anything other than the original set-up fees. There is still room for further development, so watch this space www.cleyparishcouncil.org.uk. Oh, you already are!
One major issue for next year is the resolution of the row over the proposed Marine Conservation Zones and in particular the so-called Reference Areas – see past reports for details. The two small RAs in this parish are not particularly contentious but the two in Blakeney, especially RA4 which covers most of Morston marshes and Agar Creek, have really caused an upset, not least because of the complete lack of consultation by the contractor NetGain with the people that matter. A delegation of interested parties led by Tony Faulkner, and with Norman Lamb in tow, has seen the minister responsible, Richard Beynon, and has reported that he seemed sympathetic but added that any decision would have to await the ‘public consultation’ phase in the Summer. Those concerned that this scheme represents “conservation gone mad” might take comfort from the news that consent has apparently been given for Hanson Aggregates to dig up a large chunk of the Beynon family estate near Reading for the extraction of sand and gravel – much to the chagrin and annoyance of the local Wildlife Trust.
What of the future? The new Power of General Competence will give us enhanced authority though without the wherewithal to use it. The NNDC, meanwhile, seems hell-bent on ditching as many of its responsibilities (and staff) as it legally can – totally idiotic in what has become the longest recession for at least a hundred years. Hopes that the voluntary sector will take up the slack, when it is already hard-pressed to find sufficient funds and volunteers, are wildly misplaced. One cherished local organisation that may fall foul of this new mood at the District Council is the Glaven Caring. I hope I am wrong.
This policy, combined with the privatisation and dismemberment of the NHS and increased taxation of pensions make this not a good time to be old, to be sick, or to be poor. Actually, it’s not that good a time to be young either – there are precious few jobs and your music’s rubbish.
Enough, enough! I would like to finish by extending my sincere and grateful thanks to Di Dann for totally reinvigorating this council, and to all my colleagues for their hard work and commitment.