It’s happened again. A twenty metre length of the retaining wall between Church Lane and the Church Field (aka Garden of Rest) has collapsed and is threatening to take a chunk of the road with it. Church Lane is closed from The Knoll south to the junction with the Holt Road – and if past experience is any guide it’s likely to stay closed for quite some time as the PCC and the Highways argue about who should pay for the replacement. Last time, some ten years or so ago, it was the Highways who blinked first which is why we have that ugly lump of concrete with key-clamp railings on top – definitely nul points for aesthetics there. Where are English Heritage when you need them?
Why did it happen? The finger of suspicion points first to too many heavy lorries (dust carts and fuel oil tankers mostly) using a road that was built for nothing heavier than a horse and cart. Secondly there may be a connection with the extremely wet winter. Local wisdom had it that there was a natural underground water course of some sort beneath the hill that runs down to Church Lane from the other side and that this also caused the marshiness at the lowest part of Newgate Green – but that turned out to be a leaking Anglian Water main so the theory may need a bit of revision. There does seem to be some evidence of water percolating under the road surface which could affect both the subsoil and the lime mortar holding the wall together. Or not. Whatever the reason, it has happened, and it looks increasingly likely that the rest of that wall will follow suit sooner rather than later, so the first bit of advice is ‘keep away’. The good news is that it is not our responsibility: we can merely stand on the sidelines like a Greek chorus commenting on the unfolding drama. And we will, we will…
While we are in Church Lane, so to speak, someone has nicked that post box too. Enquiries are being made (Di Dann looks very fetching in a deerstalker hat) and we have just been informed that the missing box has indeed been stolen. So if anyone in the metal recycling business is approached by some bottom-feeding low life with an armful of red painted cast iron, please call the Police immediately. This does mean it will be some time before it is replaced – if it ever is. Incidentally, the Royal Mail Post Box location database describes that site as “Newgate Street, Cley” an address that does not actually exist!
There has been a bit of a buzz lately about the “Big Switch and Save” campaign run by the NNDC (and about 49 other councils), the deadline for which is rapidly approaching. The idea is that as many people as possible sign up so the councils can then negotiate with electricity suppliers on their behalf, and you all transfer to the company offering the best deal. Obviously the more people sign up, the more leverage the councils will have – and they’ll need it as a 2011 ‘Which?’ report into energy tariffs concluded that even A-level maths students would have difficulty calculating the optimum tariff. So, if you are interested, and there is definitely safety, if not a huge saving, in numbers, full details are available by phone on 01263 516044. Things were so much easier, and a helluva lot cheaper, before the industry was privatised; but that applies to so many things in life today.
A few unfortunate residents of this parish are about to suffer the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ whereby their housing benefit will be reduced by up to £25 a week if they are deemed to have a spare bedroom or two. Put aside for one moment the fact that most housing benefit recipients are actually working – and so even the Daily Mail would have difficulties portraying them as ‘scroungers’ – this scheme is nonsense as well as nasty since most housing association properties have three bedrooms and there are few if any one bedroom properties in the social housing sector in this area, any that may exist in the private sector would almost certainly attract a higher rent than their existing property thereby increasing the HB cost, so they have nowhere to move to and thus no chance of avoiding the penalty. It must have been particularly galling – and caused lefties and liberals up and down the country to choke on their muesli – when the Tory Party Chairman (Michael Shapps, or is it Grant Green?) declared on Radio 4 that these people were responsible for the housing shortage that was condemning thousands of families to homelessness. So, nothing to do with the 2,000,000 council houses that were flogged off, and deliberately not replaced, under the Tories’ ‘right to buy’ scheme then?
It could be argued there is no actual shortage of housing – it’s just that too much of it is in the wrong place, or the wrong hands. But that doesn’t help us here in the Glaven Valley where there is a clear demand for a limited amount of new housing, but only in the social rented sector. Perhaps even some one or two bedroom properties to leaven the mix.
Last year the government relaxed the planning laws to allow much more building on green field sites. Since then the number of planning consents given in the East of England has doubled. Very few new houses have actually been built, however, but that is not the point – a piece of land with planning consent for house building is worth many times the same piece of land without planning consent. Nationally there were already 400,000 unused consents out there – anyone desperate to build could have done so straight away – so there was no pressing need to relax restrictions: as those old leftie agitators the NT, the CPRE and the Daily Telegraph pointed out, no one was buying houses anyway. Clearly this is not about housing but about money and greed. To prove otherwise the government only needs to abolish the ‘right to buy’ and start giving local authorities and housing associations grants and/or cheap loans with instructions to start building immediately. It won’t happen of course.