The dominant issue this month has to be the on-going closure of Church Lane caused by the collapse of the supporting wall alongside Church Field. The first estimate for repairs of the collapsed section is £50,000, not a sum that is easily magicked up in these (artificially) straitened times. And that is just for the bit that has fallen down. As the surviving sections do so only by luck – they are leaning out at about 15 degrees from the vertical – it is only a matter of time before we are treated to Episodes Three and Four of this long-running saga as Highways have no plans to replace them while they are still officially standing.
As was the case with Episode One ten years ago, there was considerable delay in reopening the road. Also, as with Episode One, opinion in the lane is divided between those who want it reopened ASAP and those who want it shut permanently. Permanent closure would presumably need the provision of a turning area by The Knoll as backing a truck down the full length of Church Lane would be hazardous to say the least; closure could also be a bureaucratic nightmare. I should add that, though the road is closed to vehicular traffic, it is still open to pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders – so please park your car with due consideration.
Highways also announced their intention to undertake ‘surface dressing’ of the High Street on Monday 13 May, possibly running over to the 14th. This is weather permitting of course. It will involve closure of the street and the institution of diversions, though “access to businesses will be maintained” they say. The planned diversion route is quite extensive: if you wished to drive from the Coast Road to the Deli car park and followed the signposted route you would enjoy a twenty mile tour of North Norfolk taking in the delights of Sheringham, Bodham, Holt, Letheringsett and Langham on the way! No-one has said where the buses are going to go.
On which subject we have received a letter from Ben Colson, Managing Director of Norfolk Green, operators of the CoastHopper bus service, outlining some of the problems they have. The biggest problem of course is the cut in funding from Norfolk County Council (see previous reports for the real culprits) and a 58% increase in fuel tax which, coupled with a drop in passenger numbers due to the foul weather, and despite a 10% rise in fares, has resulted in a considerable loss on this route for the first time ever. To counter this there has been a further 7.5% increase in fares and a curtailment in the period of the Summer timetable which now starts on Saturday 4 May, runs to the end of September, and again provides a half hourly service through most of the day. For the rest of April they are running relief buses at busy times to cope with the numbers of passengers trying to use the service, this being cheaper than bringing forward the new timetable. Apparently. It does of course give rise to that old plaint “you wait ages for a bus then two come along at once…”
You may have noticed that the buses coming through the village carry the number ‘Ch3’. This is because the route has been broken up into sections in an attempt to reduce the numbers who travel from end to end using it as a free sightseeing trip through the AONB and blocking seats that are wanted for fare paying passengers on short hops. Another idea that has been floated, and which is designed to encourage passengers to break their journey in our lovely villages, is for shops along the route to offer discounts to customers who can produce a valid CoastHopper ticket for that day. It remains to be seen how many retailers sign up for this scheme – the more the better, obviously – but it does seem like a terrific wheeze.
Back in March I mentioned the ‘Energy Box’, which I described then as a “scheme, funded by the Department of Energy and Climate Change … to provide each and every Parish Council with information on a wide range of energy issues. The Energy Box will contain a ring binder stuffed with information and advice on such topics as insulation of your home; energy meters, tariffs and billing; financial help with paying bills; renewable energy; staying warm in winter; saving water and something called the Green Deal.” Well, it has arrived and it is really quite big. It contains a large ring binder stuffed full of, er, stuff, and in the bottom a clever little gizmo that does something or other – I suspect I would have to read the file to find out just what it does do. It will be kept by me here at Made in Cley and any parishioner wishing to borrow it should first ‘phone me (740186) to make sure it is not out on loan already, before pitching up on my doorstep. I have not had time to read the file so can offer no opinion as to its value – not even its calorific value – but as it is from the Department of Energy and Climate Change it must be useful. No?
Dr Marie Strong, County Councillor for the Wells division, has been campaigning hard for much needed improvements to the broadband facilities in this area. At the time of writing we have had no broadband at all for three days due to BT doing some work at the exchange in Wiveton. The last time I checked the BT website, while I still could, there was no mention of any plans to upgrade or unbundle the exchange in the foreseeable future so don’t expect any great improvements if/when service is resumed. Several people have complained recently that their download speeds were getting slower and slower; whether this was due to greater contention (more folks using the internet at the same time) or deliberate throttling by BT (people who switched to BT from other ISPs noticed a marked increase in line speed!) is impossible to determine. One has one’s suspicions…
The Council has agreed to hire a skip so the top end of the car park can be cleared of the accumulated rubbish. Please can people refrain from dumping stuff up there, especially towards Guy Fawkes night: any unauthorised additions to the bonfire will be treated as fly-tipping and the culprits will be burned in effigy, or at least fined.
The next meeting on Tuesday 7 May will be the Annual Parish Meeting, followed by the normal Parish Council meeting. I hope to have my Report ready for your delectation and, who knows, we might even meet our new County Councillor, whoever he or she might be. The excitement is almost palpable.