A good turn-out of parishioners this time, come to see us debate Dr Batten’s detailed plan for the ecological management of the Hillside land. In the event, all the councillors having read the plan in advance, and none of them wanting to even try to second-guess the expert, the plan was adopted unanimously. A copy of the Hilltop Parish Land plan is available as it is of course in the public domain. The implementation of the plan is keenly awaited by many of the local residents – especially those who have volunteered to help – and I am confident the result will be something we can all take pride in. Many thanks to Dr Batten for volunteering and for putting in so much effort and expertise.
But before that we had a report from our County Councillor, Mike Baker, fresh from his coup in Aylsham. He brought warnings of the huge cuts being inflicted on the County by central government – £120 million (the EDP says £140m) over the next three years – which will result in the slashing (by up to 20%) of budgets on all areas of discretionary expenditure. Basically, discretionary expenditure is all the stuff taxpayers actually like.
One item of expenditure that will likely have to be ring-fenced is the cost associated with cancelling the contract for the deeply unpopular rubbish incinerator proposed by the previous administration at Saddlebow, King’s Lynn. Energy, or at least minerals policy associated with it, was another aspect covered by Cllr Baker’s report. Apparently NCC has had to develop a policy on hydraulic fracturing – fracking in common parlance – even though there is generally thought not to be any suitable strata under the county. Such a policy is also of limited use as the government has effectively removed fracking from the control of local authorities; they are no longer allowed to investigate associated seismic activity, flaring and venting, nor even the impact on water supplies. The government has created a planning presumption in favour of fracking (unlike with wind power, say, where the presumption is generally against). The Chancellor of the Exchequer has also granted favourable tax status for shale gas extraction – 30% as against 62% for oil. That Osborne’s father-in-law has a considerable financial interest in one of the main fracking companies is of course purely co-incidental…
Actually North Norfolk isn’t going to escape entirely as underground coal gasification licence blocks have been designated just off-shore from Cromer. It does all rather give the lie to the Tories’ claim that they would be the greenest government ever – unless of course they meant “green” as in inexperienced, callow, mildewed.
One of the issues that I was planning to take up with our MP during his whistle-stop tour of the villages was the continued inaction over Church Lane. In the event he couldn’t come – he was in parliament voting to start a war with Syria (ah, how power corrupts!) – so his wife came instead along with our District Councillor, David Young, and a young case worker newly out of short trousers. Something must have stirred as just before the PC meeting Cllr Young forwarded an email he had received from the Highways Engineer which I quote verbatim: “I have a design for a structure to support the road and an estimate of the cost. We are currently checking the legal status as the wall itself actually belongs to the church. Previous works, approx 12 [actually 10] years ago, provided support for the road and the church were then supposed to rebuild their wall but as far as I can tell this never happened. Subject to clarification from the legal team and finding available monies I would hope the works can be completed before Xmas and certainly before April next year.” From that I would deduce that the planned works will be as ugly as the last lot, though they could be mitigated if the church would face the concrete with flints – there are plenty of them lying there. At least there is now a time-table to fall behind.
We hope the Highways can find a bit more money down the back of their sofa to do something about the vehicles parking on the new roadside path opposite the Old Hall before the next tourist season. We have had several letters of complaint about this as not only does it seriously incommode pedestrians, it is also a danger to traffic on the blind corner/hump. A few small bollards have been suggested – as were a number of other solutions, none of them legal.
Housing was the other subject I wanted to broach with our MP. Following on from my letter in last month’s GVN, the property in question has been sold – fortunately to someone with a local connection – and now word comes through that two Victory-owned properties in Lime Kiln Close will soon be vacant. What will happen to them? Will they try to sell yet more of our dwindling stock of affordable rented properties? Those of you on Twitter might like to drop a line – 140 characters or less – to the Victory Chief Executive at @John_Victory1. I did and he replied that there was only one currently vacant and that will be relet when repaired. Result? Mmmm. No doubt Victory will also point to the generous grants they award to local voluntary and community groups – £200,000 a year is the budget – or about the cost of building two houses. I’ve no idea if they give anything to the local food banks of which there are several. There has always been an element of hidden poverty in this area and now this is being reflected in the forthcoming opening of a food bank in Holt. Yes, Holt, the prosperous Georgian town watched over by the Owl of Minerva! If you want to volunteer, or donate foodstuffs, the contact number is 07826 376343.
It’s coming up bonfire time. After the awful mess left last time, the word is going out that there will be no rubbish dumped on the bonfire this year – in fact we’d rather nothing was added without prior clearance from the Village Hall Caretaker. He’ll be watching! Last year all sorts of rubbish was chucked on including an old ironing board and some lumps of concrete which were still smouldering weeks later; pretty much everything except a poison gas cylinder – I guess they had all been sold to Syria. Speaking of which, some forms of treated wood can be as dangerous as they leave toxic residues when burnt. Chucking stuff, uninvited, onto the village bonfire is fly-tipping and thus subject to a large fine on conviction. So please don’t do it.
The next meeting of Cley Parish Council will be on Tuesday 1 October at 7.30pm in the Club room at the back of the Village Hall. At this meeting we will have to bid a very reluctant farewell to our splendid Clerk, Di Dann, who has had to resign for family reasons. To say we will miss her greatly is an understatement.