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March 2014 Report

The big news this month seems to be that the Environment Agency has started to make repairs to the Cley-Blakeney bank. Somehow the District found £46,000 to fund this work which is very welcome though a long way short of the original estimated cost of £1 million. That’s the sort of gap you can drive the entire Stagecoach bus fleet through so why the difference? Granted what the EA is doing is no more than a sticking plaster job while the long term future of the bank is fought over, but it does make you wonder if the original estimate didn’t include a very generous contingency allowance designed to make the work seem unaffordable. Paranoid? Moi?

Our District councillor, David Young, gave us a brief overview of the NNDC’s involvement in housing eight years after the stock transfer to Victory Housing Trust. They claim that up to 2016 they have committed £13.5m to housing related programmes which sounds brilliant until you realise that £7.75m of that is receipts from Right to Buy sales and another £3.5m comes from other housing related income streams much of which had previously been loaned to housing associations or stuffed into the piggy bank. In other words only a bit over £2m is new money. Not to be sneezed at for sure but slightly less spectacular than the headline figure. Clearly they have been paying close attention to the HM Treasury Book of Spin.

Victory’s scheme to finance 145 new-build properties largely funded by the open market sale of 100 existing properties is going ahead – they now reckon they can squeeze out 163 properties for the money – and will form the basis of their 10-year plan 2013-2023 under which they envisage selling 300 existing homes in order to build 1000 new ones. Quite how the arithmetic stacks up is not immediately obvious – perhaps someone has sold them the winning numbers for the Lottery – but they do at least concede that, while many of the properties sold will be in villages like Cley and Blakeney, the vast majority of the new build will be in the larger towns like North Walsham. This policy, forced on them by the ever tightening purse strings of the laughably misnamed Homes & Communities Agency, in conjunction with the disastrous Right to Buy, amounts to the gradual but remorseless social cleansing of our rural communities.

It seems we are not immune from the attentions of the knuckle-draggers. One or more specimens of Homo Stultus decided it would be a jolly wheeze to lob a thunderflash into our High Street telephone box. The resulting explosion blew several windows out so it now looks an even bigger mess than before, and will cost even more to put right. Put right it must be as it is a listed ‘building’ though getting any kind of response, let alone a positive one, out of BT is apparently impossible. Misusing explosives in a public place is an incredibly stupid thing to do. Some might think a BT Management meeting a more appropriate place for misusing explosives; I couldn’t possibly comment.

I suppose the discussion of vandalism inevitably brings me to the subject of vegetation in the lokes. Here I find myself caught between a rock and a flowery place as the Parish Council has a duty to maintain footpaths and rights of way. There are councillors – lets call them the Agent Orange faction – who seem to think that the lokes should be kept totally devoid of any kind of vegetation. Against them is the Green faction who, supported by all the villagers who have expressed an opinion, feel that some flowers and shrubs (no, not ivy, nor Valerian for that matter) if properly maintained are a positive enhancement to our environment and a benefit to the wildlife. A fully formed policy on this issue will hopefully arise from the next meeting, though I fear the Agent Orange brigade have a majority at the moment. At this point perhaps I could mention that the next Parish Council elections will be held in May 2015. Get involved! Stand for the Council.

While you’re getting involved, spare a thought for our village hall. In common with most other village halls, the bookings are falling off at the same time as running costs are rising. The hall is owned by a charitable trust of which the parish councillors are the Custodian Trustees. They ‘appoint’ a Management Committee to oversee the day-to-day running of the hall; traditionally this has been made up of representatives of the organisations which regularly use it. As there are fewer users the Committee has shrunk so that the Trustees need to appoint independent members to the Committee drawn from the community at large. We urgently need a new Treasurer and will soon need a new Chairperson at least. There is a very active new fundraiser, bless her, but she will no doubt need helpers from time to time. To paraphrase JFK, ask not what your village hall can do for you – ask what you can do for your village hall.

Perhaps we could use the village hall as a workshop for fabricating barricades. Notwithstanding the fact that we are sitting on top of chalk strata many hundred feet deep, the northern half of Norfolk has been identified as an area ripe for fracking: applications for drilling licences can be made from this summer. This is such a stupid idea on so many levels, not the least being that the chalk holds our water supply and there is no way they can frack without polluting the aquifer. We, or rather NOON, saw off the nuclear waste dumpers so perhaps a similar concerted effort could be made to tell Cuadrilla and the others to frack off.

The next meeting of Cley Parish Council will, appropriately enough, be on Tuesday 1 April at 7.30pm in the Club Room at the back of the village hall. Come early to be sure of a seat…

Richard Kelham 

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