Let’s start with the good news. Better Broadband is coming to the Glaven Valley. Contractors have been laying the fibre optic cable alongside the Holt Road and the plan is that there will be ‘fibre to the cabinet’ infrastructure in place by the end of this year. For Cley that means that, of 360 premises, 312 will be able to achieve ‘Superfast’ broadband speeds of around 25Mbps. Compared to the present theoretical maximum of 8Mbps (actually more like 6Mbps) this is indeed an improvement though whether it actually counts as Superfast is debatable given that parts of Norwich are already getting 80Mbps and the lucky residents of beautiful downtown Seoul can expect 1000Mbps. Still, mustn’t quibble and there are still some 42 premises in Cley that are likely to get rather less than that. The remaining 6 premises will be able to achieve ‘basic’ broadband (generally taken to be 1-2Mbps) ‘by alternative technology’. Satellite? Microwave? Digital carrier pigeon? The report doesn’t say. Nor does it say which premises fall into which category though, since it is usually determined by distance from the cabinet, which is in the High Street opposite the Deli, you can probably work it out for yourself. Other villages served by the ‘Cley’ exchange can no doubt expect to hear similarly good news.
For Godfrey’s benefit: POLITICS ALERT! As part of its policy to further impoverish the already poor, the government decided that everybody should pay at least 30% of their council tax liability on top of any contribution they may already be making. The DCLG (Department against Communities and Local Government) did give a one-off transitional grant, which has now expired, which with a bit of juggling enabled the NNDC to reduce the burden on the poorest to a mere 8.5%, a rate they have managed to retain for the coming year despite the lack of funding from central government. They have done it largely by reducing the discount on second homes and increasing the charge on empty ones. It’s a bit ripe of Whitehall to oblige Town Hall to do its dirty work; I suppose it’s their idea of ‘localism’.
You should by now have had a letter from the NNDC outlining the changes to the system of electoral registration which is henceforth to be on an individual rather than a household basis. If you are already on the Register of Electors and your circumstances have not changed since last October then you should not have to do anything, though it might be as well to check before next May, just in case. Even with my best tin-foil lined helmet on, I have not yet managed to spot the catch in this new system, though I’m sure there must be one somewhere. There always is with this lot…
One more bit of good news: the CoastHopper is safe for another year as the subsidy for this winter’s services (which start on 8 October) has been secured – and the summer services can support themselves even with 40% or so travellers having free bus passes. Rumours that the government might try to abolish the free travel concession were countered by a bit of research by accountants KPMG, using official Department for Transport guidelines, which showed that for every £1 spent on the bus pass £2.87 of benefits are generated. I’ve no idea what their methodology was but it does give a better cost/benefit ratio than even the most gung-ho enthusiasts for HS2 – the high speed railway that is proposed to run from Euston to a field somewhere near Birmingham – have managed to produce. Add to that the fact that pensioners are the demographic most likely to turn out on Polling Day and I conclude the bus pass concession is probably safe for the time being. Whether the CoastHopper is safe beyond Autumn 2015 is a different question.
Apparently my attempt to raise a petition to extend the current no-fly zone over Blakeney Point NNR to cover the whole of the Cley Reserve – and thereby to prevent a repeat of January’s tragic events – does not have the support of my fellow councillors. Some of them conducted a straw poll, presumably in the bar of the Three Swallows, and on the strength of that decided against it. So the ‘we’ of my last report becomes a royal ‘we’ as I am determined to press on with it under my own name. The proposal is that aircraft – especially but not exclusively rotary winged – would be banned from flying over the Reserve at less than 500 feet altitude. This would have no impact on any other military (or civilian) flights and very little impact on military exercises – much less impact than a flock of geese. Copies of the petition are available for signing at Pinkfoot Gallery, Made in Cley and the Holt Bookshop – other sites may become available – and a press campaign is being planned. I urge you to please sign the petition to protect both the birds and the aircrew.
On 10 September there was a well attended meeting in Cley Village Hall, organised by our district councillor David Young, to witness Danielle (in the form of Nicola Baker, the new Head of Planning at NNDC) step into the Lions’ den. It was a bravura performance, on her feet for 90 minutes with only a few Powerpoint slides for protection, as she explained how the NNDC policy on planning had to work under the government’s new National Planning Policy Framework, which greatly watered down the protection available to communities, and fielded numerous questions from the audience. The nub of the meeting seems to have been “do modern house designs have a place in our conservation areas?” The Council line was that, as our villages include buildings that range in date from the late medieval right through to the present day, a certain amount of variety is to be welcomed and that a good modern building ought to trump a badly designed pastiche. Most people seemed to be of the opinion that the carbuncle proposed for the Saxlingham Road in Blakeney is not a good modern design. More to the point, neither is ‘Marshlands’, though it is arguably more interesting than what was there before.
The next meeting of the Cley Parish Council will be held on Tuesday 7 October in the Armes Room behind the Village Hall, starting at 7.30pm. The Clerk will be available for the half hour before the meeting to receive Allotment rents which are now due. There are still one or two plots available, plus a few that, though paid for, are overgrown and derelict.