This is, to much relief all round no doubt, my last Chairman’s Report. Looking back the past year has been relatively quiet compared to the year before – no more floods, no more crashing helicopters, no more massive roadworks – though it has not been without its landmark changes. Most obviously our lovely listed phone box has finally been repainted, a mere seventeen years after the last time, and is looking very good. That it is virtually impossible to use is unfortunate, so much so that Vodafone (other networks are available) mobile users have been known to drive for miles in search of a signal rather than attempt to make a call from the phone box, so one of the jobs of the new council might be to find a fitting 21st century use for it; wi-fi hot-spot has been suggested, or a Liberal Democrat Party conference venue?
Less obvious, but undoubtedly more far-reaching, has been the arrival of fibre-optic broadband. The parish council have been enthusiastic supporters of Dr Marie Strong’s successful campaign to bring high speed broadband to rural Norfolk. Now it has arrived Cley can rejoin the modern world – fast broadband is essential for business users these days as well as being highly desirable for domestic users given the relatively poor TV and DAB radio reception hereabouts. The parish council’s own website has been a useful resource for visitors and residents alike as well as a means of publicising the council’s activities. The future maintenance of the website is another task for the new council to look at.
Cley now has its own community bottle bank provided by Indigo Recycling on behalf of the parish council. This should be a nice little earner for the parish but as yet we don’t have any actual figures. Meanwhile please keep on recycling your glass bottles in our bottle bank.
The restoration of the Old Quay area has been deferred until next spring due to lack of funding. To address this problem the council is collecting pledges of financial support from villagers in the hope of attracting match funding from the various grant-giving bodies out there – they are generally better disposed towards projects where the promoters have clearly made an effort. My thanks to our Clerk, Louise Stevens, to Councillor Mark Randell and to newly elected Councillor Simon Read for all their hard work on this project, past and future.
Some six months after the fatal helicopter crash on Cley marshes, the USAF report into the accident was published last summer. As suspected the report showed that the crash was the result of multiple bird strikes. We had long maintained that low-flying aircraft and bird reserves did not, and should not, mix so this seemed like vindication, albeit at terrible cost to those who lost their lives. In the hope of preventing such a tragedy from recurring a petition was raised asking that the no-fly zone already in place over Blakeney Point NNR be extended to cover the NWT Cley reserve as well. Unfortunately a majority of my fellow councillors declined to support me so I had to press on and raise the petition in my own name and, with support from the Pinkfoot Gallery, Holt Bookshop, Made in Cley, District Councillor David Young and of course Norman Lamb MP, our request was granted – with the added bonus that the village itself is now included in the exclusion zone. A big thank you to everyone who helped see this through.
Planning applications are still coming through at a rate of about one a month so the physical appearance of the village is gradually changing, for better or worse. Several properties have come onto the market recently at prices in excess of £1,000,000 exacerbating still further the shortage of affordable accommodation for those who actually live and work here. Proposals to build new social-rented houses under a section 106 agreement are still mired in ‘discussions’ with the planners. Meanwhile the existing stock of such properties is slowly hemorrhaging away. This slow trickle could become a flood now a Tory government has been elected as they have very generously “promised” to force Housing Associations to sell their property at a massive discount to sitting tenants. An interesting precedent seeing that Housing Associations are private, usually charitable, institutions.
Traffic in the High Street is more chaotic than ever, road works having been replaced by building works – at one time there were no less that ten active sites in the High Street and New Road, each with its concomitant gaggle of builders’ vans and cars. Much of the High Street is reduced to a single lane which brings gridlock when impatient motorists came face to face in a local variation of the Mexican standoff. Eventually the builders will finish their labours and we will return to a more normal level of chaos. What to do? Some years ago a couple of Highways engineers came to assess the situation with a view to implementing a scheme of differential road surfaces to delineate parking and non-parking areas without resorting to double yellow lines. They came, they saw, they departed – and nothing has been heard from them since. No doubt it was filed away under ‘too difficult’. Traffic congestion is really only a problem for about eight weeks of the year, not counting builders of course, so a solution must not cause hassles for residents for the other forty fours weeks. And no, that swathe being cut across the south part of the parish is not a previously unannounced new by-pass, despite appearances, but is the route of new cables being laid in connection with an off-shore wind farm. I hope.
And so, before I ride off into the sunset, I’d like to thank Louise for her sterling work as our Clerk and RFO, and for taking on the Village Hall Committee post as well. Thanks also to my fellow councillors for all they have done for the community over the years, to Di Dann, our previous Clerk who got us back on our feet after an attack of malfeasance, and to all the people of Cley for their support. I promise to keep a respectful distance from the new council, unless asked…