Mayor's blog

Engagements & Activities

This is a time-line of some events I have undertaken. The comments are my informal response and are not the official opinion of Dereham Town Council.

27 July 2014
Mayors at St Mary's Church
Attleborough Civic Reception
Attleborough Town Council A Choral Evensong service inaugurated Karen Pettitt as Mayor of Attleborough at St Mary's Church. It has been a while since I attended evensong but it all came back, however as my wife will surely confirm I should leave the singing of The Magnificat and Nunc Demittis to the choir. I enjoyed the service which clearly confirms Professor Richard Dawkins observation about many people being "Cultural Christians", I certainly associate with that position.

It turns out that that Karen has had a difficult time having taken over as Mayor after the previous mayor "stood down". Currently, Attleborough is in an interregnum between clerks, making her job even more difficult.

25 July 2014
Dereham Windmill
Windmill Fête - National Citizen Service
The final day of the volunteers time at Dereham windmill. The group had planed a fête to raise some funds for a sporting charity and the windmill. They planned the event themselves on a very limited budget and appeared to have it well under control.

On my previous visit I promised to call in today to see how things were going. I enjoyed a delicious home-made cream cake, a drink and had a go at some of the activities.

There were a number of visitors and one group who were on holiday and just happened to be in Dereham today. They were most impressed with the facility but had a request for better signing. This is partly in hand as a new brown sign has been ordered from Norfolk County Council highways department, but this probably needs a little more thought.

22 July 2014
Chaired: Plans meeting
Dereham Town Council We received a few apologies for absence this evening, but easily had sufficient Councillors present to be quorate. We had five plans to consider none of which were particularly contentious.

Following 'plans' I passed the gavel to Kate Millbank as chairman of 'Recreation Committee' where we considered Breckland Council's open space audit; surveying boundaries at allotments and finally received an update from the Clerk about the transfer of open spaces and play areas to the Town Council.

We also had a 'Heritage & Open Spaces Committee' meeting chaired by Phillip Duigan. We received a report and update from our Footpath Warden; considered flying the Commonwealth Day flag; looked at planting a WW1 commemoration wood, possibly 1000 trees; and received updates from the Clerk about speed bumps and parking.

At the beginning of my term I introduced a copy of our town map as a table covering just in case it was needed during plans meetings. This has become more-and-more useful and I think it is time to get a slightly larger more detailed laminated map.

22 July 2014
NCS at Windmill
National Citizen Service at the Windmill
The National Citizen Service (NCS) is a government programme open to all school levers aged 16 or 17. It brings together young people from different backgrounds and helps them develop greater confidence, self-awareness and responsibility, as they move from the school environment and look forward to adult life.

I am delighted that the NCS has chosen Dereham Windmill for their only project in Dereham. The Town Council actively encourages the scheme as the development of 'hands on' skills for young people is key to further education and future employment. I look forward to seeing future groups work with Dereham Windmill Trustees for the benefit our local community.

In the picture opposite I am with a NCS volunteers, however it is not my pick-axe ... mine is in far worse condition!

18 July 2014
Norwich castle
Norfolk County Council Summer Reception
The new chairman of Norfolk County Council, Brian Hannah, held his formal reception at Norwich castle. A superb venue, but it was a just too hot for me, I don't cope well with heat and this was one of the hottest days of the year. My wife accompanied me and she kindly encouraged me to (repeatedly) visit the only climate controlled room in the building, in fact there was a steady stream of visitors to the gallery with the same idea.

Brian Hannah gave a brief introduction to his working life in the prison service and described his aim to encourage the wider use of a restorative approach to conflict management, probably something they were less concerned with when Norwich Castle was used a prison.

A buffet was provided in the Castle Keep, fortunately the massive walls kept it a little cooler. There was an opportunity to meet other guests; it was good to catch up with my Green colleagues who serve on the County Council as well as others.

15 July 2014
This evening Town councillors set out to explore some of the excellent accessible routes to the South East of Dereham. As previously mentioned the A47 cuts the town in two and this has had a dramatic effect on previous long standing access routes. Prior to the construction of the new road a number of ancient routes were in the process of being formally adopted as rights of way, however this was not completed partly because the routes were mixed up in the new road development. Fortunately enough exists, including an access bridge across the A47, to make these very useful routes, in fact they continue to be used despite there not being a prescriptive public right of access.
No Entry
We walked further east and made a disappointing observation: some existing footpaths, properly marked on the definitive map, were inaccessible because the fields they crossed were ploughed and cropped. This is not supposed to happen but it seems some farmers are less than happy about fulfilling their obligations. It appears that Norfolk County Council are often so slow to react that the crop is harvested before enforcement takes place by which time access is restored so no further action is needed - until next time!

There was some evidence of erosion of hedges to create ever greater field sizes. This can be a long term, almost invisible, process following aggressive hedge cutting which eventually leads to holes in the hedge line, then expansive gaps and finally there are just orphaned hedge fragments in the middle of a larger field with crop running right through. A short while longer and all evidence of the hedge is gone. To a large extent this is why we have footpaths running straight across the middle of a field, it never used to be like that but the hedges and boundaries have 'evaporated'.

Where appropriate I'm not against re-routing some paths to form a more natural or better access, but I have no time for those who deliberately obstruct routes or damage long standing natural features like hedges. We quite rightly abhor vandalism and anti-social behaviour in our urban areas, we should take the same stance in the rural setting too.

15 July 2014
Holding racing bicycle
Cycle challenge
Following hot on the heels of the Tour-de-France, which started in Yorkshire (never did understand that), a group from Dereham set off this morning on a 500 mile endurance event.

Cycling from Dereham town centre they plan to reach our twin town of Caudebec-Les Elbeuf in France in four days time and then on to Paris, raising money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society in the process. They received an enthusiastic send off, but will have to battle the worst of weather as temperatures are predicted to exceed 30°C over the next couple of days.

To contribute visit their Just Giving Open's in new tab page.

My surprised look in the picture opposite is following one of the team suggesting I get on the bike! I cycle from time-to-time, but there are limits and this is definitely out of my league.

8 July 2014
Chaired: 'Plans' and 'Full Council' meetings
Dereham Town Council At the 'Plans' meeting we review four applications, with nothing too controversial, unlike the previous plans meeting.

'Full Council' is a monthly meeting where recommendations from committees are formally accepted (or otherwise) and any urgent business can be considered. We also review the current financial position of the Town Council and approve and sign any cheques to be paid.

One interesting additional item was brought before the Town Council ... the opportunity to buy a poster from 1911 advertising a meeting to explain the 'Votes for Women Bill', held in the very building we were in. The general feeling was the price being asked (£150) was too high and the Clerk was tasked to see if a substantially lower offer would be of interest. I'm very much in favour of recording and documenting the history of our town; but for me, having an original poster over a copy doesn't add much to the narrative.

2 July 2014
Job interview
Interview for new Town Council position
In preparation for the taking over another tranche of responsibility from the District Council, the Town Council has restructured its staffing requirements. This has created a new position which is a cross-over role between administration: risk assessments, method statements, writing tender documents etc. and one of managing 'outside staff' in their duties, with the ability to get stuck in and help as and when necessary. We interviewed for this role today.

Originally, I was only going to do the morning session, which involved a guided tour for the candidates of some Town Council owned sites including: play areas, cemetery, Memorial Hall and allotments. However, I was called upon to make up the interview panel in the afternoon. All in all a ten hour commitment so I didn't get much work done.

The interview was a competency based format, with candidates invited to give example of previous practice in various areas of work to demonstrate their skills. We were very fortunate to have the help of Thetford Clerk who has significant HR experience and was able to facilitate good practice throughout the formal process.

1 July 2014
Public Footpath
Public footpaths
The Town Council's footpath warden, Ken Hawkins, lead us on a tour including another selection of the Town's footpaths. This time we started in the Town Centre to view some of the alleyways and cut-thoughs which are actually public footpaths. Despite not being labelled as such, most are obvious rights of way so need no further action.

The A47 cuts the town in two and this has had an adverse affect on some footpaths. Where they cross the road they are divided into two with the path to the north retaining its original reference number, whereas the southern path is appended with an 'A'. This may be of little consequence however, there is a minor problem in that the two halves do not necessarily connect together, there being a dead zone between them. In one case this 'non-public footpath' is an underpass, which might allow a future cash strapped highways authority to push maintenance down the list because it does not legally have to keep it open. Not a big risk, but one to be aware of.