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.
28 October 2014
New Cemetery (model)
'Plans' and committee meetings
Dereham Town Council logo (small) It is half term and I have been trying to keep this week clear with the intent of a family visit to Cornwall - we have friends there and haven't been for 18 months. It is too far to come back for the Tuesday plans meeting and committees, so I have offered my apologies.

Prior to leaving I over-viewed the plans and have left some notes for the chairman - obviously it is entirely their discretion as to whether they use/ignore my notes.

The Social and Welfare committee was considering the latest design for our new cemetery. A model has been prepared by our architects (see image) who have developed this project to an extremely high standard. It is expected there will be a report about the new cemetery in the Dereham Times in due course.

The Markets and Buildings committee also met.

19 October 2014
Royal Naval Association (Dereham) laying up Standard
RNA Standard (David Lambert) On Sunday morning I attended St. Nicholas Church for a service to lay up the Standard from the Dereham branch the Royal Naval Association.

The branch was founded over 56 years ago on 1st June, 1957 and now finds itself with an ageing membership. Rather than slowly going into decline the Association has determined to formally disband and lay-up its Standard which will be kept at St.Nicholas Church in perpetuity; very appropriate as St.Nicholas is the patron saint for sailors. While in some ways it was a sad day, the service itself was an upbeat event attended by an almost full church.

There will be a further formal meeting before Christmas of the local branch to determined where the assets of the association will be distributed. These remaining funds are likely to be split between local charities and the national Royal Naval Association.

I have had some time to consider this event and I recognise how important it is that associations have a proper way of passing from currently active to ensure they are maintained in the historical record. This was a good process and well executed.

14 October 2014
Chaired: 'Plans' and 'Full Council' meetings
Dereham Town Council Four plans to consider including an item which has split the opinion of the town. Currently permission is granted for a hotel on part of the site which will provide a new McDonald's restaurant, however the applicant would now like to swap the hotel for an Aldi supermarket. This would result in a net increase in employment for the Town, however it comes at a cost of even more traffic congestion. Yet again it shows we need the infrastructure of the Town sorted out before being able to properly consider these applications. This is a repeated problem, with other applications for more housing including back garden development and small developments outside the original settlement boundary and in land allocated as part Dereham's green infrastructure being brought forward. There is already land allocated for housing and it is not proceeding because land owners then want too much money for it - a classic sign of profiteering!

At the Full Council meeting we received a report from our local PCSO and a presentation from the Mid-Norfolk CAB which received a round of applause.

The remainder of the meeting was a the normal ratification recommendations from committees; followed by the monthly overview of the Town Council's financial position and cheques to be issued.

Yet again it was agreed to 'exclude press and public', while on going legal and staff restructuring issues were discussed. While it may seem we are going 'below the line' more (too) often, actually these matters are a continuation of previous discussion. All Councillors agreed it was still appropriate for these matters to be in private.

9 October 2014
News: Windmill
Dereham Windmill On 17 June I reported about Dereham Windmill which had been short-listed for a prestigious national award at the 2014 Biffa Awards.

Not only did our Windmill win in the cultural facilities category but it also was awarded the overall winner from all entrants across the whole of the UK. Congratulations to the Friends of Dereham Windmill and especially Alison and Brian Webb for all their hard work. This is a good example of how a public body (Town Council) can work with a community group to achieve a stunning result, way beyond what either could achieve individually.

This win brings a further £3000 to the pot, making the community room and toilet block a step closer.

4 October 2014
Norfolk Association of Local Councils AGM
Norfolk ALC logo Immediately following the knitters and stitchers show I rushed over to Swanton Morely for the Norfolk Association of Local Councils AGM. This would normally be a fairly non-news worthy event, however Brandon Lewis, MP (Minister of State for Housing and Planning) was to address the meeting. There was an opportunity to ask questions following his address and in light of the issues Dereham faces from 'hostile' planning it was a meeting not to be missed. As requested I submitted my questions prior to the meeting, but the chairman allowed me to ask only one of the two submitted.

Following his address and in the knowledge there would only be time for one, I slightly re-framed my question. Brandon Lewis was unable to give a specific answer so possibly he didn't have advanced warning of my question or perhaps it was too difficult? He had to leave immediately after the Q&A session, but on his way out he invited me to send him an email outlining the problems (copy HERE Open's in new tab).

4 October 2014
Opening Knitters and Stitchers show
Norfolk Knitters and Stitchers Showcase
Norfolk knitters and stitchers logo The Norfolk knitters and stitchers have grown rapidly since 2008 and now have 1700 members meeting in 48 local venues including Dereham' Trinity Methodist Church Hall. In addition to being a valuable social activity the Norfolk knitters and stitchers make a significant contribution to International Aid Trust, currently contributing around 50 sacks of knitting every month; last year they helped fill 12500 shoe-boxes as part of 'Operation Christmas child'. Closer to home they knit and stitch for Norfolk & Norwich Hospital premature baby unit and other local groups.

I was invited to perform the 'grand opening' of their hugely popular exhibition at Dereham Memorial Hall. The whole building was packed with people and knitting & stitching including many items themed around Lewis Caroll's Mad Hatters Tea Party.

I have a first hand appreciation for the skill and effort involved in needlework. While no where near the quality of some of the exhibits on show I have competed an embroidery kit myself, which took many weeks of therapeutic work.

3 October 2014
University of the Third Age Open Day
U3A logo The University of the Third Age (U3A)Open's in new tab describes itself as:
Quote a 'self-help, self-managed co-operative' dedicated to lifelong learning for the retired or semi-retired. Quote

While U3A is a national organisation each individual group operates autonomously, but with the resource and backing of the whole, for example with web-site hosting. What happens locally is down to its members.

U3A held an open day at The Romany Rye hotel and I have been invited to attend for a coffee and to look at their displays. The breadth and variety of Dereham's activities is impressive, to name just a few interest groups: Aero-modelling, Chess, Walks (short and long), Languages, 'Writing for Radio' ... the list goes on and on.

Dereham membership is currently around 430 and the group is almost fully self sustaining without the need for grant money. Isolation and loneliness are now recognised as social issues, especially amongst the older population; U3A is an excellent antidote and I applaud their success.