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North Lopham Parish Council

Chairman’s Annual Report for Open Meeting on 10th May 2006

The last AGM of the Council was delayed by illness and eventually took place on 15th June 2005. Members were shocked to hear that, after over 20 years on the Council (most as Chairman), Richard Vere had tendered his resignation – as he had said he would do on several occasions in the past, but no-one really believed him!  I was elected Chairman and Jan Tate was re-elected Vice-Chair.  Councillors presented Richard with a framed aerial photo of the village as a token of their appreciation of his service over the years. Graham West joined the Council to fill the vacancy left by Richard’s resignation.

As Chairman, I am particularly keen to ensure that residents are fully aware of what is going on.  To that end we have renovated the two notice boards (at the Post Office and at the Kings Head), made clear our wish to see members of the public at meetings (record so far – 8!), made good use of ‘The Lophams News’ and (in respect of work with the pond) posted regular notices so that people can read about what is happening.

Review of items discussed at the meetings

1.       Planning issues: The November meeting was addressed by Greg Britton, Principal Planning Officer at Breckland, who outlined the steps taken to review planning applications and to take account of comments made by the Parish Council. Members had the opportunity to stress their concerns that problems with drainage seemed to be ignored in some responses and heard what should they do to bring these more forcibly to the attention of the planners.  

2.          Roads, Footways, Signs, etc: We have increased our efforts to create a dialogue with Norfolk County Council ‘Planning and Transportation’ (who maintain these aspects of the environment) and have had several visits to assess the problems and the needs.  Footways have been ‘sided out’ and several areas have been patched.  The erosion of verges by traffic (such that in many places the road surface ends several inches before the verges start!) has prompted us to make a request for more kerbing and this is being assessed at the moment.  With Jan Tate, I visited several properties last summer to request that hedges and overhanging branches be cut back from footways: the cooperation of most residents is much appreciated.  The ‘Village Spring Clean’ on April 1st, was another attempt to increase public awareness of (and participation in) the appearance of the village.  Thanks to all who turned out (despite a very wet start!). One small victory: the fingerposts at the junction near Kenninghall School now point to ‘The Lophams’ after a period where the only signage was to ‘Edge Green’.  We do exist after all!  Unfortunately a recent spate of vandalism has resulted in our ‘North Lopham’ sign near the Village Hall being uprooted on several occasions – at the same time as damage has been caused at the Village Hall.  It is annoying that there are just one or two people who are intent on undermining the good work done by The Village Hall Committee and the Council.  These incidents have been reported to the Police and any information would be much appreciated.

3.           Mains Drainage: This item has appeared on Annual Reports for far too many years.  However, I can report that, thanks to efforts in the past to secure evidence of need (in particular the questionnaire circulated by Richard Vere in 2004) and continued lobbying of Anglian Water, I received an e-mail last week from Gary Parsons (Asset Development Manager, Anglian Water) confirming that ‘The North Lopham sewerage scheme has been included in the proposed programme for completion by 31 March 2010.  Detailed design will begin this financial year, with a start on site expected by April 2009, subject to planning and environmental considerations.’

4.          Visitors: In July we were pleased to welcome Bob Strawser and his family to the village.  Bob is the nephew of one of the USAF airmen killed in the mid-air collision over the village in the war.  Bob had made contact after reading about the village on the North Lopham web-site, as did Ian and Julia Henderson from Kent who managed to solve a family mystery concerning Ian’s grandmother with the help of registers kept at the Church.  As a footnote I would like to mention that we will be hosting a light lunch at the Village Hall for another party of Americans (including some veterans) from the 96 Bomb Group Association at the Village Hall on 20th May, after they have visited Snetterton and our War Memorial.

5.         The Pond (Letchmere): The pond often looks to be in poor condition – flooding in winter and turning green in summer.  In August of last year we had a visit from Ed Stocker, the Norfolk County Council Ecologist, who advised that we should:

·            Ensure the drain works properly.

·            Dredge the silt from the pond and re-make the banks.

·            Carry out work on the trees (particularly those on the northern edge of the pond).

·            Discourage feeding of the ducks to reduce their numbers and reduce pollution.

·            Introduce plants into the pond to improve its appearance and ecological balance.

In his opinion the pond is practically ‘dead’.

Since that visit:

·            Several site meetings have been held to assess the best way to tackle the problems and get some idea of total cost.  The best estimate at the moment is that for somewhere just in excess of £2000 we could have a large amount of silt removed, have necessary work done on the trees and (with self-help) build out the inlet pipes and erect new sandbag ‘header walls’.

·            Councillors Michael McManus and Graham West have agreed to join me as the nucleus of a ‘Pond Renovation Project Team’ – but we are searching for three or four more residents who could join us. Volunteers welcome – provide your own wellies!

·            We hope (depending on funding and the weather) that work will take place in mid to late summer.  All contractors have pointed out that there will necessarily be a period of time (months, at least) when the silt is on the margins of the pond drying out before it can be incorporated into the surroundings and planting can begin – the pond will not be transformed in a day!

6.             A long list of ‘Thanks’:

To John Bush for his regular maintenance of the area around the War Memorial : To Richard Vere for the background information he has given me on several occasions and for his hard work as our ‘grass cutter’ keeping the burial ground up to scratch : To Jennie Vere for her help in ensuring that our items are in ‘The Lophams News’ each month and to everyone involved with its production and distribution – as a regular, reliable, up-to-date (and concise!) newsletter it continues to play a vital part in our community : To all the people (at Norfolk Highways, Breckland Council, Anglian Water, the Environment Agency etc., etc,) who have received – and in most cases responded to -copious e-mails seeking information and news on developments : To all of my fellow Councillors and our District Councillor William Nunn – I hope I haven’t nagged them too much – and particularly to Jan Tate, our Vice Chair, and Mike Cox, our Clerk, for putting up with frequent phone calls, messages and visits to try to keep them in touch with everything that is going on in the long gaps between meetings :    … and finally to the members of the public who have helped in one way or another – by contributing at the meetings, clearing litter and keeping paths and hedges tidy, offering advice and information and just generally keeping in touch.

          Brian Frith            May 2006