Overstrand Life - Janet's Diaries

April 16th - 30th 2016

Saturday 16th April 2016 - Annual Parish Meeting, Belfry Arts Centre, Rubbish Cleared, Butterflies and It Did Feel Like Spring!

This year’s annual parish meeting followed a similar format to previous years, with clubs reports posted on boards and other reports read by the parish council’s clerk, chairman, vice-chairman, district councillor and a local PCSO. We were informed by the PCSO; the police are pulling back from the mobile police surgeries. Some villages, which have never made use of the service, will join-up with a neighbouring conurbation and others will be visited bi-monthly. Overstrand will have bi-monthly visits, with the first on Saturday 21st May in the High Street, opposite the White Horse, between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. Following, the vice chairman, Gordon Partridge’s presentation about the Deep History Coast, a villager made comment that after living all his life in the village he did not want to see any further changes. We, after visiting for twenty four years and living here for just over seven years, may not have such deep roots but concur with his comments. Another villager, who was not aware of the history relating to the housing development, to be built on the Mundesley Road, expressed his shock at the number of trees that have been felled and the effect this has had on the wildlife.

At the meeting the parish council chairman, Bruce Stratton, read out a communication he’d received from the treasurer of the Belfry Arts Centre. This stated the trustees of the building have given the art centre notice with closure on 1st May. This came as a great shock. The centre has been a valuable asset to the village and I have always been pleased to help with stewarding exhibitions. The centre not only hosted exhibitions but there were regular weekly art classes, practical demonstrations and workshops during the year plus the centre offered studios to local artists. It was also the meeting place for the Overstrand Gardening Club’s committee and the Cromer Orchestra used it each week for practice. I am sure Nora Gaston, who was the centre’s Artistic Director and was responsible for organising most of the exhibitions, must have been devastated when she heard the news. Nothing has been announced as to the future of the building but the meeting was informed, the Belfry Foundation Trust can only use the building for education and the arts.

Wednesday 20th April 2016 - Village/Neighbourhood Plan, SNAP Meeting and The Strand Club

Monday evening was a case of needing to be in two places at once. There were two meetings, the SNAP meeting in Cromer and the Village Plan meeting in Overstrand. So that we could cover both; Peter went to the SNAP meeting and then joined me later for the Village Plan meeting.

I’ll start with the Village Plan meeting which was well publicised and with an excellent attendance by villagers. It was mentioned that such numbers have not been seen at a village meeting since the one, before we moved here, regarding the sale of what is now the camping field. All the chairs were put out in the Parish Hall, with some villagers standing rather than sitting on the vacant seats on the front row! The Chairman of the Parish Council headed the meeting and started by explaining that in order for the plan to have statutory standing with North Norfolk District Council (NNDC); it would be titled Neighbourhood Plan and not Village Plan, as advertised. He then asked those present to consider the headings on the boards at the end of the hall, write suggestions on post-its and then put these under the relevant heading. Due to the numbers present, this took about twenty minutes to complete

The Vice-Chairman Gordon Partridge explained the Neighbourhood Plan was a planning document and once in place, NNDC were duty bound to support it. The plan has to follow national planning law, needs to be approved by NNDC and funding for the plan can be applied for. As those present were not told this until after they had put their suggestions on the board; a number were not planning related. However, the Chairman, Bruce Stratton assured everyone that they would not be discounted and would be considered as general suggestions for changes/improvements to the village.

Bruce Stratton and Gordon Partridge selected some of the post-its and bought these to the table for discussion. The first suggestion was for a village hall that could provide a number of facilities including a crèche, badminton, indoor bowls, film shows etc. This raised the question of where the hall could be located along with parking spaces. It was generally agreed, a village hall, should be an item to include in the Neighbourhood Plan.

The second suggestion was for an additional car park. The subject of parking in the village is a contentious issue for those residents who live within walking distance of the beach area. Visitors seem to prefer to clog up our roads with their vehicles rather than pay and use the car park. As to whether they would use additional spaces in an alternative car park is debatable.

Concerns were expressed, about the insufficient properties in the village for locals, particularly young people and families. Regional salaries and wages are not always high enough to enable locals to obtain a mortgage to purchase a home in the area. Gordon Partridge explained the difference between, affordable housing which are 80% of market price and can be either bought or rented and social housing which are 60% of market price and again can be either bought or rented. He explained that as a village we could approach, for example. Victory Housing and express an interest in going into partnership with them with a view to building affordable housing. The Overstrand Court Hotel and its land, which over the years has become somewhat of an eyesore in the village, was suggested as a possible location.

This led onto the subject of holiday and second homes in the village. Due to the nature of their ownership, out of season there are a number of properties that are empty. However, there are no national restrictions on owning a second or holiday home. It was suggested that the parish precept, levied in the Council tax, be increased on second and holiday homes to bring more funds into Overstrand. The meeting was told this is not possible. However, the Council Tax, charged by NNDC is increased on holiday and second homes but this goes to Norfolk County Council (NCC) who then distribute this to the district councils in the county who can spend this on whatever they wish. The additional Council Tax does not come back to the areas where the holiday or second homes are located. This is causing concerns and Cromer’s Town Clerk, Julie Chance, is writing a paper covering this problem which affects not only Cromer and the immediate villages but all conurbations which attract holiday and second home owners in North Norfolk. This will be discussed at a high level and hopefully, in the future, the situation will be resolved.

The question relating to the terms of local lettings was explained. It is possible to bind the first letting to someone in the village. If there are no takers then this can be extended to neighbouring villages and extended from there. However, there are no restrictions on second and subsequent lettings.

Parish Councillor, Alison Debbage explained the policy for letting the Almshouses. These are for older people and are offered to those born in the village, live two miles outside the village or who have lived in the village for a minimum of five years. She said, recently there were fewer applicants as older people did not want the upheaval of moving from their existing homes.

Two items suggested which do not come under planning were an Arts Festival and Beach Huts for residents to hire. It was suggested, both could be arranged by a group of interested villagers.

Poor mobile phone signals and Broadband receptions were raised. Gordon Partridge informed; there is a group called WiSpire where villages can provide their own wireless signal by using church spires.

The meeting was coming towards a conclusion when; joining the village where the Overstrand Hotel once stood and is now an area of slippage, was raised. Once again, Gordon Partridge spoke, saying this section of the cliffs, stretching back as far as Glendon House is unstable and the weight of anchoring the span across the gap would cause a slip. He estimated a permanent bridge would cost £2 million and a temporary wooden one, over six figures. It was asked as to whether the Reynolds family, who own Ivy Farm Caravan Park, could be asked to consider allowing land to be used for a footpath round the slip. We were told, this would take land out of the business and there would be security and health and safety issues. We were told at the meeting, Will Reynolds has been approached within the last 12-18 months on the subject but he did not want to progress this.

Finally, the same slip, which is now working its way across the access road down from Clifton Way, was raised. The road was built for contractor’s access and although it is still used as such as well as being part of the Coastal Footpath, the slip will not be removed and will be left to take its course. One resident said the slip had not moved for eleven years. To our knowledge, it has been on the move for at least seven years and at its current rate of progress, will eventually block the access road. This would cause problems, should the Coastguard or emergency services need to access the east end of the village beach and cliffs.

That just about wraps up the Neighbourhood Plan meeting, apart from mentioning that there will be other meetings in the future and it will probably take two years before the plan is finally in place.

Moving on to the SNAP meeting in Cromer and the notes Peter took during its course. The Police do not always have time to conduct speed checks but during the last period two were conducted in Overstrand which resulted in two traffic offence reports. Members of the panel expressed concerns about the volumes of litter and dumping of rubbish in the area and it was reported there has been a ‘flasher’ in Northrepps. The reports provided showed an increase burglaries and this was mainly down to thefts from beach huts in Cromer. PC Barry Creswell told the panel he had been informed, it was no longer possible to have high visibility patrols as one of the priorities. This is because it is not S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Bound). The panel refused to accept this and made the decision that these patrols would remain as one of the priorities. There have been complaints about the littering, bad language, and vandalism on the Skate Park in Cromer. This is close to the play area and as a result neither are being used much. The priorities were set for the coming period and these are:- Speeding in the C22 area, High Visibility Patrols and Patrolling the Skate Park in Cromer.

I have just one more report and this has kindly been provided by The Strand Club. It covers their April meeting where their speaker was from Blickling textile conservation. Rosamund Weatherall provided members and guests with an insight into the work entailed in renovating and repairing all kinds of materials. Click here to read more, plus there is information regarding their June trip to Blickling Hall to see some of the works in progress.

I am going to take a short break from my diaries so that I can concentrate on a family celebration. It is not only the Queen who has a special birthday! I will be back next week. In the meantime, if there is anything of particular interest, I will post this on Overstrand Life’s Facebook page.

Tuesday 26th April 2016 - Wells Harbour Master and Family Celebration

Saturday 30th April 2016 - Miserable April, Temperamental Boiler, Rough Beach and No Crabs

What a miserable month April has been. After such a good start to the year where we saw daffodils flowering early and the fishing boats bringing in crabs in February; the past two months have been a disappointment. The soil has been cold, delaying planting of vegetable seeds, the wind has been chilly, the trees are late breaking into leaf, we have had more frosts than in the winter as well as hail and rain. Normally, we would have been able to take a break from gardening and sit outside with a hot drink but this year there have only been a couple of occasions when this has been possible. Our barbeque has only been used a couple of times, we are still wearing winter lined trousers and I definitely need gloves first thing. Surely the weather will get better soon. Having said that; today has seen a vast improvement and although the air is still cold there has been plenty of sun.

We are still running our central heating during the day. This is partly due to it being cold but also because our boiler is being temperamental with an intermittent fault. Currently; it could change tomorrow, the only way we can have hot water is to have the central heating on. It very much looks as though we will need a new boiler. If only it had started playing up last year, before we had the kitchen refitted. When our heating engineer serviced the boiler last autumn, he told us that the average life of a boiler was about eight years, which ties in with the age of ours. What a change; boilers may be more efficient these days but the one in our old house was installed in 1973 and was still going strong when we moved out in 2008. Apart from the boiler our interior revamp came to an end on Tuesday when we had new curtains hung in the lounge. They have finished the room off nicely and if my memory serves me well, this is the first time since we have been married, that we have had patterned curtains in our lounge.

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