An update from your Chairman...
I thought you might appreciate an update on some matters affecting the village:
The poor state of some of our village roads and footpaths has been a source of considerable frustration this year. We still have some defects reported in January which have yet to be repaired by Norfolk County Council (NCC) despite regular requests to do so by us. NCC have advised us that they no longer employ their own repair operatives. All work is now ordered through a company it owns called Norse. The response to repairs is sporadic and there seems to be no thought logic with some of the repairs when some potholes are repaired on a road but others just a few metres away left unrepaired. You will have no doubt noticed that the verge cutting has been virtually non-existent and that is because NCC has decided to reduce the frequency of cuts it does to one per year and in some areas none at all. The Parish Council received several complaints about this and despite numerous requests for assistance from NCC we received no help. The Parish Council decided to pay a contractor to do a one off cut to remedy the situation which was dangerous in some areas such as the Dereham Road bend and a hazard for children and adults walking to school along Manns lane. We continue to press very hard for a better service from NCC but we are told that they do not have the budget to do any better. We have requested that NCC provides us with details of the money it has to spend on verge cutting in the village so that we can decide if it would be better for us to take this on going forward. This would give us control over the frequency and quality of work but do this may well require us to also increase our precept to cover the cost.
It has also been very noticeable this year that the grass cutting carried out at the entrance to, and within estate roads has been done less frequently with some areas left in a very unsatisfactory state. To compensate for the lack of cutting in some areas the contractors have used lots of weedkiller instead of using a strimmer! With the exception of some grass areas in Thompson Close, Gray Drive, Middleton Avenue and Ward Crescent which are directly owned by Breckland Council, all of the remaining areas are owned by NCC. NCC currently employs Breckland Council to cut these areas on their behalf. Breckland Council employs Serco to do this work. You may have seen in the press that Serco are experiencing considerable labour resource issues. Their management team have advised me that they anticipate that it could take 12-18 months to get their service back on track meaning that the service we receive in the village could be adversely affected for some time. To compound the problem going forward, I am advised that NCC have told Breckland Council that from next year they will be taking their grass cutting back in house and reducing the frequency of cuts to their own land by 50%. This will no doubt leave many areas looking very untidy. The Parish Council employs its own contractor to cut the Village Green, Gooseberry Hill Playing Field, Davidson Park, Burial Ground and Churchyard.
In my view what we have here is a classic case of too much local government and not enough communication and joined up thinking. To try and remedy this I have had discussions with the Breckland Council Cabinet member and senior manager responsible for the Serco contract to see if there is a possibility that the Parish Council could employ its own contractor(s) to do this work. Again, as with the NCC verge cutting this might result in an increase in our parish precept but it would give us control over the frequency and quality of the work. These discussions are ongoing but we must try and have a better solution in place ready for next year. I will also try and have the same discussion with NCC about the land they own. My concern with them is that they will most likely be relying on Norse who are already struggling to provide a satisfactory road maintenance service.
The Hopkins Homes site on Rectory Road continues at pace and they have now reached the point in their programme where they need to carry out extensive road works in this location. We have received a temporary traffic order advising that Hoe Road East will be closed to vehicles and pedestrians from 4th October until 17th December. This will allow them time to widen the road, construct a new footpath and install underground services along the length of their site. Vehicle and pedestrian access to the Burial Ground and houses along Hoe Road East will be maintained from the Manns Lane end. Then, from 4th January “for up to three months” we have been advised by Hopkins Homes that Rectory Road will be closed to allow them to construct the new footpath including new bus stops and install underground services outside their site. During this period there will be some changes to the regular bus service and we will advise you of these details when we receive them. We will be writing to NCC and Hopkins Homes to request that they try and maintain as much pedestrian access as possible along Rectory Road during this period. Access will be maintained for the Meadowview Estate from the Town Street direction.