Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Funding boost for Abbey Youth Club

I am delighted that our community garden idea at the Abbey Neighbourhood Centre was launched this week. The idea of the project is to link with the very popular youth group which takes place on a Tuesday night, attended by approximately 60 kids and get them involved in growing and caring for their own plants and vegetables. ANCHOR (Abbey Neighbourhood Centre Helping Our Residents) obtained funding from O2 (£1,000) and Keystone / Breckland Green Grants (£750) and on Tuesday the project was launched with a cheque presentation from O2. Full credit to the fantastic Youth Club team for all their efforts as usual. Fingers crossed for some more good news in the near future. And it made front page of this weeks Thetford and Brandon too!!

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Redcastle Community Centre

The question I raised at the meeting the other night regarding Redcastle Community Centre has made it into this weeks Bury Free Press, not that they acknowledged how they came to know about this, i.e. because I raised the point! - see here - Let's hope however that this extra publicity will support the community centre. There is a Redcastle residents meeting at 6pm on Monday 27th April which I will be attending.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

21st April 2009; Public Meeting at the Carnegie Rooms with Breckland Council

On Tuesday evening, I attended the 'Thetford Neighbourhood Forum' which is basically an opportunity for Thetford to keep the pressure on Breckland Council to actually deliver a reasonable level of service in this town - this was the third meeting, with the first being initiated by the Thetford Society and then the event became consumed and stage-managed directly by the Council. I found the 'you said, we did' presentation particularly interesting for a variety of reasons. Anyway, I too the opportunity to ask two questions, 1) Would Breckland Council commit to keeping the Redcastle Community Centre open for community use when the lease expires at the end of July as at present - the centre will be closed from August and will be a great loss to this community and 2) Would the Council support groups such as the Thetford Ballpark whom, like so many other organisations and facilities in this town and so greatly under-supported and constantly at risk. These were the only questions asked, out of approximately 30 questions, to prompt the Leader of Breckland Council - William Nunn, to jump up and answer, rather than the Chief Executive Trevor Holden (more about the questionner rather than the questions??) A fairly wishy washy answer to both parts resulted, but nethertheless, I did raise the point and hopefully some good may come of it. The main bone of contention on the evening, as expected, was the Abbey Barns. A day earlier Breckland Council's Development Control Committee had controversially agreed to grant planning permission to turn this historically significant site into housing. The state of St Mary the Less Church on Bury Road was also discussed. We have serious issues in Thetford with buildings, some historically significant (E.g. Abbey Barns and St Mary the Less), others just visually significant (E.g. Pine Close shops) just being left to rot, and sit as a severe risk to the health and safety of the community. Breckland Council has a statutory obligation to ensure the protection of these buildings and safeguard them. They fail miserably in this respect. Breckland Council claimed at the meeting to be doing all they can to force landlords to protect buildings, this is simply not the case. I reminded the Chief Executive that if a local authority was to serve an 'Enforcement Notice' on a landlord, demanding work is carried out, if such a notice was ignored, other authorities would undertake this work, and then promptly issue the landlord with the bill for it, with failure to repay resulting in court action. This is a power available to Breckland which it does not utilise. Breckland has no budget for 'works in default' and as I stated on Tuesday; "it will not be enforcement ACTION if there are no teeth, behind the words".

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Pine Close problems make front page of this weeks Bury Free Press

'Vandals are creating a ghost town' By Lindsey Newton The centre of Thetford's Barnham Cross estate has been branded a ghost town and eyesore after becoming a target for vandals. Now residents are calling for something to be done about the smashed windows, graffiti and dumped rubbish. Flats above shops in Pine Close have been empty for 18 months and, despite the owners spending thousands of pounds securing the site, anti-social behaviour continues and residents want the area to be regenerated. Shaun Pickering Merrett, of Pine Close, said: "It's a real state and something should be done to clear it up. "It would be great to see some of the shops reopened, as it looks awful with all the shutters down." Other residents said the area was 'an eyesore' and looked like a 'ghost town' because of the empty shops. Terry Jermy, Keystone Development Trust community worker for Barnham Cross, said: "The flats are a real mess and something should be done, rather than leaving them to rot. "A recent tour involving local agencies took place where residents expressed concern at the area being such an eyesore." The Barnham Cross Action Group and other agencies had managed to get funding to secure the site, but the gates had been broken, added Mr Jermy. "There is a lot of good work going on in the area but this damage is really dragging down the community," he said. The landlord responsible for the affected flats and shop units did not want to be named but said: "It's a real problem but there is nothing we can do about it. "I look after the properties for the owner, who wants to get them up and running again, but they keep being vandalised and it is so expensive to keep repairing – I've spent between £20,000 and £30,000 on them." A Breckland Council spokeswoman said: "Two of the flats have been boarded up and we are in discussions with the owner, while another two are being refurbished and are nearly completed. "We are aware of the flytipping problems and we have spoken to the owner about the bins, while a lot of time has been spent at Pine Close by our environmental services team." Rachael Ashley, a Thetford PCSO, said: "We are consulting with the shop owners on a daily basis. They are working with us to help to identify the individuals responsible for this spate of criminal damage. "The neighbourhood policing team is conducting extra high visibility reassurance patrols in the area and is encouraging anyone who has any information about the vandalism to contact the police."

Friday, 3 April 2009

New Road Signs for Barnham Cross Estate

The signs are good on estate By Lindsey Newton Walking to school is now much safer for pupils living on Thetford's Barnham Cross estate, thanks to a new road safety scheme. Pupils from Queensway Junior School took part in a competition to design road signs to display alongside those warning of a 20mph zone which has just been introduced. The project, which has been welcomed by parents, pupils and residents,was made possible by a collaboration between Barnham Cross Action Group, Norfolk County Council, Norfolk Police, Keystone Development Trust, Sure Start Children's Centre, Queensway infant and junior schools and Charles Burrell Humanities School. Charlie Wilson, eight, who had two of her drawings turned into road signs, said: "It's really important to get drivers to slow down to make it safer for us going to school. "I drew a school with children coming out to make people think about their driving and I thought the competition was really fun, because it's great looking at my pictures on road signs." Katie Stevens, eight, Georgina Baldwin, nine, Jiorjia Flint, nine, and Rebecca Grimmond, 10, have also had their drawings turned into road signs. Tim Lovejoy, chairman of Barnham Cross Action Group, said: "The school's previous headteacher, Ralph Headley, set the ball rolling by getting all the various groups together and getting funding together through the school travel plan. "It has been a great project to work on, as it has brought everyone together for a worthwhile cause." The full article contains 241 words and appears in BFP Thetford newspaper.