Tuesday, 8 November 2011
Monday, 7 November 2011
Dear Mr Murphy, As you will be aware, the Thetford Academy will be re-locating from a two site school to just one site, with the building that was once Charles Burrell High School no longer being required. Instead, what was previously called Rosemary Musker High School – now Thetford Academy North Campus, will provide all the education facilities for Years 7 pupils upwards. As the three elected Breckland District Councillors for the Thetford – Saxon Ward, we wanted to write to you regarding some concerns that we have, but to also outline a potentially very important opportunity that we believe now exists; 1. Transport provision for young people from South of Thetford: A majority of the young people from the Thetford – Saxon Ward currently attend the South Site as it is so geographically near. Many students and parents are rightly concerned about this change and feel that it would not be appropriate or indeed safe to expect children from the South of Thetford to walk to and from the North site each day. We strongly urge you, and the Academy Management and Lead Sponsors to ensure that adequate transport provision is in place prior to this change. We want our young people to arrive ready for their education each morning, after a 45 – 60 minute walk across town, potentially in wet and cold conditions, we do not feel that this would be possible and their education would suffer as a result. 2. Croxton Road safety concerns: We also have considerable concerns about the safety of the Croxton Road and Mundford Road that leads to the North Campus site. There has previously been a fatality on this road involving a school child, and a child was knocked down by a car just the other week – although thankfully the injuries were not too severe. We urge you to ensure your transport officials investigate all possible options for safety improvements in this area and to put pressure on the Academy to ensure that road safety is an important part of the schools education programme. 3. Charles Burrell site – opportunity: We believe that a fantastic opportunity now presents itself with the South Campus site. For very many years the South of Thetford has suffered from a distinct lack of community facilities. This will be further exacerbated if those dual usage facilities at the school move. We urge the County Council to retain the swimming pool and main hall at the Charles Burrell site for community usage. We would welcome the creation of a Community Trust, or similar organisation that these assets could be transferred to, we would be happy to help facilitate this and believe we would have the support of Thetford Town Council in doing so. Crucially, we would support the County Council if it were to redevelop the remaining site, which could be utilised for housing provision – with a Section 106 put in place that could contribute to the sustainability of the community buildings? We recognise that it is important that the County Council realises the full value of its assets, and would support this if it also resulted in a sustainable community asset being created. This proposal would be a massive boost for the wider community which has suffered from entrenched deprivation for many years. We urge you to consider our proposals. Best wishes, Terry Jermy Thetford Town & Breckland District Councillor Sylvia Armes Thetford Town & Breckland District Councillor Mark Robinson Breckland District Councillor
Wednesday, 26 October 2011
BRECKLAND LABOUR GROUP - PRESS RELEASE: Thetford town and district councillor, Terry Jermy, is to succeed veteran Labour councillor, Robin Goreham, as leader of the opposition Breckland Labour Group. Robin Goreham has been a member of the authority for sixteen and a half years. He has spent four years as chairman of the council’s Overview & Scrutiny committee and eight and a half years leading the opposition Labour Group. He is currently Vice Chairman of the authority. Robin commented: “It has been an honour and a privilege to lead the Labour opposition on Breckland since the spring of 2003. Labour has a new leader nationally in Ed Miliband and I feel it is time for a younger man to lead the Labour fightback locally over the next few years. In Terry Jermy, we have a young man with intelligence, determination and a vision for the future of Breckland”. Terry – who is 26 years old – commented: “I am very grateful for the support of my fellow Breckland Labour Councillors in electing me as their leader. Despite my relatively young age, I have been involved in community and political life for many years. My experience as a youth worker, and as a community worker means I have a very engaging style and consider listening to be an important part of leadership. I look forward to championing the views of the Breckland electorate and scrutinising the work of the Council”. Commenting on the outgoing group leader, Mr Jermy added; “Robin has been an exceptional leader. He has always stood up for what he believes to be right and in the best interests of Breckland residents. He has been a particularly great ward councillor and has stood up for Dereham – Central residents admirably. Robin’s calmness, compassion and ability to use humour so well have made him a revered ally, and opponent”. Mr Jermy is an avid user of social networking sites, and hopes to use such tools to engage a new generation with local politics. He can be followed on Twitter via ‘CllrTerryJermy’ or through Facebook. He also runs his own blog, that can be accessed via www.jermysjournal.blogspot.com
Friday, 21 October 2011
Dear Editor, Following the recent decision by the Moving Thetford Forward board to continue with their proposal to move the bus station from Bridge Street to Minstergate, we – elected representatives of the people of Thetford wanted to write and share our frustration at this decision but also to praise those people that did participate in the democratic process by voting in the Parish Poll. A majority of Thetford Town Councillors voted to keep the bus station where it is. A decision endorsed by the clear result from the Poll that took place on the 9th August. (81% of those participating voted ‘NO’ to moving the site with a turnout of 14.7%). Whilst we are very angry at the scant regard for public opinion throughout much of Moving Thetford Forwards decision making in recent years, we wanted to write collectively and reassure the public that we will continue to fight for what we regard to be in the best interests of the people of Thetford. This, we believe, is why we were elected. Many residents have spoken to us as councillors about their frustration and disappointment at the bus station news and questioned if the poll was worth it. Whilst it is indeed disappointing, we urge people not to lose heart. We believe a corner has been turned and that residents of Thetford collectively, including many of their elected representatives are now more vocally expressing their concerns and opinions and standing up for our town. This should be welcomed and encouraged. Best wishes, Thetford Town Councillors; Sylvia Armes, Brenda Canham, Carl Clark, Denis Crawford, Corine Fulford, Terry Jermy, Terry Lamb, Dennis Sully & Stuart Wright,
Wednesday, 28 September 2011
Tuesday, 27 September 2011
Listen to the MTF Board Member on the morning after the Bus Station Parish Poll....
Last Thursday (22nd Sept) saw the delayed Moving Thetford Forward Board meeting take place - it was originally scheduled for early September, but was put back to consider the implications of the Thetford Parish Poll that occurred on the 9th August. I really wasn't sure what to expect from the meeting, would they eat humble pie after the poll and concede that the public wanted the bus station to stay where it is, or would they dismiss the poll entirely? What happened however surprised me. We first heard from a senior finance officer at Breckland Council who outlined the financial risks associated with changing the decision. I expected this to be quite doom and gloom - "we'd lose a fortune if we now didn't move the bus station" - but that was not the case. A lot of the costs incurred could be recouped, so from a financial sense, the MTF board could have changed their mind and kept the bus station where it is. What happened next though was fascinating; up got a senior transport officer from Norfolk County Council, and the architect employed to develop proposals for the Minstergate bus station and regeneration proposals for the current Bridge Street site. They flashed up the two proposals that the 'No' campaign developed in August prior to the Parish Poll taking place (which incidentally they received from third parties), then they proceeded to pick the proposals apart, explaining why they were "not deliverable" and then told the audience how their plan was the only viable option and the bus station should be moved. I was incensed. No-body from the MTF team had bothered to contact myself or other No campaigners prior to the Board meeting, no courtesy phone call to say that the plans would be "objectively assessed" at the meeting, no "let's have a coffee and you can talk us through the rationale behind your proposals", no professional courtesy of contacting the local architect who produced the proposals so that he could explain the background to them. They could have stood there and said whilst the plans have merit, they are not as far advanced as the MTF plans - (of course not, they're just initial proposals), but we cannot wait to develop them further and we want to go ahead with our developed and tested option - that would have had more credibility. What they did in that 15 minutes, really encapsulated what is wrong with the whole MTF process so far, they treated the local community,and local activists with contempt, in a quite nasty way they pulled apart a set of proposals, whilst claiming to do so objectively and impartially, and then ended with saying that their proposals were better - well, you're being paid an awful lot of money, so I should jolly well hope so! But it's the contempt for the local community, the lack of communication and understanding that is the real story of this whole situation.... all very sad indeed, I hope the Government inspector will see all of this! Oh, and by the way, as a Breckland Councillor, I was allowed to attend the meeting that was scheduled to start at 10am. So most of us mere 'observers' arrived from 9.30am - 9.55am or so - interesting then that on the official signing in sheet for the building, i.e. the one they use for the fire register, it had the vast majority of names listed as arriving from 8.20am... I wonder what was being discussed in advance of the rest of us attending? One word of praise however, the Chairman, William Nunn (also Breckland Council Leader) did allow us observers quite a bit of time to speak, which was quite courteous, now he probably knew how the vote would go, so had nothing to lose in allowing us to speak, but credit where it is due.
Monday, 8 August 2011
The past few weeks have been fascinating. For those looking in from outside, I am sure their overwhelming feeling is one of bemusement - 'people in Thetford are holding a referendum on where their bus station is located' - how very odd. What started with a couple of people asking for a 'Parish Poll' at a Town Council meeting soon became over 150 people attending a Public meeting just 7 days later at the Town's Guildhall - overwhelmingly demanding a vote on the bus station's location. The vote was called - and will be held tomorrow - Tuesday 9th August from 4pm - 9pm. The campaign has been fascinating to watch, and indeed to be a part of. Almost immediately, Breckland Council painted this issue as 'old Thetford, v.s new Thetford' - the Leader, William Nunn, appearing on Anglia News labelled those calling for the poll as 'stuck in the past', that stereotyping soon encompassed Dads Army, and if you did not support the bus station moving - you were branded as "old, boring and part of the Dads Army brigade" - that really set the theme for the 'Yes Campaign'. Quite nasty and really quite personal. For example, myself and others supporting 'No' have been quite regularly slated on Facebook - both the 'Yes' and 'No' campaigns established Facebook 'pages'. (Note the Royston Vasy image on the Thetford Parish Poll Facebok event page) Apparently if you did not want the bus station to be moved, you did not want a cinema, you did not want investment, you therefore want Thetford to die - odd, given that so many on the 'No' campaign have done so very much to promote Thetford, (think Dads Army, Leaping Hare, think Thetford Society, dare I say - think Thetford Community Association and Benjamin Foundation - two charities I have worked for supporting young people in Thetford) However, no-body could comment on the Yes campaign Facebook page unless they 'liked' it, (i.e. they signed up to say they supported it) and even if you did 'like' it, but the organisers did not like you - so to speak - you were removed, and your comments deleted; it very much presented one side of the argument. The 'No' page on the contrary, which I set-up, did not delete a single comment or member. Another interesting twist in the saga came at the July meeting of Thetford Town Council. Several members (at risk of being partisan - I will say that they were Conservative) argued in favour of the Town Council doing nothing at all, not even doing anything constructive to inform people that a vote was taking place and encourage participation. Odd you may think given that a few weeks before the Council voted with a majority to support the bus station staying where it was. Sitting on the fence was the preferred option - in my humble opinion, it is precisely because of such action over many years that organisations such as Breckland Council and Moving Thetford Forward feel they can do whatever they like to our town. We have several splinters from such fence sitting! I did not hear of those same Councillors arguing at their Breckland Council meeting for a similar stance - indeed, Breckland/MTF (forgive me, I fail to distinguish between them) rushed to have pictorials produced and displayed at both the Bridge Street site and the Cosy Carpets site within days of the Parish Poll being called - presenting it as a fait au complait and no doubt reinforcing the view amongst many that the decision has been made and "what's the point" - if I had a pound for every time I heard that I'd be a rich man - hey, I could fund a new bus station ;). The Town Council did vote and committed £400 and booked the front cover of the About Thetford magazine to inform residents that the poll would be taking place - some members voted against this - against informing the electorate of their right to vote in a democratic poll. In addition, those of us supporting the No campaign did organise ourselves quite well and enlisted the support of a friend of mine - Jon Chambers, who designed for us very quickly a simple Vote No campaign flyer and accompanying website - www.thetfordvotesno.com - that flyer was delivered to 10,000 houses in Thetford - much to the alarm of those supporting Yes, who probably had not envisaged the extent to which 'No' would go to in campaigning (the entire 'No' campaign incidentally has been funded by personal donations). The leaflet offered to take people to the polling station if they needed to (if people had transport, mobility, disability issues etc) which was again attacked by those on the Yes side - hardly democratic. The issue has really captured the attention of many in Thetford with a succession of letters appearing in the Thetford and Brandon Times, with some from No campaigners and some from Yes campaigners - The Times did itself credit by publishing so many of the letters. What a shame so many people in Thetford do not receive that newspaper so that they too could have had access to such information. However, I was disappointed that both the Thetford and Brandon and Bury Free Press published the article by Moving Thetford Forward/Breckland Council on both their front pages, depicting the saga as Thetford's battle to move forward - 'Let our town move forward' - cried Neil Stott and Kevin Ward - neither Thetford residents, both with vested interests. A really crucial element of the No campaign was demonstrating that the bus station could remain on its current site, access could be improved (the original reason for wanting to move it) and the site could support regeneration - we enlisted the support of local architect John Atkins, who came up with some fantastic proposals in a rapid period of time - they were not detailed, fully costed etc - but showed what was POSSIBLE. However, the press allowed Breckland Council/MTF to comment on the proposals - no such right was afforded the previous weeks with the councils plans were presented in the newspapers - understandably, the council rubbished the plans - "a visual depiction of a pipe dream" - Mark Robinson, Conservative District Councillor and MTF Board Member (Mark, we both know that you did not write that statement, but they attributed your name to it - I've never heard you talk in a way that resembles the quote they used). So, despite all of that, everyone in Thetford will have the opportunity to go to their local polling station tomorrow. Given that there were no formal poll cards issued, no ability to vote by post or by proxy, given that it is August and many people are away, giving that the hours of the poll are limited to 4pm - 9pm, I am not expecting a huge turnout - not least because democratic involvement in Thetford is low anyway - perhaps that has something to do with the view that the local Council/s' do not listen and we are combating 20 years of induced apathy. Personally, I would be pleased with a turnout of anything over 10%. Do I expect the No campaign to win? I do. But by how much will be the interesting factor. If the turnout is over 10%, and if the No vote wins by more than 60-70%, and IF more people participate than those that have so far participated in any Moving Thetford Forward consultations, I seriously hope Breckland Council and MTF are gracious enough to admit that they need to look at things again, and look at their approach to consultation - and the extent to which they listen (and act upon) feedback. If, after tomorrow, they continue to arrogantly charge ahead, I am not sure what will happen, but I do not think the people of Thetford will continue to take it laying down. Tomorrow for me represents a new dawn for Thetford, a day when collectively as a town it declares enough is enough, our destiny must be shaped with us, not for us.
Sunday, 24 July 2011
Dear Editor, On Tuesday 9th August, I will be voting NO to the moving of the Thetford Bus Station in the Parish Poll. Does that make me part of the “old, boring, Dads Army brigade”? I really don’t think so. And it is quite wrong to label those fighting against this proposal in such a way. Am I then not wanting to protect Thetford’s historical assets? Far from it. Of course, that would mean that I would be against investment in our town, against a cinema and other improvements? How utterly ridiculous! I want all these things! I will be voting No for two main reasons. Primarily because I would prefer to see the bus station kept where it is – the current site is much more accessible, it is much larger than the proposed site at St Nicholas Street and it has much greater potential to be turned into the sort of bus station that I would like to see in our town – something on a par with Mildenhall and Bury St Edmunds. What is being proposed for St Nicholas Street is woefully inadequate. It seems as if we are going to get a nice new tarmac surface, with a few shelters for people to wait. What’s different to what we have now? Apart from it looking all nice and shiny and new. I am also very concerned about the safety of the new site and the amount of buses that will be charging down St Nicholas Street past Minstergate Street. The second reason for my decision to vote NO is because I am sick of organisations like Moving Thetford Forward and Breckland Council taking our town for granted. How dare they claim to be listening to the people of this town. Their consultation exercises have been ridiculous. If more people participate in this poll, than have participated in the MTF official consultations, then perhaps they might actually realise that people have not participated previously as they felt that Breckland and others had already made their minds up and the views of local people did not count. We’re told that this poll may result in investment in this town being lost and the Grade II Cosy Carpets building not getting the investment it needs. Well, as has been said before, Breckland Council have the power as a local authority to force the owners of historic buildings to protect them, but it chooses not to – perhaps this has something to do with its budget for heritage being absolutely Zero. Think no further than Abbey Barns, St Mary the Less and others. No support for them hey! As for investment, if Breckland did more to keep Thetford clean and tidy, develop a sense of community pride, invested in tourism and listened to the people of Thetford that would go a very long way towards making Thetford more prosperous, instead they charge ahead, sucking the lifeblood from our community and trampling anyone that gets in their way or who dares to propose an alternative. I urge every resident of Thetford, VOTE NO on Tuesday 9th August 2011! Terry Jermy Thetford Town and Breckland District Councillor, Saxon Ward Elm Road, Thetford (Aged 25!)
Saturday, 12 February 2011
Monday, 7 February 2011
Dear Editor, Following the article last week regarding the housing scheme at Sweyn Close on Barnham Cross, I should like to comment further and clarify some points. Particularly considering there has been much misinformation in this debate. A group of organisations have been working to improve the Barnham Cross community for several years, its loose title has been Barnham Cross Regeneration Steering Group. It has achieved some notable accomplishments, not least the redevelopment of redundant garage sites at Fir Road and Ash Close. Further improvements will take place this year in the form of increased parking and landscaping and further dwellings constructed at Mingay Road in the shape of much needed bungalows. The primary focus was always on the regeneration of Sweyn Close given the deterioration of those houses. Much consultation took place across the Barnham Cross community regarding Sweyn Close, many meetings were held and plans were drawn up – I was involved with this process and devoted many, many hours to it. At every step along the way, the regeneration at Sweyn Close was going to consist of a ‘mixed tenure’ – in other words, there would be a significant number of social housing units (what many people will know as ‘council houses’) and there would be several privately sold and some for shared ownership. For me, and others – this mixed tenure was crucial, for several reasons. 1. Primarily because all national guidelines state that a mixed tenure development is the right choice. Not compacting as many of one type together. 2) There were people that owned their house at Sweyn Close that had to move out for this scheme to go ahead, and expressed an interest in returning to the area if they could, and we do need more homes for sale in general towards the South-West of Thetford. 3) Shared ownership – I have had several people contact me, desperate to get onto the housing ladder and were keen for shared ownership properties to be incorporated into this development. I know from personal experience having just bought my own house (on the Barnham Cross Estate!) that it is incredibly difficult to get onto the housing ladder. Furthermore, the community consultation and the planning application to the Town Council and Breckland Planning Committee stated there would be a mixed tenure development. The planning application does not have to be looked at again because of this change. In many ways, this application was viewed under false pretences. Last Wednesday, I requested that Thetford Town Council put onto its Agenda a motion that, if agreed, would call for a letter to be sent to the Homes and Communities Agency (the national organisation that awards money for social housing, and the ones we were told that were insisting for entirely social housing in this development) I explained my reasoning for this at the council meeting, and explained that I thought it was unfair for a national organisation to be dictating to Thetford how this should proceed. We were told it was this way, or there would be no money, effectively scuppering the whole thing. I was delighted that 6 councillors supported me (2 did not, and 3 abstained). However, since then, the council and councillors have come under considerable pressure. Senior Breckland Council officers have told us that our actions may cost this entire re-development and the investment of £10 million pounds into Thetford. I have spoken with the HCA, they respect that Thetford Town Councillors have a democratic right to express the views of the people they represent. What sort of world do we live in where councillors cannot do this, in fear of national organisations acting like small children and taking away their toys? I am disappointed that 7 Thetford Councillors have now called for our original decision to be re-tracted. A special meeting of Thetford Town Council has been called, on Wednesday 9th February 2011 at 7pm in the Town Council Chambers. I thought on this issue Thetford Town Council may put the people of this town first. I hope after Wednesday night this remains to be the case. Yours sincerely, Terry Jermy Thetford Town Councillor – Saxon Ward Elm Road, Thetford
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
Tuesday, 1 February 2011
Dear Editor Following the correspondence recently concerning the ability of the Town Council to instigate change in Thetford, as someone who has now served as a Town Councillor for 3 years, I would make the following points. The Town Council has a yearly expenditure of nearly ¾ of a million pounds, it spends £750,000 per year, the majority of which (£500,000) comes from council tax payers in Thetford, with the remainder coming from different sources of income – particularly rental income from Town Council owned buildings. I do not think this level of expenditure is insignificant – if spent wisely and with due regard to value for money, that level of yearly expenditure could achieve a significant amount in our town – bear in mind of course that the Town Council is able to reclaim VAT, so that yearly expenditure is already worth more than many regard. Furthermore, the Town Council does own considerable assets; The Guildhall, Carnegie Room, Red Lion, Royal British Legion building, Rudlings and Wakelam building, the Shambles, London Road cemetery chapel and cottage and others. In addition, The Town Council has significant financial reserves – several hundreds of thousands of pounds in fact. And of course, all Town Councillors are Trustees of the Staniforth Trust, responsible for Kings House and Kings House gardens and with other financial reserves as well. The Town Council is also responsible for land, not least our Common Land – Barnham Common, Melford Common, plus all of the allotment land in Thetford, and it is responsible for Castle Park and the surrounding land – including Castle Hill. The Town Council has significant resources, not least our staff team with a whole range of skills at its disposal. So, far from being remote and irrelevant, the Town Council has a significant role to play in the life of our town. It does not have to sit back and moan about the shortcomings of Breckland Council (numerous as they are), but could work towards improving our town and the quality of life for residents – putting Thetford first. This all of course is what is possible. Despite some notable accomplishments, there remains so much more that the Town Council could be doing, not least providing a strong and passionate collective voice for our town. I have often felt in the past that our Town Council has ‘mumbled itself into insignificance’. Alas, all is not lost. Elections to Thetford Town Council are taking place on the 5th May 2011, and I urge everyone in Thetford not to disregard this, take an active interest and participate in your democratic right to vote. The Town Council could achieve so much more, and I sincerely hope that it does. Terry Jermy Elm Road, Thetford Thetford Town Council – Saxon Ward