Borough Council News Heacham, Sedgeford and Fring
An updated article received after the August issue had gone to print.
August already. I hope it has rained since the time of writing - mid July, the lack of rain and the heat badly affects food crops as well as gardens and water extraction at Fring, by Anglian Water, reduces flow in the Heacham. The Great Ouse also gets depleted and this conspires to reduce any flushing out of The Wash. The sea off Heacham Beaches remans contaminated and the Environment Agency recommendation not to swim remains.
I mention Anglian Water as they are always consulted about major developments and they have never said that sewage systems can’t cope with the additional input from either more houses or more visitors. I, and others, have our doubts and would like to see this assertion independently examined.
Heacham Waste Water Treatment Works takes sewage from a wide area, including all of Heacham and Hunstanton.
For those of you new to the area, the Heacham Works is just beyond South Beach and between the sea and Fenway. The cleaned up and treated outfall joins the Heacham River just behind the new toilet block at South Beach. The waters then flow through a tunnel, under the beach, into the sea where the little flashing light is.
At the time of writing, the promised investigation into why sea water quality at the beaches is poor has still not started.
A better beach story. The big litter pick on the 10th July was a success though more public would have been welcome. Rubbish was collected at Hunstanton, Heacham and Snettisham by four teams. I was working from South Beach towards Snettisham and had opportunity to meet the project officer and volunteers for the ‘Plovers in Peril’ project. Wonderful people who collectively spend hours standing on the beaches advising people how to avoid disturbing nests. And the ringed plovers are great too.
We couldn’t clear litter from the nesting sites but will be liaising with the RSPB in the autumn. Look out for details.
Heacham’s Neighbourhood Plan hit the headlines, locally and nationally (almost). I received calls from newspapers, ITV and the BBC. I was on holiday so missed my moment and Boris spoilt the BBC interview as it was scheduled on the day he finally said he would go, consequently they didn’t turn up to film me.
The interest was specifically about the principal residence policy for new homes – no second homes. Heacham and Sedgeford are currently the only two local neighbourhood plans with this condition. I did tell the media that Sedgeford was first. Many areas are picking up on this issue with North Norfolk having a referendum to judge public opinion. It is not just about second homes using land and resources which could be used for first homes, but is also whether homes are for locals who need them at a price they can afford.
That is why I asked for the flats being bult on the car park in Hunstanton to be conditioned for local people (the opportunity to refuse them had past) and why I think the same condition must apply to new development proposals coming through the system.
Heacham residents: There may be several battles to fight regarding the Cheney Hill development as outline permission was given a while ago. Delays at the moment are due to design changes needed to meet Neighbourhood Plan requirements.
An expansion of the planning officer numbers at the Borough Council is underway to reduce the time it takes to consider applications and to ensure better enforcement when developers, small or large, take it into their heads to ignore conditions in the hope they will get away with whatever dire changes they make.
There is a particular sneaky case in Sedgeford which has gone on for months and a ludicrous one in Heacham where a conditioned full 2m hedge has ended up being a fence with a short bit of green plastic foliage in front of it. I won’t forget either.
Then there is the more extreme example of the campsite at South Beach. No permission for it and arguments and legal debate going back and forth. It has been suggested that the owner makes something of a habit of challenging the rules. Apparently, this is one of at least three sites he has or has had in our area. Two have, I believe, now faded away.
Businesses need permission, sometimes licences, to operate from domestic premises. There are several in Heacham with no such permissions. These include at least one car sales business and probably two dog breeding establishments. Anyone considering purchasing a dog from a local breeder, please ask to see their operating licence which would be issued by the local authority. It is mist unlikely that such a licence would be given in a residential area due to noise and animal welfare issues.
Coming back to tourism. A number of MPs at a Planning Bill debate, prior to all the Boris fuss, made this statement, ‘Councils should be allowed to frame localised plans to reverse and lower the percentage of long-term holiday and commercial holiday rentals in specific communities.’ The methods suggested included reducing second homes and requiring full planning permission for Airbnb’s.
My group will put a motion at Council to join councils elsewhere which are requesting the government to introduce primary legislation to enable a small tourism levy to be introduced. This is common in other countries and the monies collected contribute to the cost of services in the locality. The Welsh Government is already taking such action and many cities and tourist destinations are making a case for them.
Another motion, from the Independent Group, will seek to trial overnight campervan parking at a selected car park in Hunstanton and one in Lynn This is primarily to reduce the off road and nuisance parking which has grown in the last couple of years. It will, additionally, raise revenue for this cash strapped Council.
Stop Press. Both motions were agreed in principal but referred to panels for the details to be worked out. When this has happened before motions have been either kicked into touch or remerged as an idea from the ruling group with a fanfare of press releases. I imagine the second scenario will be seen.
Various bids to the government, Towns Fund, Levelling Up fund, are still in progress. The latter includes £25million for the Oasis Leisure Centre Hunstanton. As the site is owned and run by the Borough, maintenance and development of it is its responsibility. There are too many of these competitive bids for work that is needed to be done. The hospital is the principal example of this government time wasting. It needs replacing with a new build, so do it.
Borough Councillor Heacham Ward which includes Sedgeford and Fring
Leader of the Independent Group