Move the factory out of Stoke Ferry
I read with interest in your last edition both the comments from the Soap Box, and the reproduced Lynn News article concerning the environmental rape of this village by the Favor Parker factory.
It's odd, isn't it, how it takes an outsider's reaction to jolt us into a sense of reality? We all know that the situation is (to quote Purfleet) 'entirely unacceptable', 'appalling', 'shocking', an 'abomination', a 'disaster at the core of the community'. But we've let the situation drag on, out of...what? A sense of the inevitable? Of course it's not inevitable. A sense of resignation, of fear? Why must we be resigned or fearful? The fine buildings of Stoke Ferry, the families (including mine) who built this community, were here long before the factory.
'How did they get away with it?', asks Purfleet. I'll tell you how. Because the operation was established - only months before, but established - before planning laws kicked in during the early 1960s. Because there was in those days a feudal sense of deference to the owners who put private profit above the vandalisation of an ancient village. Because bullies and hand-wringers alike said that they would have to close the factory rather than move it. Because those who dared to protest were threatened with legal action, or invited onto the Board of Directors. Because the planning authorities were craven, and because environmental awareness was weaker. Because some members of a toothless Parish Council, I believe, put self-interest above the wider good of the village. Because over the years HGV traffic has increased in size, and the output of the factory has grown, but by degrees which battle-weary protesters had no effective means of quantifying.
But other things change too. The world outside this 'abandoned' village is fast moving on. Environmental laws are tighter; further European legislation will be tighter still. The value of building land within conservation villages has risen sharply. New medical links are being established between asthma and airborne dust and diesel pollution. New communications and the arrival in West Norfolk of the over-spill from London and Cambridge mean that is increasingly hard to bury this situation under the carpet.
Most importantly, Favor Parker is by no means the only local employer. A substantial proportion of its employees (a number which, tellingly, the company itself has been reluctant to reveal ) don't in fact live here. The Parker family itself has lost overall control of the company. I believe that the tide is now turning, and that Purfleet's article expresses the mood of a more enlightened age.
The factory is now old; a fact which exacerbates its abuse of its environment. Newcomers to the village, and youngsters with a better grasp of what is acceptable in the twenty-first century, have a broader perspective and a more articulate voice. In a recent survey of Stoke Ferry schoolchildren, an overwhelming majority said that the worst thing about this village was the factory; a heresy which their cowed parents would never have dreamed of uttering.
What we need to do is to make as much of a stink as the factory does. Here's how.
Above all, don't, as the Lynn News put it, hang up 'the ghostly white flags of surrender.' There is a battle here, as the paper accurately perceived. But why should we let a distant corporation win it?
None of us wants to see jobs put at risk. None of us wants the factory to close. But there can surely be no one who doesn't see that the time has come to move the operation to an appropriate site outside the village, and to let this historic community be restored to health.
A concerned villager!