War Memorial Gary Trouton

Minutes of SFRA Open Meeting

August 2005

Minutes of an extremely well attended Village Open Meeting


Brian Harrison Chairman SFRA

Ray Thompson Vice-Chairman SFRA

4 members of the SFRA Committee

90 members of the public which included representatives of the Stoke Ferry Parish Council, the Parochial Church Council, Grampian Country Foods & Downham Market Constabulary

Apologies: Apologies were received from Tim Read (SFRA Treasurer) , Helaine Wyatt (SFRA Secretary), members of the Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk and Tenants of West Norfolk (TOWN)


The Chairman welcomed everyone and said how delighted he was with such a splendid turn-out. He asked that his grateful thanks be recorded to Kit Hesketh-Harvey who had made available this wonderful old church for our meeting. He told the meeting that much work was still to be done on this historic building although work already completed had recovered the structure from unwanted damp due to blocked gutters. He advised the meeting that Kit intended that the building should become a further facility available for use by villagers. The Chapel would be retained as a non-denominational place of worship. The main hall, where we are meeting tonight, is available to the village for meetings, social events and family gatherings. Kit expected that the bulk of the outstanding work will be completed by the end of this year.

The Chairman expressed a warm welcome to Jacqueline Murfitt, an Environmental Officer from the Borough of King's Lynn & West Norfolk. Jacqueline had very kindly agreed to be in attendance at, but not part of, tonight's meeting in order to make available a copy of Grampian's application for a new operating licence. The Chairman stressed that Jacqueline was here merely as a custodian of the document; she was not able to discuss the document, answer questions on the document or express an opinion.

To conclude his opening remarks, the Chairman felt that it was essential that everyone understood why the Stoke Ferry Residents' Association had been set up. He said that the purpose of the group was twofold: namely, to represent and protect the interests of the people of Stoke Ferry and to improve the quality of life of village residents. He said that it was not in anyway meant to replace or challenge the Parish Council. Indeed, a primary aim of the Association was to work closely with the Parish Council to ensure common views are progressed jointly in the best possible way.

Because of pressure on our local constabulary, the Chairman said he would bring forward the item on Community Policing in case the police representatives were called away on an emergency.


The Chairman introduced David Jackson who was the officer at Downham Police Station responsible for, inter alia, Stoke Ferry.

David explained that staffing levels at Downham meant that he was the only officer available to provide support to Stoke Ferry. He confirmed that staffing levels at Downham, to cover the full area of their responsibility, was limited to four officers during normal working hours and two officers over night. His ability to police Stoke Ferry was, therefore, limited but he did make it a part of his daily schedule to visit the village at least once in every tour of duty. He felt that the rapport he had established with the majority of village youngsters had proved beneficial; most, he said were sensible and stable young people who responded well to his advice. He had responded to requests for support to incidents on The Hill and at the Waterworks and felt that police intervention had done much to improve some difficult situations.

David then invited questions from the meeting. David Cryer expressed concern at recent events at the Blue Bell inn. He said that, as a neighbour of the pub, he had been subjected to excessively loud music (sometime after legal opening hours), under-aged drinking, repeated fighting and some criminal damage to his property. David said that the Downham Market licensing authority was aware of these complaints and action was in hand to monitor this establishment and manage future events.

Other villagers raised a number of questions which they felt need a police response: car parking in the High Street, parking outside the Village Hall on Auction night's and speeding through the village. Ray Thompson said that as vice Chairman of the SFRA he had written to the police asking for speed checks to be conducted in the village. He had received a response from Wymondham saying that the request had been passed to the appropriate authority but, do date, no response had been received.

The Chairman reported that the Parish Council has checked with the Traffic department of the council and received the response that, where villagers see a problem, they should report in the first instance to the Parish Council who will then forward these complaints to the Police and the Highways Department.

After some discussion, the meeting considered that parking was not the major issue; the real problem was that motorists were driving at excess speeds through the village. Donna Stocking asked why speed warning signs could not be erected, especially since her family had offered to fund the cost of one such installation. Similarly, Grampian has offered to fund a speed warning sign on the entry to the village on the Furlong. The Chairman advised that the long delays in implementing these offers were simply a matter of bureaucracy; the PC was chasing a practical outcome.

Other observations from the meeting related to the movement of heavy lorries through the village, despite weight warning signs at the southern end of High Street. It was suggested that one deterrent to such traffic might be the deployment of a mobile police station to Stoke Ferry on an irregular basis. Other complaints concerned the level of vandalism in the village. Donna and others reported the vandalism of installing fishing line across footpaths and the killing of a cat on the Playing Field. David again responded by saying that the police staffing levels precluded a detailed investigation of all such complaints. But he also stressed that it was not the responsibility of the police to control children's behaviour; that was a matter for parents!

Patsy White stated that one way in which children could be distracted from their petty vandalism was to ensure that they had adequate challenging activities to keep them interested. To this end she asked for help to provide a more challenging Youth Club.

When asked how the community could help the police to improve staffing levels, David suggested that pressure on all levels of council, right up to the local MP would probably be the best approach.

The Chairman thanked Davis for his input to the meeting and urged villagers to report problems to the police so that early remedial action can be initiated.


The Chairman presented an overview of the future development of Stoke Ferry. He said that, under government plans to develop all types of housing in the corridor from Essex to King's Lynn, Stoke Ferry was clearly a likely candidate for future development. Moreover, the planned significant government increase in investment in Cambridge's industrial infrastructure would naturally attract commuters from all adjacent areas including Stoke Ferry giving further credence to housing developments in our area.

Even before recent events such as the closure of the wood yard, Stoke Ferry was a developers dream. A by-passed village with three exits onto the A134, river frontage and excellent road and rail links to London, Cambridge and Norwich was a perfect setting for a major housing development. The availability of the two Geoff Allen plots (wood yard and behind the Village Hall), the availability either in the short term or long term of the Grampian Mill land and the council owned plot behind the old Self Store, simply brought such development forward. It would not be possible to stop development of the village, but we could at least influence the way in which this development proceeded.

That was why the development of a sound and robust Village Design Statement was essential. It was critically important that we make the Planning Authorities fully aware of the constraints the village would wish to impose on future development, both in terms of architecture and building materials, so that any new development blended in with the village rather than becoming an eye sore from the outset.

The sooner we can lodge a fully, village approved, VDS with the Borough Council of King's Lynn & West Norfolk, the more chance we had of having a positive influence on the inevitable development of our village.

An element of the meeting felt that Grampian should be asked to contribute to village amenities. Others felt that Grampian aka Favor Parker had been here for years and had already made significant contributions to the village.

The Chairman felt that there were two main issues to be addressed. The first, and perhaps the most critical, was to develop the Village Design Statement to a sufficiently robust state that it could be submitted the Borough Council of King's Lynn & West Norfolk. Second, it was essential that we agree a programme which enabled the villagers to endorse that this VDS process was worthwhile. Suggestions from the floor included publishing the VDS on the website (either the Stoke Ferry site or a specially constructed VDS website) and ratification at a future open meeting after villagers had had the opportunity to study the document. The Chairman said he was happy to develop both options.

As a secondary issue, the Chairman invited volunteers to join the committees of the Residents' Association and the VDS Committee.


The Chairman noted that there had been many rumours concerning the future of The Village Hall and felt that a short clarification statement would help. He noted that there had been a proposal that future developers of the site around the Village Hall may wish to re-locate the hall to a new site to improve development options. The likely re-location of the hall would be on the right hand bungalow of the pair behind the Geoff Allen fuel pumps with an associated car park. However, since a developer has yet to come forward, work on the hall will continue as planned. If at a later date alternative proposals are submitted, the Chairman felt that the Village Hall committee would be in a strong position to negotiate a favourable outcome to the benefit of the village.


Gayle Boughen briefed the meeting on the progress to date on the playing field development. Under Phase 1 of the re-development, new play equipment had been installed at a cost of £20,000. This money had been obtained by the committee under various funding grants. Phase 2 of the re-development will include a multi-court, for use by a range of sports, will be installed at a cost of some £30, 000. A new, practical skate board rink has been installed to meet the wishes of the skaters which mimics the facilities they felt were available in Oak Road. New benches have been installed and new play kit has been purchased.

In response to a question from the meeting, Gayle confirmed that insurance premiums would remain roughly the same apart from a small additional premium for the skate board rink. In response to questions about the lighting being provided, Gayle re-assured local residents that lighting would be controlled by light sensors. Lights would only be activated when children are present but the full implications of the lighting arrangements are being examined by the Borough Council.

Gayle concluded her presentation with an invitation to all villagers to come and view the new playing field and its equipment of which she and her committee are justifiably proud.


The only significant point raised under this heading was the provision of bins for the disposal of dog droppings. The meeting offered a variety of solutions, none of which incurred a cost on the Parish Council.

The meeting closed at 9.29pm

Ray Thompson

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