War Memorial Gary Trouton

Straight Talking

October 2007

The GOM takes a good look at the recently issued Stoke Ferry Village Plan!

I want to start this month's article with some good news. I am sure many of you have seen all the flags flying outside a house in Bridge Road. These flags and messages were put up to announce the arrival of a brave young soldier who has just safely returned home from Afghanistan after completing his tour of duty there. Whatever your thoughts are on the rights and wrongs of our continued involvement in this war torn country the fact remains that this soldier has served Queen and country with pride and dignity. I know his parents are so proud of their son and so relieved he is home safe, as indeed am I.

I, like most of the residents of Stoke Ferry, have received my copy of the Stoke Ferry Village Plan. It made for some interesting reading. I actually think that the idea of a village plan is a good idea (one of the few that the Parish Council have followed through). I do disagree with some of the comments and conclusions that have been made. Under Housing, Planning and Local Economy I agree that there should be a mix of housing types, not just executive but also low cost starter homes, if this doesn't happen I could be stuck with my kids living at home forever!

I understand that most planning committee's only accept developments with off road parking, so I would imagine that this would be a requirement for all planning applications. What I didn't understand at all was the comment in the summary stating that "Building design should be in sympathy with the local design tradition". I didn't know we had a local design tradition. A short walk around the village and it becomes apparent that there isn't any local design tradition; all I see are houses that have been built at different times using designs that were popular, or cheap, at the time. I don't understand why no one wants a supermarket, if one ever decided to move into the village. The corner shop is a valuable asset to the village, and I frequent it often, but I wouldn't do my weekly shopping there, it's a convenience store and as such is not known for its buy one, get one free offers with clubcard points.

The section on industry made me smile, and in particular the part that stated that a "large number of residents" perceived the Mill to be a problem; if statements like this are to be made then the word 'large' should have been qualified. By large do they mean more than 50% of respondents? And remember, only 62% of householders replied to the survey, so one can only assume that 38% of householders don't care that the Mill is in the village as they didn't reply to the survey. I don't understand why the village plan has dedicated so much space to the properties that Grampian Foods own. So the old Dukes Head is boarded up, a couple of listed buildings adjacent to the Hill are used as storage, so what? Grampian own them, its up to them what they do with them. If they wish to use the buildings as storage then surely that's up to them, it's not my place, or anyone else's, to dictate to a private company what they do with their property. And as for the dust, smells, noise and traffic, it's made to sound like it is horrendous; trust me, it isn't that bad. 54% of respondents wanted to see more light industrial employment in the village, with many emphasising the word 'light'.

The Law and Order section was, in the main, spot on. There isn't enough policing in the village, there never has been, and without being too despondent, there never will be. Even Downham Market, which has grown considerably over the past few years, doesn't have enough police. But by all means approach the police and, dare I say it, insist that we see more police, particularly a return of a village police officer.

I was pleased that the Village Plan had included the wishes of children in the village; I agree they are our future and as such should be well catered for. The summary stated there should be a youth club. I thought there was a youth club at the community centre on Monday nights. Again, disappointment at the negative comments regarding the Playing Field. So the changing room facilities aren't that nice to look at and the portaloo isn't ideal, but there was no mention of the huge transformation to the play equipment that the members of the Playing Field Committee had worked so hard to get. And, I am sure that if Grampian Foods wanted to sell Self's Field they would have done so by now.

I like the idea of a doctor's surgery in the village...again. However, even if a suitable building could be found or built, it would still need to be staffed by doctors, at a time when they are already in short supply. The current surgery, although in another village, is centrally based for the area in which it covers, which is a huge area.

The one thing about the Village Plan that got me the most was the suggestion of a "village newsletter". The plan states that 25% of residents (which equates to only 15% of the village, given that only 62% replied) never see the Pump, and that when asked "the vast majority of residents would like to see a free monthly/quarterly Stoke Ferry Newsletter." Again they have not quantified what a vast majority is? The Pump has been in this village for many, many years; it isn't broke so don't try to fix it. If people want to know more about what's going on they can go down to the Corner Shop (that we the residents don't want to lose) and buy a copy of the Pump! Or, if they are really lazy and have an internet connection, they can always go to the Pump's web site and read all about what's going on. And besides, the Pump is self supporting, albeit through advertising; a village newsletter, I am sure, would end up being subsidised by me and other tax payers.

In this column I normally praise the Village Hall, however this month I am going to have to complain about some of its patrons. One Saturday evening I was walking along the Lynn Road and there were a lot of cars parked along the road outside of the Village Hall. This does present a bit of a road safety problem, but although that does annoy me a little my main gripe was that one inconsiderate driver had actually parked their car on the pavement. So I had to walk in the road to get around this car. It never ceases to amaze me what total idiots there are, I sometimes wonder if these half wits are confusing their drivers licence with their TV licence. (They probably don't have either).

I want to sign off this month with an apology. Last month I criticised those residents who live close to the Blue Bell pub who had complained about the noise coming from the pub one evening. It has been pointed out to me that this disturbance actually occurred at 3am. I too would be upset if I was disturbed at this time in the morning. Perhaps, in future, the Parish Council minutes could accurately record what was said at the meetings instead of just half the story.

Grumpy Old man

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