Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Wide-ranging Green views

More on that Green meeting
A record of the meeting was made by Alison Frank and the following description is based on these notes. There were three members of the Green Right Proprietors, Colin Phillips, Rosemary West and Mike Read, at the front to deal with the queries. There was also a table at the side with relevant papers about the history of the Green and Howard Marshall had displayed some leaflets and boards about the biodiversity of the Green.
More than 60 people attended and listened to a short introduction by Colin Phillips (Vice-chairman) on behalf of Old Buckenham Green Right Proprietors (GRP). He said he had called the meeting in response to letters in the Old Buckenham newsletter, particularly the recent one from Chris Talbot, and various discussions amongst groups in the village. Colin read out a letter from Chris Talbot who was unable to attend the meeting.
Colin Phillips reiterated that the meeting was to air ideas, much as Mulbarton has done, so that residents have some idea of any proposed plan for the future management as “we can’t leave the Green as it is”.
Colin opened the meeting to questions and comments. These included a compliment to him personally for his work on the improvements to Rod Alley Row pond, some of which Colin had arranged and some completed himself.
Adrian Joel asked Colin to explain what the GRP rights are. Colin gave a potted history starting from the 39 people around the Green who were given one acre each in perpetuity by the king. One right was later given for the War Memorial site.
The following discussion included: could the Parish Council buy the Green (no) and how rights were passed on or sold, the number of people holding green rights who were living in the village now and how many of them were present at this meeting.
Nick Gilford asked for clarification of grass cutting times and how the trees were managed on the Green. Rosemary West (GRP Secretary and Treasurer) explained ‘estovers’? which meant that tree right owners had responsibility for trees coming down which must be removed and replaced. Other questions on this topic concerned what trees can be planted where and is there a restriction on the numbers.
Mike Read (Chairman of GRP) defined the proprietors having “joint and several responsibility for the maintenance of the Green”. Mike pointed out that there are geographical demarcations of the Green. It was felt lopping needed to be carried out on some trees and Mike told the meeting that all the trees were surveyed every three years. This is instigated for insurance purposes with the help of Ross Guyton, a tree surgeon, and is due again this autumn. Mike also outlined the difficulties with the electricity company concerning the proximity of trees to their wires and the differences of opinion between the tree rights holders and Breckland Council’s Tree Conservation Officer.
Ron Brewer made a plea for mixed areas on the Green, some cut, some not and said that the cutting of paths through the long grass was much appreciated by walkers this summer. It was felt that cutting and leaving the grass was messy. Rosemary West explained the restrictions imposed by DEFRA meant that the Green could not be cut before the end of July and after the end of September. Geoff Scott said John Askew used to cut it twice a year in the past. Julian Goodey, who has lived here for 54 years, stated that the grass was “in a disgusting state” which drew applause from the audience. Mike Read noted that it was Mr Davey’s last year of his contract this year. There is a proposal being drafted from the Parish Council to the GRP about their management of the grass next year. This will be discussed at the GRP’s AGM in February 2009. Mike was asked who is responsible for administering the grass cutting and replied that the Green is a conservation area set up by ancient government, not a 21st century one. A lot of seemingly sensible regulations are not enforceable, like parking in the areas near the village shop.
The subject of a footpath across the Green was raised by Adrian Joel (District Councillor) who is finding out whether planning permission is required. Mike Bartlett hoped it wouldn’?t be turned down by Breckland like the proposed amenity area opposite the shop. Colin Phillips pointed out that if done legally the VAT can be claimed back, if we just got on and did it we wouldn’t be able to do this.
Mike Read then gave reasons for the football posts being taken down and not replaced.
Howard Marshall, villager and conservation film maker, spoke passionately about diversity being important and that dwindling hay meadows needed to be defended. The discussion then ranged around the length of the grass, flowering times, the existence of a football pitch in the last decade and Chris Davey’s problems with vandalism of hay bales left on the Green in the past.
Colin Phillips said the suggestion had been put to him that allotments could be allocated on the Pound area near the Almshouses. Doug Baker asked that more seats be put on the Green. Peter Martin offered to cut the Green at no cost when Mike Read outlined the potentially exorbitant cost of cutting the Green because of its size (compared to the few areas cut in Quidenham by Norfolk County Services). Mike Bartlett praised Terry Cracknell as well as Mike Read for working hard for the village and asked that they continue to do so – together.
A positive newcomer to the village, Heather Pfeiffer, asked about young people’?s involvement with the Green. She commented that it was good they sat outside the shop and some walked to school. Mike Read gave some background about offering the triangle of land outside the High School to make vehicular access easier but he never received a reply from the Education Department.
Doug Baker asked why the GRP don’t tell people what they are doing so, to help this, why not have regular open meetings to explain things. Dennis Baggs asked if the GRP has been approached by the local authority to take over the Green. Colin Phillips replied that he had written a constitution for the GRP some time ago to stop this ever happening. Mike Read recounted the yearly story of Colin proposing at the GRP’s AGM that ‘All Green Rights are offered to the Parish Council’. This drew applause and some cheers from the audience!
It was requested that footpaths be cut every year across the Green. If the Fete happens again next year then the surface around the stalls needs to be improved.
Attention turned to income and expenditure. Mike Read stated that the money ‘won’ from the Forge Close case was used for improving Rod Alley Row pond and its surroundings. Wayleaves (rents) bring in some regular money so GRP is solvent – just. Some money was spent on an industrial strimmer. Ron Brewer asked if the GRP income and expenditure could be made public. This was declined but some ‘facts’ could be extracted for use in the newsletter after GRP discussion. Tim Ing’s role as Parish Council representative on the GRP involved what could, or could not, be disclosed.
Ron Brewer also asked for a date to be fixed for the next public meeting with the GRP. Mike declined to fix a date at present but promised it would be discussed by the GRP at their meeting in November.
The meeting finished at approximately 9pm with the opportunity for some people to stay for tea and biscuits and further informal discussions with those involved with looking after the Green.

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