TOWN ASSEMBLY MEETING 1ST OCTOBER 21
5 Oct 2021
Fakenham Town Council held a restricted Annual Assembly in May this year in order to tick the boxes required by law. By necessity this was a small meeting due to covid restrictions on numbers which is the reason we decided to hold a further town meeting/annual assembly today so that we can brief our townsfolk on what has been going on since our last annual assembly in 2019 and to outline our plans for the future.
In May I entered my third term as Chairman of this council. The first two terms were interesting to say the least. One of the first challenges we faced was to overturn plans to remove one of our two fire appliances. I am grateful to my fellow councillors who worked together to prevent this removal.
We hardly had time to draw breath when it emerged that the provision of a post office in our town was in jeopardy. A large meeting was held in the Parish Church attended by representatives of the post office. As it stands today, we do have a post office, but it is at best temporary. There is a difficulty here. Post offices in this country piggy back on small convenience stores which is why our local villages all have post offices – Gt. Ryburgh, Snoring, Bale and so on. With four large supermarkets in Fakenham, it would be a brave man who would set up a small convenience store.
This is a matter which we continue to monitor – one solution could be a community shop and post office.
When Covid hit we faced new challenges, we had to all get used to using zoom and our staff to working from home and our groundsmen to rethink their working practices. I would like to thank all councillors and staff for their Stirling work during this time to keep the council running smoothly. Some new councillors didn’t know what it was like to attend a meeting in person until just a few months back.
Our plans for VE day had to be cancelled, but we did manage to organise an event on the 15th August to mark VJ day. The Christmas lights switch on went ahead and an event was organised by an independent group albeit including our clerk, deputy clerk and one of councillors. How lovely to have some light in a very dark period.
Before I outline some of our plans for the coming months I would like us to cast our minds back over the last years. Fakenham, like many market towns throughout the country rather lost its way. The closing of the printing works, the shutting down of the air base and a significant change in farming practices plus changes in banking meant that many valued and often highly skilled jobs were lost.
In addition, the rise of the large supermarket chains put our small independent shops in jeopardy, this was exacerbated with the rise of the internet. When I returned home to Fakenham in 1988 I found a very different place than the one I had left in 1973, gone too was the Grammar school in which I had been educated.
Fakenham seemed to have lost its confidence and pride and a sense of despondency set it. I have to say this was not helped by the perception that we were the poor cousins to towns like Sheringham, Holt and Cromer where District Council and County Council monies were concerned.
However, in talking with our residents and business owners in recent years, there is a significant change for the positive. During my predecessor’s time in office, the heritage trail was set up and a façade renovation took place, in addition the sad little triangle near the library was given a longneeded makeover by the town using outside funding. We also succeeded in preventing Highfield car park from being sold for development. This car park will be a significant link between the town centre and the new housing to the north of the town. In fact, we envisage its use a potential transport hub – but that is someway off, but at least we have not lost this space forever as was planned. Also remember the Break Hare, this came to our Town with the excellent support of Kinnerton.
In time it became evident that others too had a growing confidence in Fakenham The renovation and repurposing of the Methodist chapel and meeting hall plus the beautiful renovation of the cottages and the adjacent house brought an elegance to Oak street. Sowerby’s moving into the old rectory with the attendant makeover added to this. Needless to say, the final completion of the rebuilding of the Aldiss building made a phenomenal difference too.
During my first year as Mayor four new businesses opened in the town centre, many more have followed since, including an excellent florist a lovely coffee shop in Taylors, the jewellery shop was snapped up very quickly on the retirement of the previous owner. A new craft shop in Norwich st. and many more, culminating in the beautiful renovation of the Red Lion and the reopening of the Henry IV. This is heartening indeed. Fakenham retains its many banks and building societies unlike other local towns. On top of this we have thriving industrial estates which provide jobs for our townsfolk. We should be proud of our small town which has so long been denigrated – what other town of this size has a racecourse a golf course two sports centres a cinema a river and a Thursday market and auction that attracts hundreds of visitors during the holiday season and countless locals from the outlying villages throughout the year.
Fakenham is in fact a remarkable small town and should not be underrated for as far as I can see it, it’s future is bright.
There is still a great deal to do, not least the resolution of the parking issues in our town centre, to this end we will be commissioning a traffic survey to resolve the confusion and rather anarchic situation that has existed for so long. We recently had a meeting with Cllr Martin Wilby the Cabinet officer at NCC for highways to discuss these many problems and in particular the parlous state of road markings in town. We have his undertaking that these will be refreshed over the next month or two.
A licence has been granted from NNDC to FTC for the triangle to the rear of the cinema to be tidied up, the same sort of licence is being sought from NCC for the library garden and NCC will undertake to repair and paint the large retaining wall. Outside funding for these projects is being sought so that precept monies need not be used.
Over the last couple of years, the TC has built up an excellent relationship with the managing agents for the Millers Walk shopping centre. The dreaded car parking issue has been resolved thanks to the intervention of NNDC plus work is already taking place to repair and paint the metal hoops along the car parks and the tidying up of what I like to call the land that time forgot with new signage, this is all in the pipeline.
We have been in touch with the BT and Royal mail concerning their buildings on Queen’s Road urging them to bring them up to scratch after what seems years of neglect – a real blot on our streetscape. Opposite there, we will shortly be seeing the replacement of the old toilet block with a new range of toilet facilities provided by NNDC.
A long-standing headache is the Newman’s Building and the buildings in Newman’s yard. We continue to urge NNDC to push for the resolution of this problem and hope that in due course work can begin on this carbuncle on one of our principal streets.
Fakenham Town Council are responsible for a very large estate including 3 cemeteries, 3 allotments, playing fields and so on the list is very long and significant for a town of our size. The Fakenham Recreation Charity whose trustees are the town councillors include Millennium Park and Aldiss park. We are looking at a significant makeover of the former with provision of new play equipment and other improvements.
We also intend to help our businesses set up a Chamber of Trade something Fakenham has lacked for many years. This bringing together of our many excellent companies and working in tandem and with the support of the town council can only be a force for good and change.
In singing the praises of our town I would like to thank the many remarkable community and sports groups who make Fakenham such a lovely place to live in. The work that the sports clubs do in supporting our young is something I find beyond heart-warming.
Enough of me, although I could go on for much longer as you who know me well understand. I would like to now introduce you to Angela Glynn, Deputy Mayor. Angela is a woman of vast experience which is quite dazzling ,we are indeed fortunate to have her on our team.
Fakenham Town Counci