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Police move to allay dog theft fears

A rash of posts on social media provoking concerns about dog thieves has led to police issuing a statement to put minds at rest.

Community pages on sites such as Facebook have had lots of posts from dog walkers concerned about being targeted by thieves and apocryphal reports of attempts to take dogs by force, but police have quashed these, saying there have been no such crimes reported to them.

“We are aware of concerns and rumours circulating on social media about dogs being stolen or men in a van, including a van allegedly marked with the RSPCA logo, acting suspiciously around people out walking with their dogs.

“Please know there haven’t been any crimes recorded this week that relate to dog thefts nor have we received any reports of dogs being stolen from a property or while out walking with their owners over the last week.”

It went on to say that one person in North Walsham had reported a man in a Transit van asking questions about their dog, but no further reports had been received.

The RSPCA also moved to quash rumours that dog thieves were posing as RSPCA inspectors, and the police statement added: “The RSPCA has told us that a number of incidents circulating on social media claiming people are impersonating their inspectors do not appear to have been actual cases of people trying to pass as bogus officials.

“It’s important to know there are very few incidents whereby an RSPCA officer will approach someone in public unless they witness animal cruelty or see an animal in immediate danger. Officers will also wear RSPCA brand clothing and always carry RSPCA identification. RSPCA officers do not have power of entry or seizure unless accompanied by a police officer.”

But while they said there was no increase in threats to pets in the area, police stressed that any incident or concern – especially anyone claiming to be from the RSPCA – should be reported to them by calling 101.

“Try to give us as much detail about the person or the vehicle they were in as you can. And do not hesitate to call us on 999 if a crime is happening and you need our help.”

Chief constable set to retire

Norfolk’s Chief Constable Simon Bailey has today announced he will retire in June after completing 35 years’ service with the police.

Mr Bailey, who has led the force for the last eight years, said: “I have been extremely proud to lead Norfolk Constabulary as chief constable for the last eight years.  However, after 35 years in policing, the time has now come to look to pastures new.  So, following careful consideration, I have made the decision to retire.

Chief Constable Simon Bailey

“During my tenure as chief constable, the force has faced many challenges, including the last year policing in a pandemic and I am indebted to the support given to me from a dedicated and talented team of chief officers, alongside that of our Police and Crime Commissioner, Lorne Green.

 “I also want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of my officers and staff for their hard work, commitment and dedication in policing our county and making Norfolk Constabulary a force to be truly proud of.”

Since 2014 he has held the National Police Chief’s Council portfolio for Child Protection and Abuse Investigations and has been the NPCC lead for Violence and Public Protection since 2016.

 “As the NPCC lead for child protection, violence and public protection, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a dedicated and passionate group of people, leading our service’s response to some of the biggest challenges within law enforcement today. Together, I believe we have made a real difference and immensely proud of the work we have achieved,” he said.

Roxanne’s running to make memories

Unable to take part in the annual Memory Walk in aid of the Alzhheimer’s Society, Sheringham mum Roxanne Demmen decided to organise her own sponsored event to raise much-needed funds.

“My granddad had Alzheimer’s so every year we do the Memory Walk but this year it wasn’t happening so I thought I should do something,” she said. “I am currently running 5km five times a week for five weeks – I’ve called it the 555challenge.

“After losing our wonderful granddad a few years ago to this disease, and our other granddad now facing the same diagnosis, I know all too well how much this affects families.

“Memories are so precious, and this year has hit everyone hard, but the elderly haven’t been able to stay connected and sociable which has been devastating. Time is precious and we should make memories while we can.”

Roxanne with daughters Rosa and Fearne at one of the Memory Walks. This year they will be taking part in their own event to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society.

Roxanne, who worked at The Splash, has been joined on her runs by friends, family and well-wishers wanting to help. “It’s all about getting out and keeping active,” she said. “I’ve had people who don’t run, or don’t even jog coming along with me which is cool.”

And during the Easter holidays she will be joined by her daughters Rosa, aged nine, and seven-year-old Fearne, who will be on their bikes.

She says she is not a dedicated runner and that the regular runs are taking their toll, but in the past she has completed an ultra-marathon – a 30 mile race – so she thinks she will stay the course.

She has set up a Just Giving Page with a £200 target and she is already well on the way. Anyone wanting to give her a little push can click here

Neglected horses have a new life

Nineteen horses and ponies saved from neglect at a Welsh rescue centre are now enjoying happier new lives thanks to Redwings Horse Sanctuary.

The animals first arrived in Norfolk 18 months ago, but the Redwings team was unable to talk about them until the recent conviction and sentencing of the former owner of the Whispering Willows Sanctuary.

Last November, a total of 137 horses from Whispering Willows were taken into the care of equine welfare charities across the UK after serious welfare failings were uncovered. After pleading guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to the animals, the sanctuary’s former owner was banned from keeping all horses for 10 years.

Redwings, which has its HQ in Aylsham, offered a new home to 23 of the horses, who arrived in varying states of poor health and four had to be put to sleep shortly after their arrival when it became clear that their health issues were too great to overcome.

After receiving basic care they so badly needed the remaining 19 horses made a good recovery and have been named after NHS hospitals in a tribute to the country’s frontline healthcare workers.

Alexandra, Gwent, Paget, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Royal are pictured above at the Redwings specialist behaviour centre where they are learning to be less nervous around people and overcoming the trauma of their previous lives.

Nic de Brauwere, Redwings head of welfare and behaviour, said: “One of the saddest things was that people believed the sanctuary was offering a wonderful home, however it was clear that the horses were receiving wholly inadequate levels of care.

“There were horses who, due to their age-related ailments – compounded by their lack of care – were needlessly suffering and the kindest and most responsible thing to have done would have been to put them to sleep long before we got involved.”

Nic, who is also the chair of the National Equine Welfare Council and helped to co-ordinate the charities involved in the operation, added: “Too many times we’ve seen sanctuaries struggle and fail when owners take on too many animals without the necessary care knowledge, experience or finances, which is why we’ve been calling for the regulation of rescue centres and sanctuaries as a vital next step to protect the welfare of animals in the UK.”

To support the care of the horses now living at Redwings, please call 01508 481000 or click here to donate

Mammoth event lined up!

A mighty herd of mammoths will follow this year’s trail of T-rex sculptures for the popular Break GoGoDiscover trail of 2022.

This year’s event – fearsome yet friendly T-rexes – will have dates set soon and will be the start of a two-year trail “of prehistoric proportions”.

The 20 sculptures – part of a Jurassic jaunt around Norwich this summer – will not fade into extinction and will return in summer 2022 along with a mighty herd of Steppe Mammoths – and this time it will go countywide.

Bringing colour, fun and beautiful art across Norwich and Norfolk, GoGoDiscover is delivered by East Anglia based charity Break in partnership with Wild in Art and the 2022 trail will also celebrate our Deep History Coast. The steppe mammoths tie in with Norfolk being home to the discovery of the largest and oldest mammoth ever found in Britain.

Peter Marron and Ellie Edge with a T-rex and a model of a mammoth which will be hitting the streets of Norfolk in 2022. Photo: MARK BENFIELD

As usual all the sculptures will be decorated by local and national artists and sponsored by businesses from across the region.

After both the family-friendly trails are over there will be a charity to raise vital funds for Break, a charity which helps vulnerable children and young people across the region.

Break will be announcing some of the partners and sponsors who have already stomped on board for 2022 very soon but is now calling out for other businesses to get involved.

Peter Marron, GoGoDiscover project manager said: “We are so excited to once again be working with Wild in Art to bring a two-year art trail to Norwich and Norfolk, which will bring tourism and economic benefits to the region, put smiles on people’s faces, encourage adventure and exploration of our beautiful county and raise awareness and vital funds for Break.

“The 2021 T-rexes all have sponsors already and look amazing – we can’t wait to start sharing more news and sneak peeks of them very soon! But now is the time for businesses to sign-up for 2022 and be part of this truly unique and exciting event, while supporting Break.”

Businesses and community groups interested in getting involved in GoGoDiscover should visit break-charity.org/gogodiscover or email peter.marron@break-charity.org

GoGoDiscover follows the success of GoGoHares in 2018, GoGoDragons and GoGoGorillas. Previous trails have raised over £1m for Break.


Fringe is back – online!

Norwich Fringe Festival is making a welcome return after six years – as an online TV channel.

The festival, which promotes the creativity and talent of people in Norwich and Norfolk, will be held from March 18 to 22, with all shows streamed live or pre-recorded from a special pop-up studio and from homes.

Fringe director Joseph Ballard said: “I’d been exploring options for resurrecting the city’s Fringe for a while and last year – whilst times were challenging for all of us – I wanted to connect creatives and makers of all artforms together.

“The people of the creative sector have been hit hard, with livelihoods disappearing almost overnight. Norwich Fringe is about supporting the creative community all year round and presenting a platform and nurturing stance for new work to reach new audiences.”

The shows – which will range from comedy and drama to magic and puppetry – will stream from 4pm to 10pm each day and tickets will be sold with a pay-what-you-can approach, ranging from £4 to £9 to last all day.

There will also be free activities on offer and a group exhibition and visual arts project will be launched soon.

The Fringe team – Joseph Ballard, Sam Webber and Molly Farley.

“The day ticket approach means that audiences can access the different shows over six hours,” said Joseph. “We wanted to make sure it remained accessible, hence the pay-what-you-can approach, remembering that all box office income will go to the creatives and makers, who are excited about being able to share their work with audiences and earn some much-needed income after other festivals, venues and theatres have remained closed for so long.”

The festival line-up includes acts from Norwich, Norfolk and further afield, including stand-up and a comedy night with Hooma Comedy Club, a Cabaret night hosted by Norfolk’s very own diva Titania Trust, mindreading from Alex McAleer, puppetry and magic, new plays and mixed media shows, and a showcase of work-in-development called Not The End to round off the four days.

Live improvised performance from Slovenian composer Jaka Škapin and live performances from Ghana and Zambia with the Sheba Soul Ensemble also feature.

The programme also includes the presentation of work from five artists and companies who received a Norwich Fringe Commission grant last year.

The Fringe producing team includes Joseph as director, along with Molly Farley and Sam Webber. It has been supported using public funding from Arts Council England and is also supported by Joseph’s theatre company, New Stages.

The full programme and tickets are available at www.norwichfringe.org.uk, with regular updates and special features via a mailing list and on social media. See @hinorwichfringe on Twitter and @norwichfringe on Facebook.

County council sets its budget

Money for libraries, flooding response and children’s services has been included in the Norfolk County Council budget for recovery, which was decided today.

A £439m net revenue budget, a £102m boost for roads and infrastructure and a 3.99pc council tax rise were all agreed at today’s full council meeting.

County council leader Andrew Proctor said: “This budget not only protects the vital services that we deliver and people value but also sets us on the path to recovery.

“This budget sets out to deliver a better future for Norfolk, to see our residents our communities and businesses all begin to flourish again.”

With covid-19 and other cost pressures on the council, cabinet member for finance Andrew Jamieson said: “We are protecting vital services, investing to tackle flooding, and making as much provision as possible for potential shocks from covid – all without needing to propose the full five per cent council tax increase.

“Looking to the future as we emerge from the pandemic, cabinet will continue to advocate strongly for Norfolk and press Government for our fair share of funding and to bring forward long needed reforms.”

Today’s decision means the council will:

•           Raise general council tax by the government’s guideline figure – 1.99pc – and raise the adult social care precept by 2pc in 2021/22 and 1pc the following year. This would raise the county council’s share of the council tax by 3.99pc – increasing the payment of a band D household by £56.43 to £1,472.94 for 2021-22.

•           Invest £45.7m to meet cost and other pressures in services, including £28.2m in adult social care, £7m in children’s services and £10.5m in community and environmental services.

•           Set aside £18.8m for covid-19 costs in 2021-22.

•           Make savings of £41.2m, including a net £20.4m of new proposals.

•           Invest £102m in the capital programme, taking the total infrastructure programme to £537.66m. New items include £11.5m for supported housing for young adults, £4m for children’s residential homes and investment in the Long Stratton bypass and new libraries.

•           Invest £2m in new funding to respond to flooding, including an additional £350,000 in revenue budget provision, £235,000 in highways spending to reduce road flooding risks and £1.5m for the creation of a new flood reserve to fund urgent works, repairs and to enable recommendations from flood investigation reports.

•           Increase by £4,000 each councillor’s Local Member Fund, taking the total to £10,000 to be made available to local parishes and communities to fund environmental projects.

•           Provide £3m for improvements to greenways, footpaths and the national and Norfolk Trails network in the county.

The budget papers are available at https://norfolkcc.cmis.uk.com/norfolkcc/Meetings/tabid/128/ctl/ViewMeetingPublic/mid/496/Meeting/1661/Committee/2/SelectedTab/Documents/Default.aspx and you can see a recording of the meeting later this week at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tun_oQ2SVm8 .

Councillor’s ‘hedge fund’ call

A county councillor has called for a local “Hedge Fund” to restore hedgerows after recent snowfall caused chaos on the county’s country roads.

Ed Maxfield, who represents the Mundesley division as an Independent says the fund could see miles of new hedges planted each year.

“Villages like Northrepps, Antingham and Paston in my division have seen roads blocked by drifting snow well after it stopped snowing,” he said. “The loss of hedgerows has contributed to that and the County Council should step up and help to tackle the problem.

“The Conservatives want to give each county councillor £10,000 to spend on roads in their area. If they took just £2,000 of that they could create a £150,000 ‘Hedge Fund’ to spend on returning hedges to the county’s fields.

“The coalition government ran a scheme that paid farmers to plant new hedges. At the same rate, a local scheme could plant 13km each year. But that’s even before you take account of voluntary contributions.”

He said people had already offered to help with the planting and he was sure environmental charities would also pitch in because of the many benefits to the nature.

“More hedges mean more wildlife habitat,” he said. “It contributes to carbon fixing. It probably reduces problems with flooding by taking water from over-worked ditches. And it would cut the need for snow ploughing. It’s a simple fix that whole communities could get behind.”

Andy Grant, Norfolk County Council member for environment and waste, said the council was already in the throes of a tree-planting project – One Million Trees for Norfolk – with more than 6,300 tree and hedge plants already in the ground.

“We’re working with partners including the Tree Council, The Woodland Trust and Norfolk Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group on the Norfolkwide five-year scheme that will expand, improve and connect our existing tree and hedge cover, including on farms,” he said.

“I’m sure that any extra funding that members would like to contribute locally, to establish and maintain trees and hedges in the right place, would be a welcome addition.”