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Wildfire warning as temperatures soar

Following a spate of fires around Norfolk, the Broads Authority is issuing a plea for the public to be mindful of the current wildfire risk when visiting the Broads area.

With temperatures soaring in recent days and a prolonged lack of rainfall, many areas of land in the Broads are exceptionally dry, raising concerns about the possibility of wildfires in the near future.

Reedbeds are in particular danger as they have become very dry.

Wildfires can wreak havoc on the landscape, placing people, animals and precious habitats at risk. They spread extremely quickly, engulfing vast areas of vegetation in a short period of time. It then often requires large numbers of firefighting crews and other resources to put them out.

During prolonged dry spells, some natural outbreaks of fire are expected. However, each year there are a number of fires caused accidentally in the Broads area, and we are asking people to play their part to help minimise the risk.

The authority is particularly urging visitors to be extra vigilant when using barbecues, lighters, cooking apparatus on boats and other flammable objects, and to be careful when disposing of cigarette butts and matches.

Disposable barbecues are a real fire risk in a heatwave.

Disposable barbecues pose a distinct risk, and visitors are being asked not to use them onboard their vessels, on the wooden parts of riverside moorings, or near dry flammable ground such as reedbeds. There are designated slabs at many moorings which are available on a first-come first-served basis to put barbecues. Open fires on public land, such as those people might start whilst having a picnic, are also prohibited.

Chris Morphew, Senior Ranger at the Broads Authority said: “Although we are fortunate to not have to deal with the number of wildfires that our friends at other National Parks do, there are still areas of the Broads which are highly flammable, such as reedbeds and arable farmland.

“With the ground as dry as it is at the moment, it only takes a single discarded cigarette butt, smashed glass bottle or careless barbecue to start a wildfire which can cause untold damage to the landscape and put people in harm’s way.

“We understand that it’s perfect weather to get outdoors, but we’re just urging people to be vigilant and to pay attention to what they’re doing and where. For example, don’t create any open flames near reedbeds, remember to put your cigarettes out safely and leave the disposable barbecue at home.”

Reedbed fires present a particular challenge. They contain large amounts of highly-combustible material, cover vast areas and often have difficult road access which affects how easily fire crews can deal with the incident.

If you see something you think might be a wildfire, or you witness behaviour which looks like deliberate fire-starting, please phone 999 as quickly as possible and provide details to the emergency services. Visit the Broads Authority and Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service websites for more information.

Charities’ chance to win a slice of MP’s marathon cash

Good causes in north Norfolk are being invited to put in a bid for a share of their local MP’s marathon charity pot.

Last year Duncan Baker raised £38,000 which was split between 26 charities in his first ever attempt at the famous endurance event.

This year he is doing the same – but with a twist as he aims to raise £5000 in the final, 26th, mile to help Ukrainian refugees being hosted in Norfolk.

He said: “It was tough last year. My legs were completely shot by 22 miles,  and I initially didn’t want to do it again.  But I wanted to finish it to ensure all 26 charities got their money.

“I beat my target of £26,000 so after the success I wanted to do  it this year because a lot of local charities are still suffering after the pandemic and are now facing the cost of living crisis. There are a lot of unsung causes out there I want to help.”

The Ukrainian connection is strengthened because Duncan is hosting a refugee mum Anna Kolomiichuk and her six-year-old son Sviatik – and has seen at first hand the needs of displaced families.

They came without even the basics such as shoes, hairdryers and toiletries. So he wanted to raise funds to support refugees through the Norfolk Community Foundation’s Supporting Ukraine in Norfolk fund.

Duncan said training for last year’s event had been easier, because Parliament was shut during Covid. Now it was functioning again he was having to fit sessions into already long days, with early morning and late night runs.

Local causes can apply for a slice of the marathon money via Duncan’s website page or  Facebook and Twitter feeds by a deadline of 5pm on Thursday June 30.  The successful causes will be chosen at Holt Youth Centre on July 1.

Former youngest mayor of Cromer to lead North Norfolk District Council

Tim Adams, who in 2015 was the youngest ever mayor of Cromer, has been elected unanimously as leader by the majority Liberal Democrat group on North Norfolk District Council.

He will be nominated as council leader at the meeting of the authority on February 9, following the resignation of Sarah Butikofer due to personal issues.

Tim said: “North Norfolk District Council is a successful and award-winning council. Looking ahead, we have a number of outstanding major tasks to complete before the election in 2023, but clearly lots of aspirations for what we will be looking to achieve after.”

Tim Adams will be nominated as the new leader of North Norfolk District Council at the next meeting.

Paying tribute to Sarah Butikofer, he said: “I wish to pay tribute to Sarah. She has shown immense strength through some incredible challenges, from the early collapse of the previous Conservative administration to the district council’s response to covid, and everything in between.

“The Council has won awards for the help we were able to give to local businesses and managed to maintain many essential services where other councils in the UK have really struggled.

We delivered the Reef swimming pool in Sheringham despite all the shortages of building materials, but the delivery of additional temporary housing and further developments in our services to help households in need are especially close to my heart.”

He said the party was intending to take more action on the environment, adding that the council was “about halfway towards planting 110,000 trees” as part of its bid to cut carbon emissions.

In addition to representing Cromer on the district council, he is an elected Norfolk County Councillor and remains a Cromer town councillor.

Tim set up the successful Cromer Cares Charity and sits on various other voluntary and community groups.

He also drew attention to plans which will deliver the next budget shortly. The Local Plan, significant coastal protection works between Mundesley and Cromer, more inward investment into North Walsham, and the continued work to upgrade of public toilets are all ongoing projects.

Sarah Butikofer said: “I am delighted that Tim has been selected by the Liberal Democrat councillor team to become our new group leader. I congratulate him on his election and look forward to proposing him to take over as leader of the district council.

“I have immensely enjoyed working with him and know the residents of the North Norfolk can rely on him to take us all forward.”

She will continue as a district councillor for the Runtons and Beeston Regis.

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.”

Council tax rise to be considered

County council budget proposals, including a 3.99pc rise in council tax, will be considered by the authority’s scrutiny committee this month.

The meeting, on Wednesday, February 17,  will scrutinise the cabinet’s proposed revenue and capital budgets for 2021/22, including proposed investments and savings.

Scrutiny committee chairman Steve Morphew said: “Lurching from one year to another is no way to run the finances of a council like Norfolk. We are facing challenges from all angles and need to make sure Norfolk people are getting the best possible services using their money wisely.

“That needs openness, transparency and honesty to enable the scrutiny committee to do its job on behalf of Norfolk. We all benefit from robust challenges to make sure genuine problems are tackled and not used as an excuse for inaction.”

The meeting will scrutinise:

  • the proposed £439m revenue budget – spending on services and running costs, funded by council tax, business rates and government funding. By law, this budget must always be balanced
  • proposals to 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 overall share of council tax by 3.pc meaning a band D property’s payment would increase by £56.43 to £1,472.94 for 2021-22.
  • the proposed £537m capital budget – spending on infrastructure – funded by government grants, land sales and borrowing.

The revenue budget report says that the council has seen its government funding reduce by £92.8m since 2015, while cost pressures on children’s services and adults’ services rose by £40.1m last year alone.

People can submit questions to the committee via committees@norfolk.gov.uk up until 5pm on Friday, February 12.

The final decision on the budget will be taken at the full council meeting at 10am on Monday, 22 February.

You can view the scrutiny committee’s reports and access the meeting, live from 10am on February 17 by clicking here.

Full steam ahead!

One of Norfolk’s most popular tourist attractions is back on the rails as the Bure Valley Railway opens for business once more.

From Saturday, August 1, the railway will be operating a three-train service five days a week (Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) with trains running every hour from the Aylsham and Wroxham stations.

All the coaches have been fitted with special screens to maintain distancing and safety and passengers will have a reserved compartment for their party for both the outward and return journeys.

For train times and online booking visit www.bvrw.co.uk

Key workers can win a dream wedding

One lucky Norfolk couple who have put their wedding on hold to look after others during the covid-19 pandemic are being offered a chance to win their dream day, thanks to a group of local businesses.

Companies from all over Norfolk have joined together to offer a couple of key workers a wedding to remember – with invitations, flowers, the gown and bridesmaid’s dresses, stylish transport, make-up and hair, a fabulous cake, photographs… even entertainment including a singer and a magician to make the day truly magical.

The ceremony itself will take place at Thursford Garden Pavilion and will include a romantic night in the Holly Lodge Guest House and be tailor-made to the couple’s taste.

The competition was the idea of Amelia Hacking, whose Capture Lounge company provides photo booths for weddings and special occasions. She contacted 30 businesses who were only too keen to add their services to make up a prize worth around £25,000.

An engaged key worker couple could be in line for the wedding of a lifetime, thanks to a group of Norfolk businesses.

One, Charlotte Staff, of Charlotte Staff Flowers, said: “She wanted to put something together from our industry to say a huge thank-you to one lucky engaged Norfolk key worker couple who have put their own lives on the line by keeping on working during the pandemic.

“I think we all felt the same as she did and jumped at the opportunity to give something back!”

To be in with a chance, couples need to be key workers who are already engaged and living in Norfolk. They can be nominated, or can nominate themselves, and the organisers have used the government guidelines on who is classed as a key worker so that no sector is missed out.

The competition will be judged on the couple’s background story, saying why they deserve the prize. It won’t be judged on the number of nominations but nominate as many as you think might deserve it.

For more details on the competition, the businesses involved and, most importantly, to make a nomination, click here.

Meet Liam – the Happisburgh Hero!

Liam Kelly is putting his daily exercise to good use – helping the people who helped him get better when he was born with a lung infection.

The nine-year-old, who lives in Happisburgh, decided to set himself a challenge to help the NHS and will be theoretically cycling around the perimeter of Norfolk – 181 miles.

His mum, Sharon, said: “He wanted to do a bake sale but thought that would not work because of the lockdown, so he thought he would try and come up with something different he could do using his daily exercise time… We felt four miles a day would be a reasonable distance and therefore it would take 45 days.”

So far Liam has completed 151 miles of his challenge and has raised £1,500, smashing his initial £500 target.

Setting off on part of the ride.

The challenge is particularly personal to the family – when Liam was born he had breathing issues due to a lung infection and his dad was in the army and suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, for which he had to go to hospital.

“Liam wanted to thank the NHS because without the nurses, doctors and medicines he feels his life would be very different today,” said Sharon.

Over the days he has gained a large fan base who turn out to cheer him on. “The Coastguard even give him the sirens when they pass us,” she added.

Stalham and Smallburgh First Responders have also joined the cause to help him on his way.

Time to take a short breather on the way round.

And this is not the first time Liam has done things to help others, from donating a bag of his toys to help flood victims in Cumbria, to completing charity runs, handing out bedding to the homeless and completing a 10 mile sponsored bike ride to raise funds for Norfolk Lowland Search and Rescue.

Sharon said: “The villagers have renamed him Happisburgh Hero, he’s brought a lot of joy at a very bleak time for many.” 

To donate to his efforts, click here.