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Omicron case confirmed in north Norfolk

One of the eight cases of the new Omicron covid-19 variant announced yesterday has been confirmed as being in north Norfolk.

While the exact location of the case has not been revealed, officials said they had been in contact with the person who had tested positive and their household. Louise Smith, Norfolk’s director of public health, said the case was linked to known travel to South Africa.

She told the BBC that finding a case in the county was not a surprise.

“While new information is still coming in on this variant, the early evidence has clearly shown a high level of transmissibility, and as such we can expect positive cases to be identified across the country, including in our county,” she said.

She urged people to get vaccinated “as soon as possible” and to take up booster offers, which she said would help to “break the chain of transmission”.

The UK Health Security Agency says this brings the total number of confirmed cases of the new variant in England and Scotland to 22.

Traders to meet MP over market place plans

Angry traders in North Walsham are holding a meeting in the town centre on Friday to air their concerns about the scheme to pedestrianise Market Place.

Under the scheme – part of the Heritage Action Zone project – there will be no through traffic, with set times for deliveries and just a handful of parking spaces for disabled drivers.

Business owners complained about the plans when they were first mooted in 2020, when covid-19 regulations were labelled as “pedestrianisation through stealth”, and once again they are worried that the plans will hurt their livelihoods. But those behind the scheme believe it will actually improve business.

Alan Kelly, who owns Kelly’s Plaice fish and chip shop, said the changes would not help his business, which relied on customers being able to stop outside and pop in to pick up their food.

“They want to turn the Market Place into some Parisian-style café society but this is England. It rains more than the sun shines.

“Yes, certain aspects need upgrading or renewing, I can understand that, but in essence this will stifle trade. Within the last three or four months two shops have become vacant and if they stop people driving through the centre it will make things worse.”

MP Duncan Baker will be at the meeting, which will be by the clock tower at 10am, and said he had been approached by several worried traders and residents.

“My office has received a petition with 600 signatures on it, concerned over the proposals,” he said. “I am meeting with those worried to hear their concerns and we ask that the council listens for once to what people who use the town day in and day out, really want. We saw in the pandemic the council shut the town centre, which was a job to get it back open. We really need far better engagement with the town centre so people feel the businesses are being listened to.”

Alan said he had spoken to businesses in the town, who said nobody had asked their opinion, but North Norfolk District Council said there had been plenty of consultation.

Richard Kershaw, portfolio holder for sustainable growth, said: “After a long period of consultation with residents, visitors and business owners there is definite support for a more pedestrian-friendly marketplace and town centre. We absolutely recognise there has been, and continues to be, challenges for business owners in North Walsham and we are actively working with them to establish their exact individual needs when it comes to this specific project such as the requirements for deliveries and loading.

“With this once-in-a-lifetime injection of funding for the town it is hoped that the regenerated high street will actually bring more customers to their shops and that visitors will want to spend more time in the town taking advantage of the goods and services on offer.”

North Walsham Town Council also said it had engaged with townsfolk throughout and that the plans had changed as a result of responses from local people.

“North Walsham Town Council have at all times tried to consult with the public through meetings, social media postings, canvassing at the market and in media articles encouraging people to engage and let their views be heard.

“We are aware that there are people in and around the town who are unhappy with the proposed changes, as well as the majority who have supported it in surveys and public engagement.

“The current plans produced by NNDC’s designer have changed significantly since the earliest concepts, reflecting concerns raised by public, traders and by the town council. Deliveries to shops are now to be permitted at all times, disabled parking will remain in the Market Place and free parking spaces will be provided in Bank Loke and Vicarage Street car parks.”

Trophy to remember inspirational chairman

An inspirational chairman of Mundesley Golf Club has been honoured through a new trophy in his memory.
Donald Stuart died in August at the age of 69 after a battle with cancer, during which he continued to lead the club through a successful membership drive and the challenges thrown up by covid-19.

Donald enjoying a drink at the 19th hole.

And a trophy in his name has been presented to its first winner, Lewis Crosby, following a five-week season of Friday night social golf competitions for under-40s.
Donald’s daughter Fiona, who came up with the trophy idea, said: “The trophy was a good way to encourage younger golfers to join, meet and compete. Dad had enjoyed a similar competition when he moved from Scotland to Leicester aged 33 and made a lot of friends.”

Lewis Crosby receives the trophy from Donald’s brother, Micky.

Mr Stuart, who stepped down only two months before his death, led a club membership drive during his nearly five years in the chair, during which it more than doubled its membership.
“I am really proud of the legacy dad created. He put a lot of time in and sacrificed a lot for the good of the club.”
The trophy was presented by Donald’s brother, Micky, who flew in from Dallas for the occasion and for the funeral in Ludham, his home village, where the church was packed with people from the golfing, banking, business and charity worlds. Donations were in aid of Cancer Research UK and Mundesley Golf Club.
Donald, who was born in Edinburgh to a golfing family, began playing at the age of four. His career with Bank of Scotland saw him working in Leicester, London and Norwich, where he was the regional director for the east of England.
Current club chairman Andrew Keates called Donald an inspiration, saying he was “a man who never complained and always endeavoured to find a fair and equitable way forward”.

Just Regional sold to US firm

A successful hyperlocal publishing company has been bought by an American media group in a deal which will boost local news in Norfolk.

Just Regional, founded in 2008, produces 10 monthly magazines, covering six Norfolk towns and four Norwich suburbs. Over those 13 years the company has grown, achieving national recognition for its service and products, which have led the field of local news publications.

In 2019, it caught the eye of US company Medici Media, which made an approach and after many months of negotiations a deal has now been finalised.

The acquisition of Just Regional will be the first foray into news publications for Medici Media, which procures and distributes news content worldwide, in addition to providing film project development support for animated, specialty and feature films, with offices in Plymouth, Chicago, Las Vegas and London. Medici Media intends on moving a portion of its operations to Aylsham which is close to Norwich.

CEO of Medici Media, Timothy Mucciante said he was impressed with the company and its products, saying he had never seen anything of a similar quality in the US.

“We had been wanting to start in the newspaper business and I realised there was nothing like Just Regional in America. The magazines look really good and there’s an obvious passion for local news.”

The Covid-19 pandemic delayed negotiations, but enabled Mr Mucciante to see how the company adapted to the conditions, moving its news coverage online and – unlike many larger, less agile media companies – retaining advertisers, readers and staff as a result.

“I’m delighted with the acquisition of Just Regional and looking forward to carrying on the great work that everyone has been doing,” he said.

Just Regional founder Lee Todd said: “This is going to be a great opportunity for local news and I am very pleased to be connected with Medici Media. We have moved with the times and are looking to continue with our excellent service to local communities.”

Mr Todd will be staying at the helm of the Aylsham-based operation, which employs nine office staff and over 100 distribution staff. Tracey Bagshaw will also be continuing in her role as group editor.

Mr Todd said: “Readers and advertisers will still be dealing with the same people with the same community values we have always had. That will never change.”

The Just Regional offices in Aylsham.

Ready for your close-up?

Fancy your five minutes on the silver screen?
Well you could have your chance as a new film being shot in Sheringham is looking for extras.

Norfolk-born film director Ella Glendining will be filming her BFI-funded short film in the town next Wednesday and Thursday (September 8 and 9) and is on the look out for extras for a couple of scenes.

Would-be actors of all ages are sought to for funeral scene and those in their 20s and 30s are needed to appear at a beach party.

Ella was named among Screen International’s Screen Stars of Tomorrow in 2020 and her new project tells the story of a disabled woman returning to her sleepy seaside hometown for a friend’s funeral.

Ella said: “I grew up in Elsing, near Dereham, but spent a lot of time in Sheringham in my late teens and early 20s as one of my best friends lives there. I am interested in telling regional stories about growing up in small towns and villages as ‘other’. I am disabled and all my work is somewhat linked to the disabled experience.

Ella Glendining is shooting a film in Sheringham.

“I adore Norfolk and Sheringham and, although I live in Brighton now, I am always looking for excuses to return.
“I am very inspired by the beauty of the Norfolk coast. The film is about a new mother feeling torn between her old life and her new, trying to discover her identity as a parent, and it’s also about love.”
Extras will not be paid but Ella hopes they will enjoy the experience of being on a film set.
If you’d like to be involved you can email ellaelsing@gmail.com

Police officer admits making indecent images of children

A 26-year-old police officer from Stalham has pleaded guilty to seven offences relating to indecent images of children.

George Ince appeared at Norwich Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, August 3, where he admitted three counts of making an indecent photograph of a child, three counts of distributing an indecent photograph of a child and possession of an extreme pornographic image relating to incidents in May 2019, April 2020 and July 2020.

He pleaded not guilty to a further count of attempting to cause/incite the sexual exploitation of a child.

Ince was bailed to appear before Norwich Crown Court on Tuesday, August 31.

Ince is a police constable based in Great Yarmouth and has been suspended since July 2020. Misconduct proceedings will now begin following yesterday’s hearing.  

Cromer’s peerless pier show is back and flying high!

Oh, Cromer Pier show – it’s good to have you back, writes Richard Batson

After a lost summer laid waste by lockdowns, this cocktail of seaside stage tradition has returned in all its glory – with a few new twists to add to the flavour.

Animated backdrop projections add another dimension to an already multi-faceted masterpiece. And instead of two alternating shows, this year there are different guest performers every week to keep the show fresh through the whole season, which finishes on October 2.

Opening night kicked off with Tucker – a firm favourite of show fans returning with his brand of warm cheeky humour. He is a perfect foil for headliner host Phil Butler, another returnee whose talents as a comedian, magician, singer and dancer make him the perfect man to lead this traditional but modern variety show.

Show host Phil Butler. Picture: William Jarvis.

Vocalists Rob McVeigh and Marina Lawrence-Mahrra take the lead on pop and show songs including rousing numbers from the Greatest Showman and a pulsing Cuban sequence.

But the cast is most powerful when the team comes together during the big musical numbers such as Mary Poppins, Masquerade, and Les Miserables, which fill the stage with song, a talented team of dancers, stunning sets and colourful costumes adorned with feathers and sequins.

A very colourful Mary Poppins. Picture: William Jarvis.

Special mention must go to this year’s specialist act Duo Fusion UK – Connor Byrne and Tiffany Gaine – whose circus style aerial and acrobatic routines are mesmerising. The pair flew in unison over the front rows of the audience, and some of their contortions on stage drew audible gasps from the crowd.

There are no local children joining the cast this year, to lessen the covid-19 risk, and the “bubbled” stars are not doing their usual after-show mingling for the same reason, which is a shame because many feel like family friends we have known for years and enjoy catching up with. But they hope that will change as things progress.

Make sure you don’t arrive late – because the opening sequence on the projection screen taking us from a closed theatre to the current show’s revival is poignant and powerful – and a reminder of how glad we should be to have live variety back at the end of the pier.

For tickets and show details, including the line-up of guests, visit www.cromerpier.co.uk

Arrests after police break up illegal rave

Three people have been arrested and sound equipment seized after police shut down an unlicensed music event in the early hours of Sunday.

 Police were called shortly after 1am by a member of the public reporting a suspected rave at Woodbastwick. Officers found approximately 100 people in a wooded area in the early stages of an unlicensed music event.

 Police vehicles were used to block the entrances to the site to prevent further vehicles from entering, before officers went in to monitor the event, seizing generators and sound equipment were seized. The site was cleared by 5am.

 Officers have launched an investigation in order to identify the organiser(s) of the event and enquiries are ongoing.

 Three people were arrested in connection with the event:

–              One man aged in his 20s on suspicion of drug and driving offences. He has since been released on police bail.

–              One man aged in his 20s on suspicion of drug offences. He has since been released with no further action being taken against him.

–              One woman aged in her 30s on suspicion of drug and driving offences. She has since been released on police bail.

Chief Insp Kris Barnard said: “These events are not only illegal and unsafe, they also cause unnecessary damage and disruption.  Enquiries are ongoing to establish the circumstances leading up to the event and where we can prevent, disrupt or stop a rave taking place, we will do everything within our power to do this in order to minimise the impact on local communities. We hope this robust action acts as a deterrent to anyone who may wish to organise events like these in the future.

 “I want to thank members of the public for their patience and support as we worked to bring this event to a safe closure.”