West Acre Parish Council
Welcome to our website.
Here you will find information about the village, news about local events and links to local attractions. We hope that you find what you want. If not, please contact one of the Parish Councillors listed in the contact page.
Click on a picture to see a larger version. Please note that this site is not responsible for changes to any events listed.
West Acre Parish Council Meeting
Monday 16 August 2021
There will be a Meeting of the Parish Council on Monday 16 August, commencing at 6pm. The Meeting will be held in the Village Hall.
Click on a heading to see the full document.
West Acre Annual Parish Reports for 2020-21
Please click on the name of the group working in the village to download a full report.
West Acre All Saints Church services
Further information on the Nar Valley Group of Parishes can be found here -
Looking forward to the future in the Village Hall
As rules on social distancing are relaxed we are looking forward to the return of popular events being held in the village hall. The Village Hall committee have taken advantage of the lockdown time and government grants to modernise the facilities. A new heating system, consisting of eight electric units, has been installed in the main hall, new heating in the toilets, new double- glazed windows in the main hall, and the kitchen area has been extended and modernised.
Exercise classes led by Caitlin
Forster and the Billiards Club have
resumed activities, and the Hall
was used for a polling station once
again last week.
For those with young children the
news that the Youth Club will
shortly be re- starting may be
welcomed. Plans of possible
activities and events specifically
aimed at interesting our young
people are being considered, and
all parents will be invited to join and to comment on
the proposed offerings. In the past this has
included many local outings (farming, woodlands & wildlife, theatre, barbecue etc) and many Hall-based sessions including indoor & outdoor games, arts & crafts & music etc. All those supervising will have DBS clearance if acting alone.
If you are interested in hiring the hall for an event or party, or would like to organise a regular activity
please contact Belinda
Bush, on 01760 755184
or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Parish Council retirements and new recruits
West Acre Parish Council bid farewell to one of its valued members at their Annual Meeting on 24th May, when Antonia Hanbury stood down as a councillor. She has been on the Council since 2013, having had responsibility for Youth matters for much of that time.
Also bidding farewell was the Parish Clerk, Henry Birkbeck. Henry was first elected to the Council in 1987 and took over the Chairman’s role from 1999 until 2009. He remained a councillor until 2016 when he stepped down to become Clerk. Henry's experience will be greatly missed, however he will continue to act as Treasurer for one more year.
Henry is pictured receiving a gift of a unique wood vase to mark his retirement presented by the Council. The vase was created by village resident Brian Wright.
The council welcomed two new councillors,
Lucy Birkbeck and Peter Wilson.
The position of Clerk still remains to be filled. If you think you would like to play an active role in the community and would like to discuss this further please contact either Eoghan Shiels (Chair) on 01760 755045 (or email email@example.com), or Henry Birkbeck (email - firstname.lastname@example.org) to learn what this role involves.
West Acre Parish Council
The following people served on the council during this period:
Eoghan Sheils (chair)
Henry Birkbeck (Clerk & RFO)
Richard Furze (Internal Auditor)
Delegation of main parish responsibilities
Planning & Highways: Eoghan Sheils
Roads: Eoghan Sheils
Youth activities: Antonia Hanbury
Theatre liaison, health/well-being & litter: Jeremy Cameron
Newsletter & website: Ralph Sliwa
SAM – speed awareness camera: Terry Howlett
Parish Council Meetings
There have been three meetings during the past year although, because of Covid restrictions, the meetings have been Zoom. The Parish Council (PC) would like to thank all those village groups and organisations who submitted written reports/resumés of their activity this year. As always, I would like to take this opportunity to formally thank all residents and local/district councillors who regularly attend and participate in the PC meetings. The feedback and comments we receive gives us an important sense of purpose and direction without which our time spent as councillors would perhaps feel a lot less useful. Thank you also to the village hall committee for all their work improving the village hall and getting it ready for its reopening for post-Covid village use - it’s great to be back in person.
Village Precept Has remained unchanged at £750
Throughout the Year
Covid The village, like many other parts of the country, has continued to see larger numbers of visitors. The PC continues to record complaints/issues regarding problems with visitor parking and careless littering. These issues are topics of ongoing discussion and consideration for the PC over the coming months in coordination with Westacre Estate and other interest groups/stakeholders.
Highway matters We have continued to receive ongoing feedback from residents expressing concern with regard to highway matters – condition of verges, signs, bridge and Fullers Lane drainage and flooding. The PC set up a schedule of defects document recording visually all the various issues. The PC continues to coordinate communications and meetings with Norfolk County Council Highways (NCCH) with mixed success. Councillor Heatley has pushed the repair of Laundry Bridge on River road – with a commitment that the necessary works are now programmed for completion in the next few weeks. I have had less success in arranging a further meeting with NCCH in order to review the drainage improvement works completed last autumn. Residents may have noticed that some of the work has had limited impact in reducing surface water drainage which causes problems through the village and which currently eventually ends up at Fullers Lane. The PC will continue to make it a priority to maintain pressure on NCCH to adequately respond to outstanding issues. We will also continue to liaise with the Highways Rangers in an effort to keep West Acre’s paths and roads clean and tidy.
SAM speed awareness sign Many thanks to Terry Howlett for taking ownership of the ongoing management – rotating location and recording etc.
Planning matters – Abbey Barns Following representations from residents concerned with regard to the volume of peak time traffic in and out of Abbey Barns the PC has again recently written to the planning authority seeking clarification with regard to a range of matters impacting residents. In summary we have asked the following questions;
traffic – how many cars are currently allowed to park at the barn complex and what is the impact on surrounding highway infrastructure at the times of these larger visitor events – has this been considered as part of the current planning approval process;
noise generated by visitors – were outdoor events considered as part of the original application(s);
noise from music played by the brewery - does the brewery require any further approvals;
opening hours – we are aware that operating times for some businesses are not yet in line with the planning approval and are looking for you guidance as to how would you advise this is resolved;
beer garden/tap days with food stalls – it would seem these are OK under the current license but are they also authorised under the current planning approval;
parking overspill - how should the area of visitor and parking overspill into the wider areas be managed as this extends beyond the brewery red line boundary; cumulative impact of this and other developments now and in the future – how will this be managed in planning policy terms?
We have also sought wider reassurance in that we know that the Estate is looking more widely in the village for further diversification of economic activity in coordination with their “rewilding” project and associated eco-tourism, all of which could offer some benefits, for example in terms of employment, but will mean that the changing character of West Acre as it evolves into a more significant visitor destination needs proper consideration in terms of all the potential and obvious negatives. The PC is aware that planning policy for West Acre has sought to protect it as a small village/hamlet where development is expected to be very limited, and we are seeking reassurance that this continues to be planning policy. The Borough Council Planning officer responsible (Jade Calton) has asked for more time to review all these issues comprehensively. The PC will likely aim to update residents through the newsletter and website as we get any further feedback.
Rewilding & farm diversification generally The Estate is well underway with the exciting opportunities to enhance wildlife and conservation. Whilst naturally very supportive of this important project the PC continues to request and arrange updates from the Estate as residents will have read in the latest newsletter. In particular the PC will continue to monitor both the positive and negative impacts of anticipated increased footfall/visitors on residents. The PC will therefore be interested to hear residents’ views with regard to both positive and negative impact of the wider farm diversification. We believe that we can usefully continue to provide feedback aimed at encouraging the Estate to continue to have wider impacts on residents in mind as they plan for the future of the Estate and farm.
Website & Newsletter The parish website continues to runs well and we are able to produce a regular newsletter. The feedback we have received regarding the newsletter in particular suggest that it is well received by many residents. We are as always keen to hear from residents of any topics, issues or stories they would like to see covered.
Finally, I would like to thank all the councillors for their continuing support of West Acre. In particular I’d like to thank Antonia who is resigning from the Council after many years of valuable service to our community. Henry is also resigning as Clerk to the Council. Henry first joined the council in 1987 becoming Chairman between 1999 & 2009 more recently also taking on the role of Responsible Financial Officer (a role we are pleased to sat he will continue with for 1 more year). Henry has had the wellbeing of the village as a focus for his long years of service and commitment to the parish and the Council. This is, therefore, a significant moment for the PC as we seek to adjust to the retirement of an officer with such long standing commitment to the village. We should also recognise with gratitude the professional manner in which Henry, as officer, has sought a balanced view of issues as they impact both the village and Westacre Estate – this has not always been easy. Whilst Henry may be leaving the PC, I think it fair to say that, with his many other village roles, for example with the village hall and church warden, we will see his commitment to village life continuing to flourish for many years to come. Many thanks Henry for your significant time to fulfil the roles of Clerk and Responsible Finance Officer so well and for keeping me on track! Remaining Councillors will be “taking stock” over the next few weeks as to how we see the future for the PC. We will be seeking residents’ views and of course we are very keen to hear for anyone who would like to get involved directly with the PC.
Borough Council Report to West Acre Parish Council AGM Meeting
Obviously, the pandemic has dictated all activities and decisions throughout the year. Initially, this District was the hardest hit in Norfolk and the ONS reported more deaths in West Norfolk than elsewhere across the County. Of particular concern was the testing regime and the transference of untested people to and from the QEH to care homes. The deprivation and poor health of people living in Kings Lynn was an obvious contributor to the underlying cause, but people throughout the District were affected.
Events improved after the first wave and through the first lockdown which gave time to bring in more testing of vulnerable people in hospitals and care homes to stem the tide until the next wave struck in November. By then, the Council were obviously better prepared, as were other bodies, but there was still an issue over testing, self isolation and sick pay.
No full Council meetings were held in April and May 2020, but then they started again using the Zoom video conference system and this continued until this month.
Since highlighting the early issues with QEH, care homes and testing generally, Council Members received specific update briefings from the hospital top team and throughout the year, the Council, via a cabinet member specifically appointed to manage the issue, Cllr Stuart Dark MBE, has issued progress reports and information to all Parish and Town Councils; also via the web site. The position in this area is now in line with other parts of East Anglia. The Council also supplemented its LILY system with council officers and volunteers to support vulnerable, lonely and digitally isolated people.
The Borough Council has not had sufficient support from the Government to compensate for our lack of revenue. This is of course common across all sectors be they business, leisure etc, but a Council has statutory obligations to meet and the Government are not supporting them.
We have had to use a significant portion of our General Reserve Fund to ensure a balanced budget (a Council obligation) and remain a going concern. This situation will continue next year, but then there will be a black hole in the accounts, with no likelihood, on present trends, of this being filled in 2023/4 and beyond.
Notwithstanding this position, the Council kept the tax rise within designated limits and only raised a Band D property by £4.50.
However, there are a variety of funds available to the Council provided we can submit an attractive bid. Unfortunately, to date, the Borough has been unsuccessful. At present we have a Town Board consisting of some Cabinet members, local business leaders and Officers, (full details on Borough web site) to create a vision for Kings Lynn and submit bids for “Levelling Up” monies.
A bid is in against the ‘Future High Street Fund’ and we may expect to hear the result shortly.
Although small in comparison, we have been given grants for improving the look of the High Street through signage and benches etc. Monies for extra cleaning and COVID support in tourist areas, but, £600k, the majority of money received to date, has gone to ensuring the nurses training centre for the COWA and QEH comes to fruition.
There has also been a multitude of grants through the year to support smaller businesses and the Borough has processed over £60m to help keep these as going concerns and to support recovery.
‘EVERYONE IN’ Initiative
This is also worthy of special note. Using a range of emergency accommodation options, including some new welfare cabins, we have ensured, as far as possible, that there are no rough sleepers in West Norfolk.
Districts across Norfolk have also joined a broader initiative for “no homeless in Norfolk”. Again, more Government money is needed and this initiative and our own ‘homeless strategy’, will be under threat when the moratorium on rent arrears is over.
This is one area where the Council has not come up to scratch. A policy was agreed by Council, but with no strategy for aspects such as air quality, biodiversity, tree planting, refits for residents to make houses more energy efficient etc. etc. Furthermore, unlike many other Councils, a climate emergency has yet to be declared and most of West Norfolk is vulnerable to flooding. A cross party team of Councillors and Officers is currently looking to propose some goals, but I know of no timescale for this.
However, we have received £2.84m from the Government to decarbonize Council buildings. Received with thanks and the scheme should be finished by end-September.
North Breckland and West Norfolk combined to secure a more efficient arrangement with Serco who, thankfully, TUPEd the existing crews. As a result, we should retain at least the level of service we have enjoyed so far and from the teams who have been working through COVID. Also, we will have newer trucks with lower emissions, better fuel consumption, together with some hybrid vehicles. Waste food collection is due to resume on 21st June.
Housing and Planning
As you would expect, house completions are down this year and are running about half the previous year; 300 compared to 600. Planning applications have been suppressed, but are now being submitted at a pace.
The Local Plan review has nearly been completed and a series of briefings and presentations will start. Representatives from Parish and Town Councils will be offered the opportunity to review the process to date and advised on the future programme.
However, the process of planning approvals for Council’s own development applications on council land has been brought into question following disputes on 2 cases, Kings Lynn Parkway and Hunstanton South End Car Park. For a start, these and similar applications have been considered in camera when they should have been open to public scrutiny. This has now been corrected, but damage has been done. There is also the suspicion of predetermination by the Administration once significant sums have been spent through the planning process. Very often this expenditure is part of a Government Grant which has to be repaid if the plans are not approved, therefore, there is pressure to ensure the “right” decision is made. Members of the Planning Committee on scrutiny panels also have a difficult decision to make which damages effective scrutiny. More will be heard of this. There is a Standards case under consideration.
Overview and Scrutiny
There is a change of leadership imminent at the Council with Stuart Dark being appointed the new leader. I hope there will be a more open dialogue in the future for the net benefit of the Borough and its people.
The new Mayor of the Borough has been sworn in, Cllr Harry Humphry. He was a County Councillor in 2011 as well as a Borough Councillor and was in the cabinet at Norfolk County Council and voted for the incinerator which ended up costing rate payers over £20 million pounds. I haven’t forgotten.
Lastly, the QEH Building is in dire straits. Although there is high level lobbying, all of us should get behind the various initiatives for a replacement hospital building. I have some leaflets and postcards which can be sent to Matt Hancock for that purpose. Please contact me if you would like copies.
Borough Councillor Massingham with Castle Acre Ward and County Councillor Gayton and Nar Valley
Volunteer working party with Westacre Conservation team
Would you like to volunteer to be part of a work party with the Westacre Estate Conservation team, to clear Crassula from three pingos at Gayton Thorpe Common?
Crassula helmsii, known as swamp stonecrop or New Zealand pigmyweed, is an aquatic or semiterrestrial species of succulent plant in the family Crassulaceae. Originally found in Australia and New Zealand, it has been introduced around the world. In the United Kingdom, this plant is one of five introduced invasive aquatic plants which were banned from sale from April 2014.
This is the first ban of its kind in the country. It is highly invasive and extremely damaging to our native flora and fauna.
The work will probably take a few days to complete depending on the number of volunteers and the first date is 25th September. Meeting point will be at 10am at Abbey Yard, off River Road. Plenty of free parking available. If you’re interested in getting involved, please email Fraser at email@example.com.
Please click here to see more details on New Zealand Pygmyweed
Images taken by Ernest Heatley at the Civil War Re-enactment held at West Acre on 28 and 29 August
Click on an image to view a larger version.
West Acre Village Fete held on
Saturday 21 August
This event would not have been possible without the marvellous support of at least 30 volunteers, including from East Walton and Gayton Thorpe. Despite unseasonal weather 340 adults came with an unknown number of children. It was hugely enjoyed, by both grown-ups and children, and we ended up with a surplus of £2,345 for the West Acre Community Trust (including a small amount for the West Acre Church).
It was wonderful to have such generous offers of time and energy – and donations - to create such a happy day for so many of us and our neighbours.
All images kindly created by Ernest Heatley.
Click on an image to view a larger version.
Notice of fireworks - Friday 17 September
We would like to make you aware that the Wicken is holding a private memorial event on Friday 17 September.
The event will conclude with a firework display which will last for approximately 20 minutes and will be finished no later than 11pm.
Canon Stuart Nairn’s retirement
A tribute by Henry Birkbeck
Stuart has worked for over 40 years in the Diocese of Norwich, and since 1997 when the Nar Valley Benefice was set up, he has looked after the Parishes of West Acre, South Acre, Castle Acre, Newton by Castle Acre, Narborough with Narford, and Pentney. During these 24 years he has lent his support to a great many in need in these communities, in particular those who have become ill or hampered by old age. He has of course helped a great many people arrange christenings, weddings, and funerals and from my own experience I have found his support over family bereavements to be extremely valuable and much appreciated at such times. Although only a few from West Acre have attended many of the services, he has always provided the opportunity for those who have wished to attend, regularly giving sermons that have provided great opportunity for reflection on the way we lead our lives. Across the Benefice he has put enormous effort into helping each Parish achieve necessary renovations to their churches by assisting with grant applications, and although we have had no significant success with our own church in recent years, he has tried on several occasions to secure large scale funding to redo the roof, external walls, interior plaster work etc. He fully supports our thoughts on adapting the church for a wide variety of uses by the Parishioners, and he has kindly offered to give us advice when applying for funding for such a project. Stuarts official position ceases on the 28th of November this year and although we have been promised a new parish priest for our group there will be a period of many months without one whilst his successor is chosen, so responsibility for the church will fall upon us Parishioners, in particular the Parochial Church Council and myself as Church Warden. In addition, during this time I’m very glad to say that Stuart has offered to help any of us to arrange funerals and to conduct such services where required. Throughout this time Stuart has been tirelessly supported by his wife Susan who has also led the choir. If she is unable to continue with this her beautiful voice and musical arrangements will be greatly missed. Stuart and Susan will be moving to their new home in Swaffham, and I would like to wish them many happy years’ retirement in this area.
Right, and below, images taken at Stuart's final service in Westr Acre on Sunday 19 September