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 AGM Meeting
and Annual Parish Meeting
Monday 24 May 2021
Both Meetings were held in the Village Hall in a Covid-safe environment in line with Government guidelines.
Minutes from these meetings will be available shortly.
Below you will find the Agenda for each Meeting and Minutes of the previous Parish Council meeting and other documents.
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
Sunday 20 June
Holy Communion (Book of Common Prayer), 9.00am
Further information on the Nar Valley Group of Parishes can be found here -
Westacre Estate's proposals for a woodland creation project delayed
Westacre Estate's proposal for 77 hectares of new woodland planting which is being designed and developed through the Forestry Commission planning grant process is understood to have been postponed until 2022.
What are England's current lockdown rules?
Please click on the link below to find out more about the latest lockdown rules -
Protect yourselves, protect each other, protect west Norfolk
Click on an image to see a larger version
Work has started on clearing the site where four bungalows will be built for key workers in farming or forestry (opposite, top and bottom). The site is located at the junction of Greenhill Road, Castle Acre road and Tumbleyhill.
Work starts on clearing site for four new bungalows
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.
The committee is looking to arrange an event in the near future to allow everyone to view the improvements. Meanwhile, the next Parish Council
meeting on May 24th will be held
in the hall and would
welcome your attendance.
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
Laundry Bridge repair
At the end of March it was brought to the Parish Council’s attention that the temporary orange barriers on Laundry BAt the end of March it was brought to the Parish Council’s attention that the temporary orange barriers on Laundry Bridge were down. This was exposing the large gap in the railings which were damaged by a falling tree.
Councillor Ernest Heatley notified the Highways Department and explained this could prove dangerous for youngsters who had been seen playing in the area. The temporary barriers were reinstated and fastened with cable ties to make them more secure. He again contacted Highways to say that we still did not consider this an adequate safety measure, and also that the bridge was rather unsightly. Subsequently the new Bridges Inspector got in touch to say that he would personally inspect the site and aim to have a full repair done by July.ridge were down. This was exposing the large gap in the railings which were damaged by a falling tree.
Councillor Ernest Heatley notified the Highways Department and explained this could prove dangerous for youngsters who had been seen playing in the area. The temporary barriers were reinstated and fastened with cable ties to make them more secure. He again contacted Highways to say that we still did not consider this an adequate safety measure, and also that the bridge was rather unsightly. Subsequently the new Bridges Inspector got in touch to say that he would personally inspect the site and aim to have a full repair done by July.
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, Alice 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.
Recent work on the Rewilding Project
At the meeting of the Parish Council on Monday 12th April, Alec Birkbeck gave a presentation on matters relating to Westacre Estate, including a progress report on the rewilding project.
The long-term aim is to allow a variety of livestock, including Exmoor ponies, Iron Age pigs and native rare breed White Park cattle to roam freely about the 1,970 acre rewilding site as shown on the map published in the January 2020 edition of WAN.
The area is bounded by the Gayton - Castle Acre road to the north & north-east, and the River Nar to the south. The western & north-western edge roughly follows the Estate boundary with the parishes of Pentney, West Bilney, East Winch, and Gayton. There are significant minor roads and tracks enclosed within the boundaries, requiring the installation of ten cattle-grids to allow the stock to roam freely. Alec informed the meeting that the installation of these items requires a significant financial commitment from both the Estate and Highways England, which has the responsibility of maintaining the cattle-grids. This has proved to be an obstacle to progress; until the finance can be found
the decision has been made to break the
1,970 acres into five fenced areas, each
with its own livestock. The five areas are
shown on the map. The number and
species of animals allocated to each area
will depend on the type of terrain and the
desired result. Fraser Bradbury, the
Estate’s Forest and Environment
Conservation Manager, has
responsibility for making these decisions
and says that areas shown as 2 and 5
include designated Sites of Special
Scientific Interest and will not include
pigs until the Estate has had the
opportunity to monitor their impact on
the other areas. While the introduced
species will be contained by the fencing,
Fraser says that the deer that have
enjoyed free movement will continue to
do do so. Two of the five species present
on the Estate are native to the UK. Their
numbers need to be kept in check as deer alter the structure and species composition of woodland vegetation as well as reduce the abundance of some rare flowering plants. They are one of the greatest threats to our natural ecosystems and Norfolk is no exception to this.
The aim of introducing ponies and pigs is to create a more diverse grazing regime, and to mimic natural grazing. The foraging, grazing and resulting deposits will encourage the growth of a wider variety of vegetation and insect life.
The area marked 1 has been fenced and stock introduced. Fencing of the remaining areas is expected to be completed by January 2022, before livestock can be introduced. The Estate is looking at several options for stocking each area including - the type and numbers of animals in each block, small permanent groups in each block, a main herd that moves between block, or perhaps animals moved around blocks as required. Change will drive the process with minimal intervention being the desired approach.
What happens at ground level can be dependent on what happens higher up and Fraser and his team have been busy reducing the canopy cover by removing trees in some areas. The thinning works will allow for more light and warmth to the forest floor and for trees that have not been removed to expand their canopies and therefore increase their seed bearing capacity. Felled broadleaved trees all have the ability to regrow as coppice and this is desirable to provide nesting sites, shelter, warmth in the woodland, a source of nectar, and autumn food.
broadleaved trees all have the ability to regrow as coppice and this is desirable to provide nesting sites, shelter, warmth in the woodland, a source of nectar, and autumn food.
At the meeting Councillor Jeremy Cameron asked if the recent felling of trees would result in a permanent loss. Alec explained that the loss of trees would be cosmetic, as natural regeneration would, in the long-term, result in more trees over a larger area. The dense woods, previously managed for timber, are being ‘opened up’ by the creation of glades for grasses and scrub, clearing plantations around ponds and watercourses, and to ‘blur’ the edges between woodland and more open country. However, deadwood will be retained as it plays a key role in the process of recovery of the ecosystem.
With the inclusion of previously arable and grassland fields it is expected that the number of trees in ten years’ time will far exceed the current number by natural regeneration. This is already evident on the fields since sheep grazing ceased; alder, oak, hawthorn, blackthorn and rose that have been browsed by the sheep each year are now more evident and the Estate woodland cover has already increased by around three hectares.
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