The Chair of the Parish Council, Fiona Bradford, delivered the following report at the recent Annual Parish Meeting –

“This Report covers the activities of the Parish Council over the last 12 months.

The Council had full membership during the year and has met every month since May to conduct Parish business, with discussions over various topics being in depth, extensive and at times very lively. 

One of the most important events which took place was the unanimous decision in May to terminate the lease of the Water Meadows from Breckland Council. The reasoning for this was in part due to Breckland Council insisting that according to the existing lease the Parish Council was responsible for all the trees within the rented area. This had never been the understanding of the Parish Council, and therefore as it did not have the funds to undertake this responsibility it was felt that the lease could no longer be continued. 

Also it had been intimated by Breckland that as the Water Meadows was such an important area, being one of only five in England of such special interest and value that care of the area may be given by Breckland to other agencies such as the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, who maintain Scarning Fen. 

It was felt by the Parish Council that such agencies had far greater specialised expertise and knowledge in this area than it did and that for the benefit of the Meadows the lease would be terminated. 

Over the years a dedicated group of volunteers have looked after and cared for the Meadows and together with the Parish Council have ensured that the diversity of flora and fauna could be enjoyed by all. 

The Parish Council would like to thank all those who have contributed to the care of the Water Meadows especially James Walker and it is hoped that going forward Breckland Council will provide the due care and attention that the area deserves until a more appropriate guardian is appointed. 

Having made the decision to terminate the main lease it was then agreed to enter into another lease with Breckland for the two play areas on the Meadows one off Ted Ellis Walk and the other off Blackthorn Drive. Throughout the year various discussions have taken place regarding this and although it has been a very long journey it is hoped that entry into the lease will take place this coming May. 

Following surrender of the lease it had been agreed that funds previously allocated to the Water Meadows would be redirect and apportioned in to buying new play equipment for the play area off Blackthorn Drive. To give a wider understanding of what type of equipment may be most beneficial to the users a survey was undertaken, the results of which suggested that a new youth shelter, BMX track or zip wire would be desired. A large thank you to Tim Abel for giving up his time over several days to canvass the young people on the playing field. 

The Council has been unable to take any action in regard to seeking grants or purchasing any equipment due to the lease not being in place however having previously agreed siting the erection of the table tennis table did go ahead and again thanks to those who assisted with its installation. 

The Parish Council have investigated the possibility of the Parish starting a youth club and a community car scheme, after research it was felt that neither could be progressed, the former due to the expense of having sufficient trained and vetted leaders in place and the latter due to the number of drivers required, poor reimbursement rates for petrol and apparent lack of community demand. 

2022 saw the Queen’s Jubilee, the Parish Council arranged activities which involved the beacon being dismantled, overhauled and re-sited, in readiness for lighting on the occasion. The running of a first aid course for those volunteers who required training in order to assist over the weekend. 

Scarning’s events were free of charge and were very well attended and enjoyed by many over the weekend our thanks go to all those who assisted in making them such a success especially Melanie Blackburn, Chris Farnham and Tim Abel. 

To mark the Jubilee the Parish Council gave the Primary School some books for their library which we hope have been enjoyed by the children. It is sad that after such a joyful occasion the Queen died only three months later and books of condolences were signed on behalf of the Parish. 

In relation to roads, lighting, footpaths and verges the Parish Council has been in contact with Norfolk County Council with varying degrees of success. The dips in Dereham Road just after the junction with Chestnut Road, although previously agreed to repair and given works numbers have now been cancelled due to cost, nor can Norfolk County Council provide lighting between Rushmeadow Road and Chestnut Road. 

The Council as in previous years made donations to several charities which benefit the Parish, it also made a donation to the Ukrainian appeal, and awarded three grants one of which was to the Scarning Pre-School £910, for safety padding to be wrapped around posts holding up a newly erected canopy, and the other £3,100 to the Playing Field Committee to assist with its maintenance costs during its 2023/2024 financial year. 

During the year the Parish Council attempted livestreaming of its meetings but there was no interest from the public in this and so it was decided not to continue. 

The Parish has undergone an upsurge in graffiti and vandalism, which has resulted in increased expenditure for repair and replacement of items damaged. So much so that it is now Council policy not to take any action in the face of this anti-social behaviour unless it is required for health and safety reasons or necessary to provide a public service. 

The Speed Watch Group continues to meet; however, a shortage of volunteers means that its activities are curtailed and anyone wishing to join would be very welcome. Our thanks go to all those who give up their time in order to try and reduce the excess speeding on our roads, especially Cathy Geary and also thanks to Michael Steward for moving the speed sign from location to location. 

The Council has organised litter picks during the year and our thanks go to those who give up their Saturday mornings in order to do this. Also, thanks to Sharon Goldsworthy for planting and caring for the Parishes flower boxes, they really do brighten up the day for all those that pass by them.

The Parish Council along with the Church have helped set up the Scarning Community Box, whereby food etc can be left in a box in the porch of the Church and then removed for use by those in need. We have also been trying to have the mobile food bus include Scarning in its route, this again may benefit the Parish. 

Moving on to current matters the Council is looking at the proposal by the Village Hall Trust to improve the parking facilities on Shipdham Lane Playing Field. This is a long-term project and at the present time the Council cannot confirm the percentage it will be able to allocate to assist funding it, we await details of suggested surfaces to be used along with associated costings from the joint party working committee. 

There is also Breckland Council’s development plan to be considered, which relates to growth and development within the Parish. As part of the review, Breckland launched an Issues and Options public consultation, which will close on Friday 19 May. A meeting with Breckland to discover what was proposed for the Parish was very well attended on the 1 April, with relevant questions being asked by the public. 

The Parish Council works as a team and part of that team for a long number of years has been Chris Farnham. He became a Councillor prior to 2005 and was Chair from May 2019 to 2021. He has been involved with almost everything the Council has undertaken from litter picks, storage of equipment, helping erect, move, clean, paint, repair and care for Parish assets. He was instrumental in establishing the Scarning Beacon magazine and overhauling the Parish website. He has given his time, knowledge and enthusiasm for the improvement and benefit of the Parish. 

Chris is now standing down as a Councillor and on behalf of not only the Council but the Parish I would like to say a huge thank you to him for all he has contributed over the years. I am glad to say that he will continue with his work on The Beacon and the website, and I am sure he will be willing to assist the Council where possible in the future. 

A huge thank you to my other fellow Councillors who have attended and taken part in meetings, especially when it’s been cold and wet. A final thanks to Nick the Clerk for ensuring that the Council is kept up to date and that we follow our standing orders as required.”

– Fiona Bradford