September 2017 Part 1 – Going round in Triangles

The Corn Hall so far had been a great success since its re-opening, but the other part of the Heritage Triangle project: the streetscape scheme and the Wildlife garden and boardwalk behind the council offices was reaching its conclusion in early September. An event was planned for 8th September, to coincide with the national heritage open days, to show off the area to the general public and to give them a chance to walk on water…

2nd September – Volunteering Time

The Heritage Triangle is a community project and the final touches – the planting of trees and bedding plants around the triangle needed volunteers to help with it. So I dusted off my gardening gloves and got stuck in on a bright Sunday morning.

A green-fingered volunteer helping with theHeritage Triangle Planting – Sunday 2nd September 2017

In truth I did get my hands dirty with a bit of planting, but mostly I helped by barrowing around compost and sweeping up afterwards. But the results were quite stunning.

5th September – Norfolk Scouts Council AGM – Dereham

Not the totally dry and boring meeting you might have assumed. There was a fascinating presentation from a group of scouts from Norfolk who who had been to the  15th World Scout Moot in Iceland from 25 July – 2 August 2017. The Moot brought  together up to 5000 young adults between the ages of 18 to 25, for what seemed a fantastic time.

8th September – Heritage Open Day

One of the best bits of August, when we were supposed to be having a bit of a break from Council duties was walking round the Heritage Triangle devising a set of questions for people to answer on a prize quiz. The quiz utilised the “toblerone” boards as source of the information to answer the quiz. The board outside the Corn Hall held the answer to question 11 :

The Corn Hall “toblerone” before it was demolished by a dozy driver (Happily now (November) replaced).

Unfortunately, someone reversed into it a week before the open day, so we had to devise a new question.

The day itself was a great success . We had coffee from COW (coffee on wheels!) a barbecue provided by Browns the Butchers and  roving buskers (including a strange chap in a hat reciting poetry.

Leo Wainwright “the busking bard” (or was that beard?)

And of course the boardwalk was open. Dinsdale came to see, but didn’t venture down for fear of getting his feet wet.

Dinsdale Duck pays a flying visit to the Triangle 8th September2017

The next week was spent handing our the prizes for the triangle trail, of which more elsewhere on the website :

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August 2017 – Loud shirts and a Purple Patch

A little quieter in August, but we did have some time away in Devon for my Mum’s 80th Birthday in

Loud Shirts

We got back just in time for the Big Sing at St Mary’s Church (on our wedding anniversary – is there a theme here?). Partly because of the time of year coinciding with two family birthdays and wedding anniversary we had never managed to get to the Big Sing before. The legendary Gerry Hoskin organised it, as he has done the previous 12  years, and compered the event in a lovely light hearted  double act with the Rector, Tony Billett. I use the term legendary advisedly because… well easier to demonstrate with this photo…

Gerry Hoskin at the Big Sing 6th August 2017, St Mary’s Church, Diss

It was a great time (as you may realise by now both Fiona and I like a good sing). Gerry’s shirt was loud, but the singing was louder. It was all in a good cause of course, and a collection was made for the Fire Service Benevolent Fund.

A Purple Patch

A charity event of a different kind took us to Scole on the following Sunday for Clare’s game. This was a really fun way to commemorate the life of a young lady called Clare Mackmin who tragically died as the result of an epileptic seizure whilst expecting her first child, who also sadly could not be saved. Her friends and family rallied round to make something positive of it, and hit on the idea of a charity football match between a team of friends (captained by Clare’s husband, Shaun, and a team from Glazing Vision, who are based in Sawmills Road.

This is a photo taken before the match:

Clares Team and the Glazing Vision Team, Scole Football Ground 13th August 2017

 The purple strip belongs to Clare’s team. This was her favourite colour, and the colour of the Epilepsy Society, for which the match raised funds. Clare’s team won 10-1 in a really enjoyable and light-hearted game. It was a humbling experience to see a group of people pulling together to make something so positive out of such a tragedy. There was a piece in the Diss Express at the time, and they have done some more fund-raising events since.

The last day of the month saw an invitation to Splice Creative – one of Diss’ hidden gems in the form of a media company in Mere Street that was having a party to celebrate its first birthday.

Trevor Wenman

Town Mayor

July 2017 – Memories

Diss Museum AGM 18th July

Fiona and I had time to attend the AGM of the Museum, and it was very interesting to hear about what they had been up to and how they do so much with so little.

They have a wonderful collection of volunteers with a passion for the history of Diss.

Ian Lavender at the official  re-opening of Diss Museum for the 2017 Season in March

 

22nd July -Memories and Music

History is our collective memory. The memories of a family are a bit different.  I had the privilege of sharing in a service of remembrance for the family and friends of Harold Rackham at his funeral at the Salvation Army on 22nd July. The place was packed, with standing room only, even in the overflow hall from where we watched  live video relay from the Church itself. Harold was previously Town Mayor and we were reminded (or told for the first time) of a lot of the generous things he did for the town, including the gift of the land on which Diss Sports Ground stands. He had a great send off, with the Salvation Army Band  escorting the cortege to the Cemetery.

Later that same day we went down to the Park to Diss Fest.  I had to go to work for a few hours in the afternoon so I sadly missed some of the acts, but the quality of the performances was, as usual very high. Do check it out next year. That didn’t fit in with the theme of memory, but the next event that same night did…

A memory walk is a really neat idea for raising awareness of and money for the Alzheimers Society. About 100 of us took part, starting in the Market Square at midnight on the Saturday, dressed in night attire – pyjamas, onesies etc paying £10 each for the privilege. We then followed a walking route around Diss and Roydon, ending up back at the Market Place where refreshments were available (I have never enjoyed a burger so much at 1.30 in the morning). I leave you with this photo, not because it puts me or my selfie skills in the best light, but to scotch the scurrilous rumour that I did the walk in the Mayor’s robes. That is of course ridiculous. Night attire was specified, and I never wear the robes to bed.

27th July – Down on the Farm

The final memory related Mayoral jaunt for July was at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum where John Ward, the Chairman of Norfolk County Council was holding his annual Chairman’s reception. We had been there before a few years back, but a lot has changed, as we could see when we took a horsedrawn cart ride around the working farm – actually ploughed by horses and cultivated as near as possible to the way it would have been in Victorian times when the museum was a workhouse.

The Mayoress admiring the Suffolk Punch horses that took us on our ride around the farm.

Later in the evening  we chatted amiably with the Norfolk “chain gang” and there were, as ever, some speeches, including by those retiring County Councillors who were given long service awards by the Chairman. Jenny Chamberlain, who stepped down as our County Councillor for Diss and Roydon in May was one of them. Well done to Jenny (below) for sticking it out for 12 years.

 

 

 

Trevor Wenman

Town Mayor

9th July Pomp and circumstance (and cake!)

Mayor’s Civic Service 9th July 2017

I have a very understanding wife. It helps that Fiona is also a town councillor. It also helps that we have been married for 34 years and nothing surprises her anymore when it comes to me. So when we found out the best date for the civic service was also her birthday…

Thanks to Ben Mansfield for this photo, taken after the service.

We had a quiet lunch beforehand then the fun started with around 100 people coming to St Mary’s including a sizeable contingent from Diss Baptist Church and some of the wonderful friends we have made in the form of Mayors and Chairmen of councils on both sides of the County Border. It was a great occasion which brought different parts of the community together to celebrate the start of my Mayoral year. This was the first time, we think, that a Baptist Minister has preached in the Parish Church. After the service we had tea and cake at the back of the Church, thanks to staff at the Town Council and several others (including the Mayoress) who did the baking beforehand. My thanks also go to the Clergy and congregation of St Mary’s Church who moved their service to suit, and our own Church, Diss Baptist who were in fine voice, complementing the efforts of the St Mary’s Choir, and who also rearranged their own service so as many as possible could come and support me.

So Fiona did get a chance to share cake with friends on her birthday, even if the rest of the day was a little unconventional.

Trevor Wenman

Town Mayor

25th June – a funny thing happened…

25th June 2017

I didn’t write this on 25th June and for various reasons I haven’t blogged for some time. So much has been going on, but I have been distracted. I will tell you why in a moment. Suffice it to say that I am now going to bring you all up to date with a series of short blogs on my time as Mayor so far.

Ok. What is this all about being rudely interrupted? In my previous blog I was looking forward to seeing what goes on at a cyclathon? The short of answer – lots of people having fun on bikes. It was very successful event with lots of fun and games on the park for those who are not quite so comfortable on two wheels. My hat goes off to the organisers.

Unfortunately my hat was not the only thing that came off. I said a few words, presented some prizes, did what Mayors do. Then they asked me to set a time on the obstacle course on a mountain bike. “What could go wrong? I thought. I took my mayoral chain off for health and safety reasons and promptly (before I had finished my five minutes training, before they let me loose on the obstacle course) I fell off … quite magnificently, injuring my right shoulder, which not only put me off cycling, and typing for while, but landed me with two weeks off work!

(My memory is hazy – but I think this photo was taken after my tumble, going by the pained look on my face. The man sensibly dressed for the occasion is Alan Franks.

Cycling is a great way to get fit, meet people and de-stress. Congrats to Alan Franks and his team for a fantastic day. The moral of my story is, if your 50 something, haven’t ridden for ten years – practice a bit on flat ground before trying to ride on grass.

 

Parish Boundary Review

South Norfolk Council is undertaking a community governance review, which they are required to do periodically.

Diss Town Council proposed changes to create a logically defined boundary between Diss and Roydon to remove confusion to the north and west of Diss over which streets are in which parish. In response, South Norfolk Council proposed the inclusion of Tottington Lane. They will decide after taking account of all responses received once the consultation period has ended.

The parish boundary location should have no effect on school catchments, ecclesiastical parish boundaries, house prices, property registration, or land for development.

Understandably, one of the main concerns is the cost impact for Roydon residents. The most affected households would face a potential annual increase of around £140 or £12 per month based on the Diss 2017/18 Band D household figure. The Town Council’s element of the total council tax bill is 9%.

Diss taxpayers help to maintain and improve many facilities and amenities including, to name a few, the Park & Mere, Market, Cemetery, the Diss Youth & Community Centre and the Corn Hall; support community groups; organise two key annual events; and, decorate the town with bunting and Christmas lights.

This review is completely different from the recent Boundary Commission review of District Council ward boundaries which determined that Diss and Roydon would be merged as one district ward with three councillors (instead of two separate wards with four between them).

Town Councillor vacancy filled!

 

 

We have a new Town Councillor!

We’re very excited to introduce our new Town Councillor, Sonia Browne! Sonia has lived in Diss for six years with her son, Rafa, and works for Diss Citizens Advice as an Advice and Domestic Abuse Champion, supporting others in crisis.

She is a keen volunteer and an active member of the community, currently volunteering as a Parent Governor at Diss High School and a Mental Health Wellbeing Navigator for Mind/Wellbeing.

Sonia is passionate about allowing all citizens in Diss to have a voice. She has a wonderful ability to listen to others, using her vast experience to engage with the public and appreciate their opinions and ideas.

Her key interests are maintaining the cleanliness of the town, addressing traffic congestion, raising funds for developing the town and supporting the needs of the community.

Sonia joins the Heritage & Facilities Committee and Community Engagement Committee.

We congratulate Sonia on her new voluntary role and welcome her into the team!

 

Completing the Heritage Triangle Scheme

As a key partner in the Heritage Triangle Project, Diss Town Council borrowed £200,000 in 2015 as its contribution towards the £3.2m Project.  One of the risks identified was that the Project costs may over-run (as is often the case with such historic and therefore complex buildings) so the option to borrow further money was retained.

The Town Council also agreed to underwrite the Project to the value of £130,000 to cover what was at that time, a funding shortfall, in order to get permission to start from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The Project team managed to fundraise far more than their goals, but despite their best efforts, the Project has over-run its original budget and a bid for an additional £235,000 has been submitted to the HLF to help get this Project completed.

If the bid is successful, this extra money will be subject to the Town Council honouring its original commitment of £130,000 which means we must take out a further loan to this value. However, the loan repayments would be offset by savings we have made elsewhere in the budget, meaning it will not impact on residents.

We have worked very hard not to raise our share of Council Tax over the last few years. Unfortunately, largely due to considerable reductions in government grants, Diss Town Council has had to increase its share of Council Tax by £14 for the 2017/18 financial year.  We will keep striving for cost savings in what we do, whilst maintaining and improving our services, so that you receive quality and value for money.

As always we encourage you to get in touch to tell us what you think – visit our website at www.diss.gov.uk, email towncouncil@diss.gov.uk or call 01379 643848, 9.30am – 3pm, Mon – Fri.

Christmas Opening Hours

Mon 19 – Fri 23 December
Visit the office: 9.30am – 1.30pm • Telephone: 9.30am – 3pm

Mon 26 – 29 December
Closed

Fri 30 December
Visit the office: 9.30am – 1.30pm • Telephone: 9.30am – 3pm.
There will be no Clerk & Councillor forum this week.

Mon 2 January
Closed for Bank Holiday

Normal opening hours resume from Tuesday 3 January.
Wishing you all a Happy New Year!

Marston’s Appeal

The appeal by Marstons against the refusal of planning permission for the development of erection of 4 non-food retails units of nearly 4000sqm on Park Road, Diss has been dismissed.

In its written submission to the appeal, Diss Town Council opposed the development because of concerns that the proposed design would significantly detract from the conservation area and represented a missed opportunity to ‘raise the design standard’.

There was also concern that the proposed floor area would be an ‘economically unsustainable overdevelopment’ that would not generate town centre footfall, rather it would congest the town with further traffic. The retail study on which the proposed additional retail floor space that Diss could accommodate was carried out in 2007 prior to the economic downturn and town centre investment. The Town Council therefore argued that a retail impact assessment was required to understand the effect of a development of this size and scale on the town centre economy.

In her decision notice, Planning Inspector Amanda Blicq noted that the development ‘would detract from, and fail to preserve or enhance the Conservation Area or its setting’, fail to safeguard protected trees, and it has not been demonstrated that the development would not have a detrimental effect on the vitality and viability of the existing businesses within the town’.

Council Leader Graham Minshull said ‘The Town Council is pleased there will now be an opportunity to achieve a high-quality development on this site which will add real value to the town. We support development which will improve the quality of life for our community. We were concerned this development would not achieve this with its proposed large warehouse-style sheds representing a poor-quality design on our main transport route, further congesting traffic and swamping the already fragile town centre economy.’