Annual Report

Annual Town Meeting – Chairman’s Report 2023

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Mr-W-F-Couzens-Website.jpg“What a busy year it’s been. It has been an honour to represent the Town Council as its Chairman. Councillors across the political spectrum have worked as a team to do their best for Sprowston. 

The year started with the pageantry of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, where I was privileged to read the Queen’s proclamation and light the beacon at St Mary and St Margaret’s Church in her honour. This was followed by the sadness of her death and the succession of King Charles III to the throne. Then came the cost-of-living crisis which has affected all of us.

On the good side many of the clubs and services closed due to Covid, began opening their doors, including the very successful monthly cinema and exercise classes at the Diamond Centre, the Dementia Cafe and Senior Citizen’s club as well as the Luncheon Club at St Cuthbert’s. We began to feel normal again. Let’s hope the recovery from that dreadful era continues and we can look forward to the future with renewed confidence. The Town Council also successfully nominated the Sprowston Sports and Social Club as a community asset which will, I’m sure be very busy with all the new houses around it.

We improved Sprowston’s ecology with well received community projects such as the rewilding of verges and planting of hedges around the Diamond Field. You may also have noticed the development of the Tiny Forest on The Recreation Ground towards the Edwards Road end. Sprowston is very lucky to have many good open spaces and woodlands owned and managed either by the Town or District Councils, so safe from development.

The Pavilion and changing rooms have been upgraded with a new mains water supply and plumbing system to eliminate any risk of Legionella which has allowed us to provide a new drinking fountain outside the changing rooms for all Recreation Ground users to fill bottles or take a drink.

2022 marked the 10th anniversary of the Sprowston Youth Engagement Project (SYEP), who opened their new Urban Adventure Garden on Church Lane. Despite Covid the SYEP team engaged with 548 young people, up from 340 the year before. The SYEP now meets every day except Sundays either in Old Catton or Sprowston, provides outreach support in our schools, adventure camps, sports outreach and their leadership programme.

The Senior Citizens’ Club are celebrating their 75th anniversary this year too and marked the occasion at their regular weekly social meeting. Together with the Sprowston Community Dementia Cafe the Sprowston Senior Citizen’s Club were nominated for the Broadland Community at Heart Awards. The Cafe made the shortlist which was won by Brundall Men’s Shed.

Sprowston District Councillors have pooled their member’s grants to purchase a trauma kit for our volunteer first responders which was delivered earlier this year and will no doubt be in great demand as the ambulance service struggles to reach critically ill residents in time.

Sadly, one of our councillors, Nigel Shaw, died during the year. He was a colourful character who brought depth to the council. At the by-election I was very pleased to welcome Martin Booth who also joined Council’s cross-party Recreational Facilities Working Group headed by Vice Chair Judy Leggett. The Working Group is actively pushing to get open areas on the White House Farm development completed and open to the public.

Looking forward to 2023 there is much to do.  I hope that the newly elected Council will continue to look for projects to improve the ecology of the area including the planting of trees to commemorate those people of Sprowston who fell during the First World War and more rewilding projects. If you have any ideas, please contact the Town Council. I expect that the new Town Council will continue to press to get the open spaces on the White House Farm development opened to the public in 2023, including the Skate Park opposite the Garden Centre on Blue Boar Lane. The developers have promised that the playing field, with play equipment, behind White House Farm School should be opened for the summer holidays.

Work has already started to redevelop the derelict Viking pub into a thriving Community Centre. The Town Council expects to open it in the spring of 2024 and continue its development from there. I’ve spoken to a number of residents in the area. They are very supportive of the project and are keen to see the building brought back into community use.

Last year’s Sprowston Fete was a great success and the Council have agreed to hold another fete this summer on Saturday 29th July. This is in no small measure due to the work and dedication of the Town Council team and especially of the Town Clerk. If you are interested in being involved in any way, please contact the council. We will be especially looking for stall holders, sponsors, acts for the arena and music tent, plus volunteers to help run the event.

Whilst talking about The Recreation Ground, this year we have also welcomed the Norwich Bystanders Cricket Club as our resident cricket club. I’m sure you will all welcome the sounds of leather on willow during the coming summer. The Town Council has also been exploring the idea of providing a refreshments stall on The Rec during the summer holidays. Also note that the use of the hard Tennis Courts on The Rec have remained open and free to use all year round. The grass courts will soon be ready, as usual, free to use for the summer.

The Town Council have created a new staffing post of Compliance and Administration Officer to keep on top of the growing administrative workload and also welcomed 2 new grounds staff. You will also notice that many of the old street lights are being updated with new LED ones which will not only save money but also give enhanced management and fault reporting tools to ensure they stay on. All of the old lights which the Town Council owns should be changed out in the coming year or two.

The Coronation of King Charles takes place on Saturday 6th May. Many of you, I know, are organising street parties and your own coronation-themed events. Unfortunately, the planned Coronation trail around Sprowston has not received enough entries for it to go forward and has had to be cancelled. For those that want to celebrate together, the Coronation will also be live streamed at St Cuthbert’s Church and all are welcome to attend.

Cllr Bill Couzens

Chair of Sprowston Town Council