Annual Report

Annual Town Meeting – Chairman’s Report 2024   

      “This is my second annual report since coming to office as   the Chair of Sprowston Town Council & I feel that it has been a positive two years. It has been an immense privilege to work with the staff of the Town Council both the office and the ground staff. They do a wonderful job every day for our residents and I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you very much on behalf of the elected council members. I’d also like to thank the elected council members for their support. Without their collective input and enthusiasm, we couldn’t provide the facilities that the residents we represent expect and I trust we will continue to do our very best during the coming year.

Looking back over the past year I have been involved with events that have brought the community together. The biggest of course was the second annual Summer Fete which was organised by the Council Staff and Councillors. This was so well received by our residents that so many of them asked when the third one was going to be held as they were leaving. Following feedback I have received from last year, and in discussion with residents using the Rec, the Town Council has provided a drinking water fountain by the changing rooms and the barrier at the pedestrian entrance next to the library has been modified to allow wheelchair and buggy access so that residents no longer have to brave the busy vehicular access.

The monthly Dementia Cafe is going from strength to strength to provide a valuable resource for those caring for those living with dementia in Sprowston and the wider community. It is the highlight of many people’s month, including for the volunteer helpers like me. Attendance has increased year on year. Pre Covid average attendance was 20 people in total- about 10 families. In 2023 average attendance was 31 people – about 15 families. So far in 2024 average attendance is 39 – 20 members plus 19 carers. Total March 2024 attendance was 43 excluding volunteers and visitors. Volunteers number about 15 – 18. There are currently 30 registered families each of whom bring at least one carer. In November we were privileged to be visited by the Lord Mayor of Norwich and the Chair of Broadland District Council. The Cafe is also regularly featured in the Just Sprowston magazine.

Sprowston now has an established regular litter pick, organised by a local resident, which has met most months to clear the woodland area of Harrison’s Wood and Cottage plantation. We normally have between 10 and 20 local residents helping. We are always amazed that no matter how many times we pick there always seems to be a couple of tons at least pulled out on each visit. I can see this will increase as the woodlands are opened up with new footpaths and increased usage too. Two of our local schools have also asked to use our litter picking tools in their local parks.

One of our Councillors has organised hedge planting sessions at the Diamond Field which also proved popular with residents who came along. I think we planted over 100 metres over the two seasons. It’s going to make a big difference to the look of the field and provide more habitat for wildlife too while providing a much-needed shelter against the wind to the field.

Whilst on the subject of access to open spaces I’m very pleased to be able to report that the Town Council has been successful in its bid to get grant funding from the Parish Partnership Scheme to provide an all-weather surface to the public right of way that stretches from opposite the cemetery on Church Lane all the way though the Millennium Wood to the park at Wilk’s Farm Drive. While I’m talking about the Millennium Wood, I was pleased to visit The Conservation Volunteers who were working on clearing, coppicing and replanting areas of the wood. They have since been back a number of times to continue the maintenance and plant young hedging whips on the northern boundary.

The Town Council have actively supported initiatives to rewild certain verges and open spaces within Sprowston. Some people may say that this is just a cost cutting exercise but it’s not. It’s a genuine example of how small changes can make big differences to the natural fauna and flora, especially insects, bees and hedgehogs. This year we will be looking to rewild carefully selected marginal areas of the cemetery and recreation grounds to provide better habitat for them.

After many months of pressure from the Town Council the open space behind White House Farm School and the play equipment areas there and near Waxwing Close were opened by the developer of the White House Farm Estate, just in time for the children to go back to school following the summer break. They were due to open in May. The area where the skate park will be provided has been cleared and the Town Council will continue to work with the developers and local community groups to get the area completed. However, the developers will continue to use the car park area as a secure storage compound for at least the next 5 months so, transfer of the ownership of the Skate Park land to the Town Council will probably not be until the next year.

Although Highways are not an area that the Town Council is responsible for, we have been at work making our roads safer. We have heeded resident’s requests and worked with Norfolk County highways department to get white H lines painted near the parade of shops on Wroxham Road. We have asked the County Council to consider a pedestrian crossing on the short stretch of Blue Boar Lane between the Wroxham Road Roundabout and the Chopyngs Dole Close roundabout to make it safer for residents to cross to the open area behind the Lidl supermarket. I have also successfully worked with Norfolk County Council to get double yellow lines along Aslake Close to make the area safer for residents and users of the adult training centre.

In September, Dawn’s New Horizon moved from their cramped shop on Cannerby Lane to new premises on Corbett Avenue. The charity supports survivors of domestic abuse in Sprowston and the surrounding areas. They are mostly female but there are some men too. Dame Lorraine Curston who runs the charity invited me to cut the ribbon to mark the event on behalf of Sprowston Town Council. A chance encounter with an officer of the Wroxham and Hoveton Lions at the Norwich Beer Festival lead to the Lions donating a substantial quantity of small electrical goods to the charity to help survivors set up home. Things we take for granted like kettles, toasters, irons etc. Hopefully this will lead on to ongoing support.

Looking forward, the first date to put in your calendar is the 4th April at 10am for a children’s film show screening of “Wonka” (Cert. PG), based on the character of Willy Wonka, created by Roald Dahl. The film show will take place in the School Room at the Diamond Centre on school Lane. All tickets are just £2.00

Next is the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings which will be marked by a beacon lighting event on the 6th June at St Mary and St Margaret’s church. The Hellesdon and Sprowston Brass Band are booked to play. The Norwich Air Cadets will also be providing a drill demonstration. There will be readings from myself and the Reverend Tim Yau who has succeeded the Reverend Canon Simon Stokes after 11 years at the Sprowston and North Norwich Team Ministry.

Then we have this year’s free Summer Fete on Sprowston Recreation Ground on the 13th July. Already the Town Clerk and his team have booked the Foolhardy Circus. Also, Dinosaurs and Dragons, The Creation Station, free bouncy castles and three bands for the music tent: Lizzie and the List, Robert Holmes, and the Foreign Locals. So, it’s on track to be another great afternoon’s entertainment.

Finally, we are expecting to be able to open the fully refurbished Viking Pub as the Viking Community Centre in November this year. This will not only provide more community space in Sprowston but also bring back to life the very sadly neglected building. Some have asked where the money is coming from. There has been a lot of new homes built in Sprowston and for every new home the developer has to pay towards new facilities for the community. This is called the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and that is the money that will be used for this and several other projects, including the street lighting replacement programme. The building work was in full swing at the Viking Centre when councillors visited recently. All that needed to be stripped out has been done and the groundworks for the hall at the back were nearing completion. So, it’s full steam ahead. We are also still looking for a community group or social enterprise who would like to run a community cafe in the bay windowed front room area.”

Cllr Bill Couzens

Chair of Sprowston Town Council