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 News Dateline - May 1998

The sixth member in a year has resigned from Hethersett Parish Council, blaming bitter disagreements for the decision.

The move by Peter Davey may result in another by-election, costing tax payers in the region of £400.

Mr Davey resigned because of the unrest surrounding claims that councillors wasted £20,000 of public money over the handling of the dismissal of clerk Rosemary Watts.

His resignation followed a debate at the annual parish meeting, over a report by the District Auditor which cleared the council of wilful misconduct.

Mr Davey said in a statement read to a council meeting: "I had hoped that following the auditor's report past differences would be laid to rest.

"However it was apparent at the annual parish meeting that this was not the case. The council had an ideal opportunity to present a united front and show the public that they were willing to work together for the benefit of the parish, this was lost."

Dateline - March 1998

Hethersett has a new parish councillor. A by-election for a vacant seat returned Liz Hovey with 185 votes. Other candidates were Philip Day who polled 131 and Geoffrey Mann who polled 16. The turnout was just under eight per cent - who says people care about what's going on in the village?

New Youth Forum
Dateline - March 1998

A new youth forum is being set up in the village by the parish council.

It will consist of village representatives, other interested bodies and two young people. The youngsters will act as contacts with other young people meeting on the streets of the village.

The idea is to make recommendations to the parish council and other appropriate bodies for action to improve facilities in the village for the young and to reduce problems caused by anti-social behaviour.

More Housing for Village

Dateline - February 1998

Hethersett looks set to increase its population yet again as South Norfolk announces its latest plans for additional housing in the area.

South Norfolk made provisions for 4,288 new homes in the period from 1994 until 2016. Although the increased prediction up to 2016 has yet to be worked out, the level of building in some areas, including Hethersett, has already sparked controversy.

Hethersett has been chosen as a prime site for development.

There is already opposition in the village to the development with facilities unable to cope with additional population.

Traffic Calming Measures

Dateline - January 1998

In an attempt to create a safer and "more pleasant" environment for residents and children, Norfolk County Council have proposed measures for traffic calming in Queen's Road and Great Melton Road.

In the last six years there have been six recorded injury accidents along this length of road, five of which involved either cyclists or pedestrians.

According to the county council national research shows that the likelihood of pedestrians/pedal cyclist injury is significantly reduced at impact speeds of 20 mph or less. On Queen's Road and Great Melton Road, humps are considered to be the only effective means of achieving average speeds of 20 mph.

So far two options have been identified. The first is limited to Queen's Road and concentrates on the area around the schools and the library. The second extends the treatment along Great Melton Road to the Mill Road junction.

Option One suggests flat topped speed tables outside the schools and library, a 20 mph zone and contrasting road surfacing and a mini roundabout at the Queen's Road/Henstead Road junction.

Option Two suggests flat topped speed tables in the same locations as option one, a series of speed cushions from the schools to Mill Road and 20 mph zone signing and contrasting road surfacing in Queen's Road and Great Melton Road.

I would suggest that a more effective and sensible safety measure would be double yellow lines from the start of Queen's Road up to the library. This would save drivers having to weave in and out of parked cars which is the real problem on this stretch of road.

Controversy In Village

Dateline - June 1997

The village is in the grip of a remarkable split in the parish council which has resulted in a parish poll asking for the entire council to resign.

As a result three councillors have left, but others are refusing to go.

Following months of "in-fighting" and a controversial annual parish meeting, a motion of no confidence was passed in the council and a parish poll was requested by residents.

A total of 855 voted in the poll of which 682 stated they wanted the council to step down and fresh elections to take place. Just 171 wanted the council to stay.

The poll followed months of controversy over claims that councillors wasted £20,000 of rate-payers' money in dismissing parish clerk Rosemary Watts and that they had been "undemocratic" in their handling of village affairs.

Prior to the poll two separate groups issued letters to householders in the village giving their points of view.

The Hethersett saga has been rumbling for some time. Initially the council dismissed Mrs Watts as clerk. She was subsequently elected to the body as a councillor.

The council was split with some members backing the decision to sack Mrs Watts and others supporting her.

Mrs Watts' opponents stated that they had dismissed her in the summer of 1995 for a number of reasons which included:

Mrs Watts failed to inform the chairman or any other councillor that she was going to be absent on sick leave. She left a message on her answerphone advising callers that she was unwell and referring them to the council's chairman Elizabeth Capleton. Mrs Watts failed to make essential documents and papers available for "urgent" business.

Mrs Watts denies most of these points and the counter group accused the council of pressing ahead with paying contractors with a cheque which bounced.

Following the parish poll Mrs Watts, Mr Nick Jarvis and Mr Fred Watkins all resigned from the council, but others refused to do so saying that they had a mandate from voters to continue until their term of office officially ends.

This has subsequently brought new calls for the whole council to resign and stand for re-election so that a new council can be elected that is representative of the people's wishes.

There has also been a suggestion that a rival shadowing pressure group should be set-up.

Whatever happens, this story has a long way to go. Keep reading these pages for any updates.

Update- December 1997

In June the Chairman of the embattled council called for a fresh start after it was cleared of willful misconduct by a local authority watchdog.

A preliminary report by the District Auditor into the council’s spending of public funds to dismiss Rosemary Watts gave councillors the all clear.

The auditor stated that the council "sought and received advice from appropriate sources" and added "I do not believe at this stage that there has been willful misconduct."

Six people wrote to the auditor protesting over the council’s handling of Mrs Watts’ dismissal - estimated to have cost Hethersett taxpayers £20,000.

Chairman Geoffrey Brownsey said in June: "I hope a line can now be drawn under these past events and we can now look forward. It is sad this has generated such ill feeling."

Since that time the discontent has rumbled on within the council and this led in December to the resignation of one of the most experienced councillors Duncan Pigg.

Mr Pigg claimed that the council is no longer working for the good of the village.

In his letter of resignation he stated "I am finding it increasingly difficult to work for the good of the village when the parish council is being treated to a monotonous monologue of criticism of everything we are trying to do."

Mr Pigg has lived in Hethersett for more than 60 years and was previously a district councillor.

Mr Pigg now claims that meetings are not democratic and many of the councillors no longer have a say.


Update - January 1998

Trouble-plagued Hethersett Parish Council lost its second member in two months with the resignation of Joan Lincoln in January.

Mrs Lincoln had been a councillor for 10 years and said: "Things haven't been right in Hethersett for a long time."

"I object to one person running the council, which has been the case recently. I am over 70 now and just do not want the hassle anymore."

Her resignation came just days after that of Duncan Pigg. Council elections due to be held on February 5th were cancelled as only one nominee was received to replace Mr Pigg.

Parish council chairman Geoff Brownsey said: "Mrs Lincoln felt she had done all she can, and we are very grateful for the help and support she has given the council."