Boarded-up shelter is a pain in the rain

Gerald Bartram could hardly have picked a better time to make his point. As the rain poured down across Norfolk, people waiting for a bus in Kirstead could only look longingly at their wooden bus shelter.

Gerald Bartram could hardly have picked a better time to make his point.

As the rain poured down across Norfolk yesterday, people waiting for a bus in Kirstead could only look longingly at their wooden bus shelter. Inside was nice and dry - but a large piece of wood was blocking the doorway.

And emblazoned across the wood in white letters were the words: “Builder's bill outstanding”.

Last night Mr Bartram said that the bizarre row was about a bill for just £120. He said he was not trying to make trouble, but just wanted to make his point.

He has certainly caused a stir, but yesterday members of Kirstead Parish Meeting, which asked for the work to be done, were staying silent.

Mr Bartram's unusual actions

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come 11 months after he did some work to the bus shelter on the main Bungay to Norwich road. The shelter on the B1332 was damaged by a lorry which reversed into it early last

year.

Mr Bartram, 63, from nearby Brooke, said: “The parish committee rang me and asked if I was interested in making the shelter safe so people could use it again. They said they didn't have any money from the parish council but that they were hoping to get insurance money.

“So I quoted the job at about £200 but thought that since they haven't got any money, I'd be generous and just charge them £120 to cover my costs.”

He did a day's work and sent in the bill as usual. Nothing happened, and when he queried it, he was told that the parish meeting was unhappy with his work.

Mr Bartram, who thought he had done them a favour, was less than impressed. “They said I hadn't done it properly, that I should've done this and should've done that, but I wonder what they expected when they asked me just to fix up a 13-year-old wooden shed for next to nothing.

“So I said that if they weren't satisfied with my work, they could just get another builder in, keep the money and use it to pay him.”

That never happened, and after a series of letters and meetings, Mr Bartram decided to take action.

He said: “When I got the latest letter a couple of weeks ago saying I'm not going to be paid, I thought I would take it into my own hands. I thought that by the end of the day it would have been taken down, but it's still there.

“I didn't want to make trouble for anyone; I just wanted to make my point.

“But now it's not even about the money. My wife has cancer and keeps saying to me that I should leave it be, we have much bigger worries, but it's the principle of the thing. Why should I just sit back and let them get away with it?”

The strange tale has echoes of an argument in Holt eight years ago, when craftsman Mitch Howe staged a protest after Holt Town Council failed to pay him for making a millennium seat. He eventually won a court order that the bill should be paid.

Meanwhile Kirstead residents are less than impressed. In tiny Kirstead those without cars have to rely on the bus to get to the nearest shop or pub. One pensioner, who did not want to be named, said: “It's not nice on a rainy day that you have to get wet when you could be under cover.”

As a result Mr Bartram has vowed to have no more to do with parish councils, and has even refused work from Brooke Parish Council because of the affair.

Lynne Rowe, clerk of Kirstead

Parish Meeting, and chairman Rodney Hunt refused to comment on the situation.