Evening News Original: Thorpe St Andrew town clerk Steven Ford speaks to reporter David Bale about his interests and his previous career working for a UK rally champion.

Steven Ford may have been born and brought up in Essex, but he's now very much a man of Thorpe St Andrew.

He has been the full-time town clerk in Thorpe for six years, but was deputy clerk for several years before that. He first got involved with the then parish council about 20 years ago.

And he's very proud of his adopted home, which he says is very different in feel and character to neighbouring Norwich.

He said: 'There's a long history of Thorpe resisting attempts by Norwich to take us over. In the 1960s there was a huge outcry about it.

'Thorpe has a unique character. As you cross over Harvey Lane there's a sense of entering a different community.'

His background is in the newspaper and magazine publishing industry.

He launched The Beacon parish council newspaper, which was published regularly for 17 years, before it stopped two years ago.

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He was also responsible for the What's On in East Anglia magazine and Stowmarket Community News.

The then Thorpe parish council helped and supported his publications and that's how he got involved.

'I was spending more and more time with the parish council and I was offered a part-time job. I was the deputy parish clerk from about 1999 to 2005 before becoming the full-time clerk six years ago.

'There are 63 parish councils in Broadland but just a handful of full-time clerks, and I'm one of them.

'Soon after becoming the town clerk I helped steer it through to becoming a town council. They were keen to preserve its identity as distinct from Norwich, and they thought that becoming a town council would give us a clear identity.''

His job as town clerk keeps him very busy.

He said: 'I like it because you never know what's coming next. This week we heard that anti tank concrete blocks had been exposed in Griffin Lane.

'We are waiting to find out more about that and will then add it to the Thorpe archives.

'People come to see us with any issues they have with the council and sometimes have a grumble. And while we would not deal with things like potholes, we know who does. We help people resolve their problems.'

His job entails organising the monthly town meetings and liaising with councillors on each week's new planning applications.

The council also has to look after the two recreation grounds, Dussindale Park in Pound Lane and Laundry Lane. There are more than 20 football pitches to look after, and four full-size pitches.

About 25 football and three cricket teams use the pitches and there are also two allotment sites with 100 plots that the council looks after.

Mr Ford added: 'We have also just developed a nature reserve at Hillside allotments where the remains of a Saxon church were found in the 1960s, and we've now got beehives there.

'We are going to plant a community orchard there on March 10 with some old English apple trees. Some of the local children and Norwich North MP Chloe Smith will be planting trees.

'We also look after the River Green and have spent about �60,000 remodelling it to make it accessible to all.

'In the last 40 years the level of the highway has been steadily rising, so we have built it up to the level of the pavement, as it used to be in the 1970s, and put new posts and rails in.'

River Green is his favourite place. 'It's the heart of Thorpe and the gateway to the Broads. It's a popular picnic area and site for events. If the railway bridges weren't so low I think it would be an even more popular boating area for people.'

The population of Thorpe is on the increase and there are about 14,000 people now residing in the town.

The population could rise sharply in the coming years if plans for thousands of houses are given the green light.

Mr Ford grew up in Hornchurch, Essex and, when he left school, he worked as a sales manager for John Sprinzel who was the UK rally champion.

He said: 'He had a real showbiz connection, as celebrities would buy his cars. Ursula Andress bought one. She was pretty. All three of the Walker Brothers also bought Marcos sports cars from him. Stephanie Powers bought a Morgan from us. Kenny Lynch bought a Mini Cooper from us. And the Sultan of Brunei. We used to work at the Earls Court motor and Racing Car shows but the garage was in Lancaster Mews in Paddington, London.'

In the mid-1970s he moved to Suffolk, changed career, and worked for the East Anglian Daily Times in Ipswich as a sales rep.

He said: 'It was relaunched as a tabloid while I was there. Then I moved to the Diss Express and became advertisement manager there.'

His favourite place to visit in the world is Vancouver in Canada, where his son Ben lives.

'There's a place there called the Bridges in Granville Island, and we go there every year to see our son Ben. It's a marvellous place where they have river taxis.'

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