Fireworks spark blazing village row in Knapton

A 'cancelled' fireworks display will go ahead - but burning resentment looks set to flare up among feuding north Norfolk villagers beyond bonfire night.

Civil war has broken out in Knapton where the annual fireworks show has ignited a long-smouldering dispute.

At the heart of the row is the charity Madra - Mundesley and District Recreation Association -set up through community fund-raising 27 years ago to provide leisure facilities for the parishes of Gimingham, Mundesley, Knapton, Paston, Southrepps, Trimingham and Trunch.

It has provided them with seven acres for sports, and a clubhouse with bar.

But the goodwill which inspired the founders has been poisoned by deep divisions over how the charity is run.

A meeting next week looks set to decide the charity's fate and, with it, that of about 150 young footballers who use the grounds every week and are among six children's and two adult teams based at Madra.

On one side of the gulf are supporters of Knapton Parish Council chairman Sally Dodd, 57, and her parish councillor husband Norman, 61.

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In his disputed role as a Madra trustee, Mr Dodd sent a widely-circulated email last Friday cancelling the fireworks claiming he had seen no evidence the event was insured.

The Dodds fear they could be liable and lose their home if there was an accident and have been taking down posters advertising the display.

Their faction says Madra has been illegally run for years, with many financial irregularities and the involvement of outside people. They are determined to put it back on a sound footing for the sake of the whole community.

On the other side are fellow Knapton residents, provisional Madra chairman Graham Quinton, 50, and his wife Ceri, 47, who run the Madra clubhouse, founder trustee Patrick Bonham, 75, from Mundesley, and their backers.

They say the Dodds were booted out of Madra some time ago and are trying to close it by putting constant obstacles in their path, and that the flourishing charity is being run according to Charity Commission rules, following a �20,000-plus clubhouse flooding disaster in December.

They insist the fireworks are fully insured and will go ahead so that up to 1,200 people are not deprived of an evening's fun.

The bitter row has allegedly seen:

? mutual accusations of criminal activity and lying

? intimidation leading to police intervention

? resignations from Madra and the parish council

? emergency meetings, meetings cancelled, held without proper notice, abruptly ended and descending into shouting matches.

Now the two sides are also at each other's throats about whether the parish council is in charge of Knapton's allotments. There is also unhappiness over alleged parish council interference in the village fete.

Both parties are hoping matters will finally be resolved at Madra's annual meeting, called by Mr Dodd, due to take place in Mundesley's Coronation Hall on November 10 at 8pm when new trustee and committee members will be elected.

The Dodds have asked for police to attend, fearing further disruption.

'This is a boil which needs to be lanced,' said Mrs Dodd, who added that she felt they had become village pariahs.

She claims her husband was appointed to represent the parish council on Madra in May, making him a charity trustee. The Charity Commission has confirmed this to the News.

But Mr Bonham says he is the only trustee, elected at Madra's annual meeting in June, and claims the Charity Commission has been misled by the Dodds, who don't recognise the June AGM.

Now Mr Bonham says, after talking to the Charity Commission, he is prepared to recognise next week's meeting in the interests of breaking the impasse. 'All this chaos caused by two people,' he added.

A Charity Commission spokesman said once the AGM had been held and a new management committee was in place, the commission would provide them with further advice 'to ensure they fulfil their duties and responsibilities.'

? The fireworks will be held on Madra's Knapton field from 6pm on November 5. Entry is �10 per car, pedestrians �3. The display will start at 8pm.

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