Fakenham businessman chains himself to district council offices and threatens to stab himself in protest at treatment over health and safety issue

A Fakenham businessman this morning chained himself to railings at the North Norfolk District Council offices in Cromer and threatened to stab himself in protest at long-running dispute he has had with the council over a health and safety issue.

Ashley Ward, who owns a DIY store on Hempton Road, held up a sign which stated: 'NNDC are trying to out me out of business.'

As part of the protest Mr Ward, whose son Steven Ward is himself a North Norfolk district councillor, handed the keys to his business to district council leader Keith Johnson.

Mr Ward chained himself to the council building at 11.30am. He told police officers at the scene that he had a knife under his jumper. It was later discovered that there was no knife, but instead at blunt piece of wood.

The stand-off ended at 1.25pm after district council leader Keith Johnson accepted the keys to Mr Ward's business from him.

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Two police officers were on the scene the whole time and supplied hot drinks and blankets to Mr Ward.

Mr Ward's friend Lee Glossop and another man were also present.

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Mr Ward, 52, has run Wards Fakenham Ltd for 36 years.

He said that he intends to sue the council for harassment.

Mr Ward told the EDP: 'This is the only way to get something done. North Norfolk District Council has destroyed my confidence and my will to work.

'I don't want to work hard any more, not to be treated this way. I want a council house and a giro each week from North Norfolk District Council instead.'

Council leader Mr Johnson said: 'This has come out of the blue. I just hope we can have some dialogue and find out what the issues are and find a solution to them.

'Our policy is to support small businesses operating within the framework of legislation.'

An NNDC spokesman added: 'There has been a complaint made which is currently being investigated. Clearly we are keen to negotiate with Mr Ward to come to find a resolution.'

Mr Ward has four children. His eldest son, Steven Ward, 28, is an NNDC councillor and his youngest is five years old.

During the bad winter of 2010, Mr Ward delivered grit, paid for out of his own pocket, to vulnerable residents and emergency services in Fakenham, including police, ambulance and fire stations and nursing homes.

He is also the manager of Colkirk Football Club.

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