‘Robust’ discussions at public meeting on old Station Yard site in Stalham
- Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC
Residents packed Stalham Town Hall to discuss the future of the town's sensitive old station yard site.
About 80 people took part in 'robust discussions' about the 1.55 acre plot, according to Susan Wellerd, clerk to Stalham Town Council which hosted the meeting.
Despite the majority of those who responded to a recent questionnaire saying they did not want the town council to buy the site, a substantial number of those at the meeting appeared to take the opposite view. Site owner Norfolk County Council has given the town until the end of October to make a decision.
A year ago the town council voted to buy the land and borrow £250,000 from the Public Works Loans Board, repayable over 15 years.
Members feared the county would sell it to the highest bidder who would cover it with housing.
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The purchase could see a Band D council-tax payer in Stalham facing an extra £25 on their annual bill for 15 years and the summer questionnaire was aimed at gauging public reaction before a final commitment was made.
Stalham resident Avril Smith, of York Road, urged the town council to keep the site for Stalham. Speaking after Wednesday's meeting Ms Smith said: 'A lot of people don't want to see affordable housing on a historic entrance to the town. We shouldn't be being pushed into a decision just so that the county council can raise money.
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'I think the general feeling is that people would like to make it some sort of community garden with some car parking and they would like to re-establish a really good market there.'
David Greasley, of Stalham Green, warned that the costs to local ratepayers could be prohibitive. After the meeting he said: 'My heart says 'buy it for the community' but my head says 'this is a leap into the unknown'. £250,000 to buy it is all very well but there are no plans and no costings to develop it and then there would also be on-going maintenance costs.'
Town councillor Sheila Cullingham said buying the land would be a 'reckless, speculative land deal using public money at a time of deep economic recession and a very difficult time for many people.'
A meeting between town council representatives and Norfolk Property Services – the county's property arm – takes place on October 11 and the subject will be discussed at the October 14 town council meeting.