New push on bid to get recreational use of riverside land at Aylsham Mill

Residents during an earlier tidy up of the land at the centre of the Aylsham Mill saga PHOTO: ANTO

Residents during an earlier tidy up of the land at the centre of the Aylsham Mill saga PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A council is to press ahead with its bid to zone a riverside area for recreation, despite some public concerns about the action.

Aylsham Town Council is behind the planning application for permission to change the use of land at Mill Row for recreational activities.

It is the latest twist in a near 10-year saga which has disputed the use and ownership of the area.

The application aims to preserve long-running public access to an area enjoyed by generations near the historic mill on the Bure. It was deferred for six months after Broadland District Council asked the town to try to resolve land issues with the mill owners, who say making the area public would hamper restoration.

But the latest town council meeting voted to press ahead with the plans - likely to be heard on April - while looking into some further issues in paperwork just submitted by mill owner Jon Spalding.

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Former town councillor Alan Quinn told the meeting during public question time it was a major issue for the town. He felt people had been kept in the dark by the council which was engaged in a 'staring or arm wrestling match' and feared a loss of face.

Julie Fenton, who lives in the mill, said it was an amazing place but they felt drawn into a bitter dispute over a small piece of land which was insignificant to most people in Aylsham. She urged councillors to rise above any personal points of view.

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But mill neighbour Susan Nicholls pleaded the council to 'keep going' and there was scope for a compromise enabling restoration, parking and public use.

David Harrison told fellow councillors: 'There is no reason to say our dispute affects the development of the mill. We all want it restored.'

It was a 'con' to imply the saga was the reason behind the non-development.

There had been no attempt to do the mill since the owners put up fencing four years ago. And an eminent QC had declared no-one, including the Spaldings, owned the land involved.

Deputy chairman Jim Pannell added the council had been very careful not to stand in the way of the development of the mill, and any claims to the contrary were appalling.

Chairman Eileen Springall said it was a complex matter and she was keen to find a compromise - but at the moment the mill owner was against it and the council felt it was coming up against a stone wall.

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