Tale of the riverbank has new crunch decision date
- Credit: Colin Finch
A nine-year saga at a piece of riverside land next to Aylsham watermill is set for another key date next month.
Mill owners and the town council have been at odds over the site since 2004.
The mill owners have fenced off the land - which they do not own - to help them carry on restoring the building.
But the council wants to open it up for public recreation land. A previous bid to get it designated a village green failed at an inquiry in 2009, because of a technicality over the length of proven public usage.
But the town council is now seeking planning permission to use the Mill Row land for recreational activities, with a decision due to be taken at Broadland District Council planning committee on April 24.
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Town council members heard a plea, by letter, from one of the Mill owners Martine Spalding, to retain the fence as it was the best way of protecting the mill, where she said there were parking problems and 'evidence of alcohol consumption and drug abuse'.
She said there was no right of public access to swim, fish or canoe, and questioned the need to spend more money on the saga rather than seek an amicable solution.
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Town councillor Liz Jones said: 'We have tried to negotiate for years to talk amicably but it all came to nought.
'It was an open space for years that has not caused any problems. We have all used it and are here to tell the tale,' she added.
Town, district and county councillor David Harrison said the nine-year-saga was all down to providing parking for the mill.
During public question time Ann Holman outlined fears the riverside area posed dangers because of deep mud and feared swimmers could be dragged into the mill workings.
But Susan Nicholls regretted the amount of dispute over the land which had been in public use for decades, where the river was normally only 'ankle or knee deep' and which was a 'very pleasant place to meet and converse.
And Ann Dyball said the area could provide a nice walk through a piece of Aylsham's industrial past.
Councillors agreed to press ahead with the recreation area plans but also to make one final attempt to negotiate.
After the meeting town clerk Mo Anderson-Dungar said the council could also look at possible compulsory purchase to settle the ownership issue.