Wensum - Passing out towards victory in town car park battle

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It was something of a landmark for our family so we all headed down to Cornwall for middle son Joe’s Royal Navy passing-out parade.

Just as well it was timed before the worst of the weather did its damage to road and rail travellers all over the country – and especially in the west.

Joe has been at HMS Raleigh, a land-based training unit across the River Tamar from Plymouth, and has experienced probably the most intensive 10 weeks of his life.

A film shown to all the parents, family members and friends of the recruits revealed the extent of this ordeal.

There were sharp intakes of breath with all the rope climbing, obstacle courses, team building exercises, cross-country runs, swimming challenges, bivouac nights out on Dartmoor and plenty of other tortuous demands.

The discipline that had been instilled by a team of instructors was made evident to us onlookers when the young men and women went through their various marching routines, some of them bearing rifles.

This had to be held inside because – yes, you guessed it – the rain was pouring down outside.

There is probably a parallel between the initial training of all service branches and, in talking to some of these recruits, I was left in no doubt about the positive impact of the whole experience.

Their sense of pride in what they had achieved in such a relatively short period was unmistakable.

They will return after the Christmas and New Year break to receive more specialist tutoring.

Our boy will be at HMS Drake in Plymouth where he will be working towards qualifications in hydrographics, meteorology and oceanography. It’s going to be a long trip but he’s already very much enjoying the ride.

Back on the home front, it’s been pleasing to see the Highfield Road car park situation resolved at last.

Earlier this year the district council decided it should lose its “free” status and be subject to season ticket only permits for parking.

To say the local reaction to this was “not best pleased” would be an understatement.

Led by the town council and prompted by all manner of car park users, a vigorous campaign ensued to preserve the amenity for the town.

Ultimately an agreement was reached whereby the town council has been able to take over the management of the car park from the district council.

The leasehold arrangement will stay in place until July 2014 and no charges to park will apply.

To cover the costs of maintenance, the town council’s precept will have to be increased by £5,000 from this April, which in effect will mean households paying an extra £1.70 on their council tax.

I reckon that is fair enough and it will be interesting to see how the compromise arrangement works out over the next couple of years.

This is an example of people power which the government’s Big Society programme has talked so much about since it came into office.

In a way it’s the very essence of localism and all those who got themselves involved and made their voices heard deserve great credit for the achievement.