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MP Liz Truss steps in over village playing field row

The future of activities on the village playing field in Upwell are in doubt after council contractors removed a hedge without warning.

Upwell Playing Field Committee (UPFC), which owns Upwell playing field, called on South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss to help solve an ongoing argument between themselves and Norfolk County Council.

Ms Truss visited the playing field last Friday to see the hole for herself and to find out first-hand the implications.

Liz Truss MP with, from left, Cllr Harry Humphrey, Cllr Vivienne Spikings and Christine Aston at Upwell Playing Field
Liz Truss MP with, from left, Cllr Harry Humphrey, Cllr Vivienne Spikings and Christine Aston at Upwell Playing Field

A letter from UPFC to Ms Truss said a ‘lay-by’ in Stonehouse Road was requested by Norfolk Highways for a house being built on neighbouring Green Road,

Many emails have been exchanged between the UPFC, the county council, West Norfolk Borough Council and Highways, as well as meetings with Highways in a bid to get a replacement fence or hedging.

The UPFC said the gap is a safety issue when it comes to their numerous fundraising events, especially its monthly horse and pony shows which are held between April and October each year.

Highways disputes the boundary of the field, claiming it was theirs – but for more than 20 years it has not repaired or maintained the fencing or hedging, leaving it to UPFC to raise funds to keep the hedge and trees.

The UPFC’s letter said: “There are people in the village who remember planting the perimeter trees as schoolchildren.”

It continued to explain that Highways then decided it was the developer who should replace the fence but the developer refused and, although Highways held £6,000 back from the developer to ensure the works were done to a certain standard, nothing was done for weeks, while fly-tipping and rubbish accumulated.

Ros Shorting, UPFC secretary, said fly-tipping had resulted in volunteers having to litter pick the field near the layby and one volunteer took the bags of rubbish to the tip.

Eventually some fencing was set up, but there were substantial gaps left on each side big enough for ponies to escape, and it is only four feet high.

One of the suggestions made by Highways was to have horse boxes parked in front of the gap, but show organisers said that would be difficult to achieve and would require a “complete re-appraisal of how the shows are run on the limited space available”.

Christine Aston, chairman of the UPFC, said: “We have not been listened to; our requests, which are all reasonable, have been ignored and we will be in breach of our insurance policy by not having the fencing and hedging replacement of a quality that is needed for horse and pony shows.”

“We are at our wits’ end.”

Ms Truss said: “It is a problem that a proper fence has not been put up.

“The mature hedging was removed as part of a planning condition for a new property in order to create a passing place and saplings have been planted in its place; these will take years to grow before it forms a suitable boundary.

“Action needs to be taken by Norfolk County Council to ensure an appropriate fence is constructed and I will be raising this with leader of the council, Andrew Proctor.”

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