I had hoped that my final Artful Codger column would be full of joy and optimism for the future of West Norfolk, but those eternal party poopers at Norfolk County Council have, as ever, put a dampener on events.
Yes, dear readers, after almost five years and 200-plus columns, I have decided to call it a day. I’ve been involved with newspapers for 53 years now, and feel this is the right moment to take my final bow.
During my stint as the Artful Codger, there has been much that is positive to comment on, especially with the development and promotion of Lynn’s historic assets, benefitting the town both in terms of growing tourist numbers and regional prestige.
But throughout the span of my Codger years there has always been an elephant in the room for West Norfolk to be constantly wary of – I refer to the powers-that-be at County Hall. To Norfolk County Council.
When I began my column upon my retirement from the Lynn News at the end of 2010, we in West Norfolk were faced with the very real threat of the waste incinerator which the county council was proposing to dump on our doorstep at Saddlebow.
We fought the good fight and, thankfully, we won after an epic struggle that revealed a heartening show of unity from people all over West Norfolk.
Since that time we have seen a change of regime at county hall, with the dominant Conservative majority being replaced by a rag-tag coalition that seems united only by their dislike of the Tories. Sadly, the new bunch appear to have adopted the stance of their predecessors – they, too, seem to regard the regions westward beyond Dereham as marshland and mud huts.
While our calls for better roads go unheeded, they have splashed millions on their pet vanity project, the Norwich Northern Distributor Road, the infamous Road To Nowhere.
With a start date imminent, the projected cost of this monster has suddenly rocketed by £30 million to £178 million. Of that extra £30 million, the county council hope to get half from the Government, but will still have to find £15 million from their own coffers.
Scraping together that £15 million may mean raiding the county highways budget – which means money earmarked for road repairs and improvements in West Norfolk may be swallowed up in order to build a road from Postwick, east of Norwich, to a point near the Fakenham Road in the north-west of the city.
Perhaps the county council could let us know if they have any specific companies already expressing a firm interest in moving into the area to be opened up by the new road. From the outside, it all looks a huge gamble – and a gamble with our money.
So I end on a cautionary note, but still hoping our local county councillors can rise to the challenge facing them.