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Friday Politics: West Norfolk councillor Pallavi Devulapalli discusses Downham Town FC and ‘No More Silence’ exhibition in King’s Lynn

In our latest Friday Politics column, Cllr Pallavi Devulapalli discusses a football team’s plans and a moving exhibition…

The start of the month was kicked off with a planning meeting which made the local news for permission granted to extension of a football stand.

I was delighted to hear of the success of Downham Town FC and supported the extension wholeheartedly.

Cllr Pallavi Devulapalli attended the 'No More Silence' exhibition at Sainsbury's in Lynn
Cllr Pallavi Devulapalli attended the 'No More Silence' exhibition at Sainsbury's in Lynn

I attended an informal presentation given to Health Overview Scrutiny Committee members by the mental health trust NSFT. This was a very productive meeting, with a frank exchange of ideas, and everybody was focused on how we can make services better for patients and their loved ones.

One of the more positive actions agreed was that GPs would be able to have a dedicated email or other contact to discuss cases that had been rejected or downgraded by NSFT following a referral.

At the environment and community panel, we discussed bus services in West Norfolk (or rather the lack of them in most parts of the borough!).

County officials were present and were grilled by members on various aspects of the services provided. I put in requests for bus stops at various locations in the borough, and highlighted the lack of connections to Downham from surrounding villages like Marham.

I also asked the officer why a ticket from Grimston to Norwich was £4 while a ticket from Grimston to Lynn was £4.50!

We learnt that ticket prices are set by individual operators, and the county council cannot do anything about it.

It’s up to them whether they wish to implement the Government scheme of a £2 fare.

I’m not entirely sure where we go from here to ensure we have sustainable fares on all of our routes - any suggestions are welcome.

County officers were receptive to suggestions around bus route improvements and bus stops, and promised to look into them, so we will watch this space closely.

This discussion highlighted an important way in which the borough can speak for its citizens even when we are not directly responsible for providing a service (transport in this case).

I attended a moving exhibition put up by survivors of child sexual abuse at the Sainsburys’ foyer at the end of February.

It was called ‘No More Silence’ and consisted of a series of portraits with a brief paragraph by survivors of child sexual abuse.

It’s hard to do justice to that exhibition – the portraits were so refreshing and full of hope, the words were harrowing but always, again and again, the take-away message was the healing power of speaking out, and of lifting the lid on a hidden problem in our society.

Some of the people on the portraits were present at the exhibition, and it was astonishing to see so many individuals stop and have chats with them, sharing stories and getting help.

I am exploring ways in which I can help this group become more visible.

Awareness of sexual abuse is sorely lacking, and the better informed we are the more quickly we can help stamp it out, and help those who have suffered the effects of it.

One of the more exciting pieces of work we are doing at the council is a scheme to improve biodiversity across the borough. We are working out the details of the project at the moment and hoping to launch it this winter/early spring.

West Norfolk, like the rest of England, is severely nature depleted and we are losing our wildlife at a horrific rate, so rather than leave it to the wildlife trusts and large landowners, we all need to step up and do something to reverse this decline.

We are blessed with several active volunteer groups within West Norfolk who are putting their spare time and energy into doing just this. One of the groups I am involved with is called Nature Volunteer Network, which you can visit at https://www.naturevolunteernetwork.co.uk/

They had an action day last Sunday with the theme of ‘Don’t Chuck It, Pot it!’ where they invited people to come along and dig up native tree saplings growing on paths or near houses where they were not wanted and to pot them up, with the intention of planting them in and around West Norfolk.

Many sycamores, oaks and other saplings were potted. The weather was good, there was delicious homemade cake and coffee, and I got to meet some very interesting people, all of whom were doing what they could to save our countryside, its wildflowers and meadows, bees and butterflies, hedgehogs and field mice.

If you are able to spare an hour or two (or more!) a month, they would be delighted to hear from you - please check out the website or email them: info@naturevolunteernetwork.co.uk

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