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Councillor Pallavi Devulapalli on hopes for West Norfolk to become a Marmot Place as well as Wild Downham Market wildlife event

In the weekly Friday Politics column, Cllr Pallavi Devulapalli discusses hopes for West Norfolk to become a Marmot Place...

One of the delightful things about being a councillor is that sometimes it’s an opportunity to make good things happen.

Once such opportunity presented itself when the council was offered a chance to become a Marmot Place.

Cllr Pallavi Devulapalli at the Wild Downham Market event last Saturday
Cllr Pallavi Devulapalli at the Wild Downham Market event last Saturday

So Michael Marmot is the inspiration for this scheme, which basically wants to build a more equitable society by improving opportunities for people who would otherwise not have them.

The idea behind this is that everybody deserves a chance to live a fulfilled life, regardless of their personal circumstances.

By investing in a study to look at how we can become a Marmot Place, the idea is that we will understand our weaknesses much better and be able to implement solutions to improve the standard of living right across West Norfolk.

Cllr Pallavi Devulapalli at the Wild Downham Market event last Saturday with Nigel, a gamekeeper who takes people on nature walks at the estate in Stow Bardolph
Cllr Pallavi Devulapalli at the Wild Downham Market event last Saturday with Nigel, a gamekeeper who takes people on nature walks at the estate in Stow Bardolph

This will lead to better health across all demographics of society.

Right now, we have a deeply divided borough where some areas have a life expectancy that is 15 years more than the poorest areas.

This might come as a shock to most of us, but it’s a fact that poor quality housing, lack of green spaces, polluted air and lack of access to recreational activities and good schools all have an impact on our health and well-being as well as our longevity.

I’m looking forward to the results of this project to see how we can build upon this.

There is absolutely no reason why West Norfolk cannot become a beacon of good practice for the whole country.

On a slightly different note, I had the opportunity to an event in Downham Market called Wild Downham, which brought together several voluntary organisations, such as the RSPB, NVN, SOSSSH, Rachel's Hedgehog Rescue, as well as wildlife photographers and others together to showcase the wildlife in and around Downham Market and also what steps we can take to improve it.

The photographs were a real treat. One particular noteworthy one showed a row of birds on an aerial frame appearing to indulge in various activities, quite oblivious to the camera.

One of the photographers was a young lad, who was clearly very excited and proud of his photographs.

There were swift boxes, bird boxes, bat houses etc on display and some knowledgeable speakers talking about all the various creatures that either live here or visit us periodically.

The story of swifts never ceases to amaze me. Once the swift leaves its nest it does not land for 18 months. That’s 18 months spent in the air where it feeds, sleeps, and does everything that it needs to do without landing!

Another important meeting I attended in the last few weeks was the health of scrutiny committee meeting at the county council.

We had an update regarding the digital strategy for the region's three major hospitals Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital, Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Great Yarmouth's James Paget Hospital.

Unfortunately, our region is lagging behind due to a lack of connected IT infrastructure which means that hospitals cannot communicate as quickly as they could with each other, information cannot be shared and time gets wasted in sorting this.

It was encouraging to hear that plans were afoot to rectify this, however funding remains an issue and until that is sorted, I don't think we will see much progress on this front.

Another item on this meeting was regarding NSFT the mental health trust that provides services in Norfolk for people who are struggling with mental health problems.

NSFT has been under intense scrutiny for some time due to its performance, especially with regard to the excessive number of deaths of patients.

They promised to bring a detailed action plan to the committee however, to our disappointment that did not materialise, and we were treated to yet another new leadership team who made all the right noises.

I think it's really important that the people of Norfolk receive a good reliable mental health service and I will certainly do what I can to ensure that it stays on top of the agenda at the health scrutiny committee until we get to that point.

As the days get longer, I'm looking forward to some long walks in the countryside. The daffodils are poking their heads through the grass, which is always a joy to behold.

I hope to find time to see the snowdrops and crocuses before they disappear, not to be seen again for another year.

I'm also looking forward to eating out at some of our local pubs this year, first stop The Stag in West Acre this Saturday. Cheers!

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