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Your views on a historic building, an aviation centre, a former councillor, empty houses and a ‘gravel con’

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Here are the Lynn News letters from Friday, February 2, 2024…Plans for the Custom House not surprisingI can only hope that West Norfolk Council does not end up with royal blood on its hands when the King keels over on reading the plans for The Custom House basically being turned into yet another cafe (Riverfront regeneration project).

The plans would enhance the Custom House and the surrounding Purfleet Quay area. Picture: Graeme Massie Architects

A building that I believe he took a personal interest in rescuing some years ago and which deserves treating with respect as well as imagination.One looks around at the size of the population locally as well as the numerous eateries and would hope for the council to show greater common sense. However, in light of their record of ignoring for years, the ‘Jewel in the Crown’, the Guildhall, which so many of us were desperate to preserve and which is finally being recognised as adding immense value to the town, it’s hardly surprising.Felicity LingLynnWe need some new empty homes lawsI am writing in response to the article in the Lynn News on Friday, January 19.The house next door to me has been empty for 20 years and six doors away a house has been empty for four years.In South West Norfolk there are 2,800-plus such empty properties – imagine how many there might be in the UK then.Why? Various reasons such as bankruptcy, owners leaving the country, properties going through probate, and greed.Some owners think if they leave the property empty it will increase in value.Legislation should be passed locally and nationally to make compulsory purchases easier to accomplish.Edith Reevesvia email‘The Colonel’ was such a unique manIt is often said that in the political field, the recognition of a man comes not from his allies but from his opponents.Before becoming a councillor the late John Dobson had served a long career in the diplomatic corp, becoming the highest-ranked military officer.He was very proud of being a full colonel which earned him the nickname of ‘The Colonel.’Speaking many languages including, French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian and Chinese he was at times “our man in Cuba” which enabled him during a council meeting to fully explain to the then Labour leader, Dave the Commissar Berry, the role of the Defence of the Realm Committees.As a councillor, he showed himself to be not just a friend of South Lynn, but a warrior brother when he vociferously and resiliently stood by us all opposing a mass burn incinerator against his fellow Conservatives at county hall.As leader of West Norfolk Council, he initiated plans that culminated in Hardings Way providing a traffic-free route into the town centre that allowed the Nar Ouse Regeneration Area to progress while reducing pollution on London Road.He introduced free swimming sessions for local young people and completed the transfer of council housing to a new local housing association, securing over £10 million for the council from the Government along with paving the way for Freebridge to invest £200million into the housing, bringing it up to what is termed the decent home standard with modern kitchens and bathrooms, double glazed windows and every home centrally heated.There are two things for which I most remember ‘The Colonel’. After spending £25,000 on his own legal fees to successfully defend his reputation following an allegation he breached the councillor’s code of conduct.Understanding not every councillor has such financial resources to defend their reputation he introduced an insurance policy specifically to allow borough councillors access to free legal advice when accused of breaching the code of conduct.The second is when in January the then-Labour Government awarded over £5million to help areas of Lynn that had been left behind with the caveat that money had to be spent by April.John Dobson beat me to the solution. His answer to what seemed an impossible task was simple yet effective.The money to be loaned to the Borough Council and repaid the following year giving residents and local government representatives time to decide the best way to spend the money.Maybe it was his military training that enabled him to adapt and innovate. But whatever it was John Dobson was a unique character who earned the highest respect of his political opponents.Cllr Charles Joycevia emailCentre is a really good attractionWe recently moved to Marham and have visited the RAF Marham Aviation Heritage Centre.An interesting display of documents and artefacts from the start to the present day.Open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays plus the last Saturday of each month.Run by volunteers with a great knowledge of the aerodrome.Free entry and more info can be found if you search RAF Marham Aviation Heritage Centre on the internet.Lance Latter and Christine ThomasMarham‘The great gravel con’I’d like to tell a story about something that happened to me recently in the hope that others might avoid being the unwitting victim of the great gravel con.We have a long and fairly scruffy drive so there are regular visits every year from enterprising chaps who knock at the door and tell us they have a spot of gravel to get rid of. Usually, I give a polite but firm dismissal but for some reason yesterday I wandered up to Frank’s low loader to inspect the bounty that he was offering to share.There was a thin black tarpaulin roped over the load so that only the last foot or so was visible.So, what would you charge for it, Frank? Let’s say four pounds a yard. OK, I said. This sounded reasonable.He drove the low loader further into the drive. Then pressed the button which tipped the rear upwards, sending all the gravel towards the gate at the back.Frank and his young assistant then shovelled out the gravel over that first area.Now we need to measure up, said Frank, to make sure you know where you are. So that’s £120 then? Yes.Frank thinks for a moment.Now look here. I don’t want to go home with this load. I’ll do you a special deal. Let’s say £320 for the lot. We eventually agreed £225 for the lot.I went off to get the money and left them to it. Came back and they had stopped halfway along the drive.Look, said Frank. I really want to get rid of this load so I’ll do you a deal for it all. Let’s say £320 for the lot.It was at this point that the realisation of the con began to sink in.But we agreed earlier on £225 for the lot. You said you wanted to get rid of it.No, no. There’s been a misunderstanding. I only meant up to this point.I should have said: “You’ve done half the job so I’ll give you half the money.” But I was so annoyed at being duped and lied to that I gave him the money and told him to go.With a day’s reflection, I actually started to admire the creation of the con. Little supplementary features popped up.Why was the gravel covered? It’s not going to fly away in the wind after all. I realised that that was another part of the duping. You think you’re paying for a full load of gravel. Several tons. When in fact the truck is only a quarter full.You don’t see Frank tipping it out of the back when it’s at a steep angle because that would be too revealing. It’s set at that steep angle so that it looks like a full load.Frank reappeared the following morning and said he could do the lot for £300.So let’s get this straight Frank. You want to charge me £525 for gravelling this drive when I would pay Melvyn from down the road half that for delivering several tons from the quarry? Frank protests that he’s hardworking and needs to earn a living. The message of the story? Say no thanks right at the start.Jonathan ToyeDownham

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