Mind boggling moments as your diarist looks at visitor numbers, working past 65 and Commons dining

PETER Bryant drops me a line regarding Fenland fuel prices and particularly the pricing structure at the garage in Three Holes.

PETER Bryant drops me a line regarding Fenland fuel prices and particularly the pricing structure at the garage in Three Holes.

“If, as you say, petrol is 16p per litre cheaper only 10 miles away, then (assuming a 50 litre refill, and 40mpg) you would still have 40 miles extra value for driving the 20 miles round trip”, he says.

But as Peter also notes “although if you value your time...”

Nuff said!

THE triumvirate of Natalie Rowlands, Corporate Director, Carol Pilson, Head of Policy and Communications and Anna Perrett, Graduate Trainee Policy Officer claim authorship of this year’s annual report of Fenland District Council.

And very impressive it all sounds, too, but I’m still pondering their astonishing revelation that the council’s tourism strategy “has raised Fenland’s profile, increased visitor numbers and spending and increased the number of organised events within the district.”

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The report says that “a total of 2,083,500 people visited Fenland last year for day trips or overnight stays and spent �102,406,000.”

Truly mind boggling stuff and how different from a couple of years ago when a tourism strategy produced by the council admitted they were unable, at that stage, to quantify visitor numbers and spending.

But two million visitors? Heavens where did they all go?

NOT much of a response to a bus trip to Fenland from residents in Norfolk who were invited to pop by and see how a typical wind farm works.

The charabanc was provided by E.On who wants to build turbines in the north of the county and sent invitations to 7,500 households inviting them to make the 120 mile round trip to Stags Holt near March.

In the event only 15 villagers came prompting Victoria Stacey, E.On project developer, to note she was “surprised by the turnout, but the people here have found it very informative. “People find it very interesting to have these conversations beneath a turbine which is turning and to get that feedback is very rewarding from our point of view.”

One visitor was generally unimpressed noting the “only person who lives near the wind farm we visited are the landowner, who is making substantial revenue from it.”

There were 2,400 households within 1.5km of the Norfolk scheme he reckoned and they “will not be making any income so the only impact will be negative because their house value goes down and their enjoyment of the countryside goes down.”

BUSINESSMAN Gary Meads says villagers in Parson Drove have welcomed his proposals for a fish and chip shop in a former hair salon on The Bank even though the parish council has objected for to both applications.

Fenland Council is now considering the idea (again) but I’m not convinced they will be too convinced by his long stop position of converting it to a sex shop.

“I don’t want to go down that route,” he said, “but if it gets turned down again, I will have no option.

Gary says he wants to put the shop to the best use for the village.

Perhaps its time these matters were resolved by a local referendum- then we really would know what the villagers would prefer!

SUMMER holiday time it may be, but the chattering classes at Fenland Hall are busy aligning themselves for next year’s district council elections, with most councillors keen to assure me they are ready and willing to serve another four years.

Biggest dilemma could be faced by the Lib Dems who, publicly, believe they can spring a surprise or two in Chatteris and in the process possibly oust Fenland Council Leader Alan Melton. However the problem they face is that many of them like the changes he’s ringing in, especially the commitment to spend �1.5 million on a new leisure centre for the town, a sum that any future Tory leader might easily withdraw.

Meanwhile those now ostracised from the heart of political influence following the departure of former leader Geoff Harper and his deputy Fred Yeulett continue to stare frustratingly into the future about their chances should there be, in their political lifetime at least, a post Melton era.

County council leader Jill Tuck is angry to have had her name linked with this group of dissenters and is likely to give short thrift to their ambitions.

She, after all, owes her own position to what Harold Macmillan famously called “events, dear boy, events” as she suddenly found herself propelled into the �29,000 a year job (which includes of course her individual councillors allowance) following the interim return of Keith Waters which in turn followed the unfortunate demise of Shona Johnstone.

THE fascinating progress of the court case involving retired butcher John Gawthorp against Fenland Council continues apace at Peterborough County Court and there was another hearing on Monday to determine a date for the full scrutiny of the case.

Mr Gawthorp, as you will recall, is fighting for compensation after his stable like home at Bedlam Bridge near March was removed and razed to the ground by the council following an enforcement issue but we’ll leave that matter to the courts.

However I do find District Judge Farquhar, who has presided over both preliminary hearings and will hear the main case probably next month, a tender and gentle soul.

On Monday he handled, most delicately, an interruption from Mr Gawthorp’s fragile wife who asked if he was related to the Farquhars of Bristol whom she met earlier in her life.

No, said the judge, sadly he was not.

Peterborough Rotarians got an insight into the judge’s qualities a couple of years back when he addressed them on the subject ‘My rise to the bottom’, a thoroughly entertaining evening I’m assured.

JOHN Bridge, chief executive of Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce, believes peoples’ retirement should align to the state pension age and there not be a free for all of those wanting to work into their late 60s or 70s.

“What do you do when someone gets to 90 if they say they don’t want to retire?” he says.

“Is it like a long piece of string with no end? In business you can’t operate like that.”

Brakespeare is not surprised he holds those views. A couple of years back he recalls bumping into a chamber of commerce employee being dragged screaming and kicking into retirement only to surface in a similar role and with a similar organisation elsewhere where retirement at 65 was not compulsory.

One firm who has already taken the plunge to axe a retirement age is Wetherspoons, who recently opened a pub in Whittlesey and this week submitted a planning application to Fenland Council for change of use of the former Hippodrome Bingo Club in March.

Pressure group the Employers’ Forum on Age reports that firms like Wetherspoons are reaping the rewards in terms of skills, engagement, and role models.

LABOUR’S Peter Roberts, who fought a commendable election campaign against Steve Barclay, takes up the thread of a conversation posed last week by county councillor Steve Tierney’s observation that the NE Cambs MP is 66-1 to be the next Tory Leader.

“If Steve Barclay leads the Tories, I take it I get a cursory bitter appearance in a ‘before he was an MP’ piece on Newsnight?” says the irascible Mr Roberts in a message visible to his 450 followers on Twitter.

Mr Roberts was, incidentally, unable to attend a dinner eld by Mr Barclay at the House of Commons to which he also invited the defeated Lib Dem and UKIP candidates who did turn up and later joined the victor for a tour of the House.

“Um, we agreed a date for dinner, I told his PA I was busy but could a different day, they stuck with the first date, no snub!,” he says in a further tweet.

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