Meeting to decide outcome for Neatherd Moor parking dispute
- Credit: Matthew Usher
Two councils involved in a bitter dispute that has seen cars prevented from parking at a Dereham beauty spot will meet today to try to hammer out a solution.
Dog walkers, disabled people and young mothers who drive to the Neatherd Moor were among those caught in the crossfire of the row over who is responsible for maintaining the deteriorating track beside the moor.
The moor is owned by Dereham Town Council but, under regulations dating from 1910, Breckland Council is responsible for some management and maintenance.
Today a delegation from Dereham Town Council is due to meet Breckland officials, including leader William Nunn and Mark Kiddle-Morris, who holds the assets and strategic development portfolio.
Among the Dereham representatives will be Phillip Duigan, who is a member of both councils.
In a Valentine's Day letter to residents who have been asking for months for the Neatherd track to be repaired, Breckland said it had a duty to prevent encroachment on to the moor.
Four days later it put up bollards to stop vehicles using three car parks on its edge.
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Dereham town councillors, meeting on Tuesday, vented their anger at Breckland's approach.
Robert Hambidge said: 'They have acted like a bunch of storm troopers. They have been duplicitous and underhand and it smacks of being a bully.'
Deputy mayor Kate Millbank, who is also a Breckland councillor, said: 'The way they have gone about it is incredible. They say nothing to us for months and then the next thing we hear they have put a letter through doors and the next thing they are putting bollards in. It's been disgraceful.'
Philip Morton, who lives by the moor, told the meeting: 'To us it seems they can't be bothered to mend the road. That's my feeling. They have a precedent going back 30 years. Even if it's a cost, it's something they should do to preserve access to the moor for the rest of the town. I think people are bewildered. They can't understand it.'
Breckland Council last week said that, while it had in the past repaired the road, it had re-examined its obligations because of the financial situation and believed Breckland taxpayers should not take on a legal responsibility it believes rests with the landowner.
The two councils have paid for competing sets of legal advice and Dereham town clerk Tony Needham has written to Breckland questioning whether legislation passed in 2007 means the bollards required permission from the land owner or secretary of state.
A spokesman for Breckland said: 'The council believes it has acted legally.'
Mr Duigan told fellow town councillors on Tuesday: 'I want to go there with the velvet glove, but with an iron first in it.'
Mr Nunn said: 'I recognise that two local authorities are in different positions and it's my job to broker a solution to a problem that impacts on several residents.
'I want to have a conversation about the issues and how we take this forward, which is why I have asked for a meeting at the earliest opportunity.'