Parish poll to decide stallholders' fate

A row about two food stalls on a north Norfolk quay - which could see two villagers lose their much-loved businesses - will go to a village poll.Duncan Groom, who runs a sea-food stall, and Christine Overton, who runs a caravan-based caf�, have been based on the car park at Blakeney Quay for a combined total of 47 years.

A row about two food stalls on a north Norfolk quay - which could see two villagers lose their much-loved businesses - will go to a village poll.

Duncan Groom, who runs a sea-food stall, and Christine Overton, who runs a caravan-based caf�, have been based on the Carners car park at Blakeney Quay for a combined total of 47 years.

But the pair have been told by the parish council they will no longer be able to trade there after this year's tourist season ends in October after losing out in the latest round of tenders.

In a show of support for the caterers, parishioners turned up to Blakeney Parish Council's annual general meeting last week and called for a village poll to be held over whether the council was right to award the tenders to new businesses.


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Tracey Bayfield, parish clerk, said while only 13pc of the village's electorate attended the meeting, the majority of those present supported Mr Groom's and Ms Overton's wish to remain at the quay.

She said: 'A parish poll was called for and we have already rung the chief executive of the district council - there will be a parish poll.'

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Emma Duncan, North Norfolk District Council's monitoring officer, said village polls could not force councils to follow a particular course of action but could provide an indication of public opinion.

She added: 'It's persuasive, but there are no legal consequences to it.'

The council said it always had to balance the interests of individuals against those of the whole parish, and try to get the best value for the village.

It is now seeking legal advice to find out what details of the tenders can be revealed to allow it to explain the reasons behind its decision.

Mrs Bayfield added: 'The public do not have the facts that the parish council had in front of them when they made the tenders.'

Mr Groom, who attended the meeting, said: 'I'm never pleased to see controversy in the village, but the outcome leads me to have renewed hope. I found the whole experience a heartening and humbling experience.'

Ms Overton, who has served sandwiches, salads and cakes to Blakeney's visitors for the last 19 summers, said she was delighted with the outcome of the meeting and hoped it would allow her and Mr Groom, who has occupied the site next door for 28 years, to keep their businesses.

She said: 'It's been absolutely overwhelming. All we want is for them to say 'we've made a mistake'. We want them to change their minds.'

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