FENLAND: Businessman ready for court action, Post Office raid and Hippodrome pledge

WHITTLESEY: Retired businessman ready for court action over windows A RETIRED businessman is prepared to face court action over a dispute with Fenland District Council about the renovation of his office. Ralph Hix installed white UPVC window frames

WHITTLESEY: Retired businessman ready for court action over windows

A RETIRED businessman is prepared to face court action over a dispute with Fenland District Council about the renovation of his office.

Ralph Hix installed white UPVC window frames and door at his office in St Marys Street, Whittlesey.

The council first wrote to Mr Hix in January and February 2006, telling him that he had to reinstate traditional wood door and window frames, but he has not done this.

Mr Hix, 69, said: "At no time in 40 years of owning this property has the council informed me that it is in a conservation area.

"Replacing the frames would cost £5,000 and the wooden frames will erode in the rain.

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"The council officers think the white UPVC doesn't fit with the character of the area, but they look absolutely fine and I can't see the problem. We've heard no complaints from anyone living in the town.

"This was an honest mistake and I've met with council members in the hope of coming to some sort of compromise, but I'm prepared to take this as far as I have to - even if that means going to court."

Mr Hix ran Allan and Hix Accountants from the premises from 1965 until he retired in June 2005, but was unaware that it is in a conservation area and he needed planning permission to make the changes.

Graham Abblitt, owner of Abblitt & Co Ltd, now rents the property from Mr Hix.

Mr Hix has written to MP Malcolm Moss in the hope of resolving the situation.

The council's planning committee approved enforcement action last month.

Planning enforcement officer Alan Millard said: "The installation of white UPVC for the shop front door and window frames is not considered as an appropriate material for use within conservation areas where traditional materials and detailing are encouraged."

WISBECH: Offices could be converted to night shelter for homeless

OFFICES above a Wisbech shop could be converted into a night shelter for up to 12 people, after their availability were identified by a homelessness action group.

That's as well as freeing up six bedsits in a homeless centre owned by the Ferry Project, once two occupants are evicted for anti-social behaviour.

And a draft budget estimates setting up the night shelter in offices owned by the Ferry Project in Norfolk Street will cost £20,000, with annual running costs in the region of £96,000.

Those numbers were quoted at the second meeting of the action group. Its members include Stephen Barclay, the Conservatives' parliamentary candidate for North East Cambridgeshire; Canon Wim Zwalf, vicar of the town's St Peter's Church; and representatives from Cambridgeshire Police, Fenland District Council and the Luminous Group, which owns the Ferry Project.

Minutes from last month's meeting said six bedsits will become available once two people are evicted for anti-social behaviour.

"The other four bedsits are empty due to the anti-social behaviour of the two existing occupants," they said. "The eviction proceedings are currently underway, so the Ferry Project will shortly have six bedsits available."

Offices in Norfolk Street contain two bathrooms and could accommodate 10-12 homeless people.

Estimates of £96,000 for running costs comprise of the cost of four staff, with two staff on duty at one time serving 12-hour shifts.

MARCH: Hippodrome owner promise staff redundancy payments

HIPPODROME owner Mark Petrou has promised staff will pick up redundancy packages which reflect their time working at the March club, which closed at the weekend.

"I have always been brought up with strong moral values and if the staff are entitled to the money they shall get it," said Mr Petrou after closing the Dartford Road club.

"When I took over I inherited staff who have been working there for 20 years and I will pay them for that time. It will cost me tens of thousands of pounds, but it is probably the best thing to do for the workforce and something I am quite prepared to live with."

Mr Petrou has been using the Hippodrome as a bingo hall and cinema, in-line with an existing entertainment licence, and applied for a new licence when he took over in a bid to bring live entertainment back to the town.

Bingo and the cinema will not be making a return, however, once the club is reopened. It came following a review similar to those carried out by Mr Petrou and his brother Pete after buying Bar 23 in March, and the Anchor in Wimblington.

"At the moment we are deciding what we would like to do, but we cannot do anything without this licence," said Mr Petrou.

"But the bingo and cinema are dead. We just could not get the people through the doors to warrant keeping it open while we are waiting for the licence decision.

"It is a business decision and something I regret, but at least we found out now and not in 18 months time. If you open your doors with six staff and you have three customers all day and take £12, you are not going to do it for long."

MARCH: Disruption likely once improvements finally get under way

STUDENTS and staff at Neale-Wade Community College have been told to expect two years of disruption whilst some school buildings are demolished, others refurbished and new classrooms built.

Work on bringing the March school into the 21st century is due to begin in April 2010 and "in some instances it will be necessary to demolish and rebuild in order to address long standing issues relating to condition and suitability."

The warning is contained in a planning brief produced by Cambridgeshire County Council, which will be studied by companies considering bidding for the £95million contract to refurbish five Fenland schools.

"The school currently occupies a collection of buildings which make it challenging to deliver a modern, ICT-rich curriculum," says the report. "However the size of the school and the extent of funds available, means it is not possible to propose an entirely new build school to replace it.

"Some temporary accommodation is also likely to be required during the works," says the report. "A balance therefore needs to be struck between minimising disturbance to school activities and residents during the construction period.

LINCOLNSHIRE: Police appeal for witnesses after Post Office robbery

Police are appealing for witnesses to a robbery, which happened at the Post Office in Broadgate, Whaplode Drove, near Spalding at around 1.00pm lunchtime yesterday (Thu).

The robbery was carried out by two men aged in their early twenties, who are believed to have been travelling in a White Nissan Micra, which was later found burnt out and abandoned near to the A1073 at Crowland. They entered the Post Office and, using what is described as a pocket knife, threatened staff who handed over a quantity of cash. One of the offenders knocked over a member of public who was inside the Post Office at the time of the robbery, stealing cash and bank cards from him. No one was injured as a result of the offence.

Police are appealing for any witnesses to the robbery. They are also keen to hear from anyone regarding sightings of the offenders or the white car in the area. The offenders are described as both white, aged in their twenties or early thirties, wearing black ski masks and dark coloured clothing. One of them had stubble, dark coloured hair and tanned skin. Anyone with information should contact Lincolnshire Police on 01522 532222 quoting incident number 171 of 15 May or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.