You could be dicing with Norfolk’s future in Skip’s new board game

Norfolk at its misty best on the final lap to success on Pastures, a new board game slightly biased

Norfolk at its misty best on the final lap to success on Pastures, a new board game slightly biased in favour of the natives. Picture: Trevor Allen - Credit: Archant

Keith Skipper has a great idea for a Norfolk-based board game

I have a stunning plan to help nip blossom-garnished proposals for even more unwarranted Norfolk housing development in the bud.

Exactly two years ago on this page, I warned how plots were thickening in favour of “garden towns” and ”garden villages” with greedy builders and all who pay them homage keen to name bland new big estates after much-loved natural adornments sent packing by concrete mixers and bulldozers…

“You find your way around Greenacres by negotiating Chestnut Drive, Buttercup Close, Badger Mews, Lilac Way, Hemlock Avenue, Catkin Court and Primrose Lane …

“Local history groups put on displays of old photos highlighting futility rites like Talkin’ to Your Neighbours, Mardlin’ on The Green and Eatin’ Fourses Under the Hedge.

“Sticking a ’green’ label on planning schemes does not make them worthy. Let’s stop being a soft touch tamely led up the development garden path”.

Well, those sentiments and so many grim implications behind them are worth another airing following a recent gathering of local council luminaries to size up likely changes in the way our growth-hungry government estimates targets for new homes.

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A white paper has gone forward for a big shake-up in the planning system along with strong talk of changes to the formula used to assess alleged housing needs. In Norfolk, that would mean the current target to build 4,116 homes a year would mean a rise over 45pc - an increase of 1,858.

So, just what is my stunning plan to embarrass those in favour of schemes destined to make more hideous inroads into Norfolk’s precious environment because of national pressure and local compliance pumped up by constantly exaggerated housing crisis claims?

I am working overtime on a new board game called Pastures. I did consider Drawbridge and Monotony for the honour but settled instead for a more positive image to bring some of our growing problems into sharper focus around the family hearth.

Aim of the game is to build as few new homes as possible on a journey across Norfolk, a journey fraught with dangers for all concerned. A few contestants may hear echoes of other well-loved board games in certain instructions such as “Do not pass Hoe” and “Go directly to Bale”.

This contest, however, is first to be specifically targeted at encouraging a rural resistance movement and carries support from at least two local planners, three district councillors and 116 native stalwarts on parish councils.

Those with sound knowledge of Norfolk geography, including locations and destinations of all by-roads, must be ahead of the race when it comes to avoiding dangerous spots like Very Long Stratton, Mortar-on-the-Hill, Thorpe Endless, Burston-at-Seams, Shotesham-in-the-Foot, Stoke Wholly Wild and Thirty Mile Bank.,

Naturally, “planning gains”, occasionally known as “sweeteners” or “subtle inducements”, proliferate as players reach quieter corners like Sloley, Limpenhoe and Heydon. Heavy penalties are sure to follow acceptance of a new library and doctor’s surgery in exchange for permission to put up 140 executive dwellings on a one-acre plot.

Landing on a concrete mixer or theodolite means going back to the start to attend a public inquiry into the true value of structure plans in the county since “Turnip” Townshend’s four-course rotation transformed allotments.

Throwing a six forces you to miss a go in order to read the latest white paper on the future of rural communities. Settling on any water tap in the first 20 squares brings an extra throw to ensure supplies directly from aquifers and rivers.

Alighting on a brownfield site heralds a Norfolk CPRE- sponsored reward of moving on a dozen places or collecting a dozen trees to plant in any spaces left in the Tombland part of Norwich. Lime trees preferred.

If you’re fortunate enough to land on the coveted Fortress Norfolk square, and your local roots go back at least five generations, you can ignore all inducements and penalties en route to the finish.

If you’re unlucky enough to land on the Fortress Norfolk square, and you cannot pronounce Hargham, Hautbois and Happisburgh, you must take out life membership with the National House Builders’ Federation. Or attend every future meeting of the Greater Norwich Local Development Partnership.

Pastures (patent applied for) is slightly biased in favour of native participants – but that makes a pleasant change from having the dice loaded against them during decades of rules being handed down from Westminster and Whitehall.

Now, you must see why I did consider Monotony.

Skip’s Aside: One of Spike Milligan’s favourite yarns featured a young man who lied about his height to get into the police force.

A good trick if you can manage it, although suspicion remains it’s nothing more than a tall story invented and then spread by the glorious Goons.

Even so, it may help put into perspective remarkable allegations aimed a few years back at towering figures behind formation of the Norfolk Squit Party – Stop Quangos Undermining Indigenous Traditions.

The inspirational pair were Hadrian Mule (aged 97 and a bit), a semi-retired dialect coach from Burnham Deepdale, and Bolshie Billhook (just past 93), a snake charmer from Longham with a second hut on Litcham Common.

It’s a tribute to their spirited resistance that they were singled out for vitriolic attacks from “faceless birocrats” in Bedford, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Milton Keynes and Braintree. These pillars of Norfolk society stood accused of “exaggerating their years to afford them an air of venerability in pursuit of a doomed cause”.

They were cruelly dismissed as “bucolic leftovers from a village pantomime somewhere in darkest Norfolk” and “small-minded relics of a dwindling drawbridge generation”.

Response was predictably loud and direct. Hadrian Mule brandished both “susstificcates” to prove they were not fibbing about their ages. Bolshie Billhook, pictured, decreed on his website, www.aloadof, that “growin old is mandertory but growin’ up is opshunal”.

He also pointed out there

was nothing exceptional about folk over 90 being at the sharp end off important matters in their home county. “Cor, blarst, some plearches ‘long the Norfolk coast we’d be towld we’re still damp ahind the lugs”.

His colleague added: “My ole Uncle Erasmus lived to be 107. He owed it all ter mushrooms. He never ate ’ em”.

The Squit Party is still on the march long after Hadrian and Bolshie’s exceptional foundation work. A mystery tour to St Neots is being organised next year by the Burnham Deepdale Charabanc Company while a fact-finding tour of Huntingdon remains on the cards.

If John Major is able to act as interpreter.

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