It is a tale of two villages.

But for the parish council which governs the neighbouring communities of Ormesby St Margaret and Scratby the best of times are long gone.

Instead, they seem to be stuck in the worst of times, following an extraordinary row sparked by an attempt by Scratby to declare independence from its neighbour, in a move labelled 'Norfolk's Brexit'.

What followed has been three years of rancour with no end in sight, with accusations of aggressive behaviour, a string of resignations and even the police called in to investigate.

The unrest has split the joint authority largely along village lines, with councillors from Ormesby claiming they have been unfairly treated by colleagues from Scratby, who have made similar accusations against their Ormesby counterparts.

Great Yarmouth Mercury: An aerial view of ScratbyAn aerial view of Scratby (Image: Archant)

Locals say the clash reflects stark contrasts between more genteel, leafy Ormesby and the coastal resort of Scratby, which is just under two miles away and is home to hundreds of holiday chalets and caravans.

The fallout has left the council with less than two thirds of the number of members it had four years ago, following resignations and a lack of people wanting to join due to the uproar.

Great Yarmouth Mercury: Entering Ormesby St Margaret with the village church peeking behind the treesEntering Ormesby St Margaret with the village church peeking behind the trees (Image: Denise Bradley)

A planned election next month had to be postponed because no one wanted to stand to join the quarrelsome council.

With the council split along village lines, locals say the authority is not able to fully serve either community.

But the remaining members have dismissed the allegations and say they are still striving to improve the lives of the people they serve.

Great Yarmouth Mercury: Homes along the cliffs at ScratbyHomes along the cliffs at Scratby (Image: Newsquest)


The parish council operates under the banner, “Three communities, one parish”, and also represents the tiny village of California.

But there has been a history of acrimony among members from the two main villages.

This flared up in 2021 when what council minutes from the time described as "continued animosity" prompted calls from some councillors for Scratby to split from Ormesby.

Great Yarmouth Mercury: Peter Holley, a councillor from Scratby, who wanted to split the parish councilPeter Holley, a councillor from Scratby, who wanted to split the parish council (Image: Newsquest)

At the centre of the row was Peter Holley, a Scratby councillor, who complained he was being discriminated against and victimised by members from the neighbouring village after feeling slighted over who was appointed to different duties.

Tensions boiled over in a meeting in October that year with a furious argument among councillors.

The minutes record the drama. David Troy, an Ormesby councillor at the time, told the meeting he was "saddened" by the "obvious division being shown by certain councillors" and called for harmony between the villages.

Great Yarmouth Mercury: Holiday chalets in ScratbyHoliday chalets in Scratby (Image: Denise Bradley)

But this led to forceful response from Mr Holley which prompted the chairman, Christine Lee, an Ormesby councillor, to issue a "formal conduct warning" to him for "aggressive behaviour".

The extraordinary scenes even led Philip Stone, the council clerk, to call the police after the meeting had ended.

Officers went to speak to Mr Holley but no action was taken.

At another meeting later the same month, Mr Stone said the conduct shown at the previous meeting was "unacceptable and fell considerably short" of the council's code of conduct.

He warned he would call in the monitoring officer from Great Yarmouth Borough Council - which oversees the parish - if the behaviour was repeated. 

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Great Yarmouth Mercury: Former clerk Philip Stone, who is now clerk at Mundesley Parish Council and vice-chairman of Great Yarmouth In BloomFormer clerk Philip Stone, who is now clerk at Mundesley Parish Council and vice-chairman of Great Yarmouth In Bloom (Image: James Weeds)Mr Troy stood down the following year but remains shaken by events.

"It was absolute mayhem and destroyed the council," he said.

"It has really affected my mental health. I'm moving back to the Midlands to get away from it all."


Despite propositions to formally split the council, the move never came to pass.

One concern among those considering Scratby's secession is understood to have been that the smaller village might have struggled to fulfil its financial obligations without its larger neighbour.

What did follow was more rancour and resignations, especially of those representing Ormesby.

As well as Mr Troy, Ms Lee, who had served as chairman, since 2016, quit shortly after.

Great Yarmouth Mercury: The leafy village green in Ormesby St MargaretThe leafy village green in Ormesby St Margaret (Image: Newsquest)

She said: "The behaviour was absolutely appalling. It was affecting my whole life. 

"I made attempts time and time again to tell councillors they could not behave like this but I realised it was completely futile to try and make them change."

Speaking on behalf of the council, Chris Batten, the current clerk, has dismissed these claims from former councillors.

"In moments of heightened emotions, facts can become exaggerated and misrepresented," he said.

Great Yarmouth Mercury: St Margaret Church in OrmesbySt Margaret Church in Ormesby (Image: Denise Bradley)

Ms Lee described the divisions as being partly down to a culture clash between the villages.

"Ormesby residents tend to be more long-standing and have lived here for some time," she said. "While Scratby attracts more people who have moved there to retire after visiting on holiday, expecting urban behaviour in a rural area." 

Great Yarmouth Mercury: Justin Rundle (R) takes part in a Viking reenactment event at an Ormesby village fetJustin Rundle (R) takes part in a Viking reenactment event at an Ormesby village fet (Image: Liz Coates)


Over recent months, villagers have been taking to community groups on Facebook to voice their frustrations at the running of the council.

It has led to several lively debates, with ex-councillors, current members and former clerks all joining in with the discussions.

The latest development is the resignation from the parish council of Justin Rundle, an Ormesby councillor who also represents the area on Great Yarmouth Borough Council.

He left earlier this year, citing a "toxic environment" as his reason for leaving.

"I felt there was no point remaining a parish councillor," he said.

An election was called to replace him but the May vote has been postponed until June due to a lack of people coming forward to stand.

Great Yarmouth Mercury: Views of Scratby BeachViews of Scratby Beach (Image: Denise Bradley)


While Scratby has a population of about 1,700, Ormesby is significantly bigger, with a population of 2,700.

This was reflected in the make-up of the parish council and before the turmoil, 10 of the 15 councillors represented Ormesby wards.

However, the resignations - and the struggles to fill vacant posts - mean the situation has changed significantly.

Great Yarmouth Mercury: Beach huts on Scratby's cliffsBeach huts on Scratby's cliffs (Image: Denise Bradley)

There are now just five Ormesby councillors, with four from Scratby. California, being so small, falls under Scratby councillors' remit.

Mr Rundle said: "Many Ormesby councillors have left out of frustration and the village is not adequately represented now."

He claimed that this meant Scratby was "being looked at more favourably" by the council.

"It has been brought to its knees because of the turmoil," he added.

"It would be great if more people from the village were interested in joining but it is hard to see people wanting to invest their time when the environment is like what it is."

Great Yarmouth Mercury: A group of swans at Ormesby BroadA group of swans at Ormesby Broad (Image: Newsquest)


Despite numerous complaints from former council members, the current administration, led by chairman Phil Nathan, has refuted the allegations.

Speaking on behalf of the council, Chris Batten, the current clerk, said he has personally not experienced a culture of toxicity that has been suggested.

"My experience has been quite the opposite and it has been a privilege collaborating with the parish," he said.

Great Yarmouth Mercury: Views on the village green in Ormesby St MargaretViews on the village green in Ormesby St Margaret (Image: Denise Bradley)

He criticised the council's critics, arguing it is the "actions of a minority intent on sowing doubt for their own agenda".

"Our approach remains grounded in the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise, and as for code of conduct complaints, none have been substantiated for valid reasons," he added.

Great Yarmouth Mercury: A holiday park in ScratbyA holiday park in Scratby (Image: Denise Bradley)

"Councillors diligently serve the entire parish, irrespective of village affiliation, in accordance with longstanding administrative practices".

He has said the councillors criticised for their behaviour have made "commendable contributions" to the parish, such as organising community events and beach clean-ups, which "reflect their character and commitment".