2015 Parish Meeting Well Attended
The 2015 Parish Meeting saw over 100 local residents attending to receive the annual report from the Parish Council, the draft minutes of the meeting have already been published online but the following are highlights of the event.
In his last Annual Meeting as Chairman, John Gili-Ross reflected on the importance of the Neighbourhood Plan in ensuring West Bergholt develops in accordance with the wishes of the local community. On the subject of community, John also discussed the important part played by the many local volunteers:
Our future lies firmly within the many volunteers who help provide a vibrant and interesting village life. Imagine how different our village would be without the many volunteers who provide our village with clubs, recreational pursuits, youth organisations, church communities, institutes and associations. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all our village volunteers.
Other areas he covered included the Superfast Essex broadband project, the achievement of the Local Council Quality Award, and the commitment of local councillors. In winding up his Introductory messages he gave thanks to Val Walsom who will be retiring as Parish Clerk after many years, also to Vicky Beckwith-Cole, Halls Administrator and Stephen Cook, village handyman.
Environment & Highways
Harry Stone reported on the wide span of responsibility this committee covers including:
- The Allotments where he addressed the improvements in management and support with the rotavator and replacement of water tanks,
- The Village Green & Poors Land which require regular maintenance,
- The 3 ponds which need regular clearance of reed mace,
- General maintenance in and around the village,
- Traffic congestion and parking, updating on progress with the Traffic Safety Plan,
- Highway Maintenance, liaison with Essex Highways attempting to prioritize those areas most needing attention,
- MUGA & Sports facility which, whilst well used, has sometimes been abused but remedial action appears to be working,
- Dog Fouling, Snow Clearance and Tree Conservation.
Premises & Recreation
Phil Walby reported on the halls and the high levels of lettings and events, not least by regular groups. Projects undertaken in the past year included the resurfacing and new LED lights for the car park, interior hall redecoration and provision of all-weather football facilities. Projects planned for the upcoming year (funds permitting) include safety improvements to play equipment, stage curtains, floor treatments and introducing new regular events such as film nights.
Planning & Development
Chris Stevenson reported that the busiest part of this portfolio related to 43 planing applications in the past year (20% higher than the previous year) where the committee supported 19, objected to just 5 but made observations on a further 19. Longer term, more strategic, activities included consultations with the Borough Council on Local Planning and provision of design guidance. The committee was also deeply involved with the Orpen Hall car park resurfacing project.
Chris Stevenson was able to report that most elements of the Parish plan, produced in 2008, have now been addressed and that progress has been made on its successor, the Neighbourhood Plan, through collection of evidence, analysis and eventual plan production – it is planned for a draft consultation document to be issued by the end of 2015.
Finance, Policy & Personnel
Andrew Savage reported that the 2013/14 accounts were signed off by the external auditor. Financial activities in the past year were dominated by the Orpen Hall car park resurfacing which cost over £60k, but other projects have also been progressed including new chairs for both halls. Projects like these are often fully or partly funded by grants, and indeed, some grant income did support these, but these are becoming increasingly difficult to secure and so to continue moving forward a small increase in the parish precept has had to be made.