Annual Report for Parish Meeting – 24th April 2019

Annual Report for Parish Meeting – 24th April 2019


Reports from the Committees:

A Message From The Chairman – Chris Stevenson

Welcome to the West Bergholt Annual Parish Meeting.  This meeting, like countless others all over England taking part this month, is for you and your community. Although it has the word “Parish” in the title it is not a Parish Council (PC) meeting but organised by the PC to allow local issues and topics to be presented and discussed. I very much hope you enjoy the evening, and if you subsequently think of ideas for future meetings, we would very much like to hear from you.

We have seen very few changes to the Parish Council in the past year. However, Janet Crichton has resigned in recent months for personal family reasons. Janet served on the Environment Committee, and I would like to thank her for her contribution to its work. With the election pending at the time of Janet’s departure, we held over this vacancy pending nominations for the 11 Parish Cllr positions. In the event we had 11 nominations for 11 positions and so the election is not contested this year. All 10 existing Cllrs are now confirmed as serving for the next four years and we are joined by Norma Smith who we welcome to our ranks.

The themes of our annual meeting this year are, as ever, community-focused.  Instead of a headline speaker however, we have again this year allocated more time evenly for what we hope are popular as well as topical matters. We are very happy to welcome Heathlands School Council at the top of our agenda and led by Rachel Hopkins we will learn of the Visual Learning programme. We follow this with a reflection of 50 years of the Orpen Players presented by Mike Poole. Following a presentation of awards to West Bergholt Cricket Club and Jogging Made Easy we will hear from the Cricket Club about a push to develop their youth team. Finally we will hear about the work of many in the community to raise funding for new playground equipment and welcome the Chair of the Playground Advisory Group Brent Harratt as well as Andy and Diana Woodgate who will tell us all about the West Bergholt Film Club, the profits of which go towards the play equipment. Before we close, we wrap up with a discussion on issues raised from you our audience. I do see this as an opportunity for discussion rather than our version of Question Time, so whereas your Chairman and Cllrs will attempt to answer queries, I would imagine that the audience themselves will be the mainstay for providing insight and suggestions, whatever the nature of the issue raised may be!

So, what are my reflections on activities of the past last year or so, especially those with a community feel. There are many but here is a summary of some of our achievements.

In previous years our speakers have included Jane Gardener who spoke about the work of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s office, and the new push for Community Special Constables dedicated to an area. I’m pleased to say that following an initiative to recruit such a person and following an advertising campaign and joint work with the Police, we have two Community Specials undergoing training and experience on the beat as it were. Cllr Butcher and I attended an attestation ceremony at Essex Police HQ in February and witnessed the first of our two Community Specials swearing an oath and being presented with a warrant card. We may expect this person to start work in our village in the autumn.

The second success I’d like to highlight is the award of Quality Council made to the PC recently. West Bergholt is one of only 13 PC’s in Essex to receive this award and effectively means we are well run and administered and have good governance arrangements. Much of the praise for this must go to Laura our Clerk who also became CILCA qualified earlier in 2018. The manifestation of this achievement is not only in the way we work but also how visible our working practices are and you may find these on Dave Kingaby our webmaster spent many hours reformatting our section of the website to enable all our policies and procedures to be as easily accessible as is possible.

The third area of success has come with successfully endorsing the work of the Neighbourhood Plan (NP) Steering Group, which successfully arranged the last of the informal consultations last year (termed the Regulation 14 consultations) and presented the final NP to the PC for endorsement. This in turn meant that the plan could be sent to Colchester Borough Council for the final consultation (termed Regulation 16 consultation). At the time of writing an Inspector has been appointed and is reading our plan. After this he may call an Examination in Public, and following this, he will write a report of changes required. Lastly and probably something for the autumn will be a referendum where you can register your satisfaction (or otherwise!) on the final plan. I’d like to thank everyone involved from the Parish Council and the Steering Group for their dogged determination to finish the plan. Although we can all breathe a sigh of relief, we still have to ensure that the plan is our blueprint for the village and wider parish area and see off the challenges from those who would like to develop land on the fringes of the village such as Gladmans and NEEB. These applications which were refused by Colchester Borough Council are still “live” and to be considered via an Appeal process shortly, again overseen by a Planning Inspector.

Finally, 2018 saw the commemoration of 100 years since the armistice in 1918. Many organisations and individuals from the community joined forces to mark this occasion, with an evening event complete with the reading out of the names of those who fell during the Great War, the sounding of the last post by West Bergholt Concert Band member Ozzy Baker and in line with countless other villages and town the lighting of the beacon guided by Cllr David Short and lit by two children from Heathlands School, Daisy and Mia. It was a moving occasion and was complemented by exhibitions in the John Lampon Hall by the History Group, Brownies, Scouts, Bluebells & Knit One Down One. Associated with this was the long-awaited works to protect and ensure the preservation of the war memorial at the former Truman’s Brewery (Maltings) complex and the commemorative naming of the passage footpaths in the village, which all now bear the wording “Memorial” in their street naming signs.

War memorial with protective casing

My thanks to all those who made this possible including our District Cllrs, David Boyden and colleagues, Cllr Brian Butcher, Gill Poole, Peter Noakes and Rhys Lloyd.

Elsewhere in this booklet, you will read of the activities carried out by Parish Councillors working on behalf of the village during the last year in the committee reports.  Councillors donate many hours of their free time addressing village day-to-day issues and activities, and I thank them for their commitment, professionalism, hard work and support. I would also like to thank our Hall Administrator Vicky Beckwith-Cole and handymen David Hewitt, Nigel Weall and Matt Harkness. Last but by no means least, I would also like to give thanks to our mostly invisible but hugely effective webmaster Dave Kingaby.

Finally, I would like to give particular thanks to Laura Walkingshaw, our Parish Clerk who must be far better known to you all than myself. Laura is our Chief Executive Officer, who fields all your queries and runs the business of the Parish Council. If that wasn’t enough, she also supports the Neighbourhood Plan Group, and spearheads (sic) the Litter Warriors. Where she gets her energy from, I do not know, but once again thank you Laura from us all for a hugely successful year – long may it continue.

I’ll close with an apology. By the time you read this I will be on a train returning from a work visit to Manchester. I hope to arrive half way through the meeting so have left the evening in the capable hands of one of my Vice-Chairmen Andrew Savage who will preside over the agenda and keep you all to time!

I hope you will enjoy the meeting and presentations. Do ask questions and thank you again for supporting the Parish Council by attending tonight.

Reports From The Committees:

Finance, Policy & Personnel Report – Andrew Savage

I’m pleased to announce that the External Auditors have ‘signed off’ the 2017/18 accounts.  My thanks therefore go to Laura for all her hard work and to Gerry Allen for undertaking the Internal Audit.

The accounts for the following year, ending March 2019, are currently being prepared and the pre-audited figures can be summed up as follows:

The Parish Council’s accounts show an income for the year (including contributions from various Charities, Trusts, Grants and VAT refunds) of over £124,000 as against an expenditure of nearly £122,000.  During the year, as well as all the ‘day-to-day’ activities, the Council has been able to renovate the Queen’s Head Pond and provide a CCTV system around the Orpen Hall Complex.

The Orpen Memorial Hall accounts show, including VAT refunds, an income of £43,000 and an expenditure of just over £41,000.  The small difference will go towards the forthcoming roof project.

Moving forward to this year’s finances, the Parish Council will continue to endeavour to obtain external sources of funding but with less available this has a significant knock-on effect when reviewing future projects.  We have therefore again reviewed which projects and other expenditure items are required to be funded in accordance with best practice recommendations for local councils.  From this list, the items agreed for this year are:

Contribution to final phase of Orpen Memorial Hall re-roofing£20,000
Replacement Orpen Hall chairs£4,000
Tennis court repairs£1,500
Repairs to Orpen Hall complex external doors£1,000
Replace damaged bollards on Heath£500

 Despite the extent of these projects, the precept has only increased by just over 6%.  For a Band D property this equates to just over 8 pence a week extra for the household.

Environment & Highways Report – John Gili-Ross

A significant part of the Parish Councils expenditure goes towards keeping the village environs in a satisfactory condition, either through the cost of our three handymen, the tools they need to do a good job or the materials needed for new builds, repairs or replacement items.  It is through good forward planning by the Environment & Highways committee that we have kept on top of demand and increased our grant income whenever possible.

During the year Essex County Council (ECC) announced it was to introduce a Highways Devolution pilot scheme.  The “Devo” project as it is referred to is aimed at Parish Councils that are willing and capable of taking on small highway related projects that’s are often difficult for ECC to undertaken in a timely manner.  Small works projects and repairs can often be important they are remedied as quickly as possible but the sheer number of projects across Essex has meant that ECC finds it difficult to keep up with demand particularly on the backdrop of massive cuts to their budgets.  We applied to and have been accepted as one of the 22 Devo trial councils, which comes with grant funding for 12 months.  What we achieve and how we help reduce the ECC backlog of small works will be used to decide on future project longevity.

Typical small works projects would be the repair of kerb stone, street sign, ditch clearance, footway clearance by weed spraying and where practical repair of the footway.  We have three part time handymen that have more than enough work to fill their average 8 hours of work each week and the Devo grant certainly helps offset the overall cost of their work.

Each year the committee undertake a pond regeneration project and last year it was the turn of the Queen’s Head Pond.  It was time for a significant clearance of the pond and the digging out and then clearance of spoils by one of our neighbouring farmers was a huge endeavour.  The results of this work are clearly visible and new life has been injected into the pond area.

During the year we lost one of our bus shelters in Lexden Road, being hit by a bus on more than one occasion.  Replacement of the shelter has taken time due to insurance claim processing and then shelter replacement issues.  During the period the shelter condition deteriorated and the handymen were tasked with removing it and making the area safe.  As a benefit the recovered wood was recycled in the construction of a purpose built and secure salt store, which was badly needed.

Appropriate and relevant training is a priority for both Councillors and our Handymen.  Nigel Weal attended a weed-spraying course and is now fully qualified to apply treatments in the village.  He also received training as a Tree Inspection Officer and these new skills are used to regularly inspect and report on the condition of the numerous council owned trees.  During the year we lost more than 5 trees of differing sizes as a result of decay, general deterioration and weather.

Keeping our greensward areas cut and trimmed and clear of litter remains an on-going task for much of the year.  It a fact that neither Colchester nor Essex Councils can afford to cut their grassed areas in our village to the level residents expect and as a consequence this extra work falls to our handymen to complete.

Regrettably and for family reasons, Janet Crichton left the Parish Council and hence the environment committee and I would like to thank her for her help and efforts to make the village a great place to live. All the committee members and especially our maintenance team work extremely hard to maintain our village.  I would like to thank them all for a job well done.

Premises & Recreation Report – Brian Butcher

The Premises & Recreation Committee primary responsibilities are the hire of the Orpen Hall, the John Lampon Hall and the Social Club Meeting Room, and maintaining their internal and external fabric. So much of the work of the committee goes un-noticed over the year!

The committee rely heavily on these tasks on the Hall’s administrator Vicky and cleaner Zoe. To both Vicky and Zoe go the committee’s thanks. Thanks must also go also to all members of the committee for their work and support over the year, also to all those that have been employed at the hall to undertake its on-going maintenance requirements.

It can be seen this year new curtains have been purchased and successfully hung, and the servery refurbished. You may not have noticed the new state of the art CCTV system that has been installed and you could be forgiven if you missed the bin store near the front entrance.

A Colchester firm of surveyors, whose building surveyor lives in the village, has been appointed to specify the retiling of the roof and in fact tenders have been received with the works anticipated to be done over the summer, on the basis grants to top up the Council’s reserve can be obtained.

Replacement Orpen Hall chairs are on order, one of hopefully many User Group proposals that will come to fruition. Two meetings of the Hall User Group have taken place this year; the next is scheduled for 18th July. During the summer it is also anticipated the stage floor will be replaced and work on the hall borders completed. A flagpole to commemorate national events should also be erected.

An apology nearly ends this report in that the hall online booking system still has not been able to go live, but watch this space next year!

The Village Fete committee is now a sub-committee of the Premises committee and the Committee wishes it every success and looks forward to another enjoyable village day out, this year on Saturday 13th July.

To finish, a big thank you to all users of the halls in the last year, and if you would like to hire any hall, or the Lorkin Daniel Field or the MUGA, please contact Vicky on 07434 949631. The conditions of letting are available on, as are ‘sale of alcohol’ forms.

Planning & Development Report – Bob Tyrrell

The West Bergholt Planning Committee has several functions:

  • It is a statutory consultee on planning applications submitted to Colchester Borough Council (CBC) and Essex County Council (ECC);
  • Similarly, it is a consultee on development planning generally, examples being the Local Development Framework for Colchester Borough Council area or for Minerals and Waste proposals from the County Council;
  • It develops guidelines and forward planning advice covering the way the village should maintain its distinctive character, and wherever possible enhance this through sympathetic development.
  • Full terms of reference for the Committee are available on the village website

Planning Applications

The most active of the above activities concerns planning applications. These may range from a simple house extension, to new dwellings or indeed an application for commercial premises. As a consultee, the Parish Council cannot prevent or stop a development from taking place, but its recommendations do form a powerful local response, to be weighed in consideration with other evidence submitted to Colchester Borough Council.

In 2018/19, WBPC received 51 planning applications, this was 10% less than in 2017/18. From the 51 applications received, the Parish Council supported 25, objected to 13 and gave observations on a further 13. The Parish Council supports the majority of the applications and we try to offer proactive suggestions where needed to enhance the proposals, of the 51-applications CBC refused 6 applications.

We currently have received three larger planning applications for housing developments on the edge of the Village. All outside the established Settlement Boundary and contrary to the proposals set out in the West Bergholt NeighbourHOOD Plan

  • Earlier this year CBC/WBPC won an appeal for: Land to the north of The White Hart, Nayland Road, Punch Partnerships Ltd Residential development of ten dwellings. The main reason for refusal was the setting of the development to a listed building. It also demonstrated that CBC has granted adequate planning approvals to meet a five-year housing supply.
  • Erection of a two-storey dwelling. 9 Bradbrook Cottages, Armoury Road, West Bergholt Colchester CO6 3JW
  • Proposed 4 Bed House and attached Double Garage, Lexden Road, West Bergholt Colchester CO6 3BT
  • Land adjacent Hill House Farm, Colchester Road, Mr Gladman, Outline planning application for the erection of up to 97 dwellings. PUBLIC ENQUIRY appeal May 2019
  • Land Adj Colchester Road, West Bergholt Colchester Mr Roger Raymond, NEEB Holdings 18 dwellings including affordable housing, 36 retirement living/sheltered accommodation units, 60 bed care home.
  • Land Adj Armoury Road, West Bergholt Colchester Mr Roger Raymond, NEEB Holdings 26 dwellings including affordable housing. WRITTEN REPRESENTATION APPEAL June 2019
  • 2 No houses land adjacent 179 Colchester Road, West Bergholt Colchester CO6 3JY

Development Planning

Colchester Borough has a new Local Plan 2019 -2034 the emerging document hopefully due for approval some time in 2019. The West Bergholt Neighbourhood Plan has been deposited with CBC under Regulation 16 who are consulting with the Inspector, if we need an inquiry or to make any changes to the current plan. There will be a village referendum on the Neighbourhood Plan toward the end of the year.

Design Guidance

The Village Design Statement (VDS) has been CBC policy for the past eight years and is used to assist determining the Parish Council’s response to Planning Applications. The VDS highlights some basic design principles covering new buildings and extension, as well as setting the context for development in the village by outlining the distinctive character areas of the village and its rural setting. The VDS is available on the Village website.

To provide greater consistency Parish Council comments on Planning Applications will quote the relevant VDS Policy number and text as a reason for an objection.

Planning Meetings

The Committee has regular meetings on the third Wednesday of each month at 7.30pm in the John Lampon Hall. The agenda is published three days in advance. Anyone who wishes to express their views on a planning matter is welcome to attend, and in particular, the Committee welcomes pre-planning application discussions.

I would like to thank my colleagues on the committee for their hard work over the past months.

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