Borough Councillors Annual Report for 2015
Focus on planning in the Village
This village is fortunate to have a well organised, business-like Parish Council. This is one of the reasons why West Bergholt is such a pleasant village to live in. The Parish Council has taken the lead in creating three important documents. First, the Parish Plan, then the Village Design Statement (VDS) and currently the Neighbourhood Plan. These documents involve much hard work and consultation with village residents. They allow local opinion to be built into decision-making and form part of what has become known as “localism”. The Village VDS has been adopted by Colchester Borough Council (CBC) and should rank equally with all other planning policies, both National and those of the Borough Council.
Each Planning Application has a list of consultees. Neighbours are always among them, as are your Councillors and the PC.
The Parish Council carefully considers each application using the policies in the VDS. But during 2015 we have been dissatisfied with the lack of emphasis given by the Planning Committee to the VDS policies. We feel that these policies have been all too readily disregarded. For instance our review of applications received during 2015 suggests that many have not been accompanied by street-scene drawings which indicate how the proposed application will look in the setting of its immediate neighbourhood.
Inevitably it would take a very contentious application to be a catalyst to expose this problem. That turned out to be an application to develop the former garden of Homecroft in Chapel Lane.
The Parish Council considered that the application was over-development, and out of keeping with the spacious character of properties in Chapel Lane. Despite the Parish Council’s concerns, the Planning Department recommended approval. Nevertheless we insisted on a full hearing before the Planning Committee. This process is a wonderful example of democracy gives power to elected members and the local community.
At the meeting of the Planning Committee in the Town Hall many West Bergholt residents attended, together with representatives from the Parish Council and your Borough Councillors. The case was put that the application was contrary to the West Bergholt VDS and should therefore be refused. There was much passion and interest.
The Planning Committee overturned the case officer’s recommendation for approval and refused the application in dramatic style. This does not often happen and this victory has set the agenda for 2016 in regard to the planning process taking account of the democratically agreed view of the Village.
The occasion was a triumph for local democracy and the West Bergholt VDS. Since then, further meetings have taken place and it has been confirmed that the wishes of the residents of West Bergholt will be taken into due account in future as the Planning Department determines planning applications.
Road maintenance programme
We have bid for maintenance funds whenever problems have occurred in the village. Road-works led to partial closure of Chapel Road and lanes around the school, each for a few days. We appreciate the inconvenience this causes, but it is for the greater good.
Despite the excessive speed with which some vehicles travel through the village, there was in fact only one reported accident in the 12 month to Sept 2015. This was on the morning of 12th February in Newbridge Hill, 200m from the junction with Argents Lane, involving 2 vehicles. Police reported that injuries were only minor.
We have continued to monitor the risks in Argents Lane. We have serious concern about the continued rise in traffic volumes.
We again give a huge thank-you to the village Speedwatch team. These volunteers turn out weekly with their police-issue radar gun to deter speeding motorists.
During the year, 62 planning applications were submitted to the Borough Council in regard to properties in West Bergholt, up from 46 in the previous year. In addition to official visits to proposed developments, your Councillors always carry out a walk-past of all application sites to judge their impact on the village street-scene. In some cases we are requested to support or oppose a particular application. We are always happy to consider the representations on each application.
Waste and Recycling Collection
After several years in which supplies of recycling sacks failed to be delivered to all households, we think the Council got it right this year, but keep the complaints rolling-in if you were missed yet again.
New Ward Boundaries throughout Colchester
The rapid growth of Colchester over the past decade has led to an imbalance in the size of wards, and the number of Councillors representing each ward. The Local Government Boundary Commission carried out a review of the Borough. It decided to abolish the current wards, and replace them with 17 new wards, each with approximately the same number of voters, and each represented by 3 Councillors.
Thus from May 2016, the existing “West Bergholt & Eight Ash Green Ward” will be replaced by the new “Lexden & Braiswick Ward” which includes the villages of West Bergholt, Eight Ash Green, Aldham, plus Braiswick and half of Lexden.