A Message from the Chairman – John Gili-Ross
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the West Bergholt Annual Parish Meeting where for the second year we wish to formally thank all the many volunteers that make our village a special place in which to live.
I have always believed that community volunteers are the heartbeat of village life. Imagine how different our village would be without the many voluntary hours many residents give to providing our village with clubs, recreational pursuits, youth organisations, church communities, institutes and associations. The theme of our 2014 annual meeting is an appreciation of our village volunteers and a big thank you for making our village so very special.
Later in this meeting you will hear of developments and latest news from the Neighbourhood Plan team. These are all volunteers who are committed to drawing up a strategic plan for the village. The group believes that development of the plan will ensure the village has a say in how it develops in the years to come and where any development may take place.
To assist our many volunteer snow clearers the Parish Council invested in a salt gritting machine for use on the main footpaths and public areas within the village. Whilst this has proved to be an excellent insurance policy in that it was not required at all over the winter we have it safely stored and ready to go for future winters. Following on from the snow clearing programme we became concerned that as a village we do not have an up to date emergency plan or a vulnerable persons register and you will hear what plans are afoot to remedy this situation. Again we will be calling on volunteers to assist in these plans should they ever be needed.
You will read the activities carried out by the Parish Council sub-committees working on behalf of the village during the last year. Meeting most months, members donate many hours of their free time, addressing day to day issues and activities to achieve greater efficiency and easier decision making by the Parish Council as a whole. We strive for good practice and transparent decision making in all that we do and welcome all who wish to attend Parish Council or sub-committee meetings.
I would like to convey my personal thanks to all our Parish Councillors for their commitment, dedication and professionalism. It has again been an honour to have led the Parish Council for the last year, a role much simplified by the hard work and support of my fellow Parish Councillors.
I would like to welcome our new Parish Councillor, Rosemary James, appointed in the year. Rosemary has joined a number of committees to help shape our community day-to-day activities. We say farewell to Gary Walls our village handyman who has taken up a new business venture and we wish him every success for the future.
In summing up I would like to give particular thanks to Val Walsom our Parish Clerk, Vicky Beckwith-Cole our the Halls Administrator and Stephen Cook the village handyman.
Reports from the Committees
Environment and Highways Report – David Short
ALLOTMENTS – This has been another successful year for the Allotments with management organised by a committee of plot holders. Site meeting are held twice a year and two new members have joined the committee with Terry Claydon taking on the role of chairman. All 140 plots are let out and there is only a short waiting list. Regular site inspections identify plots that are not well maintained and letters are sent to the few tenants where attention is needed.
Earlier in the year the committee obtained a grant from Edible Essex which enabled the purchase of a heavy duty rotovator. One of the committee built a shed for its storage and an operator has been found and suitably trained. The machine is now available to restore unused plots and for other plot holders to hire. About six have so far taken advantage of this service.
The revenue from the rents covers expenditure on water, skips and the maintenance work provided by the village handyman but costs are kept to a minimum through the self-help work carried out by the plot holders themselves. All in all the allotments are a popular resource for many residents and are viewed by most as a valued feature of the village which enhances its character.
VILLAGE GREEN – The heath was cleared of brambles and bracken again this year. Also the hedges in the village, which are the responsibility of the Parish Council, were trimmed at the end of the season by the tractor flail. Additional general maintenance was carried out by the village handyman
POORS LAND – In addition to the usual maintenance of the land i.e. mowing and hedge cutting etc., residents will be aware that considerable damage to the surface area had been caused by building works and this was exacerbated by the very heavy rains over the winter. This damage has now been repaired by the contractor and the field is gradually being returned to its original state.
QUEEN’S HEAD, HALL ROAD AND LEXDEN ROAD PONDS – Clearance of the reed mace from the ponds was again undertaken in October by BCT Volunteers and the debris was removed by a contractor. Further work was carried out on the Hall Road pond this year and some additional work on the Lexden Road pond is envisaged for this coming autumn.
VILLAGE MAINTENANCE – The epidemic of theft of household rubbish and consequent fly tipping continues but at a much reduced frequency which is probably due to the fact that residents are being advised not to put their rubbish out until the morning of collection. Our handymen continue to do excellent work in keeping the village clean and tidy in addition to which they have carried out various tasks which are too numerous to describe individually. Our long serving handyman Gary Walls recently resigned in order that he could devote more time to his own business interests. Steve Cook is still employed on a part time basis and in addition other tasks have been assigned to Mr Ivor Beckwith on an ad hoc basis. This situation will be closely monitored to see how it works out in the future.
TRAFFIC CONGESTION AND PARKING – Residents will be aware that a considerable amount of work has already been undertaken in implementing the Traffic safety plan around the environs of the school. However much remains to be achieved, particularly with regard to the road marking but the Parish remains in the hands of other local authorities before the work can be completed.
MUGA AND SPORTS FACILITY – This facility continues to be well used but unfortunately it has been the case that access to the MUGA has been abused and damage to the tennis nets has been caused. As a consequence of this the use of the MUGA has been restricted to tennis players only in the hope that damage to the facility will be minimised.
SNOW CLEARANCE – At the start of the winter the Parish Council and the committee received a consignment of salt for use by the snow clearance volunteers. However this was not required as it did not snow!! However we will no doubt be again calling for volunteers for this coming winter. This scheme seems to have again been well received by residents in general so much so that further volunteers have come forward offering their services for footpath clearing. A salt spreader has been purchased which should ensure a more efficient use of the salt supplies in future.
TREE CONSERVATION – All trees on Parish owned and administered land are regularly inspected and any problems with the trees can be dealt with within the rules pertaining to Tree Preservation Orders. Any residents who own land containing trees which fall under the said orders (of which there are many) are invited to contact the Parish Council should any problems with their trees be identified.
Premises and Recreation Report: Phil Walby
I would like to start by thanking the Halls Administrator, Vicky Beckwith-Cole, for her commitment and hard work. This has been our first year together and we have developed a positive working relationship based on regular meetings and good communication and so as a result this last year has been very productive.
Both the Halls have had a high level of lettings which shows an increase on last year. I contribute this to the many improvements made within the facility. These cover the regular groups as well as weddings and private parties that we cater for. In respect of the playing fields, we have had full day hires and regular use by all football clubs within the village.
A new system of on-line booking on our website was instigated this year. This makes it much easier for prospective hirers to book, with at a glance availability and the opportunity to book immediately to secure placement. This also provides the facility to see what is on offer within the Halls in its various aspects.
PROJECTS COMPLETED: Firstly the kitchen, this had been ongoing for almost two years due to a variety of delays. Now at last it has been completed to a high specification which has vastly improved our hiring abilities and is no longer an embarrassment but frequently and favourably commented upon.
Secondly, the installation of a state of the art alarm system covering intrusion and fire. This has brought our establishment into the 21st Century and ensures ongoing protection and security.
There have also been a couple of minor works, notably upgrading the flooring to the main Orpen Hall (carried out by Mike who does our cleaning), and this was a much needed and belated update. Also, the replacement of many tiles to the roof following damage caused by strong winds. This is now intact and preserved against future bad weather. We have also replaced all of the chairs currently utilized within both halls. This has been enabled by a £2000 Locality Grant from our Borough Councillors’ fund, the residue provided from our Hall account.
It would have been nice to report on the completion of the resurfacing of the car park but unfortunately this has been deferred to the summer schools recess due to unforeseen problems with drainage which delayed the original date of completion, that being the Easter recess. This work is jointly funded by revenue from a Grant and Parish Council. The bicycle racks have been purchased and will be installed at the same time.
PLANNED PROJECTS: There are several for the year ahead, with further enhancements to the fabric of the Halls complex. Firstly, upgrading the flooring to the John Lampon Hall. Then full decoration of the interior of both halls, refitting the servery (second lesser kitchen area used by many of the clubs). All these plans are dependent upon available funding. In addition there will be other expenses and purchases as the year progresses.
I would like to finish with my thanks to the many users of the Halls complex, but especially the new improved working relationship we now have with the clubs, Bluebells Nursery and pre-school, the Orpen Players and the BYG. This is underpinned by good communication between all parties and, if necessary, meetings.
We are a community resource first and foremost and need to hear your concerns so that we can continue to get it right!
Planning & Development Committee Report – Chris Stevenson
The Planning and Development 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 will shortly be available on the village website
1. Planning Applications
The most active of the above activities concerns planning applications. These may range from a simple house extension, to a new dwelling 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 2013/14, 35 general domestic planning applications were received; this is 60% higher than in 2011/12 but well down on previous years, reflecting the continued effects of the economic downturn. This increase in activity follows three years of successive falls in the number of applications received. Of these applications, the Parish Council supported 12, objected to 13 and gave observations only, on a further 10. Generally speaking the Borough Council approved the majority of the applications.
2. Development Planning
A focussed review of the Borough Plan took place in 2013 in order to bring it into line with the National Planning Policy Framework. However this did not affect the Parish in the main so the past 12 months have been quiet in terms of consultation and engagement with Colchester Borough Council. CBC is starting its work on updating its Local Plan which currently runs until 2023, so there is expected to be discussion about future growth across Colchester and environs in 2014.
3. Design Guidance
In 2011 the committee joined forces with the Parish Plan Group to produce a Village Design Statement (VDS). This is the second year that the VDS has been used to assist in determining the Parish Council’s stance on Planning Applications. The VDS endeavours to assist those seeking planning permission by drawing their attention to some basic design principles covering new or altered buildings, 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. In an attempt to provide greater consistency Parish Council comments on Planning Applications will on occasion quote the relevant VDS Policy number and text if for some reason an objection is raised by the Parish Council.
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.
Chris Stevenson Chairman Planning & Development Committee
Parish Plan Report/ Neighbourhood Plan Report– Chris Stevenson
The Parish Plan was prepared between 2006 and 2008 and was published in September 2008. It has been adopted by the Parish Council as forming the forward plan of concerns and activities that the village community wants to see addressed or carried out. The plan is available to view on the village website: www.westbergholt.net.
A full monitoring report was produced in 2012; most areas of the Parish Plan have been successfully completed with the latest success the adoption of a blueprint to regulate and improve traffic safety in the vicinity of New Church Road and Heathlands School Although the Parish Plan is still current attention has passed to the production of a successor plan called a Neighbourhood Plan.
2. Neighbourhood Plan (NP)
Neighbourhood Plans area new form of community-based planning which enable villages or similar localities to produce a planning document which covers how they would like to see their areas develop in the future. Once adopted they form the blueprint for new development and sit within a District or Borough Council’s own local Plan document. NPs are a key part of the localism agenda and are enshrined in legislation under the Localism Act. NPs are primarily about land use planning and future development but they can also include projects similar to those in the present Parish Plan. It is likely that oour will include elements of both.
3. Main Activities carried out on NP in 2013/14
Commencing in September 2012 work has been started on assembling the NP including the activities summarised below.
- The present PP steering group has now expanded and a number of members of the community have now joined the group. The Steering Group comprises of around 15 people including some from the PC, our two Borough Councillors, and an officer from CBC
- Following and initial workshop in November 2012 a further village workshop was held in February 2014. A report is on the NP section of the village website
- Liaison with Colchester Borough Council has commenced and an officer appointed to assist the Steering Group
- The NP area was the subject of a formal consultation by CBC and has been agreed as covering the Parish area
- Evidence relating to land use, environment, transport, demography and many other topics has commenced
- A number of questionnaires have been distributed covering residents, businesses and young people
As a result of the survey of residents more people have joined the Steering Group, allowing the formation of three new sub groups have been formed to develop ideas for the future; consider the environment and to inform an evidence base.
The key focus over the next 6 months will be to present the evidence base and an outline of the plan to the community in autumn 2014.
It is thought that the NP will not be finalised until late 2016. The rough timetable is as follows
- Surveys and evidence gathering 2013-14
- Ideas and outline proposals in by September 2014 (Consultation)
- Draft plan Spring (Consultation)
- Referendum in Winter 2015(*)
- Public Inquiry in Spring 2016(*)
- Adoption of NP Autumn 2016(*)
It is possible that the formal stages of the Plan’s development (*) and adoption may take less time than indicated above. Although there will be consultations taking place the NP is a statutory document and so a referendum and public inquiry will be needed to formally endorse any plan.
5. Getting Involved
Although there is a steering group already it is not a closed shop. Anyone can come to the regular meetings or join the group either to undertake specific activities or to act as a wider group of critical friends. The contacts below are the ways to get in touch
- Chris Stevenson, Chair, [email protected] or 01206 241708
- Rachel Howard Secretary
- Murray Harlow Communications
Please visit www.westbergholt.net for further details.
6. Thank you
Attempting to produce and implement a Parish Plan, and then embark on a more complex Neighbourhood Plan is not easy for busy people who are all volunteers. I am indebted to the enthusiasm of all those on the Steering Group, past and present who make my job as Chairman a pleasure to undertake.
Chris Stevenson Chairman West Bergholt Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group