Annual Report for Parish Meeting – 25th March 2015
The Annual Report to the Annual Parish Meeting on 25th March 2015 included a number of reports, shown below, and also included the following:
A Message From The Chairman – John Gili-Ross
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the West Bergholt Annual Parish Meeting, which for me is somewhat special as it will be my last as Chairman. I have decided not to stand for this role in May, when Parish Councillors elect their Chairman for the next 12 months. I have held the Chairman’s role for more than 10 years and regard it as a great honour to have been chosen to lead the council. I hope to continue as a Parish Councillor following the May elections and to continue to play my part in maintaining West Bergholt as a very special village in which to live.
The theme of our annual meeting is “Our Village Future is in Your Hands”. For the first time in our history, residents are to be given a real opportunity to influence how our village should develop over the next 20 plus years and we have a formal mandate to do this through the Neighbourhood Plan. This hugely important village activity is entering its final stages and ultimately, following an external inspector review, will be the subject of a referendum allowing residents to vote on adoption of the plan.
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.
Later you will hear of developments and latest news concerning the Superfast Essex broadband project. Essex County Council is rolling out high-speed Internet services to most Essex communities through a two-year implementation plan that forms part of the national superfast broadband project. The programme leader for Essex will explain how this complex project is expected to provide benefits to communities such as ours.
Last year County Councillor Anne Brown was appointed head of a new portfolio and holds great influence in the way council services are delivered across the county. Decisions made by ECC impact the future development of our village and Cllr Brown is ideally positioned to explain how her portfolio developments impact our lives.
Last December the Parish Council achieved Local Council Quality Award status as part of a new national programme. We are one of only eight councils in the country that have achieved this award to date and it is our intention to receive further accreditation by the end of 2015.
You will read the activities carried out by Parish Councillors working on behalf of the village during the last year. 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 for the last year. I welcome Brian Butcher as a new Councillor following the retirement of David Short last year. David worked tirelessly on village environment issues and projects, applying great passion at all times.
Finally I would like to give particular thanks to Val Walsom, our Parish Clerk who has recently announced her intention to resign later this year following many productive years in serving the village. Thanks also go to Vicky Beckwith-Cole, our Halls Administrator and to Stephen Cook our village handyman.
Reports From The Committees
Environment and Highways Report – Harry Stone
(David Short resigned from the Parish Council at the beginning of the year and Harry Stone agreed to chair the committee for the remainder of the year. The committee is grateful to David for the work he did on behalf of the village over several years).
This has been another successful year for the Allotments with management organised by a committee of plot holders, chaired by Terry Claydon. Site meetings are held twice a year and regular site inspections identify plots that are not well maintained. All 140 plots are let out and there is only a short waiting list. Some more senior plot holders are reducing the size of the plots they rent and sadly some have recently died so more plots are becoming available. New recruits to the management committee are sought.
A scheme to make available the rotovator obtained from Edible Essex is now in place and was used by a small number of plot holders throughout the year.
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. A rolling programme to replace the water tanks with more efficient models is about to be introduced.
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.
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
This area has now been restored and is in full use. The usual maintenance of the land i.e. mowing and hedge cutting etc. has been ongoing and football pitches have been realigned to conform to FA standards.
Queen’s Head, Hall Road and Lexden Road Ponds
Clearance of the reed mace from the ponds was again undertaken in the autumn by TCV Volunteers and the debris was removed by a contractor. Further work is to be carried out on the Hall Road pond later in the year.
Our handyman continues to do excellent work in keeping the village clean and tidy in addition to which he has carried out various tasks which are too numerous to describe individually. Steve Cook is now 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 some 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 parking restrictions at road junctions and the introduction of a 20 MPH speed limit in New Church Road and School Lane. Both schemes have received Essex County Council approval and funding and should be implemented in the course of this year.
The committee continues to have concerns about the standard of maintenance of the village roads and in particular potholes. Several efforts have been made to ensure the most dangerous are repaired by Essex County Council as soon as possible.
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. This has been rectified and the provision of a separate goal area at the lower end of the Orpen field with an artificial surface has improved the situation.
This is a village problem which seems to be on the increase and the Parish Council does from time to time receive complaints from residents. As a result another information campaign through posters and the Village Bulletin is to be launched and help from the Colchester Borough dog warden is being sought.
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, as yet little has been used as it has not snowed! A salt spreader has been purchased which should ensure a more efficient use of the salt supplies in future. 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.
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
This is my second year in post as Chair of the Premises and Recreation sub-committee and it has been both a productive and rewarding year. My working relationship with the Halls Administrator, Vicky Beckwith-Cole has been excellent based on trust and respect and I thank her for her hard work, dedication and commitment.
Both Halls continue to have a high level of Lettings with there being, again, an increase on the previous year. We cater for weddings, private parties and this year we let the Hall for a New Year’s Eve party which proved such a success that we hope to make it an Annual event! The facilities continue to attract the regular groups which have been augmented this year by ‘ Slimming World’ and ‘Puppy Training Classes’ which further demonstrates our diversity. In respect of the Playing Fields, we have had full day hires and regular use by all football clubs within the Village. On the Poors Field BHYFC have now introduced an even younger side, now using four pitches, the future looks positive!
Firstly the long awaited completion of the resurfacing of the carpark. There were initially teething problems which were eventually overcome and I trust that the finished article meets with the approval of users. In addition, to give the Orpen Hall premises a more aesthetic feel, we added flower beds and paving surround completing a ramp exit from the John Lampon Hall thereby giving full wheelchair access to both halls. I believe that the overall effect is a massive improvement and I hope users agree.
By the publication of this Report we should have completed the new look by the installation of LED lighting to the four corners of the roof area, which will then totally illuminate the carpark and surrounds making it also, hopefully, a safer and crime free environment.
Secondly, in the summer recess we hired a company to redecorate internally both Halls and passage ways plus the Servery, giving the premises a fresh look which has received positive feedback from Hall users.
Lastly, following a deputation of youth footballers into one of our meetings, during which they complained about the condition of the practice goal area on the Lorkin Daniel field, stating that due to the churning up of the earth and grass following inclement weather, the current condition made it virtually unusable. Therefore, asking that there was a need for something more substantial and weatherproof. We undertook a project to provide an artificial all weather pitch which could better meet their needs. The work was carried out by one of the two Village Handymen, Ivor Beckwith, to a very high standard, completing the task in January after delays due to, again, inclement weather. It has been well received by the Youth who can now be witnessed out on it in all weathers!
There are several for the year ahead which are as always dependent upon available funding.
Firstly, to further enhance the fabric of the Halls complex, by completing the internal improvements with refitting the Servery (used by most of the clubs in the Orpen Hall).
We are in the process already, but it should be completed by April/May 2015, of enforcing recommendations highlighted by the annual risk assessment carried out on the Playground equipment by an external specialist company. All comments were of a minor risk nature, so there is no reason not to use facilities. Users comfort and safety is uppermost in our thoughts and we will always act upon this type of advice.
It is also our intention to embark upon a new use of the premises, that being to hold regular ‘Film Nights’ in the Hall. Research is complete and we await the fulfilment of the Parish Council Election process in May to see what personnel we have to drive the project forward.
In addition there will be other expenses and purchases as the year progresses, such as the treatment to the flooring in the John Lampon Hall and the upgrade to the stage curtains currently in use in the Orpen Hall.
I would like to finish with my thanks to the many users of the Halls complex, but especially to the continuing good working relationship we have with the Clubs, Bluebells Nursery and Pre-School, The Orpen Players and the BYG. Not forgetting our newest recruits, Slimming World, Puppy Training and First West Bergholt Brownies. This is, as always, 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 2014/15, 43 general domestic planning applications were received; this is 20% higher than in 2013/14, reflecting possibly a recovery from the recessionary effects of the national economic downturn. This is the second yearly increase in activity following three years of successive falls in the number of applications received between 2010/11 and 2012/13. Of these 43 applications, the Parish Council supported 19, objected to 5 and gave observations only, on a further 19. Generally speaking the Borough Council supports the majority of the applications, or has proactive suggestions to enhance the proposals.
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. In late 2014 and early 2015 the Parish Council was consulted on Colchester Borough Council’s preliminary ideas for a new replacement Local Plan. These ideas do not as yet contain any specific ideas about increased development in the parish. The new Local Plan will be prepared in parallel with the proposed West Bergholt Neighbourhood Plan (see next report).
3. Design Guidance
In 2011 the committee joined forces with the Parish Plan Group to produce a Village Design Statement (VDS). This is the third 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.
The Planning Committee undertook a major project in 2014/15, that of refurbishing the Orpen Hall car park. This involved applying for a grant, financing the project, preparing an outline design, engaging project management consultants to tender for a contractor and to supervise the work. The work was carried out in the summer and early autumn of 2014, with landscaping added in early 2015. From feedback received the project has been deemed to be a great success and has smartened up the car park whilst improving its functionality. The Parish Council is grateful for the support of Essex County Council in grant-aiding the project to the tune of £12,000; Doldens for project management; Groupbridge Ltd for the contracting and to Oakview Landscapes for the planting and paving works.
I would like to thank my colleagues on the committee for their hard work over the past 12 months.
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. 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 ours will include elements of both.
3. Main Activities carried out to date on NP in 2014/15
Commencing in September 2012 work has been started on assembling the NP. The NP development is a process over several years rather than an event undertaken in a short time period. The following is a summary of work undertaken in 2014/15 and in previous years.
- A Steering Group was set up in late 2012 and comprises of around 15 people including some from the PC, our two Borough Councillors, and an officer from CBC
- Workshops with community organisations and individuals have been held in in November 2012 and February 2014.
- Liaison with Colchester Borough Council has commenced and an officer appointed to assist the Steering Group
- In 2013, the NP area was the subject of a formal consultation by CBC and has been agreed as covering the Parish area
- A number of surveys were conducted in 2013 covering residents, businesses and young people
- Evidence relating to land use, environment, transport, demography and many other topics was gathered in 2014
- A consultation drawing together all of the material researched in previous years and entitled “Issues and Options” has commenced at the present time of writing
The key focus over the next 6 months will be to complete the evidence base and distil the results of the Issues and Options consultation to allow major parts of the plan to be written. Simultaneously the Group will put together more specific land use and housing ideas for further consultation with residents and local organisations. Later in 2015 a draft NP document will be published for formal consultation.
It is thought that the NP will not be finalised until late 2017. The rough timetable is as follows
- Surveys and evidence gathering 2013-14
- Ideas and outline proposals in by May 2014 (Consultation) – this is a current activity
- Draft plan Summer/Autumn 2015 (Formal Consultation)
- Public Inquiry in Spring 2016(*)
- Referendum in Summer 2017(*)
- Adoption of NP Autumn 2017(*)
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 (normally 8pm on the third Wednesday of the month) 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, many of whom volunteer in other activities in the parish as well, and many of whom also have a full time job or other employment. 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
Finance, Policy and Personnel Report – Andrew Savage
As the Annual Parish Meeting is being held before the end of the financial year, this report will be different from previous ones. Instead of comparisons of income against expenditure, I am looking at some specific items.
First of all, I am pleased to announce that the External Auditor has ‘signed off’ the 2013/14 accounts. My thanks therefore go to Val Walsom for all the work she has undertaken, and to Pat Fosker for her Internal Auditor duties.
The major project of the year was, of course, the resurfacing of the Orpen Memorial Hall car park. As mentioned in a previous report, we were successful with our grant application for £12,000 for this work. This meant that we had to provide around £50,000 (ignoring VAT – which we claim back). In addition, we have used it as an opportunity to upgrade the adjacent areas to improve the surrounding environment.
Whilst the biggest, this was not the only project undertaken. One of the earliest ones was providing new chairs to both halls. We have also been successful in obtaining a £3390 grant to assist with the Neighbourhood Plan process.
In addition, we’ve looked at trying to secure grants for other projects. Unfortunately, it is becoming more difficult to win such funding and we were unsuccessful both in trying to assist in upgrading Broadband internet access into the village earlier than expected and in relation to providing a village war memorial.
Other work has involved successfully sorting out a Scout Hut Licence and associated rent, updating Standing Orders and Financial Regulations, and, following the resignation of Val, endeavouring to facilitate the process to appoint a new Parish Clerk.
Moving forward to next year’s finances; as indicated above, the Parish Council is finding that many former sources of funding are either reducing, or no longer providing any financial support. This has a significant knock-on effect and therefore the Parish Council has agreed to increase the Precept by less than 2 pence per household per day based upon a Band D property (£7 per year). This was felt to be reasonable in the current climate.