Annual Report for Parish Meeting – 26th April 2017

Annual Report for Parish Meeting – 26th April 2017


Reports from the Committees

A Message From The Chairman – Chris Stevenson

Welcome to the West Bergholt Annual Parish Meeting; this is my second as Chairman of the Parish Council, a position my colleagues entrusted to me following the elections in 2015.

We have seen some changes to the Parish Council makeup in the past year. Firstly, Rosemary James stood down to move closer to her family in Hertfordshire, and although this is a while ago, I would like to record my thanks for her great support and assistance on the Environment Committee especially. A more recent leaver is Phil Cook, who joined as a co-opted member in 2015 but has had to step down for personal and pressure of work reasons. Phil did a great job in his time with us, becoming a pivotal member of the Neighbourhood Plan Group, and a focal point for our ongoing liaison with the school on road safety matters. We wish Phil well, and thank him for his contribution over the past 18 months. In terms of new Councillors, we welcome Janet Crichton to the team. Janet has joined the Environment and Premises Committees. So, presently we have one current vacancy which we have advertised firstly via Colchester Borough Council to see whether we needed an election, (which wasn’t requested by electors in the Parish), before moving to the current advert which is for co-option. If any resident is interested in applying you only have until the end of April now to apply. Full familiarity training is given prior to undertaking the role.

The themes of our annual meeting this year are, as ever, community-focussed. We try to have Parish Groups speaking at these meetings, and also to have a wider topic for discussion. So, I’m very pleased to welcome Jane Gardner the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner to address us on the initiative to create more Special Constables to help with Neighbourhood Policing; Jane will also talk about the move to combine the blue light services in Essex. On the theme of local volunteering we have a representative covering the Village Bulletin and a chance to become involved in an editorial board, and a call to assist from the West Bergholt Community First Responders.  Additionally, there is exciting news from the Friends of St Mary’s Old Church and an update on the rubbish collection service from Colchester Borough Council. Finally, there is a chance to get an update on the developing Broadband rollout in the village.

So, what have we been able to progress in the last year? Well it would be remiss of me not to mention our success in the Village of the Year competition. We were declared the winners in our class of village size, and second overall. We were presented with our prizes at the winners’ ceremony held at the Chelmsford Race Course last June, and the entry reflected many members of the community including BYG, School Council and the Bluebells as well as Parish Councillors. I would like to thank all those who took part in the initial submission and subsequent two panel based interrogations we faced!

Turning to some of the matters raised at the last meeting, I was keen in my opening address last year, to reinforce the message that although there are 11 Parish Councillors, their work can only be made really effective with the input of members of the village to help with matters which require significant resources to enable progress to be made. Firstly, you may recall the spirited offer from one of our residents Aaron Williams to draw together the strands of the many Broadband initiatives being proposed, and to help explain this for our benefit. As a direct result of this offer, the Parish Council was happy to make over a 45 minute slot of its June meeting to allow Aaron to explain his findings and then to work with Aaron to help set up a Community Broadband Group to assist with determining the best system on offer to residents. Whilst the choice of Broadband supplier is entirely a matter for individuals to decide upon, the Group under the stewardship of Roly Bus and Phillip Edwards, has been hugely helpful in providing unbiased and neutrally presented factual information. Presentations to the village were made by three companies, and a newsletter circulated plus numerous news articles published on the village website and emails to all who signed up to news and alerts. More recently, as residents will know, a further organisation has entered the fray, and currently Virgin media are in the process of installing a fibre-based network.   We now have three companies in the process of planning or suppling high speed broadband, a position we never thought we would see only two years ago.

Another matter from the floor was that of the traffic and safety situation especially around the Co-op and the school, but also elsewhere in the village. I’m glad to say that the Parish Council has been supported by members of the community in particular Gemma Ross, who along with Harry Stone and District Cllr Lewis Barber, has been instrumental in setting up a Traffic and Safety Group which has met several times and held a workshop to draw in views of the community on current problems, long term objectives for the village and a whole raft of suggestions to pursue. It has not all been talk either: there are periodical patrols of the yellow lines by members of the community and the Parish Council, with drivers being given notices where their parking falls short of that which would be expected; banners placed at strategic positions; a speedwatch demonstration to school children and the placing of special 20mph signs in New Church Road and School Lane decorated with artwork produced by Aaron Monks a pupil at Heathlands. Lastly embracing the modern world of Apps, reporting by over 50 residents (who have signed up to TRYGVE) has enabled the reporting and recording of poor parking and driving in the village details of which are loaded onto an interactive map of the village for all to see.

Finally and continuing the theme of the Parish Council and volunteer Groups joining together, I must mention the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group and their progress. A report on the NP can be found elsewhere within this booklet, but remarkable progress was made last year through discussion with Colchester Borough Council to limit the number of houses we have to accommodate over the next 15 years to just 100-120, whereas some villages are literally taking thousands more. This was followed up by a consultation including a well-attended set of exhibitions which drew in nearly 500 people. I am indebted to the enthusiasm of those who support this group of forward planners.

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.  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. You can read of the activities of the committees and sub-committees in the reports that follow in this booklet. I would also like to thank our Hall Administrator Vicky Beckwith-Cole and the two handymen David Hewitt and Matt Harkness. We have increased the activities of the handymen, and you no doubt have seen that we now undertake a far greater degree of grass cutting and ditch maintenance than we can ever expect from the upper tier authorities whose responsibility it actually is. I must also give thanks to our mostly invisible but hugely effective webmaster Dave Kingaby.

Finally, I would like to give particular thanks to Laura Walkinshaw, 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 thank you Laura from us all for a hugely successful year – long may it continue. 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 2016/17 – Andrew Savage

I am pleased to announce that the External Auditors have ‘signed off’ the 2015/16 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 2017, are currently being prepared and the pre-audited figures can be summed up as follows:

The Parish Council’s General Accounts show an income for the year (including contributions from various Charities, Trusts and VAT refunds) of nearly £111,000 as against an expenditure of around £117,700.  This difference, of about £6,800, is basically due to providing financial assistance to the Orpen Hall Toilet Refurbishment project.

The Orpen Memorial Hall Accounts show an income of £42,500 and an expenditure of nearly £34,400.  The difference, of around £8,000, is to be subsequently used by having £5,000 ‘Earmarked’ for the re-roofing project to the main hall with the remainder for the resurfacing of the hall floors.     

This last year has seen the completion of the major Toilet Refurbishment project which was funded from many sources.  So our thanks go to our Borough Councillors, Colchester Borough Council, Essex County Council and to all of you for your contribution through the Parish Precept.

Moving forward to this year’s finances, the Parish Council will still work hard to find 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 over the next three years in accordance with best practice recommendations for local councils. From this list, the 6 items agreed for this year are:

New Storage/Garage Facilities £7,500 (existing rented garage in poor condition)
Village Sign Repairs £1,000 (to be repainted before wood rots)
Grants £2,000 (for local charities/clubs)
Neighbourhood Plan Fees £5,000 (final elements require Consultants)
Neighbourhood Plan Projects£9,500 ( if NP approved then funding for projects)
Small Kitchen (Servery) in Hall £5,000 (requires refurbishment and improvement)

This, of course, has an effect on the Parish Precept, resulting in a household in a Band D property now having to pay an additional 20 pence a week.  This was felt to be reasonable in view of what will be additionally provided.

Environment & Highways Report – John Gili-Ross

I trust residents have noticed the improvements to our streets and environment, which in a large part is due to our two village handymen David Hewitt and Matt Harkness.  They are regularly seen around the village wearing high vis jackets with a West Bergholt Parish Council logo on the back.  Wearing these jackets not only helps keep them safe and warm but also demonstrates how your village council tax is being used to directly benefit the village.  We can no longer expect Colchester Borough Council to keep our grass cut to a level we would like or clear the ever-present rubbish on our main village roads and common areas with the level of financial constraints experienced.

During the year, we purchased a silver Ford Focus, which has been put it to work by our environment staff in moving equipment and tools around the village when needed.  The vehicle was purchased for £550 and its worth has been proven many times over, as we cannot expect our handymen to use their personal vehicles for these activities.  Our handymen work on average 8 hours each per week and provide the village with excellent value for money.

Much of our budget is spent on trimming back the numerous hedges and trees that are on and around our open spaces together with cutting the grass around the play areas where the main contractors do not have the equipment to maintain these areas at a reasonable level and cost.  A specialist contractor is employed to complete the annual hedge flailing and this work quickly followed up by our handymen to complete the work.  The trees on the village green and the Lorkin Daniel field are regularly inspected to help ensure safety and some of the old cherry trees on the Lorkin Daniell playing field need to be removed during 2017 as they are at or approaching end of life. 

During our annual playground inspection, we received a clean bill of health as regards the condition of the equipment however this was following a significant piece of maintenance work by our handymen on the climbing frames and wooden surfaces.  Work continues in treating the village seating benches to help maintain a pleasant relaxation facility. A new wooden gate was installed to replace the metal finger posts at the entrance to Poor’s Field.  We ask users of the field and the school not to park in front of the wooden gate and prevent our staff from maintaining the area.

It was a pleasure to install the three “20’s Plenty” signs on the roads around Heathlands School which were designed by Aaron Monks in a school competition.  The signs were manufactured free of charge and installed by our handymen.

One of the major issues during the year has been to remedy flooding that occurred in Albany Close and Colchester Road.  Some property owners have been dumping waste into the ditches and this coupled to abnormally high spring water flooding has been the main cause of flooding.  There are still flooding issues being experienced in Lexden Road and whilst there has been significant effort to resolve the flooding it appears still more work is needed.

During the year, the environment committee was joined by Janet Crichton as a new Parish Councillor to help with the ever increasing, environmental requirements throughout the village. I would like to say a big thank you to all the committee members for their hard work and enthusiasm.  We never lose sight of what is important to residents and our village.

Premises & Recreation Report – Brian Butcher

Firstly, a thank you to all Hall users this year, and as most of you know it’s difficult to get a slot in either Hall if you don’t book well in advance. In that regard, I must thank Vicky the P C’s Hall Administrator for booking in as many of you as possible, without whom the Premises and Recreation would have a few problems! Thanks also go to the committee members, and to our newest member Janet Crichton, and Murray Harlow as Vice Chair in my absence, including at the Annual Parish Meeting as well this year.

As some of you know the P C administers the Halls on behalf of the Halls’ trustees and relies heavily on Vicky not only to take bookings but to collect monies, ensure the halls are secure, cleaned and heated, stocked of loo rolls, etc. In the next twelve months though we hope to make booking online a reality, giving you the opportunity to see before contacting Vicky when the Halls are free, what they might cost and the terms of hire.

Last year saw the toilets in the Orpen Hall completely remodelled, and brought up to date, to the design of local architect Esposito McLean and local builder Ponder Construction, we thank them for their assistance. In summer ’17 you will see the Orpen Hall repainted internally, and change in colour, and the floor sanded and lacquered, new badminton court lines painted and a sports lacquer finish applied, ready for the autumn.

You’ll also see shortly more broken tiles to roof replaced, an interim measure to ensure the Orpen hall is watertight until we have it retiled. You will recall from my report last year that monies have been set aside for works to the roof over the past few years. The P C has a budget price for the reroofing but we’re not there yet funding wise. To help with this and the floor we have had to put up hall hire costs this year, typically from £10 to 10.30 per hour if you are a weekday evening village user group, (if you’d live in the Village that would cost you £13.40) to seek to ensure the Halls are self-funding.

The matter on site storage has been partly addressed this year and I’d like to thank the Orpen Players and BYG for their help on that front. All hall users though have storage problems to varying degrees, the History Group and the Flower Club to name two others. With a view to seeing how we can address this, amongst other reoccurring issues, the P C would wish to set up a Hall Users Group this autumn made of representatives of all hall users groups. If you would wish to join on behalf of the group, which it’s anticipated would meet every couple of months in the evening could you please let the Laura know, [email protected]

A final note please, and reminder to all Hall users who use the chairs in rows that they should be locked together in fours using two clips between each chair. We need this done to ensure the Parish Council complies with its fire risk assessments for insurance purposes, so your cooperation would be much appreciated.

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 2016/17, WBPC received 38 planning applications this was 33% less than in 2015/16, of the 38 applications, the Parish Council supported 19, objected to 8 and gave observations on a further 10, 1 application was withdrawn. The Parish Council supports the majority of the applications, or has proactive suggestions to enhance the proposals.

The committee strongly objected to a new house in Chapel Road, application 162858 this was refused specifying Village Design Statement policies as the main grounds for refusal.

Development Planning

Colchester Borough has a new Local Plan 2017-2033 the emerging document is due for approval late summer. The West Bergholt Neighbourhood Plan is being prepared in parallel with the CBC Local Plan, with the changes to the CBC Local Plan and the finalisation of the Village NP, we can expect planning application testing the validity of these documents. Having worked closely with CBC we expect their support, if the applications fall outside the revised village envelope.

Design Guidance

The Village Design Statement (VDS). Has been CBC policy for the past six 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.

Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group – Chris Stevenson

Progress with the Neighbourhood Plan:

1. Neighbourhood Plan (NP)

Although I have reported on progress for several years, there are many people who are still unaware of the ability of communities to create planning documents for local use. So as a reminder, Neighbourhood Plans are a new form of community-based planning which enable villages, parishes or similar-sized 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. Although NPs are primarily about future development, they can also include projects similar to those in the present Parish Plan. It is likely that ours will include elements of both.

A steering group of Parish Councillors and other members of the community has been formed over the previous 4 years to produce the plan. The group liaises with Colchester Borough Council and receives help and guidance from a variety of organisations. West Bergholt has been in the vanguard of local parishes producing a plan and has made presentations and offered guidance to others seeking to follow suit.

2. Main Activities carried out to date on NP in 2016/17

Firstly, we have been responding to the Local Plan drafted by Colchester Borough Council. This allocated 120 houses to our village centred on two sites to the north of Colchester Road. This is 20 more than we wanted, and which we had suggested, so we have made representations to get this number reduced. We now await the next consultation on the Local Plan which takes place in June this year. Despite the number being greater than we wished, the locations suggested were along the lines of the Steering Group’s own thinking, and indeed the number could have been far higher. Also, the finalisation of housing in our parish and village has been stated in Colchester’s Plan as subject to the development of a Neighbourhood Plan. Overall this is a good result for our community and represents excellent liaison between the Steering Group and officers and members at Colchester Borough Council.

Building on consultations in April 2015 a draft of the NP in more-or-less its final format was the subject of further consultations between October to December 2016 comprising:

  • An exhibition
  • A leaflet delivered to each household
  • A survey via the web and the Village Bulletin

The consultation centred on the Policies of the NP on the nine areas of

Housing and Planning

Community Amenities


Business & Commerce


Sport & Recreation

Community Safety

Transport and Highways


Over 450 people attended the exhibitions and nearly 200 people completed an on-line or paper questionnaire.

The full results of the questionnaire can be found on the village website, but the majority of those who participated agreed with the policy statements included in the plan and there was similarly a good degree of support for the selection of the two development areas on the north side of Colchester Road which were put forward as future housing sites.

Since the consultations in the autumn of last year the Steering Group has been busy on the following activities:

  • Analysing the responses and amending the plan in the light of these
  • Meeting Landowners
  • Firming up on changes to the settlement boundary
  • Discussing the NP with Colchester Borough Council
  • Engaging specialists to quality check the plan
  • Commissioning a Landscape Character Appraisal
  • Getting ready for the next consultation in Spring 2017

3. Programme

It is thought that the NP will not be finalised until 2018. The rough timetable is as follows

  • Final Draft Plan and consultations Spring 2017
  • Publication of Plan Summer 2017
  • Public Inquiry in Spring 2018(*)
  • Referendum in Autumn 2018(*)
  • Adoption of NP Winter 2018(*)

The formal stages of the Plan’s development (*) and adoption are determined by Colchester Borough Council so dates are approximate. 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.

4. Getting Involved

Although there is a steering group already formed, it is not a closed shop. Anyone can come to the regular meetings (normally 7.30pm on the first 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

Please visit  for further details and click on the Neighbourhood Plan tab.

5. Thank You

Attempting to produce a complex Neighbourhood Plan is not easy for busy people who are all volunteers with little background in town and country planning, 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.

Skip to content