Minutes of Annual Parish Meeting 27th April 2022

Minutes of the Annual Parish Meeting

Held in the Orpen Memorial Hall Wednesday 27th April 2022 at 7.30 p.m.

In the Chair:Harry Stone, later Brian Butcher
Clerk:Laura Walkingshaw
Present:Borough Councillors Dennis Willetts, various speakers Approximately 50 members of the public

The Annual Report 2022 from West Bergholt Parish Council was distributed in a booklet, the unaudited Trust Accounts were available on display boards, as were the PC Achievements Apr 2019 – Mar 2022.

Before the meeting started, refreshments were served.

Apologies were received from County Councillor Lewis Barber.

1.     Welcome and introduction from the Chairman – Harry Stone

The chairman of the meeting, Harry Stone, read the Chairman’s Report in the Annual Report from the WBPC chairman, Chris Stevenson, who unfortunately could not attend the meeting due to Covid-19. Chris has announced his retirement from the role of Chairman of the Parish Council as of May 2022, and Harry thanked him for all of his hard work for the council, especially his delivery of the West Bergholt Neighbourhood Plan. Cllr Stone wished him well in his retirement, from both his day job and the Parish Council.

Harry also announced Cllr Jenny Church’s resignation from the Parish Council and presented her with a bouquet of flowers as thanks for all her hard work over the years.

Within the Chairman’s Report thanks were expressed to the chairmen and members of the council’s committees and sub-committees, the three village handymen, Matt Harkness, Nigel Weall & Simon Forrester. Thank you also to Vicky Beckwith-Cole, the hall administrator, Dave Kingaby, our webmaster and Laura Walkingshaw, parish clerk.

2.     Heathlands School – Joseph Fielder  

The new headteacher of Heathlands Primary School gave a presentation on himself, his journey in education and his priorities for the school: Heathlands Presentation. He then answered questions. Firstly, a question on the additional children likely to arrive from the new developments on Colchester Road, to which he explained that with new schools opening in North Colchester there were spaces available for local children at the Heathlands School. Secondly, a question on the parking issues around the school, which he explained that he was involved in a joint venture with the Parish Council, County Councillor Lewis Barber and local residents to look at that specific issue in detail. There had in fact been a Traffic Workshop planned that week, however it had been cancelled due to Covid-19 infections, it will be re-arranged.

3.     Age Well East – Emma Barrow & Kayley Hall

Emma and Kayley from Age Well, previously Age Concern, gave an Age Well East Presentation on the services available from the local Age Well charity. They explained how they can offer bereavement support, dementia clubs, friendships groups or phone calls, and they have many activities happening locally which people can join and are always looking for new community venues. They also offer a multitude of advice, such as what people may be entitled to and how to fill in a request form for a Blue Badge. They have links to a list of local handymen who have been verified and DBS checked. When in contact with them, they can offer a holistic approach to helping those who need their services, with different departments specializing in a variety of ways.  Their website provides more details at https://agewelleast.org.uk.

4.     Deputy Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner – Jane Gardner

Deputy Commissioner Gardner had previously attended a West Bergholt Annual Parish Meeting and was happy to be back talking to local residents again. She explained her role and that of Roger Hirst, the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner and went into detail of the new Essex Police and Crime Plan. There had previously been 7 priorities, but having consulted with the public there are now 12:

  • Further investment in crime prevention
  • Reducing drug driven violence
  • Protecting vulnerable people and breaking the cycle of domestic abuse
  • Reducing violence against women and girls
  • Improving support for victims of crime
  • Protecting rural and isolated areas
  • Preventing dog theft
  • Preventing business crime, fraud and cyber crime
  • Improving safety on our roads
  • Encouraging volunteers and community support
  • Supporting our officers and staff
  • Increasing collaboration

The Deputy Commissioner asked for any questions, of which there was only one, on unauthorised traveller encampments. She explained that Essex had sought a much more robust approach in the last 4 years, including an expansion of the Essex Countywide Traveller Unit and that currently there were stronger laws on trespass going through Parliament which will make a difference.

5.     Parish Council Grant Awards:

Friends of St Mary’s Church – £460

Of the annual grant allocation of £1,000 to local organisations, this year the Parish Council awarded a grant of £460 to the Friends of St Mary’s Old Church in order to undertake work straightening memorial stones and renovating decaying metalwork.

Martin Long from the Friends of St Mary’s Old Church (FOSMOC) accepted the grant certificate from Cllr Stone and provided an update on the maintenance work. The FOSMOC was established about 10 years ago, when the church was put in the hands of the Churches Conservation Trust and although the oldest building in the village it is still serving its original purpose opening every day from 10 am to 4 pm as well as being allowed to hold weddings and funerals by special licence. Around 500 people are buried there, the names of which have been recorded by Gill Poole and are available at the back of the Church. The Friends were grateful for the grant and hope to have the maintenance work completed by the Summer.

6.     Active Essex Presentation – followed by a short refreshment break

As the meeting was a little behind timewise, it was decided to put the Active Essex Presentation online at the westbergholt.org website and allow time for a short refreshment break.

During the break, many residents spent time looking at the rapidly prepared display on the National Grid’s proposal for pylons across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. The planned East Anglia Green Energy Enablement (GREEN) will cross through the parish as seen on the proposed map. Cllr Brian Butcher, co-chairman of the meeting, arrived at this time and briefly spoke on what the Parish Council knew so far, having only just been informed. There will be a consultation at the Orpen Hall on Saturday 7th May 2022 from 10am – 4pm and many councillors will be around on the day. We are at the start of the process; the consultation will close on the 16th June. We understand that Priti Patel has been asked why it is not a true consultation, with different options available. Bernard Jenkin would prefer an option of cables around the coastline. There is already a very organised Facebook group, called Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk Pylons in relation to this and local landowner Rosie Pearson was recently on TV describing the impact on her land. The local parishes intend to get together to discuss, and the Parish Council will be considering its response after the meeting on the 7th May. Information will be made available online at westbergholt.org, but he requested that residents please let us know their views (email [email protected]).

7.     Climate Change & West Bergholt – Tim Simpson (Essex County Council)

Tim Simpson, Green Infrastructure and Sustainable Drainage Manager for ECC, then gave his presentation on Climate Change and Our Natural Environment. He explained the advantages of having local biodiversity action plans in place and how local parishes have an opportunity to feed into the Local Nature Recovery Strategy through those plans. He recommended contacting the Essex Wildlife Trust, who would love to work with the parishes for the Wilder Town, Wilder Village Project. Tim also explained about the availability of the Climate Action Fund, which provides grants of up to £20,000 for climate initiatives from parish councils and others.

8.       Fairfields Farm – Robert Strathern

Director of Fairfields Farm, Robert Strathern, gave a presentation on the recent sustainable innovations happening at Fairfields Farm Crisps, visible in the fields around West Bergholt. He then took several questions from residents:

Q:How often do you plant potatoes in the fields?
A:Only 1 year in every 5 to 6 years.
Q:How much of the fertiliser used on the fields comes from the anaerobic digester and how much from traditional fertilisers?
A:About 50% comes from the digester.
Q:How do you feel about the National Grid pylon proposals?
A:Fairfields will be objecting.
Q:Have you noticed that walkers are not always using the official public footpaths across your fields?
A:Yes, and we intend to put new signage up around the fields to direct walkers correctly.
Q:A resident had concerns about the speed of tractors going through the village, although they couldn’t guarantee that they were Fairfields tractors?
A:We have recently started to engage with Fordham PC on just this point and will be installing dashcams into all our tractors to check their speed regularly.
Q:Can you explain the brown field in West Bergholt which looks as if it has been recently sprayed?
A:If it is the field we think it is, then it is not managed by Fairfields, but it looks as if the farmer is going to put maise in it and has sprayed off the weeds in advance of planting.

9.     Issues from the Floor

What You Say Matters – Make your point and ask questions

Cllr Butcher used this opportunity to remind residents of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations happening in the village very soon. There will be the lighting of the Beacon at the Orpen Hall car park on Thursday 2nd June at 9.45pm, with refreshments available from the Social Club (all welcome). There is also the Jubilee Festival on Saturday 5th June from 12 noon to 8 pm, with a junior Fun Run, inflatables, Royal Craft Show, food, drinks, stalls, sporting activities and live music which is free to attend.

He also notified residents that there is now a vacancy on the Parish Council, anyone interested should email [email protected] or check out the website, westbergholt.org. He then opened the floor to questions.

Q:A resident stated that the dog bin by the Old St Mary’s Church was broken and needed replacing. It is often frequently missed on collection days.
A:The Clerk reported that the dog bin is the property of Colchester Borough Council and she will inform the Neighbourhood Team of the issue.
Q:A resident question why the light in the Orpen Hall hadn’t been fixed yet, as it had been flickering for several weeks now.
A:The Hall Administrator stated that the electrician had been informed as soon as she had been made aware of the issue, just this week, but she would chase him tomorrow.

Harry Stone, Chairman of Annual Parish Meeting, then thanked all of the speakers for their time and for residents for attending.

The meeting closed at 10.11 pm.

Signed:                                                                    Date:

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