Chairman's Report - Annual Parish Meeting 2015

Chair’s Report 2015

As a Parish Council we have met every month except August.  Our meetings begin at 7.30 and generally last no more than 2 hours.  With the co-option of Rebecca, the Council is at full strength.  Parishioners are welcome to attend, either purely out of interest or if they wish to raise concerns about planning issues or other matters on the agenda.

The focus of most meetings is planning.  During the year we have considered approximately 30 applications   Based on the information received, our knowledge of the location and in the context of our Design Statement we will recommend approval or in some cases dismiss particular applications.  Mendip should listen to our recommendations but they then make their own decisions, hopefully taking into account our thoughts.  That doesn’t always happen!  For example our recommendation to allow a parking area outside All Saints Church seemed sensible, would meet a need, but was unsuccessful!

During the year we have considered several applications relating to tree work and these are almost always referred to Bo Walsh, Mendip Tree Officer.  Other applications during 2014/2015 have included new build, such as the detached house behind 'The Grange', house extensions, and applications of an agricultural nature, for example where a change of use from Agriculture to equestrian is requested with the desire to erect stables, or farmers requesting additional buildings.

This year we have had three Pre Planning Consultation items, possible development at Longacres, on land adjacent to Chapelfield and the building of an eco-house off Neighbourne Lane.  In principle the Council would look favourably on the possible development at Longacres and supported the idea of the eco-house based on what was shown and discussed.  The matter of building on land adjacent to Chapelfield generated much interest from parishioners, who were opposed to the idea.  The Council felt the presentation was full of inaccuracies and the additional housing was not required as we have met our quota for the foreseeable future.

In the area of Finance, the Council again set the precept at £9000.  We have received monthly statements from Sandrine, our Finance Officer and made grants to the Air Ambulance and Good Companions.  We have financed the refurbishment of the Village Finger Posts at a cost of £1500, fenced of the water storage pond on the Recreation Ground, made a small grant to the Village Hall to go towards the upgrade of the cooker and are looking to purchase a projector and screen for use during our meetings to display planning documents.  (Historically we gather round the table and comment).  From April 2015, Mendip will no longer send out hard copies so we needed to find a solution).

The Council funded the Remembrance Day Wreath and the costs of planting around the War Memorial.

During the year the Council has reviewed various consultation documents such as the County Mineral Plan, Libraries Provision, MDC Services, the Rights of Way Improvement Plan and Bus Services.  We discussed the new Transparency Code, which requires Councils to publish Council Minutes, Finance dealings and Agendas on the Parish Website http://www.ashwickparish.org/  The Council is grateful to Peter Langmaid who continues to Webmaster, responsible for uploading and updating Parish news.

We receive regular reports from Rachel Carter our Ward Councillor and Harvey Siggs, County Councillor.  Rachel reports on Mendip business and follows up any issues we have in the Parish.  An on-going concern of the state of the footpath leading into the village bordering the Pondsmead estate is still a matter of concern.  Both Rachel and Harvey have been approached on this matter, but no progress yet.

Rachel was involved with our concerns that Coxley Developers would put in an temporary road through The Old Maltings,  Councillors met with the Developers to make it clear we would not support such a move.  A licence would be required and we believed County would not grant the licence.

As a result of Community Funding projects with the support of Rachel, we successfully received £1000 which was redirected to the Village Hall Committee for their project to re-fence the Play area.

We have received reports from Nikki Housley, our PCSO on crime related issues. 

This year the Council nominated Janet Smith for the Chair of Somerset County Council’s Community Award.  Janet had worked for the community in various ways, with the Church, village clubs and committees and we felt her worked deserved recognition.

The Council has plans to refurbish the War memorial.  The stone work requires a good clean and some repointing.  Research has found we should add a name to the Memorial, so this together with possible hooks on the rear wall to accommodate wreaths is one of our on-going projects.  A bequest from a parishioner may fund the wreath hooks.

A second is our intention to ensure that the Recreation Ground is entered on the Land Registry.  The site has been valued by Killens and we are now going through the process of registration.

On the topic of Highways, we have had two site meetings with the Area Supervisor to highlight local concerns.  This has involved a drive around the Parish looking at the state of the roads.  We continue to flag up the problems of flooding along Laundry Lane and the general condition of the road surfaces along Simbriss Lane, Ashwick Hill and Laundry Lane. 

Following a meeting with Chris Betty, Senior Traffic Engineer, the request to push back the 30mph signs on the entry into the village along the Stoke Road and in Little London was found to be reasonable but there has been no evidence of action yet!  Sometimes the wheels revolve very slowly!

We continue to receive data from the SID and have been considering taking on the running of the SIDs. This would involve training, purchase of Hi-Viz Jackets, Insurance.  If we undertake this responsibility, we may seek support from our neighbouring councils.  The Council remain concerned about the speed of vehicles entering the village along the Bath Road and through the High Street.

A number of issues have involved us in communications with the owners of the Pondsmead estate.  The continuing evidence of Japanese Knotweed has been reported and the general condition of boundary walls has been a concern.

I would like to thank Sandrine for her work as Clerk and Finance Officer,  Peter Langmaid for his work on the website and my colleagues on the Council for their contribution to Council and village life.

David Barlow