Great Bentley Parish Council
Chairman's Report 2009
Since our last meeting, global events have perhaps taken a much more prevalent position in our minds than ever before with concerns about finance, security and Government Policy. We have all been aware of a number of Government funded projects that, because they have been dependent on finance, have now either been put back or put off.
At a local level, of course, we have, as your Parish Council, still been keeping our eye very much on the ball and are consistently trying to achieve efficiencies and looking for ways to improve our environment and surroundings.
We have maintained our principle of stability and a common sense approach and I believe this has played out insofar as we have had no changes of Councillors this year and therefore hopefully this shows that we are pulling in the right direction. There will be natural changes in the future as peoples commitments and responsibilities change but certainly we have managed to maintain a much more stable platform of Councillors on which we can rely.
Our District Councillor, Linda McWilliams, continues with her good work in supporting us and the people of Great Bentley at District level and we have seen her achieve many of her goals.
Our County Councillor , Derek Robinson, also works tirelessly on behalf of not just our Council but others and acts as a useful conduit between the local and county arenas. We particularly need to thank him for his help with regard to Essex County Highways and the influence he is able to exert on them on our behalf.
We are also lucky enough to have Peter Balbirnie as another District Councillor whose straight-talking and no nonsense attitude, I believe, does manage to cut through many levels of bureaucracy.
We have however had a new Clerk this year in Kate Mayhew and she has proved a worthy asset taking over from Karen Paradise and I think it is a particular credit to both of them that the transition between the two has been so smooth. The role of Clerk in a Parish Council these days can be very difficult, particularly with the expectation of most people that if they query something by email, they are disappointed if they don't have an almost immediate reply. That together with all the continual updating of legislation surrounding the role make the job challenging and we are lucky to have a willing and enthusiastic person in the role.
As a Parish Council we have many commercial based Councillors and therefore I do feel that sometimes we could be perhaps criticised for the speed at which decisions are made. However, it is our intention and wish to be as inclusive and understanding in making all of our decisions and, sometimes via consultation and deliberation, our decisions may take a little longer. I don't think we should apologise for this but embrace it.
During the year many street lights have been repaired and through Robert Taylor 's vigilance these have been done quickly and efficiently and we hope we have removed most of the dark spots in and around the village. A new street lamp has been placed between the Doctors Surgery and the Pharmacy last year and I was particularly pleased with how quickly the street lamp went up and would like to take the opportunity to thank Robert once again for his tenacity in trying to push the electricity supplier to get us connected. As always, if parishioners have further requests for street lighting we would ask you to write in to the Parish Clerk so we can take the appropriate action.
As a Parish Council, District Council and Government we have all been trying to encourage affordable housing into our area. In particular, this Parish Council has been trying to promote the Rural Housing Trust's scheme at St Mary's Road to bring forward more affordable housing within the village. This has been going on for many years and there have been numerous hiccups along the way. There is little point in revisiting old ground with regard to where we are with this but essentially all the local people that have been involved in this, including the Parish Council, the land owner and the District Council, have been trying their hardest to bring forward this scheme. As I mentioned previously, the global economy filters down to all and we were very disappointed to hear that the Rural Housing Trust was going to cease its existence as a developer of schemes such as this. However, we are encouraged by the understanding that Hastoe Housing are now hopefully going to take on this scheme as part of its commitment in taking over the operations of the Trust. I very much hope that this time next year we may be able to report that the scheme is either complete or nearing completion.
The Parish Community Resource Centre
The viability of the Resource Centre has come into question on many occasions – Do we really need it? The requirement of the room is under constant review but as a personal point of view I think people like to know that there is a place where they can go and ask questions of the Parish Council, even if they don't necessarily use it all the time. It is a place where they can go to look at planning application drawings and acts as a conduit for any complaint or issue they wish to bring forward. The PCSO use of the office area as a base, I believe is also an added benefit.
Young People and Activities
The play area continues to be a popular attraction for the people of the village and we have continued to see the correlation between young people taking part in youth football training and cricket as well as a reduction in the amount of troublesome behaviour. The Parish Council will continue to encourage young people to participate in all forms of sport and outdoor activity. The sports clubs from the village are a huge source of vitality and we should be pleased with the investment that is currently being undertaken by the Football Club. The Parish Council supports the Football and Cricket Club and continues to appreciate both in their promotion of not only sport but of social responsibility and team building. If we are able to play as a team then it is more likely that we will be more socially tolerant and responsible in every part of our community. I would ask both of the Clubs to be mindful of the protection of the green and to ensure that it is treated with respect on days when damage could occur.
Bikers on the Green
The Parish Council's position on bikers on the green has not changed. The Parish Council needs to maintain its position on not giving permission for bikers to come on to the green for insurance purposes, but at the same time still needs to manage the situation as best it can. This we do with whatever help we can muster but we need to be vigilant about insuring that the rules and regulations of the council are upheld.
Visual policing is a comforting sight and helps not only to deter crime but provides community support within the village. Once again we thank our PCSO for her valued services this year and as a Parish Council we will continue to support her work.
I believe the railings that have been erected at Tesco's have certainly made that area a little safer with regard to the illegal parking as it has encouraged people not to park on the double yellow lines. We will always get the people that won't do this, but on the whole I think the situation has improved. Once the further parking restrictions have been put in place, we will be able to ascertain how successful they have been and if any further measures are necessary. We understand that this is not going to be popular with all parties but we are trying to do what is best for what we believe is the majority.
The pond looks in good health and although I haven't seen any frogs going across the road, the signs have gone up and I have seen frogspawn in the water.
We still have a few people that continue to disregard the polite notices on the green but, along with the continual support and help from the Surgery itself, these incidents are becoming fewer and fewer.
A meeting was held last week with regard to the Council's new Regeneration Delivery Vehicle which is known as “INTend”. A presentation was made to this and other Council's with regard to their expertise in obtaining grants for specific community projects. Therefore, if there are specific projects that we as a Council think are viable and yet we are unable to allocate resources to, we could use INTend as an advisor. My immediate thinking on this, particularly in light of Bernard Jenkins' response from Network Rail and their willingness to perhaps talk to a third party with regard to providing a car park on their land, would be to talk to INTend about the possibility of obtaining funding for a project such as this.
I am still extremely disappointed that we still have an ever increasing amount of rubbish along our roadsides and verges, together with people that simply wish to leave their rubbish in lay-bys in and around the village. I am disappointed that a great amount is generated by fast food wrappers with people eating food in their cars and then simply chucking it out of the window. There is no excuse for this and it must be stopped. Tendring District Council have a very clear policy on this insofar as if you report it to them they will issue a fine, simple as that. I believe this is the only way it can be stomped out and therefore I urge you, if you seen anyone littering our village, please report it. We are also encouraging the youth in the village to help with the clearing up process.
The Parish Council still successfully cuts the highways verges and other areas of land for the County Council. This means that the verges are cut more often and at more appropriate times of the year.
License for use of green for entertainment
Again last year the green was used for many things from fairs to football and from fun runs to fun weddings. We are very fortunate to have the asset of the green and one that we can all enjoy. Anyone wishing to use the green for organised functions must have written permission and sign up to the conditions that the Council has to apply. I would also like to remind members of the public about signage and if you would like to erect signage on the green for a limited amount of time for any reason, you must have written permission.
Finally I would like to thank once again the other members of the Parish Council and its helpers, our wardens, caretakers and contractors.
Councillors……you work on behalf of all members of the community. The work you do is without reward and sometimes with criticism. I wish to take the opportunity not as your Chairman but as a member of the community of Great Bentley to thank each and every one of you for your efforts this year.
If you are prepared to stand up and help this village, if you are prepared to be singled out and criticized for what you believe to be right, I thank you and I salute you.
I will now ask the public if they have anything they would like to discuss within the report. I shall keep the timing of this brief as we have a long evening ahead.