Parish Council Chairman’s Annual Statement April/May 2020
The end of the Parish Council year generally means an Annual Parish Meeting at which the chairman gives a ‘state of the nation’ address. Obviously we cannot hold a meeting so I have prepared this statement in summary of the year. In order to prepare for an annual report, my first port of call is always to go through the minutes of the meetings for the year to pick out salient points – it might be my age (don’t answer that!) but it is amazing how much gets forgotten along the way – including the vast amount and variety of work we get through in a year.
The 2019/20 year can be summarised in a few pertinent words –
SUCCESS; FOCUS; RESILIENCE; (a lot of) PERSISTENCE; (a bit of) BLACKMAIL and GRATITUDE
As with everything in life, there are positives and negatives. One thing for sure is that even though we are a thoroughly professional hard working and well-regarded Parish Council, it hasn’t all been plain sailing!
SUCCESS – we fought off yet another appeal for the unrealistic plans for development at Kingcup Cottage, Wellington Marsh – that’s two appeals dismissed and hopefully the end of the matter.
After almost 10 years of effort the 30mph speed limit has been extended to include Auberrow – along the way we found out that all the other limits in the village were unenforceable so that was rectified – the Auberrow Traffic Regulation Order was set to cost us £9000 (using Section 106 money from recent housing developments) but thanks to some canny negotiation by our Ward Councillor Pauline Crockett, the eventual cost was only £3000. Good to have her on side!
We now have 20mph warning signs at the school and have carried out two speed surveys which do not show excessive speed there; we have formalised two bus stops to make things easier and safer for everyone and funded some footpath resurfacing. This all from 106 funding.
When we found out Carrot and Wine wanted to assign their lease, we put our collective heads in our hands but look how it all turned out! In Julia, we now have a brilliant new tenant and a thriving shop. Long may it continue – and it WILL if you continue to support it.
And we added another Councillor to the team, Cllr Andy Spittle from Wellington Marsh, so geographically between us we now cover the Parish – from north to south, east to west.
FOCUS – After my last comment I can’t waste the opportunity to remind you that everyone – councillors and parishioners alike, must remain focussed on filling the two vacancies on the council – so if you are the slightest bit tempted, please get in touch. We are all getting older and the Parish Council needs to build for the future.
And rest assured that your councillors will continue to remain focussed on the things that need doing. We have put in so much hard work to get someone to engage with us regarding our concerns on safety on the A49 with no success and that’s despite the near demolition of a parishioner’s house in an RTA. Our MP has proved to be elusive as have representatives from Herefordshire Council – one meeting with Councillor John Harrington who has the Cabinet Position on Transport and Infrastructure and Bruce Evans, their senior engineer, lots of nodding of heads and sucking of teeth and ….then they disappeared. But we won’t give up.
And finally, as many of you are aware there are delays in planning approvals going through due to need for a Nutrients Management Plan to rescue the Lugg from excess phosphates. This is an important focus for North Herefordshire at the moment; the most significant hold up for us is the 15 new homes adjacent to the Graveyard.
RESILIENCE – I am not going to spend time going over the havoc that Storm Dennis created in the early hours of February 16th – simply to say, Wellington folk were brilliant and the way that those who were directly affected coped is to be applauded. We now need to turn to making Wellington homes as resilient as they can be against flooding for the future.
PERSISTENCE – Things grind sometimes very slowly in ‘Council land’ and, to the outside observer, often seem to have added and undue bureaucracy. I am acutely aware that it may look as if we are not really trying – if that’s your view come and spend some time either at my desk or at Chris’s and see just how hard we have to work to get even the vaguest of responses from both Herefordshire Council and some factions in Balfour Beatty. Cllr Crockett is well aware of our frustrations as well as just how persistent we are in following things through right to the end. The frustration of some parishioners with the way things have to be done, boiled over at meetings earlier in the year and I just want to remind everyone that firstly, your councillors are volunteers who have lives to live, we do the very best we can within the constraints placed on us by not only our Code of Conduct but the stakeholders with whom we have to work – there are right and wrong ways of going about things and we have to take the right and lawful path – and keep on persisting!!!
BLACKMAIL – I threw this one in to make sure you read this right to the end! On the subject of planning, although we approved the construction of three houses on the site of the derelict Honeysuckle Cottage at Auberrow, there was a sting in the tail from the agent – unless we took on the waste land surrounding the site – which we believe to be highly suspect – no houses would be built and there was an oblique reference of what the site may be used for in the future! We shall see what happens in the fullness of time.
In truth, it’s been a relatively uneventful year planning wise – no solar farms this year – the only current major application outstanding being the one for Tarmac’s southern extension.
GRATITUDE In conclusion a chance for me to say thank you – to Jennifer Jarrett and the Community Led Implementation Team for sticking with that plan and adding new initiatives to it all the time – their latest project being to look at Loneliness and Isolation in the Parish. I think I can say without reservation that Wellington should be proud of the example that our CLP team sets amongst other parishes for operating so successfully in embedding the aspirations of the community. And of course, to my fellow councillors and in particular to Chris Bucknell – trite as it may sound, truly none of this would be possible without her. Thanks also to Cllr Crockett for her unwavering support.
Finally thank you to our loyal supporters who come to almost every meeting – the Parish Council exists to serve everyone in Wellington and it would be so good to see more parishioners coming along – there is always the chance to raise issues that concern you.
This message was written before Coronavirus changed the way we are living our lives and I could have re-done it and devoted it to how Wellington is coping; however by May next year we will hopefully be out the other side and I can reflect back then on what a great community we live in and how crisis bought us all closer together.
Cllr Jenni Gowan
Chair of Parish Council