Annual Report 2006-2007

Buxted Parish Council Chairman’s Report 2006/2007

 

This report outlines the workings of the Council over the last 12 months – to set the scene of what the Council has done or not done in the past year. There are separate reports on specifics of the various committees.

This is the end of the four year term of the Parish Council and for me personally the 5th as its Chairman.

After some time without a complete quota of Councillors, during the year we co-opted two new Councillors – to fill two vacancies we had – one in the High Hurstwood Ward and the second in the Buxted Ward. A number of candidates came forward for consideration for the two vacancies for the Parish Council as a whole to interview and then select by ballot. Both selected are proving to be extremely able new Councillors – Michelle Warner while a High Hurstwood ward representative stood with the keen aim to provide much needed representation and support for Five Ash Down and to help give the young in the Parish more of a voice. Michelle as well as helping support matters relating to FAD – including the forthcoming Grampian development, has also helped get the Parish Youth Council, Next Step, up and more than running. The second, Louise Daniel stood with the keenness to support the Parish Council’s aim to improve communications with the parish community as a whole – and hit the ground running so to speak by getting the parish council newsletter, Community Voice – out into the community.

But in gaining two very able new councillors this year, we also lost one of the best liked and very able members – Jean McQuillen, who with her husband Pat was tragically killed in February.

On Thursday 3rd May we have an uncontested election. This arises as the numbers of candidates standing does not exceed the quota in either of the two wards – Buxted (including Five Ash Down) and High Hurstwood. So perhaps unlike Hartfield, where there are 24 candidates standing for 12 places allegedly because of seeming unrest in the community, we should take comfort that the community of Buxted Parish is generally happy with the workings and representation it receives from the Parish Council. I personally hope that is the case but part of me also worries that it maybe signals a general apathy. Whether this is true we will see in the coming weeks and months.

While the new term of office will see many of the same faces on the Council, we will start with three vacancies – all in the High Hurstwood Ward. One due to the tragic death of Jean McQuillen, the second an administrative issue that will be addressed by the expected immediate co-option of Michelle Warner back onto the Council – and the third vacancy as a result of Peter Bowdery stepping down at this time for personal reasons.

I am personally very sad but fully understand Peter’s reasons – there are times in life when frankly something has to give and in the scheme of our daily lives, serving the community we live in has to fundamentally come second to our families and friends. I would like to especially note however that in stepping down this community loses probably the most able Councillor we have ever had in relation to planning matters. Peter will be a hard act to follow with his knowledge and professionalism as chairman of planning. On behalf of the Council and the communities of Buxted Parish I’d like to thank Peter for everything he has done. We hope in time maybe he will stand again but in the meantime are at least grateful he has agreed in principle to acting as a community member on selected working party projects.

Importantly however we will start the new term of office with a sufficient quota to be eligible to work towards Quality Council status – something for which in the last term of office we have put in place some of the required milestones needed to achieve this.

So while many of the familiar faces remain as Parish Councillors – roles to be defined – and that includes Chairman – we will have two vacancies immediately to look to co-opt to and I suspect we may also have further vacancies as this year progresses. We will therefore be seeking new blood to come forward. Filling seats on the Council is not the drive – but having people able to support the increasingly pro-active stance of the Council workings is. We need to bolster the energies and expertise of the Parish Council.

We all come to be Parish Councillors with different skills, experiences and interests. Each of us gives in our own way – with what time we have to share. Over 50% of this Parish Council works full time and of those who are supposedly retired all are active in the community and other matters beyond the Parish Council.

If anyone is interested please contact either Colin Reed or myself.

This last 12 months has been a busy one for the Parish Council but the future looks set to be busier – particularly as we enter the formal consultation process for the Local Development Framework – the LDF – which is the way the new planning system will work to fulfil the requirements of the South East Regional Plan out to 2026. There is already an agreed Local Statement of Community Involvement (LSCI) – and we will need to work hand in glove together as a Parish Council with you all in the community, with fellow parishes and with other authorities and ‘stakeholders’ in the local strategic partnership (LSP). Yes a lot of acronyms and buzzwords that may make the hairs on your neck rise. However the reality is that if this community does not engage with and through the Parish Council then Wealden District Council will not be best positioned to ensure that the way the Parish develops out to 2026 will reflect how the local communities would like it to be. As such Buxted Parish could become a focal target for mass development that does not fulfil local needs.

Whether or not within the LDF process communities really get a proper influence about the way they want to see life develop – remains to be seen – but step one is to engage with the process. It is not to poo poo it and turn a blind eye. So when the fist consultation is released this Summer it will be important to engage in it. Not a good time we know given summer holidays!

And so on to what is the Council, who is the Council – how does it work and what has it done.

Parish Council members – who has done what

I feel it is important to recap on the important roles people on the Council have. In order to save time people interested can read this in my full report – but be assured nothing happens on the Council without the efforts of all the individuals involved.

Everyone is assigned to represent a part of the community – so that locally residents have someone they can contact should they want to voice a concern or has an idea. From a planning perspective this also allows the Parish Council to have a closer ear to the ground beyond the planning committee. These area responsibilities were detailed in the first issue of Community Voice and are listed on Parish noticeboards and on the parish web site.

In the last year Peter Coxon has remained as Vice Chairman and Chairman of Footpaths Committee which has also included Peter Bowdery, Francis Harding, Vi Treacher, the late Jean McQuillen and community representation in the form of Homer Cox and Michael Buncombe. Peter will report on the workings of the Footpaths committee.

Peter has also been Community, Communications & Parish Plan Committee Chairman a mouthful of a committee which emerged from the amalgamation of various working parties and the Parish Plan committee. He has been supported by Peter Bowdery, Francis Harding, Martin Rogers and the late Jean McQuillen. Peter will report on the work of the committee which has laterally had the additional support and expertise of Louise Daniel as editor of the new Parish Newsletter Community Voice – and from which a working group was born – the Parish Community Hall Working Party – involving Mike Kettel, Henry Wilkes, John Rose and James Chalmers. Peter will report on the works of the committee.

James Chalmers – in his so-called back bench position has continued to chair the Recreation Grounds and Properties Committee supported on this by Jackie Downing, John Rose and Vi Treacher with co-opted community support from Mrs Evelyn Smith. James will separately report on the work of the committee.

Along with Jackie Downing and John Rose, James has also represented the Council on the Ionides Memorial Centre Management Committee and chairs that group. With Peter Bowdery he has continued to ensure a representation from Buxted on the Wealden Association of Local Councils – a group which has made some decisions that have disappointed this and other PCs during the last year – but which for the benefit of this community we have remained involved. James remains a member of Wealden District Council’s Standards Committee – monitoring the doings of Parish Councillors ensuring we don’t behave like our national politicians.

With his international banker’s experience Henry Wilkes has continued to chair the Finance and Policy Committee supported by the considerable business acumen of Mike Kettell, Jackie Downing and John Rose. He will outline the working of the committee. Henry has also been responsible for championing the Speed Watch initiative that Buxted PC committed to some time ago but which as a result of concerns by Sussex Police was put on hold throughout the County. With the emergence of a new Community Speed watch initiative where we will engage directly with the Police we hope this will allow for renewed vigour. Henry has also been the Parish Council representative on the Buxted Almshouse Charity – a non-onerous task this last year.

Peter Bowdery as I noted has remained Chair of the Planning Committee. Other members of that committee have included James Chalmers, Francis Harding, John Rose, Geoffrey Sheard and the late Jean McQuillen. I will shortly outline the major happenings in planning on behalf of the Committee.

The late Jean McQuillen continued to chair the HH Ward up until her tragic death. Jackie Downing has continued to chair the Buxted (and FAD) ward and to represent the Council on the Ionides Management Committee, the ESCC Transport Liaison Committee and with Geoffrey Sheard sits on the Uckfield Rail Line Parishes Committee.

Vi Treacher has remained the Parish Council Representative on the High Hurstwood School Governors Board as well as the Council’s representative on the High Hurstwood Village Hall Management Committee – she plays an active role on both. Vi will report on the school matters

As well as being a member of the various committees as mentioned previously, Francis Harding sits on the FAD Village Hall Management Committee.

Along with Martin Rodgers he has also been helping me with the base development of a ‘Local List of Important Buildings’. This list will be taken forward to provide an official list within WDC in relation to future developments in the Parish. The Local List will identify other buildings of note (that while not nationally ‘listed’) are building that the Parish wishes to see retained and which will also give a guide to the important socio-economic and vernacular nature of buildings in the Parish – and as such will link closely with the Village Design Statements which we will have to progress work on. The progress of the list has been slow – lamentably largely because of other priorities and a lack of hands to do all the work required of the Council.

John Rose sits on a variety of committees as noted previously and represents the Council on the Buxted Pavilion Charity Management Committee. He remains our Councillor Community Safety Contact representing the PC at Police liaison meetings and interaction with WDALC and Safer Wealden Partnership.

Michelle Warner having been co-opted to the Parish Council in June 2006, has become the Parish Council Representative on the Buxted School Governors Board and will report on the school. She has also spearheaded the development of the Parish Youth Council ‘Next Step’ which Peter will report on.

Peter Coxon and I are non-officio members of all the committees – and input to them and participate at meetings as required – and I hope for their sakes I do not do this too often when not required so to speak. I think the term is ‘butt out’! I have also remained Parish Tree Warden.

The work of the PC continues to be much better spread across the Council – and largely made possible by the energies and expertise of individuals. This makes it increasingly possible for the Council to be more pro-active as I hope you will see from reports from others how this manifests.

On a daily management basis – Colin Reed – our Clerk and Responsible Financial Officer – handles the bulk of the administration of the business and finances as well as being the prime contact with the community. This all makes it more manageable for the Chairman – which I hope for the future will help whoever succeeds me sooner or later. I know people find him fantastically approachable and supportive. He even manages to keep me in daily check which many find amazing. The role of the Clerk is pivotal and this Parish community as well as Council is extremely lucky to have Colin.

As in previous years this Parish Council has continued to retain largely good working relations with our ESCC Cllr Tony Reid and our Wealden District Councillors. DC Cllr Norman Buck is standing again for election but Pat Kennedy is stepping down from representing Buxted after 8 years. In that time she did her utmost to best represent the community as a whole and this Parish Council is very thankful of the good working relations we had and the mutual support we enjoyed in what have sometimes been rocky and controversial roads – particularly in relation to some of the more difficult planning matters the Parish has faced. Buxted has been well served by Mrs Kennedy and I hope she also feels the community well supported her. I would like to thank her for her time as one of our District Councillors and on a personal level if she wants borrow a puppy carrier again for any Lakeland hikes at any time just to call!

We also have good working relations with other parishes – largely through an informal network of the local chairmen and also their planning chairmen. This has paid some dividends and we are in regular contact particularly with Maresfield Parish Councils on matters of common interest. This collaboration helps in enhancing our professionalism and ability to comment on matters given we do not unnecessarily duplicate efforts starting with blank sheets of paper but share experiences and expertise. There has been a move to enforce such clustering by various bodies and authorities but along with fellow councils we have strongly resisted such approaches on the basis that the voice of the local communities should be from ground level moves not managed by others for administrative convenience. We have made it known to other authorities that we will work in cooperation with other parishes on matters of mutual concern – but that we will elect who the groups will be and what such groupings are for. This has not always made us popular!

Laterally we have also been working with Uckfield Town Council on a matter of mutual concern – namely station parking – and we hope that the guidance we gave from experiences we had in relation to Highways matters and transport planning will be useful to them. We are also, through Michelle, involved in the broadening of the Uckfield Road Safety Week. We will ensure we remain in dialogue on matters of mutual concern and generally improve the channels of cooperative working.

The Parish Council has also sought to improve the working relations with officers at both Wealden and County. Where we have concerns we continue to voice them as we do regularly with both the planning and enforcement teams at WDC and Highways at County. Peter Bowdery has played a key role in this much of it driven through the dialogue we have had on planning matters – and in particular through a series of meetings we have had in relation to the forthcoming development at Grampian which I will review under Planning. With Peter stepping down there will be a void that I am sure officers at Wealden will miss as much as the Parish Council will. That is a void we need to ensure is not very big.

Some of the bigger issues and matters dealt with included were:

–       The Parish Newsletter Community Voice was launched

–       Youth Council ‘Next Step’ was established

–       New Parish Community Hall facility bid to the National Lottery has been made. Matters Peter Coxon has reported on

–       Wealden LDF development and consultation process

–       Wealden villages local lists of important buildings – a cross Wealden initiative to identify buildings and other structures which whilst not listed per se are considered locally important and to be protected – to guide on principles of development in relation to ‘sense of place’. We are working on this and in the coming year will come to the community to consult.

–       Dealing with ongoing parking problems in Buxted – including ongoing dialogue with highways, rail operator and the police – advisory signs, white lines and police enforcement – working with Uckfield Town Council for more parking at Uckfield – and investigating other possibilities

–       Parish Assets – Buxted Pavilion Trust lease renewed, Littlewood Lane triangle ownership transferred to the Parish Council – yes mowing it is now the Parish Council’s responsibility and James Chalmers reports on property matters.

–       Impact on private firework displays on neighbours, pets, horse and livestock – collaboration with the police to inform all householders and with Homer Cox and Neighbourhood Watch to establish a firework registry to encourage residents to advise when fireworks planned and to inform the community to allow preparation and protection of animals

–       On Road Safety – we have worked with William King, Chairman of Maresfield Parish Council and Cllr Hanno Fry – which in part has resulted in the piloting of the new Community Speedwatch across the two parishes with the police.

Correspondence

445 items were dealt with (506 previous year) – key consultations from local and national government lessened!

But some of the matters included:

– Police funding of PCSOs and their vehicles

– NHS PCT consultations on future healthcare delivery

– Speed management consultations for East Sussex

– Waste management consultation

– Minerals extraction consultation

– WDC LDF preparatory work including Statement of Community Involvement

– Local government white paper

– East Sussex rights of way

For a complete list do feel free to contact Colin.

Policing

PCSO Karen Juniper remains our key contact with the police but now with PC Paul Stephens as the local Neighbourhood Specialist Constable. We respect the work they are both doing and welcome this renewed community policing and community cooperation in it.

We are sorry that Sussex Police seemed unable to properly assign transport costs for PCSOs in the police budget and we have voiced our concerns. We hope we don’t find Karen can’t get to the parish because of lack of transport and have asked to be kept closely advised. The Parish Council has at this time however declined to provide any funding given the PC was approached after the precept was set and the community is already funding policing though the other parts of their council tax.

 So if you have managed to read through this well done. I hope it provides you with a useful record of what this Parish Council does and has done in the last year.

And finally – a call for anyone interested in:

–       becoming a Parish Councillor

–       getting involved with a Parish Youth Council

–       becoming a Community Speedwatch volunteer

–       getting involved as a volunteer in other Parish Council initiatives

–       becoming chairman of the PC!!

To tell us please.

And before I end a personal thank you to all my fellow Councillors who have collectively worked together as a cohesive team on behalf of you the community.

 

Alison Crowe

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