The time has come round again for the Parish Council to report to the community on what the Parish Council has achieved throughout the year and give you, the community an opportunity to ask questions of the councillors. All I will give is a short report and the full text is available as a handout and will be posted on the web site and included in the next version of Community Voice
Elections and Councillors
At the May elections everyone who stood was elected unopposed, consequently we had a full parish council for a short period of time. Unfortunately, throughout the course of the year, we lost 3 of the newly elected councillors. Our long standing, hard working chairman, Alison Crowe, ceased being the chairman in September and then later retired from the council. I somewhat reluctantly took over the role as chairman in October and can truthfully say it has been sometimes a roller-coaster learning experience and baptism of fire. However I would not have taken this role on without the knowledge that the parish council had the support of two excellent clerks, Beccy and Malcolm, without whom the parish council could not function. I would also like to thank the rest of the parish council for their support, tolerance and help in the changeover period. Especial thanks to Michelle as vice as she has such a useful wealth of knowledge and works very hard as chairman of the finance committee which is an extremely important job.
This annual meeting is about having a dialogue with you but please bear in mind our powers are limited but we can provide a useful conduit of local and well informed information between us, WDC and ESCC. A very small success was that we put forward suggestions for names of the roads in Beechbrook Park, some of which were accepted. We chose names, with your help and suggestions from pupils at Buxted School, which reflected an important part of the past history of Buxted instead of anodyne names dreamt up by a planner sitting at a desk in Crowborough with little of no local knowledge.
I am keen on imparting, to members of the public, as much information about the activities of the parish council, as possible using both the web site and our Community Voice to do so and working in partnership with other organisations such as Village Hall Trust, Ionides Trust and anyone else we are involved with or can help in our role as a parish council.
Co-options, we need more parish councillors
We advertised that we wished to co-opt parish council members and we were pleased to welcome Jean Skinner who had volunteered to join the council. We are still seeking three more candidates to join the parish council. However I do urge that you attend some parish council meetings before doing so and you will find out that the way we operate is a democratic process but bound by rules and regulations, given to us by a higher authority and written down in our Standing Orders, by which we have to abide. However if you join the council, you will be able to have your say and make your opinions felt.
Web site and communication
The upgraded website is looking good and we endeavour to keep it up updated and I recommend that you visit it to keep up to date with developments in the parish and will also find there helpful hints as to how best to report potholes, find out about drought restrictions and all about roundabouts (see November 2011). The minutes of all meetings are also posted on the web site and the public can find out about decisions made by the parish council but I hasten to point out that these are a summary of what was said, to hear the full story it would be necessary to attend the meeting. We are also renewing the notice boards and in both these cases you can find the correct amount of notice given about any meetings to which the public are invited, or wish to attend, along with their agendas and the financial report for the year.
Next Step have continued to meet, although less often than in previous years The Youth Council have advised the Parish Council on the all weather sports pitch in Uckfield; moped training and play equipment. The new yellow spinning disc now has pride of place in the Buxted playground. There is space in the High Hurstwood playground for one new piece of apparatus and the choice has come down to a Rockin’Rider or Parrot Seesaw. The Youth Council were invited to nominate a member to be a representative on the Ionides Trust in 2008. Sam Pearson, one of our founder members fulfilled this role admirably for a short time. The Youth Council decided at their meeting of 5 July 2011 that Laura Warner should now be their representative on the Ionides Trust. Laura has completed a three day course on communicating effectively with the British Youth Council called ‘Every Young Voice’. It will be important to have the voice of the young heard as the Trust develops the Ionides land into a true ‘heart of Buxted’. Next Step would welcome new members and anyone interest can contact Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org
Development in Buxted and Five Ashes
It is fair to say that the residents of both Church Road and Framfield Road have had to contend with a good deal of inconvenience whilst the building works taking place in the village have seemed to last a long time. Thankfully the new surgery is now completed and opened for business during the latter part of April.
The parish council wish the doctors the best of luck in their new premises and think that Buxted is very lucky to have such a facility on their doorstep which will benefit a wide percentage of the local population. The development to the west of Church Road, Beechbrook, is progressing and we welcome all those who move into this development to our community and just maybe there will be some budding parish councillors amongst them! Development is till taking place at the old Grampian Site in Fives Ashes and the Care Home will be opening shortly which will be providing jobs for local people. We wait with interest the effect that an European Union Habitat directive may have on development within 7km of the Ashdown Forest which is a Special Conservation/Special Protection Area. Any building within this area of limitation may increase recreational and traffic pressures on these special protected areas and a mitigation strategy is being formulated by Wealden District Council.
Ionides and Village Hall Trust
Using part of the excess soil from the Surgery site successful regrading of the site took place during March and some overgrown hedgerow was removed to open out the site. Both of these actions helped to provide more useable land and flatter land which will be easier to maintain. Later in the year the Trust will be embarking on a tree planting programme which will greatly enhance the site. We hope that there is a good response to requests to help with the planting in the autumn which will include trees from the Woodland Trust as part of their Jubilee Tree Planting Scheme.
At the time of the meeting we are still awaiting Planning Permission for the new Village Hall and are currently having a dialogue with Wealden District Council about various aspects of the design and siting of the building. An active Village Hall charitable trust is busy formulating plans for fund raising which we hope everyone will be willing to support. Any offers of support would be greatly appreciated.
Geoffrey Sheard stood down as chairman of the Planning Council, but remains on the Planning Committee, and we thank him for all his past work during his time as chairman. The role of chairman has been ably taken over by Maggie Dobson. The Planning Committee continues to meet twice as month and have processed 79 planning applications during the course of the year, 53 of which were approved, 5 refused and 3 withdrawn with 17 still outstanding. The PC agreed with 47 of Wealden District Council’s decisions and disagreed with 11 of them.
Our input is an only opinion by members of the Planning Committee after we have discussed the application to which we must have a material objection if we wish to object to it. However, we can always be over ruled by Wealden.
A campaign led by a parent at Buxted School, and supported by the parish council, successfully led to the widening and improvements in the footpath leading to the school and a reduction in the speed limit near Buxted School, although the latter will take time to put in place. Although it seems likely that Buxted maybe used as a pilot area as the speeding restrictions have been agreed by all and East Sussex County Council may, therefore, be able to carry out the necessary works quicker than is normal in these circumstances. Speedwatch is in need of more volunteers as the numbers helping with this initiative have fallen to an all time low.
A meeting was convened to discuss any possible action that might be taken by residents to ‘prove’ that the chaotic daily parking experienced (mainly on Gordon, Framfield & Church Roads) was indeed down to commuters. From a list of whom attended the main focus of interest was Gordon, Framfield & Church Road. This parking diary has now been collated for a couple of months and is subject to a separate report. Mark Carter, our local Police Community Support Officer also attended this meeting and gave a very good account of what constitutes illegal parking in the Buxted Village context and how best to report it. This is available on the web site and some residents have reported incidents of illegal parking and parking tickets have been issued to those offenders.
The allotments continue to thrive with all plots allocated and a relatively small waiting list of four people. We continue to try to ensure that everyone who wants a plot gets one and to this end we endeavour to divide the larger plots when they become available. Most of the plots are well tended and action is taken over those that are neglected, although we are always sympathetic to those who cannot look after for temporary reasons like illness. By the time you read this the pig syndicate will be in full swing so there should be plentiful ‘Buxted Bacon’ in the autumn. Rabbits have caused some minor damage but an inspection revealed that the culprit was trapped inside the rabbit proof fencing and was trying to get out rather than in! A valiant effort from one tenant ensured that the rabbit was captured humanely and release in an anonymous location.
During the past year we considered a request that a parish council owned field, currently let for grazing, in High Hurstwood be turned into allotments. Having considered costs, logistics, parking issues, a relatively small demand and strong local objections the parish council decided not to agree with this request. However it was resolved that if there was sufficient demand then money would be spent creating additional spaces at the Buxted site.
If anyone wishes to have an allotment-good value at £33 for a normal sized plot, then please contact the Clerk so that your name can be added to the waiting list.
High Hurstwood Recreation Ground
The parish council has begun a renewed dialogue with the High Hurstwood Village Hall Committee over plans to increase the usage of the HH recreation ground, which is owned by the parish council. A well attended public meeting was supportive of plans to improve the site and potentially build an additional sports pavilion provided that the facility was only available to those from High Hurstwood. The parish council obviously has a responsibility to the whole parish, particularly when parish council owned assets are involved but it is willing to engage with the community to see how best these plans might be moved forward and has co-opted a member of the Village Hall Committee onto its Property Committee.
Better liaison with the booking of the Hall and the Recreation Ground for weddings and parties etc has been established. The parish council understands the need for the Hall to be hired out for functions and that the addition of the Recreation Ground makes the venue even more attractive but the primary purpose of the Recreation Ground is for it to always to be available for people within the parish and this point is always made to those using the facility when erecting a marquee, bouncy castle etc.
The parish council is also putting in plans to try and ensure the Bonfire site looks reasonable throughout the year. Some remedial work has started and we are confident details can be worked out with the bonfire organisers so this very popular and successful event can continue to thrive.
In the late autumn an Indian Horse Chestnut tree was planted within the railings at Pound Green in commemoration of James Chalmers, a long standing council member and past chairman who died in June 2011. I am pleased to say it appears to be thriving and I hope that it will prove to be an attractive tree.
What next for the year ahead
- Achieve Quality Council Status
- Keep up to date with any improvements that may be available to improve the quality of Broadband within the parish
- Obtain Planning permission for the new village hall and work in partnership with the Buxted Village Hall Trust to achieve the aim of providing Buxted with the new village hall and also with the Ionides Trust to help realise a central village gathering place for Buxted
- Welcome the new residents who move into the new developments and hope there may be some budding parish councillors within their community
- This may be a tall order, we need to get to grips with localism but we have to be realistic about what a simple parish council, with not enough members, can actually achieve beyond the day to day running of every day affairs.
- Finally, an important step will be starting to look into updating the Parish Plan which was last done at the beginning of the century! With many new families moving into the district, and some considerable changes to the structure of the community, it is time this plan was renewed. The Parish Plan is a parish council based questionnaire sent to all residents of the parish to establish what they think is important to them. It will give the parish council clear objectives to work towards for the good of the community and covers areas covered by all authorities over which we may have no control but can hopefully influence decisions that affect the parish of Buxted.
- Update the parish emergency plan
- Maintain a watching brief on infrastructure issues including transport and recreational facilities.