The year started with the election of 6 new councillors. Heather Andrews kindly offered to stand as interim Chair until the new councillors had a feel for how things operated. In November 2011 Heather stood done, and Hugh Prentice was elected.
The Parish Council met on eleven occasions during the year and covered the usual range of activities. The major items from the year are:
· Planning: Dealing with planning applications seems to take a large part of our time. As a new council we have got to grips with the systems, and I offer thanks to Debbie Clarkson and Pat Caudle for taking on the planning issues, and advising the rest of the council.
· Neighbourhood Plan : The Coalition government has significantly changed planning legislation, one aspect of which is to give Parish Councils the opportunity to take some control over local planning issues through the newly created concept of the “Neighbourhood Plan”. During the year Debbie Clarkson and I, with the support of several other councillors and other Wellow residents, have built on the work that went into existing Parish Plan, and started the process of establishing the needs of our parishioners by devising a questionnaire. The questionnaire has been 95% completed for some time, sitting on my desk to be converted into an online questionnaire. Completing this must be a priority.
· Traffic calming: Many of the Councillors who retired last April spent much time and effort in trying to get a 20mph speed limit through the village. Their work, and that of Shirley Betts, Tim Wheeler, Neil Butters and other parishioners have, at last, succeeded in getting B&NES to put the necessary signs in place. I had hoped to be able to report that everything is already in place, but this is not to be. We are told that the work is to be done “very soon”.
· Finance : The Parish Council remains in a healthy state, with reserves suitable for the risks it is exposed to, and for general maintenance that is needed. Of these reserves, the Council has identified £1,800 for the repair to the drive leading to the village hall. During the year the Council supported the Community Bus (£400), the village hall (£1,700), the cemetery, jointly owned with Shoscombe (£1,000) and the Parlour Shop (£600). The other major expenses are for the Clerk and associated running expenses (£3,000) and the street cleaner (£2,900). Our Responsible Financial Officer, Geoff White has prepared the annual accounts for the last financial year which are to be audited internally by Richard Holland before submission to our government appointed external auditors. I thank both Geoff and Richard for their efforts.
· Childrens’ Play Area by the village hall : The status of the equipment in the play area remains unclear, in that the Parish Council has never formally accepted the works from B&NES - and this is something we are working to resolve. The Parish council received a report itemising some areas of poor design and some defects, and these need to be addressed.
· Shop adjacent to The Fox and Badger: This shop had been considered as a location for the storeage of both the Parish Council’s archives and those documents collected by a previous Chair of the Council Gordon Hewlitt. However, these documents are now going to be stored in the Bath Record Office, and the future of the shop is as uncertain as ever.
· Empty property on the High St.: This has largely fallen off our agenda during the year.
· The Christmas tree: For the sixth successive year we have had an illuminated Christmas tree on the Batch around which carols were sung by parishioners – not even appalling wet weather could deter people from singing. The Salvation Army were unable to be with us this year, instead our thanks go to James Watts and the choir for leading the singing. Thanks also to Heather Andrews for organising the event, the mince pies and for ensuring a visit from Father Christmas!
· Petanque piste: The council supported an initiative from parishioners in applying for funding from Neil Butters, and are grateful to Neil for providing this funding. Now we need to get the piste installed.
· Planning for the Diamond Jubilee weekend: During the year an enormous effort went into the planning of this event – and while I know that the Jubilee was only last weekend, - it was a great success, and our thanks go particularly to Shirley Betts, Heather Andrews and Debbie and Mike Clarkson, but also to the many people who baked cakes, put out tables, made decorations, ... and the multitude of other contributions that collectively made the weekend a success. Shame about the weather!
I also want offer our thanks to several contributors to the council and thus to the community:
Megan Witty – who resigned part way through the year, stood as councillor for 5 years and I thank her for her contributions, especially in the relation to the village shop and the community bus and fund raising generally.
As Clerk to the Parish Council, Geoff White provides a knowledgeable and effective service to the council, despite having to be away from Wellow for much of the year.
Stuart Cole our parish sweeper. As everyone will know Stuart keeps our streets in excellent state and also keeps the council updated with any items of concern that he notices while carrying out his duties. Stuart has completed 22 years we wholeheartedly thank him for his efforts.
Richard Holland, who continues to serve as Internal Auditor, and who offers a wealth of knowledge in assisting with guidance on a whole range of issues.
To all the Councillors, who offer their time voluntarily, and for all that “unseen” time that is spent actually “doing”.
District Councillor Neil Butters for his support in our many interactions with Bath and North East Somerset council.
As I have gone through the activities of the Parish Council over the last year, you may have noticed some “unfinished business”. So, I would like to look forward, and set out our aspirations. Specifically, I would like to :
1. Complete the Neighbourhood Plan
2. Get fast broadband installed to the village
3. Get the shop next to the Fox and Badger back into use
4. Resolve the status of the childrens’ play area, and ensure that all the equipment is safe to play on.
5. Get the empty property on the High St back into use.
6. Get the petanque piste laid
7. Get the footpath from Bath Hill to Popes Lane useable.
11th June 2012