It is my privilege to present this my eighth and last annual report as Chairman and a member of this council..
The Parish Council met on eleven occasions during the year and covered the usual range of activities. The major items from the year on which I would like to comment are:
∑ Planning: It is usual for me to advise of how many applications we have considered and the outcomes following submission to the Planning Authority. Let it suffice to say that the number this year has shown a significant decrease. The relationship with the Planning Authority has at times tested our patience with what we see as inconsistency in their approach. I have again corresponded with the Chairman of the Planning and Development Committee and feel that the situation is no better. The new council will need to be even more vigilant when considering applications so that its views are fully stated and recognised by the Planning Authority. †
∑ Traffic calming: This has seemed sometimes like a never ending nightmare. We started some six years ago following funds being allocated for a traffic mitigation scheme as a result of permission being granted for the Mercedes Garage at Peasedown St John. Much has been said in previous reports regarding the tortuous path we were obliged to follow to get where we are today and I wonít bore anyone any further by repeating it, preferring only to say that the process has sorely tested the patience of this council and has not done anything to embellish the reputation of B&NES Highways department. We now have the scheme implemented by B&NES although we are unhappy with a couple of aspects of it. Local opinion is divided on whether it† has been successful or not. We still await average speed figures from which we will be able to see how successful it has been. Cllr Watson has been our lead in this project and I thank him for his dedication in very trying circumstances. Work is still outstanding on completing the scheme in terms of new village signage. The new parish council will no doubt wish to pursue these items.
∑ Community Bus: As reported last year, we were happy to sign the application for funding for the bus which was launched in a blaze of publicity in September and seems to be working satisfactorily. We were able to promise funding of £400 towards extension of the services provided and we look forward to its early introduction. Thanks are due to Councillor Witty whose initiative it was to address this matter identified in the Parish Plan.
∑ Village Hall and Play Area: Although the majority of work improving the play area was completed in the last year there are still items outstanding which have again tested the patience of our lead councillor, Gordon Lewis who has spent more time chasing B&NES that should have been necessary for which we thank him. As† far as the hall is concerned, the car parking area particularly to the west of the hall has for some years presented an unsatisfactory state of affairs. We were able during the year to get the surfaces renewed to such a state where they no longer present a hazard. Our thanks are due to Richard Holland for compiling the works specification against which we could seek tenders and for signing of the works as satisfactory.
∑ 1, West End Cottages: †Negotiations to sell an access to this property off the village hall drive have been ongoing for some years and it was with some regret regarding the amount of wasted time involved that we felt we had to withdraw the offer. Much of this abortive work was done on our behalf by Cllr Alistair Colston and we thank him for his efforts.
∑ Shop adjacent to The Fox and Badger: Again this is an issue that has been ongoing for a number of years. It has been the intention to lease this building for use by the Parish Council as a Parish Office and as a home for the considerable and important historical record archive. Not only would this perform a useful dual function but we would have also had the benefit of restoring a derelict building to acceptable condition in the heart of the Conservation Area. Discussions have been ongoing with the lease managers and these seem to be at a stage where we are making no progress and they currently appear to be in limbo. Again Alistair Colston has been our lead councillor and we thank him again for his efforts. The new council will obviously form its own view on whether this should be pursued further. †
∑ Empty properties: Along with our District Councillor, Neil Butters we have pushed to get action on empty properties in the parish brought back into habitation. B&NES have introduced a new policy on the matter and are collating information on all such properties identified with its area so that a priority list can be established. It is to be hoped that those properties in our parish will be at the top of the list. It is encouraging to note that one of the properties we identified for inclusion on the list has been sold on and is in the process of renovation.
∑ Finance and Accounts: Our Responsible Financial Officer, Geoff White prepared the annual accounts for the last financial year which were then audited internally by Richard Holland before submission to our government appointed external auditors. I am pleased to report that they issued a certificate confirming that they are an accurate reflection of the financial matters of this council. I thank both Geoff and Richard for their efforts. The council has a duty to exercise prudence with public funds and we have considered long and hard before requiring any additional funding. I am pleased to report that yet again our forecasted expenditure will require no increase in the parish precept. The Parish Council is in good financial shape and is in the process of building up funds for future forecasted expenditure particularly to the village hall drive and boundaries.††
∑ The Christmas tree: For the fifth successive year we have had an illuminated†† Christmas tree on the Batch around which carols have been sung by parishioners. Again we were accompanied by the band of the Salvation Army who add another dimension to this annual celebration. The very seasonal weather did not appear to put people off attending and yet again a record amount was raised. Out thanks are due once again for this hugely popular event to our lead councillor, Heather Andrews.We trust that the new council will continue with this very popular event.
∑ Personnel: I want to take this opportunity to single out some significant contributors to this council:
†During the year we accepted the resignation of Geoff Pike due to ill health. Geoff followed his father on to the Parish Council and fulfilled many roles on the Council.
Geoff White has continued to provide valuable service in his role as Clerk to the Parish Council becoming more knowledgeable as time goes by. The amount that I do has decreased due to Geoff fielding many issues before they get to me.
Richard Holland who continues to serve as Internal Auditor offering not only advice and guidance on financial matters but on a range of other activities in which we become involved on an almost daily basis.
Stuart Cole our parish sweeper. As everyone will know Stuart keeps our streets in excellent state and also keeps the clerk and myself updated with any items of concern that he notices while carrying out his duties. Stuart has completed 21 years we wholeheartedly thank him for his efforts.
To all members current or previous, of this council who have given freely of their time and support and finally to our District Councillor, Neil Butters who will be with us for another four years following his successful re election to B&NES Council
Well, that about covers all I want to say regarding the last year. This is my last report and meeting as a councillor. I have served as a councillor for some 20 years, eight of which were as Chairman and have come to the time I think it right to make way for fresh talent. In my eight years as Chairman I have seen numerous new councillors and numerous new Clerks. Iím not sure whether this is down to my man management skills or something else. I have found it to be at times extremely frustrating and at other times extremely rewarding. It has been a privilege to serve the parishioners of this parish. We have a new Parish Council as from tonight with six new members. It will take time for everyone to bed themselves in and establish new working relationships. I think it fair to say that all the retiring members of the council have offered to assist in any way required should this be thought desirable and are available at short notice but without wishing to impose their views on how things should or should not be done. I wish them well.