Annual Parish Report
Up Hatherley Parish Council – Annual Report 2019/20
At our May meeting we bid farewell to Stuart Fowler, who served as a Parish Councillor for 16 years (11 as Chairman) as well as holding a number of public offices after his retirement from the RAF. He was presented with a certificate of meritorious service and a commemorative silver gavel. Adrian Bamford, our longest standing Parish Councillor, with 32 years of service, stood down as chairman and I was elected as Up Hatherley’s first female chair in the history of the council. Peter Worsley continues to serve as our Vice Chairman and this is going to be the arrangement for the Parish Council until May 2021, as elections are suspended due to Coronavirus. We have had a review of our working groups and the headings in this report reflect the new arrangements.
During the past year, we have welcomed three new members to the Parish Council. Andy Ponting joined early in 2019 and Stephen Gutteridge and Sam Hodges joined at the March meeting this year. We do still have vacancies, so if you are community minded and would like to join us, please get in touch with our Clerk Kathryn Oakey. If you would like to see what the Parish Council does – please join us at one of our meetings – in person or via Zoom as that is how our May meeting will be conducted due to the Social Distancing necessities of the Coronavirus.
It has been a busy year and in this report I will mention a number of the activities and concerns of the Parish Council. It is by no means an exhaustive list, so if I have omitted anything, please forgive me – I put it down to the haze associated with COVID 19 – having to live and work in very different ways, adjust priorities as well as the way we do things, grapple with technology and remember how differently we all experience things.
Police and Community Safety
David Young has led this group throughout the year and, with the invaluable input of Simon and Bob from the Gloucestershire Police team, the group has continued to promote Neighbourhood Watch and organise another successful Bike Marking event, with over 100 more bikes being security marked at an event in the Village Hall. Last summer, there was a spike in anti-social behaviour around Windermere Road and to the back of Morrisons. The Parish Council, along with Leckhampton and Warden Hill Parish Council, have been involved in discussions about a youth project for Summer 2020 targeted towards the youths that are causing difficulties. We are ready to continue the discussion and planning once we have a better idea of what will be possible in the “new normal” after Lockdown.
The next plan for this working group was to hold a public meeting about Cyber Crime. The topic is even more important in the current climate, but this is a subject where a virtual meeting would exclude the people who would most of all benefit, namely those who are not IT savvy enough to feel comfortable taking part in a virtual meeting (and I am in that category myself!)
Footpaths and Open Spaces
David Willcox has led this group with input from Ashley Houlton and Richard Johnes. In March 2020, just before the lockdown, one of this group’s projects came to fruition with the grand opening of the Outdoor Exercise equipment in Caernarvon Park. Sadly, it has to be taped off at present, but when normal life resumes it is hoped that it will be well used, as the project was designed to meet a need expressed by parishioners when the last Parish survey was conducted.
The Parish Council made a significant contribution to the installation of a sensory garden at Lakeside School and just before Lockdown, were in discussion with Greatfield Park School about how we might contribute to the environment there. At our March meeting, we also considered a proposal to contribute to the installation of an all -weather track to enable pupils and staff at Lakeside School to complete a “daily mile”. There is much evidence to suggest that this helps not just with the physical health of children but with mental health and ability to learn.
Ashley Houlton, one of our Parish Councillors is one of the leaders for our local Wednesday Health Walk, which sadly is on hold for the present. These walks are popular and a great way to take a bit of regular exercise with company and some refreshments together at the end.
Our Parish Council has responsibility for the upkeep of two greens – Fernleigh Green and Long Mynd Green. We were in discussion with CBC/UBICO about the quality and frequency of the grass cutting contract and matters such as removing grass cuttings and tree planting. These matters are on hold for the time being, but are matters we want give attention to when the appropriate time comes.
Just outside our Parish but nevertheless important to us is the Chargrove Nature Reserve, which was in our Parish but became part of Shurdington Parish in the boundary review a number of years back. There have been ongoing discussions with Shurdington Parish Council about how to return it to its former glory and a working group session involving the scouts is envisaged for later in the year. In the meantime, a small group of us turned out in early March and did a litter pick at the Reserve and Councillor Whyborn kindly liaised with the relevant people to collect the litter we piled up.
Village Hall and Communications
Richard Johnes has been leading this group and the Village Hall has undergone a programme of refurbishment, as well as the installation of a projector and screen. Elfin Pre School Nursery which had been based at the Village Hall for over 30 years closed its doors in July 2019. This was a sad loss for the community, but it has also given us the opportunity to offer bookings at the hall to a wider group of users and we have taken the opportunity to sort out storage within the hall and at the rear of the hall, which gives us some resources to be offering Village Hall users. In the early months of 2020, we have also migrated to a dedicated webmail set up for all Parish Councillors. Councillor John Furley has been able to provide expertise on this project to Richard.
Peter Worsley edited and produced another successful Parish Record magazine – a huge endeavour and a high quality production of which we are proud. We had a few glitches with delivery but will be working to overcome them this year.
Policy and Resources
This new group under the leadership of Adrian Bamford was formed to incorporate finance and planning but also to provide a forum for members of all groups to discuss ideas in more detail than is possible in our bi-monthly meetings. There were a number of planning matters requiring discussion during the year, the most problematic being the proposal to infill in Sunnyfield Lane within the very small amount of Greenbelt land in our Parish – the first successful attempt in over 50 years. The Parish Council objected, but the plan was approved by Cheltenham Borough Council and there are ongoing discussions with officers about principals, process and implications for the future.
Following discussion in the Group, the Parish Council as a whole approved a Community Grants Scheme which was launched in April 2020, with a view to enabling local groups to bid for small grants to help with projects aimed at benefiting people in the Parish. The Parish Council will make decisions on projects at our bi-monthly meetings.
Highways and transportation
Roger Whyborn leads this group with input from Adrian Bamford and Andy Ponting as well as our County Councillor Simon Wheeler. The group were meeting three monthly with the Highways team and this was an excellent way to agree on local priorities but after a hiatus with staff changes on our local Highways team and then the pandemic, there has been a delay in meeting.
The group has been very active with the use of the mobile Vehicle Activated Sign (VAS) to locations around the Parish where it can be used to record the number of vehicles exceeding the speed limit. It acts as a warning to motorists, but the data can be very helpful in highlighting where the Police need to act on persistent offenders.
In conjunction with the County Council and with match funding from Tescos, the group enjoyed particular success last year with the installation of the Pocket Park on the corner opposite Lakeside School. The project involved the children from the School and when the wild flowers bloomed last year, there was much to celebrate.
Community Engagement ( formerly Social and Recreation)
Noreen Holden now heads this group so I am able to focus my attention on my role as Chair. The group oversaw another Parish Boundary Walk in May 2019 followed by tea and cakes at the Village Hall. In June we held the annual Summer Gardens Competition and in July we had a very successful Awards evening at Manor by the Lake. This competition has gone from strength to strength but just before the Lockdown was announced, we had decided that it would be advisable to put the competition on hold for a year in order to give it a refresh. We hope to bring the competition back in 2021, with more of an emphasis on project work with all our local schools and a greater emphasis on sustainability in gardening. In the meantime, it has been suggested to us that we could re-purpose the trophies for one year only and award them to community champions who have gone the extra mile during this pandemic.
We have been working with St Phillips and St James Parish Church on a Peoples’ History project and at the beginning of the year were poised to apply for Heritage Lottery funding for a project worker who would train young people and adults on how to collect peoples’ stories on their life and work in the Parish. This is not something that could be done in a Lockdown, but it will remain on our agenda for when we emerge from this period. Due to the work that has gone on in recent weeks in identifying people in need of support in our Parish, it would be good to think that one silver lining of this Pandemic is that it will leave a legacy of communities thinking more compassionately about their more vulnerable residents and how to value them and include them in community life.
We had over 250 people attending Carols on Fernleigh Green on Christmas Eve, with the Salvation Army band accompanying the singing, and hot mulled wine and mince pies served. Thanks to Adrian Bamford and Roger Whyborn, we were able to connect the tree lights to a bespoke power supply on the green and provide better lighting. The tree looked splendid as during December a local resident Hayley encouraged local children to make decorations for the tree and we gave prizes for the best decorations.
Annual Parish Meeting
Following a lot of discussion about tree planting and what we could be doing as a Parish Council to address the problems presented by Climate Change, we had planned to hold an annual Parish meeting to launch a discussion on the Parish’s climate change strategy. That is still my aspiration, but plans are on hold for the time being. We are putting in place arrangements to carry out another Parish Survey this year.
I would like to thank all the members of our Parish Council for their contributions to the council and our clerk Kathryn Oakey for supporting and guiding us in all that we do.