Chairman's Annual Report



East Winch Parish Council: Chairman's Report 2017

During the year there has been more change than usual in the Council, with three councillors having resigned, and two co-opted to take their place, leaving us with one vacancy; a situation we seem to be permanently in.

Ill health forced Richard Bettany to resign, and Josie Bettany left us in August to look after him. Very sadly, he died in January. Paula Blowers was persuaded to stay with us till the end of the year, but left to concentrate on other commitments. Our new councillors are Alan Yarham and Melvin Place.

On balance, I think we had more failures than successes last year, but at least the success was a big one! The street lights have been converted for LED in Town Close, Station Rd and Church lane, and it will not be long before work starts on the lights in Gayton Rd. Unfortunately we aren't responsible for the lights along the A47.

It was during 2016 that the contract enabling residents to use the permissive path from Holland House to the path towards Grandcourt Farm was finally signed, and it seems to have been fairly well used.

On the other hand we have failed to get Highways to put chevron signs at the bend near the RSPCA hospital even though there are frequent instances of people coming off the road there. The condensation problem with the new notice board at the Village Hall was never cured, although through Keith's efforts we have got our money back and a new one from a different company is in the pipeline. And planning recommendations from the Parish Council to the Borough Council continue to be frequently ignored.

No use has yet been found for the telephone box, because although several residents thought it could house a defibrilator,the cost of the equipment is high and our relative closeness to the hospital mean that it might never be used. The alternative plan to use the box as an information point seems not to have interested anyone. Still, thanks to Mr Bland's enthusiasm, the box looks well cared for, and this spring was a delight to behold in a sea of daffodils.

Several meetings were very well attended in 2016, particularly when parts of Gayton Rd were flooded, and when NCC produced a discussion document for minerals search which included Bilney Woods as a possible site. As a result of meetings where councillors had not had the opportunity to discuss matters before the public demanded comment, the council now require notice of about 10 days, so that the matter can be listed on an agenda and dealt with in a more considered way.

There has been lack of movement over the play area. A public meeting was set up to discuss what residents wanted, but no-one came. The area is administered by the Borough Council and there are restrictions, for example, it is for children up to 14 years old. As long as the grass is mowed regularly, and the Borough Council are doing this less frequently than they used to, residents seem content with it as it is.

The precept for 2015-16 was raised to £12,500 to enable us to pay for the lights: this year, with no big projects envisaged, there has been no increase. We still await Sibelco's planning application to extract sand from the field northwest of the village (Min 40). The Council is considering drawing up a Neighbourhood Plan; that is a matter for the future and for residents other than the councillors alone.

Lastly, my thanks to our very helpful clerk and to the councillors, who, of course, are all volunteers. But there are other volunteers without whom much less would be done: Mrs Eagling, who changes round the speed sign regularly; Cliff Robins, who puts all Council information on the website; Juliette Banwell, who sprayed the weeds round the village sign at her own expense. Mr Bland is not strictly speaking a volunteer, but he does so much beyond the call of duty that he richly deserves a thank you too. You are all wonderful!

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Parish Council - Chairmans report 2015-6

Its been a busy year for councillors and our clerk. Quite apart from the additional meetings to discuss planning applications, some of us have been to a training course on how to be good councillors for two nights in Downham Market; some went to a planning update presentation by the Borough Council, and some were represented, along with Leziate Parish Council, at liaison meetings  with Sibelco; more of this later.

In August, Samanda Davison was co-opted to fill a vacancy, and since then has contributed considerably. On the other hand, unfortunately Richard Bettany, having suffered from increasing ill health, has resigned. We miss him, and of course, this means we still have a vacancy to fill.

Following from the training meetings, Keith Harrod has produced standing orders for this Council: it is important that meetings should be conducted properly, and this document will remind us how to do it. I am grateful to him for bringing us into line.

Recently, the Council decided that minutes of meetings would be published in full only on the website. This is because there wasnt a satisfactory way of setting out a paper copy so that it could be easily read which would also fulfill the requirements of the transparency code. A copy including financial statements will also be put up on the Village Hall notice board if there is space.

There is considerable concern in the village about the effect of the extension of quarrying towards the village. Sibelco, the company undertaking the quarrying, is quite accessible, has met the Parish Council here, has answered parishioners questions whether or not the parishioners were satisfied, and held a two-day presentation here in November. The detailed planning application is still not ready, and is likely to be made in the summer. At that stage residents will be able to comment further. Queries about dust monitoring, footpaths and others, have already been put by this council, and the answers made public, and further detail will appear in the application. What we cannot do is make the quarry go away, as the national need for silica sand overrides anything else.

I am pleased to mention the improvements round the village. The Council is progressively replacing the old sodium lights with LED lights, reducing our carbon footprint as well as our costs. To meet the initial outlay, we have increased the precept to £12,500. We have bought the telephone box for £1. Its going to stay where it is, as BT warned us it would have to be disconnected and might crack if moved; Mr Bland has cut back the bushes round it, and we are in the process of buying the right red paint.

During the year, there have been discussions with the Village Hall Trustees about a new notice board and eureka! It appeared just in time for this report. Wilson Farms created a new path from Holland House to the bridle way, and it seems to be well used.

On the other hand, we dont seem to be getting anywhere with improving the playing field, where suggestions how it might be used all contravene the condition that only young children can use it.

Our suggestion to Highways that the 30mph speed limit should be extended to include the houses down Ashwicken Rd seems to have fallen on deaf ears, but following a spate of accidents at the corner near the RSPCA, Highways have ordered chevrons, which may help. The biggest problem is still speeding: according to Highways, 87% of cars enter the village on Gayton Rd at 37mph on average.

Many thanks to Mr Bland, who continues keeping the bus shelter, the village sign and more clean and in good condition. Thanks also to Jim Moriarty, to whom we refer many questions.

The Village Hall is more necessary to the village than many people realise. The trustees do a splendid job, but need the next generation to take over. Please consider seriously whether you might be able to help them out. Where would we be without the building?

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East Winch Parish Council Chairman’s Report 2015

2014 was unusually exciting. Firstly, we and several volunteers got the Parish Questionnaire delivered to all houses in East Winch and West Bilney and, what’s more, half the questionnaires were at least partly completed and returned! For this, huge thanks to Keith, who drafted the finished version of the questionnaire and delivered and collected lots of them, and also to the volunteers who helped with delivery and collection, among whom were Mr and Mrs Eagling, Mr and Mrs Overett and the Post Office.

It is thanks to Keith again that the results were carefully analysed. Almost 100% of respondents wanted speed limits extended to roads where presently there are none, or wanted the speed limit on the A47 reduced. Nearly as many wanted a safe crossing over the A47. These improvements are beyond our power to do anything about at present, as the national Highways Agency, which is responsible for the A47, is not going to release any money for improvements. The reason for the disgraceful state of the path beyond the Maid’s Head appears to be that paths along the A47 are the responsibility of the Highways Agency. Cllr Toby Coke, when he came visited the Council earlier this year, thought that money might be available for some improvements in 2021. So we’ll all be older before anything at all happens. The extension of the 30mph limit down Ashwicken Rd was mentioned to him then, but we haven’t heard anything further. He does wish to be kept informed of accidents or roads in poor condition, especially if there is photographic evidence to back it up. So please keep him informed, either directly or through a parish councillor. We will need all the support we can get when funding is eventually made available, as there’ll be other villages crying out for improvements too.

Many people wanted a path to the Post Office. This is going to be more expensive than we could afford, even if we were to get a 50% grant from NCC. So if it is to go ahead, we need to find other sources of funding.

The playground could also do with a revamp, but will the expenditure be justified by an increase in the number of children using it in future? The day-to-day care of the playground is contracted out by the Borough Council, weakening the line of communication.

So, looking to the future, it is important that the impetus generated by the questionnaire doesn’t fizzle out because it needs more planning and careful thought, and because, when the council meets only every other month, it’s too easy for things to get forgotten or deferred indefinitely.

In spring 2014, a minor success of the Parish Council was getting the trod finished with posts down Station Road. Although it’s by no means perfect, I believe it was money well spent, that people feel safer and that heavy traffic has to go more carefully. The flashing sign, after a gap when it was vandalised, is still looked after by Mrs Eagling and Mr Downs, to whom we are very grateful.

Mr Bland has looked after the bus stop brilliantly, and has now agreed to take on the care of the public seats as well.

Given the public outcry when permissive paths were closed, I feel I need to mention it in this report, even though the Parish Council as a body is not directly involved. Wilson Farms and Sibelco have constructed a short path on the north side of the A47 so that it isn’t necessary to cross the A47 in order to use the right of way to Grandcourt Farm. This is very helpful. Meanwhile, an application for paths on the south side of the A47 to be made rights of way has been sent to NCC, and statements are being collected to support a similar application for paths on the north side.

Finally, two of our long-standing councillors decided not to stand for re-election. We are very grateful to Richard Cox and Tony Hepher for their good sense in meetings, for the careful way in which they performed their duties and for the behind-the-scenes work for the village they undertook over many years.



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The Annual Parish Meeting,
at which the Chairman presented her Report, was held on Tuesday 6 May 2014.
Download the report, and previous reports, from here


East Winch Parish Council. Chairman's Report 2013 - 2014

Attendance by Councillors.

Many thanks to our councillors, Messrs Keith Harrod (Deputy Chairman), Tony Hepher, Nic Velzeboer, Richard Cox and Arthur Wilson for their regular attendance and committed work for the Parish. And welcome to Mr Richard Bettany, who became a parish councillor in September.

Mr Jim Moriarty, our Borough Councillor, has attended meetings frequently and always has useful advice and interesting comments to make. Mr Toby Coke, our County Councillor, has attended only one meeting this year, which is frustrating, as there have been times when his views could have been helpful.


Public Involvement.

I am happy to report that attendance by parishioners at meetings has increased 100% - from one person last year to two, and sometimes more! Since the views of village people are going to influence what we try to do, this is encouraging, as is the readiness of Mr. Robins to enter matters of public interest onto the website. A public meeting held on 18th July, to discuss the trod and variable speed sign, with Andrew Wallace of NCC Highways was well attended, and produced volunteers.

 

This year we have achieved.....

Last year our Parish Clerk, Mr Bob Pannell, submitted applications for 75% funding for the construction of a trod in Station Road and to buy a variable speed sign. Both applications were granted.

The speed sign arrived in mid-October, and Robin Downs and Elizabeth Eagling, who had volunteered in July, were trained in its use and upkeep. The sign can face either way, and is regularly moved between Station Rd and the wildlife hospital so that it does not lose impact. Comments from parishioners indicate it is having the desired effect.

The trod was constructed in December and immediately the edge outside the hall was broken down by vehicles, as many had feared it would be. Further, the posts we were promised to deter traffic from going up the edges have not been put in. We continue to request Highways to finish the job. Even so, I would say that it is safer than having no path.

Earlier in the year, the Council submitted comments on future housing plans to the Borough Council's consultation "Detailed Policies and Site Plans".

The request to NCC Highways that school bus routes should be gritted in icy weather has been ignored for the second year running.

The playground has received a very thorough independent safety inspection, which concluded that there were matters that needed attention, but none urgently. The inspector's comments have been submitted to the Borough Council, which is responsible for the upkeep of the equipment.


The Parish Plan

It is necessary to have a Parish Plan so that the views of everyone in the parish can be taken into account, and so that the wishes of a vociferous few do not take priority. It is also a document we will need to apply for additional funding for projects we cannot afford unaided. However there had been no-one to lead the volunteers, and the Council eventually decided to kick-start the process by drafting a questionnaire for the parish. The original draft, prepared in September, was superseded by an excellent questionnaire developed by Mr Harrod. It has just been finalised and will be delivered to every house in June. Answers will be collated and will form the basis for the plan.

As no grant aid is ever 100%, the precept has been maintained at £10,000 to enable us to use some funds of our own towards future projects.


A.47

In May 2013 the Highways Authority told us that reducing the speed limit on the A47 was "a very low priority". We had also been asking for the road markings to be repainted for a year, and nothing had been done. Now we have been asking for 2 years. The signs"50" and "SLOW" are unreadable from both directions. I would stress that the A47 is the responsibility of the national Highways Authority and not Norfolk County Council.

In February and March there were three minor accidents on the A47 in East Winch, and, on 26th March, a fatal collision. I have emailed Steve Bett, Norfolk's Police Commissioner, with copies to the Minister for Transport, The A47 Alliance and Henry Bellingham, requesting support from the police in asking for a reduction in the speed limit to 40 mph. Only Mr Bellingham has responded. We have also contacted Middleton Parish Council, suggesting that we work together to make clear the need for improvements.


Charitable Donations.

Donations were made to various charities including Norfolk Air Ambulance and the King's Lynn Contact Centre. The sum given annually to East Winch Parochial Church Council for the upkeep of the graveyards at Bilney and East Winch was increased to £1050.


Theft of church floodlights.

The floodlights, paid for by this Council as their millennium project, were stolen in February. While they are covered by Parochial Church Council insurance, it does not cover the first £50O.

 

Thanks and help!

We are indebted to the people who have done so much to help our village. In particular, I would like to mention the Village Hall Trustees, Mr Bland, Mr Robins, Mr Downs and Mrs Eagling.

We still have one vacancy on the Parish Council - please consider this carefully.

We will also need volunteers to deliver, collect and then collate the Parish Questionnaire from June onwards.


Download the report from from here.