CHAIRMAN'S ANNUAL PARISH MEETING ADDRESS APRIL 2015
We have now entered the sixth year of unauthorised Traveller encampment on a green field site between our two conservation villages. Having lost at the Judicial Review hearing in the High Court they are still intent on appealing, this time to the Court of Appeal for which we await the outcome. Their latest planning applications were unanimously refused by the Borough on both green belt & flooding grounds.
The other major planning event is the ongoing Neighbourhood Plan which seeks to bring some measure of agreement on the Hurley & Walthams ward policy issues of housing, in particular 'affordable', also on the environment, community, business & transport. Matters such as identifying rural exception sites, local green spaces, areas of special character as well as community facilities, local employment sites and education requirements have been debated in depth and the final version of the pre-submission document has now emerged to be submitted for public consultation. Along with the Borough's replacement Local Plan it will form the basis of future development decisions which are still constrained by green belt and flooding considerations especially in our parish, and with strengthened protection for our Conservation Areas.
Other recent developments have been delays with finalising restoration of the Downfield Pit due to newt problems under Natural England restrictions; conclusion of the future of Bellman Hanger with a three not four executive house style redevelopment within the existing footprint in place of commercial use; completion of the raised railway bridge still with electrification works; replacement of a vital culvert to help solve the street flooding; St Lawrence Nursery & Star Inn sites; village school expansion; children's playground and conversion of one listed telephone box into a lifesaving facility. All matters requiring Parish Council involvement.
On the financial front we have yet again, for the eighth year, kept our parish precept which we determine the same at £14,000, once more - and by far - the lowest in the Borough, due to careful costing and excellent management control of our prime asset, the Neville Hall, whilst achieving necessary expenditure requirements.
Finally, we are about to have a new parish council following a much needed election and a welcome to perhaps newcomers, but I wish to pay tribute to the present councillors for meetings attendance - including site visits, and the tasks they willingly perform throughout the year: vice chairman John Birkett on planning applications and parish maintenance as well as representing the PC on the hall management team (of which all Cllrs are Trustees); Jenny Baish overseeing the burial ground; Stuart Craig on allotments, flooding and ditching; Martin Hayes on highways & speeding; Katie Sarsfield on communications, health & safety and fête liaison; Sandy Quinn looking after our extensive footpath & bridleway network, sadly we say goodbye to her also Jenny & Martin. My special thanks to Sally Burtenshaw for all her hard work and efficiency to all of us as parish clerk - it has been a pleasure working with her (which she might not reciprocate!), whilst still holding down a full time job. I have done my best as Chairman over the last 5 years and the time has come for a successor. I hope we will continue to invite contributions from the many (compared to some other councils) parishioners who take the trouble to attend our monthly meetings (it used to be every other month), where appropriate and of course under control.
Thank you and now to other reports