A year in the life of…
The Annual Parish Meeting of Old Buckenham Parish Council was held in the Village Hall on Friday 26 March. The official minutes are rather long (over 3000 words) and are therefore too lengthy to appear in the May newsletter. If you would like to get an idea of what has gone on in Old Buckenham during the last twelve months then the minutes, very slightly edited, are here for you to read.
The Chairman, Norman Cawston, welcomed the 31 members of the public who had come along plus the members of the present Parish Council.
The minutes of the Annual Parish Meeting in March 2009 were agreed as a true and accurate record of the meeting and signed accordingly. There were no matters arising.
Norfolk Constabulary had sent their apologies as the person due to attend was off sick and no replacement could be found. They would however attend a meeting of the Parish Council in the near future and deliver a report to the Council.
Chairman’s annual report. Norman Cawston said it had been a difficult year but a very busy one. He thanked all the Parish Councillors who had helped and supported the Parish Council throughout the year. John Frost had raised a query on the burial ground and the chairman said a reply would come from a meeting of the Parish Council. He then said that the questions of supplying allotments in the village had been raised and the Parish Council would hopefully be able to rent some land from Breckland Council to provide them. He said the safe route to school path was finished and most people in the village were happy with the result. The path along the B1077 was completed. Thanks were due to Mike Read and the Green Rights Proprietors along with Terry Cracknell who all put in a lot of work along with Trevor Crook who oversaw the project. He then went on to congratulate the Green Rights Proprietors who have got the probation service to tidy up the Green but now, because of some health and safety issues the Beavers are not allowed to work on tidying the Green. He welcomed the two new headmasters to the village. The old Village Action Plan was raised and Parish Council will see if a path is required from Crown Road to the Green. He thanked Kerry Talbot for arranging the refreshments.
Clerk’s Annual Report. This has been a difficult year for the Parish Council as there was effectively no parish clerk in post for nearly five months of the year. Having taken over in September the Clerk’s first priority was to set the precept for the financial year 2010/11. The Precept Meeting was held in October 2009 and the precept was set at £12,218 which equates to a 19% reduction on the previous year. It is hoped and anticipated that the precept for the financial year 2011/12 will show a reduction again on this year’s precept. The Parish Council are fully aware of the harsh economic times for the large numbers of the villagers who are on fixed incomes. The Parish Council will therefore ensure strict financial and monetary controls are affected at all times and that all expenditure is within budgetary limits. During the year ending 31st March 2010 the Parish Council received grants totalling £25,172.94 for the children’s play area, recreation area, the footpath across the Green and for benches for the Green. Fund raising for the recreation area and play area produced another £1,833.17 in generated income. Breckland also contributed approximately £900 towards the Community Car Scheme. Expenditure for the year totalled approximately £42,000 net of VAT from a total income of £47,192. All figures are subject to audit as the financial year end has not yet arrived. Also during the year the Parish Council has compiled a Village Emergency Plan, a Health & Safety Policy document, a Freedom of Information model publication scheme and a Financial Regulation Policy document. All this has been necessary because of legislation. The Parish Council are currently undertaking a review of its standing orders to bring them into line with current Government legislation. Also it has programmed in a full set of risk assessments to be carried out during the course of the next few months on all assets owned by the Parish Council. These programmes have involved Parish Councillors in extra work during the year and the Clerk would like to take this opportunity of thanking them for their efforts during what has been a difficult year under exceptional circumstances.
Village Hall report. The past year had been a busy one for the Village Hall Management Committee with the main priority being the completion of the refurbishment of the kitchen and bar area in the main hall. This could not have been done without the grants they had received and for which they were grateful. Mike Bartlett was to be commended for the work he had done on the project and the input of the ladies from the user organisations had also proved valuable. This is the most expensive project they have undertaken and it is hoped the facility will be used by the Hall for many years to come. The next project was the men’s toilets which it was felt were in need of urgent upgrading. The large brass plaque in the Memorial Room that lists the American servicemen who had died while serving in Old Buckenham was given an expensive refurbishment which should last up to twenty years. Despite the fact that hall lettings income now barely covers running costs, the hire charges have not been increased as it is appreciated that money is tight for everyone. Any further hall improvements will have to be made from grants and by fundraising. The car park surface still proves to be major concern. Sooner or later the issue will have to be addressed and no grants are available for this work to be done.
Old Buckenham Newsletter editor’s report. The newsletter has continued to appear throughout the year, normally with28 pages of news and advertising between the covers. The use of coloured photographs on the front cover has continued to keep the newsletter looking professional and attractive to advertisers.
On the financial side, income from advertising again appears to have covered the cost of producing the 400 printed copies. Advertising rates have been increased slightly for those taking short term advertisements as printing costs have increased over the last twelve months. Last year the newsletter donated £500 from its ‘profits’ to the Parish Council to be used for the benefit of those in the village. It is expected that this will be spent on one of the new benches to be installed on the Green. Norfolk News Deliveries continues to distribute copies with the morning newspaper deliveries in the village each month. The majority of the remaining copies are picked up from the village shop while other places including All Saints Church, the Airfield, the Gamekeeper, the Ox and Plough and the Clinic on the Green also take a few copies. We are most grateful to all of them for their cooperation. The newsletter editor continues to send material at his own expense to the Wymondham and Attleborough Mercury local paper, trying to get our local stories to project a positive attitude of life in our village. Distribution of this free paper is now even more haphazard around the village and news from far and wide appears in our local edition. As a result less Old Buckenham news appears in print. The Old Buckenham “blog” publishes items destined for the newsletter which are published every couple of days or so on the worldwide web. The Diss Express and the Mid Norfolk News newspaper read our news and either prints it in their paper or follows-up some of the stories in greater depth. Over 300 items about the village have been posted since the blog was set up eighteen months ago. We remain grateful for the continuing flow of news items (and sufficient newsletter advertising) from the village people and organisations and hope it will continue during the next twelve months.
Green Right Proprietors. The proprietors were able to make land available for the footpath on the Green which has now been finished. Also a piece of land was donated to the Play Area to enable the enlargement of the children’s play area and work on it is progressing well. Permission has been granted to Parish Council for the siting of four more benches on the green. Thanks are due to the Church for the use of their rooms through the year and to Terry Cracknell who has offered to complete the clearance of cuttings. Changes have been made to the committee during the year and Rosemary West will continue as secretary and Colin Phillips will stay as vice-chairman. As there is no chairman at present Colin Phillips will act as chairman until one is found from the membership. On Easter Sunday 4 April the Green is hosting the lunchtime stopover for the National Veteran Tractor Rally and it is hoped this event will help to replenish the finances of the Green Rights Proprietors funds. It is also hoped that other events will be arranged during the summer months and that some new people obtain green rights and will be willing to share the burden of organising things.
Community Car Scheme. Michael Craven-Romain said he had now taken over from Robert Zinman who had run the scheme for 20 years and he thanked him for his work over the years. In the past 12 months 507 journeys had been recorded, 7 more than the previous year (111 were hospital visits, 358 were to doctors, dentists and opticians). The recorded mileage was 8184 which is up 335 on last year and the Parish Council share of costs for the scheme rose from £783.45 to £861.78. The number of residents using the scheme has fallen from 68 to 63. Michael Craven-Romain said he would like to thank all drivers who gave up their time willingly and the village owes them a great debt. The scheme has 19 listed drivers which has meant that, even during sickness periods, the scheme has arranged transport to meet every request throughout the year.
Recreation Area report. Carol Marshall said the area had now been completely fenced and this had been paid from existing funds. The OB 2000 Trust had given a grant of £1,000 which had enabled the fourth side of the fence to be completed and for the purchase of six picnic tables in the near future. The High School Headmaster has fully supported the proposed full-sized multi-sport court. This will enable the school basketball team to have home games. At the present time the school court is only half-size so home games cannot be played on it. More grants are being applied for and it is hoped that an official opening of the Recreation Area will take place in early spring.
Bucks Just Play. After an extremely busy 2009, the project was successful in obtaining funding required for phases 1 and 2 of the project. Work commenced in September 2009 with site clearance which resulted in the finding of a 5 ton piece of concrete which brought the project to a halt. Then bad weather during the winter also caused serious delays. But now after contacting all grant providers and seeking extensions to grant applications the project is well on the way to completion. The turf has been laid and contractors will soon be rolling the area and seeding where appropriate. Kerry Talbot thanked all the grant providers, the parishioners of Old Buckenham for their patience and support and finally to the members of the working party for all their efforts in getting the project this far. It is hoped to have a launch party in 2010 and invites would be sent out.
District Councillor’s report. District Councillor Adrian Joel reported that the Breckland District Council tax has not increased for 2010/11. There is a move to consider sharing services with South Norfolk. The proposal would be, where possible, to merge management teams and form a hub of backroom services while maintaining cost-effective frontline services for the council tax payers. In spite of a recommendation from the Boundary Committee for one County Unitary Authority the Government has put through Parliament a Single Unitary Authority for Norwich. Breckland’s Local Development Framework Policy and Core Strategy has been found sound by Government inspectors and will be the basis of their planning policy for the future. The Site Specific plans have moved forward with settlement boundaries in villages being discussed. Recommendations have been presented to the Parish Council for Old Buckenham and these will then go to public consultation in the next few months. Breckland District Council then expected to finalise, after a further period of consultation, the Site Specifics by June 2011. Adrian Joel was pleased that a Match Funding Grant was obtained for the kitchen extension and previously for the play area. He looked forward to working with the Recreation Area Working Party when they submit a similar Match Funding Grant. He speaks to users of the Flexibus service regularly and there do not appear to be many problems with the service. It provides a life line for many residents. Breckland fund the concessionary bus passes, this cost last year was £750,000 with Central Government funding £150,000. This is a big cost but one that is a necessity for rural Breckland.
County Councillor’s report. William Nunn said the County Council’s part of the Council Tax bill for a band D house was £1200. There will be no increase in this over the next two years. Norfolk is considered a ‘better off’ county by National Government and there is a dampening effect put on the county. The dualling of the A11 should go ahead no matter the result of the next General election. The crime rate in the county has dropped 13% and Norfolk is now said to be the safest County in the country.
Parish Councillors’ reports. Tim Ing said that the new proposed four benches on the Green had been funded by Old Buckenham 2000B Trust and the village newsletter. It is hoped that the benches will soon be in place. Gerald Norton thanked Mike Read for his work as Parish Clerk and was glad to see him around the village. He also welcomed the new clerk James Watling.
Public recess. The matter of allotments was raised and it was suggested that the Parish Council owned some land down Crown Road that may be suitable. The meeting was informed that the Parish Council did not own any land there. A working party would be set up by the Parish Council to deal with the matter. Mike Read raised the matter of draft minutes being used in the OB Newsletter which can sometimes be misleading, he cited the recent question of the shop lay-by. A resident raised the matter of the proposed development at Attleborough and the effect it would have on Old Buckenham including increased traffic flows. Norman Cawston said the development may take place before the infrastructure had been completed. Adrian Joel said that the Attleborough Task Force will put forward proposals for discussions and OB Parish Council was represented on the task force. Concerns were expressed at the possible level of new housing development being considered for Attleborough and the surrounding areas. A resident raised the question of extending the footpath in Cake Street, Norman Cawston said the Parish Council would look at all areas of the village. Mike Bartlett said Norfolk Rural Community Council was at the opening of the new Village Hall kitchen and would give consideration to grant for the gents cloakroom improvement and he asked for Parish Council’s support for the project. He then went on to raise the matter of the Parish Council’s standing orders limiting speeches to three minutes and then went into detail concerning his correspondence with Parish Clerk on the matter. He said he had also contacted Breckland Council who informed him the limit did not apply to members of the public and he requested a copy of the minute that stated it did. Mike Bartlett then gave great detail of two meetings he had attended in relation to the proposed development in Attleborough. Some 400 to 500 people attended the meetings of in February. Mike Bartlett then attended a further meeting held on Tuesday 9 February and he had purchased a copy of the report at a cost of £230. The report raised many issues and some actions required the involvement of Old Buckenham, including the merging of Attleborough and Old Buckenham High Schools, building a supermarket in the area of Bunns Bank and creating a new road from Breckland Lodge to Bunns Bank. It was proposed by Mike Bartlett that the Parish Council call a series of meetings on Saturday mornings to get people involved. Further meetings should also be held with the consulting bodies. This proposal was seconded by John Fernihough and agreed overwhelmingly by the meeting. A resident raised the issue of one end of the Green that was not as smart as other areas, in fact he thought the area around Rod Alley was a disgrace. The duck house was sinking and asked if the Green Rights Proprietors and the Parish Council get together on the matter. Terry Cracknell raised the matter of communication in the village. He said some parish councillors worked very hard and some do not. He raised the matter of his recent small claims action against the Parish Council. He asked for more agendas to be available at meetings and for two public recesses to be held at parish council meetings, one at the beginning and one at the end. He also said he wanted to attend the recent precept meeting but was told he could not attend. Terry Cracknell said the Attleborough development should be closely monitored and a meeting held either every month or every other month. He also said that all people should be pulling together and not some voting for and some against. Tim Ing said that differences of opinion do occur but he felt that everyone should now move forward and not dwell on the past.