Annual parish meeting minutes
The minutes for this meeting held on Wedesday 21 March were over 2,500 words long so this is a slightly edited version produced by the blog editor.
The Norfolk County Councillor William Nunn, Breckland District Councillor Adrian Joel and 28 members of the public were present along with the Chairman of Old Buckenham Parish Council, Tim Ing, and the Parish Clerk James Watling.
Tim Ing, Chairman of the Parish Council, welcomed everyone to the meeting and the minutes of 2011 Annual Parish Meeting were signed as a true and accurate record of the meeting.
Chairman’s report. Tim Ing said that in May last year a new Parish Council was voted in, following on from possibly what had been the most successful Parish Council for many years. They had created a new children’s play area, a footpath beside the B1077, started the recreational project, put benches around the Green and several smaller projects. Many new younger councillors were elected in May and were bringing a fresh enthusiasm and appetite to serve the village and to move existing projects forwards. The coming year holds many challenges for the Parish Council particularly in planning issues with the Localism Act and where the need for new properties for our parishioners will come under scrutiny. It’s not always possible to satisfy everyone’s requirements but the Parish Council does try to resolve issues in a democratic way.
Parish Clerk’s report. The Precept for 2012/13 was set at £14,525. This is an increase of £1,869 on the previous year because of the purchase of extra grit bins and an increase in Council’s insurance because of extra cover for the play area and the recreation area. Also the Parish Council awarded grants to local organisations of £670. It is hoped that budget proposals for financial years 2013/14 will be at the current level of expenditure (or even a reduction). The Parish Council are fully aware of the harsh economic times for a large part of the villagers who are on fixed incomes. The Parish Council will therefore ensure strict financial and monetary controls are in place at all times and that all expenditure is within budgetary limits. During the year ending 31st March 2012 the Parish Council received grants totalling £4,397 for the play area and the recreation area. In addition Breckland contributed approx £1,350 towards the Community Car Scheme and gave a grant of £1,000 for the allotments. Expenditure for the year totalled approximately £18,462 net of VAT from a total income of £20,530. The Parish Council were obliged to comply with HRMC regulations and make the Parish Clerk a PAYE employee. This has resulted in the Parish Council having to draw up a Disciplinary and Grievance policy document along with a contract of Employment which apply to the employment of a Parish Clerk. The Council has also drawn up and adopted an Equal Opportunity Policy document which was required by legislation. The Clerk said he would like to take this opportunity of thanking the Parish Councillors for their hard work and commitment to their responsibilities as Parish Councillors and for the support they have given him over the past year.
Village group reports. The Old Buckenham Allotment Society (OBAS) are now into the second year of allotments in the Parish with all plots filled by tenants. OBAS was recognised by the Parish council earlier last year in which the latter agreed that representations can be made by allotment holders relating to the wording of the tenancy agreement and the management of the allotments. The Parish Council established a liaison committee to assist in the management of the allotments consisting of three councillors and three members of OBAS. Any final decision rests with the full Parish Council.
The Green Right Proprietors (GRP) had a relatively quiet year but have had a variety of issues to contend with including regular maintenance, dog fouling, the proliferation of parked cars and the number of new footpaths being created across the grass. The Green is currently managed as a registered traditional hay meadow which brings with it certain restrictions including when the grass may be cut. This is also a designated Conservation Area and the GRP always have to be mindful of this and the impact of everything it does on the abundance of flora and fauna and the biodiversity of the Green. Having said that, the Green is a resource for all parishioners to be proud of and hold as a unique feature of our village and a place for recreation. The on-going cost of maintenance of the Green and provision of insurance does concern the GRP and they have to look for ways to provide a sustainable income to fund this in the future. They held a public meeting in July 2011 which was not particularly well attended but they will continue to listen to the concerns and suggestions of all those with an interest in the Green. At the recent AGM they said farewell to Mike Read who has given an enormous amount of time and commitment in his role as Chair of the Green Right Proprietors and for which they are extremely grateful. Sarah Dye is proud to be taking over the Chair from Mike Read.
Old Buckenham Airfield. The airfield has been under new management since August 2011. They are determined that the airfield should play more of a role in the community and be a part of village life. They are hosting a day at the airfield as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, including a fly in, a 6-gun salute and a barn dance. Further they have donated a flight in a 1940s Biplane as a prize in the Jubilee raffle. Since the new management took over, the airfield has become immensely popular and is doing well. They have events at least once a month and details of them are on their website. The Old Buckenham Airshow will make a return on the 24th June and advice to villagers is that the best way to come to the show is by walking (pedestrian tickets are on sale now at the airfield). The Airfield are also pleased to announce that they are now the home of the East England Military Museum.
Village Hall. Mike Bartlett asked why the Village Hall was not on the Parish Council’s asset register. The Parish Clerk said the Village Hall was not an asset owned by the Parish Council and therefore could not appear on its register as such.
All Saints Church. The Christmas service was attended by 500 people. The Church has had its five year survey and the thatch needs to be done along with cracks in the walls and work on stained glass windows to preserve them. The tower also needs re-pointing as flints are loose and dangerous. The church porch pillars have been repaired. The total cost of future work is around £80,000 and church is hoping to get some grants. The main expenses are the Parish share to the Diocese which is £16,072 and insurance at £1,550. The church is hoping to be involved in Wispire which uses parish church towers as the platform to deliver high speed reliable wireless broadband internet access to local communities.
Old Buckenham Newsletter. The newsletter has continued to appear throughout the year, normally with 28 pages of news and advertising between the covers. On the financial side, income from advertising has covered the cost of producing the 400 printed copies (the cost of the paper is met by the parish council). The Old Buckenham “blog” publishes many items destined for the newsletter which are ‘posted’ every couple of days on the worldwide web. Over 700 items about the village have been posted since the blog was set up just over three years ago. For the last three years the editor has also taken the initiative for entering Old Buckenham into the ‘Pride in Norfolk’ village competition. The village was runner-up the first year and has won its category for the next two years, bringing a £1000 in prize money into the village.
District Councillor’s report. Breckland Council needed to save nearly £3 million pounds over next five years and there is a possible merger of shared management with Breckland, South Holland and Great Yarmouth Borough Council which could save Breckland an additional £100,000. Breckland have continued with match funding grants and have given £2,950 to the Village Hall lighting project and £100 towards the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. The new houses proposed by Cotman housing are now progressing and, when completed, should provide affordable housing for residents of the village.
County Councillor’s report. William Nunn reported that £16 million pounds had been taken off budget this year and despite this there was no increase in council tax this year and it was hoped no increase next year. There are 111 change programmes going on at present time to try to reduce administrative costs. Norfolk County Council are hoping to have 90% of Norfolk on high speed broadband. There has been a £10 million investment in the Fire Service and no reductions in front line services. No libraries in Norfolk will close following public consultations. Public transport links still appears to be a problem as they are underfunded by central government. It was at first decided that £250,000 would be reduced from footpath budgets but £150,000 is going back in to maintain as many footpaths as possible in the county. William Nunn then took questions from members of the public.
Parish Councillors’ reports. Play Area - Sarah Dye said the play area continues to be a well-used and popular resource for Old Buckenham. They are extremely grateful to John Hicks for the immense amount of time and effort he puts in on a voluntary basis to regularly maintain the play area and make it an attractive and safe place for children to play. She was disappointed to report that the site had experienced vandalism and damage to the gates and fences and some of the equipment. Car parking in the areas used by the Ox & Plough, the Church and the play area has caused some issues for local residents and, in response, the Parish Council are working with the Green Right Proprietors to improve parking. The provision of toilet facilities has also been discussed but unfortunately there is no feasible way to make specific and regular provision for play area users. Planning - Derek Smalley pointed out that the Localism Act may bring unwanted pressures on development in the village. The Parish Council will engage with residents to seek their views. With regard to the Attleborough Development Plan, the concerns of residents regarding increased use of B1077 and the infrastructure of the village including schools and doctors capacity are being raised. Concerns of the villagers are raised with Norfolk Police at regular meetings including speeding on Hargham Road and parking in Abbey Road outside the school. Derek Smalley also gave details of usage and prices with the oil buying scheme and the intention is to continue with scheme for another year. Allotments - Adrian Joel reported that these were now in their second year with 17 allotments holders. An additional stand pipe had been added along with parking matting. Village Hall - Tom Johnson gave details of the people running the village hall and asked that residents support them as funds are greatly needed. Diamond Jubilee celebrations - Steve Milner gave details of funding received and an overview of what they hoped to achieve at the celebrations. Recreation Area - Jonathan Kemp said the first phase was completed and effort was now concentrating on planning and funding of the second phase for the supply and installation of sports equipment on the site. Youth Council - Tim Ing said that it had been difficult to arrange meetings with interested young people because of circumstances including exams but the parish council were still going to work on the matter.
Public recess. A resident raised the matter of planning applications in the village and especially single dwelling applications which the Parish Council seemed to oppose. He suggested they look at this policy. Tim Ing responded saying the Parish Council is looking at future development in the village. Another resident raised the matter of broadband within Norfolk and the Say Yes campaign to bring high speed broadband to the County. County councillor William Nunn responded to the question. A resident raised the matter of speeding in Hargham Road and planning applications along with non-compliance of HGV restrictions within the village. Derek Smalley said the matter would be raised at the next SNAP meeting in April. A resident raised concerns about two planning applications that were going through at the present time and expressed concerns that not enough consideration was being given in the plan to improve infrastructures in the village before development took place. Another resident raised the matter of horses on the Green and asked if there were any regulations in place to cover the matter. Sarah Dye said the Green Right Proprietors would look into the matter. A further resident raised concerns saying that Breckland Council’s expenses were amongst the highest in the country and also raised the matter of affordable housing not only being funded by housing associations. One resident raised matter of accounts not being on the agenda. He also said he would like to see a budget on a year-by-year basis. A resident said he had concerns that Parish Clerk did not live in village and was not in tune with the residents and seem to concentrate on the legal position of the Parish Council too much. Both the Parish Clerk and Tim Ing responded on the matter. Another resident raised the suggestion of a five-year budget forecast and the Parish Council would discuss the matter at their April meeting. A resident raised the matter of a footpath on the Green which he thought was in a terrible condition. He had spoken to both the County Council and the Parish Council who said they could not do anything about it. Another resident raised the matter of the war memorial which he thought should be taken over by Parish Council. Tim Ing responded on both matters. One resident raised the matter of car parking at the Village Hall and asked if the County Council could not help to fill in the potholes. County Councillor William Nunn responded saying it was private property and they could not assist. A resident then thanked the Parish Council for their hard work while another resident asked if a list of the allotment holders could be made available.