2010/11 Chairmans Report - Parish Council
The purpose of this report is to give a summary of what the Parish Council has been doing during the last year and to comment on the major issues that we are facing as a parish. There is more information available on all these subjects on our website at www.eastwickandgilston.org.uk and also the STOP Harlow North website at www.stopharlownorth.com
During the year, the Parish Council have held six Parish Council meetings and an Annual Parish meeting. Individual Parish Councillors took the following responsibilities.
Mark Orson – Chairman - Parish Paths and Parish Website
Colin Marston – Vice Chairman - Highways Matters
Tim Geddes – Parish Plan Steering Group representative
Keith Harvey –Parish Council Grant Funding
Alan Jenkins – STOP Harlow North representative
Christine Law – Parish Clerk
Colin Marston and Alan Jenkins did not stand for re-election as Parish Councillors on the 5 May. Both have changes to their circumstances that make it difficult for them to continue to commit time to the Parish Council. Colin has been Vice Chairman and took responsibility for Highways Matters and Alan has been our STOP Harlow North representative. On behalf of the Parish Council I would to like thank them for their contribution and involvement they have both made a difference and both will be missed.
An insufficient number of nominations for Parish Councillor were received for the 5th May 2011 Parish Council elections. One was received for the Parish of Eastwick and two for the Parish of Gilston. Six Parish Councillors are needed – three for Eastwick and three for Gilston. After the 5th May we will need to co-opt two Parish Councillors for Eastwick and one for Gilston and are actively looking for people to fill these essential roles. Parish Councillor’s and the Parish Council have the responsibility of representing the views of local residents on matters such as planning applications, management of local services and the local environment. We are at a time in our parish where there are a number of changes in process that will have a significant impact on the future of our community. We face the continuing issue of Harlow North, the future of Terlings Park, the restoration of Pole Hole Quarry and the challenge of establishing the Gilston Great Park concept to name a few. For a small parish or indeed for any parish we have a full agenda. If you are interested in finding out about the role of Parish Councillor please contact Christine Law, Parish Clerk, on 411646 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for an informal discussion.
Albert Towse who was a parish councillor for Eastwick from May 1999 until 2008 died in February. Albert took responsibility for Parish Paths and later also dealt with Highways issues and meetings with the Highways Officers. He was instrumental in the work to reinstate Cock Robin Lane, which was a major project; the improved maintenance of the footpath network generally; persuading the farmers and landowners to fulfil their responsibilities on footpath matters and the provision of the display footpath maps and printed leaflets. He has also played a major part in obtaining funds and organising restoration of the War Memorials at Eastwick and Gilston. After Albert resigned as parish councillor he continued his contact with us and was always a source of valuable and interesting information. Albert was a great contributor and character; the parish council is arranging for a bench to be installed at the Eastwick War Memorial in his memory.
Thanks to Anthony Bickmore who chairs the Parish Plan Steering Group and members of the team. The Parish Plan phase 1 document was published last year on the parish website and printed copies were sent to key stakeholders. We are now exploring the possibility of developing the Parish Plan to become a Neighbourhood Plan under the new Localism Bill. This will give substantially more weight to our local plan than under current arrangements and we will provide updates on progress toward this via the Parish Magazine and website,
Progress has been made on the ‘Action Plan’ that was an output of the Parish Plan and if you are interested to find out more about this work and perhaps to become involved please contact Anthony Bickmore or myself.
One project that we will be telling you more about during the year is the Eastwick and Gilston Barn Owl project for which we have just had confirmed a full grant from the Big Lottery Fund. We originally applied for a Community Wildlife Grant in November but were unsuccessful. Our application was then submitted under the Awards for All scheme this time with a successful outcome.
The project will provide 30 Barn Owl nesting boxes to encourage Barn Owls to live and breed in this area. The nesting boxes will be installed by a mix of local and existing volunteers under the guidance of the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust. From experience in Hertfordshire and elsewhere it has been shown that it is worthwhile placing a large number of boxes to give the owls a choice of breeding and roosting opportunities. The success of the nesting boxes will be monitored by local and an existing network of volunteers in Hertfordshire which reports through to the British Trust for Ornithology.
The Eastwick and Gilston Barn Owl Project is an exciting example of how communities can support the modern approach to conservation and the needs of both people and wildlife. Barn Owls need areas of tall grassland, ideally all linked together with similar habitat. The Barn Owl is a good indicator of the quality of the habitat and this habitat will also be good for many other species such as grasshoppers, butterflies, dragonflies, small mammals and kestrels. Nationally the Barn Owl has a population of only 4,400 pairs and has an 'amber' status; accordingly it is very worthy of conservation action.
This project is complementary to other initiatives in this Parish; the work being carried out by the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust along the Stort Valley and the Countryside Management Service’s work with farmers and landowners in improving the biodiversity of the land and countryside. It is a fit with our Parish Plan which clearly showed that residents place high importance on the environment.
If you would like to know more or to become involved please contact me or Christine Law, Parish Clerk, on 411646 or email email@example.com.
More information about Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust can be found on their web site www.hertswildlifetrust.org.uk .
The Parish Council continues to be strongly opposed to the proposals of Harlow North Joint Venture (HNJV) to build 10,000 homes around Eastwick and Gilston by 2031 and the campaign has been maintained during the year with STOP Harlow North. Some good news was the abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies by the coalition government, leading to the withdrawal of the East of England plan and with this went HNJV’s justification of their proposals - “It is in the East of England plan” .
Despite this good news the battle goes on. Both East Herts and Harlow Council included Harlow North as a possible development site in their Options Consultations for the Local Development Framework. It would seem that East Herts included this to allow the proposal to be formally rejected and has made clear statements that they are against the development. Harlow made the bizarre decision to include the area in its Options Consultation even though the land is in East Herts and NOT in Harlow!
Our main efforts this year have been:
- Responses to the Local Development Framework Options Consultations - we responded to both East Herts and Harlow consultations providing a written response of around 50 pages to each setting out clear arguments against the proposed development. We are grateful to the SHN campaign that helped us construct some of the technical arguments.
- Generating responses from local people to the consultation - we recognised the risk of campaign fatigue and that most sensible people in our community would, not unreasonably, believe that having formally objected on numerous previous occasions that they would not need to object again. Common sense does not prevail and we once again asked people to object. We were delighted with the response and 145 people in Eastwick and Gilston voted against the development and nobody voted in its favour. Thank you to everyone who took the time to vote.
- Ongoing work with SHN - one of the key issues for SHN this year has been engagement with HNJV. We have found them to be very evasive, failing to give straight answers to straight questions. They have submitted responses to both the East Herts and Harlow consultations. Not surprisingly, in one they claim to solve the problems of East Herts and in the other the problems of Harlow
We will see the outcomes of the East Herts options consultation later in the year and reasonably hope that this will exclude Harlow North from the plan although the plan will not be finalised until it is formally adopted which we expect will happen in 2013.
Please see the STOP Harlow North website at www.stopharlownorth.com for full information on our campaign and subscribe to the newsletter for detailed updates.
Gilston Great Park
Gilston Great Park is still very much on the agenda and work towards this concept can be carried out and much achieved irrespective of the future use of the green belt and farmland in our parish. All Parishes north of Harlow are united in their view of an appropriate future for the area. It is one of conservation of the rural economy, landscape enhancement and the introduction of more leisure uses. These views are set out in the plan for Gilston Great Park. The Gilston Great Park plan is consistent with the Green Infrastructure Plan prepared by local authorities and Natural England. More information will be published in the Parish Magazine and website as progress is made.
Everyone should by now be aware that an outline planning application has been submitted to develop the Terlings Park site for residential housing. Terlings Park is identified as a Major Developed Site within the green belt. The site was formerly occupied by Merck Sharp and Dohme’s National Neuroscience Research Centre and has been closed for a number of years. We have been in regular contact with CB Richard Ellis acting for Merck Sharp and Dohme originally to sell the site and now to obtain outline planning approval.
There have been two public consultation events held at the Village Hall, Gilston in January and in March to present a model of the proposed development and the thinking behind the scheme and to gain feedback.
The Parish Council has been advised by East Herts Planning that we have until the 15th May 2011 to make comment on the proposals and that the application will be discussed at the June Planning Committee. We are developing a response on behalf of the Parish to meet this timing and will communicate this response to residents. Any further points raised by residents who also have the opportunity to comment directly on the proposals will be communicated to East Herts Planning before the June Planning Committee meeting
Pole Hole Quarry Restoration
An application has been made to Herts County Council for the final restoration and closure of the site phased over a five year period. The proposals include temporary retention of an inert waste recycling plant and associated infrastructure. The Parish Council has been in contact with Herts County Council to discuss this application and is developing a response on behalf of the Parish which will be communicated via the Parish Magazine and website.
We have had a number of planning applications to comment on during the year and most have been reasonably straightforward and non contentious changes to existing properties. The major planning issues affecting our area are addressed by Terlings Park, Pole Hole Quarry Restoration, our Parish Plan and the STOP Harlow North campaign.
We continue to work closely with Highways to ensure that Highways maintenance activities are carried out effectively and meet our local needs. As with all local services Highways work is governed by budget and availability of resources and getting work carried out in a timely manner can sometimes be a frustrating struggle. However we have an agreed schedule of outstanding work and take every opportunity to push for priority treatment.
The Parish footpath network is a real asset and I would once again encourage anyone who hasn’t walked them to try and find the time as it will give you another perspective on our local area. Our footpaths are well maintained and we have continued to keep them so during the last year with grants and practical help from the Rights of Way department and Countryside Management Service. You will find a number of display maps of the footpath network located around the parishes including both the Eastwick and Gilston War Memorial sites.
You will have recently received the booklet from East Herts District Council outlining your rates for 2011/2012. Part of the rates is made up of the Parish Precept which is set by the Parish Council to cover small running costs and a number of initiatives we undertake including maintaining the Parish Paths and War Memorials. The amount attaching to your rates for the parish is a function of what we spend and the number of properties and their valuation bands in the area.
This year we deliberately maintained our precept at the same level for the fourth year running.
If you have views on how we should spend our money and if we should spend more or less then let one of the Parish Councillors know or attend a Parish Council meeting. We are always keen to hear views and enjoy the interaction with members of the public at the meetings – all are welcome
Work on the revised website is now almost complete we are now waiting for a timetable to load content and make the site live. More information will be published in the Parish Magazine and of course the website www.eastwickandgilston.org.uk as progress is made.
Thanks to Bob Mitchell our developer for all his work building and supporting the existing website.
Quality Parish Council
Eastwick and Gilston Parish Council has achieved the National Association of Parish & Town Councils Quality Parish Status. The certificate was presented at the 10 January Parish Council meeting by Chris Sweeney –Chair of the Accreditation Panel and Cllr Judith Watson – Chair of Hertfordshire Association of Parish & Town Councils.
Eastwick and Gilston is the first Parish Council in East Herts to be awarded quality parish status. The scheme is designed to improve the quality of management and administration of parish and town councils and also aims to enhance relationships between local councils, principal authorities and community and voluntary sector organisations.
Overall, we have made good progress and there are clearly some challenges for the year ahead. We are fortunate to have a dedicated and hard working team of Councillors. They devote a lot of their time for the benefit of the community which is unpaid and they claim no expenses. Thanks to Mike Newman and Roger Beeching who are our District and County Councillors respectively they give valued support to the Parish Council.
Thanks also to Christine Law, our Parish Clerk. Without Christine, the Parish Council simply wouldn’t function.