CHAIRMAN’S REPORT 2011 East Dean Parish Council
The end of this financial year marks the end of the four year term that the present Council was elected for. I was pleased in May 2007 that we had a contested election, as the very high turnout demonstrated the strength of support for local democracy in this small parish. I would like to thank Jan, Phil, Mark, Rod and Andrew, the Councillors who have served over this term and contributed their time to helping the community.
Looking forward to the coming election, I am pleased to see there are sufficient candidates for us to start with a fully elected council and no co-opted members. We are proud of gaining our Quality Council status and having an elected council helps us to fully comply with the quality standard. It is good to know that even in a small parish like this there are sufficient public spirited people willing to come forward so thanks are due to Andrew, Paula, Jo and Lydia who have all been nominated to become councillors for the next four years. Much credit is also due to Helen our Clerk who has done a lot to publicise the work of the Council in regular newsletters as well as making sure residents are aware of the opportunity to help by standing for election and without this I think it would be very difficult to maintain interest. To have a council with some new blood as well as some old hands should lead to new ideas and opportunities.
Turning to our accounts, which are available for inspection at this meeting, I am pleased to report a further improvement in our reserves carried forward to £1286 from £776 last year and £318 the year before. This has only been achieved by carefully controlling budget expenditure whilst still trying to help support voluntary groups where we can. The increase in precept of £100 will only serve to cover any increases in fixed costs that we incur and I hope it will leave us in a similar or improved financial state next year and that this will complete the improvement in our finances that we were asked to make.
Looking at the subjects that the Council has worked on over the past year, we have seen new grit bins and snow shovels provided, in the nick of time for the bad weather before Christmas. Our phone box was disconnected by BT who will no longer provide this service to the village but we have adopted the box so it can remain as a local landmark and be used as a book exchange as well as other community purposes. It was in poor condition and much has been done to renovate it but there is a little left to complete. We have raised our share of the funding needed for Lockerley and East Dean Memorial Hall kitchen refurbishment, thanks to Andrew Gibson and Hampshire County Council and I am pleased to report that further funding of £22,000 has also been raised from Viridor. The hall is East Dean’s as well as Lockerley’s and available to be booked for community or private functions.
For the third year running, we were awarded the “BestSmallVillage” in HampshireVillage of the Year Competition and thank Fullers, the new sponsors for taking over where Calor left off. Much of the credit for this should go to the Community Group who have once again organised a full programme of village events over the past year leading up to the recent quiz and curry evening which was a great success so thanks to Phil and all involved in the Community Group for all their efforts.
A working party has cleared litter from the village and thanks are due to the volunteers who turned up to help. Having sufficient people makes light work of the job.
Last year I commented on the slow pace of progress over some issues and the same issues remain current and have occupied a lot of time over the year. The road through the village is a constant source of problems for us and increasing levels of heavy traffic leads to more maintenance being needed. Andrew Gibson, our CountyCouncillor has been working to try and improve maintenance standards and taken a close interest in progress with re-surfacing our road so thanks to him for his help. Hopefully he will also be able to get the maintenance team to finish dealing with the blocked drains, another longstanding problem. We would still like to see traffic speeds through the village reduced to make the road safe for pedestrians and cyclists and we have been promised a programme of speed monitoring which I hope will be a first step in this direction.
Our other long term project concerns rights of way. The land designated as open access under CROW remains closed and we have recently responded to the consultation over this suggesting that there is no sound reason why it should continue to be closed indefinitely. The other longstanding issue concerns the historic rights of way up the hill closed off by the MOD and this has been with Hampshire County Council for several years but a start on the process is promised for the coming year. Hampshire Countryside service has recently provided a new footpath marker for the path leading from the level crossing up the hill so thanks are due for their prompt action here.
The village remains as an area of countryside in TestValley’s local plan so is not directly threatened by major development but we need to remain vigilant for any future policy changes that may affect us. For this reason we have invited TestValley and Hampshire County Councillors as well as Caroline Nokes our new MP to speak at this meeting and let us know if any changes affecting us are on the horizon.
On a final note, thanks to all the Parish Councillors who are standing down after serving as Councillors over the past four years but a special thank you to Jan Barker who is standing down after serving on the Council for as long as I can remember and being chairperson for much of that time. I would like to ask Helen to present Jan with a card and a bottle of wine in recognition of our thanks for all her efforts.