In June 2011, after nine years service as Chairman of the Yatton Keynell Parish Council, Chris Dash handed over the reins to new Chairman Julian Davies. We asked them both about the role, and their involvement in village and county life.
What made you get involved in the Parish Council?
CD: I must have been on the Parish Council for about 28/30 years.
In the short time I and my family had lived in Yatton Keynell, we had grown very fond of the place and on receiving an invitation to join the Council in mid term, I jumped at the chance to really see, and be involved in, its affairs.
JD: I moved to Yatton Keynell from New Zealand in 1999 and I wanted to get to know people in the village. Initially I attended some YKRA meetings but eventually joined the YKPC sometime in 2000. Having never lived in a village before, it seemed like a good way of getting to know people and learning how the village ticked.
What’s the most significant thing the council has achieved since you’ve been involved?
CD: Clearly over such a long time many significant decisions have been made and
implemented. We chose the design of the water tower on the Grittleton Road!
To limit the answer to my 9 years as Chairman, apart from the saving of the Post Office in which we played a very proactive role, the reduction of the speed limits from the A420 to the village and the successful transition from a very agricultural orientated village to a very residential one stand out. Those can be seen, but behind the scenes we have been very successful at times in opposing planning applications that we have felt inappropriate and supporting others.
JD: From my perspective, the most significant issues have been persuading/presenting evidence against planning applications to place an extensive golf course next to the golf academy and to build 3 office blocks at the Tiddlywink entrance to the village. Neither application was of advantage to the village and it was just and crucial that we, as a parish council, were able to help influence the planning committees that both applications were detrimental to the village.
Can Parish Councils really make a difference to local people and businesses?
JD: If you asked me this question 2-3 years ago, I would have answered that the Parish Council added little, because whatever the PC decided in a meeting, the district council appeared to ignore our decisions and went ahead with whatever was on their agenda. This was particularly so with planning applications. However over the past year or so, there has been a distinct change in outlook, probably as a result of the localism bill coming through parliament, which will devolve power from central government and county councils to more local control. This is a welcome development – so the hope is that the Parish Council can make a bigger difference in the future. We will have to wait till the localism bill becomes law – the devil is in the detail.
CD: Yes we fought very hard against the Post Office authorities and, with many others fighting the same cause, we won through.
What are the biggest challenges facing small villages over the coming years?
JD: The relentless advance of urban dwelling over green belt.
CD: Two challenges spring to mind. Firstly development; this must be closely monitored to ensure we do not outgrow ourselves but at the same time we must not stagnate and go to sleep. We must consider whether or not small developments might be suitable at times and not throw out low cost development without considering that there might be advantages to the village. This leads to the next challenge, which involves keeping the organisations in the village up and running. As the village has expanded some organisations have not benefited from the increased population. The Women’s Institute and Pensioners Luncheon Club have ceased and the Recreation Association needs more support – just three examples.
How can local businesses play an active part in village life?
CD: The four obvious businesses in the village all play their part in advertising, sponsoring and assisting in local events where they can. All positive involvement.
JD: Local businesses already play an active role in village life by providing valued services and opportunities for people to work, meet and integrate and it’s important that this continues. Their support for local activities such as the village fete and Xmas markets is invaluable.
What could villagers do to contribute to the development of the village, that’s not too time-intensive?
JD: Let us know your views on issues that arise – post your views on our new website. Volunteering to help deal with an issue that interests you would also be much appreciated – after all, we on the Parish Council committee are all volunteers!
CD: I feel the main areas that need more input from the village, centre on the lack of support and involvement with committees and organisations. To see more than a couple attending a Parish Council meeting is a rare sight. The Recreation Association meetings are poorly supported. Other groups are also in need of greater support but how vital to the future of the village are the two I have mentioned.
What would you like to leave as your legacy to the village?
JD: Over the past decade there have been many changes to the village:– the creation of the Market Cross, the Jubilee Field development, 3 housing developments have been built, the Post Office has been saved. These have all had a positive effect on the village. The village has reached an “optimal” size and village services can cope with its size. Preservation of this state would be my drive for the foreseeable future.
CD: It is impossible to name one as so much has been achieved by the Parish Council over the last nine years. I suppose the successful transition from an agriculture orientated community to a very much residential community I trust will be a long lasting legacy from the last nine years. A tangible legacy must of course be the Market Cross corner. I am so proud to have played a part in its development.
Thanks to both Chris and Julian for their interesting and insightful responses.