This time last year, I thought that 2022/23 would be a quiet year with few, if any contentious issues to deal with. How wrong can you be?
Drovers Green and consequential changes to the speed limit;
the culmination of the application to build a 49.9MW solar farm on land near Sevington.
I am pleased to report that the relationship we have with Persimmon is, in the main, very constructive. We are currently in discussions with them over the transfer of ownership of the track to the Parish Council in order to protect it for the benefit of the village. The action lies with them to propose the precise outline of the area of land to be transferred. Persimmon have already undertaken the major tree work and therefore the contingent liability is manageable within our normal budgeting process. For this reason the transfer will be without a bounty. All rights of access over the track will be fully protected.
We have accordingly appointed a solicitor to represent the PC.
In addition I have been told that they are preparing a Non Material Amendment to cover the change in the boundary treatment adjacent to 2 Coldharbour.
On the speed limit, much against our better judgement, the Traffic Regulation Order moving the speed limit by 40m has gone ahead. But following a meeting with Cllr Caroline Thomas and with further interventions by Nick Botterill we have been advised in an email from by the Director of Highways that:
‘…. recognising the Parish Council’s request to extend the speed limit reduction to include Tiddleywink and possibly the golf course, I have asked officers to undertake a further speed limit assessment once the relocation work has been completed.’
We therefore wait with anticipation.
Sevington Solar Farm
Sevington Solar Farm was an excellent example of the Parish Council working collaboratively with our neighbours, Grittleton. Sadly that collaboration did not extend to Wiltshire Council’s officials on whose recommendation the plan of sending all the traffic through Yatton Keynell on the route that was the longest and least efficient was adopted and recommended for approval by the Strategic Planning Committee.
What is germane to this year is that at the meeting of the Strategic Planning Committee they imposed significant conditions on the developer relating to passing places in the Sevington Lane for HGVs and it is earnestly to be hoped that Wiltshire Council adhere rigorously to their compliance. We have been told that officials will determine whether the conditions have been met and we will be watching like hawks to ensure that if it is the same officials that recommended the route be approved without conditions they do not simply mark their own homework and nod it through.
Such is the hypocrisy of a developer that promotes small scale sheep grazing and bee keeping in the name of the name of promoting the green agenda whilst happily setting their green credentials to seek approval to a scheme that will maximise the exhaust emissions from the diesel lorries in the pursuit of their profit making enterprise.
To be blunt the solar farm is about money and profit and little else. As the old adage goes, beware of enlightened self- interest masquerading as moral rectitude.
Following the receipt of money from the Community Infrastructure Levy we have agreed to fund the refurbishment of the Village Hall kitchen up to a sum of £20,000. This will enable them to finalise and enter into the contract for this project.
We still have to decide what to do about the Clarks Leaze play area and with COVID now pretty well behind us we will draw up fresh ideas and embark on a village wide consultation.
There has been no further activity on the Longdean woodland proposal. The application to construct a parking area as part of the woodland management plan was dropped following a robust but civilised public meeting. The so called hut which was approved separately as an agricultural development has not been erected. Most significantly the Wild Carrot glamping enterprise that was to be the recipient of the timber and logs from the woodland has gone out of business. Therefore what the future holds for the woodland is rather up in the air.
We continue to have a rolling project to invest in improving public rights of way under the supervision of Cllr Towl. This has proved a very effective way keeping our paths up to standard and encouraging visitors into the village. I know that strictly landowners are responsible for maintaining their land and attendant obligations but sometimes in the interest of ensuing we get the landowner cooperation and a solution that promotes improved accessibility, it is better to invest a little of our money to improve what is, in effect, a village amenity.
The project to improve halfpenny pond continues, again under Cllr Towl’s leadership and is a wonderful example of we have engaged the school in an activity that is both educational for the children and a benefit to the village I also want to thank YK Post Office and Shop for kindly making a substantial donation to help fund this project.
On Council specific matters we must thank Nick Botterill our Unitary Councillor who works tirelessly to promote our interests in County Hall. As will be very clear, we as a Parish Council often do not see eye to eye with Wiltshire Council. On occasions diplomatic relations with Wiltshire Council are pretty fragile and Nick has borne the strain of this and I can confidently say, notwithstanding the bolshie Chairman, has promoted our case very well indeed. I know he has promoted very strongly that officials should engage more constructively with PCs and there is a glimmer of hope that matters are improving
As ever I must thank to Ian Plowman our excellent clerk and Master of Coin. He is our Responsible Officer and keeps us the straight and narrow, prepares our budget, maintains our accounts with masterly precision and produces reliable forecasts of outturn. I cannot overstate just how important this is to the proper conduct of a Parish Council’s business.
Finally, thank you all the councillors for giving their time to work on the Parish Council. We know we cannot please all the people all the time and we certainly don’t have a magic wand. All we can do is use our best endeavours to look after the interests of our Parish and I hope and believe that we do that. We do not always succeed in getting what we want but we can at least say we left no stone unturned in trying.