This year has been a year of tidying up loose ends and, alas, some of those loose ends remain unresolved and are becoming rather frayed.

Drovers Green
Drovers Green is now fully occupied, and the residents I have met are very happy to be part of our community. For one family, being able to acquire an affordable house (shared equity) was the only way they could move closer to their aging relatives. This is exactly why it was important to have a mixture of open market and affordable housing available.

Unfortunately we have yet to resolve the transfer of ownership of the track and, because of staff changes at Persimmon, all attempts to open discussions with the Developer have proved fruitless. There is also a planning application outstanding that mops ups a range of changes, most of whilst non-contentious, are not unimportant. This includes a change to the boundary treatment adjacent to No 2 Coldharbour and the installation of the second set of LPG tanks. Although of no comfort I know that Wiltshire Council have experienced similar problems with Persimmon.

Tiddleywink Speed Limit

This time last year I reported that there had been agreement to re-assess (without commitment) the speed limit along the B4039. A subsequent meeting with the then Cabinet member for Highways and a site visit in late August 2023 were inconclusive.
We now have a new Cabinet Member for Highways, Cllr Nick Holder, who at the request of Cllr Botterill, visited the village to inspect the ‘locus in quo’ and, as I will report later, he has proved willing to engage with the Parish Council and take a more pragmatic, common sense approach in determining matters. I hope this will bear fruit.

Clarks Leaze Play Area

After carrying out a review of play equipment, for which they were responsible. Wiltshire Council concluded that the play area in Clarkes Leaze should be removed and the land restored for use as grass recreational area which they will mow monthly in the growing season.

It has been made quite clear that if the PC wishes to install new equipment or use the land for other purposes then it will have to take on the responsibility for both the upkeep not only of any equipment but the maintenance of the land. To put this in perspective, grass cutting alone would cost around £1600 per year equivalent to an increase in the precept of nearly 10%.

For the time being the intention is to keep the land as an open recreational area but if other feasible alternative uses are identified, we will undertake and village wide consultation before committing to anything.

Litter (In particular, and being as delicate as possible, canine excreta)

For budgetary reasons we had to take down our bin in the West Yatton Road. I have previously made a public statement about the particular rationale behind this and suffice it to say, we are not the only Parish affected. We argued that there was a singular solution available which whilst of no benefit to other PCs would resolve our problem.

Fast forward to the appointment of Cllr Nick Holder and with intercessions from both Nick and Nic Puntis, he agreed to a common sense, practical solution of re-assigning an otherwise unused spot on the Wiltshire Council contract to cover the West Yatton Road. As there is no differentiation between general and canine waste and, the Council provided a new free standing bin.

I am very grateful to Cllr Nick Holder together with Cllrs Nick B and Nic P for resolving this matter.

Community Infrastructure Levy

The £20,000 funding for YKRA to replace the old kitchen in the Village Hall has been put to good use with the only hatch area shutters to be completed. We have also agreed to provide top up funding of circa £8,000 within the budgetary ceiling YKRA provided, to install a solar panel and battery system on the village hall roof.

Rights of Way

Although strictly a landowner responsibility, we have continued with our rolling project to invest in improving public rights of way. Investing in better, more appropriate gates aims to improve accessibility to as many people as possible and to encourage more people to visit the village. May I thank Cllr Towl and his volunteer colleagues from the Cotswold Wardens for the outstanding work they do on our rights of way. Only today on the BBC website it was reported that in 23/24 they undertook 51,351 hours of work on a wide variety of projects in the Cotswolds.

Council Matters

On Council specific matters we must thank Nick Botterill our Unitary Councillor who works tirelessly to promote our interests in County Hall. I have said before diplomatic relations with County Hall have been strained, but the recent appointment of Cllr Nick Holder as the Cabinet member for Highways has been a breath of fresh air. I hope this extends new pragmatism rubs off on officers and that they become more willing to engage in a dialogue with us. Where we have had a constructive dialogue, over the play area for example, we were able to work together very constructively.

We have filled our final vacancy on the Council by co-opting Mrs Lakmini Harkus who as well as her own expertise, provides additional representation in the area from the school to Tiddleywink.

As ever I must thank Ian Plowman, our excellent hard working 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 ultra-reliable forecasts of outturn. I cannot overstate just how important maintaining sound financial discipline is to the proper conduct of a Parish Council’s business. As a result, we were able to raise the precept by only 3% from April having frozen it for last year.

Thank you to Cllr Nick Botterill who is a doughty champion for the village and ever patient with me, a pain in the proverbial, Chairman.

Finally, thank you all the hard working councillors for giving their time to serve on the Parish Council particularly those who still have day jobs to attend to. We know we cannot please all the people all the time, that much is clear and sometimes hard decisions have to be made and 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.

Alistair Parker
May 2024