2019 and 2020 rather have rather rolled into one and here we are at long last able to meet in person. I think the last time we met was in Sarah’s garden with Monty in the public gallery. Thereafter it has been all virtual meetings and although we all wondered how well they would work, actually proved perfectly satisfactory as we were able to have members of the public sign in and join our deliberations. We had one very well attended meeting which had the Persimmon development on the agenda. Granted there were times when attendees were only visible from the forehead up and we did have problems with microphones and feedback. But it worked.
None of us will have experienced a pandemic like this I’m pretty sure that most of us will know somebody who has been infected to a greater or lesser degree and sadly we may have lost a family member, friend, neighbour or even just an acquaintance. In our rural setting we have perhaps been a little cushioned from the worst ravages but even so we will know somebody who has worked tirelessly to look after those most seriously affected. On our Parish Council, Sarah has been right at the very front of the front line and by saying thank you to her in particular can we also embrace everybody in the NHS, whether in ours hospitals, GP surgeries and vaccination centres who have worked unstintingly to help the rest of the community come through this awful pandemic relatively unscathed. I know we are not there yet but it feels more positive as life begins to turn the corner.
Can we also thank all those in our community who volunteered to provide support to those unable to leave their homes because they were shielding or who simply felt it sensible to avoid unnecessary contact during the lockdown period. In our village we had Will Lawton’s Yatton Keynell SOS group who came together to offer help to anybody who needed it. A special vote of thanks to Manda, Jerry, Verity and everybody else at the shop who made sure that everybody who needed food and provisions got what they needed. It brought it home to many just how fortunate we are to have a thriving shop in our village.
From a Parish Council perspective, what has made this year more difficult has been the absence of a Unitary Councillor for By Brook. Initially Jane’s elevation to the House of Lords meant that she was increasingly unable to come to our meetings and ultimately had to resign from Wiltshire Council on being appointed a Government Whip. I pulled her leg and said that it was not like being a Whip in the Commons making sure recalcitrant MPs trot through the correct lobby. In the Lords, the Whip’s primary purpose it’s to go around poking the noble Lords and Ladies to make sure they’re still breathing. But more seriously, because of the pandemic, the by-election for the vacancy was cancelled and we had to make do with being covered by a rather remote member of the Council who in my view took a minimalist approach to representing our interests. It therefore gives me immense pleasure formally to welcome Cllr Nick Botterill who was elected to represent By Brook. Nick came to a number of our virtual meetings as a member of the public and I know has been working on our behalf behind the scenes. Welcome to our meetings and we look forward a long and fruitful relationship with you as our new Councillor.
We have made some positive progress in a number of areas. At long last we have said a fond farewell to our venerable potholes. It was a truly emotional experience watching that immensely impressive road chewing machine make light work of them.
With some remaining exceptions, GIgaclear have enabled full fibre broadband to be accessed throughout the village. Although many already get adequate speed I do know of quite a few and not just those in Farrells Field who have already signed up.
Philips Grove is well under construction and we understand that 5 have already been sold. My spies have told me that one has been bought by a recently elected member of Wiltshire Council.
As we get back to normal we can look forward to seeing the improvements to the halfpenny pond, new gates on our footpaths and improvements and changes to the play area in Clarks Leaze.
I originally planned to step down this year but as we all know there is unfinished business. The Persimmon development has still not been approved. As a Parish Council, we have negotiated hard with Persimmon to agree a proposed scheme which we believe represents a sensible and balanced development for the village. We have indicated that we wish our call in request to be withdrawn and where we have residual reservations we have requested that Wiltshire Council deal with these as conditions of planning approval and are one or two consequential issues that we have with Wiltshire Council that need resolving. It therefore made some sense to offer to continue for the time being.
I must make a couple of additional votes. Firstly to Ian who was and is an outstanding clerk. We are so fortunate to have his services and he keeps us all and me in particular on the straight and narrow. He also maintains our accounts and prepares our budget with masterly precision. In this capacity I now refer to him as our Master of Coin.
Finally, thank you all the councillors for giving your 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 our best endeavours to look after the interests of our Parish and I hope and believe that we do that. Even if we do not always succeed in getting what we want, we can at least say we left no stone unturned in trying.