Chairman's Report 2011
Highwood Parish Council
Chairman’s report for the Annual Parish meeting 2011
I am pleased to present what is now my fourth annual report on the activities of Highwood Parish Council - during the year ending 31st March 2011
The parish council has continued in its present form since my last report in April 2010 - with no changes in councillors up until the most recent election.
The council has met in the school hall on the second Tuesday of every other month. At each meeting, various matters are debated, including planning applications, to which the PC offers its opinion.
In addition, the following (in alphabetical order) subjects have received our deliberations:-
Up to date accounts were produced for 31st March showing that the parish council enjoyed a balance of £14063 comprising general funds of £4794 and earmarked reserves of £9269.
- Affordable Housing
The Parish Council was asked to identify possible sites for affordable housing – and the outcome of this scheme is awaited.
- Children’s Playground, Edney Common
The PC has ensured that maintenance has continued to guarantee that the play equipment is safe for children to use. The long term plan is either to remove this playground to the land behind the village hall, or funds permitting, construct a brand-new one at that location.
- (Annual) Christmas Tree
Unfortunately, due to the works being carried out at the Village Hall site, we were unable to host a Christmas Tree in 2010. I am pleased to see that there is space at the hall set aside especially for this (and future) year’s celebratory tree.
It was with regret that Alyce Harvey resigned her post as parish clerk in 2010. She has been replaced by Louise Fuller. I should like to thank Alyce for her sterling work in the role – but I am quite sure that the parish council will be well served by Louise, bringing with her as she does, an unrivalled wealth of experience.
I should like to express my thanks to (now ex-) councillors Mary Murrell, Julie Webb and Dennis Webb for their services while on the parish council. All three have decided not to stand for re-election.
Disappointingly, fewer than seven people stood for election to the parish council this month – and so we are faced with two vacant seats; co-opted councillors will be sought and I am pleased that four parishioners have offered their services. It is a matter of regret that no-one from either Cooksmill Green or Radley Green came forward …. and once again Highwood PC will consist only of people from south of the A414.
A new face on the parish council is cllr Dorothy (Dot) Merriday. Dot was born in Highwood, and is one of our business community, being the proprietor of Fourways Coaches in Pooles Lane.
Essex County Councillor John Aldridge and Chelmsford Borough Councillor Nicolette Chambers have continued to offer help and support to the parish council as well as attending our meetings; to them I offer grateful thanks. I should also like to offer my congratulations to Nicolette on her recent electoral success.
- Council Tax
The PC element has, as expected, risen significantly to repay the loan taken out to fund construction of the Village Hall. I am pleased to report that there has been negligible adverse comment on this; most residents appear willing to contribute to the fantastic new facility.
- Essex Police
The PC has continued to liaise with ‘our’ PCSO Gina Bennett who has responsibility for Highwood. She is frequently seen patrolling the parish on her pedal cycle. We are looking forward to her using her newly acquired speed gun skills to address the concerns of parishioners of vehicles speeding through the parish.
Mr David Taylor continues to perform an excellent job as our footpaths officer. Thanks go to David for his sterling work in this field – no pun intended.
- Litter Pick
No litter pick was organised in 2010 while work at the village hall site prevented it being used as a muster point - and repository for collected rubbish. It is hoped that these well supported events may resume after works at the Village Hall are complete.
The saga of the Nest site in Edney Common continues to rumble on. Owners (Messrs Thompson) have been in frequent contact with the PC and we are very hopeful that the most recently produced plans might find favour withChelmsford’s Planning Department.
A well designed housing development must be preferable to a derelict haulage yard – however the PC is concerned that properties inNathans Laneare not adversely affected – and that the area of ancient woodland within the site is protected.
- Notice Boards
The parish council funded construction of a replacement notice board for Highwood hamlet to replace the dilapidated item in Ingatestone Road before it completely disintegrated. The PC has also had two new notice-boards constructed (for Radley Green and Cooksmill Green) where none had existed before - so now we are in the fortunate position that all the five hamlets which comprise Highwood parish each possesses their own notice-board.
- Parish Magazine
The Parish Magazine has continued to appear a monthly basis and the parish council is very grateful to Anne Gooch for regularly producing the high quality publication worthy of Highwood.
- Parish signs
The boundaries of the parish are still not marked – although neighbouring parishes frequently are. This is something the PC will look into in the coming year. Consideration has been given to having a ‘village sign’ but given that we are a collection of five hamlets rather than one distinct settlement, this is not really an appropriate option.
- Remembrance Day
As in previous years, the PC supplied a wreath which was laid at the Highwood memorial. A single wreath was laid in 2010 as it was felt that a separate wreath for the Village Hall was not required.
School (Highwood Primary)
* Bunnies Pre-School Group
Highwood PC continues to fund the insurance requirements of the ‘Bunnies’ pre-school group; this parent/toddler group meets at Highwood school each Tuesday and has been very successful in increasing the roll of pupils at Highwood school. Thanks must go to Mrs Janet Young for her dedication and hard work with the pre-school group.
* Head teacher & Ofsted Report
The school’s head teacher, Mrs Helen Hutchings has now been in post for over a year - and the school was found in their 2011 Ofsted report to be ‘Good’. I should like to offer my thanks to Helen for use of the school for our council meetings – of which this is possibly the final one to use the school, before we move our meetings to the new Village Hall.
* Swimming pool
In 2009, the PC made a grant of £600 to the school to assist in the rebuilding of the swimming pool. This pool was originally built with money raised by Highwood parents in the 1960’s and was in need of urgent repair. The pool has been successfully rebuilt and should ensure that Highwood children can continue to enjoy swimming lessons on-site for many years to come.
- Thank you
I would like to thank Lord Petre for coming to address the Parish Assembly this evening.
The various dead trees in the area of woodland (known locally as The Plantation) south of Highwood Road which had been a cause for concern have, it seems at last, been felled – and so people using this road may now relax without the fear that a giant oak was about to land on them or their car every time the wind blew.
- Village Agent
Brenda Smith has continued to help parishioners with a variety of concerns. The PC is pleased to note that the Village Agent scheme has escaped the current round of austerity measures and thanks Brenda for her continued help.
- Village Hall
Without doubt, this is a real feather in Highwood’s cap and the area of most dramatic change since my last report. From what was an overgrown derelict site in early 2010, we now have an almost fully complete and functioning Village Hall; and not just any old village hall, we have probably the ‘greenest’ village hall in theUK.
It is hard to overstate the thanks that are due to father and daughter team of Anthony and Petra Pipkin. One cannot easily imagine the hours and hours they have spent form filling, attending meetings, jumping through hoops and everything else required to bring a project like this, from what started as little more than a residents’ aspiration in the ‘Parish Plan’, to the magnificent building we see today. A less redoubtable team than P² would have surely given up and gone home long ago - all of Highwood owes them a massive debt of gratitude.
Ex-MP George Galloway, were he ever to visit Highwood, would I am sure feel compelled to say again, and quite correctly this time, “I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability!”
And as the song goes, ‘Things can only get better’, as the greenery starts to take hold and what, to the residents of Sparrows Close appears a fairly austere structure, begins to mellow as the shrubbery, trees and wall coverings start to grow and mask it.
Especial thanks must go to CBC Cllr Nicolette Chambers for all her help in securing the plot of land adjoining and to the north of the hall site, the lease for which is being prepared as I write.
I am already looking forward to the hall’s opening, to be performed by cricketing legend Graham Gooch, and to the subsequent evening celebrations.
In conclusion, I should like to thank my fellow councillors for their help throughout the past year. 2011 promises to be a year in which real and tangible progress will continue to be made in Highwood.
Chairman – Highwood PC