Minutes Annual Parish Meeting 2020

Online Annual Parish Meeting held at 7:00PM on Tuesday 26th May 2020 via ‘Zoom’

Minutes

Present: Steve Burrows (Parish Council Chairman), David Hunter-Miller (Parish Clerk), John Duddington (Chairman Local Council Award Scheme Panel for Worcestershire), Malcolm MacLeod (Chair Village Hall Management Committee), David Chestney (Whittington Church), Rob Adams (District and County Councillor), eleven members of the public.

1. Introduction and welcome
Steve Burrows opened the meeting and welcomed residents.

2. Apologies
No apologies were received.

3. To approve the minutes of the Annual Parish Meeting held on Wednesday 8th May 2019
It was resolved to approve the minutes and these would be duly signed by the Chair.

4. Matters arising from those minutes (if any)
There were no matters arising.

5. To invite the Chairman of the Worcestershire County Association of Local Councils (CALC) to address the meeting and to present a Quality Award to the Parish Council
John Duddington presented the Parish Council with the Local Council Award Scheme ‘Quality Award’ in recognition that Whittington Parish Council is at the cutting edge of the sector, exhibiting good governance, effective community engagement and continuous council improvement.

The Worcestershire Association of Local Councils commented that ‘all the people who reviewed the document thought that the submission was excellent and pointed to how well the Council was run and managed and what great work has been done by the Clerk. The Clerk and the Council should be proud”.

6. To receive the Annual Report of the Parish Council by the Chairman
Introduction
Hello everybody. In these difficult times we are unable to have our usual face to face Parish Meeting with wine and nibbles, but I hope you can attend our ‘Zoom’ meeting, perhaps accompanied by a glass of something! I would usually give this report at the meeting, but this year I am posting it on Social Media and inviting you to join us online and ask any questions or raise any issues you have.

Putting aside Coronavirus (see below), we have had a very busy year indeed, and I would like to begin by thanking all my fellow Councillors for their time, effort and support of their community. We have had a very stable Council with only one new representative, and I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome Liz Potter who has already proved to be of great value. All seven council posts are filled, six via the uncontested election that took place last year and the final one, Liz’s co-option. It has been a pleasure and privilege to perform the role of Chair of a great team.

A special thanks must go to David Hunter-Miller, our Clerk. It is not an understatement to say that he has ‘professionalised’ this Council, and his experience and knowledge have proved beneficial on occasions too numerous to list. The amount we have achieved in the last year is due in no small part to him.

The Parish has continued to grow at a fast rate. By 2023/4 we estimate that it will have at least tripled, probably quadrupled in size. This is bound to change the Parish, one only has to look at the demographic profile to see that the average age is now 30-40 families with children, a much younger profile than in the recent past. As a Parish Council, we need to reflect and explore the needs of this changed community. Welcome to all our new residents, we are looking for and exploiting the opportunities arising from this population growth, aiming to develop a vibrant and caring community in Whittington.

And now to specific updates….

Meetings frequency & format
Due to an increased volume of work, in particular concerning the new Community Hall, (see below), we decided to move to monthly meetings, with a review later this year. This has helped to curb meeting length, which was getting to unsustainable levels.

As physical meetings are not possible at present, we have purchased a ‘Zoom’ Licence and Smartphone to enable online meetings. These have also been streamed ‘live’ on Facebook. Our first such meeting in April went very well and we are considering how to engage routinely via social media / online in the future. The law was altered to enable this until May 2021, after then we will have to conduct physical meetings, but will not want to lose the potential of electronic means of engagement with a wider audience.

COVID Response
The Parish Council have evolved a strategy to provide local assistance where requested. This has been advertised on our website, Facebook Page, noticeboards and BBC Hereford & Worcester. We have also linked in with Worcester Here2Help offering our services.
In terms of virtual communication, we now have:

  • E mail contact between Councillors, and for the public via the Contact points on both our website and Facebook Page.
  • Purchased a ‘Zoom’ licence to enable virtual meetings and the ability to include the public via both ‘Zoom’ and ‘Facebook Live’.
  • Established a Councillor ‘WhatsApp’ Group.

Community Hall Build
The biggest project in the history of the Parish Council has begun to reach fruition. When the tender quotations were received, the council held an Extraordinary Meeting with representatives from Wychavon in attendance, and explored all options possible, together with funding opportunities. The minutes of that meeting refer, but we are in a position whereby this facility will be a fantastic resource for our (fast) growing Parish, whilst not proceeding will leave us with a derelict building, no grant monies, no savings remaining and a significant investment required to render the land suitable for other purposes. There are also legal covenants involved, the land having been acquired by the Council in the 1950’s specifically for the purpose of a Hall. We concluded that there was no viable alternative to continuing, and we are unanimous that this building will prove to be invaluable to the whole community over the next fifty years (or more).
Funding has been identified in the form of:

  • Monies put aside over many years by both the Village Hall Management Committee and Parish Council
  • A major grant and allocation of S106 funds from Wychavon Council
  • A Public Works Loan payable from precept over thirty years at a low interest rate. A leaflet explaining this was delivered to all households on the Parish in March this year. A further consultation and survey will take place once tenders are complete and we know the final cost.

Whittington Walk
The build of Phase One continues and appears to be nearing completion. There are already 30 – 40 families residing on the new estate. Points of note:

  • We have liaised with Persimmon Sales Office to put Parish Council information in their new home starter packs.
  • We have been in lengthy and protracted discussions with Persimmon and Wychavon regarding the surface, repeated flooding and location of the new bridleway. We are still not entirely satisfied, but Wychavon are, and will adopt the bridleway
  • We engaged regarding the new footbridge, requesting that consideration be given to a Pedestrian Crossing, which would help slow traffic, but were overruled by Highways who did not want the flow of traffic impeding. We feel that the 70mph speed limit on that section of Swinesherd Way is far too fast and have made attempts to get this reduced, so far without success.
  • We have engaged and commented upon the recent planning applications for Phases 3 and 3A, and an application to move a section of the Bridleway. It is noted that an application for 300 houses has now turned into over 350, and we are concerned to preserve green space for future residents, walkers and cyclists, and wildlife. Our views are taken into consideration by Wychavon who make the final decisions.

Wildmore
Wildmore has settled down and is beginning to look like it has been there forever, with the trees, hedges and grassed areas maturing. The issue of the roads completion and adoption by Wychavon has finally been resolved. Wildmore is playing an ever-increasing part in the work of the Parish Council and we are very pleased to have continuing Councillor representation from Wildmore residents in the form of Dan Bayliss and Liz Potter.

Highways & Parking

  • The long-awaited scheme to restrict waiting in Old Road / Church Lane finally reached fruition. There are now single yellow lines and a prohibition of waiting between 11 and 12am, 7 days of the week. This has been the result of significant consultation with parishioners and we have tried to focus the restrictions on those from outside the village who leave cars parked all day or for longer periods (sometimes weeks), causing problems for residents. It has been a challenge to strike a balance between the needs of residents and an effective scheme but we think this is the best option we have found. We have secured enforcement from Traffic Wardens and tickets have been issued. Prior to the COVID lockdown it appeared very effective, but we await a return to normality to be able to judge the effects, including displacement. Councillor Steve Brooker has led on this initiative and is to be congratulated on achieving a resolution to a problem that has concerned residents for many years.
  • We have had a number of complaints about speeding, particularly in Church Lane, Pershore Road and Swinesherd Way. Our policy is to refer these to the Police requesting enforcement and / or to request a survey to support enforcement or traffic calming measures. One survey was undertaken in Church Lane this year which did not reveal the required level of contravention to support either measure. We are currently requesting action over Pershore Road.
  • We are conscious that the Speed Indication Device on Pershore Road is regularly failing. It is reaching end of life and we are exploring the possibility of a new, solar powered, replacement, albeit these cost several thousand pounds. Concurrently we are looking at battery replacement but this may not be viable.

Uffnells Gardens Allotments
In general, the allotments have been fully tenanted, although there are currently two vacancies. There have been a number of issues regarding lack of cultivation and the storing of items on plots that have been addressed with individual tenants. We are trying to get vacant plots covered as soon as possible to prevent weed growth but this has a cost and must be balanced with trying to get the vacancy tenanted. Maintenance of the paths, fences and gates have been conducted, and two hosepipes and a tool shed to contain them provided. Unfortunately, and despite being turned off during the winter months, both taps sprung leaks resulting in the costly services of a plumber. Thus, financially, the allotments have at best broken even, as there was fortunately some money remaining from the previous year.

Policies
We have, using the Clerk’s expertise and experience, conducted a full review and updating of Council Policies, and introduced new ones where there were gaps.

Lengthsman
The Council receive a grant from Wychavon for the services of a Lengsthman, (when used). We have recruited a suitable person but he needs to attend a course prior to being allowed to work on the highway. To date this has not been possible, although he has been retained pending training. He has performed some duties for which the Parish Council have paid.

Records weeding
The Parish Council had a room full of paper records dating back many decades within the Village Hall. The imminent demolition of the Hall gave impetus to a project to review these documents in accordance with our relevant policies and GDPR. A working party of Councillors reviewed each document and weeded a high percentage which were commercially shredded. The remaining items were retained by the Clerk. The room is now empty.

Social Media & Website
The development of an online presence for the Parish Council and Community Hall has proceeded apace and we now have a website, (whittingtonparishcouncil.co.uk) Facebook Page, (www.facebook.com/whittingtonpc/ ), and Twitter account (twitter.com/WhittingtonPC) for the Council, and Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/whittingtoncommunityhall ), for the Community Hall. These are being increasingly utilised and ‘followed’ and have proved to be a vital means of communication with the public. The COVID ‘lockdown’ has reiterated their importance.

‘Quality’ Status – Local Council Award Scheme
This is a national scheme which involves Parish Councils meeting a rigorous set of standards and policy requirements which are peer assessed. Whittington Parish Council applied for ‘Quality’ status and at the time of writing, it appears that, following assessment, we have been successful. This is an important means of checking that what we do complies with national best practice and standards and we are very pleased that we have been found to comply and are properly run.

Smartwater
Smartwater is a DNA based property marking system that allocates a unique code to each household. It is proven to reduce crime. There is a West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner initiative to provide Smartwater kits and signage at a large discount. The Parish is required to commit to purchasing enough kits to mark 80% of the households in the Parish. Once supplied there will be a series of meetings and / or ‘door knocking’ exercises to achieve the required level of coverage. Kits will be provided free to parishioner households. Unfortunately, ‘lockdown’ has put this on hold, but the Parish Council has agreed to finance and purchase the kits once we are able to roll them out. We are convinced that this will make a large contribution to crime reduction.

SWDP
The new South Worcestershire Development Plan has proposed developments that will affect the Parish, in particular the creation of a new settlement around Worcestershire Parkway station, part of which would be built in Whittington Parish on the Pershore side of Junction 7. We have engaged with other affected Parishes, forming a ‘consortium’, and Councillor representatives will continue to attend and engage with any consultation groups as required. It is early days as yet and there is little detail.

Flooding Church Lane
A section of Church Lane outside the Community Hall site has been regularly and repeatedly flooded to a depth of up to a foot during the past year. This is a complex issue as it combines a number of factors including, full ditches, blocked pipes, the effect of the Severn Trent pumping station and the existing and proposed drainage for the Hall. We are working to try and come to a joint solution, hopefully before next winter. As a contingency we have had the footpath on the opposite side to the hall cleared but it is unsuitable for general use or the elderly, and Church Lane being flooded will continue to effectively cut the village off in this direction for pedestrians, which is unacceptable.

Village Planters
The Council allocated a small amount for planting and maintenance of the planters at either entrance to the village. We are grateful to volunteers Mike and Christine Paige for their time in producing a year-long display of flowers.

Ultrafast-fibre Broadband Update
Through the efforts of some of Whittington residents and businesses, from March 2020, a further 18 premises can now access a brand new ultrafast broadband network. This builds on over 70 premises delivered last year.

Ultrafast broadband offers download speeds of up to 1,000 megabits (depending on a chosen package); however access to this new service is optional.

If you would like to take advantage of the new service, you can either upgrade your current broadband or switch to one of the providers offering FTTP services.

There is more good news on the way, as network upgrade to over 170 premises across Wildmore is entering final stages of the build.

As a result of further demand, we now have a chance to extend this infrastructure to additional premises along Walkers Lane and Berkley Close as well as premises along Pershore Road, subject to sufficient interest.

If you would like to find out more, contact Cllr Rob Stepniewski (alirob12@yahoo.co.uk) who is the project lead.

Councillor Steve Burrows
Chairman, Whittington Parish Council

7. To receive a report from the District Councillor
Covid19 has made this report written in the most difficult and unprecedented times that I have experienced in 20 years of representing you all. Never before have I known the six District Councils and County working so well together. Please remember the County Council Here2Help website or phone 01905 768053 – this is manned 8am – 8pm 7 days a week, whatever the issue e.g. health, finance, advice over schooling etc they will help.

South Worcestershire Development Plan review
This work continues and the 5000 proposed houses at Parkway are receiving a great deal of time. A group of local Parish Council representatives has been set up (inc. Whittington) to be kept informed. The next major report back to the three Districts is in the autumn.

Ward boundaries in Wychavon District Council
A review of ward boundaries is taking place to level out the number of residents each Councillor represents. At the moment our ward of Norton and Whittington is the largest. Let me assure you there are no changes in the District boundaries so Whittington will not become part of Worcester City. Again we will know more towards the end of the year when the Boundaries Commission give us its draft report for consultation.

Parking restrictions on Old Road
After extensive consultation the reports I am receiving are that they are working well but we must wait until Parkway is in full swing to know fully.

School
I was pleased during the year to be able to support the school through my Members Divisional Fund contributing towards books for the library.

Replacement of Village Hall
Wychavon District Council is pleased with the progress on this major project. They are full of praise for the work Malcolm and David have done and continue to do.

Such a lot of updates and progress for the Parish – if there is more information on any issue please get in touch: 01905 345223 or email: rob.adams@wychavon.net

Can I finish by thanking the Parish Chairman: Steve Burrows, Clerk: David Hunter Miller, Parish Councillors and many friends who continue to keep me informed, I am forever grateful.

Keep safe.

Rob Adams
County Councillor Upton Snodsbury Division
District Councillor Norton & Whittington Ward
01905 345223
rob.adams@wychavon.net

8. To receive a report from the County Councillor
Some points for Parish meeting:

  • 7 of the 11 Household Recycling Centres in Worcestershire are now open although extremely busy
  • In line with the national picture, Worcestershire is seeing a significant increase in claims for Universal Credit
  • District Councils and the County Council are considering public realm issues in urban areas to have regard to social distancing
  • Plans to support businesses as we begin to enter the economic recovery phase are being developed. Government grants continue to be distributed
  • DfE guidance has been issued for wider opening of primary schools and still await further guidance on Early Years and Secondary schools.  Work is underway with school leaders to prepare the response.

I am desperately trying to keep abreast of these changing times having daily updates from District and County together with virtual meetings.

Please, please don’t feel alone, get in touch – there are local people willing to help.

Keep safe.

Rob Adams
County Councillor Upton Snodsbury Division
District Councillor Norton & Whittington Ward
01905 345223
rob.adams@wychavon.net

9. To receive a report from the Police
The last 12 months has seen a change of Safer Neighbourhood Officer to PC Daren Riley and one of the teams PCSO’s has left to have a baby. Whilst this has reduced the team to two we have continued to maintain patrols of an ever expanding area. As of the start of March we are once again up to full staff numbers with the welcome arrival of PSCO Faye Allen-Carter.

Whilst we have not been able to attend the village surgeries as regularly as we would like we have been actively involved with numerous village events especially with the launch and registration of Smartwater in a number of our villages. This seems to have had a positive effect on significantly reducing the number of burglaries over the autumn/winter period. Neighbourhood Watch Schemes are also seeing a resurgence which positively assists us in sharing and gathering information.

We have seen a recent increase in coverage of the rural areas with the introduction of a number of Rural and Business Crime officers and there has been an increase in police officers generally as promised by the PCC.

The team remain committed to tackling all levels of crime throughout the area including rural crime and poaching and providing security advice and support to victims and vulnerable residents.

This report is based using the recorded crime figures between 30/04/19 and 30/04/20 the comparison is relating to the corresponding dates in 2018/19.

Overall the police recorded 754 incidents that were reported by members of the public this is compared to 807 incidents reported the previous year. (A large majority of these incidents relate to incidents involving the motorway)

Of the 754 incidents the Parish had 61 recordable crimes (incidents where a specific offence has occurred) this was in comparison to 43 recordable crimes the previous year.

The breakdown of offences is as follows:

The ‘other offences’ incidents are increasing throughout the West Mercia area as police are dealing more often with vulnerable people and mental health issues. We do not normally mention these on the monthly crime reports as they have little or no impact on other residents or the community in general and further information is not released into the public domain due to GDPR.

The team would like to offer our thanks to the Parish as a whole for its continued support of the local policing team and for the numerous calls we have received relating to suspicious activity, all we ask is that you continue to do this.

Pershore Rural North and South Local Policing Team
Non-emergency phone number: 101
Email : pershoreruralsnt@westmercia.pnn.police.uk
Facebook : PershoreCops

10. To receive a report from Whittington Village Hall Management Committee
Greetings all, my name is Malcolm MacLeod Chair of Whittington Village Hall Management Committee, a little bit further down my report you will hear all the detail of what’s currently happening with the Community Hall project to date.

However before that I would like to say how lucky I am to have a very loyal Committee behind me, several have been dedicated members of the Village Hall Management Committee for many, many years and thanks to their passion in serving the Village Hall community and managing a controlled fiscal policy they have accrued considerable savings in the Whittington Village Hall bank account, some of those savings have been used to help finance work towards the new Community Hall project.

A number of committee members have joined the team within the last couple of years, their skillsets and expertise have already proven to be a huge asset and have been put to great use in the past year, our event and fund-raising teams planned and delivered a number of stand-out events over the year:

  • Fish and Chip Quiz Night
  • Ceilidh Night featuring ‘The Whole Caboodle’.
  • Musical performance by international Violinist Shulah Oliver

These events were put on to bring the community together, foster community interest, raise awareness of the community legacy project and invite new people to the hall whilst having fun!

As a committee we made the decision to close the Village Hall on 31st December 2019 due to the impending new build timescales, decline of the hall’s fabric structure and customer revenue, basically it was costing more to keep the hall open than closed particularly during the winter months.

The Village Hall’s ‘final fling’ and party was held on New Year’s Eve 2019, the party was organised and attended by some members of the Village Hall Committee, they and many others brought in the New Year in a hall which has stood here since opening in 1954. It’s thanks to the original trustees and founding fathers that so many happy times and occasions have been celebrated here in Whittington thanks to my grandfather ‘in-law’ Alex Smith and other villagers.
I would like to thank all members of the Village Hall Management Committee for their support and positivity throughout the year, they are a fantastic team and talent pool that I depend upon to get the job done. On the note of ‘getting the job done’ I would like to say a special thank-you to my Deputy Chair David Chestney, David’s skills and knowledge have been and continue to be invaluable to me during the delivery of the Community Hall project.
Until the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown the Village Hall Management Committee had been meeting on a regular monthly basis to brainstorm, plan events, explore new booking processes etc…basically planning the way forward on how to work smarter in managing the new community facility in the future. When the lockdown measures were recently eased slightly, we arranged for a mobile fish and chip van to come to the Village Hall car park on a bi-weekly basis, ‘The StarChip Enterprise’ landed! The StarChip has social distancing and hygiene measures in place, is advertised online and by word of mouth to the whole parish. It has proved a hit with the community in a time of uncertainty.

Clearly it is extremely important that the Village Hall Management Committee and Parish Council continue to work in partnership and deliver for the community of Whittington Parish, I thank the Parish Council for their belief, drive and support in the Community Hall project as without their grant and financial planning input the ‘new build’ would not be possible.

Last and certainly not least I would like to thank Councillor Rob Adams and Wychavon District Council for their ongoing support and advice in the delivery of Wychavon District Council’s ‘Flagship Project’.

For communication and information: You can find us on Facebook at ‘Whittington Community Hall’ also via our link on Whittington Parish Council website.

Resume of Community Hall project to date: The Parish Council Chairman mentioned in his report that this is the biggest project in the history of Whittington Parish Council, he explained the funding and decision making processes also the rationale as to why there was no viable alternative other than fulfilling the long-held vision of building a new hall within the curtilage of the current Village Hall site. The new Community Hall building will prove to be an invaluable asset to the whole parish of Whittington and the surrounding areas.

It was recommended and advised by our colleagues in Wychavon District Council that the new build should be delivered using a ‘Design and Build’ process, this process offers programme and cost certainty with a robust set of employer requirements – no hidden costs or surprises!

Project Milestones & Timelines:

  • Appoint an Architect and Project Manager to design and deliver the project.
  • Structural, Mechanical & Electrical Consultants appointed as part of project team.
  • Pre-planning surveys (all key to gaining planning permission)
  • Topographical
  • Archaeological
  • Ecological (included 2x Bat Surveys)
  • Asbestos (x2)
  • Drainage & Ground Contamination
  • Start Planning Application Process – August 2019
  • Planning permission gained – October 2019
  • Agree list of Tenderers and tender requirements for the project. All tenders had to be in accordance with Local Authority rules on procurement.
  • Tenders issued 2nd December 2019
  • Interest was sought from local and reputable contractors of sufficient size with a proven track record known to the Project Manager and Project Architect. Four contractors had shown interest in tendering although one declined due to the tender period running over the Christmas holidays and could not commit resources to the Whittington Project.
  • Tender responses received – January 27th 2020
  • Construction costs from three bidders range from £850k – £1m+
  • Ground contamination and drainage issues identified (cost and risk to project)
  • Value Engineering process begins (cost reduction exercise) – February 2020
  • Interclass PLC appointed as preferred contractor – May 2020
  • Value Engineering process ongoing until contract terms agreed
  • Alternative Drainage & contaminated ground issues under review

Malcolm MacLeod
Chairman, Whittington Village Hall Management Committee

11. To receive a report on the Village Charities Accounts
Firstly, I have to report that Roy Warner, one of the trustees of the charities has sadly passed away.

The remaining trustees are myself and Mr Andrew Prickett.

As I have reported in previous years, these two village charities have been dormant for quite some time. The Elizabeth Stephens Charity dates back to 1668, and was a legacy of £50 with which three cottages were built in Swinesherd. These were liquidated in 1880 and the interest used to provide grocery parcels for the poor and needy of the parish.

The Fanny Clifton Charity was founded by Miss Clifton’s will in 1888. Her legacy of £900 was to be used to provide coal at Christmas for the poor of the parish.

The accounts show that no payments have been made and only a small amount of income in the form of interest has been received.

I have received a communication from The Charity Commission, who are, or were, prior to the lockdown, contacting dormant charities with a view to either closing them or amalgamating with similar charities.

Mr Prickett and I will discuss these matters further one social distancing has ended

L Wiltshire
Trustee

12. To receive a report from Whittington C of E Primary School
This year’s report is written in quite unique circumstances. As I write, Whittington Church of England Primary School is officially closed due to the lockdown, called in light of the Coronavirus. This does not mean that the school is not currently in operation. The school is open in order to look after the children of ‘key workers’. We are supporting around 15 of our families and have stayed open since the lock down began, so that key workers can continue working. Alongside this, teaching staff are posting work onto our online platform and communicating with their children on a daily basis. If we do not hear from a particular family, we are contacting them directly to check that they are ok and offering support where it is required. We will continue to support all of our families throughout this crisis.

Prior to the lock down, Whittington had a very successful year. In July of last year, our Year 6 pupils achieved the best results we have ever seen and the school was one of the best performing primary schools in the city of Worcester. In January of this year the school was visited by Ofsted and was awarded a ‘Good’ judgement. We are really pleased with this outcome which is a result of lots of hard work from the staff and governors of the school.

The school continues to be popular, with 30 pupils due to enter our Reception class in September 2020. The new houses which have been built in our catchment are beginning to have an impact on where we draw children from and we are approaching a situation where all of our pupils will come from within our catchment; a position that we have not experienced previously.

Whittington Church of England Primary School’s community has always been very strong and whether in ‘normal’ times or during this crisis, everyone demonstrates resilience and mutual support. This means that when things begin to return to normal the children, staff and wider families will move forward together.

13. To receive a report from Whittington Church St Philip & St James
2019 was another busy year for the church, our second as a full parish within the Worcester South East Team. The church year runs from January to December with the annual parochial church meeting taking place before the end of April. This year it was due to take place at the end of March but it fell foul of the Pandemic and the lockdown and has now been put off until later in the year. It looks as if the pandemic is going to shape the rest of this year and so we are going to have to get used to a very different way of life.

As most will know the church was closed at the outset of the lockdown and remains so with no clear indication of when it will reopen. The churchyard has been open throughout for all those who wish to visit and seek solitude. It is not as tidy as it would normally be as our weekly maintenance sessions have ceased but the grass is being cut regularly and is in good order. Church services are being held virtually and there are plenty of opportunities to see services and opportunities for prayer online and on television. Our regular coffee mornings have continued with our meeting together virtually each Saturday. The Vicar, Andy Stand, is keeping in touch with as many parishioners as possible and the Parish Magazine has continued with an “e” version online circulating as widely as possible by email.
One of the major problems for all churches at the moment is the drop in income caused by the church community not coming together each week and ours is no exception. The church is entirely reliant on voluntary support and therefore this is a very difficult time.

We look forward this year, to the arrival of our new Team Rector Revd Peter Hart and his wife Beverley as they join the team from their current parish, Kew in London. They are still stuck in London at the moment but we are hoping they will be able to move before too long. We were delighted to attend Robin Parry’s ordination as priest in the Cathedral last June and it’s been good to welcome him back to take services from time to time. Robin now serves as a curate at St Martins and in the Team, he lives locally and spent his preparatory year at Whittington.

As a part of Sunday worship the new morning service has continued to be used when there are five Sundays in the month, with Evensong during summer time on the third Sunday of the month. Our annual Memorial Service was held in July and after our Harvest Festival Service lunch was held in the Village Hall for the last time. Christmas services were well attended and we were very pleased once again to welcome Archdeacon Robert to celebrate on Christmas Day and at the last service we held in church before the lockdown. Special services have included Remembrance, Christingle, the Advent Carol Service and Whittington Sunday.

Close involvement with Whittington School continues with each year group visiting for a workshop and the whole school coming in two sessions once a term. In the same way Open the Book is taken into the school each term. A completely new set of resources has been introduced during the year. Year 6 leavers were given a Bible and a copy of It’s Your Move, a leaflet with advice to help smooth the transition to secondary school. We have three Foundation Governors and the Vicar visits regularly taking assemblies (now known as collective worship). Taking part in the school’s summer and Christmas Fayres provides us with some income for church funds but more importantly to strengthen our links with the community.

In terms of fabric of the church, early in the year stonework to the window by the Porch was replaced and at much the same time a significant hole under the Aisle was discovered and made good; the stonework on either side, and two large memorials had to be reset. The platform at the front of church has been extended up to the front row of pews and has been found to be a big improvement in terms of safety and in use, particularly for ease of worship, funerals, the school workshops and concerts.

A major preoccupation during the year has been the replacement of the portacabin with a permanent building after our planning application for a new and much larger building to the northwest of the church was refused, in spite of strong support from the Diocese. The PCC decided the only way forward would be to concentrate on providing a permanent building on the same site of a similar size to the present one and to complement the immediate surroundings of two listed buildings, the church and Whittington Lodge. New proposals were drawn up and planning advice was obtained from the planning authority which was broadly supportive and much of the year was spent in consultation locally. A planning application and a faculty application were made for this scheme in April and the results are awaited.

14. To receive a report from the Brethren Church
There were no matters to report.

15. To invite the public to raise any matters of interest
It was felt that the village charities accounts could be repurposed for more useful modern purposes, it was noted that Les Wiltshire (charity trustee) was already reviewing this with the Charity Commission.

The meeting closed at 8:00PM.