Online Annual Parish Meeting held at 7:00PM on Tuesday 27th April 2021 via ‘Zoom’
Present: Steve Burrows (Parish Council Chairman), David Hunter-Miller (Parish Clerk), Malcolm MacLeod (Chair Village Hall Management Committee), David Chestney (Village Hall Management Committee and Whittington Church representative), Rob Adams (District and County Councillor), seven members of the public.
1. Introduction and welcome
Steve Burrows opened the meeting and welcomed residents.
Apologies were noted from Rob Stepniewski (Whittington Parish Council).
3. To approve the minutes of the Annual Parish Meeting held on Tuesday 26th May 2020
It was resolved to approve the minutes as a true record and they were duly signed by the Chair.
4. Matters arising from those minutes (if any)
There were no matters arising.
5. To receive the Annual Report of the Parish Council by the Chairman
Council business during the past year has been complicated by COVID – necessitating the facilitating of Parish Council meetings via ‘Zoom’. We have successfully embraced the video conferencing medium and no monthly meetings have been missed as a result. The chairing of Zoom meetings is not without its challenges and is not the same as being in a room face to face. On the plus side, we have been able to stream meetings ‘live’ via our Facebook page and, from the statistics, it appears that we have attracted a good number of viewers, many of whom would probably not have attended a physical meeting.
I thank all the Councillors for their unstinting voluntary work, and once again many thanks to our Parish Clerk, David Hunter – Miller, who has guided us through the year with his expert advice, drawn from his professional knowledge and experience. The year saw the departure of Councillor Liz Potter and we welcomed Councillor Katie Lambeth-Mansell.
The legal dispensation to hold ‘virtual’ meetings expires on 7th May, and as I write, it looks as if we will have to go back to physical meetings, taking COVID precautions, after that date. A further issue for us is the lack of a ‘COVID suitable’ venue until the new Community Hall is handed over. We are exploring the use of other nearby Village Halls.
We have decided that the Annual Parish Meeting, at which this report would normally be tendered, will not be feasible for the second year running in physical form. We will reserve a section of the April 27th Zoom meeting for this, and this report will be placed upon our website. Any member of the public wishing to ‘attend’ the meeting online can request a meeting code from the Parish Clerk and raise any issues or questions they have.
The year has seen the Parish grow in line with projections as Whittington Walk construction continues apace, with many of the houses already occupied with new Parishioners. I hope they will feel able to get involved with the Parish Council, as representing the whole Parish, not just Whittington ‘village’, is an important and continuing principle for us.
The Community Hall
This has of course, been the main business of the Council, in partnership with the Village Hall Management Committee, this year. It is a major project and has required a large amount of input and time. In particular:
• Coping with the impact of COVID upon timescales and thus costs and contracts
• The ‘value engineering’ process which reduced the build cost and is still ongoing.
• The management of the Public Works Loan process including conducting a survey of all households in the Parish due to the impact upon the Parish Council proportion of Council Tax. I am pleased to say that there was a clear majority of responses in support of the project.
• Engagement in the ongoing building project, including assisting with problem resolution and decisions upon materials, finishes and the like
• Implementing the correct accounting procedures to handle the money flows involved. Special thanks to the Parish Clerk for his work in ensuring this is being conducted correctly and transparently.
Hopefully you will have seen the structure rising at an impressive rate. The site is being managed very well by the contractors with minimal impact upon nearby households. The project is bang on target with building completion expected in early July.
We have also obtained grants for the construction of a community garden at the rear of the hall, which will be built later in the year.
Before moving on I extend the Council’s special thanks and gratitude to Malcolm Macleod and David Chestney from the Hall Management Committee, without whom this would not have happened.
Malcolm has kept a ‘weather eye’ on costs and progress, engaging with the contractors, and David, has worked tirelessly, using his professional knowledge of building projects to solve problems and continue ‘value engineering’.
An online booking system for the new hall is in the process of being constructed. In the meantime, the board at the site contains an email address for booking enquiries. I am aware that there is already a lot of interest from customers wishing to run various fitness sessions and individual functions.
Other business of note
• We continue to monitor and attempt to engage in the Whittington Walk build. We have commented upon aspects of the final phase of planning matters. We have repeatedly raised the issue of the yellow surface of the new footpath, (without much success), and have attempted dialogue with Persimmon, (again without much success).
We await completion of the build, and the establishment of the promised Management Company for the surrounding remaining environment with interest, and hope that more productive and co-operative work in partnership will commence once the builders are gone. We are already getting complaints about litter and dog poo, but will need to wait until the whole area is complete before we can assess what we can and should do as a Parish Council, versus the Developer’s promises and responsibilities.
• Smartwater: Smartwater is a DNA based property marking system that allocates a unique code to each household. It is proven to reduce crime. The purchase and distribution of Smartwater kits for parishioners had to be put off due to COVID. Fortunately, the discount scheme for Parish councils is continuing for 2021/2 and we aim to co-ordinate Smartwater rollout in conjunction with the opening of the Community Hall during the second half of the year.
• Thanks to the efforts of Steve Brooker, we have sourced new batteries for the Speed Indication Device in Pershore Road and it will be maintained by the Parish Lengthsman.
• Talking of which, we have finally got our new Lengthsman, Sam Joyner, trained and able to start work (March 2021). Elsewhere on the website you can see his terms of reference and the route to raise issues for him to address.
• Uffnells Gardens Allotments, Wildmore: In general, the allotments have been fully tenanted, although the amount of cultivation on some plots is minimal and they have remained covered. April is renewal month so it is always difficult to estimate the tenancy situation, but we believe that we should be around full tenancy.
• SWDP: As a recap, the 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 continued our engagement with other affected Parishes, forming a ‘consortium’, and Whittington Councillor representatives have continued to attend and engage in meetings as required. COVID has caused substantial delays in the consultation process and we are not much further forward than a year ago in terms of details of proposals. It is fair to say that the collected Parish Councils are unhappy with the process so far and have recently sent a joint letter which you can see on the website.
• 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 for a considerable time. 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. To my intense frustration we have received little support from Worcester Highways and the situation remains unresolved. We are currently having a survey undertaken to attempt to ascertain damage / blockages to pipes and whether there is a prospect of reconnecting the pipes to the original drainage system. It is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs.
• Village Planters: The Council allocates 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 continuing to produce a year-long display of flowers. It is proposed that the Lengthsman will clean the planter ‘gates’ in the near future.
• Many other matters have been dealt with during the year, and details of these can be found by perusing the meeting Minutes on our website.
Chair, Whittington Parish Council
6. To receive a report from the District Councillor
Rob Adams provided a report on both Wychavon District Council and Worcestershire County Council:
• The main challenge facing Wychavon District Council and Worcestershire County Council has been Covid, with both Councils working effectively together during the pandemic to support residents.
• Wychavon District Council have delivered approximately £35million of government funding to businesses to aid them during the pandemic.
• Parking charges had been reduced to help with economic recovery.
• A number of large bridge/infrastructure improvement projects were being progressed across the district.
• A boundary review of District Council wards was underway and Parish Councils were encouraged to contribute.
• County Council and Police and Crime Commissioner elections are scheduled for 6th May 2021. Rob Adams would be standing down from the County Council.
District Councillor and County Councillor
7. To receive a report from the County Councillor
Rob Adams provided a report on both Wychavon District Council and Worcestershire County Council (see above).
8. To receive a report from the Police
The last 12 months have certainly been different in the policing world and has bought with it new challenges. Half way through 2020 we had a new call recording system installed which has taken a lot of adjusting to and is not user friendly when it comes to producing reports such as these. That said due to COVID the crime figures have been skewed and to compare the figures to the previous 12 months would not achieve anything.
I have reviewed the last 12 months and there are only a few incidents the majority were reports of anti-social behaviour.
• Reports received from Dalziel Drive estate regarding concerns over drug dealing. SNT have patrolled and gathered intelligence.
• Anti-social behaviour again around the Spetchley Road area which has overflowed onto the Dalziel Drive estate of young people throwing eggs at a number of properties. We have worked with the neighbouring SNT to address this and a number of young people have been spoken to and received ASB warning letters.
• ‘Boy racers’ and car meets on the A4440 – whilst this is not something that SNT can address due to resources we have raised this on numerous occasions and dispersal orders are currently in place to address this.
• We have had a number of COVID breaches reported to us. All reports were taken seriously and were dealt with via the four E’s ‘engage, explain, educate, enforce’. None of these have gone to enforcement.
• As a team we are grateful to everyone who has followed government guidelines and stayed at home however we have been made aware and have dealt with visitors to the area who have travelled from further afield causing disruption and concern to the residents of villages surrounding Bredon Hill.
Pershore Rural North and South
Safer Neighbourhood Team
9. To receive a report from Whittington Village Hall Management Committee
The Parish Council Chairman has very succinctly summed up the progress made in the delivery of our new Community Hall. A year ago, this month (May 2020) Interclass PLC were selected to build the new hall, site clearance work commenced in November 2020 with the new build completion date July 2021. As the chairman mentioned in his report the project is bang on target to meet the proposed timescales, this is mainly down to the professionalism of our Project Management team, architect, ‘fair weather’ and of course Interclass PLC…with a special mention to Rob Toy the site manager from Interclass who apart from running a ‘model building site’ has been keeping us all informed of progress from day one by sending regular photographic updates. Check-out the Whittington Community Hall Facebook page or the Parish Council website for the latest pics!
In addition to the ongoing development of our online hall booking system we are also constructing a new website which will ‘showcase’ the Community Hall facilities in the best possible way, the website will be fully integrated to the booking system making it a user friendly, reliable and a secure way to hire the venue.
Currently the hall committee are in the process of planning a ‘launch/open day event’ to celebrate the new hall opening its doors, the date has still to be confirmed however all parishioners will be very welcome (COVID-19 regulations and restrictions permitting) Details will be published across Community Hall and Parish Council media channels when the date has been confirmed.
In the meantime, if you would like to book the hall please email: email@example.com with your enquiry.
On a monthly basis over this past year the hall management committee have been meeting via Zoom planning the way forward on how to work smarter in managing our new community facility in the future. Clearly it is extremely important that the Hall Committee and Parish Council continue to work in partnership and deliver for the community of Whittington Parish.
I would like to thank all members of the Hall Management Committee for their continued support and positivity throughout the year, they are a great team who each bring their own special skills I depend on them to help get the job done – And they do!
Also, a huge thank-you to the Parish Council and the parishioners of Whittington, your efforts and financial support have made our vision of a new hall a reality to be enjoyed by the whole community now and for future generations. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Councillor Rob Adams for his continued support and very generous donation of £2000 which is very much appreciated.
Wychavon District Council’s ‘Flagship Project’ will be completed shortly!
Chair, Community Hall Management Committee
10. To receive a report on the Village Charities Accounts
As reported last year, since the passing of Roy Warner, the remaining trustees are myself and Mr Andrew Prickett.
As documented 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.
We have not had further communication to date regarding The Charity Commission’s review of dormant charities. I presume that as we return to some normality following the Covid 19 lockdown, more communication will follow.
Mr Prickett and I will discuss these matters further as social distancing ends, and we would like to invite any interested parties to join us, so that we can increase the trustees to three members.
11. To receive a report from Whittington C of E Primary School
Since I last wrote a report for the Parish council in the spring of 2020 the Covid19 pandemic has affected every part of our daily life. The impact on education has been a sequence of school closures and re-openings. As I write, schools across England are fully reopen with children returning for the summer term after an abridged spring term.
A limited number of pupils attended school during the summer term of 2020. This meant that we offered both an ‘in school’ and a ‘virtual’ education offer. In order to keep the offer equitable for both children in school and at home the same content was offered in both contexts.
From September 2020 schools fully reopened so we were able to make a fresh start. The pupils were not allowed to mix with children outside their class and we organised staggered starts and ends to the school day in order to minimise congestion in the village and on our school site. As a school we began to return to a more normal routine. Once the pupils were settled, we restarted our development priorities to further improve the offer that the school made.
Unfortunately, from January schools were closed again for all children except key workers. Whilst we were able to quickly reinstate the virtual learning offer this period of lockdown was more challenging. We ensured that all pupils were monitored and contacted in order to check that they were able to undertake the work set and did not feel isolated. On the 8th March schools reopened for a second time with children returning for four weeks before the Easter break. We used this time to get children back into the routines of school life and restart our curriculum.
It is now the first day of the summer term with the children entering the school calmly and happily. The atmosphere in the classrooms is purposeful. This demonstrates the resilience of our school community and its ability to recover from the disruption of the past year.
The school continues to be popular, with 30 pupils due to enter our Reception class in September 2021. The new houses which have been built in our catchment are having a real impact on where we draw children from, we are approaching a situation where all of our pupils will come from within our catchment; a position that we have not experienced previously.
Head Teacher, Whittington Church of England Primary School
12. To receive a report from Whittington Church St Philip & St James
The past year has been a difficult one, as everyone knows, with large parts taken up in lockdown to combat the Pandemic, with no public worship permitted. During those times, the church kept going, meeting on Zoom, joining with the rest of the Team for services, including St Martins, London Road.
One major project, the replacement of the 20 years old portacabin with a permanent building, was advanced considerably with Planning Permission and a Faculty, a similar requirement from the church. The first step was to obtain pre-planning advice on the proposed scheme from the District Planning Authority. This was followed by an extensive local consultation with neighbours, Historic England and other bodies and particularly the Parish Council, all of whom supported the project. Planning Permission was applied for in April and granted in September, a big step forward. Application was made for a Faculty, which is similar to planning permission for the church, in September and granted at the end of December. This was the fourth attempt at replacing the portacabin, which has run out of planning permission, but the first where both planning permission and a faculty have been obtained for a scheme, albeit much reduced in size from the previous ones.
Substantial funds have been raised already towards building the scheme, but further funds are required, and a number of Grant Applications have been made. Some of these have already proved successful, particularly Laslett’s charity in Worcester and the lottery fund, “Awards for All” and much hope is pinned on the remaining ones. One of the planning requirements is that an archaeological investigation is carried out and a ground radar survey of the area to the West of the Church has already been completed, yielding a lot of useful information.
Whittington Church St Philip & St James
13. To receive a report from the Brethren Church
There were no matters to report.
14. To invite the public to raise any matters of interest
No matters were reported.
The meeting closed at 7:44PM