Annual Parish Meeting held at 7:00PM on Tuesday 17th May 2022 at Whittington Community Hall, Church Lane, Whittington, WR5 2RQ
Present: Steve Brooker (Parish Council Vice-Chairman)
In attendance: David Hunter-Miller (Parish Clerk), Jayne Rayer (Whittington Church St Philip & St James), Rob Adams (District Councillor), Linda Robinson (County Councillor), Richard Holroyd (Community Hall Management Committee), David Ball (Brethren Church)
1. Chairman’s welcome
Steve Brooker opened the meeting and welcomed residents.
2. Apologies for absence
Apologies were received from Steve Burrows (Parish Council Chairman), David Chestney (Whittington Church St Philip & St James), Gary Richards (Whittington C of E Primary School) and Les Wiltshire (Village Charities Trustee).
1. To approve the minutes of the Annual Parish Meeting held on Tuesday 27th April 2021
It was resolved to adopt the minutes as a true record and they were duly signed by the Chair.
2. Matters arising from those minutes (if any)
There were no matters arising.
3. To receive a presentation on Wychavon District Council’s proposals for new housing, employment and retail land at Worcestershire Parkway
A detailed presentation was received on the South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP) and plans for the Worcestershire Parkway. Due to confidentiality restrictions placed on some of the information by Wychavon District Council it was not possible to circulate copies of the presentation or copy verbatim in the minutes.
A ‘question and answer’ session followed the presentation and the following feedback was received:
• The SWDP does not have sufficient details to allay local concerns over the impact of the proposed parkway development on existing properties. Without further detail it is impossible to plan for the future.
• It was queried if any land would be subject to compulsory purchase or whether landowners would have a say in negotiations.
• It was suggested that Worcester high street was already currently underutilised and a further high street development nearby would take trade away from existing businesses.
• It was suggested that there was little justification or need for a new business park as there are currently a lot of empty units at nearby business parks.
4. To receive the Annual Report of the Parish Council by the Chairman
The end of July saw the completion of construction of the Whittington Community Hall. August was spent preparing the hall for use and was officially opened by our District Councillor Rob Adams at the beginning of September 2021. Thanks go to the Hall Committee especially the then Chairman, Malcolm MacLeod, Vice Chairman David Chestney, Wychavon District Council for the legacy grant, the Parish Council, particularly the Parish Clerk, David Hunter-Miller for his management of the finances and funding. Further grants have been obtained for acoustics, landscaping and security.
You may have noticed the defibrillator on the wall outside the front doors. This was a generous donation to the Parish by Nick and Anita Hodgetts of Croome Cuisine. Thank you both very much.
The Parish Council, in the interests of crime prevention, funded the purchase and roll out of 633 Smartwater Kits to parishioners. For those not aware, Smartwater is an invisible substance with its individual DNA for marking personal items and only discoverable under ultraviolet light. If an item is stolen and later recovered by Police, it can then be traced back to its owner. In due course, appropriate signage, funded by the Parish Council, will be displayed around the Parish. There is evidence to support that the knowledge of Smartwater in an area has the desired deterrent effect on would be thieves. Besides funding from the Parish Council towards this initiative, our thanks also go to our County Councillor Linda Robinson for an additional funding contribution to the Smartwater project. Thanks must also go to Councillor Richard Boase who co-ordinated the Smartwater project.
Over the last 12 months, Whittington Parish has continued to see development impacting severely on the semi-rural nature of our Parish. What once was a rural village of some 190 dwellings a further 276 homes on Wildmore and an anticipated 300 homes on Whittington Walk, plus the increase through ‘in-fill’ of self builds, has changed to make the Parish almost a suburb of Worcester City. It is therefore the Parish Council’s objective to try and preserve Whittington Parish’s semi-rural characteristics through scrutinising planning applications, addressing planning issues and working with neighbouring Parishes. Whittington Parish Council acknowledges and accepts the need for more homes, nationally and locally but believes further housing developments should be balanced, rational and not to the excessiveness proposed by the SWDP.
A continuation of this Parish Council objective is to work with the Developers of Whittington Walk to preserve a green strip along the M5 motorway. A further 40 homes on a future building phase being reduced to 19 houses may have been the outcome of our concerns raised during the planning application process. The Parish Council continues in their attempts to influence Whittington Walk Developers and Wychavon District Council to improve the surface of the public pathway locally known as the ‘Yellow Brick Road’, which currently is not fit for purpose particularly during inclement weather. In respect of all this, credit must go to our Chairman Steve Burrows for his efforts and perseverance.
Allotments. The Parish Council owns and manages 15 allotments – at the time of writing, 14 occupied one vacant. Through Councillor Richard Boase we have a checking regime resulting in improved conditions and better management.
Lengthsman. The Parish Council contracts the services of a Lengthsman responsible for maintenance work throughout the Parish, such as ditches, hedges, allotments, signs and pathways.
An issue yet to be resolved is the flooding in Church Lane. The Parish Council continues, with the support of our District Councillor, to liaise with Highways and Severn Trent in seeking a solution.
With the increase in the number of homes within the Parish, the Parish Council has met the challenge of integrating the new communities with the old community of Whittington. The spread of Parish Councillors to include Wildmore and Whittington Walk as well as Whittington Village and Pershore road has been part of the strategic approach. This objective also included such things as Parish Notice boards, lengthsmen tasks, consulting with developers and highways over road signs, access, pathways and community events. You will be aware it is no longer a village hall but a community hall.
Whittington Parish Council continues to liaise and work with West Mercia Police, Whittington School, St Philip & St James Church, our Brethren Community, Highways, District and County Council. Examples include crime prevention initiatives, road safety matters particularly those that involve the transit to and from school by children and excessive speeding on the Pershore Road in the 40mph zone. In this respect and our thanks to County Councillor Linda Robinson for providing the funding to replace the current unserviceable vehicular activated speed sign.
Finally, on behalf of the Parish Council, we thank those Parishioners that continue to support their Council and I end with the fact that the Whittington precept that you pay in your council rates remains below the national average. For a Band D property, we pay around £62.00 per year – this compares favourably with the national average of £75.00 per year.
Vice Chairman, Whittington Parish Council
Chairman, Whittington Parish Council
5. To receive a report from the District Councillor
Reporting as a District Councillor only and pleased to be attending meetings with the public once again. Thanks are extended to the Parish Council, Chairman and Clerk for the work done in the community. It was a great honour to be asked to open Whittington Community Hall and delighted to see the finished building being used by the community.
Whittington Parish Council is one of the best and most respected in Wychavon (100 parishes and 127,000 residents), especially so following the success of the Community Hall build.
The Here2Help Scheme was a great success and was now refocussing from Covid support towards helping Ukrainian refugees. Wychavon had housed more refugees than any other district in Worcestershire.
A Boundary Commission report was expected July 2022, it was possible that Whittington parish might fall under a different district ward in future.
Further detail was needed on the South Worcestershire Development Plan and proposed Parkway Development and this would not be supported until clarification on the proposals was provided.
The Armed Forces Covenant was going from strength to strength; there was a march planned in Worcester following the amalgamation of the 1st and 2nd Mercian Regiments. It had been 40 years since the Falklands War and tribute is paid to those who served and gave their lives.
Wychavon District Council had agreed a 0% council tax rise. Grants were still being supplied under the Community Legacy Grant Scheme. Further Covid support grants were also now available. A £150 rebate was being rolled out to eligible residents in support of cost of living rises.
6. To receive a report from the County Councillor
As tonight is your Annual Parish meeting, I would like to say a few words of appreciation. It is hard to believe that nearly a year has passed since I became your new County Cllr. Taking the role on from Rob Adams was quite daunting and I would like to thank him for being a valued advisor for me as I got to grips with this new position. My thanks also go to all your hard-working parish councillors particularly your Chairman and Clerk.
Writing an annual report is a useful exercise as it makes you reflect on the previous year so here is a brief overview from my perspective.
A large percentage of my time is now spent on highways issues dealing with 11 parish councils and three parish meetings in our large Upton Snodsbury Division. I have been made Vice Chairman of Planning & regulatory services at County which is far more strategic than at District. We have decided applications for major infrastructure projects like a new footbridge across the River Severn and some large quarries. I have also become a member of the Hereford & Worcestershire Fire Authority which is very interesting.
From my Divisional Community fund last year, I have been able to fund a new VAS sign for the B4042 and contributed to complete your Smart Water rollout Whittington.
In May last year we were in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic and I would like to thank all those in your community who gave their time to help others. Now we are involved in yet another crisis with the war in Ukraine and once again many of our residents are doing sterling work to help refugees and raise funds and send collections of essential items for those still in Ukraine. Please see below for the latest details from Wychavon & County.
April saw the end of free testing and this has affected the reliability of infection data. While official testing rates have fallen significantly, information from other sources presents a different picture, although data is still patchy. What is clear is infection rates are significantly higher than the headline rates. In the south of the county, it is estimated about 1 in 14 people have Covid-19 which is the same rate as England and only slightly above the West Midlands (1 in 13).
This is being felt by our acute hospitals. As of 25 April, 129 patients were admitted with Covid-19. There are 77 now in hospital. Not all are being treated for Covid-19 though some may have arrived for a different reason but also have Covid-19. More people over 60 are presenting with Covid symptoms. Our hospitals are feeling the pressure and at a NHS trust’s board latest meeting alarming figures from March were discussed with promises to redouble efforts to improve the worrying situation. These included long delays for ambulance call outs and an average waiting time of 150mins to be downloaded from ambulances with 241patients waiting on a trolley to be seen for up to 12hrs. In terms of Covid-19 vaccinations, our areas of lowest deprivation continue to be the areas where take up is lowest but take up of the vaccination has now largely stalled with numbers barely changing. View the latest vaccination data on the Worcestershire County Council website.
Homes for Ukraine update
Staff continue to work hard to deliver the Homes for Ukraine scheme in Wychavon. As of 12 May, we have been made aware of 119 hosts in the district, with an anticipated 284 guests. We are finding that some guests are choosing not to travel after their visa has been issued for a variety of reasons so we are treating this figure with caution.
As of 10th may the number of visas issued by the Home Office for guests intending to travel to Wychavon was 189. And 102 guests have arrived in our District.
To date, staff have carried out a total of 93 property checks – all satisfactory – with a further 7 booked. We have also welcomed 74 guests to the Civic Centre so far to collect their £200 payment and inform us of any welfare or support needs. However, we are seeing an increase in arrivals now and have many more booked to meet with us in the coming days. Please also note that where guests cannot travel to the Civic Centre, we will visit them.
The main priorities we are picking up from initial welcome conversations are access to healthcare and particularly mental health / trauma support, school placements and support with financial matters, including bank accounts, benefits and right to work. Our local partners, and particularly local community groups, have been instrumental in helping us to provide the necessary support, including with basic needs such as cloth.
Worcestershire County Council is Working with Worcestershire Children First to issue guidance letting schools know that Ukrainian children should be able to access free school meals.
As of 27 April 2022, 72 applications for school places have been received countywide with 41 children and young people already offered places. 8 could not be offered their first preference school and have been offered an alternative. There are currently 23 applications still to be processed. In Wychavon have had 22 applications for school places – 14 first and middle schools and 8 secondary school
Cost of Living Crisis
The third crisis it looks as though we are going to be facing concerns the rapid increase in the cost of living. The war in Ukraine and consequent sanctions against Russia have resulted in rapid increases in fuel and household energy costs. As part of the Government scheme to help households living in Band A to Band D properties will receive a £150 payment to help with recent increases in energy bills. Residents will start to receive their Energy Bills Rebate from this week starting on 9 May. Households living in a Band A to D property will receive a £150 payment as part of the Government scheme to help with recent increases in energy bills.
Wychavon will begin making payments first to residents they have bank account details for – those who pay by Direct Debit. The aim will be to complete payments to everyone paying by Direct Debit by the end of May.
Residents paying by Direct Debit are advised to check their bank account throughout May for the payment. Direct Debit payers who have not received the payment by 1 June 2022 should email Revenues@southworcestershirerevenues.gov.uk with Energy Rebate in the subject line. Those who pay their Council Tax using other methods will be able to claim the payment through the Post Office with a special voucher which will be sent to them. Wychavon will begin sending these vouchers to households from the end of May.
Wychavon is aware in other parts of the country there are reports of people receiving phone calls from fraudsters claiming to be from ‘the council’ asking for bank details. Wychavon will not be collecting bank details they do not have on record in this way. Anyone who receives one of these calls should not give out any information and put the phone down and report it at www.actionfraud.police.uk.
Wychavon is finalising the details of the discretionary scheme announced by the Government. This allows councils to make payments of £150 to people living in Band E to H properties who are on low incomes. Once the scheme is confirmed, more information will be available on Wychavon’s website. Food costs have also increased and we are aware of increased demand at our food banks. Wychavon and County are offering ‘Here to help’ schemes so please let me know if you know of any families that are struggling and we can signpost them in the right direct
How Worcestershire’s gritters travelled the equivalent of three times around the Earth this winter GRITTERS covered almost 70,000 miles across Worcestershire this winter as staff sought to keep the county open for business. Since October, Worcestershire County Council has carried out 51 gritting runs, spreading 5,341 tonnes of salt, keeping roads moving and safe for motorists. This covered 69,972 miles in total, which is the equivalent of approximately three times around the circumference of our planet.
Worcestershire’s roads will be given a new lease of life when the county’s surface dressing programme hits the streets. The programme will see road surfaces across the county restored, with more 160 sites set to be treated over the spring and summer. Surface dressing works follow on from the winter gritting season and various other ongoing works taking place to maintain and improve the county’s road “Please keep an eye out for signs detailing works in your road and do what you can to help works run as smoothly as possible”. Surface dressing is a very effective way of restoring the road surface to extend the life of an existing surface, prevent deterioration, improve skid resistance, and seal the road against water preventing potholes forming in winter.
Signs will be displayed on roads prior to any work taking place and works are subject to change if weather conditions are suitable to carry out the process. Visit www.worcestershire.gov.uk/surfacedressing for the list of roads which will be subject to the works in 2022 and stay up to date with the surface dressing schedule on Twitter @WorcsTravel.
7. To receive a report from Whittington Village Hall Management Committee
This has been a momentous year of transition from the old 1950’s Village Hall to the brand new Community Hall, and it was with great pleasure and pride that we were able to witness Councillor Rob Adams presiding at the opening ceremony of the new hall on 4th September 2021.
Malcolm MacLeod led an active committee in bringing us to this point after several years of persistent hard work, and it was with some trepidation that I took over as Chair of the Management Committee in September, building on that hard work.
The main task has been to equip the hall so that it is fit for purpose, and significant improvements have been made over recent months. It was immediately apparent that he acoustic of the main hall was going to be a problem and this has been solved by the addition of acoustic panels earlier this year. Window blinds have also added to the facilities. A security system with CCTV cameras has been installed, and Fire Risk assessments and Health and Safety reviews have been done. The addition of a Defibrillator to the outside of the hall is of benefit to the whole community and it was good to see a wide representation from organisations in the village for the training session in how to use it. Contracts for the services of a Hall Caretaker and Hall Bookings Secretary have been arranged, and the day to day running of the hall is going well.
For the future we may need to look to major expenditure on a new set of chairs for the main hall (the current ones were retained from the old hall) at some point. My aim is to keep in review the balance of use of the hall between private bookings and those activities and events which are open to the whole community. I believe these should make up the core of the hall use, and the private parties, etc. be the icing on the cake.
Recent the hall committee ran a very successful and well attended Quiz Evening for the community and we are looking forward to celebrating the platinum jubilee with a ‘Tea with the Queen’ event on the afternoon of 3rd June.
Chair, Community Hall Management Committee
8. To receive a report on the Village Charities Accounts
Report on the Fanny Clifton and Elizabeth Stephens Charities.
As reported last year, 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, some time ago, 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 in the fullness of time more communication will follow.
We would like to invite any interested parties to join us, so that we can increase the trustees to three members and for the time being keep these historic village charities ‘ticking over’
The accounts are prepared up to 9th March 2022, as this is the most recent bank statement to hand.
9. To receive a report from Whittington C of E Primary School
In the three terms since my last report, the impact of Covid19 on Whittington Church of England Primary School has gradually reduced. We are now at a point where the school is operating as it had been pre-pandemic. The legacy of the various lock downs is most acutely seen through individuals and groups who have gaps in their learning, as well as some children who need additional support with their mental health. As long as there is no further disruption, we believe that we can offer our pupils the support they require.
Currently the school is completely full. This is a consequence of its good reputation locally, the fact that we are the only single form entry primary school in south Worcester and the additional housing that has been built within our catchment. The picture is the same for the new class which will be admitted in September 2022, with all the places allocated. This is not the case for other schools in south Worcester.
The school remains a ‘good’ school (as graded by Ofsted) and we are forecasting test results from our Year 6 class which match or exceed the national standards, all of which is very positive for the village of Whittington. We continue to work closely with St. Philip and St. James’ Parish Church, in the village, to develop a coherent local community, and we have updated the school vision to develop more responsibility in our pupils – locally, nationally and internationally.
As we move through the summer term we are organising events and trips which allow the children to learn beyond the classroom. Year six have a residential trip planned, Year 2 will be visiting a residential home to celebrate together with the residents and other classes have planned class trips to places as diverse as the ‘National Bee Keeping Centre’ and ‘All Things Wild’.
Our aim, moving forward, is to ensure that the education offered to all of our pupils is exciting, focussed and diverse, so that all of our pupils receive a rich experience that will equip them for their next steps in life. All staff are committed to developing and improving our offer so that Whittington Church of England Primary School remains a thriving educational establishment.
Head Teacher, Whittington Church of England Primary School
10. To receive a report from Whittington Church St Philip & St James
2021 has been another year dominated by the Covid 19 pandemic. After a service for Epiphany in early January we were not able to hold services in church until mid-April, so it was back to Zoom.
Social distancing in pews and wearing of masks continued even when singing became feasible. We were able to hold the Memorial Service in July and to hold Harvest service in October followed by a picnic in the Churchyard.
The Churchyard continues to look a picture despite building works. We have a vert dedicated and hardworking team who look after it and making it such an asset to the village. Further help with financial or as a volunteer is always welcome.
Although we still maintain close links with the school, Covid has prevented the regular visit at services that the school has made in the past. We hope that normality will return soon.
We have been able to welcome families to Forest Church which has taken place on the Saturday of each month.
At long last, after several years of fundraising and applying for planning permission, work stared in late November on building the replacement to the Jubilee Room, now to be known as the Elizabethan Room. Completion is due very shortly and the official opening is planned for June.
Whittington Church St Philip & St James
11. To receive a report from the Brethren Church
The Brethren Church is situated not far from Whittington Walk. The church has been closed for some time due to Covid, but services had now resumed in-person. Zoom had been vital during the lockdowns but was still used for some of meetings.
The Rapid Relief Team (RRT) supported by the Brethren Church was now operating in Ukraine to provide support. The church also makes donations every month to the foodbank to support those living in hardship.
Thanks were extended to the Parish Council for their continued support over the last year.
12. To invite the public to raise any matters of interest
A query was raised regarding repurposing the charity accounts to offer support to those struggling with cost of living rises.
The meeting closed at 8:42PM.