Present: Mrs Pat Clare (Chair, presiding), Mr P Wright and Mrs M Button (Councillors), Mr D Blake (District Councillor), Mr B Ansell and Mr M Balmer (outgoing and incoming Clerks) and 5 Parishioners. Apologies from Mr A Gunson (County Councillor) and Roland Kaye (Pits Trust).
- Pat Clare opened the meeting by apologising for having to postpone the meeting from April, which was caused by the resignation of two Councillors, meaning the meeting could not be held (as it requires 3 Councillors).
- The Minutes of the meeting held on 20 April 2011, which had been circulated earlier, were approved and signed.
Chairman’s Annual Report
This was the Chairman’s first Annual Parish meeting as a Councillor and as Chairman. There had been much to learn. The main new development was the arrival of a coalition government, affecting everyone. She felt that in the past year the Parish had become better informed and was seeking more transparency in the Council’s decisions. She had enjoyed the year, ably supported by her colleagues. Both Marjorie Comley and Alan Ives had had to stand down because of other commitments. She thanked them and the remaining Councillors for their contributions.
They were working on the Village Plan. The website was up and running and was designed to be a first stop for all Village affairs. She would encourage more contributions on news and activities for the site. A Village sign had been commissioned and would be paid for by the Pits Trust. It was hoped it would be commissioned in September. Other activities in the Parish Plan would be pursued. Brian Ansell was standing down as Parish Clerk after 10 years in the job, and was busy handing over to Mike Balmer. She looked forward to the Village’s Jubilee celebrations on 4 June.
- District Councillor’s Report
Derek Blake began by saying that the District’s work had been dominated by the change of government and the changes they had pushed through. For a long time there had been confusion at District level about how to interpret the changes. Lots of these were Planning-orientated. The old Planning Policy stemmed from March 2003. Some of it had survived the changes, but other aspects were either vulnerable to being dropped or had already done so. A few weeks ago the new Planning Policy document reached them. It had shrunk from 1600 pages to only 57, and would be the basis for all future planning decisions. There were still areas which could be interpreted differently, and Council decisions can now be challenged in the courts. With some adverse judgements costing in the region of £150,000 Councils had to be very careful about how they interpreted the policy. Much of the policy is based on Localism. Large Councils will be able to form their own policies. There is an important focus on designs appropriate to the locality. South Norfolk had produced a glossy booklet (which he circulated) which is their draft consultation on the new “Place-Making Guide”. Consultation will last until July. He had already seen proposals from developers which did not blend in well enough with local housing styles and the new Guide would address this.
The next change would be the merging of two planning committees into one (larger) body of 15, who would meet once a month for no more than 4 hours, a necessary discipline given the frequency and length of meetings currently. They will be re-establishing Neighbourhood Boards through which grants will be disbursed. He mentioned the Recycling Centre at Bergh Apton, which had passed through South Norfolk that afternoon, with a recommendation that it be extended for a further 10 years on a temporary basis. The County Council would rule in the next few weeks. He mentioned South Norfolk Council’s website pages “My South Norfolk” where inputting a postcode would show activities in that area.
The Code of Conduct was about to change, with a Norfolk-wide Code the likely successor, including a more detailed Declaration of Interests. He also mentioned the winter packs for the elderly and the fact that they had arrived late the past winter, and omitted the CD-ROM on home exercising. The Chairman has five packs for males and five for females, which she will retain until next winter.
Economic development was key to the Council’s progress. For example Lotus’ business tax bill represented 6% of the total tax collected.
Locally, Thurton School had won the 2012 Design Gardens award. The design was produced by the pupils and he recommended a visit.
Work continued to handle Gypsies and Travellers, with unused laybys off the A146 one possible site for overnight stays.
Lastly the Council Tax had been held at previous levels.
- County Councillor’s Report
In Adrian Gunson’s absence, Mike Balmer read out his report verbatim, as follows:
Roads. I continue to press for surface dressing of our roads. Those completed in 2011 were Claxton Road from Rockland speed limit to Claxton Corner, Back Road from Hellington Crossroads to Hellington Hill, and Hellington Hill itself to the Low Common Road. Those planned for 2012 are New Inn Hill from the Rockland speed limit through The Street up to the Surlingham Lane junction and Green Lane from the Hellington Hill junction to Ashby St Mary. This means that in the last 3 years nearly all the roads around Rockland and Hellington to the north of Claxton will have been resurfaced or surface dressed.
Drainage. School Lane Rockland has had a drainage problem for many years. I managed to get some work (done) in February of this year putting in more gullies which have improved the situation somewhat. The Engineer believes that patching could help as well as this would direct water to the gullies.
Footpath signs. Some missing ones have been replaced in the Hellington/Holverston area but a couple more are required. I have reported the missing sign at Lambs Court at the bottom of Church Lane Claxton.
Footways – Hellington Corner. At last I have got the resurfacing of the footways into the programme and it will be done this year.
Claxton/Rockland speed limit. I was pleased to get the VAS (Vehicular Activated Speed) flashing equipment to Rockland and Claxton a few months ago. This equipment which flashes when drivers are travelling too fast is quite effective.
Rockland St Mary School. I supported the concept of a federation with Surlingham School and was delighted that Rockland achieved a “good” in the OFSTED inspection last November.
Wherryman’s Way. I campaigned with Rockland and other Parish Councils including Claxton for the County Council to continue cutting it, and this they have now agreed to on an “as necessary” basis.
HWRC – Bergh Apton. After some pressure by me and Parish Councils the County Council has submitted a planning application to continue the Household Waste site at Bergh Apton. I suggest Claxton Parish Council might like to write to the County Council supporting this application to make the site permanent.
Hobart High School Loddon. This school has had a good year with excellent GCSE results. Discussions on Academy status are proceeding and I would expect us to seek Academy status.
Wider County Council Issues. No increase in Council Tax again. Discussions now to choose a supplier top speed up broadband. Cash being spent to increase the number of apprenticeships available in Norfolk. Work starting at the end of the year on dualling the A11 between Elveden and Barton Mills. Planning is proceeding to build Norwich Northern Distributor Road between the Southern Bypass at Postwick and Fakenham Road at Taverham. Large Government grant promised for this road. Extra cash in 2012/13 for surface dressing of roads but I believe more may be needed.
- Village Annual Reports
Pits Trust. In Roland Kaye’s absence Paul Wright gave the report. He had circulated copies of Income/Expenditure and the Balance Sheet. The Trustees have met 4 times in 2011-12. Assets are Ducans Marsh, which has been rented for seasonal grazing for cattle, and fears that they would be too aggressive have been unfounded. They hope the South Yare Wildlife Group will assist in necessary cutting back. The allotments were re-established, and John Heathcote has fenced and cleared the area. The Pits Trust is managing the use of the land. Currently there are 3 allotment holders. Water is metered and paid for by the holders. The other asset is No3 The Warren. Necessary maintenance has ensured steady income from an established tenant.
Income is limited to rental of Ducans Marsh and No3 The Warren.
Expenditure includes operating costs (insurance, professional fees and rates) and grants to individuals associated with the Parish. The Trustees incur no expenditure.
Future expenditure includes the Village sign, which is a carving from a large tree to be positioned on The Warren during Jubilee year.
The Trust is funding the Jubilee party, which will be free to villagers but a small charge to non-residents. The Trust will provide food and something for the loyal toast. A beacon will be fired during the party.
The Trustees have established a bursary of £2,000 to fund education/training for young and old alike, as well as music lessons and books, to give examples. The Trust also contributes to the Village Hall and the Church, and is pushing for the improvement of broadband through the Wi-spire initiative.
The healthy balance is sufficient to maintain the Trust’s assets.
There were no representatives or reports on behalf of the Village Hall or Social Club.
Church. Paul Carter said there was an established process for fund-raising activities. This was a key issue. the Church had lots of supporters. He thanked the Ministry Team and also Geoff Saunders who retired last year. The 2012 Quinquennial report focussed on the fabric of the church. Lots of work is needed, particularly to the East window and the floor, where the rush-matting had been removed after several years, to show the floor in need of attention. That said, for its age and location the church was in reasonable condition.
The Claxton Walk passes through the churchyard and interlocks with the Wherryman’s Way. The church is a good viewing platform particularly following the felling of one tree. The odd flint has been lost from the walls.
Rabbits are the main problem in the churchyard and an effort is needed to deter them.
- Parishioner’s Questions. In the absence of any questions Brian Ansell briefly went through the Parish accounts and left a copy for Parishioners to view afterwards.
The meeting closed at 2026 hours.