Minutes of Annual Parish Meeting, 18 May 2016

Held on Wednesday 18 May 2016 in Claxton Village Hall at 1933 hours.

Present: Mrs P Clare (Chair, presiding), Mrs M Button, Mr D Hamblin, Mr J Cantrill and Mr R White (Councillors), Mr M Balmer (Clerk) and 5 Parishioners.

  1.  Approval and Signature of the minutes of the 2015 Annual Parish Meeting

There being no objections, Pat Clare signed the minutes of the 2015 Annual Parish Meeting.

  1. Chairman’s Annual Report (Pat Clare)

The Financial report for the Parish Council has been finalised by the Clerk and the unaudited figures are available in the hall tonight, as well as on the village web site. I am pleased to say the Parish Council’s reserves are once again in a healthy condition. The Clerk is happy to take any questions at any time.

We welcomed two new Parish Councillors onto the Parish Council last Autumn, Jason Cantrill and Richard White who are both here this evening. This is the first time in several years we have had a full Council and I thank them for coming forward. As I am sure you will be aware Derek Blake, our long standing District Councillor, died suddenly last June shortly after being elected to both District and County Councils, and I would like to pay tribute to the energy and enthusiasm he brought to his roles as well as the considerable achievements during his time as District Councillor. We now have a new County Councillor Barry Stone and District Councillor Jaan Larner and look forward to working with them going forward.

The issue of Broadband services has been taking up a lot of our time. We learned last year that our MP Richard Bacon, agrees with us that changes need to be made to the relationship between BT and Openreach before any real progress can be made. We are in regular contact with the Better Broadband for Norfolk project at County Hall and report on all developments. In the meantime some villagers have taken the decision to go for alternative solutions, including Satellite Broadband and Wispire, which is now available in parts of Claxton.

The £1,000 grant we received from Anglian Water last year is being used to fund the first two years of a Satellite Broadband hub here in the Village Hall and we are glad to report that this is going well, with the usage within our monthly limit so far. The current contract runs until September 2017. We believe through investing in this, it provides the council with a useful tool here and gives the hall an edge over other village halls in the area.

We agreed to part-fund a Community Café which enabled it to be launched in January this year with idea of it being run once a month as a meeting point for villagers from Claxton and Carleton St Peter, and look forward to receiving a report on progress shortly.

We issued two village-wide newsletters in the year and a new Spring-Summer edition is being worked on. This has proved to be a very effective way of getting news out to the village as access to the internet and consequently the village website is not as good as we would wish, also for some of the population this is not an option.

We had a small but effective impromtu litter-pick around the village before Christmas and in February took part in South Norfolk’s Big Litter Pick using equipment loaned by South Norfolk Council. We hope to purchase our own and will put the £20 given by South Norfolk Council for taking part in the Big Litter Pick towards the cost of equipment to enable us to undertake a litter pick at any time, and we are always looking for volunteers to help out.

The Clerk has asked me to mention the Community Gym at the Jubilee Hall in Loddon and there are flyers available for anyone to take away. This is a community-run facility, which offers great value for money service and is available to all, with no joining fees. Any questions please to Mike Balmer.

And to end my report, my thanks go to my fellow Councillors for their participation in the community and to our Parish Clerk Mike Balmer for his help, support and enthusiasm for the Village.

3.  Police Community Support Officer’s Annual Report

The Clerk explained that as there had not been a single incident reported in the village in the past two years, there was nothing for the PCSO to report.

4.  District Councillor’s Report (Jaan Larner)

I was elected pursuant to the by-election called in September 2015 following Councillor Derek Blake’s tragic death last year.  Since then, as a new District Councillor, I have been attempting to get to grips with both my role in the District Council itself, as well as within the communities comprising my ward of Chedgrave and Thurton.

In that time, in the face of diminishing contributions from Central Government over the coming years, we have tried to limit any increases to the Council Tax and minimise the impact on tax payers, while maintaining the level of services to which the residents have rightly become accustomed. To that end, the District Council is seeking efficiencies in the provision of services to make sure we get the best value for money, as well as looking at innovative was to raise revenue from non-taxpayer sources. Thus far, we have seen much success and continue to press for further returns in order to support the work the District Council conducts on behalf of our Constituents.

Locally I have attempted to assist residents where I can in terms of planning and other matters, and remain available to assist wherever I can. At a Parish Council level, I am keen to help Parish Councillor’s given the move to a paperless planning process, and remain open to any suggestions which may make their lives easier in this any other regards.

I look forward to continuing to serve this community and thank the Parish Councillors for their ever courteous support for my role, not to mention their own unflagging efforts on behalf of their communities.

  1. County Councillor’s Report (Barry Stone)

Since being elected for the Loddon Division in the by-election last September I have been very busy getting to know the area more thoroughly and meeting residents and business organisations, attending Parish Council meetings and visiting Hobart High School. I have also responded to numerous queries and problems from individual residents.

Bus Routes: The County Council subsidised Service 85 bus route is to have a new provider as from September this year after poor performance on specific parts of the contract by the present provider. Extensive consultation has taken place and as a result several timetable versions have been issued. A final timetable now seems ready to go into operation based on feedback from consultees which hopefully will please most users. 

A146 Issues: I am still awaiting a start date for construction of the roundabout at the junction with George Lane but there is a firm commitment from South Norfolk Council that this will happen before the housing is built. I have recently approved a Traffic Regulation Order for this work to progress to the next stage. The Mill Road Junction speed reduction plans are still expected to happen although they have been delayed pending an appeal. The enforcement officer is on the case however and a resolution is expected soon.

Pot Holes: These are an ongoing problem raised by many Parish Councils. We managed to secure a £1.5m fund in the budget and government has just given another £1.6m to Norfolk for further work. Still not enough but we should be able to fix the worst.

Flooding has been another frequent complaint an all report have been reported to relevant officers for remedial work where possible.

Double Yellow Lines: I have been monitoring and where possible helped to speed up the implementation of double yellow lines in Loddon which were due be done on 18th April.

Schools: As a member of the Children’s Services committee I have visited schools and undertaken training on new National Curriculum tests and assessment procedures for Key Stages 2 and 4 coming into operation in summer 2016. These new regulations are likely to have a profound impact on local children as they move towards a more attainment-based structure and value-added teacher assessment.

Highways: I have dealt with numerous requests for major improvements such as reducing speeding, parking issues, road safety, roundabout and bus stop provision.  In particular the provision of the roundabout on the A146 at the junction with George Lane and 50 mph restrictions on the A146 further up at the junction with Mill Road as mentioned above.

Parish Partnership Scheme: Funding of £380,000 for 122 small scale highway projects across Norfolk was approved by councillors in March.  The money, from the county council’s Parish Partnership scheme, will be matched by Parish and town councils who were invited in June 2015 to put in bids for funding for schemes important to their local area. The most popular bids have been for vehicle-activated signs, which has seen 44 applications for signs which in most cases are to remind drivers of their speed. This year the Norfolk Safety Camera Partnership contributed £80,000 towards these bids, boosting the total available Parish Partnership funding to £380,000. Other popular schemes are Trods with 24 bids put in for this simplified, lower-cost alternative to footways. And helping to promote safety at schools will be part-time advisory 20mph. I am pleased to report that the Parish Partnership Scheme will be once more be available this financial year although the amount has not yet been fixed or announced. My advice would be to get your bids in early for any projects you have.

  1. Village Annual Reports 

Pits Trust. The full report will appear on the website and notice board. In Roland Kaye’s absence David Hamblin reminded the meeting of the Trust’s membership and objectives, which were set out on the village website through its Governing Document.

2015-16 had been a busy year, dominated by the need to refurbish the Trust’s property, 3 The Warren, after many years without major maintenance. This had exhausted the Trust’s reserves, but the house has now increased significantly in value and has been let since October 2015, so reserves are slowly rebuilding. There had been only modest other calls on the Trust’s resources in the year.

The Trust’s other major asset, Ducan’s Marsh, a SSSI, has been managed under the watchful eye of Kevin Parker to the strict requirements by Natural England, partly through Trust resources but mainly through a dedicated group of volunteers who participate in regular workdays. More workdays are planned for 2016 but the first event will be the annual Open Day, currently scheduled for Sunday 19 June. This event will be widely publicised in the hope of getting as many villagers as possible on to this remarkable asset in the middle of Claxton.

The Trust manages the allotments on behalf of the Parish Council and currently 2 of the 3 have been let for 2016.

The Trust also receives a share of the income earned from the solar panels on the Village Hall which were installed at the Trust’s expense.

The 2015-16 accounts are currently with the auditor but an unaudited version has been on the website and the noticeboard since early April.

Village Hall. In Julia Kaye’s absence Mary Button read out the annual report. The main achievement in the year had been the successful refurbishment of all the toilets thanks to a grant from the Neighbourhood Board Fund. This enhanced the attractiveness of the Hall to potential hirers and regular users alike.

There was a steady stream of regular hirings and one-off events. The 2015 Quiz Night in July had been very successful and the 2016 event would take place in June, as would a Race Night (a joint venture with the Village Hall). Yoga classes had begun in September and had become a popular feature on Thursday afternoons. The installation of a satellite broadband hub meant users could access the internet to check e-mails etc though they were asked to avoid downloading data because of the monthly data limits. This was working well so far. January 2016 saw the launch of the Community Cafe and a separate report would be delivered later.

There had been just one change in the management of the Hall, with Jo Bissonnet joining the Trustee Committee on behalf of Carleton St Peter.

The Hall was in a comfortable financial situation, in part due to regular income from the solar panels, which was shared with the Pits Trust.

Social Club. The Clerk read out a short report from the Social Club. The Club continues to struggle to attract new members.  Their Friday nights are generally very poorly attended and sometimes they have only two people.  Their events on the last Saturday of the month usually cover costs with the aid of a raffle.  They have 20 or so persons but hardly anyone from Claxton. Their main source of income is from putting on bars for hirers of the hall. They have yet to decide whether to have a Christmas Party this year.

Church. Claxton PCC with help from friends within the community continue to improve the appearance of the churchyard.   The churchyard is an amenity for the village providing an open space on the higher ground that overlooks the village and Yare Valley, as well as being part of the Claxton Circular walk – recently publicised  as a recommended walk by the Times (Easter 2016 weekend edition).

We are particularly thankful to the grant provided by Claxton Parish Council (£300) to help the PCC manage the churchyard.  This year this grant together with donations from PCC members has been used to continue the process of improving the churchyard’s amenity value by hiring a professional arboriculturist to fell and remove decayed, unsafe trees from the boundary with Church Lane.  This included a mature ash tree at the southern entrance to the churchyard which was found to be rotten and unsafe and presented a significant risk of falling across the lane.

There have been various working parties and ad-hoc activities to mow the grass, prune trees and shrubs.  This work together with the recent more substantial tree work has improved the visibility of the church and churchyard from Church Lane and has enabled more light to flood those areas where there are good drifts of spring wild flowers and meadow saxifrage – a marker plant for old grassland.  We thank all those friends who have contributed to this process and to the financial donations from the Fare on the Yare committee which have helped maintain the fabric of this Grade I listed building and trust that they will be able to enjoy their efforts whether using the church for worship or when walking and enjoying the churchyard.

Claxton PCC has had a good year in managing its affairs and has succeeded in meeting its Parish Share (~£9,000)  for which it should be congratulated given the significant challenges a small rural church congregation faces.  We have been able to continue our bi-monthly services and services for the major festivals thanks to the efforts of our rector John Shaw and his ministry team.  Although our congregation is not large, we have enjoyed good attendance and support for the major festivals and related events.

Our programme of fund-raising events is now well-established and provides a significant contribution to village life and activities.  In September 2015 we ran our ‘Flying Festival’ with the theme being the Battle of Britain.  To add to the atmosphere the village PA system provided background music of the era together with the sounds of piston engine aircraft.  We had good weather and were able to launch the flying machines from the tower following their assessment and judging on design and creative merit. Many thanks to Mike Balmer who undertook the onerous task of being the judge.

We followed up this event with our Harvest Festival and Harvest Supper complete with live music and a quiz whilst supper was enjoyed. There were good numbers at this event which continues to be popular within the village. An evening of Scottish Country Dancing with a professional caller and accordion player was organised by Janice Dix complete with a supper. We ran our Wassail prior to Christmas complete with music, carols and readings together with mulled wine and mince pies etc. This event was associated with our late minister Geoff Saunders who initially had the idea of a Wassail as a way of celebration of our heritage and outreach to the wider community.  It was fitting that Robin Godber was able to read a poem that he composed for a previous Wassail which celebrated the efforts that Geoff had made to create, organise and deliver the Claxton Wassail – something that was subsequently referred to at Geoff’s funeral service.

I would like thank all PCC members, Claxton Parish Council, the Fare on the Yare Committee, the Pits Trust and Claxton villagers for their support and generosity in time, talents and resources to help sustain the Church and its environs as an ancient monument within our community which has looked across the village since Saxon times.

Community Café (Helen Balmer). The Café has been functioning since January this year. We are delighted with its progress and are looking forward to continuing for the rest of the year and beyond, hopefully with the same success. The aim is principally to provide a friendly and welcoming facility for Claxton and Carleton St Peter residents by residents. The majority of customers are residents but we are also getting a few regulars from neighbouring villages which is good.

We are non profit making but cover our running costs each month. The Café team do claim back some of the costs of advertising, ingredients and refreshments but there is quite a lot of unpaid voluntary effort as well. As long as the majority of customers are from Claxton and Carleton St Peter we are more than happy to continue providing the service. Any profit we make will go back into the Café.

The second-hand library books are proving popular and we will continue to encourage suggestions for future activities, for example selling home-made goods and produce, small exhibitions, swapping ideas and news. It has also become a hub for information and advertising other village activities and events. It might also become a showcase for local business and talents.

We are all looking forward to the next Cafés, and will keep spreading the word and act on any feedback. There have been no negative comments and the positive feedback has been very welcome and reassuring.

  1. Parishioners’ Questions. There were none.

The meeting closed at 2001.

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