Minutes of Annual Parish Meeting on 17 May 2017

Held on Wednesday 17 May 2017 in Claxton Village Hall at 1930 hours.

Present:  Mrs Pat Clare (Chair, presiding), Mrs M Button, Mr D Hamblin, Mr J Cantrill and Ms S Kennedy (Councillors), Mr M Balmer (Clerk) and 15 Parishioners/Members of the Public.

  1. Approval and Signature of the minutes of the 2016 Annual Parish Meeting

There being no objections, Pat Clare signed the minutes of the 2016 Annual Parish Meeting.

  1. Chairman’s Annual Report (Pat Clare)

The Clerk has finalised the Financial Report for 2016-17 and copies are available in the Hall tonight, as well as on the website.  I am pleased to say that the Parish Council’s Reserves are once again in a healthy condition.  The Clerk is happy to take questions at these meetings or any other time.

We welcomed Sarah Kennedy on to the Parish Council in March, filling the vacancy left following Richard White’s resignation late last year.  It has been rare to have a full Council and I thank Sarah for coming forward.  Two weeks ago Barry Stone was re-elected as our County Councillor and we congratulate him on a well-fought campaign.  We look forward to working with Barry and Jaan Larner, our District Councillor, in the year ahead.

Broadband in the village continues to be an issue.  Some villagers have opted for alternative solutions including satellite and Wispire.  A very high-speed service from B4RNorfolk may be available in the next year as the result of a private initiative.  We have also recently heard from Better Broadband for Norfolk that we will see progress in late 2018 with 3 fibre cabinets being installed in Claxton between October 2018 and September 2019.  This will deliver 24Mps speeds to most of the village.

We have spent a lot of time discussing changes to the bus services and believe that we now have a service which is adequate though not perfect.  Our thanks to Barry Stone for his help over this issue.

We issued two village-wide newsletters in the year and have just issued the first one for 2017 which has gone to all households.  This has proved a very effective way of getting news out to the village especially as there are still residents without access to the internet.

The website continues to develop as the first place people check for anything happening in Claxton.  It currently averages over 36 page visits a day, which may not sound a lot, but compares well to neighbouring websites.  It helps that the website is usually up to date when many others are not.

We had a small but effective litter-pick around the village in February and are always looking for volunteers for future events.

We had the diseased horse chestnut in the car park taken down recently.  It was planted in 1977 but was splitting badly and we felt we could not risk leaving it standing any longer.  And at the back of the Hall Claxton Manor took down the remaining large conifers resulting in a lot more light coming in to the Hall through the kitchen.

After 10 years as independent Chairman of the Pits Trust, Roland Kaye is stepping down and will be succeeded by David Bissonnet.  Roland has overseen a huge amount of work for the Trust, including a complete refurbishment of 3 The Warren, creating and managing the allotments and developing Ducan’s Marsh, including securing a sizeable grant to assist with this.  The Parish Council’s thanks go to him.

Mike Balmer has now been Parish Clerk for 5 years and has told us that he would like to stand down before next year’s Annual Meeting.  We will therefore be advertising the post in the autumn with a view to filling it as soon as the right candidate is identified.

I would like to pass on my thanks to my fellow Councillors for their support over the past year.

Lastly we would like to note with sadness the passing of Linda Clitheroe last year.  Over the course of many years as a Claxton resident Linda had been a major contributor to every aspect of village life, including as Chair of this Council, and is sorely missed.

  1. Police Community Support Officer’s Annual Report

The Clerk explained that as incidents in Claxton were both rare and minor, the PCSO felt it unnecessary to attend.  He had been asked to publicise the fact that there would be a Police Surgery at the Fair on the Yare in the event anyone wished to speak to them.

  1. District Councillor’s Report (Jaan Larner)

In Jaan Larner’s absence the Clerk noted his recent report for the month of May in which he drew attention to the Community Governance Review, the Independent Retail Awards scheme and the Events Calendar which included a new Give and Take ReUse event, the annual Community Litter pick and South Norfolk on Show on 2 July.

  1. County Councillor’s Report (Barry Stone)

Barry Stone was also unable to attend but has supplied his Annual report in advance.  It was on the website but at 5 pages long would have taken too long to read in full.  As it could be read on the website the Clerk simply noted that there were paragraphs covering Children’s and Adults’ Services, Community and the Environment (including broadband, the Northern Distributor Road, the A47 Alliance and the Long Stratton Bypass), and Emergency Services.

  1. Village Annual Reports

Pits Trust.  The full report including the accounts will appear on the website and notice board.  Roland Kaye reminded the meeting of the aims of the Charity, and that it derived income from 3 The Warren (3TW), Ducan’s Marsh, allotment rents and the solar panels on the Village Hall roof.

2016-17 had seen a major effort to replenish the Trust’s reserves, which had been used to bring 3TW up to a rentable condition, and it has been let since October 2015 to the same family.

The Trust had been fortunate to secure £9,600 of funding from the Post Code Local Trust for Ducan’s Marsh, and a programme of improvements which had begun in 2016 would finish this year.  Kevin Parker would give a presentation about Ducan’s at the end of the meeting.

The Trust manages the allotments on behalf of the Parish Council but with only 2 let in 2016 and none in 2017 their future was up in the air and would be decided shortly.

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.

Roland finished by confirming he was standing down after 10 years as Independent Chairman, to be succeeded by David Bissonnet, who introduced himself briefly.

Village Hall.  Julia Kaye noted that since the last Annual Parish Meeting there had been 2 successful Race Nights with £750 from the takings donated to the Nook Appeal.  The Village Quiz in July had gone well and the September Fete had also seen the judging of the Photo Competition with the best photos going into a 2017 Calendar which made a little money for the Hall.  In December the Hall hosted the Adrian Bell Society and Surlingham Choir and the previous week had seen the first Table Top Sale.  The Social Club continues to open every Friday.  The Yoga class is busy on Thursday mornings and a new Pilates class has started on Monday afternoons.

Bookings are generally up and there is a range of activities.  The big news is that there is a refurbishment programme under way under the chairmanship of David Bissonnet.  It has started with the basics, by sorting out the fire alarm and emergency lighting systems, to be followed by a full electrical test and a Health & Safety inspection.  Then the plan is to fit acoustic panels to the ceiling to improve the acoustics in the Hall, then new more attractive and energy efficient lighting followed by redecoration including new curtains.  They are looking for grants to help with the funding.

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 not very well attended and their events on the last Saturday of the month (except July and August) usually only cover costs with the aid of a raffle.  Their main source of income continues to be from putting on bars for hirers of the hall.

Church (Paul Carter). Paul delivered the Annual Report, reminding the meeting that St Andrew’s Church, Claxton is a grade 1 listed building which dates from Norman times. Its fabric includes ‘pudding stone’ masonry, evidence of its earlier Saxon origins.  It has acted as a sentinel overlooking the village and the South Yare valley for centuries providing a place for worship, reflection and as a final resting place for village folk.

Whilst the role and importance of the church has waxed and waned in the lives of the Claxton community, it has survived into the 21st century as a focal point and witness to our past thanks to the support of Claxton people.  He was pleased to report that this interest continues as people recognise the significance and beauty of this grade 1 listed building within their village.

Many former members of the community who were active in supporting its institutions and contributing to its culture and wellbeing are now at rest in the churchyard.  It is therefore appropriate to recognise the value of the churchyard beyond its role as a place of interment but as an amenity for the village and those who take holidays in the area, or enjoy the various walks in Claxton and its environs.  For some it provides a strong sense of place and belonging, anchoring individuals to a place of beauty, peace and tranquillity.   As an example of this engagement, the avenue of trees on the northern boundary of the churchyard was planted by the late Joyce Loyd, a former churchwarden and head teacher of Claxton primary school, in memory of her husband.

On behalf of the Parochial Church Council, Paul thanked the Parish Council for the grant provided to help maintain the ~ 2 acre churchyard and its hedgerow curtilage.  This grant together with individual financial gifts from parishioners and the donation from the Fair on the Yare Committee have been used to both improve the appearance of the churchyard and to reduce the risk from various large or unsafe trees.   Following a survey which identified that various trees were in the need of attention, they began a programme of felling and removing certain diseased or unstable trees to minimise the risk of such trees falling into Church Lane.  This process has also opened up the churchyard allowing more light into the grounds, which has benefited both the flora and the visibility of the church from the road.

Whilst this high risk tree work was undertaken safely and competently by a professional arboriculturalist, much of the maintenance of the churchyard is carried out by volunteers either as individuals or as members of organised work parties.   Carolyn and David Moar have been particularly involved in tenaciously cutting and strimming nettles and couch grass to enable the wild flowers to flourish. Julia Kaye has organised and fed and watered a number of working parties to build on the work routinely undertaken by Carolyn and David, cutting and tidying the vegetation to reduce the fertility of the land thereby encouraging the wild flowers including wild daffodils, meadow sweet and bluebells.  On behalf of the PCC, he thanked David and Carolyn for their hard work and Julia and her working parties for their time and effort in managing the churchyard.

The Claxton walk, which is an extension from the Wherryman’s Way, passes through the Joyce Loyd avenue of trees to the north side of the churchyard.  Many walkers, cyclists and visitors who use this pathway and relax on the bench to enjoy the view across the manor to the river beyond, also visit the church (which is always open) and frequently leave a comment in the visitor’s book.  This provides a record not only of their observations but also an indication of the frequency of such visits to the church and churchyard in Claxton.   It may be of interest to the Parish Council and parishioners to learn more of the visits and their impact on the individuals.  The records indicate visits by various walking groups and cyclists including the Norfolk Trekkers, Great Yarmouth and District Walking Group, Electric Bicycles and the Eaton St. Andrew’s Ambling Group.

Of particular note are the following comments which illustrate the appreciation and benefits the church and churchyard provides not just to our community but to a greater population of people who chose to visit Claxton:

  • a cool walk but always lovely to visit this little church;
  • lovely little church – on a beautiful walk;
  • out for a walk just popped in to cool off; and
  • beautifully atmospheric and nostalgic.

Whilst it is difficult to place an economic value on such observations and comments, it does reinforce my earlier observations regarding the wider benefits St. Andrew’s church and its churchyard provides to the wellbeing of all who find peace and tranquillity within its environs.  Long may this continue.

Community Café (Helen Balmer).  The monthly Café is still going strong, with both the organising team and prices unchanged.  They don’t aim to make a profit and usually cover their costs including hall hire, but have also raised money for Macmillan and the Big C, donating £73 and £121 respectively during the year.  They celebrated their first birthday in January and continue to have seasonal themes.  The Easter Café had seen 4 generations of the same family present.  Ideas and suggestions are always welcome.  There has been positive feedback and everyone, including the organisers, looks forward to the Café each month.  Each event averages over 30 and it is very rewarding to see the Hall buzzing.  All are welcome.

7.  Parishioners’ Questions
One parishioner asked if there were any plans for the area around the village sign on the Warren, and wondered whether flowers could be planted around the base.  Another asked if the lettering on the sign could be painted in so that the name would stand out.  The Chair promised to take these comments into consideration.  A third asked about the Village Plan which as a result will now be republished on the website.

The meeting ended with a presentation about developments at Ducan’s Marsh by Kevin Parker, focussing on the uniqueness of the site, the work that has been achieved through the Post Code Lottery grant and volunteer workdays and plans for the future.  It finished at 2034.

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