Minutes of Annual Parish Meeting on 16 May 2018 [UNAPPROVED UNTIL CONFIRMED BY THE 2019 ANNUAL PARISH MEETING]

Held on Wednesday 16 May 2018 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 (outgoing Clerk), Ms C Petersen (incoming Clerk) and 9 Parishioners.

  1. Approval and Signature of the minutes of the 2017 Annual Parish Meeting

There being no objections, Pat Clare signed the minutes of the 2017 Annual Parish Meeting.

  1. Chairman’s Annual Report (Pat Clare)

We have had a full Council for well over a year now and I would like to thank my fellow Councillors for their diligence and support over the past 12 months.  This time next year there might be some new faces, as the next Parish Council elections will take place in May 2019.  We would very much like to see more candidates than seats so we can have a proper election for the first time in decades.  If you are in any way interested, sign up to the website where details of the election will be advertised in due course.  Or have a word with one of us.

The Clerk has finalised the Financial Report for 2017-18 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 this meeting or any other time.

We would also like to thank Barry Stone, our County Councillor, and Jaan Larner, our District Councillor, for the interest they have shown in our village over the past year.  Barry is now back to full health and we look forward to seeing him at future meetings.

On Broadband we were recently informed that the first fibre-optic cabinet in Claxton serving 68 properties will be installed on Folly Lane just down from the Street, sometime in the last quarter of this year.  That means that by Christmas we expect high-speed broadband to be available to over two-thirds of the village.  The remainder – including 4 of your Parish Councillors – will have to wait until sometime in 2019 to enjoy the same speeds.  Any news we receive will automatically be posted on the website.

We have a number of achievements to mention this year.  We worked with the County Council to improve our bus service in September and this seems to have settled down with 3 services a day into Norwich and back.  Our thanks to Barry Stone for his help over this issue.

We are getting close to installing a defibrillator at the Village Hall with financial help from Jaan Larner and the Pits Trust, for the benefit of residents and visitors alike.  And we are pressing ahead with a tree at the Village Hall in memory of Linda Clitheroe and Billy Driver, but this will now be in the Autumn.  We are looking to brighten up the village sign on the Warren, including some planting around the base of the sign.

We issued two village-wide newsletters in 2017 and have recently issued the first one for 2018 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 40 page visits a day, which may not sound a lot, but is a rise of 40% on 2016 and compares well to neighbouring websites.  It helps that the website tends to be up to date when many others are not.  If you want to know what’s going on, just subscribe to the website and get weekly updates.

After 6 years as Parish Clerk Mike Balmer is now standing down and is being succeeded by Carla Petersen.  Carla is also Clerk for Langley with Hardley Parish Council which we hope will be a useful link.  Carla, I welcome you on behalf of the Councillor of Claxton Parish Council and we are all looking forward to working with you.

Thanks also to Mike.  He has been an absolute godsend not only to a brand-new Parish Councillor, who was thrust into the deep end by becoming Chair of the Council, but also to Claxton Village.  I came to the role with ideas of how I wanted the Council to develop and become more open, with his guidance they have been brought to fruition.  Perhaps not everyone has noticed the changes but they are there.  Just look at the website and the papers you are holding in your hands.  Mike will continue in village life with the other roles he has taken on, but don’t be surprised to see his face here again in the future.  Thank you.

  1. Police Community Support Officer’s Annual Report

The Clerk explained that as incidents in Claxton were both rare and minor, the Police felt it unnecessary to attend.

  1. District Councillor’s Report (Jaan Larner)

In Jaan Larner’s absence there was no report from Long Stratton.

  1. County Councillor’s Report (Barry Stone)

Barry Stone was on the mend and would soon be fully mobile but had as usual supplied detailed monthly reports and an annual report which was on the website.

  1. Village Annual Reports

 Village Hall (Julia Kaye).  Julia Kaye reported that the Hall Committee had focussed a lot on refurbishment issues over the past year.  This had seen new emergency lighting and CO2 detection, improvements to fire safety and a revaluation of the Hall which led to higher insurance premiums but the peace of mind of knowing we were now properly insured.  We were working through a Health & Safety report and looking to implement its recommendations as finances allowed.  An Asbestos Survey had found no hidden dangers.  A full electrical survey had meant some remedial work had had to be done.  The new acoustic panels are now in place with some positive feedback already.  Much of the cost of this work was met by the generous donation from the Fair on the Yare in 2017.  The Committee will continue with the upgrade, aiming to make the Hall the best in the district.

During the year 2 new Trustees had joined – Rosie Gidlow and Andrew Mussell.  The new cleaner – Sam – was also doing very well.  There were some new regular activities, notably Jo Bissonnet’s Monday Art Group, Mike Balmer’s fledgling Computer class on Wednesday and the popular Yoga on Thursdays.  The Community Café was being reported separately.

We had another Photo Competition with the entries judged at the Macmillan event in September and the best of them forming the 2018 Calendar which had been sold at a profit.  Bookings are a little down this year though we hope the improvements will bring more users in.  We launched an online booking system meaning all Trustees can check whether the Hall is available from their homes.  This is run by Jo.  Our new 200 Club had already had one winner – Lesley Hamblin – and currently has 53 numbers in each draw.  Half the proceeds go to the Hall and the other half in prize money.  We recently put out a questionnaire to Claxton and Carleton St Peter asking what people wanted their Hall to do.  There have not been many responses yet but we hope for more.  Future fundraising events include the annual Quiz on 16 June and a 50-50 Auction on 16 September.

Social Club. The Clerk had asked the Social Club to either come along and report or provide a text he could read out, but had had no response.

Church (Paul Carter).   The church continues to provide a centre for worship for the community.  It has faced significant pressures with diminishing numbers and an ageing population.  Thanks to the tenacity of the PCC and the support of our clergy, John Shaw and Mandy Ansell, we have been able to deliver the twice-monthly programme of services and celebrate the Christian festivals.  John Shaw retires this year and the PCC are working with the Benefice to identify and appoint a successor.

The church is always open, with the exception of recent times when works to the east window have meant it being closed on health and safety grounds.  Judging by the many comments in the visitors’ book this is appreciated by passers-by enjoying the Claxton walk which passes through the churchyard.

The Parish Council continues to support the PCC.  The work put into churchyard maintenance is paying dividends.  Carolyn and David Moar put a lot of regular effort into keeping the grounds in check, and help to keep it as a country churchyard, and their major contribution is much appreciated.  The clearing over the past year, including removal of some oversized ash trees, an oak which split in a storm and some unsafe scrub elms, has opened up the churchyard and allowed even more flora and fauna to emerge, in particular snowdrops, wild narcissi, meadow saxifrage and recently bluebells.

PCC members continue to organise the teas and cakes at the Fair on the Yare and the PCC received a very generous £2,000 last year towards the repairs to the East window.  It is hoped that a bishop will attend an end-September service to “open” the new window.  To commemorate the centenary of the end of the Great War the PCC will be planting 3 trees, each in memory of a fallen villager.

There have been other fund-raising activities at the church.  A Pet Blessing in August was well-attended, a picnic with folk music was popular as was the November Ceilidh in the Hall organised by Janice Dix.  There was also the regular Wassail in the run-up to Christmas.

Maintenance remains on ongoing challenge but will be tackled by the small group of supporters.  Among the year’s visitors was one who overnighted in the vestry in January as part of his mission, and who appreciated the warm food and drink provided by Janice Dix and Julia Kaye.

Community Café (Helen Balmer).  The Claxton and Carleton St Peter Community Café continues on the second Tuesday of every month, having celebrated its second birthday in January this year.  We now have a team of 8 volunteers, Rosie Gidlow having joined us last year.  Everyone contributes something to the home-cooked menu and any profit made covers the hall hire and our ingredient expenses.  The kitty continues to build at a slow rate, enabling us to buy various items to improve the service, efficiency and ambience of the café.   Apart from the book exchange, we also have a free DVD borrowing service, and children’s corner.  We are hoping that the new acoustic panels might encourage a few other members of the community to attend; those who, previously, found the noise levels too much.

We are awaiting an unannounced visit from South Norfolk Council, to assess us for a food and hygiene rating.  We have put certain procedures in place following their advice, and now feel (and hope) they will be able to give us a top rating … soon. If they do not make the promised visit by next month, we will get in touch with them again.

We feel that operating the café once a month is still just right.  The number of customers fluctuates only slightly, and we have a contingent of regulars.  Besides the café serving as a much needed hub for the community, it is also serving as the venue for the monthly village hall 200 club draw.

All the team of volunteers are looking forward to continuing the café as long as it is enjoyed and needed.

Pits Trust (David Bissonnet).  The full report including the accounts will appear on the website and notice board.  David Bissonnet was completing his first year as Trust Chairman and reminded the meeting of the aims of the Charity, and that it derived income from 3 The Warren (3TW), Ducan’s Marsh and the solar panels on the Village Hall roof.

2017-18 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.  A smaller number of bids against the Trust’s resources meant it had reached its reserve target of 2 years’ income a year early.

Kevin Parker continues to manage Ducan’s Marsh on behalf of the Trust following major work funded by a grant from the Post Code Lottery.  Last spring the Marsh was successfully grazed on an experimental basis which will continue in 2018, ideally with up to 7 ponies.  Workdays over the Autumn and Winter cleared and burned a significant amount of willow scrub making more land available for the valuable fen habitat to colonise.  This spring for the first time, SYWG Young Explorers, led by Rose Hoare attended the site. Rose is a Forest School trained leader. Her youngsters, mainly from Surlingham, range in age from 8 to 11 years. They carried out some cutting and clearing, had a campfire and got very mucky. They have used Ducan’s for a second time and, with the Trust’s consent, intend to do so again in the future.  An Open Day should take place on Sunday 17 June from 10.30am to 4pm.  It will be open to Claxton residents, SYWG members and 2 or 3 other invited groups.  Members of the Café Committee have agreed to staff the Village Hall.

Given the lack of interest from the village in renting the allotments it had been decided with the agreement of the Manor Estate to look at turning the site into a community orchard.  Ideas were being worked out and further news would emerge as planning firmed up.

The Trust stands ready to support elderly and vulnerable residents and has reached an agreement with Contact Care, part of the Saffron Housing Group, to fund up to 10 villagers with emergency contact systems.  2 villagers are to date benefitting from this arrangement.

The Trust has also agreed to fund up to £1,500 towards the new village defibrillator and will continue to promote its ability to help residents of Claxton.

7.  Parishioners’ Questions. One parishioner asked whether the church had had any contact with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) about memorials in the churchyard, as had happened recently in Seething.  It was thought that none of the fallen were actually buried in Claxton but Paul Carter undertook to contact the British Legion to determine whether this was true.

Another villager asked whether the Council was prepared to raise the issue of the dangerous traffic situation at Hellington Corner.  He understood that Green Pastures had agreed to contribute financially to traffic-calming measures on this dangerous stretch of road in return for permission to build their café, but had not so far done so.  It was noted that the absence of the County Councillor made it difficult to agree a course of action and this would be raised at a subsequent Parish Council meeting.

The 2018 meeting ended – rather appropriately – at 2018.

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