By Dr Martin Hoffman (Vice Chairman)
(for full minutes see under Parish Council/Meetings)
I’m acting as a reporter this month as I was away for this meeting, but have no fear as many items are ongoing!
The Playground continues to have vandalism in the form of rubbish being stuffed down the support tubes of the protective netting around the children’s area. Offensive graffiti has been obscured. Please report any individual seen carrying out this inane action. Consideration is being given to replacing the underused skateboard area with something more appropriate particularly for use by teenagers. The Village Sports Day Working Group are looking for items they might fund.
There was one small sapling in the Springs Area which has been removed because it was suspected of Ash dieback disease. Those of you with Ash trees keep a lookout for the disease. Experts do not suggest automatic felling of mature trees at the moment. The boundary hedge around the area was trimmed for road safety reasons (this is not normally carried out until all bird nesting is finished).
There were some concerns raised about dog fouling in St Mary’s Churchyard but closer examination revealed it was due to a Fox! Whilst on this subject of dog waste, Ashwell Parish Council (PC) do not agree with the new NHDC policy to allow dog waste to be placed in ordinary litter bins, and continue to fund 10 dog waste bins throughout the village. I trust you will agree that using the specific waste bins for dog waste is more acceptable. The “good side” of dog walking was shown by a resident who saw two men acting suspiciously in a van at the Small Gains allotments. When approached the men disappeared, the police were informed and will increase their visits.
Whilst on the subject of waste & rubbish I know many residents are totally fed up with the standard of rubbish collection which has left many with overflowing bins and awful smells from food bins. The PC has passed on to NHDC the reported issues which have different causes! This may be, for example, the dustcart just didn’t turn up or the operatives were unclear about village boundaries or access for the vehicle was not possible. This last reason is totally preventable in Silver Street if cars do not park at the end of the road making it impossible for the dustcart to gain access. No problem! The PC has long ago announced it would like HCC to install yellow lines to prevent this. Everyone, I think, agrees with this and so why the hold-up? The PC has to wait for a public consultation. This is exactly the same as the request for restricted parking outside local shops for a short period of time. This would also help those with mobility difficulties. Oh for a local dictatorship!
Each household will receive a hard copy of the consultation questionnaire in relation to the Neighbourhood Plan in September. This is the final chance to comment on this document. The questionaire and the full plan will be available on the website and also at various locations around the village. There will also be an exhibition in St Mary’s Church.
The Henry Colbron Trustees visited the school and met with local youth groups. They also met with some local representatives who proposed ideas for more facilities for outside youth activities. This was an excellent initiative.
If you have recently passed the new housing development at Cooke Engineering, youwill see the poor state of the highways verge adjacent to the site. The PC will pursue the restoration, in an ecological friendly manner, as well as giving attention to the large Ash trees which are retained on the perimeter of the site next to the right of way.
A nasty little incident took place in Back Street with a lorry carrying telegraph poles attempted to travel the wrong way in the one-way system when the driver became quite abusive causing nearby residents to “see what was going on”.
A question was raised why the PC did not support the development behind Ashwell Pharmacy. The short answer is that the PC did support it and it was NHDC who turned it down!
The report from our County Councillor Steve Jarvis included successful speed tests had been carried out for the 20 mph zone in the core of the village. Discussions have taken place about the possibility of a new relief road to be included in the proposed large development North of Baldock. This would link the A505 and the A507 and would provide an improved route for those coming from Ashwell and other villages. Please note this is by far from being agreed.
Planning issues including the appeal for permission to build 46 dwellings, children’s play area, new sports pitches and Pavilion are detailed separate from this article. Please see the current planning applications summary.
You may recall reports stating two Focus Groups to discuss the Parish Council were to take place. These have taken place and were organised by two people not involved with the PC, and no members of the Council were present. 17 people were invited to the first session and 6 attended. 19 people were invited to the second session and 6 attended. I cannot see the benefit of me copying the report following those meetings here as they can be read in full on the website or in hardcopy via the Clerk. Communication was certainly a major issue but I really recommend you to read the full version not prepared by myself. I don’t think any of the attendees at the Focus Groups were at this Parish Council meeting.
The following is in italics because it is my “simple guide” to the Parish Council:
I have written before that if Ashwell did not have a Council then the organisation will be taken over by NHDC. How that would work is anyone’s guess. There is no kudos for being a PC member! Much of the agenda is predetermined by the issues we are required to discuss and act upon. Action by “other bodies” is incredibly slow (e.g. yellow lines, white lines, parking, rubbish collection). I find that incredibly frustrating. The PC seem to spend a lot of time chasing other bodies. The PC has influence on planning to the extent of style but not on numbers in a development. This is the case all over the country. I would love to go to a PC meeting where all the vacancies are filled (at the moment we are five short and this is the first Council I have sat on without being competitively elected-something I feel very strongly about. Councillors should not be elected because they were unopposed. The shortage in numbers makes it difficult to carry out all the required jobs outside the monthly meetings). I don’t think some people know what goes on outside and between PC meetings. Arriving at this meeting, where there are lots of happy faces, we could tick off the actions from previous meetings as having been carried out by the organisation’s to whom we report and then move on to new issues that Parishioners want.
Problem is we don’t arrive at the Parish Room by The Yellow Brick Road! All we need is a full complement of Councillors have an interest in the village as a whole and really want to help get things done PDQ.
Please remember to read the Focus Group findings.
I will write Jottings next month if allowed!
Dr Martin G Hoffman