CHAIR OF DITCHINGHAM PARISH COUNCIL
Since this article will appear in the December/January issue I thought I would offer a brief review of the Parish Council’s activities and actions during 2017. In so doing I will remind you of some of the responsibilities of Parish Councils.
Village Maintenance The public open spaces in the village are our responsibility and we employ three people to deal with litter, inspect (weekly) all the play equipment, clean the bus shelters and carry out minor repairs and installations. With occasional help from others this excellent work is mainly done by Paul Austin and Richard and Anne Mulley. We are fortunate to have such conscientious staff and, on behalf of readers, I thank them. We contract out grass-cutting to Clinks Care Farm and we are very pleased with the service we get from this brilliant organisation.
In addition to the routine inspections we organise, and pay for, annual inspections of play equipment and trees. We then pay for any remedial work needed to keep things safe.
We have on order three new benches – two to replace broken ones at the Play Area and one for the top of the access slope to The Dip.
We have installed a small number of new litter and dog waste bins; we pay the District Council to empty all bins on a regular basis.
New initiatives This year has seen the completion of four projects to improve the parish. The village sign was completely refurbished. The unsatisfactory steps to The Dip were replaced with an access slope complete with hand rail. The redundant BT ‘phone box was adopted and has been converted into a free Book exchange. The new field -edge footpath up Hollow Hill was completed to provide a safer alternative to the pavement.
Precept The precept is the amount households pay for parish costs within their Community Charge. Prior to 2010 it had not risen for many years and the Council’s budget and its reserves were insufficient. Consequently, it rose for several years until the finances were on a sounder footing. The precept for 2016/17 went down. Going forward the Council will set a precept which is sufficient to carry out its responsibilities, that reflects any proposed projects and that maintains sufficient reserves.
Councillor numbers Ditchingham P.C. is supposed to have eleven Councillors; currently we only have six. South Norfolk Council is currently running a Local Governance Review. We have requested a reduction from eleven to nine -in line with official data showing this is the right number for Ditchingham’s population. If any reader would like to become a Parish Councillor, or just wants to find out more, they only need to get in touch with me, or with our Clerk.
Last, but not least
On behalf of the Council, its Councillors and its staff, I should like to wish “Parishioner” readers
A VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS AND A SAFE AND HEALTHY 2018!
The Red ‘Phone Box in Hollow Hill Road
B.T. made this box redundant and the Parish Council adopted it. South Norfolk Council made a grant of £100 towards adapting it to a new use and some of the money has been used to install shelving to convert it into a Mini Lending Library. More shelves will be added if needed. People can leave books they no longer want and exchange them for ones others have left. Books for adults and for children (but not magazines, please) can be swapped. We are hoping that this book exchange will be popular and will, more or less, look after itself. We are grateful to Anne Mulley for volunteering to “keep an eye” on it.
Official Opening of the Hollow Hill Footpath
This took place on 5th September at the footpath. The public were not invited as the space available isn’t safe for a larger group. County Councillor, Margaret Stone spoke in appreciation of the project which had been achieved through partnership between the Parish and County Councils. All Parish Councillors attended as did Dorothy Cheyne and a representative of Alan Nobbs. The Cheyne family and the farmer were thanked, by the Chair of the PC, for making the land available. A considerable number of people have used the new path already.
South Norfolk Council HELP HUB and Social Prescribing
This service is intended to “Help to improve your health and well-being.” Social prescribing is an opportunity to have a face-to-face chat with someone about your life and any concerns you wish to deal with. A doctor or nurse may refer you to a Community Connector who can meet with you and advise you how to get the help you need. Our Community Connector is Jake Kubala and you may well meet him at events in the village as he tries to get himself and the service better known. If you would like Jake’s help you can also contact him yourself by ‘phone 07758139076 or Email: [email protected]
Amenity Area to East of The Maltings
We continue to badger the Broads Authority (BA); their officers are concerned about the state of the area. We now have the contact details of the company engaged, by the developers (PJ Livesey) to manage the land. They have provided a schedule of work and the BA should be monitoring it. Let’s hope for a timely resolution of this problem.
If you ever want to raise anything with the Parish Council our Clerk, Sally Chapman can be contacted on:
Email [email protected] Tel 07774734411
Keith Weston (Ditchingham Parish Council Chair)
Hollow Hill Footpath
The Council is pleased to announce the completion of the footpath. You can now walk from the bottom of Hollow Hill (where Hollow Hill Road joins the Norwich Road, B1332) to the top of the hill without using the narrow pavement close to heavy traffic. We hope it will be popular and well used – we have already heard from a number of people who have walked the path and have expressed their appreciation for its provision. The footpath was originally the brainchild of Cllr. Richard Mulley and he collected names to demonstrate support for the project. The cost of the footpath has been met 50/50 from the Parish Council budget and from Norfolk County Council’s Parish Partnership Scheme. We are very grateful to Dorothy and Jonathan Cheyne, the land owners, who made the land for the path available at no cost. We are also grateful to the farmer, Peter Rodger, who agreed to sacrifice part of his maize crop to enable the path to be constructed. We commend Alan Nobbs and his team for the first-rate job they have done in building the footpath.
Village Fete On behalf of the Council, and the wider community, we thank the members of the fete planning team. We compliment them on their excellent organisation, which resulted in such an enjoyable and successful event.
Allotments Calling keen gardeners. If you would like to express an interest in any allotments that become vacant please get in touch with our Clerk, Sally Chapman [email protected]
Keith Weston (Parish Council Chair)
NEWS FROM DITCHINGHAM PARISH COUNCIL
South Norfolk Council’s Local Governance Review
This review is being carried out to try to improve the engagement of residents with the most local forms of governance (in our case a Parish Council.) It gives the opportunity for parishes to review their boundaries, to consider joint working or merger with other parishes and to review the number of Councillors.
We consulted residents by using a flyer sent out with the May issue of “The Parishioner” and I made a presentation about the review to the May Parish Council meeting, which was attended by ten members of the public. The following is what we submitted to South Norfolk Council:
“There were less than ten responses to the flyer but those who did reply all favoured keeping the status quo in respect of the parish boundary. No-one favoured collaboration with neighbouring parishes. A show of hands at the meeting revealed that those members of the public present, and the Parish Councillors, were unanimously in favour of keeping the status quo in respect of the parish boundary. No-one present favoured collaboration with neighbouring parishes.
We have had informal discussions with parish leaders in Broome and Hedenham and we believe they, too, support the status quo.
Ditchingham Parish Council, at its May meeting, voted unanimously to ask that an outcome of the review should be to reduce the number of councillors from the present 11 down to 9. This is in line with the table shown as part of the SNC presentation to Council chairs. We formally request this.”
Proposed Changes to the Village Hall
The Council (DPC) is collaborating with the Village Hall Management Committee over a project to extend the hall at the Green Lane end. If the project is successful it would provide self-contained accommodation for the Broome and Ditchingham Playgroup to use. This would have a number of advantages including:
- The main hall, garden, committee room and kitchen would be available to the community when Playgroup is in session. Currently, safeguarding of children protocols mean the whole building is generally unavailable even if Playgroup is only in the main hall. We know there are groups and individuals who would hire the facilities if they were able to.
- Playgroup would be better able to offer the full number of hours being funded, from September, by the Government. This would benefit local families.
- Offering a pre-school setting in the village may discourage families from going elsewhere. Potentially this could help the primary school’s numbers.
- The hall’s revenue would improve thus improving its sustainability
- Difficulties over storage would be resolved
- The new accommodation would be for hire to other users outside Playgroup session times.
Over the years there have been several initiatives to provide facilities to provide the above advantages (including a proposal for Playgroup to move onto the school site.) These have come to nought. The present project is likely to be part-funded from Section 106 grant – hence the collaboration between the Council and the hall committee. [S106 grant came as a result of The Maltings” development. It is administered by the planning authority, in this case the Broads Authority (BA), and must be used to benefit the community.] DPC tells the BA how it wants to spend the grant but the BA has the final say (and there are rules, of course!) The BA is keen that the grant should be spent on a major capital project which leaves a legacy and has indicated that it favours expenditure on the Village Hall.
What happens next? We are in the process of having plans drawn; we will make a planning application to SNC; we will get estimates for the work; as S106 grant will be insufficient for the project there will be additional fund-raising. Watch this space.
Amenity Area to the East of The Maltings
The Council has, repeatedly, told the BA that this area, which should include a footpath, is unacceptable. The BA tells us that it shares our concerns and is working with the contractor to get the area completed. In the meantime the weeds have returned.
Annual Meetings In May the Council holds the Annual Parish Meeting and the Annual Parish Council Meeting. They are both at the Village Hall on the same evening, namely, Monday 15th. As with all Council meetings, members of the public are most welcome.
Footpath through the Amenity Area to the west of The Maltings: In February we told you that an informal footpath was open and people could get from The Maltings to Alma Bridge without walking on the road. Unfortunately, PJ Livesey’s contractor has tilled the whole area and the path has gone. It will be reinstated and we are in touch with the Broads Authority to try to get early progress.
Council Members We have recently had two resignations from the Council. We thank Marie Allen for her service, for almost a year, and Sharon Cheer who was co-opted but then decided the role was not for her. We have vacancies so, if you would like to help the community by offering yourself for co-option (or you would just like to know more about it) please contact me or Sally Chapman, the Parish Clerk – [email protected] . Thank you.
Yard Sale Several people have asked if following last year’s very successful Yard Sale there will be another one. There are currently no plans to hold one this year but it will be on the May agenda to consider whether to hold one next year. What do you think; is once every two years about right?
Hollow Hill Footpath Unfortunately, the builder who we had engaged, to construct the field edge path, pulled out and we have had to retender. We hope the work will be done before too long.
The new access to The Dip Within the next few weeks we expect to install a handrail to complete this work.
Wild Flowers on “Chicken Roundabout”
Using the money we won by entering the 2016 Litter Pick we bought wild flower plugs; we are waiting for some rain before planting them.
The Red ‘Phone Box’ in Hollow Hill Road
B.T. made this redundant and the Parish Council has adopted it. South Norfolk Council has made a grant of £100 towards adapting it to a new use. In the near future we shall be installing some shelving to convert it into a Mini Lending Library. People can leave books they no longer want and exchange them for ones others have left. We are hoping that this book exchange will be popular and will, more or less, look after itself. If there is a volunteer (perhaps someone who lives near the ‘phone box) who would like to “keep an eye” on it we would love to hear from them.
The Village Sign
The sign, which was taken down for refurbishment, has now been put back. It looks brilliant. At first we thought only minor repairs were needed but investigations showed the sign was in a very bad state. Robert Utting of Ellingham was commissioned to do the refurbishment and he has done an excellent job. We thank him for the care he has taken over this assignment. Basically he had to make a wholly new copy of the original. Only the pear and the wheat stalks (but not the ears) are from the old sign; everything else Robert has had to make. He also carved the lettering afresh.
This work, which took many hours, was paid for using a grant from our District Councillor, Brendon Bernard, and using Ditchingham Parish Council funds.
Last year Ditchingham took part in South Norfolk’s Great Big Litter Pick. We were entered into a draw and won £200. This is being spent on WILD FLOWER PLANTING on the roundabout. The work will be carried out by Clinks Care Farm and we hope you like the results which should make the roundabout look more attractive.
Community Governance Review
As described by Brendon Bernard, our District Councillor, in the March “Parishioner,” South Norfolk Council is carrying out a review. Among other things, the review will look at whether parish boundaries still make sense and at the virtues of any parishes mergers. This is all intended to revitalise the public’s engagement with the most local form of governance – town and parish councils. At present 84% of parishes have Councils which were elected unopposed because there were fewer nominations than the numbers needed.
By the time you read this the Parish Council will, at its March meeting, have discussed its response to the review. It will also have considered whether, or not, to hold a parish consultation the results of which could be taken into account in the response.
Fallen tree Ditchingham Dam
You may have been wondering why the road was blocked for so long after Storm Doris brought down a tree in Ditchingham Dam. Your Parish Council was busy behind the scenes. The delay was caused by uncertainty over the owner of the land from which the tree fell. Norfolk County Council Highways removed the tree as soon as there was clarity.
Charges don’t go down – or do they?
Recently you will have received your annual Community Charge statement. Understandably some charges have had to go up (to make a small contribution to the care system, for example.) However, I expect you noticed that the precept being collected on behalf of Ditchingham Parish Council has gone down significantly. This is to be welcomed but let me explain:
For many years, until about five years ago, the precept was unchanged. This meant the Council was limited in what it could provide; didn’t comply with up-to-date requirements; wasn’t properly insured and had very low reserves. The last one in the list meant there were insufficient funds for maintenance and for contingencies. The precept was raised, more dwellings were built (so more people paid the charge) and the financial picture was improved. Due to its good house-keeping, the Council now has healthy reserves – hence the reduced precept this year. Each November the Council will review it finances and set a fair precept that reflects the foreseen expenses and maintains healthy reserves. We don’t want the precept to “yo-yo” but, each April, we will levy the right amount for the needs of the parish.
Keith Weston (Parish Council Chair)
Councillor Colin Mison
Colin sadly died just before Christmas; he had been unwell for some time. Our thoughts are with his wife and family. He was very much a local man having lived and worked in this locality all his life. On behalf of the parish I should like to express our gratitude to Colin for his many years of service as a Councillor. What I remember most is the amount of walking (in the village) he did. He always kept his eyes open for items that needed attention and reported them so they were fixed. On the Council’s Planning Committee he always adopted a practical, common sense approach to decisions. At Council meetings he couldn’t always hear very word of the discussions (!) but he clearly heard enough because, when it came to a vote, he always voted the way he thought was right.
Ditchingham is a Council of eleven Councillors. Since the last election we have been working with reduced numbers and we currently have only six. If you would like to become a Councillor, or would just like to know more about helping the community in this way, please get in touch. Contacts: Myself, [email protected] / 01986 892326 or our Clerk, Sally Chapman [email protected] We won’t pressurise you just because you enquire. Thank you.
Keith Weston – Chair