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Clerk’s Column February 2006

Fireworks. Feedback from the mention of firework displays in the last Newsletter reflects the anxiety of a silent, and silence-loving, majority of the villagers. No-one, but no-one, likes being woken up in the middle of the night; loud bangs after bed-time can be terrifying for people of all ages, as well as to animals, and everybody has noticed that the explosions are getting louder, later and more numerous, year by year. These devices go up as a splendid spectacle, but the descending fall-out can become a weapon, which, in a village with an abundance of thatch, could turn into one of mass destruction. The Parish Council is reluctant to blow this issue up into a drama, but asks that anyone considering a firework party should also consider the welfare of their neighbours, and should realise that, in a village of this size, we are all neighbours.

More fireworks. Council meetings are rarely explosive, but often lively – why not attend one and see? The Clerk hears of a variety of News of the World type incidents which make our meetings sound like the Harmonium Singers. In one village (the name of which, for legal reasons, cannot be revealed) the Clerk used his mobile phone to call the Police, who decided that the only recourse was to remove the Chairman by force; in another, the language became so heated that the Minutes ended up with more asterisks than words. As close by as Little London, a pensioner whose planning application had been turned down thought that he could change Smannell Parish Council’s decision by throwing a petrol bomb at the Chairman’s house. Another village, not in Hampshire, found itself involved in a snap election after a mass walk-out of Councillors, accompanied by the Clerk, leaving behind a solitary and bewildered Councillor, whose hearing-aid battery had probably run out.

CPRE. After many years of yeoman service to Rural England as a Council for its Preservation, this has become a Campaign for its Protection. Happily its members continue to keep Barbour & Co. and green-welly manufacturers in business, but as we know these products clothe some of the shrewdest minds in the land, and its quietly efficient operators well deserve our annual subscription. The vice-president of Hampshire CPRE, whose name is, really, Rosemary Horsey, has written a report in which the acronyms spell out a serious and worrying message. A track which carried horse-drawn vehicles can become a BOAT1 . It was hoped that the NERC2 Bill would close this loophole when (if?) it comes into effect, but meanwhile Human Rights law may mean that existing BOAT claims will be exempt; the result in Hampshire has been a rush of BOAT applications (80 in the last year). Worse still, a judicial review in Wiltshire recently ruled that vehicular rights cannot be extinguished on a RUPP3 . CPRE has joined 14 other organisations in an alliance called the Green Lanes Protection Group (GLUG?). It is to be hoped that they have more success in affecting legislation than that other worthy, but rather one-track body, with whom CPRE shares its choice of weatherproof clothing, the Countryside Alliance. Incidentally, it is a little-known fact that our own Green Lane is a very ancient road indeed, and more than two millennia older, at least in name, than Clatford Road4 , which no-one outside the Planning Office recognises.
1 Byway Open to All Traffic (including motorised). 2 Natural Environment and Rural Communities.
3 Road Used as a Public Path. 4 AKA Little Ann, from time immemorial, and for ever if its residents have their way.

Risk Assessment. The current cold snap provides a reminder of the creeping and creepy encroachment of the Nanny State. Norwich Council has decreed that local schools must fill in risk assessment forms before allowing children to play in the snow. Children could only throw snowballs if they were 65 feet apart; a major cricketing county would surely at least have specified 22 yards. No wonder that Norfolk’s motto is “Do Different.”

PARISH COUNCIL MEETING, 2ND FEBRUARY 2006

The Chairman opened the meeting by welcoming Cllr Andrew Dunnett, from deepest Goodworth Clatford, who joins Cllr Arthur Peters in representing our Test Valley ward.

Planning. This topic may not take up much space in the Minutes, but it often occupies up to half the time of a meeting. The bare comment of “No Objection” appearing in the attached summary does not mean that applications have gone through on the nod; in any case the discussions are too detailed and vigorous that neither plain nodding nor nodding-off are ever seen. Councillors are very aware of the need for vigilance in safeguarding the village’s character, which is so vulnerable to permanent scarring; the village has enough “sore thumbs” already (No; they will not be named in a family magazine).
It was noted that a local style is developing of barn-type houses, as in Cattle Lane, and much time was devoted to discussion of the proposed replacement dwelling at 9 Farm Road, Little Park (TV No 06/00107FULLN). This second application was eventually considered to have met most of the Council’s concerns about the scale and dominance of the earlier plan, but Councillors wished to add a rider emphasising the need to preserve the nearby Beech trees which would help to soften the impact of the house on its surroundings.
Upper Mill Farm has a Monxton address, but is in our Parish. A change-of-use application had not been notified to our Council, although it represented a number of important issues on which Councillors felt they should have been consulted. Cllrs. Peters and Dunnett reported that the Planning Committee meeting, which they had attended, had approved the application, but had been made emphatically aware, by themselves and others, of the lack of consideration given (not for the first time) to the interests of Abbotts Ann. The Chairman presented a forthright letter, protesting at the failure of communication and commenting on the treatment of the application, which he had sent in anticipation of the Planning Committee meeting; this was unanimously approved by the Council.
The Local Plan Review was welcomed as establishing a Local Gap between Andover and Abbotts Ann, but the Council was unhappy about the description of the landscape and wished to correct one error of fact and two of spelling. Fact: the northern boundary is not the London-Exeter railway line, but the Andover-Ludgershall line, which allows the inclusion of the triangle of land between the two lines. Spelling: our Pill Hill Brook, correctly named as three words, appears once as the Pilhill Brook and once as the Pillhill Brook. The Clerk was instructed to require the necessary corrections, but to resist the temptation to return to his previous schoolmasterly incarnation and demand that the correct spelling should be written out 50 times.

Sports Field. Mrs. Wilkins was delighted to report that the new swings were on the point of completion, but was not enthusiastic about asking a celebrity or dignitary to be swung in a ceremonial opening, emphasising that the swings were designated for those in their first childhood.
The Fun Ride is planned for May1st.

Roads and Paths. The Council’s request that Keep Left signs at the Jubilee Oak junction should be discreet has resulted in the installation of signs of such modesty as to be almost invisible; it is also suspected that, come the Spring, the foliage will hide them completely. Watch this space.
Church Path does not seem to be high on the County’s agenda. We keep nagging for attention to the surface and the lights; don’t hold your breath but do watch your step.
Another nag is required to persuade the County to clear the accumulations of roadside litter and uncleared leaves at, for instance, the entrance to Foundry Road, along the Salisbury Road verges and in Red Post Lane.

Queen’s Birthday Party. No-one seems to have qualified for an invitation, and the Clerk is not quite old enough.

Historic Photographs. The Webmaster is keen to build up a comprehensive archive of photographs for the Website, and is asking everyone to look out photographs of faces, places and activities. He would need to keep them for about a fortnight for scanning into the system, after which they would be returned unscathed. He has “volunteered” the Clerk’s letter-box at Ash Barn into acting as a collection point, so please let us have anything suitable, of any date. Please ensure that the source of any package is clearly marked, and, if possible, that each print has its owner’s name and address written on the back (best done in pencil – sometimes “chinagraph” works best – or on a post-it).

Future Meetings. The Jubilee Room has been booked for the first Thursday of every month of 2006 except in August, when in any case it is anticipated that the War Memorial Hall will be closed for repairs.
The Annual Parish Assembly will be held on 7th April. This is an important opportunity for the people of Abbotts Ann to meet, hear from and talk to their representatives on the Parish Council and other village organisations, together with their Borough and County Councillors, so why not mark that evening in your diary right away.

Minutes. Full Minutes are available in the Village Shop, on the Website, and from the Clerk.

Next Meeting. The next Council Meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday 2nd March in the Jubilee Room of the War Memorial Hall. Members of the public are welcome to attend.

Adrian Stokes, Clerk to the Parish Council.

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