Clerk’s Column October 2005

The Meeting of the Parish Council on 6th October opened on a note of sadness, as the Chairman, Mr. Bernard Griffiths, paid tribute to the late Margot Townsend, expressing the Council’s great appreciation of her loyal and effective support, not only for the Council but for the whole community. She will be sorely missed. The Council wished to express their condolences to the family, and observed a minute’s silence.
It may not always be appreciated, except perhaps by the Postman, how much Council activity goes on between meetings. For instance, almost every day seems to bring in a Planning Application or a Tree Preservation Order, as shown by the attached Planning Summary; there are no signs of an end to the boom in the businesses of Tree Surgery or Conservatory Construction, and the popularity of our village is reflected in the number of applications to build new houses and extend older ones. All of these have to be scrutinised and commented on by Councillors, though our attempts to provide speedy responses by using modern technology have been complicated by the inability to log on to the Borough Planning Website due to difficulties in setting up their new system, which involves references incorporating up to 7 digits and 5 letters. Despite everything, however, councillors never lose their touchingly optimistic impression that the Planning Authorities will fall over themselves to take their views seriously.
Other correspondence and information of all sorts comes pouring in through the letter-box or the internet, little of which can readily be assigned to the wheely-bin. Some examples in no particular order:
Minutes and Newsletter. There was a lively exchange of views about the publication of the Minutes. The Council has a legal obligation to make the Minutes available to the Public; although this obligation can be fulfilled by having a copy in the Village Shop or available on request, it was quickly realised that it would be a retrograde step if they were not also available on the Website. But the Council re-affirmed its decision to revert to the earlier routine of publishing a newsletter, rather than the Minutes, in the Parish Magazine for the following reasons among others:

1. The unedited Minutes made for very dry reading, giving the impression of tedious and long-drawn-out discussions
2. The above impression tended to discourage public interest and participation.
3. A Newsletter provided an opportunity to circulate a great deal of information available to the Council but not directly to the public.
4. Attention could be drawn to matters requiring a public response, such as the current consultations about future housing development.
5. It would be desirable to eliminate an impression of excessive solemnity from the Council’s business.

Abandoned car. The abandoned car which mysteriously appeared at the top of the Coach Road has almost as mysteriously vanished.
Local Police. Our local “bobby” is PC Bill Williams, stationed at Weyhill. As Mike Butt has pointed out in his Neighbourhood Watch newsletter, for people phoning on the 0845 number asking for the Andover Control Room works wonders.
Parochial Church Council. This body of hard-working villagers is concerned with the affairs of the Parish Church, and not with the more worldly activities of the Parish Council, whose business is with the civil parish as an organ of local government, serving largely as an irritant to larger bodies at Borough and County level. The two Councils are often confused, and The Vicar of Dibley only adds to the confusion.
Election of Borough Councillor. As the vacancy for a Councillor for Anna Ward is being contested, electors are urged to turn out and vote on November 3rd. It is of great importance to the village that Councillor Arthur Peters should be joined by someone equally dedicated to our interests.

Age Discrimination Draft Regulations. These implement the European Employment Directive and come into force on 1 October 2006, by which time we will all be a year older. The regulations will ban all discrimination in terms of recruitment, promotion and training, ban retirement ages below 65 and remove the upper limit for unfair dismissal and redundancy rights. So it might be harder to sack the Clerk.

From Publications

Hampshire Now, the County Council’s own trumpet, asserts that Hampshire is England’s richest county – in terms of the number of species of wildlife, and tells us that under the new Environmental Stewardship Scheme, farmers are no longer to be paid for growing crops, but for conserving wildlife, protecting water and soil quality, improving the landscape and protecting historic remains. So they won’t have time for farming anyway.

Hampshire Now Special and Where shall we live? These two publications from the County Council are being widely distributed for public consultation about the long-term plans of DoDPM (Mr. John Prescott’s Department) and SEERA (the Regional Assembly for South-East England), looking ahead to 2012 and beyond. These bodies have the power to impose enormous numbers of houses on various areas of Hampshire. Most of the proposals, unless Test Valley Borough push for a massive expansion of Andover, pose a minimal threat to our village, but your Council, with Abbotts Ann Action, are working on a considered response, arguing against anything more than a modest expansion of Andover, as the town’s educational, medical and employment resources, among others, are already over-stretched, with obvious effects on the area.

The Clerk is working on definitions of professionalism. Dismissing the more frivolous ones (A professional is a man who can do his job when he doesn’t feel like it; an amateur is one who can’t do his job when he does feel like it, or Amateurs built the Ark; professionals built the Titanic), the Editor seems to come down to two competences: (a) knowing: on the rare occasions when professionals don’t know everything, they need to know a man who does; (b) thinking: professionals need to think of everything that has to be done and ensure that it is done, preferably by someone else.

The HAPTC Bulletin introduces the new Director, Stephen Lugg, an energetic person who climbs mountains, grows prize daffodils, supports a Somerset football team lives in Dorset and works in Winchester. With impeccable professionalism he sends a weekly e-mail full of knowledge and food for thought. Your Council plans to invite him soon to a meeting, to look, talk and listen.
The Bulletin tells us that the Parish of Ashford Hill with Headley has two part-time litter-pickers, funded by Basingstoke and Deane B.C., whom the Clerk finds useful in reporting burnt-out cars, dead animals etc. An attractive job-prospect?
Useful to know, in the absence of professional litter-pickers, that the Environment Agency urges members of the public to call their hotline (0800 807060) if they observe such problems as fly-tipping or water pollution (evidence of which may be dead or “distressed” fish); they do not mention abandoned cars.

Clerks and Council Direct deals in its early pages with all sorts of News of the World type incidents of police having to remove a Chairman bodily from a meeting, of unprintable slanging matches, and in one case a mass walk-out of Councillors and Clerk, leaving behind a solitary and bewildered Councillor, who had probably forgotten to switch on his hearing aid.

Inside, however, there is some serious information about the impact of recent legislation; in particular, the new Licensing Act means that a Village Hall can host up to 12 functions with a paying bar per year under the confusingly-named TEN (Temporary Events Notice) regulations; otherwise it may have to become licensed premises, with all the consequent complications. One of these would ban the Parish Council from the Jubilee Room, as meetings are forbidden on licensed premises, presumably to forestall unseemly incidents like those above.
The centre spread is an intimidating article, headed Crime, Disorder and Chewing-gum, summarising the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005. This well-intentioned Act needs much testing and further study, but it seems to cover all sorts of anti-social nuisances from brawling to stray dogs, abandoned shopping trolleys, audible burglar alarms and empty Coca-cola cans; it also seems to empower an “Authorised Officer” (don’t all volunteer at once) to impose on-the-spot penalties e.g. for graffiti, fly-posting or dog-offences. It carefully defines “litter” as including the discarded ends of cigarettes, cigars and like products (lollipop sticks?), chewing gum and the remains of other products designed for chewing (Plug tobacco? Finger nails?). Furthermore, “Land” on which litter may not be dropped is subject to a series of definitions and exclusions; the latter include “land which is covered but open on at least one side” and “relevant land of a designated undertaker or educational establishment”. So although the application of this Act is likely to increase the sale of aspirin, it is a serious attempt to make all neighbourhoods more pleasant to live in.

And finally…
Action News, from Community Action Hampshire, mentions a commendable able new Website, with the rather misleading title; this has no connection with the Itchen or the Test, but stands for Family Information Service, Hampshire and is aimed at parents, carers and young people.
The Bulletin also contains this apparently significant announcement:
The Home Office has awarded £1.2million under the ChangeUp programme, to bring about a step-change in the ICT capacity and capability of the VCOs. The net:gain service aims to train VCOs in the strategic use of ICT through a programme of face-to-face and on-line support, developed by a consortium led by charity ruralnet/uk in collaboration with Ufi, Foyer Federation and Funding Matters.
All VCOs take careful note.

Council Meeting 6 October 2005

Matters discussed included:

Arising from Previous Meeting
Ruts on the Sports Field. Gravity Engineering, the constructors of the admirable Skateboard Park, left its mark on the Sports Field in the form of prominent ruts. Mrs. Wilkins and Mr Sims have made several appointments to meet a representative of the firm, with a view to rectifying the damage, but no-one has turned up, despite the fact that the Council is retaining over £2,000 from their bill. Efforts are to continue.
Andover Ambulance Station. Mr Curtis had posed a list of questions, which were forwarded to Sir George Young, who has now received a full response to each question. As Sir George is actively pursuing the matter in the name of the whole constituency, the Council considered that it should leave further action to him.

Dwelling adjacent to Rosebank, Red Rice Road. Cllr Arthur Peters reported that this application had been refused on the grounds that the size and style of the building would have an adverse effect on the Conservation Area nearby; the Highway Authority had not considered that access would cause problems.
Proposed new 2-bedroom dwelling adjoining 85 Little Ann. After discussion it was resolved to record an objection on the grounds that:
a) The insertion of a dwelling would give a cramped impression in its location.
b) New access and vehicular movement would cause a traffic hazard.
c) There would be a negative impact on the nearby Conservation Area.
d) Danger of water pollution from building so close to the Pill Hill Brook.
For further details of applications and decisions please see the Appendix.
Consultations on Future Housing Development Plans. The Council, with advice from Dr. John Moon, considered the options outlined in HCC’s documents Hampshire Now and Where shall we live? The Council’s preferred option was for the development of the Ministry of Defence property at Whitehill/Bordon as a “brownfield” site. It was also noted that further large-scale development of Andover, apart from infrastructure problems, would reinforce its status as a low-growth, low-wage area. The threat to the village of the development of Little Park would only arise if a high-growth option for Andover were chosen. Dr. Moon was asked in consultation with Ray Lucas and Prof. Gibson, to draft an appropriate response.
Monxton Conservation Area Review. The Council had received details of this because part of the area lies within the boundaries of Abbotts Ann Parish. The proposals included the removal of some of this land from the Conservation Area. The Chairman undertook to visit the exhibition at Monxton and to make appropriate comments.
Abbotts Ann Conservation Area Review – update. Prof. Gibson summarised recent proceedings. Following the Parish Council’s submission to the Conservation Area Panel in August, he and the Chairman had attended a meeting of the TVBC Overview and Scrutiny Committee, at which the Parish’s concerns were to be discussed The main issue was that the Parish had effectively been denied consultation over the Planning Officers’ decision to make substantial alterations to the boundaries. The TVBC Committee accepted that the process required revision, and passed recommendations to this effect to the Executive. However, the Committee refused to re-open the consultation process in this case, and denied our delegation any further chance to rebut the many inaccuracies in the Officers’ arguments. The result of this flawed process is a Conservation Area which lacks the backing of the local community, excludes areas which should, in the opinion of the Council, certainly be included, and includes many anomalous buildings. A further result is a drastic erosion of confidence in the democratic process, in which the appointed officials should facilitate, not control or frustrate, the wishes of the elected representatives; further, severe damage has been caused to what should be a friendly and co-operative relationship between village and borough. Prof Gibson will be publishing a fuller account of the proceedings on the website, which will show the extent to which your Council has fought for your rights.
Clerk’s Report
The Clerk had attended a very useful course on Risk Management, and the Freedom of Information Act. The Parish guidelines on the latter can be found in the Parish Book in the Village Shop, or can be obtained from the Clerk. He is booked on another seminar about safety in Burial Grounds, which is of particular interest as the Parish Council is about to take over responsibility from the Parochial Church Council for the closed portion of the Churchyard. A demonstration is promised of a high-tech “Topple Tester”; it is hoped that this will not impose a regimented appearance on the old churchyard.

To avoid delays in authorising the installation of new gravestones, the Clerk was authorised to give the go-ahead to applications without applying to the full Council, unless the established guidelines were being disregarded.

Parish Organisations
Sports Field. Mrs. Wilkins promised a bonfire on November 5th.
Fete Committee. Mr. Whyte reported that the recent Fete had been a great success; it had been decided to revert to the previous custom of distributing the takings between the stall-holders. The Council unanimously congratulated the Fete Committee and thanked the Committee and participants for their hard work.
Website. The Webmaster had sent a summary of the high number of visits to the website over the previous month, indicating that this valuable facility was well-used. The Council’s Minutes came second to the WI in the number of “hits” scored, with Village History third. The Council expressed unanimous appreciation of the great value of this facility to the community, and gratitude for the hard work put in by Mr. Saunders.
On the suggestion of Mr. Whyte, in view of the Website’s important contribution to the community, not least in the publication of the Council’s Agenda, Minutes and Newsletter, it was resolved to contribute a sum, similar to that paid annually to the Parish Magazine, towards the running costs of the Website.

Most items of Correspondence have been covered under other headings.
Highways. The Highway Authority has promised to renew the white lines on the corners of Little Ann, Church Road and Manor Road. Two enormous lorries were observed in the area, but the only result of their labours so far has been the appearance of some brilliant white triangles at three junctions. Other Highway matters raised concerned a) the restriction of the width of the roadway opposite Rectory Cottage by growth at the bottom of the largest lime tree known to man, b) the restriction at the junction of Little Ann with Church Road caused by woody growth at the end of the oldest house in the village and c) the fact that the bollards on the new traffic-calming installation by the Jubilee Oak, downhill from the Eagle, are worryingly invisible at night. The Clerk, as a true professional, was left to think of ways to get someone else to do something.

The next meeting of the Parish Council will be held in the Jubilee Room of the War Memorial Hall, not on the first Thursday of the month, but at 7 p.m. on Thursday November 10th. Members of the public are welcome to attend. Any suggested items for the Agenda should reach the Clerk not less than 7 days in advance of the meeting.

Adrian Stokes, Clerk