A small, dusty suitcase had been lurking on the top shelf of a cupboard at Ash Barn for 22 years. At the Council Meeting on 1st September, the “new” Clerk placed it on the Jubilee Room table to cries of recognition – “Arthur’s case!” When this Clerk first took office in 1982, the mantle of Arthur Lacey rested lightly on his shoulders, because virtually the entire filing and accounting system of the Parish Council was contained in that little suitcase. The Council met every other month, and the Minutes rarely exceeded three pages. A glance at the Minute Book of those days will show much that has remained unchanged; for instance the Meetings were attended by, among others, Cllrs. Bernard Griffiths and Brian Sims, with Penny Wilkins representing the Press. During the next year or two there are early signs of technology creeping in, with the typewriter giving way to a primitive word-processing program worked on an Acorn (BBC B) computer borrowed from a school, with the memory of a goldfish, laboriously fed by a domestic cassette recorder, before Bill Gates was out of short trousers. Now, with a glut of Government regulations, a torrent of technology, a plethora of planning and an overflow of organisations with initials like HAPTC, TVAPC, SLCC, LHI, NALC and the totally mysterious e.VOLve, Arthur’s case only just contains the paperwork (let alone the material hiding in hard discs or floppies) for one meeting; the records of the last few years are filling two enormous cupboards in the Jubilee Room to bursting point.
So there is an increasing danger to Councillors, and indeed Parishioners, of information overload, and the Clerk’s briefing on taking office, was to act as a “filter,” to which he quickly learnt to add the task of “filleter.” So in advance of the Meeting on 1st September, he produced Digests of Correspondence and Information received in the previous two months. Among matters of interest or importance to the village were:
*Sarson Lane. The closure of the gap on the A303 with Sarson Lane is now permanent.
*Telephone kiosk. BT will shortly remove the coin-box from the kiosk in Duck Street. All other functions will remain, including emergency, operator-controlled, reverse charge, credit card and chargecard calls. It is believed that the kiosk itself is a listed building.
*Gypsies. The County Council now has a Gypsy and Travellers Liaison Officer, who can advise if unexpected visitors arrive.
*Test Valley Website. This has been given a makeover. Planning Applications can be viewed by using the Planning button on the left of the home page.
*Hampshire Assn. of Parish and Town Councils (HAPTC). The Annual Report contains a long discourse about “Quality Councils”, with the encouraging assurance that qualifying involves the Clerk in little more than extracting stuff “from the filing cabinet”. They want to see “quality clerks and competent councils, working democratically in their community [today’s ubiquitous buzz-word], partnership with others [who?] and ethically looking beyond its own boundaries [how far?]. So now we know. And perhaps we should invest in a filing cabinet.
*Community Pubs. CAMRA, Campaign for Real Ale, has launched a new charity, The Community [that word again] Pubs Foundation, which aims to stem the flood of pub closures by offering support (sic) to those who are fighting for the survival of their local.
*Clerks’ Bursary Fund. The Clerk was disappointed to find that this, though funded by NALC and DEFRA [don’t bother], was not for the support of impecunious clerks but to enable impecunious parishes to send their clerks on courses to make them even better at their jobs. These are not junkets, but austere affairs, where participants enjoy nothing more luxurious than tea and biscuits.
*And Finally… Village Design Statements. The letter from TVBC about this was the very first to arrive through the letter-box, threatening to spoil the Clerkly breakfast even before he had started work. The second paragraph of two A4 sheets reads:
Following commencement of Part 2 Local Development of the Act in September 2004, no new documents including a VDS can be made SPG [Supplementary Planning Guidance]. The Council has, however, ‘saved’ all the existing adopted VDSs so that their SPG status can be retained. These VDSs are included in the list of retained SPG set out in Appendix 4 of the Council’s Local Development Scheme (LDS) as ‘saved’ guidance on the basis of them supporting Borough Local Plan policy D1.1. It is expected that they will continue to be ‘saved’ under the equivalent design policies of the Borough Local Plan Review to 2011, once that is adopted during 2006.
31 lines, and 31 minutes of concentrated study further on, could be found the consoling message that: The status of your VDS as ‘saved’ SPG is unaffected for the foreseeable future.
And it seems that even for less privileged parishes: The changes will only have effect at such time as the VDS is revised or the Council’s LDF fully comes into effect. The latter is not expected to occur until towards the end of the decade.
So after all we can heave a sigh of relief and return to supporting CAMRA in their charitable activities.
So, armed with this information, and about twice as much again, the Parish Council met on 1st September with a full Agenda and nearly full attendance. Discussions included:
Arising from previous meeting.
Illegal use of mini-motorcycles. Since putting up “Walkers Only” notices, Mr. Downey reported that no further problems had so far arisen on The Drove, which is a designated footpath.
Proposed closure of Andover Ambulance Station. Mr. P. Curtis had asked the Council to register its disquiet over the proposals; the Clerk had written to Sir George Young, who is actively pursuing the matter, and to the Hampshire Ambulance Trust, who had replied at length with full details of their proposals. Mr. Curtis addressed the Meeting, expressing his grave doubts about the Trust’s assurances that the level of service and speed of response would be unaffected, and added that, because crews would spend more time on the road and away from a base, staff welfare would suffer, and fuel costs would rise; if the nearest station was to be at Dummer, near Basingstoke, service was likely to suffer through lack of local knowledge and traffic problems on the M3 and A303. Councillors felt, however, that the problem should be pursued at Borough, Constituency and County level, but undertook to apply such pressure as it could to representatives at these levels
Cllr Townsend reported that the plans to extend Rivermead had been withdrawn pending review of the provision of hard-standing for cars.
Notification was recorded of “No Objection” to Applications listed in Appendix A attached. There is no Appendix B attached.
Replacement Dwelling at 9 Farm Road, Little Park. The Council recorded an Objection on the grounds that the scale of the design was (a) out of keeping with other dwellings in the locality and (b) proposed, in reality, a 2-storey building
New Dwelling adjacent to Rosebank, Red Rice Road. The Council recorded an Objection on the grounds that (a) the new access would introduce a severe traffic hazard, and (b) the design represented a significant departure from that in the original application, particularly in that two storeys were now included.
Clerk’s Report. Much of the Clerk’s Report concerned administrative matters, which included something of a retreat from the Hi Tech approach of his predecessors (who had long since lost their reluctance to switch on a computer) in favour of the reliability, low power consumption and user-friendliness of pen and paper. However, he paid tribute to his immediate predecessors, who had done so much to digest the vast amount of Legislation and Regulation which had showered down on Parish Councils in recent years, and had made them generally accessible to the public, not to mention future Clerks who could remember times before the arrival of the Nanny State and the circumlocutory directives of Mr. John Prescott’s Department. The latter’s latest circular is all about “Sustainable Communities” [that word again], but one hesitates to ask Mr. Prescott what he means.
The Minutes will no longer be published in the Parish Magazine, but will be available in the Village Shop or on request.
He gave notice that there would be times when he would not be available on the first Thursday of every month, so on perhaps two occasions per year a meeting would have to be on another day.
Finally, he reported receipt of a periodical entitled The Clerk, which fell open at a page detailing an award-winning gravestone with a GPS satellite link, enabling communication with a burial plot via a mobile phone. Is there no escape, even in the next world?
Parish Organisations. The only vocal organisation this time was Neighbourhood Watch, reminding the Parish that a Mobile Police Unit would be visiting the village regularly, on the last Thursday of the month between 7.00 and 8.00 p.m., parking either at the Village Shop or the War Memorial Hall.
Attention was drawn to the fact that callers telephoning the police on the 0845 number found themselves held for some time in a queue, which was likely to give suspicious characters plenty of time to make their excuses and leave.
The Police were reported to be aware of the abandoned car, complete with current licence and registration documents, but with a smashed windscreen, lurking at the top of the Coach Road; but it does not seem to be within their powers to have it removed.
Correspondence (heavily edited). Two complaints appear to have been satisfactorily resolved by correspondence.
1. A Cattle Lane resident commented on the use of Cattle Lane by heavy lorries heading for the watercress beds, with consequent disturbance and damage to verges. A letter to the CEO of Vitacress at St. Mary Bourne had received a courteous reply, explaining that access from the Monxton Road was subject to a restriction order because of a weak bridge at DLO Andover; he had applied for exemption, but meanwhile had instructed his transport manager to use smaller vehicles and to time their journeys so as to minimise inconvenience.
2. A Manor Close resident had asked Millway Builders, working at the Old Manor, to preserve everyone’s sanity by silencing the constant bleeping of dumper-trucks in reverse gear. As they are designed back-to-front, they seem to spend all their time going backwards anyway. As a result a special gadget has been fitted, and Church Road is now a bleep-free zone. The Council will be urging the acquisition of a similar gadget by other contractors. Is Mr.Li listening?
Highways. It had been noticed that the bollards on the corner by Dingwall had been knocked down within a week or two of their installation. (Incidentally, a mention of Dingwall reminds the writer that a Tree Application has been lodged involving the removal of 23 trees. Is this a record?)
Grass verges in various areas were becoming very unkempt, and weeds growing out of the kerbstones along Red Rice Road were also letting the village down. Though strictly the responsibility of the County, little had ever been achieved in the past except by constant nagging. The Council authorised one more nag, after which it might consider shouldering the responsibility itself.
White lines on village roads had become almost invisible, and residents’ nerves have been under ever-increasing stress as vehicles keep straying across the centre line on corners. Clerks have learnt from experience that writing about two subjects in the same letter seldom achieves an answer to both, so this will be the subject of a second, separate nag.
Meetings. The next Meeting will be held on 6th October at 7.00 p.m. in the Jubilee Room of the War Memorial Hall. The November Meeting will be held on the second Thursday, the 10th. Items for inclusion in the Agenda should reach the Clerk at least 7 days beforehand.
Minutes. Full Minutes of all meetings are available in the Village Shop and, by request, from the Clerk.
Clerk to the Parish Council