Report from Councillor Alan Chantler, Assistant Cabinet Member for Planning and Rural Affairs
The new Unitary Authority is still only 9 months old and is still settling in. A lot has been achieved in establishing a thriving authority area but there is still a lot to do. The government’s Structural Changes Order included an instruction that there should be ‘harmonisation’ across the whole area of West Northamptonshire. As you can imagine the three (or four) sovereign councils of yesteryear each had their own way of doing things so this harmonisation process is far from simple.
One outstanding example of differences is the process of handling planning applications. Each of the former councils had their own procedures and used separate (and different) IT systems. We aim, of course, to continue to process all planning applications systematically whilst also deciding on a new approach to be used across WNC. This will involve obtaining a new IT system. This gives us the opportunity to design a system which is simple to use and will involve allowing the public to access more information on line, including observations from consultees and the public. It will also facilitate staff flexibility, allowing staff resources to be redeployed as needed when the number of applications in a certain part of WNC’s area would otherwise be overwhelming. All of this takes time to organise and this has to be done alongside the continuation of providing an adequate service to existing applicants.
Another area of disparity across former councils includes finance. Part of the effect of harmonisation means that all residents should be paying the same amount of Council Tax and this has inevitably led to some significant changes across WNC. Some former council areas may find that their Council Tax increases more than others. This is inevitable and entirely due to the government’s instructions to harmonise.
The complexity of Local Government finance has made the process of drawing up a budget for the next financial year for this new authority quite challenging. This has led to some recently publicised misunderstandings concerning the state of our finances. These should all be clarified very soon.
WNC is working closely with the Environment Agency, Severn Trent Water and the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust in an attempt to gain a full understanding of the flooding problems in Ye3lvertoft and to propose suitable action to mitigate the effects.
Remember that we are here to serve you and should you seek clarification or guidance on any local matters please get in touch.
Eur Ing Councillor Alan Chantler CEng FBCS CITP
Cllr Julie Cottle Report
KGV Field and Allotment Field
Councillor Alan Bustin-Mulkern has joined the KGV Working group. The Working Group met on 19th January and agreed and finalised the brief and the initial feasibility proposal which we will take to the Fields in Trust once agreed by Parish Council.
We established that Parish Council are the legal owners of the ditch/bridleway boundary of the Allotment Field also the opposite boundary hedge/fence.
Having looked at the Fields in Trust website we all agreed that although their approval for this proposal was not necessary, we would forward our plans and get confirmation in writing of their approval. We will also be checking with WNC Planning Department to see if planning approval would be required.
When deciding on this proposal we firstly considered the results of the village survey taken last year. Another consideration was the Parish Councils decision in 2019 to address Climate Change. Along with the recent findings by the Environment Agency and The Wildlife Trust regarding Natural Flood Management (NFM) in this area, we have included areas where we hold back storm water to demonstrate the techniques of NFM. This will provide opportunities to work with both residents who have an interest in the environment and the children at the village school.
This with the added areas of hedges, wildflowers and trees, picnic benches and bench seats we believe this provides everything the village has requested but leaving it natural.
Satisfying both dog owners and non-dog owners was a challenge, but the use of both fields allows for a recreational area for families and another space for exercising dogs on and off the lead.
Recent contact with West Northants Council has given us a clearer picture about potential funding to resolve flooding problems in Yelvertoft.
We now understand that the Environment Agency (via the Wildlife Trust) and West Northants Council are undertaking work which involves meeting with landowners to discuss the opportunity to implement flood alleviation measures including predominantly natural flood management (NFM) in the catchment around Yelvertoft.
Central Government is again making available substantial funds via the ‘Grant Aid Scheme.’ WNC need to submit a bid to the Government for funding this summer based on the evidence gathered by the Environment Agency and Wildlife Trust.
We as a Parish Council need, as a matter of urgency, to pursue this to ensure we can address Yelvertoft’s flooding problems.
I am in the process of producing a booklet/information on the footpaths and bridleways around Yelvertoft. I will, over the next few weeks, walk, measure and time various walks ranging in distance from two miles to approximately eight miles. My intention is to promote our beautiful countryside and the well-being of our residents. I then plan to organise and lead monthly group walks.
Mains water leak in Church Walk
A resident reported a water leak in Church Walk which had made the footpath impassable. I carried out a site visit and establish it was coming from land at the back of the Manor. I reported it to Anglian Water, and they have attended are now on the case.
I have been in regular contact with the Operations Manager of CRT regarding the repair of the canal. It has been agreed that CRT liaise with ‘Friends of the Bridleway’ regarding making good the damage caused to the bridleway during the work.
I am also concerned about the amount of rubbish left by the contractor at the side of the bridleway and will continue to speak to CRT. A large amount of clay has been left there and covered with a large tarpaulin. The land is owned by a local farmer.
I would like to thank Sylvanna Sandho for her hard work with organising the installation and decorating the Christmas tree again. Unfortunately, Sylvanna does not feel able to commit herself again next Christmas. I would like to express my thanks to Sylvanna for instigating this idea in 2020 and I hope we can continue this next year.
Cllr Chris Bolton Report
- Nothing to note
- Potholes – as always, any potholes or highway issues needs to be reported via Fix My Street
- Crick Road
- Railings – Railings seem secure but no work has been carried out; confirmed by Highways that this will be reviewed in the new budget year (April ’22)
- The brook at the bottom of Crick Road has been cleared
- Ward’s Lane – continuing to liaise with Highways and resident
- No further update on build. The timescale remains:
– Site preparation October ’22; Solar panel build – Jan ’23; Connection to Grid -June ’23
- Community Fund – draft agreement received. This is to be discussed and agreed by the PC
Housing development – Hillmorton Lane
- Councillor Bolton to main point of contact for development
– planning application has been submitted (January)
– build schedule – onsite by summer with a build time of 12-18 months
– Car charge points – Whiterock liaising with WNC on this
- Contact made with Gigaclear regarding connectivity
Speed Sign Project
- All elements for this project have been completed:
– Section 50 application completed and approved (Clerk/Councillor Bolton)
– Funding application completed and approved – full funding given (Clerk/Councillor Bolton)
– Supplier (Traffic Technology) appointed; quote confirmed (Clerk)
- Installation and Training – carried out on Friday 4th February (Clerk/Councillors Bolton and Nicholls)
Two memorial headstone applications have been processed, and two burials have taken place. One burial had a larger coffin and the grave digger and maintenance person have advised that this may cause issues with burials in the adjacent graves and possible collapse. I am liaising with both to seek solutions,should the two adjacent graves, which are reserved, be needed in the near future. Shoring is not possible as that adds another 12” to the plot and will encroach on adjacent plots. I have made a note on the relevant adjacent grave records and we may need to revisit this once the graves are required.
Quotes have been requested from contractors to carry out the extension works to the cemetery path and to the cremated remains plaque area. The volunteer who helps maintain the cemetery believes there may be some issues with drainage pipes in the vicinity of those two areas so a site visit with the volunteer, the preferred contractor, and the Burial Officer will be arranged.
Ongoing maintenance of footpaths/alleys is going well and no resident complaints have been received since contractor asked to keep them clear. The police have asked that our 30mph signs are cleaned and the contractor has done that, and out other signs. It is Highways responsibility to keep the road signs but they never respond to our requests, or take far too long to action.
As requested, volunteers have been contacted regarding grass mowing/the PC tractor. Two residents are willing to maintain the PC tractor and will continue to cut the grass that the previous volunteer did such as the KGV Field and the spare allotment field. We will continue to reimburse diesel costs for any PC land that is mowed.
A volunteer has agreed to continue emptying the dog bin on the Crick bridleway, however, he cannot commit to do it weekly as he goes away a lot. I advertised to residents for more volunteers and a resident has very kindly agreed to empty the bins every week and is liaising with Roy.
The grass cutting contract has been extended for the 2022 season with Norse as agreed by Council.
The small claims court application has been placed against the previous contractor who is holding our signs. He has texted to say he will drop the signs off to me but nothing received so far. Chasing.
February issue is being drafted. I thought it best to wait until after this meeting so we can include any updates and it was quiet over the Christmas period.
I have completed and passed my GDPR course.
Although not through Council, I have updated my HR qualifications and just passed my CIPD Level 5. There was quite a bit of content relevant to my Clerk role – HR governance, creation and review of HR policies such as the Employee Handbook and Disciplinary Procedures, people management skills, business planning, strategic management, and report writing.
I have enrolled onto the finance FiLCA course and will complete that after this meeting as I cannot have access to the course until the invoice has been paid.
I have attended a free webinar ‘Bullying and Code of Conduct’ and have booked onto another free webinar ‘Cemetery Management’ in February.
I attended onsite training on the new VAS on 4th February with Cllr Bolton and Cllr Nicholls.
I met with the police in January onsite as they wanted to reassess the speedwatch locations and update us on the new procedures. Training will now be online and we have the camera for one month and do not need to share it with an adjacent village any longer. We can choose when to carry out speedwatch during that month. I am currently liaising with the Speedwatch volunteers to draft a programme.
I am working on making all the cemetery correspondence electronic. Scanning it all is taking a lot of time but it will be a worthwhile exercise and add to efficiency in the future. Cloud back up has been improved and regular back ups take place still. Once done, I intend to scan everything so we can reduce paper use and have everything stored electronically.