Chairman's Report April 2001
Chairman’s Report to the Annual Parish Meeting
April 9th 2001
In the past year the Council has met twelve times. At the Annual Meeting of the Council in May 2000, Mrs Rosie Fanshawe informed the Council of her resignation from the Chair and from the Council with immediate effect. The Council wishes to place on record its thanks to Mrs Fanshawe for the work that she did during her time on the Council and especially for the two years as its Chair. We were also sorry to lose Mrs Glenna Frost as our Clerk. Her place was taken by Mrs Nicky Harding who resigned later in the year for personal reasons and was succeeded by Mrs Saskia Heasman.
I would like to pay tribute to all the Councillors for their active involvement this year, especially in view of my inexperience. Councillor Loseby was the driving force behind the Village Millennium Day which attracted over three hundred people. Letters of appreciation were sent to those involved. Councillors Mrs Parks and Mrs Rees oversaw the production, presentation and sale of the Birdham 2000 mug, designed by Sam Bender. Mrs Rees, the Vice Chair, has been involved also with the Millennium video which we hope to have ready for sale during May and as the Council’s representative on the Manhood Mobility Service and the WSCC/Manhood Transport Forum. Councillor Meynell has chaired the Village Hall Building Working Group consisting of Councillors and users of the Hall; with the help of other Councillors, a questionnaire was sent out to all residents and elicited a good and supportive response. After much research by Councillor Mrs Rees, it was ascertained that the Scout Hut was held on a fifty-year lease from September 1965 from the Village Hall and this has resulted in the involvement of Scout Chairman, Dr Tamlyn, in the Working Group. Mr Meynell has also been involved in the negotiations to hang the Millennium collage in the Church, which we hope will happen soon. Councillor Mrs Woodruff represented us on the Coastal Forum, concerned with a coastal defence strategy, and was a participant in the planning seminar run by the Dutch research institute NIROV in March. Mrs Woodruff has also been responsible for overseeing the Village Playground. Councillor Mrs Farmer has taken forward plans for a bridge at the Playing Field to improve access and safety for children from Birdham Straight. All this has been in addition to their regular attendance at Council Meetings and their advice on matters before the Council.
We are also grateful to our paid employees, Mrs Geary, who keeps the Playing Field and the Play Area litter free, Mr Dover, who sees to grass cutting and hedge trimming on Council land, and our general handyman, Mr Talbot.
We have had problems with vandalism in the village this year. Damage to the bus shelter at Birdham Stores eventually cost the taxpayers over £1000 in repairs. At the Playground we had to remove the portable goalposts because of damage and repair the roundabout and the steps to the slide. Mud on the slide and on the climbing caves has also been a problem. We have built a path from the roadside to the gate in an attempt to lessen the amount of mud and give easier access for prams. Other acts of vandalism involved the village flagpole, a parked car in Church Lane and buildings at Birdham Pool. We have written to the police, questioning the style of policing in the village.
Under the guidance of the Environment Agency we have updated the maintenance schedule at the Village Pond to protect the vole population, ensure the removal of parasitic weed and attend to the trees.
Problems of speeding traffic have been brought to our attention on Birdham Straight, Westlands Lane and Crooked Lane and with West Sussex County Council we are actively seeking ways of addressing these problems. We have pressed WSCC to have all the street lights in the village working properly and to maintain a safe cycleway along Birdham Straight. Traffic delays continue to be a problem for residents.
Planning matters take up at least a fifth of our time at Council meetings and we have responded to the concerns of residents over matters of tree preservation, over- development of sensitive sites, mobile phone masts, destruction of hedges and inadequate parking space, while striving to maintain the character of the village. At some point in the future we would like to follow a number of other villages in the County in developing a Village Design Statement, as was suggested at the last Parish Meeting, but we feel that it would be too large an extra project at present. We are concerned about the proposals for National Park status for about 50% of the County since this may have repercussions on housing provision in the rest: planning would be taken away from the County Council and could lead to an expansion of villages outside the Park and atrophy of those within it.
During the winter, our other major concern has been drainage. There have been times when there has not only been some flooding but also the sewerage system has been overwhelmed by surface water and sewage has backed up in areas such as Church Lane, Redmoor and Pipers Mead. Surface drainage through ditches has been much neglected over the years but the Geography Department at Chichester High School of Boys will be carrying out a survey in April 2001 so that we have basic data for ourselves and the District Council (the drainage authority) on which to base decisions before next winter.
In setting the Birdham precept for the Council Tax for 2001/2002 we have been able to take advantage of accumulated funds to undertake increased expenditure with only a 2.8% rise in the precept itself. Apart from preliminary planning costs for the Village Hall project we have set aside funds to enable us, after discussion, to improve the Village Green, to provide a new climbing frame for the Playground, to improve our information to residents by new notice boards, to supplement WSCC measures for traffic calming and to replace some signs on local amenities and footpaths. We shall continue to maintain a contingency fund equivalent to about 70% of our precept.
The Council has vacancies for two members by co-option and we would be delighted to talk to any residents who feel that they could make a contribution. All our meetings are open to the public with an opportunity for you to have your say.