Chairman’s Report 2007
Birdham Parish Council
Chairman’s Report to the Annual Parish Meeting
April 16th 2007
In the past year the Council has met eleven times. I would like to repeat my thanks of previous years to all members of the Council and to the Clerk for their attendance at meetings and discussions on behalf of the Council as well as their valuable advice in the monthly Council meetings and in reading and reporting on documents where a view on behalf of the village was asked for. We continue to seek ways to cut down on the number of outside consultative meetings that we are asked to attend but the Parish is at present one of the most consistently represented at those meetings.
The accounts for our major project – the refurbishment of the Village Hall - have now all come in and we were gratified to see that the building costs were only 1.8% over budget. This has been more than met by a generous grant from Chichester District Council and I would like to record our thanks to the Community Grants Committee for that. The Parish Council Trustees on the Village Hall Trust are satisfied that the Village Hall is being run in an efficient and business-like way. The Parish Clerk has had to shoulder a more onerous burden as Responsible Financial Officer than usual and our thanks are due to her for that.
We were also glad that, by careful management, we were able not to increase the Birdham precept on the Council Tax for 2007/8.
The careful examination of planning applications continues to be a major concern. Our approach to planning applications is that all applicants must be seen to be treated equally and we shall continue to involve the Enforcement Officers where we believe that applicants have not complied with the terms of their permission or have not applied for permission when they should have done so. The new Local Development Framework is taking a more positive role in planning, even though it is still subject to an Inspector’s report. Under the new framework there should be no greenfield development on Birdham until 2024 and between now and 2018 we have to find room within the present Built-Up Area of the village for 50 to 70 more dwellings. This is much in line with your Council’s realistic view of the situation. It does not mean that we shall be any less vigilant over applications however and the unanimous refusal by the Development Control Committee of the applications at Longmeadow and at Tate House – in line with your Council’s view – underlines this. We accept that development will take place, and possibly on these sites, but we are not prepared to accept proposals which we think are unreasonable.
One of the more curious applications was to continue the rebuilding of Birdham Yacht Club, which had been halted in 1978.
Our concerns to conserve and enhance the local environment are expressed not only through our responses to planning applications but particularly in the last year through our concern for the tree stock of the Parish, where we have received valuable help and advice from our Tree Wardens. They also planted five trees, which came as a gift, on the Playing Field. We were not convinced as to the effectiveness of a wind turbine to create electricity for the village hall but are grateful to the Espace project for funding the expert report. We continue to be concerned about surface water drainage in the Parish.
We continue to press for lower speed limits in the village roads. The Headmaster of the Primary School asked for our support for a plan to build new pavements on some rural roads and these matters are still under discussion.
The area around Chaffer Lane and Florence Close, and part of Crooked Lane and Longmeadow Gardens, continues to give concern because of vandalism and anti-social behaviour by a small group of young people, although for most of the year this has not been a problem. We continue to urge residents to report incidents to the police so that they are logged and any resultant action noted.
We supported the “Save St Richard’s” campaign.
We responded to the Pagham to East Head coastal defence paper from the Environment Agency and the District Council. In our view a careful balance has to be struck between the defence of people’s homes, livelihoods and recreation and the increasing sums which will be necessary from the taxpayers to meet the cost especially where the benefits (not in cash alone) are not proportionate.
Having completed our four year cycle, this will be the last meeting of this Council. I would like to thank the village for its support for this Council over the past year. There will not be an election for the Parish Council on May 3rd – thus preserving what appears to be a 112 year old tradition in the village and simultaneously saving the Parish a considerable sum of money. This has been a most hard-working and harmonious Council and I would like to mention in particular the work and good fellowship of those who will be standing down. Alan Drew, Martin Kyte and Emma Baillieu have all contributed greatly, as I said at the beginning of this report, and we shall miss them. But it would be wrong of me not to record the special thanks of the Council to Jan Rees who has represented the Council admirably on many occasions and been a Vice Chair for a number of years on whose advice, common sense and hard work I could always rely.
16th April 2007