Chairman's Report April 2005
Chairman's Report to the Annual Parish Meeting
April 18th 2005
In the past year the Council has met eleven times. My thanks are due 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. The Council welcomes the opportunity to comment on matters which will affect the village but the volume of consultative documents is an increasing burden to small Councils like ours, and to their clerks. We are actively seeking ways of maintaining the consultation without increasing the number of meetings and documents, especially where several of these cover much of the same ground.
The Village Hall continues to take up a lot of time and energy. As I said in my Report last year, when the real costs became clear we had to make some difficult decisions and many of the users of the Hall were disappointed that we could not satisfy all their demands even though the projected cost had risen again. Graham Perkins retired as our architect in December and the project is now being carried forward by the Seaman Partnership, which is based in Birdham. We are now at the point where the final plans have been submitted for Building Regulations approval and we anticipate that the work will start in the summer and last for five months. The repair, refurbishing, re-ordering and extension of the Hall has led to a doubling of the Council Tax precept for Birdham in the last five years. I have made it clear to my fellow Trustees on the Village Hall Trust that the Parish Council cannot be expected to undertake expenditure on the Village Hall of this sort at the taxpayers' expense in the near future. A proper business plan must be drawn up to cover economic fees for the use of the Hall, a fund to meet annual refurbishment and repair, and a programme to extend the activities at the Hall to include the whole community.
The discussion of planning applications is undertaken by the Council with great care. The Council accepts that the village will continue to develop but is determined to ensure that the character of the village is not destroyed in the process. As I said last year, there is increasing pressure for development outside the Settlement Policy Area, which we have resisted. We have been disappointed by the failure of the Development Control Department at Chichester District Council to enforce planning permission decisions when we have supplied them with details of contraventions. On some matters there has been no action reported to us for more than six months (in some cases considerably more) and our patience is wearing thin as it is clear that developers are only too ready to take advantage of any perceived weakness. We have continued to encourage the economic activity of the village, especially where it might offer employment to local residents. There is now a number of thriving small businesses at Whitestone Farm, and the Birdham Farm site on the main road has been extensively refurbished for the same purpose. Extensions are also underway at the Chichester Yacht Club and at the Marina. Councillors have attended a number of briefings on the new planning procedures under the South East Regional Plan and the Local Development Framework.
The Council has made clear its concern at the repercussions of the West Sussex County Council and Highways Authority plan for the improvement of the A27. We were asked to approve the plan without any clear idea of what would be done to alleviate the problems on the Manhood, apart from moving the traffic jams around. The resurfacing of the A286 has been well received and consultations on further safety measures are under way. We have brought pressure where we can to support the Headmaster of Birdham Primary School in trying to alleviate safety problems on Crooked Lane at the beginning and end of school. The thoughtlessness of a few parents, who insist on parking on a blind bend without regard to the safety of themselves, their children or other road users, is a continuing source of exasperation. We also continue to take every opportunity to voice our concerns about the narrow section of Church Lane.
During the winter months there has been an upsurge in vandalism and anti-social behaviour in the village by a small group of young people, not all of whom live here. We are concerned that the lack of a visible police presence and a reluctance to use Acceptable Behaviour Orders and Anti-Social Behaviour Orders has led to little improvement in the situation. We continue to voice the community's concerns.