Minutes of Stewkley Annual Parish Meeting
8.00 pm Wednesday 5th May 2021, on Zoom.
This year, Parish Councillors hosted the meeting on behalf of the electors – by Zoom.
There were two spoken presentations from local groups. Other local groups have presented written reports which may be viewed on The Stewkley Parish Website.
Annual Parish Meeting.
1 Receive Apologies.
No apologies were received.
No proposals were received.
To receive reports followed by questions after each speaker:
a. Chairman of Stewkley Parish Council, Keith Higgins, gave a report which highlighted the success of SRGA in improving the play and toilet facilities at ‘The Rec.’
b. Jenny Wodey read out the highlights of the Wildlife Reserve report which reflected the range of wild plant species and the development of the habitat for wild animals.
Agree the date of the next meeting: to be confirmed.
Meeting closed at 8.43pm
Chair Report for the Annual Parish Meeting 5th May 2021
Following the cancellation of last year’s Annual Parish Meeting due to the pandemic, this report will cover the Parish Council’s activities and achievements for the past two years.
As a council, our tenure had already been extended from the elections due in 2019 to 2020 and was further extended until May 2021. So, a six year term! Two councillors stepped downduring 2020 , Paul Smith after 13 years on the council of which 4 years as Chair, and Chris Pragnell who was elected in 2015.
During September 2020 we were pleased to co-opt two new councillors, Andrew Arthur and Henry Hunt’ to restore the PC to its full complement of nine councillors. With the PC elections for this year being uncontested, I can also confirm that Jenny Wodey has not sought re-election after 14 years on the council, 3 of which as Chair, and Virgil Simeone has been elected to fill the vacant position. Our thanks to Paul, Chris and Jenny and a warm welcome to Virgil.
The Pandemic has clearly had a massive impact on our daily lives, more so for some than for others. But it is with pleasure that I can report on the contribution of the Parish Council in conjunction with the Churches and St Michael’s school and the many volunteers in the village who helped those less able to get out and about or in need of other support.
The PC also assisted with the PCS4Stewkley campaign to ensure all families with students at St Michael’s had devices to ease home-schooling. The village further demonstrated its community spirit with the well-supported turnouts for VE and VJ Days, the many displays for Thankful Harvest and the double Advent Calendar windows ( North & South).
At County level, the new Unitary Authority was created in April 2020 and after a year with legacy councillors from BCC & AVDC, except for Janet Blake who resigned before Unitary, we now wait for the results of the first election proper of 3 County Councillors to represent the Great Brickhill Ward.
The new county structure has already created Community Boards to replace the former Local Area Forum and the PC is actively contributing to two of the action groups, Roads and Highways and Community Transport. Unfortunately, the new authority has not yet achieved the desired improvements in the efficiency and overall performance of the former AVDC planning departments.
Nevertheless, planning matters represent a major part of a parish council’s time, whether considering individual residential applications, larger developments or agricultural projects. Back in 2019, the PC was trying to manage the consequences of the Red Brick Farm approval which, as we forecast at time, still unreasonably disrupt the community on too frequent a basis. The Cricketer’s Close development was largely completed around Christmas, the PC has adopted itsstreet lights and we await the applying of the final white linesaround the entrance.
The Dandara development off Soulbury Road, now called St Michael’s Park, eventually went through Reserved Matters and it was only the progress made with our Neighbourhood Plan which allowed Stewkley to successfully argue against more 5-bed houses. Work started in late March and the PC continues to work closely with the developers to optimise on relationships during the near two year construction phase. In parallel, we are involved in discussions on adopting the new street lighting and the future maintenance of the green spaces.We will also be involved over coming months in how best to invest the significant Section 106 funds committed by the developers to improve recreational facilities.
Details of another smaller development were released in April, this time for Wing Road East, a site allocated within the Neighbourhood Plan and designed very much with the NP policies in mind. The developers, Village Foundations, are determined to cooperate closely with the PC and residents to implement their scheme.
The Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, ably assisted by a specialist consultant, finally brought the draft plan to a pre submission stage, so-called Regulation 16, last Decemberfollowing many months of hard work and including a consultation phase including villagers. The PC will now follow it through the next stages, including the Independent Examiner, before it returns for the formal parish referendum.
The Parish Council owns and manages all the street lights in the village and the cost of maintenance and electricity supply has increased following the expiry of warranty on the LEDs installed just over 5 years ago The PC is actively seeking a better scheme to manage the repair of the current lights and essential replacement of some of the ageing columns and supports. This programme will extend to filling in dark spots within the village.
The Parish Council also owns and manages the StewkleyLawn Cemetery. As part of its responsibilities, it has been evaluating the need and feasibility to extend the burial ground. Initial investigations suggest it will be possible, though with some constraints, but the Council has agreed that no decision needs to be taken in the short term.
The quality of the road network around the county remains dire, but Stewkley did see major progress last summer with the long-awaited resurfacing scheme for High St North as far as Potash nursery and an unexpected though much appreciated(by most residents) resurfacing of Ivy lane. In the meantime,long stretches of Dunton Road and some of the side roads within the village remain in urgent need of repair, as do many of the footways.
Traffic volumes through the village have fluctuated with the lockdowns, but many properties are still impacted by the HGVs accessing Red Brick Farm, and the PC is repeatedly obliged to seek Planning Enforcement action against breaches of their conditions. Construction traffic for East West Rail will start later this year with most of the heavy vehicles fringing the northern edge, whilst we are encouraging Dandara to route their suppliers to avoid arriving through the village. Meanwhile, the PC Traffic Sub-committee has increased its activity against speeders, launching a trial “20’s plenty for Stewkley” campaign and using both the MVAS and SID devices randomly around the village to encourage better driver behaviour.
The Stewkley Enterprise Agency continues to maintain our verges under the Buckinghamshire Council Parish Devolution project, though the BC grant no longer fully covers the annual cost. But we appreciate the good value we get from the SEA’s service and the opportunities it provides to our young people. We have also re jigged the Linksman role to supply additional effort for specific tasks.
The work of the SEA adds to the wider contribution of many villagers, clubs and groups in making Stewkley repeatedly one of Bucks “Best Kept Villages”! Stewkley won the Defraine Cup in 2019 and, due to Covid, we still hold it, with the sign proudly displayed on the War Memorial Island. Credit to the BKV organiser for motivating everybody to sustain the tidiness of our village even when the judging is suspended.
Many activities have been put on hold during the past 14 months of the pandemic, but not everything. With funding secured from various sources with the support of the Parish council and their own fund-raising, the Recreation Ground Association has completed the project to expand and upgrade the childrens’ play area and to replace the public toilet nearby. Despite the lockdowns or indeed because of them, the open spaces of the recreation ground and the Wildlife Reserve beyond have been used and appreciated more than ever before. Our thanks go to the Stewkley Recreation Ground Association committee for their efforts, as well as to Alan Dickens for his continuing stewardship of the Wildlife Reserve. We have a report from him later.
Life in Stewkley would have been so different but for the dogged resistance of the residents of Stewkley and neighbouring villages against the then government’s plans to bury the village under a massive new London airport. The successful campaign celebrated the 50th anniversary of its victory just a few days ago on April 26th. In memory of two of the main actors in the campaign, the Parish Council has ensured that St Michael’s Park will have streets named Fennel Drive (after Sir Desmond Fennell) and Chappell Way (after Bill Chappell). And just outside Stewkley, under a 99-year lease signed with the Parish Council in 2014, volunteers are still caring for the Airport Spinney and its Monument erected to mark our escape half a century ago.
This is now the final meeting of the six year term of the current council. So I would like to thank all the councillors for their contributions to the work of the PC. They are volunteers like so many of the organisers of clubs and village groups whose reports have been submitted to the PC and which will be published on the PC website in due course.
My personal thanks to Gill as vice-chair and to Rob for his support as Clerk. And on behalf of the council, thanks and best wishes to Jenny Wodey as she steps down.
Stewkley Towns and Poor Lands Charity
Annual report for 2020 from the treasurer
Like a great many other organisations, we have been restricted and unable to hold our usual Annual Meeting at which most of our decisions are usually made. However, the subcommittee have managed to meet and discuss the annual charity awards for the year. The subcommittee decided that they would recommend that the amount for 2020 should be frozen and remain at last year’s level, a decision with which the whole committee agreed, therefore 86 persons were each paid £12. St Michaels church was awarded £60 and Saint Michaels Combined School was awarded £60.
STEWKLEY PARISH NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN
REPORT TO THE ANNUAL PARISH MEETING 5TH MAY 2021.
The Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group completed the latest draft of the Neighbourhood Plan and supporting documents and the Parish Council forwarded it to Aylesbury District Council in March 2020. This process is identified as completion of Regulation 15
With the amalgamation of the County and District Councils to form the Buckinghamshire Council from April 2020 our plan was then received by this new authority.
In accordance with Regulation 16 further consultation by means of
‘On Line’ publication was completed by Buckinghamshire Council on 20th December 2020 and the Plan now carries some weight when new Planning applications are made within the parish.
The next stage is for Buckinghamshire Council to appoint an Independent Examiner who will review the plan and all supporting documents. This appointment is awaited.
There may be further work to be undertaken by the Steering Group once the response from the Independent Examiner is received. Thereafter the Plan moves to a referendum to be organised by Buckinghamshire Council.
Stewkley Tennis Club
Covid-19 report for the Parish Council – May 2021
Stewkley Tennis Club founded in 1983 has two floodlit hard courts based on the Stewkley Recreational Ground. The Club is affiliated to the Bucks LTA and Stewkley Recreation Ground Association, and is run by a committee of volunteers.
Courts closed, lockdowns
2020 has been an unprecedented year for all of us, and the same is true of Stewkley Tennis Club.
In the first two months of 2020 when things were “normal”– club sessions were well supported, the men’s and women’s teams were making good progress in their respective leagues and at the end of February our first fundraising/social event of the year – a bingo night – had just taken place, raising more than £250 for club funds.
Then on March 23, 2020, the announcement of the first national lockdown because of the spread of coronavirus meant the courts were closed until further notice.
As restrictions were gradually eased, the club was in a position on May 15 to reopen the courts albeit for singles play only – a format the majority of our members were probably less familiar playing! In the middle of June, the club was able to allow doubles play and at the end of August club sessions were able to resume.
The courts closed again in November following the second national lockdown. They opened again on March 29, 2021.
Throughout the period, the committee complied with advice from the LTA to ensure the safety of members.
The club implemented a booking system to replace the ‘turn-up-and-play,’ and introduced a set of additional rules such as ensuring members sanitize the court locks and dictating numbers of players.
The committee plans to keep the booking system – it should allow the club to integrate with the LTA’s national Rally scheme to encourage non-members to find their nearest court, pay and play.
During the period between lockdowns in 2020 the club managed to increase its membership, as tennis was one of the first leisure activities able to take place following the first lockdown. Club subscription revenue in 2020/21 increased 10 percent on 2019/20, and, despite some turnover, membership numbers look similarly strong in 2021/22 with 63 adults (vs. 65 the previous year) and 21 juniors (vs. 22).
The club benefited from Covid-19 grants from Aylesbury Council and Buck Tennis, the Rec waiving its annual fee, and a refund from the LTA on its annual fee. The committee agreed to credit members in their renewal fees for the months they couldn’t play in 2020/21. Any credits for disruption from March 2021 onwards will be issued against 2022/3 fees..
To celebrate the court opening again in March 2021, the club organized subsidized coaching for members and non-members alike to encourage people onto court.
The decision the committee faces is when to replace the courts that are coming to the end of their life – and with what material. We hope also to replace the current shed / club house.
Stewkley Enterprise Agency – Update Report
- Over the period of the last year the following main maintenance events were:
- Mowing – 10 cuts as per contract
- Strimming – David Beasley strimmed areas twice over the season
- Trimming of vegetation obstructing footpaths – 2-3 times in certain areas
We have five new workers this year to join Ben Perkin from last year:
- High St South David Beasley and Sam Munday
- High St Middle Ben Perkin and Finlay Boyd
- High St North Charlie Meader and Callum Bailey
Charlie Meader’s family are kindly allowing us to use a part of their shed for two mowers in High St North which is a great help.
We trialled a slightly different mowing schedule last year and it worked so well we have decided to stick with it. In summary, the mowing work is scheduled as we go so that we can plan according to the weather. For example, in the last two years the temperature through March, April and into May has been cooler than in other years, so the grass does no grow as quickly – meaning we push each mow out slightly.
We are also trialling some Rewilding – whereby four areas are to be left until September before they are cut. This is in response to requests from several villagers. The areas include:
- Right hand side of Bletchley Road as you exit the village – only 2-3 strips by the roadside will be mown.
- Patches in the area by Sycamore Close – under the trees where people cannot walk.
- The side of the bank on the corner of High St South and Dove Street
- The verge on the right-hand side of Dunton Hill
- Part of the verge on the left of Soulbury Road – at the end of Dove Street
Recreation Ground Report for the Stewkley Annual Parish Meeting
The past year has been challenging for everyone and the Rec was only able to operate for a few months. Sports clubs had a very short season in late summer and the Rec Committee therefore decided to waive all fees for the entire year. To help clubs to recover going forward, fees will be held at 2019 rates for a further year.
The bar opened briefly from the end of July to October but Covid regulations meant that we weren’t able to run any events – usually a good source of fund raising. Fortunately the club did benefit from Government grants which have helped to maintain the financial security of the Recreation Ground.
Over £130,000 was invested in the Recreation Ground in 2020. The money came from grants from Buckinghamshire Council, FCC Communities Foundation, Parish Council and the Rec Committee, together with fund raising and gifts from local people. New play equipment, installed in August, has been a real success with children of all age ranges and is extremely well used.
The new public toilet was installed last September and finally opened earlier this year when lockdown restrictions were lifted.
Plans for future Recreation Ground improvements are currently being drawn up and will include further enhancement of the play area, sports fields and the pavilion. All money raised by the Recreation Ground Association is ploughed back into the Rec for the benefit of all Stewkley residents.
Going forward, the bar is now open on Saturdays for drinks outside and will reopen inside from 17 May (subject to restrictions being lifted). Look out for fund raising events and activities later this year.
All spaces are now available for hire at very reasonable rate
Scouts APM-S Wass
No sooner had we started to enjoy our new Scout hut and develop a detailed schedule of activities for the groups, including a summer camp and an overseas trip for the Scouts then Covid 19 come along and shuts everything down, including all of our fund raising activities. Like most groups, we sat patiently waiting for the lock down to ease so that things could restart under the strict guidelines laid down by the overall Scout Governing body. We completed numerous risk assessments, worked out how we could comply with the social distancing and other rules, we were ready!! Again, short lived, we managed to hold a few meetings, all of which had to be held outdoors, and the shutters came down again and so our wonderful building has sat idle for well over a year.
So 2020 was basically a washout and 2021 has started cautiously, but during last year 4 Scout Leaders were awarded the Scout Merit award in recognition for their efforts in getting the New Scout hut up and running and Andy Dunn has also been awarded the Queens Award for voluntary work for the work he does in not only Scouting but The Kophill Challenge, the annual soapbox event for young people held at Princess Risborough during the historical hill climb weekend.
Unfortunately we have lost 2 leaders over this time and so if anyone wants to join our happy gang then please let us know.
Depending how the easing of the lockdown goes we hope to restart our usual fund raising events with things like the Bar-B-Q, Jumble Sales and we still have our Elvis night in December which has been rolled over from last year so watch this space.