Chairman’s Report, Minety Parish Council Annual Meeting 2021
What is a parish council?
A parish council is a local authority at the lowest tier of local government that makes decisions on behalf of people in the parish, and in Minety we are one short of a full allocation of 9 councillors as of May-21. We are all volunteers and give our valuable time towards trying to ensure the parish has all the facilities it needs, and that those facilities are maintained to the best they can be. We can act as an intermediary between the unitary council and parishioners, and are heavily involved in local planning, flood prevention, speeding and road safety, and helping community groups and individuals where we can.
I’d like to encourage all parishioners to use the My Wilts app or website to report issues such as fly-tipping, potholes or pavement issues, and blocked road drains or ditches, as the PC has no powers to enforce any action in these areas. We would like to know about the issues, however, and may be able to approach landowners as a first step in trying to rectify any problems before enforcement becomes necessary.
Leavers and joiners
This is the first chairman’s report in 2 years, due to Covid, and the first I have made as the relatively new chairman. The previous couple of years has seen the previous chairmen Rob Hilliar and Charles Cook resign from the PC, so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for their years of service to the community. We also welcomed Johnathan Shephard to the PC for around a year before he left to focus on work commitments, and we also said goodbye to Sam D’Ambrosiowho had family commitments to focus on, so thank you to both of them too. More recently, we have welcomed John Shephard, Ian Cain and Andrew Slucock to the PC, all of whom have made an impact in one way or another already, be it with Facebook, footpaths or flooding.
I am also sad to say our parish clerk of the last 8 years, Veronica Hourihane, has decided to retire from the position. Veronica has been a stalwart at our meetings and has proven to be the font of all knowledge on many occasion. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Veronica for all her work, and to wish her well for the future.
During the initial stages of lockdown last year, the Parish Council created a food bank to support any families or individuals in need, and were helped by Jamie Denman of The Vale pub with purchasing initial supplies and by Mike Rees of Forensiclean with preparing the storage area to food-grade cleanliness standard. I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly thank them for their help.
It became clear after a number of months that Minety had more to give than it required to take, so we decided close down the food bank and donated the supplies to the Cirencester food bank in November. Our donations were gratefully received, and we still get updates from them.
The parish council also created and coordinated a support scheme to help people with shopping and prescriptions in the early stages of the pandemic, benefitting many parishioners who were shielding or self-isolating, so I’d like to thank Sarah Crompton and Rob Hilliar especially for leading on this front, and a big thanks to our network of volunteers who ensured everyone who asked for help was helped.
One silver lining to the Covid pandemic is Minety now has a successful community shop, which has proved invaluable to many through the last year. Congratulations to the team for getting such a successful project off the ground, and good luck with future developments.
It is no secret that Minety suffers with flooding, even taking its name from the water mint which is found in the wet ground all around the parish. The parish council has therefore made flood prevention a priority this year and has spent many hours visiting parishioners and speaking with Wiltshire Council, Wessex Water and the Environment Agency to try and reduce the risks of future flooding events in the parish. John Shephard has been key in this work, so I’d like to thank him for his efforts. I’d also like to thank all the parishioners and landowners that we have spoken with over the last few months, as the vast majority of our meetings have been very positive. There is still some work to be done, but we are in a much better situation now than in previous years.
The parish council were made aware early last year that all parish council websites were required to meet WCAAG compliance standards by Sep-20, and our previous website provider was not able to offer this to us. We therefore had to source a new provider and have ended up with a great new website that we hope everyone has had chance to see.
Speeding and road safety
We have two Speed Indicator Devices in the village now, plus an Auto Speedwatch detector which is being considered by police forces across the country. We still regularly see very high speeds in our 30mph zones and would encourage more people to join the community Speedwatch group to enable patrols on more regular occasions.
The MPFA continues to be a social hub for the village and completed a kitchen refurbishment during 2020. The playing fields now has food vans making regular appearances, which has proven to be a very popular decision by the MPFA. I’d like to thank Andrew O’Dell in particular for ensuring the facility has been made available and kept Covid-secure and within all the government guidance at each stage of lockdown easing. I’d also like to thank the other volunteers on the MPFA for arranging food van visits, coordinating with the sports clubs and helping with drinks service on what have proven to be some very busy days recently. I, personally, would like to see the facilities at the playing fields improved even more in the coming years. Fingers crossed for some exciting times ahead…
Planning has been a real challenge since late 2019, especially with the number and scale of renewable energy schemes that have been proposed, so the parish council has created a position dedicated to leading on planning proposals. Also, a dedicated group of parishioners from Hankerton and Minety formed the Minety Solar Farm Action Group to challenge the Upper Minety/Hankerton proposal made by JBM Solar/Pegasus Group, and between them they must have dedicated hundreds of hours collating information and challenging Wiltshire council on the scale and location of the development, and the overall strategy they adopt in relation to renewable energy proposals. I’d like to thank them on behalf of the parish council for their efforts, and I hope the result is a refusal in this case.
Clean up day
This year saw the first Minety clean-up day since Jacqui Hampton stepped down from the organiser’s role after 16 very successful years, for which we thank her, and we had to do things differently to previous years due to Covid. This meant everyone using their own equipment and ensuring social distancing et, and we encouraged people to go out when they had the opportunity, rather than a fixed 2-hour period. We saw a great turnout over the weekend, even with the terrible weather!! The parish council also recognised the efforts of one parishioner who has been doing her own clean up all year round, rewarding her with some garden centre vouchers. We hope to be able to reward other parishioners who make a difference in the future as well.
The parish council initiated a Volunteer Emergency Telephone System (01666 800212) to help lone rescuers in the event that a defibrillator is required and the rescuer is unable to leave the casualty. We have also had the defibrillator at the playing fields upgraded to a newer version.
We are also investigating whether we can (re)start a Neighbourhood Watch scheme in the parish.