Chairman Annual Report April 2016
It has been a busy year for Blean Parish Council, with a number of additions to our open spaces, Keir’s Meadow and the Recreation ground.
There have also been quite a few changes to our village and also to the parish council by way of funding and in the way we continue to work for the community. Our work in the areas of Highways and transport has continued throughout the year with, at times, some success and at others times frustration. We have also seen changes around the village in a positive way which has enhanced the village.
Below I have outlined the keys areas that we have been working on throughout the year. Highways and Transport – Denise and I have a very good working relationship with our local Highways Steward, Marie, who visits the office frequently and has been able to address many issues with regard to lighting, potholes, overgrown hedges to name a few. Denise continues also to use the KCC website to report problems as well.
We have attended meetings with Kent Highways to look at the accidents that have been occurring on the A290 and work is still being undertaken by the Crash Reduction Team to address warning signs, road markings and driver awareness.
Cllr Amy Baker, one of our Ward Councillors, meets regularly with Stagecoach as part of a CCC initiative and we have been able, through Amy, to express concerns about buses waiting at Tyler Hill Road junction, the lack of a service to C/bury West Station and timetabling in general.
On a positive note the parish council were able, working with our colleagues in CCC, to secure the refurbishment of the two village bus shelters.
During the last year we have purchased Speedwatch equipment and a number a volunteers have been trained in its use. The data from the Speedwatch sessions is collated by the volunteers and Denise then sends this onto Kent Police. A number of warning letters have been produced throughout the year. In addition, as part of Blean Parish Council’s continuing programme of creating awareness of speed large 30mph stickers have been purchased and distributed to various householders along the A290 within the 30mph limit. These stickers are placed on the wheelie bins, so on a Tuesday morning Blean is awash with 30mph signs.
Recreation Ground – This year, again with the use of our VAT return and grant funding we have able to add one new piece of equipment and replace another. The Youth Shelter near the entrance has been very successful and is well used as a meeting place for many of our young people from the village. Whilst the youth shelter was installed we also repaired the entrance to the recreation ground making it a safer and less muddy access to the wonderful open space we have at our disposal. Our old slide had really reached its sell-by date and was becoming dangerous, with the help of a Capital Grant from CCC we have been able to install a new slide and climbing frame, to the delight of many of our younger villagers. Also, within the recreation ground 2 new bins have been installed, they are disguised as teddy bears, as an educational tool, to teach and encourage our younger residents to keep their recreation ground litter free. Ken (our village handyman), empties them each week and has found less litter in and around the playing area.
Many of you may have noticed the newly refurbished gates which have been repaired and repainted and now look resplendent again. We have been trying to get these done for three years and at last this year we have succeeded
Our other open space is Kiers Meadow, which has also this past year seen a few changes. During the summer many of you will have noticed the cutting of new pathways making your walk around a little more interesting coupled with the addition of a beautiful new bench. In the autumn we had the occasion of the planting of our Heritage Tree, a charming field maple which will give colour throughout the year. Blean Parish Council also applied for some saplings and 106 saplings of various species were planted. We are waiting to see how many have survived the damp winter. I would like to extend grateful thanks on behalf of the parish council and the village as a whole to the dedicated band of volunteers who have so freely given their time and energy to enhance the nature reserve.
Tree survey, ditch clearance and footpath clearance – The parish council undertook the annual tree survey, which indicated no problems. We also cleared the ditch running along the recreation ground and nature reserve. This ditch will be dug out deeper in the next couple of months to maintain its efficiency. The clearance of ditches within the village is a problem which the parish council have been trying to address with various landowners within the area. We will keep persisting and have sought further advice from KCC about enforcement action.
Footpaths in Blean have, over the years, suffered from the financial cutbacks within KCC. There are now only three footpaths that are cleared by KCC. Blean Parish Council have been able, through prudent financial management, to allocate funding for a further three popular footpaths to be cut back. We cannot make a commitment to do this yearly as it is dependent on our budget.
Chestnut Avenue – The long awaited removal of the diseased and obstructing trees in Chestnut Avenue has finally taken place. Work is still to be done with regard to the stump grinding, repair to the footpath and investigation of the drains. Blean Parish Council are pressing for a date for this work to be done. The parish council has also allocated £1,000 towards replacement trees. We will keep you all informed of dates etc.
Funding – The parish council receives its funds from two sources, Precept Tax and Concurrent Funding from CCC. I am sure you will notice that the precept tax on your recent Council Tax Bill has gone down by a few pennies. The reason for this is that the parish council after careful consideration and budget projects decided not to raise the precept. The parish council will receive just over £15,000 in the 2016/17 financial year. Our other source of funding is called Concurrent Funding which is a reimbursement from CCC for the grassing cutting, tree and ditch maintenance, litter picking and many other functions. This year we received only 65% of our bid which will mean a tight budget for the year. However, we aim to rise to the challenge this presents.
The last two items are the upgrading of the office computer and new technology for councillors. – Through a generous donation from an anonymous donor, Blean Parish Council now use tablets for their meeting, which are loaded with all the relevant background papers and reports. This has meant a huge saving in time and money as there are at times up to 30 to 40 pages of reports per councillor for a single meeting. It also means that councillors are able to quickly refer to previous documents from past meetings. We are one of the first parish councils to follow CCC in this use of modern technology. We hope to expand of use of the tablets and internet as a communication and working tool during this year. With the new regulations concerning openness and transparency coming into force it quickly became apparent that our computer was not up to the task of more of online work, with the necessity to upload and download various compulsory forms and data. Blean Parish Council was successful in obtaining a grant to purchase a new computer and an A3 printer which has made some of Denise’s work easier.
It comes for me to complete my report by extending my personal thanks to Denise, our Parish Clerk and my right hand, who has over the year continued to work tirelessly for the parish council and whose advice and often wise counsel I have greatly appreciated.
Thank you also to Ken, our village handyman, our village is a tidier and brighter place for all of Ken’s work. He is always willing to help out when needed and Blean benefits throughout the whole year.
Finally, thank you to all my fellow parish councillors for their commitment to serving the village and giving their time freely. We have had a couple of changes on the parish council this year with the sad loss of Rufus Howard who felt he could not give his full commitment to his role as a councillor due to increasing work commitments. We also have welcomed onto the council Fran Christophers, who is able to give a voice to the residents living on the Tile Kiln Hill area and a knowledge of the footpaths in and around Kent College and surrounding area.
We face a difficult year with finances, drainage issues in the village and a renewed application for the development of the Royal Oak field. We will rise to the challenge and we will listen to the residents, their wishes and desires for their community.
BARBARA ANNE FLACK
Chairman of Blean Parish Council