CHAIRMAN'S REPORT at the AGM May 2013
A lot has changed in the last 12 months. We have two new co-opted Councillors, Sarah and Carol, and a new Clerk, Penny. We've also said hello briefly to Matt Bell and then goodbye again as domestic arrangements take him elsewhere.
More importantly, perhaps, we've established a new routine of monthly meetings. These are starting (it's a slow process!) to make our proceedings more efficient and they've also, it seems to me, led to the major additional benefit of allowing us to see more of each other and build up good working relationships.
We've been fairly active in terms of work of general benefit to the Village. Signs, a new gate, and mending a leak to the water supply at the Cricket Club are small examples of the sort of routine maintenance which will always fall to the Parish Council's lot. Of slightly greater importance (and certainly expenditure) was the replacement of our Christmas lights – a very welcome improvement after several years of slow deterioration.
We also now have a Jubilee Tree and a very distinguished hurdle round the sub-station. I should pay tribute here to the work of the Commons Management Committee, under Chris Wege's assiduous care, in keeping the Common and environs in such good shape.
Our other major achievement was, of course, finally persuading BT to bring fibre-optic broadband to Coleshill. While a number of factors will have influenced this decision and the Parish Council was only one element in the equation, I'm sure in my own mind that without our efforts we might still be waiting.
Planning applications were as numerous as ever. There have been 33 in the last 12 months but only 17 separate properties were involved. The practice seems to be growing of testing the water with one application which, when approved, then leads to more. While there's nothing necessarily reprehensible in this – people do, after all, have second thoughts – it sometimes appears, to this observer at least, to be a means of achieving approval for a collection of projects which would have attracted far greater scrutiny if all had been submitted as a single application.
To look forward now, I would point to the survey of villagers which we are conducting in order to gauge interest in constructing a full-scale Village Plan. The aim is to allow villagers as a whole to express their views on Coleshill's future development. Achieving any sort of consensus will not be easy but we felt we should set the process in motion. It's important to emphasize, though, that the Village as a whole will have to take ownership if it's to succeed. The Parish Council will of course be supportive but will not, once the initial survey is completed and analyzed, be taking the lead.
Finally, I should just confirm that I am stepping down from the Chair after this meeting. I'll be remaining as an ordinary Councillor but, as I said last August when agreeing to take on the responsibility, my agreement was on a short-term basis only. The position makes additional demands on my time which I'm anxious not to become permanent. I also hold several other Village positions and the potential for conflicts of interest is one I'd rather avoid if possible.