ANNUAL REPORT FROM THE CHAIRMAN OF THE COUNCIL
As we come to the end of the Council year, can I take this opportunity to say that representing Winslow as your Mayor and Chairman of the Council and performing the duties demanded of the position has been both an honour and a privilege. I have attended and enjoyed a wide variety of functions both within the county and in adjacent council areas and have found that Winslow is held in very high regard indeed, a testament perhaps to the strength of our community and perhaps a testament to the vigour demonstrated in the defence of our ‘made’ Neighbourhood plan?
I must report that once again, a very significant amount of Clerk and Councillor time has been expended to defend the town from the unwelcome advances of developers, particularly following recent judgements and the resulting ‘particular’ stance taken by AVDC. Apart from the forthcoming inquiry to the Glebe Farm Appeal, we need to consider, where next? It is unrealistic to think that we can continue to be 100% successful in our defence considering the planning expectations and requirements placed upon us by AVDC, whose lack of available housing land coupled with the expanding nature of the South East makes for very difficult circumstances indeed . We will of course continue to do our best for our community, whatever is thrown at us.
It has been an incredibly busy year for Council. As you know, following the devolution of services we manage our own grass cutting and apart from a few small hic-ups the system seems to be working well. We continue to upgrade our street lighting and ensure that facilities such as the Furze Lane burial ground, Public Hall car park, outdoor fitness area, the jubilee games area and the playground are all maintained accordingly. We purchased the paddock over 12 months ago with the intension of utilising the area as a public amenity with a new Public Hall and have held a number of open days to get your feed back. We remain in the planning phase at present and are exploring the many possibilities offered by the purchase of the paddock in the expectation that we will arrive at the best combination for the town. On professional advice we have performed much necessary pruning and the removal of some unsafe trees. The brambles are currently being cleared and we will be installing land drainage before allowing general public access. This year we will issue a small series of leaflets detailing ‘Walks around Winslow’ following funding from our Local Area Forum to assist with the design and publishing costs.
The Council continues to support and manage the Farmers Market in conjunction with the Chamber of Trade. The market seems to have lost some of its patronage of late; I hope that this is not the case and that the footfall will pick up as the weather improves. Volunteer to help set up and take down are always welcome, as is the case with the annual Christmas Fayre.
Last May saw the 35th Anniversary of our town’s twinning with Cours La Ville and I had the pleasure of welcoming over 100 French visitors including their Mayor during a long weekend of celebrations.
I am pleased to say that despite the many calls upon our finances, the Council has continued with the practice of giving grants to assist local groups and charities.
During the year we consulted at length with the Thames Valley Police in an attempt to keep the High Street Police Office open and gave an undertaking to pay the running costs of the office for a five year period. While I have no doubt that this has resulted in more police time being spent in and around Winslow, We can only speculate at the level of antisocial behaviour we might have experienced in the town had the office closed!
This year we took the decision to appoint Winslow’s first ‘Mayors Cadet’ from the Winslow Cadet Force. Lance corporal Sam William’s assisted me during the Remembrance Day Parade and then later at the Christmas Fayre when two pupils from the Winslow Combined C of E School switched on the Christmas lights as a ‘prize’ for the best letters sent to me after my earlier visit to the school.
I cannot report on the year without highlighting and praising the many volunteers that help regularly with the running and organisation of our many charities and voluntary bodies. You are a true inspiration to us all and the envy of many. Thank you for your time and commitment and for helping to make Winslow a great place to live.
I have asked each of the Chair’s of our Committees to prepare a short report on their activities this year, please take this opportunity to question them and to ask them about any concerns you may have.
Before I close, I must record my grateful thanks to Charles Loch our Town Clerk and to Karen Oddey our Deputy Clerk for ensuring that we are all kept on the straight and narrow. Sadly, Karen has resigned following her decision to move to the North. I would like to welcome Sean Carolan who will be taking her place. I must also give well deserved thanks to Derry, Doug, John and George without whom running the Council services on a day to day basis would be impossible.
Grateful thanks are also due to my deputy Cllr Monger- who attended some functions including the Combined School Christmas Fayre and the Fat stock show on my behalf when I was unavailable due to prior engagements or through work commitments.
Personal thanks go to my fellow Councillors who freely give up their time to serve our community. Their commitment, thoroughness, diligence, professionalism and sheer hard work on behalf of our community is truly appreciated. Following last May’s Council election, I think we have proved that we have worked as a team, a team on which Winslow can rely.
Cllr Dr Gordon Wiseman
Mayor of Winslow
Annual Report of the Amenities Committee 2015/16
Members: Cllrs D. Barry (Chairman), W.Castle, T.Cawte, H.Chambers, B Gouverneur and H.Morton
The Amenities Committee has again been busy over the last year maintaining existing facilities and amenities. Expenditure was within the budget forecast for 2015/16.
The Public Hall Car Park continues to be cleaned and monitored on a regular basis. The barrier was redesigned and replaced with a more permanent and guided access to prevent damage and so far has proved successful.
Since 2015, the inspection and refurbishment of the Council street furniture is on a rolling programme. Bus Shelters have and will continue to be cleaned quarterly.
The need for additional dog bins in Winslow is being monitored and inspection of the waste and dog bins is undertaken regularly.
The Committee has undertaken a complete review of the CCTV and brought the agreed five year rolling programme forward to make the system fit for purpose. Access to images will be much easier and there will be greater clarity to aid police when evidence is required. Additional cameras have been installed by the Jubilee Games Area and Youth Centre to combat the unfortunate incidence of anti -social behaviour that has occurred in recent times.
The Committee has entered into contracts for grass and hedge cutting under the devolved arrangements with Bucks County Council and credit must be given to our Deputy Clerk Karen Oddey who has steered us through what is a complicated piece of legislation.
We have renewed the contract for the maintenance and upkeep of landscaping in the Council’s control to ensure that the visual aspect of the planting in the Town is up to standard.
Native trees and a hedge were planted two years ago in the Recreation Ground by the Winslow Lions and the Sports Club, as part of the Diamond Jubilee. Mindful of the need to preserve the view into the cricket ground, the hedges have been trimmed and the grass controlled by the Councils contractors.
The War Memorial continues to receive a careful annual clean. In line with the Commissions advice, no major cleaning work is planned.
The Jubilee Games Area has unfortunately had one exit locked by the Sir Thomas Fremantle School with the approval of Bucks County Council. This has raised concerns about the safety of users of our facility. Discussions are ongoing to solve the problem.
The Outdoor Family Fitness Area within the recreation ground is well used, but has been the target of vandals on several occasions. It is s inspected and repaired where necessary as soon as we are aware of any problems
The Children’s Playground has had a roundabout installed that is designed to be used by the less able. This completes the overall update that has been carried out over the last three years. The annual external inspection Playground, OFFA and JGA were carried out and revealed no significant issues.
Cllr David Barry
Chairman Amenities Committee April 2016.
The Development Committee is responsible for the consideration of planning applications and the submission of our comments to Aylesbury Vale District Council. Over the past year there have been 68 planning applications, an increase on last year. We have looked at applications ranging from garden walls and replacement front doors to Glebe Farm 3 and the outline permission for the station/school/industrial site on Buckingham Road. The vast majority of applications are resolved as “no objection”. However, where we believe there are substantial planning reasons to object and the Planning officer at AVDC is in favour of granting permission, a member of the committee is required to present our reasons for objection at a meeting of AVDC’s Development Management Committee. There has only been one case in the last year where we are in disagreement with AVDC and that is the outline planning for the Buckingham Road site. This was for the site as a whole and not specifically the new school, which was dealt with as a separate application. Members feel very strongly that there are major flaws in the layout, both in terms of the traffic management and, more importantly, that no safe crossing had been provided, for either cyclists or pedestrians, to cross the A413.
Members of the Committee represent Winslow Town Council at meetings of various other organisations – the Winslow and District Local Area Forum, the Local Councils Planning and Liaison Group and North Bucks Parishes Planning Consortium. The Local Area Forums have a devolved budget from Buckingham County Council, that can be used for priority issues and as I reported last year, we were awarded funding to be used for a feasibility study into the use of Horn Street by heavy goods vehicles. We have just received the report and the various options will be discussed at the next meeting of the Committee. Funding was also granted for a moveable Vehicle activated Sign to be used in Verney and Vicarage Roads and on Magpie Way. The Committee also had a representative on the Strategic Committee of the Aylesbury Vale Transport Users Group, however this group is, at the moment, in hibernation due to membership, administrative funding and insurance issues. With the cuts that will come to rural transport this development is a concern but the good news is that there are to be increases to the X60 service and a Sunday service is to considered.
The Committee has also considered and been of assistance in many other issues during the last year, including replacement hedges, new street names, tree pruning and removal in the Conservation Area, contacting AVDC on enforcement issues, liaising with Developers on potential new developments, construction traffic and responding to various Government and Local Council consultations, including the Vale of Aylesbury Local Plan.
The appeal against AVCD’s decision to reject the application for 211 homes at Glebe Farm is to start on July 5th and is scheduled to last for a week. WTC have been granted Rule 6 status which allows us to speak at the Public Inquiry. The Council have agreed to appoint a legal representative for this, as we are concerned that AVDC, due to their current position on the weight of Neighbourhood Plans in the planning process, will not provide the support that our Neighbourhood Plan is due. With AVDC’s stance on Neighbourhood Plans and their decisions to allow developments that are specifically contrary to policies in them we have been actively seeking further Government support and clarification on these matters. and writing to AVDC to advise of our very great concern at this stance.
REPORT OF THE FINANCE AND GENERAL PUPOSES COMMITTEE
The Finance and General Purposes committee (F&GP) oversees Winslow Town Council’s (WTC) activity in relation to Income (council tax precept), asset management (land, property and street lighting) and administration (including staff employment). The work of the former Events Committee has also been covered by F&GP in the last year but it is expected that this will return to being an independent committee later this year.
The principle source of income is the Town Council’s Precept which is part of the Council Tax collected by Aylesbury Vale District Council. In recent years WTC has maintained very low levels of increase (2015/16 2.25% and 2016/17 (2%) thanks to sound fiscal management. Other sources of income include various grants and the operating profit from the Farmers Market. We also derive income from lettings at the Youth Centre but this is ring-fenced to support youth activities. In the future, as we take on more services, such as grass cutting and footpath management, from the District and County Councils we will need to increase the Council Tax Precept.
The principle assets of the Town Council are the Recreation Ground, Public Hall & Car Park and more recently The Paddock including the Bowls Green. The main area of the recreation ground (football and cricket areas) is leased to the Sports Club who maintain the land and the interior of the Club House. WTC are responsible for the maintenance of the Public Hall Car Park and act as Custodian Trustee for the site. The Public Hall is owned by a trust and operated through a management committee. The Paddock was acquired with a grant secured from the New Homes Bonus Fund and development of that site will be reported on via the Amenities Committee. The Bowls Club have a licence from WTC to use the bowling green and own outright the Clubhouse building and the immediate area of land on which it sits. Street lighting is the biggest single area of expenditure for WTC and we are progressing the renewal of lighting columns where required and the installation of LED lighting. The latter reduces both maintenance and operating costs.
The provision of a new Community Centre remains a priority for the committee though this is a complex issue. In brief it has been decided that the Paddock will not provide a suitable location as insufficient car parking can be secured without the loss of a large part of the proposed town park area. The current Public Hall is unsuitable for re-development as the necessary enlargement would result in significant loss of much needed car parking. Furthermore we have a willing high street retailer prepared to lease this building for use as a small supermarket as indicated in the Winslow Neighbourhood Plan. The substantial income from this would service the borrowing involved in the building of the new facility. Our retained architects have considered all potential sites for the new facility and recommend that the football pitch area of the recreation ground would provide the best possible site and would allow a substantial increase in parking provision over and above that required for the community centre itself. Efforts are underway to secure a suitable new location for the football club which would provide additional pitches so that the junior teams could re-locate from Gawcott Fields. Taking this exciting project forward will require active support from the Public Hall trustees, the Sports Club and the community at large.
WTC entered into a twenty five year lease of this building from Bucks County Council when the latter decided to withdraw youth services from Winslow. The provision of youth services at the building is managed by Friends of Winslow Youth Centre on behalf of WTC. Income is derived from a number of lettings and after the deduction of a management charge and maintenance costs any surplus is reserved for supporting youth activities.
The Winslow Farmers Market continues to be one of the most successful in the region with up to thirty stalls each month. The operation relies entirely on volunteers to set up and dismantle the stalls and this helps to ensure a healthy monthly contribution to our finances. More volunteers are always welcome! During the year a successful ‘Safari Garage Sale and Brocante / Vintage Fair were held and we hope to repeat them this year. The annual Christmas Fayre was again a huge success and improvements were made to the Christmas lighting. Further improvements are planned this year.
The committee is responsible for the distribution of grants to community organisations and details of these are included with the annual accounts.
WTC operates with a part-time Clerk to the Council and a part-time Deputy Clerk with the combined paid hours amounting to one full time equivalent We were fortunate to have a number of highly qualified applicants for the post of Deputy Clerk and as a result Sean Carolan has joined us to support Charles Loch. Derry French, Doug Sharp and George Mackenzie each work a very limited numbers of paid hours taking care of grounds maintenance, cleaning and farmers market support respectively. The committee extends its thanks to our excellent and dedicated staff.
Cllr Llew Monger
Chairman, Finance & General Purposes Committee.
21st April 2016.