Minutes of the Annual Parish Meeting 14th April 2014

UPTON PARISH COUNCIL

Minutes of the Annual Parish Meeting of Upton
Held on Monday 14th April 2014 at 7.30pm in the Village Hall

Present: Mr S Fraser (Chairman), Mrs L Shaw, Mr R Traynor, Mr S Norman
Cllr S Lilley (County Councillor), Mrs A Hoy (Parish Clerk)
and 7 members of the public

Apologies for Absence: Dr B Lott, Mr B Shaw, Cllr J Shelley

1. Minutes of the Annual Parish Meeting held on 8th April 2013 were agreed to be a true record and were signed by the Chairman.

2. Annual Reports

(a) Parish Council Chairman: In Dr Lott’s absence, Mr Fraser read the Chairman’s Report for his first twelve months in the job. He announced that the PC had just received the resignation of Mr Ben Shaw and he thanked him for his efforts over the years. Dr Lott also expressed the thanks of the PC to all those who together allowed the village to function and make it a great place to live, including those who cut the grass and inspect the playground on a regular basis. In addition he thanked those who act on behalf of the PC:
John Lightfoot – Neighbourhood Action Group
Jessie West – Transport Rep and UVHAT
Derek Whitmell – Harwell Stakeholders /committee
Simon Powell – Internal Auditor
Brian Rippon – Upton News Editor
Mike Brown and Graham de Wilde – Parish Path Wardens
Mike Brown – for his role keeping everything working

During the year 13 planning applications were discussed, mainly routine, except one that was still under discussion, Wattle Cottage Farm, for which there would be an appeal hearing in Wantage on May 13th.

Dr Lott had also attended two meetings in Oxford to discuss the planned developments on the A417. The PC had supported the residents of Chilton Road in their desire to see the road become a cul-de-sac, which the OCC also supported, because of the anticipated increase in traffic when the new slips to the A34 at Chilton come into being, together with the proposed new housing which it was thought would cause serious safety concerns. No new housing development had been proposed for Upton. A welcome improvement was announced with the proposed introduction of a dual foot and cycleway to run alongside the road from Wantage to Blewbury.

The Upton Parish Plan was due for renewal and it had been hoped this would be well under way; however time pressures had prevented this. The PC would like to invite any member of the parish to apply for the vacancy of councillor with the specific task of updating the Parish Plan. The official notice would be posted shortly.

Improvements had been made in the past year to the documents displayed on the website although more needed to be done; in addition it had been decided to house a permanent record of PC documents in the “cloud” instead of on CDs; this would enable the PC to reduce the need for hard-copy storage.

The PC decided this year that an increase in the precept was long overdue and had accordingly made a small increase of £250; however, this would not cover increases in costs for insurance, maintenance of the recreation ground facilities, additional essential maintenance and the replacement of the grass mower. The PC had also been notified that the OCC would no longer pay for the maintenance of the village footpaths, resulting in a loss of income of £338 per year. Dr Lott’s report closed with the wish that the forthcoming year would be a positive one. Mr Fraser added the thanks of the PC to Dr Lott, Mr Tibbetts and their respective families of Uptonogood for their wonderful efforts and contributions to the village in 2013.

(b) Parish Council Finance: Mr Norman presented the Income and Expenditure Report for 2013/2014 which recorded that the precept was increased from £7,250 to £7,500 and substantial donations from Uptonogood had been received. In addition Wallingford FC had hired the recreation ground three times when their own pitch was flooded, and payment of £338 was received from OCC for footpath grass cutting. This brought the total income to £11,000. However, several planned items of expenditure (including £1,000 being held in reserve for the planned refurbishment of the kitchen in the village hall), as well as the need to replace the self-propelled mower, would leave the reserves much depleted. Payments had also recommenced to the Benefice for printing of the Upton News to about 90 households that did not receive it electronically.

(c) District Council: nothing was reported due to Cllr Shelley’ s absence..

(d) County Council: in respect of the UVHAT kitchen plan, Cllr Lilly responded that the Big Society Fund was offering money for just such items and recommended UVHAT to apply. Cllr Lilly reported that it had been an eventful year; he congratulated Dr Lott for his successful first year in office as Chairman of UPC and thanked him for his attendance at the A417 meetings, the next of which was planned for August. He was pleased to report that the OCC had secured special funding for enterprise zone areas including the Chilton slip roads, the Milton interchange (which had already commenced), Featherbed Lane and improvements to Hagbourne Hill will follow. However, he stressed that all of this would not happen overnight. He briefly mentioned the Vale’s Local Plan Consultation Document had been described as a “poor document” which did not give due consideration to infrastructure such as schools and suitable accommodation of the elderly. Cllr Lilly confirmed that OCC had gone against the Government’s recommendations and increased the precept by 1.99% (the maximum that could be imposed without calling a referendum), giving the Council £5m more income which they intended to spend on such things as increasing length of visits to the elderly and introducing nurses to all secondary schools in an effort to help prevent abuse of young people. He reported that approximately 500 children were currently in care of OCC at this time, which was a disturbing number. He ended his report by noting that OCC administrative staff had been reduced by 34% over the past 4 years but that further budget cuts were in the pipeline; he was not sure how Oxfordshire would cope with the 300,000 population increase proposed for Oxfordshire in the SHMA report!

(e) Parish Transport Representative: Mrs West had attended the Parish Transport Representatives Meeting on 4th March 2014, at which Allan Field and others from OCC were present, as well as representatives from many local PCs. She reported that a presentation was given on the Real Time Information (RTI)/Oxontime system which gave users information on the bus services about when the next bus was due. She explained that this was dependent on the vehicles being fitted with a suitable tracking device and correct driver input, some routes being outside Oxfordshire. It was hoped to extend the service to Reading and Swindon and also to the Oxford hospitals. Installation of the signs at bus stops was the responsibility of the relevant Council. Some software failures had been experienced which resulted in predicted arrivals disappearing from the signs. Rural hourly bus services were not currently covered and it might be years before the service was extended to these areas, depending on location and the availability of power connections (typical cost of complete installation £3.5-4k). In the 2014 bus service review, it was noted that changes to bus services would be advised to PCs a week in advance. The 2015 (subsidised routes) review would commence in the summer (specific areas). Discussion took place over subsidised buses for rural areas, with worries that these might be the target of budget cuts. Mrs West noted that the Dial-a-Ride service has been renewed and will continue without any changes. Mrs West’s own experiences were that the 94 had operated well during the recent bad weather but mentioned that the X32 Oxford service run by Thames Travel was having problems with insufficient drivers. Mrs West also commented briefly on the Oxfordshire Rural Community Council’s report (ORCC) that provided liability insurance to volunteer car schemes, which had been free up until now but would be chargeable going forward. As with other bodies, ORCC expected to have a funding shortfall in 2014/15.

(f) UVHAT: Mrs Jessie West reported that there had been changes in the Trust Membership this past year, and she thanked those members who had resigned for their hard work and support. In addition, the Treasurer had also stepped down and her time and skills had been much appreciated. This role had now been taken over by the past postmistress, Mrs Margaret Maytham. New Trustees had been appointed who it was thought would bring enthusiasm and expertise to these roles. Mike Brown and Stuart Fraser were thanked for their frequent help in fixing plumbing and maintenance needs, including fitting a proper fire exit door to the storeroom. Plans were underway for the refurbishment of the kitchen and the Trust was in the process of seeking funding; estimates so far received were in the region of £30k. It was intended that plans would be displayed to the village to ascertain its views.

(g) United Charities: The Clerk advised that Mrs C Traynor had had to resign due to pressure of work but that Mrs Elizabeth Hardy had agreed to take over the role of Trustee on the Charity.

(h) Blewbury School: Ms Marion Mills, Head Teacher, reported that the school continued to thrive with a stable register of 150 pupils, several of whom were from Upton and used the free bus service. It was hoped that the County Council would continue to support this. A high level of writing results was achieved, above national expectations, although reading was not quite as good. The children were also being introduced to ‘learning to learn’, to encourage resilience and resourcefulness to equip them for employment in adult life. The European Comenius project has continued, with pupils and staff from the school visiting Poland, Italy and Germany.

(i) Neighbourhood Action Group: Mr John Lightfoot reported that he had attended all meetings except one during the past year and that since the area commander, Andy Boyd, had taken an interest in the NAG organisation, meetings had taken on a more organised approach. PCSO Sue Harris had now transferred to Wallingford but PCSO Michael Clayden had taken over and was very enthusiastic. There had been many instances of rural theft in the Upton area and police had subsequently stepped up their observations. The tragic murder of a missing Didcot teenager brought intense police activity into the village, resulting in damage to the churchyard footpaths, which had now been restored. Mr Lightfoot mentioned the current Dementia Awareness campaign and requested all those present to find a volunteer to help in this respect. He was happy to continue in the NAG role for the forthcoming year.

(j) St Mary’s Church: Father Jason had kindly come to the meeting to report in Paul Batho’s absence. He advised that St Mary’s in Upton was one of the seven churches within the parish and was open all day for quiet reflection. Father Jason expressed his thanks for the donation from the PC towards the upkeep of the churchyard and advised that “the Friends of St Mary’s” voluntary organisation had recently been set up to raise funds to cover costs such as insurance, maintenance of the building etc. He stressed that the church was a village asset and anyone could join. There would be a Friends of St Mary’s launch event later in the year.

(k) Harwell Site Stakeholder Group (formerly UKAEA): Dr Derek Whitmell reported that the group met three times a year and was open to the public. Decommissioning of the old research site was continuing to make good progress and was expected to be complete by 2027. The recent wet weather had increased the ground water level to the highest ever recorded, over 105m above sea level, and this had had the effect of diluting the already low levels of contamination in the local streams. He advised that plans were being prepared to develop 37 acres of land nearest to the road and the Harwell Stakeholder Group would discuss these plans with local communities, including Upton. However, the Vale’s recent announcement to build 500 houses on the eastern site were not part of the Harwell campus plan.

3. Open Forum
Brian Rippon enquired whether S.106 of the Town and Country Planning Act could be used to gain more infrastructure from the developers and asked whether there was anything that the PC should be doing. Cllr Lilly responded that there was a new Common Infrastructure Levy (CIL) being introduced in the near future for any new developments; however, the District Council, as the planning authority, could ignore S.106 if it wished a particular planning application to go through.

4. Closing Remarks
The Chairman thanked everyone for attending and for their contributions; he also expressed his thanks to those volunteers who had been unable to be present..

5. Date of Next Annual General Meeting: Monday 20th April 2015.

6. There being no further business, the meeting closed.

Mrs Angela Hoy
Parish Clerk
20th April 2014