Minutes of Annual Parish Meeting 18 April 2016

UPTON PARISH COUNCIL

Minutes of the Annual Parish Meeting of Upton

Held on Monday 18th April 2016 at 7.30pm in the Village Hall

Present:                  Mr S Fraser (Chairman), Mr R Traynor, Mr S Norman, Mrs K Fletcher, Cllr J Shelley, Cllr R Waite, Mrs A Hoy, and 8 members of the public.

Apologies for Absence:  Cllr S Lilley, Dr B Lott, Ms K Marshall, Cllr J Shelley, PCSO K Jennings, Mrs L Shaw

1. Minutes of the Annual Parish Meeting held on 20th April 2015 were agreed to be a true record.

2.  Annual Reports

(a)   Parish Council Chairman: Dr Lott had sent a report due to his unavoidable absence on business.  He paid tribute the members of the Parish Council past and present for who all have to juggle their many commitments in life and were doing the best they can to represent Upton Village. In addition he thanked those who acted on behalf of the Parish Council:

Lesley Shaw – Neighbourhood Action Group

Jessie West – Transport Rep and St Mary’s Church

Derek Whitmell – Harwell Stakeholders /committee

Simon Powell – Internal Auditor

Brian Rippon – Upton News Editor and UVHAT

Graham de Wilde – Parish Path Warden and amenities maintenance

“There has been much to occupy our time this year with the usual cascade of planning applications, threats to the bus service, and undertaking the new Parish Plan. There were two notable “successes” regarding inappropriate planning applications, the first concerning Wattle Cottage Farm which has resulted in the demolition of the illegally constructed stable block. The latest application on this site is vastly improved and although the PC has objected on a number of grounds, none of these are insurmountable. Our response to the planners will make this clear and it is hoped that with minor modification we could see the long running saga that is Wattle Cottage Farm come to a satisfactory end for all.  Our objection to a housing development on land next to the Horse and Harrow was also mirrored by the VoWH, which gave us some heart that Upton’s and West Hagbourne’s status as small villages does count for something.

Unfortunately, not everything went our way and we were very disappointed that the new houses to be built on the grounds of Owlscote Manor Farm will be so tall. We remain of the view that these are much higher than they need to be and as a result will dominate their historical setting. Unfortunately, the Vale’s own Conservation Officer did not feel she could insist on her earlier conclusions that these should have been 1/1.5 story dwellings.  Planning issues will make an ever bigger impact on our daily lives as the area’s population increases rapidly to fill the many thousands of houses being built on our door step. The Vale’s inability to have its Local Plan signed off by Government will mean our area continues to suffer from speculative applications where the Government’s own National Planning Framework is biased in favour of “development”. Worryingly, VoWH now look to be about to support one such application which will see a further 4250 homes built on an enlarged “Valley Park” on what was meant to be a bypass for Harwell Village. This means our roads will get busier, and our services will increasingly creak under the strain.

Stuart Norman and I attended a recent meeting to introduce the “Didcot Garden Town” to the Local Parish Councillors. However, it became apparent very quickly that this was little more than a cover for yet more development. The view of many Parishes were sidelined and even rudely dismissed by a recently hired consultant from Bristol. I would encourage everyone to become familiar with the “Garden Town” project and draw your own conclusions.

Many of last year’s meetings were dominated by the future of Chilton Road.  Traffic calming measures have been acted upon and the chicane installed further up the road than initially proposed. I understand that there will continue to be disappointment in some quarters that closure was not achieved, but I would hope that once Hagbourne Hill re-opens the situation on Chilton Road with the chicane in place will help to reduce speeding traffic. It also remains a goal to have a pedestrian crossing installed on the A417. However recent survey work has reported that the cost would likely be in the region of £45K. Not surprisingly OCC do not have this sort of money to spend. As an alternative OCC are now looking to have School buses stop on Chilton Rd to avoid the need for children to cross the A417 during the busy morning period. Regarding the developments on the A417, it was noted at the last meeting convened by Stewart Lilley that the proposed dual use pedestrian/cycleway between Wantage and Blewbury had now slipped to an “aspiration”. We continue to make the case that the only stretch of this route not already served by a cycle route is that between Upton and Blewbury.

The future of the Methodist Chapel is yet to be decided. Recent soundings have made it clear that however nice it might be, there is not the will within the village to purchase and run the building for “community use”. The Methodist Trustees will try to maximize the value of the plot by arguing that the land is no longer required for community use and should be used for residential purposes. If their planning application is successful, they will then most likely sell to a developer. The PC has made the case that we would like to see small housing units arranged on the footprint of the existing chapel and hall. These would be intended for the elderly and would facilitate the preservation of the trees (for which the PC has had TPO put into place) and the open aspect to the plot, important for the safety of residents walking to the Village Hall, Park, Pub and hopefully Bus.

As you may know the 94/95 bus service has lost its subsidy from Oxford County Council. This situation is not restricted to Oxfordshire, but sadly mirrored up and down the countries rural communities. Bizarrely it seems that the government’s free bus pass has played a major part to in our services being unviable. It is fair to say that a lot of effort is being put in by OCC, Thames Travel and passenger representatives to find a way through and preserve some form of service to ensure our villages can remain suitable for all ages and social background. I would like to pay tribute to Miranda St John Nicolle (of Blewbury) and our own Transport Representative Jessie West, for taking on this challenge and very much hope the efforts are worthwhile. In the meantime please consider using the bus where you can.

It will not have escaped some people’s attention that the PC has increased the Precept in each of the last three years. This has put the PC on a much stronger footing, better able to pay for the increasing maintenance overheads of our facilities, cope with the loss of other income from OCC and pay our Clerk the “going rate”. We are also in the position of being able to retain and even grow reserves for future equipment replacements.

Much of what we do in the coming years will now be guided by the results of the Parish Plan Questionnaire, circulated last year. I would like to take the opportunity to thank Robert Traynor and his team for undertaking this work, more of which you will hear later tonight. I would also like to thank all those that took the time to respond to the questionnaire.  Thanks are also due to the many volunteers who help maintain the Recreation Field to a very high standard, not least to Graham de Wilde.  Brian Rippon and other UVHAT trustees continue to do a great job improving our hall facilities and securing its long term viability as a village amenity, so thanks to them.  It is only with this level of voluntary commitment that Upton continues to thrive, so thank you to you all.

After three years in the hot seat I will not be putting myself forward for re-election as Chair at our AGM. I do intend to continue as a councillor for the foreseeable future and it is hoped that this move will allow the PC to grow in expertise. “

(b) Parish Council Finance:  Mr Norman presented the Financial Report for the year ended 31 March 2016 together with the Cash Book for the period and the draft Budget for 2016-17, noting the increase in the precept from £8,000 to £8,500.  Substantial donations from Uptonogood had been received which had been used to pay for various items including part of the Village Hall improvements, replacement of garden machinery, and renewal of the Cushionfall in the playground area, and £1600 for a contested election reserve.  Grants had also been received from WREN for the Village Hall, for the kitchen refurbishment, which was put thorugh the UPC accounts in order to reclaim the VAT on the building work.  This left only £2000 in reserve.  Mr Norman pointed out that the precept monies were largely used up to cover the normal annual expenses of the Council, and that without Uptonogood’s very generous donations, it would not be possible to continue to improve the Village facilities.  Mr Norman’s financial statements were attached to these minutes.  Mr Norman confirmed that all financial reports for previous years were available for uploading onto the Village Website.

(c)       District Council: Cllr Shelley had sent her apologies, but Cllr Reg Waite arrived part way through the meeting (having attended a previous meeting elsewhere).

“Following the three year review of the names, number and boundaries of wards in the Vale of White Horse, changes came in to operation from May 2015.  This electoral review undertaken by the independent Local Government Boundary Commission for England resulted in the number of councillors in the Vale being reduced from 51 to 38; and the wards decreased too.    This resulted in additional workloads for each Councillor. Upton Parish became part of the larger unit known as Blewbury & Harwell Ward with two District Councillors and in May 2015, Cllr Janet Shelley and Cllr Reg Waite were elected.  Janet had been a district councillor since May 2011 for Blewbury Ward covering Blewbury and Upton, whilst Reg had been councillor for Harwell Ward covering Milton village, Chilton and Harwell since May 2007.

The past 11 months:  Janet continued to be a hard working member of the Planning Committee whilst Reg, who had been a Cabinet Member for 4 previous years, was appointed Vice-Chairman of the Vale Council with his duties also including Licensing and overview of the south-east area of the Vale from Wantage to Sutton Courtenay. He is also Chairman of Milton Park Liaison Group and a member of Harwell’s Site Stakeholder’s Group. The past year was very busy for both District Councillors and many changes were introduced and discussed for the future.  Indeed a very challenging year.

However despite further cuts in Government grants the Vale has demonstrated good management during the year without any reduction in the standard of services to the residents and naturally have been under continual scrutiny. Housing has been exceptionally demanding with considerable concern expressed by the number of speculative development planning applications throughout the Vale.  These will be negated once the Council reaches its 5 year land supply target and the Local Plan 2031 is approved. The Council is currently submitting answers to the Inspector’s questions following his Part 1 examination earlier in the year, and once we move to Part 2 a further public consultation will take place.

From an annual survey of 1,000 council tax payers the majority of the Vale’s residents are happy with the Council’s services.  Around three quarters of them said the Council offered good quality services, and seven out 10 agreed they provided good value for money – the best result since the surveys began in 2012.

As in previous years, waste and recycling services were voted the top performing council service by residents and Janet and Reg thank all people in Upton for their ongoing strong support which helps bring in additional income.  The Vale finished 3rd highest recycling authority in the UK for 2014/15, just marginally behind South Oxfordshire District Council who were top once again.

For your information the salient points from this year’s budget passed at the full Council meeting on Wednesday, 17th February are as follows: Vale agreed to freeze the amount of council tax people pay for services it provides in 2016/17.  This is for the fifth consecutive year. The council tax freeze means that for 2016/17 people living in a band D property in the Vale will continue to pay just £116.69 for the services provided by the district council.

Other highlights from the budget are: £950,000 to improve Charter multi-storey car park in Abingdon, including upgrading the toilets; £100,000 a year extra for adaptations to help make homes more suitable for disabled residents; £90,000 over the next three years to replace playground equipment that’s reached the end of its life; £30,000 to help support community events to mark Her Majesty the Queen’s 90th birthday; £60,000 for a one year district-wide deep cleanse trial to help tidy up pavements and public footpaths; £100,000 available in grants for community projects; £80,000 over the next two years to support town vitality projects in Faringdon and Wantage; £10,000 a year to help community flood groups; £50,000 to carry out a feasibility study into parking across the district – up to £2million additional funding has been set aside to improve parking from 2017/18, depending on the results of the study. No annual increase to residents who have a garden waste bin. While so many other authorities are cutting services and increasing taxes the Vale is continuing to come up with new initiatives and ways of working and sharing resources meaning that we can continue to provide first class services for our residents.

The year ahead:

Another challenging year without any doubt.  Planning applications will undoubtedly continue unabated. Much discussion will arise with the greater Didcot Garden Town status concept and how it will affect the town and the surrounding villages.  With further central financial cuts ahead the Vale will be exploring other means of reducing costs and expenditure.  Indeed the Vale and other districts throughout Oxfordshire and in fact most of the country are considering the best methods of reducing authorities with the formation of unitary councils.  As you know from recent media comment and information found on the Vale’s website the County are not in harmony with the four district councils and Oxford City Council on this major topic.  Further progress one way or another should come to light later in the year when it is hoped a period of public consultation will take place.  In any event any unitary council will not be formed for a few years but your views and comments will be welcomed at the appropriate times.

Janet and Reg will continue to be your District Councillors and we will endeavour to provide a good service to you.  We take this opportunity to thank you for our joint teamwork over the past year.  Finally we especially wish to thank Upton Parish Councillors and Parish Clerk for all their committed and unstinting work on behalf of all the residents of the village.”

(d)        County Council: Cllr Lilly had sent his apologies.

(e)        PCSO:  PCSO Jennings had sent his apologies.

(f)         Parish Transport Representative: Mrs West’s report was previously circulated:

“There has been much discussion on the fate of our 94/95 bus service and most if not all will be aware of the withdrawal of all bus subsidies across our County and those beyond.  A meeting was convened between each of the parishes that are served by the 94/95, the result being a small committee to connect with Luke Marion, the financial director for Thames Travel.  The service remains subsidized until 20th July  2016. This is the official end of the bus company’s tender. There is much to suggest that the 94/95 can be run commercially. The working committee have and still are sharing data with Luke Marion and hope to once more have a meeting with him. Not all Parishes have as yet submitted their results of the questionnaire that was circulated. It would be much appreciated if they could.

An increase in fares is expected and some of us using passes at the moment would also pay.

We are definitely seeing more people using the bus at certain times of the day. Long may it continue and even increase. One area of importance that is being worked on is the need to provide a reliable commuter service. Not only getting to the train or bus station in good time but for getting home again at evening.

It is acknowledged that with all best efforts where all transport is concerned there can be hiccoughs.

So a good dose of patience, understanding and acceptance is recommended with your morning cup of coffee!”

(g)        UVHAT:  Mr B Rippon, Chairman of UVHAT, had distributed his report to those present: “Trustees –

After many years of service to UVHAT, both Margaret Maytham and Carol Hall stood down at the start of the year, alongside Clare Lightfoot as announced in last year’s Report. The trustees would like to thank them all for their efforts over the years.  Their departure left a gap on the committee and we were delighted to welcome relative newcomer to the village, Kieron Humphrey, as a Trustee, who has become our new Secretary.

Finances – Thanks to the continued popularity of the hall as a venue, together with the financial support of Uptonogood, the finances of the trust remain strong and the trustees are able to maintain an adequate reserve. Full accounts will be prepared for the UVHAT AGM in May.

Bookings – Ad hoc party bookings continue to be received, with the completion of the refurbishment to the kitchen and entrance hall attracting universal praise. Summer 2016 sees the hall being used for a large wedding celebration— it has always been the hope of the trustees that the improvements to the amenity would result in this sort of prestige event.  We welcome two new regular hirers, who use the hall for a French Club on Saturdays and for Fitness Classes on Friday evenings. We’re pleased to see the new real coffee making facilities being put to good use in a French-speaking setting!

Fundraising – We are grateful to Lesley Shaw and her band of volunteers for organising the Upton 50 Club and seeing it through the transition into higher ticket prices and significantly increased prize values. The new 50 Club remains popular and is a valuable source of additional funding.

Grants and Donations – Once again the organisers of Uptonogood made a very sizeable contribution towards the UVHAT funds, and for this the trustees are extremely grateful. The Parish Council has continued to be extremely helpful in terms of managing the finances for the refurbishment project.

Development Projects – The year saw the completion of the project to refurbish the kitchen, gentlemen’s toilets and entrance hall. The kitchen has been doubled in size and fitted to a very high standard, while the entrance hall now creates a real welcome to the hall in place of the previous dark and dismal interior.

At the same time, we took the opportunity to replace the dilapidated entrance doors with glazed hardwood doors, and to install a sophisticated access control system. This has completely removed the need for hall users and trustees to make arrangements to collect and hand over keys, and the new system has met with approval from all concerned.  As a result of the successful grant application for AV equipment and earlier donations from  Uptonogood! a high quality digital projector and screen, together with a PA system was purchased. The PA system, comprising two powerful active loudspeakers and a mixing desk, are invaluable for outside events and would enable the village to consider putting on music concerts. The projector and screen have been put to good use at meetings within the hall, and are available to all hall users upon request.  High speed Internet and Wi-Fi have been installed at the hall with free access for hall users, a very popular facility judging from the usage records. It was felt by trustees that after many years of service, the hall tables were in need of replacement. The previous tables have always confounded users, and it’s hoped that the new folding tables will not only occupy less storage space, but also be easier to use and present less of a safety hazard. We’re grateful to Uptonogood! For the funding that has enabled us to purchase these.

Space in the storeroom is always under pressure, and in an attempt to tidy up the area it was decided to install lockers for use by regular hall users. It’s hoped that when the old tables have been disposed of that the storeroom will become less cluttered.  The trustees want to turn their attention to refurbishment of the main hall itself and meeting room, with the hope of creating a more contemporary environment and better ambience in these areas. The work in the main hall may be significant, depending upon the results of a survey of the hall floor, which is showing signs of age.  The trustees are considering whether to proceed with work to the meeting room while this is under consideration.

Maintenance & Caretaking – During the course of the year a wide range of maintenance tasks have been undertaken, and we would like to thank Graham de Wilde, Rob Traynor and others for their assistance. The heating in the hall has been a cause for concern, with some heaters not working, others being left on at enormous cost, and the one in the meeting room failing to provide enough heat. An electrician has made some improvements and will replace defective equipment shortly; the meeting room heating should be addressed as part of the refurbishment in due course.   Other minor improvements during the year have included the provision of a paper towel dispenser in the kitchen, a new noticeboard and improved toilet roll dispensers, a constant previous cause of annoyance!

The aim of the trustees is to present the hall to users in a state which — as much as possible—leads them to feel that they are the first to use the amenity. This does depend upon all users of the hall leaving it in the same state that they found it, an objective encouraged by a security deposit being taken from ad hoc hirers and returned providing the hall is clean. However we require the same care to be taken by all hirers, and so ask our regular users to do all they can to maintain standards.  We are pleased to have engaged the services of a regular cleaner, who does an excellent job in ensuring that the hall is brought up to a high standard of hygiene once a week.  The village hall continues to be a valuable asset to Upton and as a small village we can be proud to support such an amenity.”

(h)        United Charities: Mrs Elizabeth Hardy in her role of Trustee to the Charity advised that five Upton villagers had received Christmas gifts from the Charity, and the Charity was happy to be notified of anyone else in need.  They were still looking for a plot of land within the village on which to build an Almshouse. (i)

(i) Blewbury Primary School : Ms Marion Mills had circulated her report:

“It has been a varied year at Blewbury School with an increase in numbers, currently we have 151 on roll. Several children have joined us during the year. We had a new teacher join us in January –Mrs Willmott and we are very pleased with the way that she has settled into the school. Mrs Gregory has joined the staff as a full time teacher having previously trained by following a work based course as a Teaching Assistant in the school.

Everyone is enjoying having class 6 connected to the building but the use of this space has left us restricted for break out spaces for groups. We have just however acquired three new spaces, a biodome which is a large spherical green house, a 4m by 7m cedar wood building and a 4m octagonal building. The later has been paid for by the PTA and will be used for small groups. The larger building will be used for class size groups when they wish to do music or circle time or have lessons based outdoor. Our biodome will help us to grow produce both to supplement our lunch time as well as being able to sell excess through sustainable Blewbury. It is hoped that the Blewbury and Upton VPA will be able to support this project. It must be said that these buildings would not have been a possibility without such events as Uptonogood supplementing our fundraising, so thank you to everyone.

As always we continue to join in with many sports events with our girl’s football team performing very well. We have developed our running team and we are about to start cricket coaching from an ECB coach through the ‘Chance to Shine’ programme, this was very successful last year.

As part of our European job shadowing three teachers have visited  a school in Mainland Spain and their teachers have visited us. Four teachers have visited a school in Ibiza, one has visited our German partner school and two members of staff have visited schools in Turkey.  We continue to host various people, this year it was a German teacher who needed first- hand experience in an English speaking school to be able to teach English. We were very proud to become the only school in the UK or internationally to have received the International School Award six consecutive times since its conception.

During last year the school held a successful education evening where we were able to listen to Sir Tim Brighouse and to ask questions. This year we are planning a music evening for June.

Many of our Year 6 pupils did very well in the SATs and have gone on to DGS, St Birinus, The Downs and King Alfred’s in Wantage. The pressure put on the year 6 cohort by the government this year, is immense and we do not yet have any indication of the type of attainment which will be deemed secondary ready. This is therefore an extremely stressful time for both teachers and pupils.

We continue with our strong programme of residential visits, during last summer Year 3 pupils stayed on the Ridgeway, Year 4 and 5 at Cheddar Youth Hostel and Year 6 at Minehead. We are about to start again with Year 3 going to Stow on the Wold next week. In June the others will go to different centres in Shropshire.

One of the highlights for Key Stage 2 since Christmas has been the production of our own radio programme which we were able to listen to when it was broadcast live. This included fourteen members of Class 6 travelling to Gloucester to work in a recording studio.

We continue to have a thriving PTA who run many events for our pupils, including Discos, Film nights, a quiz night and bingo. They are about to hold a quiz night. We enjoy being part of the community and have been really pleased to maintain positive links with Upton through our support with Uptonogood.

We look forward to another positive year. “  Mrs Mills then left to attend another meeting.

(j)     Neighbourhood Action Group: Mrs Lesley Shaw was unable to attend the meeting but had sent a report:

“I took over from John Lightfoot as NAG Representative for Upton in 2015 after stepping down as an Upton Parish Councillor. My thanks to John as the outgoing Rep for his time supporting NAG  and his handover to me.  The NAG has met infrequently and I myself have only attended meetings at the Milton Innovation Centre in October 2015, December 2015 and February 2016.  The meetings are chaired by our Vale Councillor Janet Shelley together with TVP officers led by PC Sarah Merritt who is the Neighbourhood Officer for the Vale and NAG reps Dr Keith Beswick from Harwell and Mrs Carol Fisher from Rowstock and myself representing Upton. At the last meeting there were also a number of local Farmers present to represent their concerns about recent thefts, hare coursing etc. It is of note that Rural Crime costs on average £2000 per individual or £4000 per business.  In addition there was a well supported Day of Action held at Harwell on 27 February.

Discussions at the meetings have included a presentation by Ben Coleman from VWHDC on Fly Tipping – Article in Upton News referred – with the critical advice for Householders that a Waste Licence should be held by any Contractor being used to remove household waste otherwise the House Owner may be liable for a substantial fine up to £1700 plus a criminal record. In the last year 24 cases have been brought to Court and Fines of £25000 issued. Mid January is apparently a peak time for Fly Tipping.  Dog Fouling on both Public and Private Land was also discussed and has been highlighted in Upton News. Dog Fouling is a Strict Liability Offence with Owners who do not clear up after their dog(s) being liable for a Fixed Penalty Notice of up to £80

We have a new PCSO Keith Jennings C6456 who held his first meeting at the old front desk at Stirling Road Library last Saturday 16 April with PC 1726 Stephen Cardwell. Unfortunately I received the details via John Lightfoot too late to change my plans to attend but further meetings are planned. I have now contacted PCSO Jennings to advise I am the new NAG/NHW Rep and I hope to establish a more frequent route for learning of Thames Valley Alerts now published on the Web going forward – these have replaced NHW emails sent to individuals. The Web Address is: www.wantageeastnag.org.uk. In the meantime if any Upton Parishioners have any concerns or wish to speak to PCSO Jennings they should contact him on the 101 number

(k)      St Mary’s Church:  Mrs West had circulated her report:

Care and maintenance of the building:  The required Quinnquenial  was carried out in 2014. A very robust detailed survey by the architect Mr John Radice.  An extensive list was made for some of the areas that will need attention during the five years following, and ongoing into the future. He found it a beautiful place and being cared for.  A full survey was carried out regarding the electrics. An update was required including a replacement RCB. The work was completed in 2015.  A few roof tiles have become displaced and two need replacing. This will be done at the first window of opportunity. Also at the same time the moss, although not a big issue at present, will be removed.  We still have hopes of being able to provide a toilet facility and are looking at a situation adjacent to the vestry but not attached to, with an extension to the roof line creating the appearance of one building.  Initial plans have been drafted but more thought needed.  Plans have also been put together to reorganize the facilities within the vestry.  Both projects are ongoing.

The Churchyard:  Three memorials, two to the right and one to the left of the path to the church door are soon to undergo repair. The work is to be carried out through A.F.Jones, stonemasons from Wallingford. The Churchyard and cemetery continue to be maintained by Roy Locke.

The People: The building of course is not a church without its people.  We are fortunate to have a 9am weekly service, and on a fourth Sunday in a month we now have a 10.30 am ‘All Age Service.’ This has replaced what used to be a monthly ‘Family Service’.  Undertaken as a trial, the reason being, our little ones are growing up so there was a need to move on with them. That hasn’t taken away the fun element, and so far the change has been successful and continues to grow.  We continue to appreciate the support that the Friends Stewardship Scheme has given us. Not only financially but socially. The autumn Quiz night for the second time last year was much enjoyed and this Good Friday’s walk was blessed with fantastic weather and great company and much-appreciated hot cross buns and tea to finish.  A mention too of last Christmas celebrations with first the carol concert, a full house, followed by the Crib Service, standing room only, then Christmas morning when we were able to welcome many visitors. We look forward to the next event.  Jessie West/Paul Batho, Church Wardens”.  Mrs West was handed a cheque for £200 being the PC’s annual donation towards the upkeep of the St Mary’s.

(l) Harwell Site Stakeholder Group (formerly UKAEA):  Dr Derek Whitmell reported:

“Last year the Annual Meeting was advised that Magnox Ltd had been appointed to manage the decommissioning of Harwell and Winfrith nuclear sites, replacing RSRL.  As Magnox  has the responsibility  for  the decommissioning  of other nuclear sites, they are carrying out  plans to merge resources and rationalise programmes which they expect will result in substantial cost savings and, in some cases, reduce timescales.  Some rationalisation of senior management posts has been implemented. We have been assured that the milestones already announced for decommissioning at Harwell will not be changed.

In October, a consultation exercise was undertaken concerning the plans to remediate the land occupied by the old sewage plant and the low active effluent plant (collectively known as the Tank Farm) on the northwest edge of the site. The only impact of significance to Upton is the temporary diversion of a public footpath for 2-3 years. At the end of the programme the land will be fully restored and clean enough to be released and used without restriction.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Agency (NDA) has recently circulated the draft of its new draft Socio Economic Plan for comment by interested parties.  Support takes the form of small grants  (£1K- £10k generally) to encourage education and redevelopment of employment (and other good works). The draft plan looked at all their sites and assigned three levels of priorities; identifying those areas that are in most need of support, particularly those in remote areas far away from other types of employment. Harwell was identified as being close to new opportunities and was placed in the lowest priority. As a result, the plan suggested that Harwell may get some funding, but that was likely to be limited .

However, the Harwell Stakeholder’s working group has replied and pointed out that they disagree and that Harwell can make a strong case for support and should not be placed in the lowest category.  We wait to hear the outcome.   Reports from other bodies continue to be both interesting and optimistic.  As reported last year, buildings, roads and facilities are being built to attract more organisations and companies to the site, resulting in increases in employment possibilities. “ Dr Whitmell closed by saying that small grants were available from the Harwell Stakeholders group.

3.       Presentation of Parish Plan 2016 – Cllr Rob Traynor

Mr Traynor handed out a few copies of the final draft of the Plan and reported that it was now ready for  printing.  He confirmed that the raw data responses to the questionnaire would be available on the website if required.  Among other suggestions going forward was a Film Club.  Mr Traynor expressed his grateful thanks to the members of the steering group, including Derek Whitmell, Jill Potter and Abi Amos.  Dr Whitmell noted that from the previous Plan, all the targets had been achieved except the cycle path to Blewbury, still an aspiration but no nearer to being realized.  The PC requested that they be advised of new targets for them to pursue to enhance the village.

4.       Open Forum:  The Chairman then closed the meeting to allow for those present to express their concerns.

Pedestrian Crossing, Chilton Road: Residents of Chilton Road reiterated their concerns about the difficulties of crossing Chilton Road to reach the school bus; investigations were still ongoing about the possibility of the school bus making an additional stop in Chilton Road which would avoid the need to cross the Reading Road, and the PC was urged to pursue this matter with Cllr Lilly, who had promised to look into it.  Cllr Waite offered to help in this regard and the Clerk agreed to send him copies of the correspondence.  Cllr Lilly had advised the Ross family that the average speed of vehicles through the village was 43mph, too fast to permit a pedestrian crossing.  The Clerk noted that PCSO Jennings had advised that more speed patrols were going to be instituted in Upton, but these were deemed to be largely ineffective by those present.  Speed humps were equally discounted as being noisy and dangerous.  Other suggestions were a footbridge or traffic lights, but this would require additional land on both sides, and a power supply to work the lights, a very expensive exercise.  Mr Fraser promised the PC would continue to ask for solutions but also hoped that that the traffic going up and down Chilton Road would diminish when Hagbourne Hill reopened.  However, it was reported that the new chicane was not having the required effect, with many near misses and hardly any diminution in speed.  The narrowing of the entrance onto the main road had merely resulted in traffic piling up at the intersection and needed reviewing.  It was also noted that several of the village roads were in a dreadful condition, despite many reports to FixMyStreet website, including from Thames Travel bus drivers.  The PC was asked to continue asking Highways to resurface the roads instead of just patching them, which lasted only a short time and could not be cost effective.

Queen’s 90th Birthday celebrations:  So far no-one had stepped up to organize an event to celebrate the Queen’s birthday.  Mrs Fletcher agreed to write a further article for the next Upton News.

Methodist Chapel:  Mr Fraser advised that the future of the Chapel was in the hands of the Methodist Church and the PC was waiting to hear from them about a further planning application; the Church was well aware that the PC would prefer to see smaller houses suitable for older people and based on the existing footprint of the building but this would involve change of use which might be problematic unless they could come up with some sort of public use element.

Outreach Post Office:  The Clerk (who is also Assistant Sub Postmaster in Blewbury PO) advised that there had been a disappointing response to the Upton News article suggesting an Outreach Post Office be held for two hours in the Village Hall on Thursday mornings during the Drop In meeting; this would be mentioned once more in Upton News and if the response was not considerably improved, would drop the idea.

Parishioners comments and suggestions for the future

A request was made for planning application information to be made available on the Village Website; the Clerk promised to look into this, and also check what other items under the Transparency Regulations should be brought up to date on the website.

Litter Pick – this was due to take place shortly.  Mr Brown asked where the pick sticks were currently so they could be made available to the team; hi-vis jackets were also on offer from Biffa for such events.

Dr Whitmell gave a vote of thanks to the Parish Council for all their hard work for the village of Upton during the past year.  The meeting was then reconvened.

5.  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.  Finally he thanked the Chairman, Dr Bob Lott, who had worked very hard as PC Chairman for the past three years and was now stepping down to concentrate on his business, his family and the Uptonogood event which raised such a lot of money for the village of Upton.

6.  Date of Next Annual General Meeting:  Monday 17th April 2017.

There being no further business, the meeting closed at 10.15pm

Mrs Angela Hoy
Parish Clerk
26th April 2016