Chairman’s Report 2019 – 2020

It has been a roller-coaster of a year for Upton Parish Council. The very sad passing of the long serving Upton Parish Councillor Stuart Norman, the co-option of myself and of David Beccles and the resignations of Stuart Fraser, Ian Sykes and Jo Fidgen have meant that keeping everything going has proved particularly difficult with such a loss of experience this year. We are still remaining two Parish Councillors short of a full complement, not to mention Covid 19 which has not only made it a challenge to hold meetings but also difficult for those volunteering to maintain the village facilities.

Despite this evolving situation, I have thoroughly enjoyed my first year as Chairman of Upton Parish Council. The ever changing position of the Council certainly keeps the situation both challenging as well as rewarding.

My thanks must certainly go to all of the volunteers who have worked so hard both on behalf of the UPC and the Village. In particular, Graham De Wilde, who has for so long been organising the Volunteers including Paul Batho, Nick Thackray, Stuart Fraser, Rob Traynor, Bob Lott, Peter Head, Dianne Rabbetts and Derek Voskins, Simon Powel and John Lightfoot all of whom help to cut the grass and maintain the play areas, amongst many other pivotal duties that they undertake. We truly appreciate you all and all your efforts.

I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Mike Brown for his ongoing hard work with Upton News. It is a highly demanding task that keeps us all informed and entertained which, as I write this, strikes me as much more difficult than I had realised.

My thanks also go to Jacqui Reid and the UVHAT committee of volunteers for all there help supporting the Village Hall with a fantastic focal point for the village. Their role in supporting the community with fundraising and events is such a pivotal part of what being a resident of Upton Village means to so many of us.

I also want to thank Sarah Carter for her welcome initiative in setting up the Upton Village Help Group which I know has been widely appreciated by many Upton residents.

Lastly, I want to thank all of my fellow Councillors for everything that they have done this past year.

The challenges they have faced have been numerous and it should hopefully always be recognised that everyone on Upton Parish Council are volunteers often giving up their free time at the expense of time spent with their friends and family.

I as Chairman and we as a Community are very fortunate to have such a passionate and resilient Parish Clerk for a village like Upton. Liz’s job can often be difficult and very time consuming and I thank her warmly on all our behalves for her efforts.

I am very pleased to report that there have been some great successes this year: Following the successful Village website set up by Brian Rippon, Peter McLaughlin has completed the transfer of the website hosting and set up new councillor web mail addresses. I’m sure it has taken him longer to explain it to me and the other Councillors than it did to set it up. We very much appreciate that he made his skill set available to the Council and for the Village.

Following last year’s Annual Parish Meeting (APM) we have had reason to explore all manner of suggestions and ideas put forwards by Parishioners such as: Additional car parking facilities for the Village Hall; The relocation of the young children’s playground to a new location nearer to the other play area, as well as the passionate views of some parishioners about the possibility of a garden and seating area within the recreation ground.

No one Councillor could have done this alone but a considerable number of face to face meetings, perspective plans and organising took place by Brendan Heneghan, David Beccles, Peter McLaughlin and Liz Cooper, who has been meeting and vetting contractors for the purpose of drafting questionnaires and then making plans for the coming 5 years.

The UPC, in conjunction with Sustrans, High Ways and County Councillor Mike Fox-Davies, has supported the campaign led by Ben Amos & Mike Brown and other parishioners to close the Chilton Road leading to Hagbourne Hill Road to motor vehicles.

Councillor Brendan Heneghan has worked closely with the Blewbury Parish Council and Speed Watch to acquire a camera and training to help reduce speeding through the villages, which is an ongoing project.

This year, more than ever, it has become even more apparent how much we rely on our community for support. Our focus therefore has primarily been in planning and costing the works that have been diligently and committedly undertaken for so long by our volunteer support army both on big and small jobs around the village.

Many of you will be aware that for a very long time the local elections in the Parish have been uncontested. On more than one occasion, we have not managed to garner any interest from villagers in being co-opted onto the UPC.

It is so very easy to become complacent and expect that others will do these important jobs; What you may not be aware of, is that this is also the case for the Volunteer Work Groups and for Upton News where we have sadly been advised of resignations in both but have high hopes of being able to pass the torch on so that they can continue their well-established legacies.

If you are reading this you will hopefully have seen that we have sent out several messages in Upton News and on the Village Notice Boards asking for voluntary support and yet, sadly we have found little to be forth coming.

Frustratingly for the Council we do need to remind people that we do not run the Upton News and nor do we run the Working Groups. They are a both Volunteer Groups which we support as a Council with either money and/or advice and technical support as requested (albeit that it is all too often the other way around given that the leaders of the volunteer groups and the Editor of Upton News are so long standing).

It should therefore unfortunately be noted that if we find that we no longer have sufficient volunteers to run these groups then we would (if it were requested that we do so) have to hire people to do these jobs at a cost to the Parish.

As it currently stands if things are left as they are, there will be a void and it will not be possible to maintain the village as it is now without either an increase in volunteers, very large increases to the precept, or a steady general decline of the available facilities to the village.

There are over 400 residents in the village and we need villagers to play their part to make things happen. As you can see, Upton Parish Council has achieved a great deal this year and the Council has plenty of exciting things planned for the future but it needs your help, to make the village you live in a better place to live. Please do consider whether you can spare an hour or two a month to help.

The more people who are willing to come forward to support the village, the less work and associated cost there is and the more we can achieve together. If you value the village and its facilities, then we really need you to be a part of the change you want to see. It really is that simple. We need the Village to help make plans to implement the changes you want to see and to commit to its upkeep or to fundraising to pay someone to do so.

With all this in mind we will soon be sending a sample survey out to all households in the village on a number of different areas. This will not be dissimilar to the previous Parish Questionnaires. We hope that this will help us to formalise a Five Year Plan for the village to work towards and to identify the village priorities.

It has been an honour and a privilege to have served as co-opted Chairman of Upton Parish Council during the past year. I believe that our actions have continued to have a positive impact on providing improving facilities within the Parish and will we hope continue to do so in future years to come.

Kind regards,

Cllr Benjamin Shaw

Chairman of Upton Parish Council