Eccleshall Parish Council – ANNUAL PARISH MEETING, April 28th, 2021

The annual meeting of Eccleshall Parish was held was held online via Zoom videoconferencing on April 28th, 2021, at 7.30pm.

1).   Present were: –    

Councillor P. Jones (Chairman)            Councillor L. Dale           

Councillor S. Mifflin                               Councillor C. Wilkins

Councillor G. Dale                               Councillor J. Jones         

Councillor S. Perren                            Councillor R. Langford     

 Councillor P. Stenning                        

 Councillor J. Leather                            

Councillor A. Reid                                

Councillor E. Amos                   

 Mrs S.J. Worden (Clerk) Mrs B. Partridge (Assistant Clerk)                                                    

1 member of the public                                                                  

2).           Apologies were received from: –

Cllr. R. Taylor and Cllr. B. Delanchy. Cllr. S. Kean was absent.

3).           Minutes of the Annual Parish Meeting – May 22nd, 2019

The minutes, which had been previously ratified by the Council, are available on the Parish Council’s website.

4).           Chairman’s Welcome: –

The Chairman thanked Councillor Libby Dale, the Deputy Chair of the council, for her support and hard work during this unusual year which had been his second year as chairman, as the Council decided to continue with the chairmen and vice-chairmen for another year, due to Covid restrictions.

He also thanked the Parish Clerk Mrs Stacey Worden for her tireless support over the year and informed the Parish of the appointment of an Assistant Clerk, Mrs Beverley Partridge.

The Chairman presented an overview of the Council’s activities. One Councillor had stepped down over the past year and two new councillors had been co-opted: Cllrs. Steve Kean and Ant Reid, bringing the Council back to 15 members. The Chairmen thanked Councillor Martin Watson for his work for the people of our community.

The approval of a planning application appeal by a government inspector for 37 homes on the flood plain area off Castle Street was a setback following the Parish Council’s strong objections and the Stafford Borough Council’s rejection of the application. The Parish Council are in the process of writing to central government and relevant national associations to lodge its objections

Financial support for the Eccleshall Cares organisation would continue as it had provided much needed support for members of the community. The Council has embraced Zoom for its meetings during the pandemic which has allowed it to continue to attend to the needs of the parish.

The Council was pleased to welcome Councillor Stuart Perren as the new Chairman of the Eccleshall Flood Action Group acting on several flooding issues in the town.

He also reported that Councillor Ros Taylor had assumed responsibility for the Keep Eccleshall Tidy group with the valued support of the many local volunteers and the Footpaths Committee, with its duty to maintain over 130 public footpaths in the Parish, again with the support of volunteer marshals.  He also thanked Councillor Bryan Delanchy for chairing the Planning Committee.

After many Civic events having been curtailed due to COVID restrictions the Council was looking forward to holding them this year. These would include the Civic church Service, Remembrance Sunday Service, Carols around the Christmas Tree and the planned VE Day celebrations.

5).           Committee Reports:

Copies of the full reports will be attached to the minutes.

TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE

The Speed Indicator Devices to slow traffic continued to be popular and “Build-Outs” had been installed on the Stone Road coming into Eccleshall, but reaction was yet to be monitored.  A request to the County Council to improve the lighting on the zebra crossing was not successful, but as a subsequent action, the bulbs and light covers were replaced. The Parish Council’s bid to buy the Police Post was unsuccessful. The Parish Council were advised that Highways Officers would only be available to meet Parish Councils once a year.

ENHANCEMENT COMMITTEE

Elford Heath
It was reported that the extensive work that had been carried out here was now complete and this area was being enjoyed by many more members of the public, with the emergence of wildlife. Two picnic benches which had been installed were being well used.
Croxton Play Area
The swing seat and the swing’s cross beam have been replaced and the trees have been thinned as recommended by the arboriculturist.
Phone Boxes
These were still waiting to be repaired as social distance working conditions had restricted progress.
Eyeswell Public Space
An arboricultural report had been commissioned, quotations received and a proposed course of action agreed which would be undertaken during 2021.
Beech Road Play Area
Stafford Borough Council has delayed any decision on this for 12 months.
Pavements
The Parish Council had instigated an extensive programme of clearing the pavements in the Parish. (This work used to be done by the County Council but due to cut backs is no longer undertaken).
Covid Pandemic
A leaflet “ Where to get help” was produced and delivered throughout the Parish and a “ Helping Hands Fund” was produced which enabled parishioners in need to apply for £50-00 to spend at the Eccleshall Co-op.
Remembrance Day
7 ‘Tommy” Silhouettes have been ordered, 1 for Croxton, 2 for Slindon and 4 for Eccleshall to be displayed at the relevant time.

POLICY AND RESOURCES COMMITTEE

Activities undertaken by the committee in the last twelve months included a review of the budget and expenditure to date; the consideration of Deeds and Insurances to ensure they are fit for purpose; Budget planning to inform the precept; consideration of grant requests and consideration and recommendation for a temporary Assistant Clerk, resulting in a successful appointment of a new member of staff. The committee had also the considered and recommended the adoption of a monthly accounts report for web publication and also support of the proposal to source a new website provider.

PLANNING COMMITTEE

The present chairman is Councillor Bryan Delanchy. The committee meets every two weeks, so that it can respond to planning applications within the prescribed Borough Council timeline. It was noted that during 2020, the Parish Council considered 68 applications – compared to 2019, when there were 76 applications. The number of applications had remained fairly stable, even throughout the pandemic.

Stafford Borough Council is in the process of updating the Local Plan for Stafford, and the Planning Committee has responded in full to any consultation activities to date. Progress on the plan has been hampered by the events of the last twelve months so there has not been any further information issued on the progress of the Plan since the Issues and Options Consultation, which closed in April 2020.

The Planning Committee will be closely monitoring the progress of the plan and considering any implications for the Parish and its existing Neighbourhood Plan.

KEEP ECCLESHALL TIDY SCHEME

The majority of the KET Team was recruited in August, September, and October of 2020 when there seemed to be a need for volunteers to take responsibility for clearing litter, cleaning road name signs and any seats in an area close to where each volunteer lived.  Each KET Team member has been issued with SBC bags.  The number of recruited volunteers is now 34, covering the whole of Eccleshall and almost all outlying areas.

Each volunteer had been supplied with equipment to include usually a litter picking stick, gloves, high viz vests, bags and handihoops, most of which had been sourced free of charge. At the full Parish Council meeting in September 2020 an amount of £350 was granted as a fall back in case equipment could not be acquired free of charge. 

KET Team volunteers were asked to identify specific areas where they considered that a new or larger street rubbish bin was required.  Streetscene review these areas, as it is not simply a question of a new bin but also the regular emptying of the bin by the refuse collectors. In the past few weeks, a larger bin has replaced a smaller bin on the Wash Pits and in Castle Street near the bus stop and Fletchers have placed the bin outside their gates on the Stone Road.  Fletchers have kindly volunteered to empty this bin for the Parish Council.  The KET Team have also identified other places where they feel there is a need for a new bin. 

It was reported that there has been a problem with cigarette butts being dropped in areas of central Eccleshall, areas where there are rubbish bins close by.  Discussions have taken place with the Manager of the Co-op who has said he will investigate but any ideas from the Parish as to how this issue could be resolved would be appreciated.

The Keep Eccleshall Tidy scheme appears to be working well and resulting in Eccleshall and the surrounding areas looking cleaner and tidier, and it is hoped new volunteers will be able to replace those who can no longer continue.  A young person joined the KET team to carry out the community element of the Bronze Award as part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme and it was felt that other young people in the scheme should be encouraged to volunteer.

FOOTPATHS AND FOOTPATH MARSHALL SCHEME

The Footpath Marshal scheme seems to have originated in 2010 but it appeared to have lapsed.  From around April through to June last year, seven of the original 2015 Marshals were encouraged to take up the duties again and further fourteen were recruited, as well as six volunteers placed on the waiting list.  The Marshals have walked their allocation of around eight paths each, at least twice during the past ten months.

At the full Parish Council meeting in June 2020 the Council agreed to appoint Mr Graham Cole as a Footpaths Maintenance Operative to carry out the work required to bring the Parish footpaths up to an easily walkable level, and he started work in July 2020.

The Footpath Marshals report any concerns they find on their allocated paths.  These may be issues such as stiles requiring maintenance, broken/damaged finger posts and way markers, fallen trees, overgrown brambles/nettles etc.  The Clerk then issues a Work Order to Graham who carries out the work diligently as required and often walking and surveying footpaths in his own time to investigate issues reported by residents.

Graham carried out a complete survey of all the stiles on our Parish footpaths to see which stiles need total replacement.  There is a scheme run by the County Council whereby one of their Works Managers will lead a small group of our volunteers to totally rebuild stiles.  It is very much hoped that this scheme will start again in the near future. However, it has appeared to be very difficult contacting the appropriate landowner for permission to carry out the work and so any help with finding names and contact details would be appreciated.

6).           Clerk’s report /financial summary:

Mrs. Worden provided an overview of the current financial position of the Council. The balance at March 31st, 2021 was £103,737.00, which includes funds held in earmarked reserves.

Expected income for 2021/22 is £89,363, against a budget of £105,934.00. The Council plans to use some of the accrued reserves to fund activities over the upcoming year.

Earmarked reserves for 2021/22 are £56,060, which allows funds to be set aside for costs that are not within the years planned expenditure, such as the 4 yearly election costs, future play area equipment repairs, and longer-term project aspirations such as Beech Road play area.

7).           Any matters of Local or Topical interest – Q & A: – No further items were raised

     There being no further business, the Chairman declared the meeting closed at 7.55 p.m.