One of our most important tasks this autumn will to select the companies that provide us with important practical services such as grass cutting, hedge and verge trimming and maintenance of allotments and other Parish property. We have gone for several years without competitive tendering and this our opportunity to shape future service around our current priorities.
Last Autumn, the Parish commissioned a residents’ survey. Due to changes of Councillors and Clerk, it’s taken us longer than we’d have liked to analyse the responses, but we now have presentation approved by the Council ready to share with residents. We know that some residents feel that the survey was not particularly well designed but we believe it has some valuable results that should be shared. We continue to listen to community feedback.
What are some of the key findings? Speeding is by far the issue most on residents’ minds. The majority of respondents thought that facilities for younger people, especially over-9s, needed to be improved. The Council has established a working group to focus on playgrounds and facilities for young people and there will be more updates coming. Just under 10% of respondents owned allotments – but the vast majority thought they were an important resource for the Parish. On a happy note, very few residents reported problems with crime or anti-social behaviour and pretty well everyone was happy and liked living in the area.
The findings from the Survey will help shape our priorities. For example, we’ve pushed hard in recent months to get Bucks Council approval to put Community Speedwatch signs up in the Parish. You might have seen these yellow sigs in Hazlemere, for example. Councillor Stan Jones, aided principally by John Marchant and James Perkins, has led the negotiations and twelve locations have been approved. The signs will allow us to deploy more speedwatch stations around the Parish. This is in line with the results of the residents’ survey, where respondents asked for more signage and more checks.
During the Pandemic, we saw a significant drop-off in grant applications from organisations doing great work in the Parish. We’d like to remind associations, clubs and action groups that the Parish Council welcomes applications for grants to help improve life and amenities around the Parish.
One consequence of the period we experienced without a Clerk and with an inquorate Council in the Spring was that we got behind on the important work of maintaining Parish land, trimming verges and hedgerows, and keeping road signs and footways clear. Under the guidance of Emily Ranahan, the Clerk, and Cllr Jill Armshaw, who chairs the Environment and Services Committee, we kicked off a Tidy Up programme in August. Post-drought grass cutting of the verges has been done, street signs are being cleared and cleaned, some overgrown allotment plots have been cleared, and village gates are being cleaned and repaired.
The Parish Council has recently brought to a conclusion a long running issue over the ownership of several plots of land on which we rent out many of our allotments. The issue revolved around complex and sometimes contradictory legislation going back to the middle of the 19th century, and over the past couple of decades has been subject to a great deal of legal advice, Tribunals and appeals, by both the Council and individual residents. The Council was unable to support a proposed resolution that there remained strong enough grounds to dispute the existing rulings that the land was not Parish-owned land, and hence decided it could not support spending more money seeking to challenge this. Hence it resolved to pay the outstanding overdue lease payments to Hughenden Community Support Trust.