Christmas Newsletter 2017

Parish Council Budget and Precept – 2018-19

The Parish Council set its budget and precept for the financial year 2018-19 in November 2017, and agreed to keep the precept the same. Thus, the precept for the financial year beginning April 2018 will be £25,000 and the component of the precept included in the Council Tax will be unchanged. The full precept and budget for 2018-19 can be seen on the Village website and parish noticeboard.

Progress in 2017-18

In the last year, the parish council has undertaken several initiatives, and with the end of 2017 drawing near, it is perhaps an appropriate time to review these.

  • Following the Village Hall car park re-surfacing, we have continued to support the Village Hall refurbishment plans by agreeing to donate £7,100 to the kitchen refurbishment project which will be done in 2018. We have also funded high speed public access broadband at the hall (£850 in 2017-18);
  • We have increased our donation to maintain the churchyard at St George’s to £2,400 to take account of the increased costs;
  • The restoration of the War Memorial was completed in time for Remembrance Sunday at a cost of £1,210 net of a grant contribution;
  • New benches have been installed at St George’s Crescent, by the phone box and the Liners at a cost of about £1,400;
  • Donation to the recreation ground for insurance and mowing of playground area (£2,170); and
  • Royal British Legion large poppies to mark Remembrance Sunday – £90.

A sum of £1,311 has been allocated in 2017-18 for minor highways repairs and to help maintain public rights of way or footpaths. This financial contribution is required to access available grant funding for these schemes. As well as strimming of green areas, the lengthsman budget has been used to tidy the large verge and plant bulbs opposite St George’s Crescent, and to repair minor potholes (the large potholes remain the responsibility of Herefordshire Council).

A few years ago, the Parish Council publicised a few walks around the Village which proved to be very popular. Will Sanders, our footpath officer has done sterling work in starting to establish a circular walk over by the railway, re-instating the footpath sign by the pumping station, and replacing the stile with a kissing gate up Tunnel Lane to allow easy access to the footpath to the church behind Church Lane. Bridge repair work has been completed as well.

Plans for 2018-19

Next year we must absorb some additional costs because of the withdrawal of the lengthsman grant by Herefordshire Council. The parish council has made £2,500 available for minor highways work next year, which includes the regular strimming of green areas in the village and clearance of visibility splays on key junctions. Also, £500 is to help put in place measures to implement the General Data Protection Regulations which will come into force in May 2018. We shall establish a Parish Council website with a “.gov” name which should enable to us to maintain better contact with the Village. Another significant new project that has needed to be budgeted for is maintenance of the boundary wall at God’s Acre on Millbrook Way. The parish council commissioned a report which highlighted necessary maintenance which is estimated to cost at least £6,000. A donation of £1,000 is in place to support the 492 bus service, and approximately £450 is allocated for the servicing of the dog bins on Millbrook Way and St George’s Crescent.

One of the major concerns which has come to our notice is the issue of road safety, with worries about the speed of traffic on the B roads, and along Kitchen Hill Lane. We have had advice from the police and Balfour Beatty about measures we could undertake to improve things, which could include “Village Gates”, dragon’s teeth and red tarmac road markings, and more sockets for road speed indicators. All these things would have to be done at the parish’s expense and we shall obtain cost estimates and decide on the way forward during the year.

It is also possible that we may have to take some action on The Boot. At present we are hopeful that it will be sold as a going concern to a suitable operator, but if necessary we shall be prepared to get involved. Finally, there are the usual administrative costs necessary to operate the parish council, such as hall hire, insurance, IT, employment costs, and audit fees, which are in line with previous years.

Parish Council Meetings

The parish council is always keen to know what you would like to see supported. For this and other parish matters please come along to a meeting and let us know your views. The next meeting is on 18 January 2018 at the small hall in the village hall. Parish Councillors are always available for discussion.

In the meantime, we hope every resident and business in the parish enjoys a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Richard Jack, Chairman, Orleton Parish Council.

THE BOOT

When The Boot was closed in July 2017, a notice posted on the door alleged that the Parish Council’s action to list the pub as a Community Asset “directly led to a review of funding by our bankers and the viability of the pub and led to the decision to close the pub”. The Parish Council is of the view that The Boot can be a viable business, and looks forward to the day when the Pub is sold to an operator who is able to continue to run this well-loved pub and restaurant.

Since the closure, the Parish Council has monitored the situation and discussed ways in which the Parish Council could encourage the survival of the Pub as an asset for the Village. Help has been sought from the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) which has lots of experience of pubs being purchased and run by community interest groups.

The Parish Council now understands that the business which operated The Boot is to be “wound up voluntarily” and Griffin & King of Walsall are the nominated Liquidator. The Pub remains for sale through Sidney Phillips of Hereford, and the Parish Council is aware of one serious offer that has been made to purchase the property and re-open the pub and restaurant. However, it may be that the liquidator is looking at trying to sell the site for development to maximise the sum available to creditors.

For this reason, we have worked with our Ward Councillor to impress on the planners in Hereford that the Parish Council wants the property to continue as a pub and would oppose any change of use. We believe that the planners are sympathetic to this, and would resist any application for a change of use. The Neighbourhood Development Plan which now carries the force of law does not envisage development of The Boot site for housing but assumes the continuance of the pub.

The Parish Council’s preferred option is for The Boot to be sold to a responsible operator who will continue to run the pub and restaurant. There is also an opportunity for an individual or group of individuals to acquire the pub as an investment and seek a tenant to run the pub. The Parish Council supports viable plans which see The Boot continuing as a pub.

The Parish Council sees the possibility of itself assuming ownership of the pub as a last resort – the Parish Council is not equipped to run a pub, but should circumstances change, then options necessary to secure the future of The Boot will be reviewed and consulted upon.

The Parish Council will be looking at this matter at all our meetings until the future of The Boot is resolved. The next meeting will be on Thursday 16 November 2017.

Orleton Parish Council

Parish Council Report

1. You may remember that we had 2 elections last year! The first effort produced only 2 Parish Councillors; at the second attempt we managed to increase the number to 6 – still one short of the required number of 7. We were fortunate that one volunteer came forward to be co-opted to bring us up full strength, but since then we have two resignations so we have two vacancies to fill. We were grateful for the work done by Martin Bradford and Jimmy Morgan and were sorry to lose them. Anyone who wants to do their civic duty please speak to me later – surely there are some people who would like to see the Parish Council at full strength.

2. The Parish Council has continued to do all the nuts and bolts things that seem to produce a very full agenda for our regular monthly meetings, and there have been several extra meetings arranged to deal with specific issues. I will not take time to catalogue all these routine things – but rest assured that we have been fully occupied on your behalf. What I propose to do is to highlight some of the major issues which have demanded our attention.

3. First was the issue of the Village Hall Car Park. It has been apparent for some time that the car park was in a bad state, and once the costs of doing something about it became known it was clear that the Parish Council would have to get involved with the funding. We judged that it was also likely that the Village Hall may need financial assistance with other things which need renovation. I am happy to say that a contract has been let for the resurfacing of village hall car park, plus the overflow car park by the Recreation Ground; subject to the approval of a loan from Central Government the work should be completed in the next month or so. At this point I would like to thank Jeremy Howell Thomas and Simon Snape and the Village Hall Committee for their efforts in bringing things to this point. These things do of course have consequences – the loan will have to be paid back and we have provided for this from the increased Parish precept.

4. Next was the problem of reduced services from Central Government and Hereford. We attended a meeting on this issue arranged by Leominster Town Council, and it became clear that the main problem was the continuation of the 490 bus service. There was also talk of reduced funding for important services such as the Leominster Library. The Parish Council have decided to provide a contribution, along with other Parishes, to keep these things going for the Community. We have been successful in ensuring that the 490 bus service will continue as at present at least until this time next year. We are indebted to neighbouring Parishes and Leominster Town for joining with us, and our thanks are due particularly to Sebastian for his efforts in this regard.

5. We have also decided to do something about the appearance of the Village. The Telephone Box was offered to us, and rather than see the Post Office scrap it, we bought it. It cost £1 to buy, and a bit more than to refurbish, and we now have a little community library in there. We have also decided to arrange the planting of bulbs and wild flowers in strategic places in the Village. The War Memorial is very important to us, and we have applied for a grant to clean the stone work and repair a crack which has appeared in the structure. Last year we were grateful for the efforts of Penny and Jan who arranged to clean the area around the Memorial, put rosemary in the pots, and repaint the railings around the memorial. Also, we hope to smarten up the old water pump in Deakins Lane.

6. An issue which requires resolution in the near future is Community Assets. Last year we were asked to identify items which could be considered as “Community Assets”. This means that should these “assets” be under threat, the community would consider acquiring them. Other villages in Herefordshire have responded to this by listing things such as village shops and pubs. You may be aware that Brimfield recently had a referendum to decide whether the village should buy the Roebuck. We had originally proposed that our two pubs and village shop should be listed as “Community Assets”. This does not mean that we want to buy them now – but if there was a threat they might close we would consider buying them. However both pubs are unhappy with this. We would like your views on this.

7. The final item which I wish to comment on before I get the main theme for this evening is the precept. I have referred to new items which we have had to include in the budget, and as consequence we have had to increase the precept. The increase amounts to about £1.25 a month for the average Band D house, which doesn’t sound a lot – but the percentage increase sounds big – 26%. Also, coming on top of a 28% increase last year, we are aware that the precept is much bigger than it was. I hope you will think that the extras which we are paying for

– specifically the village hall car park, and the 490 bus service – are worth it. No doubt you will make your views known before we fix the precept for next year!

8. I will now turn to the big challenge for the future. A few years ago, the Government published its Localism Strategy. The centre piece of that, as far we were concerned, was the formulation of a Neighbourhood Development Plan. The then Parish Council backed this idea, and worked long and hard to find people who were prepared to get involved in doing it. Eventually they managed to form a Committee, headed by David Small and a small of group of volunteers. We joined with Richards Castle to prepare a joint NDP for the two Villages. Every household received a questionnaire soliciting views on the future for the Villages. The Draft Plan is now available for consultation with the two Villages, and everybody should by now have received a flyer on how to see the plan and provide comments on it. Those of you who have seen the Plan will be impressed by its size if nothing else, and we must thank David and his Committee, notably Mike Saunders and David English from Richards Castle, and John Alderman, Pauline Betteridge, Liz Moran and Don Pickard from Orleton for their efforts. Being the type of Village which we are, the main issue is housing. Hereford a identified a need for an increase in the houses available within the County, and identified Orleton as a Village with a sustainable future – we have a shop, school, two pubs, a village hall, a doctor’s surgery, and for the present a least a bus service. Hereford judged that we need to provide about 53 new houses over the 20 year period from 2011 to 2031. This includes the 14 affordable house recently finished up Kitchen Hill Road, the two Border Oak house on Postons Yard, and the recently – and in spite of Parish Council objections – approved Border Oak on Tunnel Lane. At the time when the Draft Plan was finalised we also had an outstanding application for 39 houses opposite the school. Many of you will have attended the Public Meeting last year organised in this room by the Parish Council. The Parish Council and a number of local residents objected to the application. However, the Hereford Planning Committee last week approved the application for these 39 houses. It was not all bad news – Hereford are promising a flood alleviation scheme upstream of the Village and Severn Trent say they have a solution to the sewage problem, and the Planning Committee were clear that the approval was conditional on these two things. You will have worked out that 53 minus 14 equals 39, so without the 3 Border Oak and other new builds arising from applications approved in the past but not acted on, plus other new applications for odd houses here and there, the approval for the houses opposite the school already exceeds the number of houses being asked for by Hereford.

9. The other number to bear in mind when considering future housing is the Housing Needs Survey included in the questionnaire on the NDP. Responses to this survey suggested that people in Orleton would like to see up to 80 new houses to cater for future needs. This should be regarded as a wish list rather than a hard requirement, but if we take this figure, after allowing for all the various pluses and minuses, we could be looking another 20 or so more houses than the 39 already approved.

10. We did not know about the approval for the 39 houses when the NDP was written. However the approval for the 39 houses is a fact which we must now live with. Let us hope that the promises made regarding sewage and general flooding are honoured. However we need your responses to the Draft NDP; specifically we need your comments in a number of areas

a) The Plan identifies three areas beyond Halletts Well and on both sides of the road by the school as being suitable for the expansion of the village, but excludes other areas within village such as sites up Tunnel Lane and Kitchen Hill, Amiss Orchard, the Boot Car park etc., and any areas which are not joined on to the main core of the village. Is this right in your view?

b) Now that the 39 houses have been approved, should we restrict development to this

specific parcel of land and eliminate all others from the Plan. Hereford cannot say that we have not complied with their requirements. Alternatively, should we include space for the 20 or so more houses arising from the Houses Needs Survey? This would mean keeping one or both of the other areas of land identified as being suitable for development in the NDP – and we would be inviting development on them if we go for this option.

c) The approval for the 39 houses was given against the background that Hereford is working on a flood protection scheme upstream of the village. They consider that this, together with other measures promised by Severn Trent, will also remove problem of sewage flooding in the Village. You may assume that the Parish Council will continue to oppose any development until these problems are solved. However, the developer of the land opposite the school has agreed to contribute £30000 to the flood protection scheme. You may wish to consider whether you wish to see further development if it can secure a financial contribution of Village infrastructure improvements. Again, we need your views.

11. I must stress that the Neighbourhood Development Plan is actually very important. When the Planning Committee were deciding to approve the 39 houses opposite the school they were told by the Planners that the NDP was not sufficiently well advanced for it to “carry weight”. In effect the Committee were invited to ignore the wishes of the community as expressed in the questionnaires and at the Public Meeting last year. Once the Plan is finished we will be on a much better footing to resist unpopular planning decisions – and your views on the draft plan are vital – so please read the plan and submit your comments on it. These comments must be made in writing – we want to hear your views this evening, but only comments that have been in writing will “carry weight”.

12. Finally, I want to pay tribute to the many people who put many hours of time, on a purely voluntary basis, to make the Village function. We have a Church and Chapel, youth groups, a Village Hall and Recreation Ground, regular Village Coffee mornings and more clubs and societies than I could name. I have thanked a few individuals for their efforts in this report, but I want to extend the Parish Council’s thanks to all those who give their time to making the

Village what it is.