The Chairman, Cllr Colin Weyer, presented his report for the year at the Annual Parish Meeting held in Sunningwell Village Hall on 27th May 2021:
Welcome to the Sunningwell Annual Parish Meeting.
The last year has been an eventful one locally as well as nationally.
There was no Annual Meeting last year due to Covid 19 and all of our regular monthly meetings had to be undertaken online via Zoom.
Many parishioners may not be aware that Sunningwell is notably smaller than most parishes having a population of just 904 at the last census. For example, the neighbouring parishes of Kennington, Radley and Wootton are each more than three times as large. We have only seven councillors and just one part time member of staff, who is the parish clerk. He is contracted to work about one day per week; although his dedication is such that he invariably gives much more than this.
Despite our small size and the Covid restrictions I think my colleagues would agree that we have had an active year.
I will briefly mention just a few of the various matters on which we have spent time in the last 12 months.
Over the last few years the council sought expert opinion to guide the management of the pond. Following this the council asked Bob Evans to add the Village Pond to his existing responsibilities as the Village Green Warden. It is always a difficult matter to balance the wishes of some to have a pretty looking pond and others who are more concerned about environmental matters. I am not an expert in this field but in my opinion Bob is keeping the pond in good order and on behalf of us all I thank him for this.
The council has continued to devote time having the Quarry Footpath re-opened for use along its full length. Public footpaths are part of the Queen’s Highway as much as Sunningwell Road itself and the council anticipates having this path fully re-opened in the next 12 months.
As you may know, the Council bought the Village Green from the Diocese several years ago. The Village Green Wall has been in a bad state of repair for some years and the council obtained quotes at about a third of the price previously submitted and the work was completed some months ago. A notice board explaining the environmental features of the Green has been commissioned and this is due to be erected in the next couple of weeks.
After quite lengthy negotiations, the Village Hall Trustees signed a new lease at a nominal peppercorn rent. This will enable them to continue offering the Village Hall facilities. We are now just waiting for the trustees to have their signatures witnessed.
Housing development in north Abingdon on former parish land has resulted in S106 grant money becoming available. This has finally enabled us to proceed with resurfacing the car park which will costs tens of thousands of pounds. We have had to comply with various district council requirements in order to gain access to the funds. The work should begin in the first half of June and affected local residents will be advised of temporary access restrictions.
Early this year, councillors were disappointing to find that one or two individuals, without even the courtesy of a request, had taken it upon themselves to make alterations to the old telephone kiosk which is clearly stated to be council property and is used to house potentially lifesaving equipment. The old phone box soon became overloaded with piles of books which had to be removed as a health & safety risk and the Ambulance Service delisted the defibrillator. Even more disturbing was that council notices were repeatedly removed and replaced with fraudulent notices purporting to be issued by our parish clerk. This criminal activity was reported to the police and I am pleased to say that upon this becoming known the interference ceased. The council has made it clear that it will assist with funding an alternative location if a suitable applicant applies. But up to now, maybe not surprisingly, no one has come forward although there have been one or two vocal apologists for some of the erstwhile behaviour. The defibrillator is now relisted and available for emergency use.
During the Covid lockdown period we have had to follow government guidelines and our limited resources meant that we were unable to comply and hence the playground had to be closed. We are pleased to say that the playground has now been re-opened.
The council has re-vamped its website: www.sunningwell-pc.gov.uk There is now the facility for any parishioner to submit comments and photographs of local interest. I would also mention that there are three short videos on the Defibrillator page and I would strongly urge everyone to view these as they could help you save a life. During the Covid crisis the council has been concerned that there is no easy way to contact parishioners. All households have now been leafleted to advise of a new GDPR compliant database managed by the Parish Clerk. There is also an online form enabling any parishioner to submit their contact details. So far we have already had about 50 responses.
I would like to conclude by thanking all my fellow councillors and Brian Rixon, our dedicated parish clerk, for their support during the year. I also thank County Cllr Bob Johnston & District Cllr Emily Smith who seldom miss our meetings and keep us up to date with their activities.
I would like to add to them my thanks to Bob Evans who, apart from acting as Warden of the Village Green and Pond has also provided much useful information on these and St. Leonard’s Church for inclusion on the website.
Thank you all.