South Central Ambulance Service have advised that the Sunningwell Defibrillator has been reinstated following several weeks disruption caused by one or two irresponsible people believed to be local villagers.  The Council will continue to monitor the situation and hopes very much that the criminal behaviour which led to the delisting of the defibrillator will not recur. More on this below.

A few irresponsible people put lives at risk.

Dear Fellow Parishioner,

This is an important message which I am sending on behalf of Sunningwell Parish Council to everyone in Sunningwell village regarding a topic of which you may not all be aware.

Over the last week or so much misinformation has been circulated in the parish by email and on the internet about the Council’s decision to remove books from the old telephone box in Sunningwell village.

Through the good offices of the late Charles Frost, the Council purchased the kiosk in 2010.  SPC then spent a considerable amount of money to provide an electricity supply and install and maintain a public access defibrillator for emergency use by villagers.

There is a very clear and long standing notice in the kiosk stating council ownership.

Some weeks ago it came to the attention of the council that a person, or persons, unknown had taken it upon themselves to convert the box into an informal book store without the elementary courtesy of asking the council for its consent.  The council took steps to try and identify those concerned by writing to a local village resident who for many years has been responsible for regular checking to ensure that the defibrillator remains in good working order – and without which it will be struck from the Ambulance Service list.  Unfortunately, despite a reminder, no response was received.

This unauthorised use of council property was then added to the SPC agenda for the meeting held on 25th January and, as usual, was published on the notice boards located in all four parish communities.  At the meeting councillors expressed concern at this misuse not least because, in their opinion, the increasing number of books threatened to compromise safe and rapid access to the defibrillator in an emergency which might easily occur at night.

Councillors discussed who might be responsible but none of them, nor the parishioners present who included a representative from The Sunningwell Scene, was able to say.

Not knowing who had placed the books, and being concerned at the present state of the telephone box and that matters might get worse and possibly compromise access to the defibrillator for which the council has an implied duty of care, all councillors agreed that they should be removed without further delay.  It should be mentioned that, in the event of a death or accident, personal liability might be attributed not only to councillors who failed to act but also those misguided individuals who may have contributed to it.

Sunningwell telephone box cluttered with books
Sunningwell telephone box cluttered with books

A few days later, carrying out the instructions of the full Council, the books were removed; a number of which were in quite a soggy state. An official council notice requesting that no books or anything else should be left in the phone box was displayed.  Pending possible disposal or re-use at another agreed site, the books will be held for a short while in case the owners should come forward to claim them.  Since then, on several more occasions books have re-appeared and regrettably the official council notices have been removed.

More worrying, someone has been replacing these with their own notices with false wording purporting to come from the parish clerk.

Various inaccurate and scurrilous correspondence by email and online has also been circulated some of which was abusive and rather puerile. Some of this has been directed at me as Chairman of the Council, although I have just one vote out of seven, including suggesting that I acted on my own volition rather than with the full authority of the council. The parish clerk has also received abuse.

Insinuations have also been circulated regarding my own residence as if I do not live in the parish.  In fact all councillors live in the parish. Three live on Boars Hill which accounts for nearly 40% of the parish population; one lives in Bayworth and three live in Sunningwell village which has 25% of the population.

Despite all the correspondence, no one has yet come forward or been named as being responsible for the ill-considered action which includes the affixing of ceramic tiles to the outside of the box which will now have to be removed at public expense.  It might be as well if the anonymous perpetrators and their apologists, who may be the same people, were to consider for a moment how they would view it if some unknown person dumped piles of books in their porch and glued tiles stating “Library” above their own front door!

The Council supports, and would even be willing to assist with funding, the concept of a book exchange and has already suggested a possible alternative location as being the Village Hall which it owns and which is leased to Sunningwell Village Hall Trust.  The Council would expect this to be done by named individuals and with the prior consent of the village hall trustees.  Any parishioner who has views about a more suitable location is encouraged to attend the next parish council meeting on 22nd February.  SPC reiterates its request that books are not placed in the telephone box.  It is all very well reading this in the calm of your home and thinking how sweet it would be to surround the defibrillator with books, old boots and heaven knows what else, but in a life or death emergency, which could easily occur at night, there will be panic. Nothing must compromise safe and easy access to the life-saving equipment.  That is why anything left in the phone box will be removed and may be destroyed. A life is worth a thousand books.

Subsequent to all the above, the Ambulance Service have advised that continued interference with the Defibrillator facility by irresponsible unknown persons has led to their delisting the device which had been provided for emergency use.

We now come to the most disgraceful, and yet at the same time saddest, incident so far in this very sad saga.  At about 4:30 pm on Monday 15th, we placed this notice on the face of the defibrillator as follows:

Sunningwell Parish Council


Because of recent events the Sunningwell Village defibrillator has now been delisted by South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust.

The nearest defibrillator is located at the porch of the Beaumont Care Home at the top of Bayworth Lane in Boars Hill.

Brian Rixon, Parish Clerk

This notice was deliberately worded in a neutral manner so as to minimise the chances of it also being removed.  It was placed as a necessary warning to any villager, or passer-by, that the emergency life saving device is no longer available to Sunningwell and they must now drive to the Beaumont Care Home at the top of Bayworth Lane.

I have to tell you that, within two hours, this official warning notice had also been removed!

Best regards

Colin Weyer