- Philippa Carter (Chair)
- Sandy Timms (Vice)
- Peter Rance
- Angela Barnes
Members of the Public:
- Chris George and Richard Smith
CCllr Rodney Rose and Cllr Mark Tribe
2. MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING
The recorded Minutes from the Meeting held on 8 February 2016 were agreed, duly signed, dated and filed.
3. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
There were no declarations of interest to be recorded.
5. FINANCIAL REPORT:
£733.00 Sport England (refund of playing field legal searches)
£508.51 Dyer & Butler (for Network Rail Community Scheme)
£500.00 Wychwood Day Centre (PC donation) Chq No. 100999
£46.00 P. Carter (PC maintenance brass plaques) Chq No. 101000
£133.07 OALC Annual Subscription Chq No. 101001
£21.22 L Mellor Chq No. 101002
6. COUNTY COUNCILLORS REPORT:
Cllr Carter read the following report in CCllr Rodney Rose’s absence;
BUDGET Prior to Christmas, Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) went out to consultation on possible additional budget cuts totalling £51m, at the time believed to be the worst-case scenario. However, due to a change in the funding formula, which penalised shire counties, the settlement was even worse than expected and the additional savings required now total £69m. In response to protests from shire counties, on 11th February the Government announced transitional funding and OCC will receive £9m across two financial years in respect of this. The Council met on Tuesday 16th February to debate the budget measures necessary to achieve the savings. Although most of the savings will still go ahead, a cross-party agreement was made on the day incorporating the following changes:
- A total of £2m of savings relating to Early Intervention Hubs and Children’s Centres will now not take place. An original £6m saving on Early Intervention Hubs and Children’s Centres – agreed by the council at its annual budget meeting in February 2015 – will still take place. No decisions have been taken at this stage on how this £2m will be spent.
- A total of £3m of savings relating to day centres (including transport to day centres) will now not take place. Instead they will be replaced by a saving of £1m from 2017/18 resulting from a full review of all day services for older people.
- There will be a further £300,000 contribution to the budget from reserves.
- The net result of this is that the council will be able to set a balanced budget in 2016/17 but over the medium term now has £15.2m of unidentified savings to make as opposed to the previous figure of £11.2m. The new £4m of unidentified savings all fall in 2017/18. A number of other important decisions were made during the debate:
- A cross-party board of county councillors will be created to consider how best to use the transitional funds.
- The council will consider workplace parking with a view to early implementation.
- There will be a review of the number of Cabinet members.
- The benefits of a Unitary Council will be discussed on a cross-party basis and full and timetabled consultation will be prepared. This will be subject a free vote for all councillors.
PROPOSALS FOR DISTRICT UNITARY COUNCILS – On Thursday 25th February a surprise announcement was made by Oxfordshire’s District Councils and Oxford City Council. (This may have been in response to OCC’s call for a debate on a single Unitary Council for the county.) It called for the abolition of OCC and the establishment of four district unitaries:
- A new Southern Oxfordshire Unitary Authority would cover the area currently administered by Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire District Councils.
- An Oxford City Unitary Authority would be formed in the centre of the county, covering the area currently administered by Oxford City Council.
- A West Oxfordshire-Cotswold Unitary Authority covering the area currently administered by West Oxfordshire District Council and Cotswold District Council.
- A Cherwell-South Northants Unitary Authority covering the area currently administered by Cherwell District Council and South Northamptonshire Council. OCC welcomes the District Councils’ engagement in the Unitary debate and will shortly be putting forward its own proposals.
MAJOR INCIDENT AT DIDCOT POWER STATION
There was a partial building collapse of Didcot A Power Station on Tuesday 23rd February and a major incident was declared. The multi-agency rescue operation continued over the weekend of 27th/28th February with emergency services cooperating with structural engineers and demolition experts. The partially collapsed building remained unstable making it a complex operation. At the time of writing (February 29th), there was one fatality, three people missing and five injured. Updates are posted regularly on the OCC website.
VILLAGE RESILIENCE FUND
Oxfordshire communities are being urged to tap into a special ‘resilience’ fund to help them to cope better with emergencies. The SSE (Scottish and Southern Energy) Resilient Communities Fund offers up to £20,000 to help communities to:
- Protect the welfare of vulnerable people during a major power cut or emergency due to severe weather.
- Enhance community facilities and services that may be needed during a major power cut or emergency due to severe weather.
- Improve communication during an emergency situation, to keep communities informed or to aid contact between local groups and response services Further information at https://www.ssepd.co.uk/Resiliencefund/ or call 0141 224 7191
7. DISTRICT COUNCILLORS REPORT:
8. PUBLIC TIME:
Cllr Carter welcomed Chris George and Richard Smith and invited them to address the meeting.
(a) Chris George talked about the OCC cuts and the impact on the Wychwood Day Centre. He reported that they were putting together a 4 year plan and would re-visit the PC in the Autumn for a decision on a donation/ funding.
Chris asked the PC about the removal of the BT phone box outside his house. The PC had not received any documentation on this and Chris agreed to forward all emails that he had received from BT and WODC to the Clerk.
Chris also asked whether anything could be done about damage to the grass verge outside his house caused by large vehicles. Cllr Carter explained that this has become a regular problem in several locations around the village and that the PC had complained to OCC and the bus companies numerous times. OCC have not been helpful as they are keen to cut costs on verge maintenance wherever possible. The possibility of using posts or stones was discussed.
(b) Richard Smith asked if the drainage system on High Street / Chipping Norton Road was working properly. Cllr Carter explained how the drainage system worked.
Richard asked for an update on the Playing Field Drainage Project – Please refer to Item No. 12 Sport England.
Richard then spoke about the planning application 1616/00608/HHD Willowbrook 51 High Street – Cllr Carter agreed to look into this application in more detail.
9. MATTERS ARISING
(a) Wychwoods Working Together – ongoing
(b) County, District and Parish Council Surgery – Ongoing
(c) Church Lime Tree Project – ongoing
(d) Oxfordshire Together (OCC)
Cllr Carter reported:
A meeting for several local Parish Councils was arranged and chaired by C Cllr Rodney Rose at Wychwood Library on 22 February 2016. P Cllrs Carter and Rance attended. The aim was to discuss services that may be devolved from OCC to Parish Councils – in particular the funding of local bus services, which will have their OCC subsidies cut, and some parts of the Highways service.
The question was raised as to how Parish Councils can fund this extra work as they are limited by Section 137. C Cllr Rose explained that PCs would not need to use Section 137 funds if powers had been officially devolved from OCC.
BUSES (Cllr Rance)
Paul Branch of Villager Buses explained that they are currently operating off peak services in both Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire and depend upon 40% of their costs being subsidised by those CCs. Even an increase in fares would not compensate for that severe loss of subsidy. Cllr Rose advised that OCC hope to extend the subsidy to July 2016. Paul stated that, with reserves in hand, Villager do not intend to withdraw services or seek Parish Council grants at least until January 2017.
Paul Branch added they have just received a brand new bus which was a commitment of the previous coalition government. He also confirmed that Villager were taking into consideration Cllr Rance’s advice that AuW users want a bus to Chippy on Wednesday market day. They would like to provide a co-ordinated bus service and take into account potential revisions to Pulhams’ schedules, but to date they had not had meetings with Pulhams.
Cllr Rose explained that the GoRide service from Charlbury was being championed by Charlbury PC for a town drop off service. Its poor service reliability for the other villages, including AuW, was an issue. [ In confidence, the mood reflected the poor reputation of GoRide, not helped by “GWR” franchise not subsidising that service either]
Cllr Rose will ensure that attendees at this meeting will be put on a wide E Mail distribution list that includes Villager, so that all are fully informed of developments. Villager meanwhile are happy to receive e mails from PCs about any service ideas etc they might suggest. Also, Villager will share their comprehensive data on current bus loadings per village so that the relevant Parish Councils can make fully informed decisions.
It was agreed that whilst OCC still awaits final notice from Central Government on financial grants, if PC Precepts are to be used in any way to part subsidise buses, October is a necessary firm target for such conclusions by the Oxfordshire Together mutual interest group.
ROADS (Cllr Carter)
Tim Shickle from OCC gave an update on what road, verge, footway and drainage maintenance can and cannot be devolved to Parish Councils. Highway and footway (pavement) repair plus drainage maintenance are not to be devolved at this stage. The categories of most interest to Ascott-u-W are verge cutting within the Parish Boundary (but outside the 30 mile per hour limit), grip cutting/maintenance and kerb spraying. In fact some of the work has not been done by OCC in Ascott for years and kerb spraying is being contracted out by the Parish Council already. OCC would like to encourage the use of ‘Fix My Street’ and widen its scope to assist them with defect reporting.
Verge maintenance outside the 30 mph limit but within the Parish Boundary can be taken up by Parish Councils with a small grant from OCC secured for 3 years. If it is not taken up by the PC then OCC will cut the bare minimum (i.e. visibility splays at junctions and any spots deemed dangerous by OCC) and this will be done once, perhaps twice a year.
Grip cutting and maintenance is still being undertaken by OCC but the plan is to devolve this work to PCs with a small grant attached (TBC). Cllr Carter asked that special consideration should be given to Parishes that have serious flooding issues as poor grip maintenance will simply create more problems for the OCC drainage dept. This point was noted by C Cllr Rose.
Tim Shickle is happy to receive any further questions by e-mail. Cllr Carter will write to him so that the PC has a clear picture of exactly which verges (outside the 30 mph limit) would be regarded as part of the A-u-W Parish. Cllr Carter has asked C Cllr Rose for an update on whether grips will be cut by OCC in A-u-W this year.
(e) The Pound – Cllr Carter reported that she was waiting for costings to be confirmed for the signage and the re-building of the dry stone wall.
(f) Grass Cutting Contract (revised) – ongoing
(g) Verges damaged by heavy vehicles:
Cllr Carter reported that the above had been reported to OCC Highways and the Bus companies – all were being lobbied.
16/00483FUL 3 The Green, Ascott-under-Wychwood – New – No Objections
16/00608/HHD Willowbrook 51 High Street – New (comments by 24 March)
15/04239/HHD Yew Tree Cottage, 31 High Street Ascott-under-Wychwood – Approved
15/04145/HHD – Meadowbank Barn House, 1 Meadowbank Close – Approved
11. MEMORIAL PLAYING FIELD – RECREATION & PLAYGROUND
(a) Replacement Sign – ongoing
(b) Trellis – ongoing
(c) Handrail – ongoing
(d) Hedgecutting – ongoing
Cllr Carter explained that progress on a) b) and c) is pending a decision on the drainage project.
12. SPORT ENGLAND:
Cllr Carter reported that she had spoken to Iain James of TGMS to fully understand his thoughts on reducing the contract costs for the proposed Playing Field drainage scheme. Cllr Carter has been reassured that no savings will reduce the effectiveness of the scheme and that there has been no saving to the key element of interest to neighbours – which is the attenuator. There is a proposal to save £2,040 by delaying installation of the extra drainage lines from the spring in the cricket pitch but Cllr Carter will try hard to raise that extra sum so that the work can be done at the same time.
The cost of the project, minus spring drainage, is now £79,178.96. Sport England originally offered £45,000 but some of that has already been spent on legal work. The SE budget is currently £44,465.00 and they have stated that they will consider increasing this, if the PC can raise some money within the community and/or through grants.
The PC had set aside £5,000 to use on absolute essential work around the Pavilion if the SE project were to fail, so this has been pledged towards the SE project if it would help to unlock more funding. Similarly the Sports Club, Village Charity and WVS School have pledged a total of £7,000. Cllr Carter distributed a letter to all households as a form of ‘crowdfunding’ and has received personal pledges of £800. The Football Club is planning a 6 mile Sponsored Walk on 24 April, Juliet Heslewood is planning an art talk on 24 June in the Swan Function Room and Mark Pidgeon and Elaine Byles have offered to hold a Folk Night for the project. The former Cricket Club Captain has been asked to unlock the £2,000 left in the club account, especially for the cricket pitch drainage lines – no response yet.
3 grant funders are considering our applications – Playing Field Legacy Fund which funds up to £10,000, PF Charitable Trust which does not state an amount and the Football Foundation which is the grant wing of the FA. Cllr Carter is dealing with the Oxfordshire branch based in Witney. FA Funding is not available until the end of March. The contact, Andy Earnshaw, is optimistic that this is the sort of project that the FA likes to support, he sees the shortfall as a ‘small sum’ in terms of pitch drainage schemes and is encouraged that Sport England supports the scheme. He has been sent the TGMS plan of the scheme and a short application laying out our evidence of need. The next step will be a meeting on site and we are awaiting their choice of date.
(a) London Road South (Charlbury) private garden pond Mrs Beveridge – there was considerable flooding on London Lane on Sunday 14 February. This was resolved thanks to Alan Chubb and OCC Drainage team. The problem is being monitored for a more permanent solution, acceptable to all.
(b) Pot-holes – Ongoing
(c) Pavement outside Ascott Earl House – reported to CCllr Rodney Rose at OCC
(d) Manhole/foul drain outside Hazel Cottage (opposite The Swan)
Leaking very badly and has been reported by the PC and various residents. Dealt with by Thames Water within 24 hours.
14. ASCOTT-UNDER-WYCHWOOD SPORTS CLUB:
Nothing to report.
15. COMMUNITY EMERGENCY PLAN:
Cllr Carter reported that there had been 2 floods and the Road Closed signs had been deployed under the strict supervision of OCC.
Cllr Carter reported that, after the day at Honeydale Farm, a meeting had been arranged for the Evenlode Catchment Partnership (ECP) to visit Ascott-under-Wychwood to learn about the various flood threats that exist in the village. The meeting took place on 11 February.
The ECP is made up of representatives from various organisations such as Wild Oxfordshire, the Environment Agency, Sylva, the Wychwood Project, Natural England, Oxford University, Atkinson Global and Windrush AEC Ltd. They have come together to try and improve the environment in and around the whole Evenlode catchment with a balanced approach which takes into account the threat of floods and the fact that farmers have to make a living and landowners have limited funds. Invited to this meeting were also representatives of OCC Highways and the Planning Dept at WODC.
Cllr Carter led a walk from the Coldwell Brook to the river Evenlode and along the south bank as far as the Chipping Norton Rd. A second walk will be planned for the Green and High St.
Discussion centred around issues raised in a report written previously by Cllr Carter – the threat of expansion to the built environment, the poor state of village drainage which could become worse due to OCC budget cuts and the annual floods on the Chipping Norton Rd and at Ascott Earl corner. Following the successful experiment at Honeydale Farm, members of the ECP felt that it might be possible to reduce flooding at Ascott Earl (and possibly London Lane and the Green) by slowing down the flow of spring and brook water higher up the hill. This could also improve the environment for fish in the Coldwell Brook. The ECP will investigate grants to undertake this work.
The representative of the Wychwood Project was interested in trying to slow down the flow of water across the Chipping Norton Rd with hedge planting on the west side of the road.
Cllr Carter was informed that the EA has recorded that there were only 9 properties flooded by the river in July 2007. She was asked to write to the EA and inform them of the correct number so that more consideration is given to Ascott-under-Wychwood in flood relief planning.
Regular contact has now been established with the ECP and it is hoped that this will result in reduction to flooding on the roads plus improvement to the river environment and increase in fish stocks. It is generally estimated that water running fast down the hills into the river washes away the topsoil so quickly that there will be no topsoil left within 60 years. This is of great concern to farming in particular and so schemes to slow down water flow should reduce the loss of topsoil and reduce the amount of silt entering the river.
Cllr Carter reported that the Helpers had been at the Playing Field and had cut back the Ivy which resulted in 5 trailer loads being taken away. It was agreed that this would not be left to get as bad again and perhaps a contractor should be employed to keep this cut back tightly. The Clerk was asked to bring this forward to the December meeting with a view to getting quotes in February.
Cllr Rance has kept a regular watch on the Culvert on the Chippy Road and on flows, especially when on two occasions the river flooded up to and past its entrance.
17. RISK ASSESSMENT:
This was reviewed and many jobs completed with some to be carried over to be completed in March/April.
Please refer to Item No. 9 (d).
19. WYCHWOOD LIBRARY:
Cllr Timms reported on a meeting that had been held, which was mainly to discuss the running of the Library.
20. VILLAGE CHARITY
Nothing to report.
21. PARISH COUNCIL ANNUAL VILLAGE MEETING
This was discussed and all agreed that this would be held on Monday 25 April 2016 in the Tiddy Hall. The Clerk was asked to book the Hall and invite local organisations accordingly.
Verge damage at Shipton Road and Church View (please refer to Item No. 9 g)
Annual Parish Survey
Zip Wire – complaint that it was not working (now fixed)
London Lane (extending the footway – Julie Heslewood)
Clerks & Councils Direct
23. ANY OTHER BUSINESS
There was no other business to record.
There being no further business, Cllr Carter declared the meeting closed at 9.40pm and confirmed the next meeting will be Monday 11 April 2016 and would be chaired by Vice Chairman Cllr Timms. The Annual Village Meeting will be held on Monday 25 April.
Cllr Sandie Timms (Vice Chairman)