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Stoke Poges Parish Council

Annual Parish Meeting of the Electorate - Meeting Minutes

Thursday 28th April 2022




Present: – Cllr Bagge (Chair), Cllr Crocker, Cllr Finan, Cllr Knox-Scott, Cllr Moore, Cllr Pritchard and One Member of Public.

Agenda Items

1) Apologies for absence

APOLOGIES were received from Cllr Bassi, Cllr Carter, Cllr Cox and Cllr Flower.

2) RESOLVED to confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 11 April 2019 which were signed by the Chairman.

3) Chairman’s Annual Report.

 Cllr Bagge read his report as follows: –

It’s great to have the freedom to hold our Annual Parish Meeting again following the government’s relaxation of Covid restrictions. We have lived through the most challenging two years in living memory, and it feels now that a weight has been lifted as we work out what normal is once again.

I’d like to express my gratitude to my fellow parish councillors, elected in May last year, for their adaptability and good humour, in meeting on Zoom and in socially distanced conditions in the club room with the windows and doors open as we continued to meet during the lockdowns and complied with government restrictions. I’d like to thank Julie, the clerk to the parish, who diligently familiarised herself with what the council had to do to comply with the evolving legislation and advised the Council to ensure that it complied throughout. There has been much media coverage of breaches of lockdown rules elsewhere and I’m pleased to say that there are no skeletons in the Stoke Poges closet.

The parish council’s regular work has continued: maintaining two recreation grounds, Bells Hill and the allotments and adjoining Nettleship Wood on Duffield Lane. Over the past 18 months the council has embarked on a project to develop a Neighbourhood Plan for the parish. Using government grant funding, we have engaged consultants to guide us through the process of analysing demographic data, identifying sustainable travel routes, heritage assets (we have a lot in Stoke Poges) and potential sites for new development. We’re getting close to the point where the draft plan will be made available for consultation and parishioners will be invited to comment. The key advantage of a neighbourhood plan is that it gives us, as residents, a say in where development takes place and gives us the ability to influence the design and layout of new developments. It provides a way of increasing our protection of green belt land. I would like to thank Cllr Carter for leading on this project and also the volunteers who have engaged with such enthusiasm in the detailed work for the plan (Harvey Whittam on heritage and Bob Crocker on rights of way).

Whilst Covid-19 has had a huge disruptive effect, the challenges the parish council face remain the same and our approach to them continues. A few years ago, the council focused on ‘making Stoke Poges a great place to live’ and the council uses its powers granted in law to work on this being the best parish in Buckinghamshire to live in. Our focus initially was taking action to make things better for older people and children. We have made huge investments in play apparatus for our recreation grounds, the pavilion, which is home to our scouts, guides, cubs and brownies and the parish council set up the Stoke Poges Good Neighbour Scheme, which assists people who don’t have their own transport (or who are unable to drive) to attend medical appointments.

The ‘playbuilder’ equipment, installed around ten years ago, is constructed mainly from wood, which has rotted and is being progressively replaced. Last year, a zip wire was renewed and fencing in the recreation ground was renewed.

The parish council has an appetite for entering the Buckinghamshire best kept village competition (which was suspended due to the pandemic). The council has taken actions to improve the appearance of the public realm, taking over management of the open space at Bells Hill which led to us installing hanging baskets and planters to the shops and railings and having planters fitted to the village welcome signs. Related to this, the council has invested progressively in Christmas lights on Bells Hill which brighten up the long dark nights in December. The parish council organises four community litter picks each year. I’m grateful to the residents who regularly support the litter picks by doing an hour or so’s litter picking along the main routes through the parish. If you haven’t taken part yet, equipment is provided and you will be most welcome.

Whilst we tend to talk a lot about the play apparatus and the pavilion, the largest item of expenditure in recreation is on grass cutting, keeping our public open spaces in good condition.

The Parish Council is very pleased to have partnered with Thames Valley Heartbeat, a local charity, to pay for the installation of five defibrillators in key locations around the parish. We acknowledge the good work done in fundraising by the Fox and Pheasant and the Rose and Crown to provide these life-saving appliances for the benefit of parishioners.

Other ongoing activities continued – the Parish Council publishes four editions of Stoke Poges News (SPN) each year – the next one is in production currently for publication at the end of May. Talking to people who live in neighbouring parishes, they are always complimentary about SPN and the range of activities taking place here in Stoke Poges. I’d like to thank our regular contributors and advertisers for their ongoing support.

The relaxation of restrictions enabled us to hold ‘Carols on the Green’ in December after the pandemic disruption. It’s a challenging event to deliver successfully, taking into account the weather conditions prevailing in late November.

Other areas in which the parish council has asserted itself are in relation to cars speeding through the village and chaotic driving on Rogers Lane related to school start and end times. The parish council invested in mobile vehicle activated signs which are rotated between eight locations in the parish. When we bought the MVASs we had a team of volunteers who took turns in moving them and replacing the batteries but that’s evolved to a one-person team, Cllr Geoff Cox, who looks after the MVAS and circulates the collected date, which is shared with local police and our community speed-watch team.

Community speed-watch currently has five volunteers trained to go out with our Sentinel radar camera and they have been concentrating on Wexham Street and Bells Hill since they have been allowed to resume operating.

For chaotic traffic on Rogers Lane, Cllr Carter and I met with the school and the police to explore how we can educate parents and carers to be more considerate and safer when dropping off or collecting children at the school. There is more than adequate parking space in the roads near the school, but for some reason, most want to park as close to the school as they can. We have had a few weeks of having volunteers in high-viz monitoring driving and giving advice where drivers have been making unsafe manoeuvres. Some volunteers received verbal abuse, so the parish council took police advice and acquired two body worn video cameras. The police have committed to taking action against anyone who is abusive to our volunteer traffic marshals. The police advice is that a few weeks of intensive marshalling will influence a change in driving standards. We’ll see how it goes.

The year-end accounts are being prepared for audit at the moment, however, in spite of inflation, the council has lived within its means and decided to freeze its precept, collected with council tax for 2022/23.

So, in summary, the parish council has done what you expect of it and is progressively making improvements to the quality of life in Stoke Poges, drawing on volunteers to help wherever possible. We look forward to celebrating Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee with a street party picnic event in Bells Hill rec. on Sunday 5 June.

4) General Discussion and Question Time.

One member of public expressed their thanks to the Parish Council for looking after the village and making difficult decisions, stating that you can’t please all of the people all of the time.  In their opinion the pond work carried out last year was long overdue even though controversial and they felt it was much better for it.

A new Parish Councillor explained that they had no idea of the wealth of experience and the legal legislation involved in being a Parish Councillor and expressed their thanks for being made welcome.

Meeting ended at 8.25pm

A discussion took place after the meeting had closed about the advertising of this meeting and it was agreed to discuss at the next Full Parish Council meeting.