Chairmans Report

Chairman's Report April 2018

Before I begin the annual report, I have to pay tribute to Mrs Phyliss Stevenson, who has sadly passed away. Mrs Stevenson was a stalwart of this village, being a lifelong teacher at the school, involved in all aspects of village life and equally importantly to us, a Chairman of this Council for many years. The Council will be writing to the family to express our condolences.                      

Once more, it has been an extremely busy year with the usual ups and downs of public service.

We had two Councillor resignations, Midge Collins and Chris Hewitt. This created an election for one vacancy (cost to the parish approx. £3500.00) . Councillor Ray Kemmett was duly elected. The second position we were able to put out for co-option…..when we called the public meeting to decide the successful candidate, we had two candidates – regrettably one had to withdraw, subsequently Councillor Richard Higgs was duly co-opted to the Council.  We welcome them both as returning members.

To update Parishioners on items raised at the last annual meeting:

There are now two defibrillators provided by the Council. One in the telephone box on the green and the other at Abbey Parks in East Heckington. It was my privilege to present the awards to the people who had put themselves forward for training. The fantastic thing was that there were many young people who had undergone the training. We are grateful to The Sleaford Round Table and L.I.V.E.S for their help with the East Heckington Project.

This Council has been supporting the ‘Heck off’ movement against the wind farm at East Heckington as it was proved that the original planning had been gained with false information. The planning has now expired so we await the next move.

Despite both our and our Local MP, Dr Caroline Johnson’s efforts, we did lose the Lloyds bank. This is greatly missed as we predicted. However, despite some initial problems, the Post Office is now able to offer a lot of the services as a satellite site.

We are pleased that the Manor has a new owner who has tidied and secured the site – this in itself has prevented a lot of trouble and saved a tremendous amount of police time in trying to ensure the vandals safety in a semi derelict building.

The exercise machines are installed on the playing field and being very well used. As mentioned last year we are now progressing removing the decrepit existing play area to a new area, not covered by trees (which has caused a lot of the rot and lichen deposits being due to being constantly wet and little sunlight).

Regrettably, it looks as if we will not get planning to move the existing swimming pool from the school boundary to the playing field. Talks are ongoing regarding this.

What a brilliant year it was for Heckington. The magazine, that I reported last year had just been salvaged, went on to win, not one but two accolades: Best Editor and second for A4 magazine category. I am sure you all agree this is now a wonderful magazine which is eagerly anticipated each month.

The Heckington Show had a successful event with some 37000 people attending despite the weather, and subsequently won 2017 NKDC Community Champion Award.

And…..Heckington won the Best Kept Village in the large village category. The certificate is mounted on the library wall.

The Windmill, of course had its Royal Visit, with Princess Anne, The Princess Royal officially opening the site after the refurbishment and updating programme. Her Royal Highness was very impressed with the volunteer effort that had been put into this and spoke individually to many of the volunteers who had helped create what is now becoming a major tourist attraction.

North Kesteven launched its new Stepping Out Walk down Heckington Fen. There are leaflets in the Office for anyone who is unaware of its location.

We welcomed some new retail businesses: The fish and chip shop, in Kyme Road, the Pop in Café on the High Street and the new Corner Shop near the Church. We wish them success in their ventures and are pleased that they chose Heckington.

Welchman Way was opened providing much needed affordable housing.

The signs that are now being attached to the new road names commemorating names from the War Memorial are receiving high praise and interest, in equal measure.  They have been paid for by a resident and thanks go to Cllr Garlick for ensuring they are erected correctly.

So all in all a very positive year for the community.

Moving forward, we intend to resurface the car parking area on the village green and erect height barriers to prevent vans and lorries causing damage.  Also widening the access road to the Pavillion to help ease the congestion caused particularly at school arriving and leaving times.

We are in the process of producing a new emergency plan. If anyone has any equipment or facilities they could loan in the event of an emergency, please contact the office so that the details can be entered in the document.

We have joined the latest Community Speed Watch initiative, which is a way of volunteers recording the speed of motorists, which is then analysed by the Road Safety Partnership, who depending on the severity of the ‘offence’, write to advise the driver, or if the same driver appears three times, the police will make a visit. We have opted for the fixed tripod system which should allay fears of intimidation or victimisation. It is not too late to volunteer, as the training has been delayed due to the Manager of the scheme taking up the appointment.

We have entered the Best Kept Village Competition, obviously due to last year’s success, this has to be ‘past winner’s category’. We are fortunate to have had two parishioners volunteer to take the lead on this, and they will be managed by Julie in the office, for the necessary Health and Safety and Risk Assessments. However, we do encourage all residents to do their bit and help to make the village look pristine. Whilst on this subject, with the further cut backs verges within the village are to be cut less frequently, so we are grateful to residents who maintain their ‘frontages’ and those of their neighbours who are less able to do so themselves.

Cllr Woods and myself have finally secured a meeting with Rowan Smith (from Highways), Coun Richard Wright (responsibility for highways Lincolnshire County Council) and County Councillor Barry Young, to discuss the appalling state of our roads and pavements within the village. This has taken many months to arrange but is now scheduled for the end of this month. We will report our findings to a subsequent Council meeting.

We are supporting Heckington 100. There will be a poppy making day in our Chambers and we are also providing a banner for the event. More details from Andrew later.

I am pleased to confirm that there was no increase in our Precept this year. Despite the increased cut backs we have to suffer, careful management has made this nil increase possible.

Financially, we continue to support the Heckington Voluntary Car Service, The Swimming Pool, L.I.V.E.S and The Blood Bikes, all of which provide very valuable assets for the village.

We have purchased a new machine which you may have seen around, which both sweeps the streets and cuts the grass.  We did have two machines previously to do these jobs, however, we managed to sell these privately for £10,000.00 which means the net cost of the Nilfrisk was £24890.00.  A newer, ‘cleaner’ and more cost efficient machine.

We are still a Local Access point for North Kesteven at present, but again they have made serious cuts to our grant funding for this. We continue to attend meetings to try to ensure the continuation of this facility. In fact, from the last available figures, Heckington was the most used compared to other LAPS. This is valuable service for those unable to travel into Sleaford.

Despite our tree planting project to replace felled ones, the Trees Officer at North Kesteven has told me not to buy any replacement trees until he tells us what to buy!! However, when I asked what to buy he couldn’t or wouldn’t’ say!! Hence we have now missed this seasons planting time.  Sometimes despite our best efforts, bureaucracy gets in the way. 

Likewise, we had concerns from two of our residents who raised serious issues about a tree which is positioned between their two properties. Having had an initial report that the tree needed attention, when the arborist actually got in the tree, he advised that the problem was much more severe – the helical crack went much further and deeper than first thought, and the tree needed felling for safety. Unbeknown to us it had a t.p.o. on it….but never fear North Kesteven attended within half an hour and immediately stopped the work. The Clerk was then advised by telephone, in a very curt manner that we were the subject of a criminal investigation. When asked what to do next, she was told very bluntly that it was now a criminal investigation.  No help at all. Needless to say this caused a great deal of anguish and stress. This all began on 9th January 2018, there were subsequent interviews under PACE, with the promise of an outcome within the week …..finally, some six weeks after the interview, with no result, this was reported at our March 26th meeting, we then received a letter on 29th March 2018, saying there would be no further action. The waste of public money, the stress and total unprofessionalism of how this has been handled defies `description. And still our residents are in fear of going to bed on windy nights due to the state of the tree.  But have no fear, the trees officer at North Kesteven told me himself, that he had inspected the tree in 2012 and it was perfectly safe.!!! I rest the case.

The allotments are fully occupied, with their association creating a ‘team’ spirit of helpfulness to one another.  Usually as soon as one plot becomes vacant, there is someone waiting to take it up.

The Cemetery, one of our major responsibilities, is kept to a very high standard by our Caretaker, and we receive numerous compliments about how well it is maintained.

The library volunteers, under the careful watch of Vanessa, continue to provide a valuable service. They had an increase of 33 members during the last year with some 2,962 actual visitors.  

Finally, I need to pay tribute to our Staff. Julie, our Clerk and Finance Officer continues to keep us on the straight and narrow. The legislation for Parish Councils is continually changing and it is a constant job in itself to keep up to date. However, she manages extremely well and has now achieved her certificate of competence     in ILCA. We have the certificates on the wall to prove it. This, as well as dealing with parishioners enquiries and problems on a day to day basis.

We have just recently appointed an admin assistant, who is already proving to be a great support to Julie and we hope she will become a permanent member of the team.

Andy Ward, our Caretaker, is entering his nineteenth year of service with us. He works extremely hard to keep the village tidy and well maintained in the public areas. He does everything from emptying the bins to cutting the grass with much more in between.

The Parish Council could not function without the dedicated staff we have, so on your behalf, I thank them most sincerely.

Last but not least, I must thank fellow Councillors. County Councillor Barry Young, District Councillors Sally Tarry and Stewart Ogden, who are always available to help and do a great amount of work behind the scenes that no one ever sees. Thank you, it is very reassuring to know we have you to call upon.

Finally, my fellow Councillors. Especially my Vice Chairman, Roger Woods, who is always there with a steadying hand and good advice. It has been a trying year, and without the team effort of you all we could not have achieved what we have. 

The volunteer effort in our community is proven repeatedly, with the fantastic achievements referred to previously.  I, like you, am always being told what a great place Heckington is to live..- I like to think that our contributions help make it the place it is. Let us all work together to maintain this.  Thank you.