3rd April 2014
The Parish Council contributed £5,000 towards the Vehicle Activated Signs that have been installed at Bledlow on the B4009. After some teething problems they are now working satisfactorily, though their siting has been questioned. More VASes are soon to be installed in Bledlow Ridge, though again their precise siting has been questioned and we are in the hands of advice from the Highways Authority (Buckinghamshire County Council) and the local police traffic officer.
Road maintenance continues to be an issue. While some important roads in the parish have been resurfaced, others continue to be in poor condition, much of this is due to the exceptionally wet winter.
Bledlow Childrens’ Home
Work continues all be it at a slow pace. The main building has been re-roofed and repointing is underway. The parish council have received no further information about the likely timescales.
The Parish Council funded £6,300 of extensive tree work in the churchyard of Holy Trinity, Bledlow. It had been thought this would be more costly as the limes were nearing the end of their life, but on further examination we have been advised that lime trees can be expected to live 300 years.
The Bledlow Ridge Village Hall continues to be improved from year to year. The major improvement this year at Bledlow Village Hall has been the extension of the car park. The Parish Council contributed £2,000 from the 2013/14 budget and gave an advance from 2014/15. It is thought this will make the village hall more attractive to larger parties and increase much needed income from the hire of the hall.
Wycombe District Council continues the legal process of challenging the travellers’ occupation at Hemley Hill since April 2009. After five years there is no immediate resolution is sight although a recent application for further development has also been refused.
Saunderton Vale & Wests Yard
Proposals have been made to redevelop Wests Yard, Saunderton. When consulted by the developers we asked for the inclusion of a few industrial units and increased provision for public parking. Neither of these was included in their most recent public exhibition, so we await the developers’ planning application with interest. Following a reduction in the service to Saunderton, parking is not currently a problem, though with the extra houses here and perhaps at Molins more people will use the station and the service may well improve and the parking problems return. The proposed expansion of Princes Risborough will only exacerbate this issue.
Wycombe District New Local Plan
This includes a number of proposals which will affect the Parish: the development of the Molins site to be zoned for residential use, the coal yard at Smalldean Lane and a new bypass for Princes Risborough which could be routed along Shootacre lane, and perhaps through Horsenden. We are due to discuss these proposals with the planners during the Parish Council meeting later today.
Landscape & Planning Policy
Recent planning applications have caused increasing concern about the preservation of the landscape. An application was made in February for a 46 acre solar farm at Forty Green. This, together with a previous application for wind turbines in Henton our neighbouring parish in Oxfordshire, has highlighted the need for a clear planning policy which provides for green power generation while preserving the landscape in clear view of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Within the AONB a steady trickle of newly set up small farms are applying for temporary accommodation which they are subsequently applying to convert into permanent housing for staff tending animals. This is of concern as it is also encroaching on the natural beauty of the area.
Broadband and Web Site
Despite the increase in funds coming from central government to improve the provision of broadband, the parish is unlikely to benefit very much. Current plans include the upgrade of only one of the nine BT cabinets serving the area; leaving the vast majority of the parish with slow broadband. This may be seen by some as an issue only for geeks, but poor broadband will not support modern cloud-based applications and is beginning to be a factor affecting the value of property.
Though a very impressive demonstration site has been built by a parishioner, we have decided not to introduce a new web site for the Parish until two issues have been resolved: assurances of the long term availability of the site for the Parish, and measures to ensure fair and secure governance.
I wish to thank Cllr Britnell who has been leading these two projects.
Budget and Precept
With the continuing climate of financial austerity, the precept has been fixed at £17,000 for the sixth year running. We entered the year with reserves of £96,585.55 on 1st April 2013 but these have reduced to £91,525 a reduction in reserves of £5,060 nearly 30% of the precept.
With the introduction of the Community Infrastructure Levy, in effect replacing Section 106 payments, the Parish has both an additional source of funds but also additional constraints. CIL funds can only be used on capital projects and are dependent on new buildings being built and so are unpredictable. With this in mind the Clerk and Deputy Chairman are helping me with an exercise to see how this will affect our budget.
Finally, I wish to thank the Clerk, my Deputy Chairman, and the other Parish Councillors for their commitment and support during the year.