18 May 2011

Whiteshill and Ruscombe Parish AGM

 Last night was the Parish AGM in the Village Hall (left) - below is the agenda and my scribbled notes of the two bits I did - as always it is a good evening when we find out what else is going on in the Parish during the year.

The minutes will be out soon so I wont repeat those but you get to hear bits of news like the Village Shop has had a better year, the Churchyard has seen their wildflower area flourish but may have to see some trees come down, the Village Agent is trying to set up a once a month meeting for older isolated people, John Rogers has stepped down from being chair of the Parish Council (v sorry as he has been great but good to hear Rebecca Charley has taken over that role), the Parish Plan is going really well etc etc.

It was all finished with wonderful food and wine - a very nice evening indeed.

Whiteshill Village Hall, Tuesday 17th May 2011 at 7.30pm


1.            Introduction
2.            Approval of Minutes of meeting held on 18th May 2010
3.            Chairman’s Report ( John Rogers) for 2010/11
4.            Report from our County Councillor Tony Blackburn - didn't attend?
5.            Report from our District Councillor Philip Booth
6.            Report from Chris King - Parish Plan
7.            Report from Dilys Warren - WaRbler
8.            Report from Robert Kempner – Head teacher Whiteshill Primary School - report sent
9.            Report from Michael Bailey - Churchyard
10.        Report from Angela King – Village Agent
11.        Report from Rebecca Charley – Playing Field Working Party
12.        Public Rights of Way report
13.        Report from Ruscombe and Whiteshill Village Shop Association
14.        Report from Sue Dance – W and R Allotments Association
15.        Report from Philip Booth – Ruscombe Brook Action Group
16.        Open Forum

The notes below were just a guide about some of the issues I raised during the evening...
Whiteshill and Ruscombe AGM District Council report

I was delighted to be re-elected last May with 68.5% with a 77.4% turnout. The endorsement has meant that I have had no excuse to put feet up!

The biggest challenge is unquestionably the Government cuts. Locally we have very little room to move in terms of funds. The government's settlement for Stroud was, along with the Cotswolds, the worst in the country.

However in the District I still believe there are opportunities. For example by borrowing, as some other councils have done, we could develop renewables like solar thermal or photovoltaic on our Council housing stock and buildings. It is estimated we could pay off loans in 8 or 9 years time. They would then start to generate an income for the Council. In addition to the economic benefits we would also be tackling energy security, climate change and fuel poverty along with a boost in jobs to our local green renewable industries. It makes sense! And good news is that the ideas are making progress.

Last year I chaired an inquiry at the District Council into what measures might be possible regarding renewables and energy efficiency. There were ten recommendations of which 9 got accepted – including an innovative pilot project on two sheltered housing schemes which is now going out to tender. It also called for an energy strategy by the council which is now in draft form.

I have just chaired another inquiry looking at fuel poverty – 15.6% of the District households are in fuel poverty – made recommendations which will go to Cabinet next month – they include working with tenants on priorities for them.

Here are some of the other things I’ve been doing in my role as a local councillor to give a flavour of what I have been up to:

Was on the working party to establish the new allotment site

Helped set up a social enterprise run by adults with a learning disability to give a voice to all people with a learning disability in Gloucestershire

With the community group Transition Stroud I initiated and organised Stroud's first Potato Day which was in February to encourage more people to grow their own – Edible Open Gardens project in July. I also initiated and helping organise the fourth  Eco-renovation Open Homes weekend in September. This involves local homes with renewable energy and energy efficiency measures opening to the public and local renewable energy installers promoting their products.

It would be impossible to cover all the issues I’ve worked on with others at the District Council but they incl

-       measures ensuring Councillor expenses are now published in full

-       have done a lot of work opposing the large incinerator at Javelin Park near Stonehouse –  we seemed to have lost that one - it is not the right decision and will not be flexible enough to cope with challenges ahead.

-       But I’m still working to ensure our waste management is more sustainable and cost effective – a cross-party challenge re recycling is the contract with Veolia: it is costly to change and a key reason for Stroud dropping back in recycling charts.

-       working with changes to planning laws to ensure development on the Ruscombe Valley fields does not happen

I was one of four councillors on an extensive inquiry into the planning process which has made key recommendations for improvements. Sadly while some of these were accepted, the administration went further and has removed the ability of Parish and District councillors to be able to automatically send a contested planning application to committee for decision.

Helped establish a 20 mph inquiry at the County Council

Initiated a pilot wood fuel project in Randwick woods with the National Trust – a great community project that will run again next Autumn  – in return for conservation work you go home with a boot load of wood.

We are very lucky to have such a great community and some great community events – Bread Street Street party last year and the Village Royal Wedding party this year – plus many other events from open gardens to plant sales – plus the pancake races that I missed this year!

There are always a few individual challenges to residents and I try and support – for example
    • re planning applications,
    • getting a new stile at the end of Wheelers Walk,
    • grit bins replaced
    • worked to ensure old gas pipes, that have had several leaks in parts of Ruscombe, are replaced several years sooner than planned.

What else?

My blog, 'Ruscombe Green', was voted 11th in a national poll of councillor blogs and 10th in the Green blogs poll – it gets between 700 and 900 page views daily!

I’ve also made nearly 20 short films of the Eco-Renovation Open Homes weekend, the Village Party, Randwick woodfuel project, Stroud Potato Day and allotment film is on it’s way.

Whiteshill and Ruscombe AGM Ruscombe Brook Action Group

Formed in 2006 following more than 20 incidents of raw sewage escaping into the brook.

We’ve had many successes in reducing sewage getting into the brook, improving water quality and reducing flooding – the new culvert at Puckshole is helping stop flooding there – in the past cars have been flooded, road surface washed away and those houses cut off from access by road -  they’ve not had incidents since it was installed.

Over the years we’ve also:
·      worked with MSc students from the University,
·      talked to schools,
·      put on four conferences,
·      met with allsorts of bodies….

In August we had FWAG give advice on wildlife – and last month we walked the Ruscombe valley with a couple of wildlife experts to see what should be our priorities. Eg reducing tree  cover, getting rid of the Himalayan Balsam.

Also in August we saw the opening of the Hamwell Leaze Board walk with Kevin McCloud – a short film is on my blog.

In October we did a clear up of the Randwick Tributory.

Also in October I spoke at the UWE Living Flood Histories national conference. Interestingly our group is seen as a model others should follow.

Over the years a key learning has been that if we want to reduce flooding downstream then we need to attenuate/slow down the water upstream. Our group was instrumental in forming the Stroud Valleys Water Forum which meets every 2 months – this group is attempting to get policy makers to see river catchment areas in total – for example clearing a brook can speed water down river to cause flooding.

As part of the Stroud Valleys Water Forum we’ve met with
    • our MP,
    • the county Council,
    • the EA re plans for Slad and other areas
    • last month we met a Swedish water boss who came to share his thoughts about the differences between Sweden and UK.
    • And we’ve also met Severn Trent re relining some sewers: at last this will be going ahead.

Severn Trent root cutting in sewers

I have been for 3 years Stroud’s representative on the Wessex Water Customer Liaison Panel and have raised a number of issues there.

The Lawns – where the brook ends up before joining the canal - gets a £81k make-over. The restoration of old orchards, garden wall, fish ponds and pathways will be completed in partnership with Stroud Valleys Project and community groups. The funding will allow improvements to the lake's drainage system and public access, planting of specimen tress and habitat creation.

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