Chairman’s report to the 2018 Annual Village Meeting on 9 April

The Chairman of Castlethorpe Parish Council, Councillor Philip Ayles, reported on the past year in village to residents at the Annual Village Meeting in the Village Hall on Monday 9 April. This is the report in full.

The year started with our success in getting the 6,000 new homes at Haversham removed from the draft version of Plan:MK which had followed our earlier success in stopping the satellite settlements being developed including ones here at Castlethorpe and at Hanslope.

In both cases, support from our residents writing to object, was critical so thank you. We are happy with the current version of Plan:MK although it does impact other rural areas south of Newport Pagnell and to the south of the city. This will undoubtedly be an ongoing battle.

At the same time, we were trying to get our Neighbourhood Plan through its Examination by a Planning Inspector. We had to accept reluctantly that we could not designate Gobbey’s Field as a ‘Local Green Space’ having had two Inspectors decide that it didn’t qualify – we still think they were wrong. However, our Neighbourhood Plan went to referendum in September and was approved overwhelmingly, 93%, and so it became MKC Planning Policy in October.

The main outcome of the Plan was the designation of the Maltings 2 field for 32 houses. I am pleased to say that this is progressing and the parish council has requested and been granted a number of payments for improvements to village facilities under an S106 Agreement, or Planning Gain, between MKC and the owner, Carington Estates.

This includes substantial sums for Early Years Development (e.g. Pre-School), the school itself, village facilities including sports ground, allotments and shop, Hanslope surgery, burial facilities and even the maintenance of the swale drainage area in Paddock Close. The money is payable as the houses are occupied.

Our Neighbourhood Plan also specified design restrictions on any new builds or alterations within the village to ensure they remain in character and this has already impacted a number of planning applications.

Our Plan is for 15 years. It should protect the village from unwanted development in the way in which some of our neighbours have been affected. We are currently investigating what needs to be done to keep our Plan valid.

In the village itself, we have now replaced all the litter bins with a larger heritage style bins and the parish council is paying for additional emptying to stop them overflowing as MKC reduces the frequency of the emptying it will do. The parish council is now also undertaking the weed spraying along the pavements. I should apologise for the recent unpleasant glitch in emptying the dog waste bins which was due to a mistake by our contractor.

We have also ordered heritage style lamp posts to complete the long standing project to replace the modern ones in the conservation area. We are in the middle of remodeling our small village green with new benches and a new history plaque which will be placed on the wall by the Notice Board. In fact, the village came runner-up in our group in the Bucks & MK Best Kept Village competition for which we can be rightfully proud.

The parish council has also been successful in applying for supplementary grants for new equipment in the Fishponds and Thrupp Close play areas and for adult exercise equipment at the sports ground and we are just renewing the supplier quotations and should place the orders at our May meeting.

We have had a number of successes with MKC Highways and a lot of the smaller jobs have been done such as some new signage and reinstatement of the wooden posts by the footbridge. However, the major achievement was extensive work at The Dips which I hope has stopped the regular winter flooding. The road there still needs to be resurfaced though.

Thanks to a generous donation from the Open Gardens Committee, we were able to replace our Christmas lights which not only use less power and don’t fail so often but are a lot safer than the old ones which were very susceptible to rain getting into the electrics. Not good.

Northants County Council have withdrawn their subsidy for the No 33 bus though MKC is continuing their subsidy. This means a reduced service from July. There are two options; a two-hourly service but with a three hour gap in the afternoon on the existing route to Northampton or the current hourly service to MK but terminating at Roade where users would have to change onto one of the frequent buses from Roade to Northampton. The parish council is surveying our bus users for their opinion and we will work with neighbouring parishes and Ward Councillors to decide which option will be implemented.

Northants are responsible for the road up past the Navigation. The parish council continues to press Northants for further repairs after many complaints from our residents but, as is known, they have had a financial crisis and we are not certain whether they are are able – or willing- to do further work..

I am afraid that we have continued to have burglaries in the village. A list of advice was published in the December edition of Castlethorpe News and the parish council and the police have both offered Smartwater kits, which can mark valuables, at very much reduced prices — our last offer was for £5 against a list price of £60. I know that a lot of residents, like me, have previously used Smartwater but I was surprised that we only had 5 takers for the latest offer. As the parish council had to buy a minimum of 20 kits, there are still some available on a first come first served basis from the Clerk.

Finally, Geraldine Sweetland has resigned from the parish council creating a vacancy. As there was no call for an election within the statutory period, the parish council will co-opt a new councillor. If you might be interested in joining the parish council, please speak to any councillor, past or present, or the clerk.

Coincidentally, I also wrote an article in the December edition of the News on what the council does but perhaps I could end by saying thank you to all our councillors and our clerk for the work they do. The things we have achieved, from Christmas lights to operating the Speed Indicator Device, from editing the News to maintaining the website, from preparing for Best Kept Village to liaising with Public Transport, speaking at MKC Planning meetings and liaising with MKC, it all takes time and effort and makes, in my opinion, our village a more pleasant place for us all to live.

Philip Ayles
Chairman, Castlethorpe Parish Council