Birch Village SignYear End Report —
for the year to 31st March 2019

Birch Parish Council

for the year to 31st March 2019

A sad start to the year with the sad loss of Alan Condron who passed away in April 2018. Alan was Clerk to Birch Parish Council for many years and will be greatly missed. Angela Balcombe took over as Clerk in May 2018 which was an election year for the Parish Council. The election was uncontested therefore Elaine Bowtle, Chris Boyce, Claire Cottrell, Marian Campion, Chris Harvey, David Ninnim and Peter Walsh were elected unopposed as Parish Councillors. Cllr Harvey resigned from the Council in December due to family commitments and was replaced by Arthur Gidlow.

Play Area - the annual safety inspection was carried out in May and although there were no urgent repairs needed the play area was in need of refurbishment at an estimated cost of between £12,500 - £19,000. The Parish Council will apply for funding towards part of the cost. The nest swing has since been vandalised so an insurance claim is going through for a new swing.

Conservation Area Consultation - with the help of residents the Parish Council submitted a detailed response to the Consultation which included details around Colchester Borough Council's case for objecting to the proposed demolition of the church.

Planning Matters - the status of St Peter's Church continues to be discussed at most Parish Council meetings. An application to demolish the majority of the south aisle, renovation of retained building envelope, conversion to single dwelling including new raft foundation, partial mezzanine and new floors to tower was received in September 2018. The Parish Council responded to the proposal reiterating previous comments that if demolition were to take place a suitable community use such as a Memorial Garden would be the preferred option and that it is inappropriate to have a large family home in an open churchyard.

This application is now awaiting decision at a Colchester Borough Council Committee Meeting.

Remembrance Sunday - this was again very well supported by residents with the Parish Council opening the Village Hall for refreshments. A donation of £50 to the Royal British Legion was made towards their Poppy Appeal Fund.

Village Cleaning - the Parish Council has renewed its litter picking contract with Colchester Borough Council (CBC), the Parish Council has been working closely with the CBC Zone Wardens, in particular Gary Cole, which has resulted in a number of litter picks being carried out throughout the year. Thanks to Cllr Ninnim and Mr Bowtle for all their hard work in collecting many bags of rubbish.

Fly-tipping - fly-tipping in the local area continues to be a problem. However with the help of CBC Zone Wardens any rubbish is cleared away as soon as possible. Two companies have recently been caught and fined for fly-tipping.

Grass Cutting - A substantial budget has been allocated for an improved standard of grass cutting and extra projects such as vegetation cut backs and maintenance in the Parish. This includes keeping the graveyard cleared and maintained on a regular basis.

Footpaths - Due to the continued cut backs by ECC in the frequency of visits to the Parish, the Parish Council thanks local land owners and Cllr David Ninnim for their efforts in keeping the paths accessible during the year.

Emergency Plan - the Parish Council has completed its first comprehensive Emergency Plan which will be shared with CBC. Thanks to Cllr Walsh for collating the information and putting the final plan together.

Highway Repairs - potholes, signage, and many minor highway issues are regularly reported to ECC, thanks to County and Borough Councillors, Cllr Bentley, Cllr Ellis and Cllr Maclean for their help in getting many of these issues actioned in a timely manner.

Finance - the precept (parish part of the Council Tax) was increased by a small amount for 2019/20 to £8,823 (in 2018/19 it was £8,206).

Communications - the Parish Council continues to inform residents on what is happening in the village via its meetings, the Parish Website, monthly press releases and the notice boards.

Parish Website - the website is updated regularly and compliments other sources of information available for residents of Birch. The Parish Council thanks Mr Richard Carr who works with the Council on a voluntary basis to keep the site updated as well as acting as an advisor on matters concerning St Peters Church.

Parish News - Birch Parish Council is still supporting the production of the Parish News and notes the excellent job that is done for the PCC by the editor, writers and distributors.

Casual Vacancy - due to the recent resignation of Arthur Gidlow there is a vacancy for a Parish Councillor. This must be formerly advertised and if there is no call for an election then the Parish Council must co-opt to fill the vacancy as soon as they can.