Chairman’s report 2018-19

Chris Bidwell

Last year we enjoyed a hot and mostly dry summer, without an odour from the Anglian Water Treatment works.  Residents were at last able to enjoy the summer in their gardens, open windows and relax in the open spaces of Fairfield. The improvement works carried out to the sewage treatment works are now complete, these improvements have been very successful to remove any odour emitting from that location. The parish council were right to insist Anglian Water were the cause of so much misery and disturbance.

However, residents did suffer for a time from another odour. Following investigation, it was tracked down to farmers spraying fertiliser onto the surrounding dry fields during the summer months, which at times was followed by rain.

The rain water run off the field onto the Hitchin Road. Here it formed stagnant water, an odour was then being detected and this water was found to be the cause. CBC officers have had discussions with the farmers.

More recently with the new developments along the Hitchin Road are now being occupied, another odour occurred.  The sewage from these sites has been stored in underground tanks and then transferred to vehicles, during this transfer process from underground tanks to the vehicle it produced an odour. CBC have recently confirmed the system is now sealed and is being pumped directly to the sewage water treatment site and the odour should no longer be an issue.

Fairfield Gardens is nearing 50% completion. Those already occupying these new homes are now forming a steering group until a management company can be set up. These representatives have been invited to attend the quarterly meetings, where all Fairfield management companies come together to share concerns and agree how they can work together in maintaining our environment for the benefit of all Fairfield residents.

Road works and safety improvements

The new Fairfield Lower school has opened and access to the school has been problematic due to the road works which the developer required to connect into the essential services for the new homes and school. Fairfield residents suffered from access and egress issues, with long traffic queues on the Hitchin Road causing lengthy delays. Some of these delays were down to the temporary traffic light failing and at times they appeared to have failed for unknown reason on a few occasions.

The attending engineers inspected the traffic light control equipment, and they believed the controls had been tampered with.  The effect caused havoc and dangerous situations for drivers. On one occasion a member of the work force was driven at whilst he was trying to stop vehicles driving down the closed section of Hitchin Road, he suffered an injury to his foot. That incident was reported to the Police

Councillors from FPC and CBC attended on many occasions when these temporary traffic lights had failed in-order to help direct the traffic, unfortunately they also suffered verbal abuse from some drivers. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our Ward Councillor Steve Dixon and Councillor Amanda Hunt for attending and assisting on many occasions and in all weathers.

Following the near miss incident on Dickens Boulevard, the parish council asked CBC to upgrade the road crossing point, this improves the vision for both pedestrians crossing the road and for drivers.  The works are not fully completed, and additional posts are to be installed on the opposite side to the crossing. These are to prevent vehicles mounting the grass verge causing damage and posing a danger to pedestrians.

Other safety improvements are planned at the junction of Kipling Crescent and Dickens Boulevard adjacent to the crossing patrol point. The parish council has asked CBC to install additional metal posts. To stop vehicles parking on the grass causing damage and restricting views for drivers

The double yellow line road markings at the junction by Tesco are now in place, and it appears many drivers have taken notice and the junction has less vehicles obstructing it. However, a few drivers still feel the need to park there and cause an obstruction. CBC are responsible for the enforcement and have been monitoring the situation, they will enforce against those found parking illegally on this junction.

Another road safety scheme which has seen improvements around Fairfield is Speed Watch. This scheme has been carried out by police trained volunteers supported by the parish council.  The volunteers have been out checking vehicle speeds over the last six months.  This scheme is having the desired effect in making drivers aware and reduce their speed. A number of vehicles have been witnessed by the volunteers to have driven above the 20-mph limited, registration details of these vehicles have been passed to Bedfordshire Police, who are responsible for the enforcement.

More Speed Watch volunteers are needed to help provide more monitoring, if you are interested please contact the parish clerk via our web page and she will pass your details onto the Fairfield Co-ordinator for Speed Watch.

A New Asset for the Parish Council

Te parish council are nearer to having the Community Hall handed over to them, this is from a developer of Fairfield, who built the community hall for the benefit of all residents. It will continue to operate as now with Trustees responsible for its use.

Grants to organisations

The parish council has supported Fairfield organisations by providing them with grants. One grant was awarded to the Fairfield Bowls Club to help towards their funding for the proposed extension of the club house, which will improve the facilities for its members and provide for greater use. This grant is provisional to them being successful in applying for grants from other sources.  

Other grants awarded include:

  • Fairfield Residents Company for the Urban Park.
  • Fairfield Community Hall improvements.
  • Fairfield Scouting for secure storage unit and Hire of the Community Hall.
  • Fairfield School PTA for the fun run
  • Keech Cottage.

Orchards

The Orchards are continuing to improve with the works being carried out by volunteers and the specialist tree consultants engaged by the parish council.  There is a need to continue with the tree management and agreement has been reached with the new Directors of Fairfield Hall Management Company to continue with this work this year.

Our orchard specialist has also recommended removal of a few of the large sycamores in the West Orchard adjacent to the disused road, these were overhanging the fruits trees partly restricting light to them, the effect of not removing them will cause the fruit trees to reduce in fruit production and the trees will eventually decay and die. These sycamore trees have now been removed.

There are no works to the trees near to the Fairfield Hall building which have been identified to need removing.

Councillor Penny Daffarn has been working with Wendy Briggs on the orchard information board project. This project links up the Fairfield orchards into the Green wheel walks from Arlesey through to Letchworth.

The boards provide information on the trees and wildlife found and will assist our young people in understanding their environment and wild life.

Please do take some time to have a look at these and ask questions before you leave.

Complaints made against five Councillors

 At the end of 2017 and in January 2018, CBC Monitoring Officer received a complaint from the four previous FHMC directors. This was made against five parish councillors and a separate additional complaint against the chairperson.

The complaint against the five parish councillors concerned a breach of the Council Members Code of Conduct, with an additional complaint against the chairperson in he provided misleading information.

Following a ten-month investigation into these allegations, by an Independent Person and CBC Monitoring Officer, both concluded that the complaint was not upheld, and no further action was required.

This complaint required our clerk, to seek legal opinion at a cost taken from the precept, this was to ensure the council could continue to operate.

The parish council is now working with the new Directors of FHMC towards improving the relationship in working together in bringing the communities together.

Kingsley Avenue Rights of Way

The Kingsley Avenue Right of Way question has yet to be answered by Central Bedfordshire Council. The investigation is being carried out by CBC with no involvement in the decision by the parish council. That investigation and decision is still to be concluded.

All parties involved were made aware of the whole process by the CBC officer at the time of application and at subsequent meetings.

There is no attempt by the parish council to do more than ask the question on the rights of way and ensure the correct facts, and laws are abided by.

Community events

The remembrance service held in November saw just how things can be done to bring the whole community together to remember those who gave their lives during the two world wars and other conflicts around the world.

Many organisations on Fairfield came together and Fairfield Lower school children provided us with a song, whilst Reverent Neil Whitmill lead the service of remembrance. I like to say thank you to all those who help organised such a great event.

Recently Fairfield Scout Group carried out a litter pick around Fairfield and on behalf on the Council and residents of Fairfield I thank them and other residents for their hard work in clearing up litter.

Other successes are the red telephone box library, which seems to be well used and appreciated by all.

Our dog owners I hope would have also notice new larger dog waste bins around Fairfield, plus a litter bin is being installed one side of the cricket pitch.

New Christmas lights were installed this year within the Urban and improved lighting to the tree.

As mentioned earlier the parish council is working with FHMC directors, and it has been agreed for two information boards supplied by the parish council to be installed around Fairfield Hall to provide information to residents on FHMC and FPC matters.

The parish council is also looking at ways to engage with our youth, In the recent issues of Fairfield Matters we have invited them to start a youth Council it is hoped a council of young people can be elected and represent our youth and their needs. That work is still in progress.

Change of ground maintenance

The end of last year we saw a new ground maintenance company start work on Fairfield. Hislop & Co Horticulture Ltd is a local company based in Hitchin, following meetings during last year with the Fairfield Park Residents Association and the parish council agreements were made to change and to engage Hislop & Co Horticulture Ltd

As you may have noticed much work has been carried out and improvements are now being seen to the areas around Fairfield. It is hoped by the summer you will see a considerable change in how Fairfield looks.

Crime

Fairfield is a safe residential area to live in, from March 2018 to end of February 2019 Bedfordshire Police crime reports show we have a very low level of crime being reported to them. The total recorded crime from March 2018 to February 2019 is twenty-nine. If anyone would like a breakdown, I be happy to provide them after the meeting.

During the year the Council has also been informed about damage occurring to play equipment with securing nuts and bolts being loosened making the equipment unstable and unusable.

There also has been some fly posting occurring around Fairfield some of which has been offensive in its wording. All of these occurrences have been passed to the CBC and the Police.

Street Watch is a scheme used and managed by residents to provide a level of safety and assurance to all. This scheme is available to residents interested in organising it.

Road and Footpath Gritting

This winter the parish council employed  Hislop & Co Horticulture Ltd to grit roads and the major footpaths around Fairfield, some concerns were raised about the gritting process, following talks with Hislop & Co Horticulture Ltd it was clear the mechanical equipment being used was set correctly and the cause for the grit found on some cars was down to the prevailing weather conditions with high winds occurring that evening causing the road grit to be blown over vehicles.

Following that event, the parish council has now decided to place warnings on their website that gritting is due to take place.

Financial Auditors

As in previous years saw the parish council being financially audited. Firstly, the parish council always employs an internal auditor and we always are independently audited. The only difference this year was we were selected for an intermediate audit.

For the 2017-18 financial year Central Government appointed auditors, Mazars LLP, to carry out an additional inspection of local authority accounts. Fairfield Parish Council was selected as one of the smaller local authorities to have an intermediate audit. The Auditors made this comment at the end of their report.

“On the basis of our review of the Annual Return. In our opinion the information is in accordance with Proper Practices, no other matters have come to our attention giving cause for concern that the relevant legislation and regulatory requirements have Not been meet”.

This represents a clean bill of health for our financial accounts.

The parish accounts are managed by the Responsible Financial Officer for Fairfield Parish Council, Katrina Henshaw who is duly qualified for this role.

Elections

On 2nd May elections are to be held for Fairfield Parish Council and CBC Ward Members.

Fairfield Parish Council will have then been established for six years, during that time it has been active and involved in improving our environment, meeting challenges from developers and organisations, it needs to remain strong and representative to continue to protect Fairfield.

Nomination papers for those wishing to stand for election are now available from Katrina or CBC officers. As with all elections there are no guarantees who will be elected to represent Central Bedfordshire Wards and Fairfield Parish Council, I hope whoever is elected is representative of all residents, as this council and ward councillors have been.

Everything I have mentioned tonight is a small indication of how parish councillors have worked for the benefit of all residents of Fairfield. There is so much more work done by Councillors which I have not mentioned tonight.

Personal thanks

From a personal point I would like to publicly say a thank you to the other six parish councillors, Katrina our clerk, who has guided and advised the parish council,  and to our Ward Councillors Steve Dixon,  Brian  and John Saunders for their help and involvement on so many matters during the last four years,  and also to all those that have helped this council over this term of office.

Chris Bidwell
Chairman