Welcome to the Annual Parish Meeting of Fairfield Parish Council. I am Chris Bidwell a Fairfield Parish Councillor and Chairperson of the parish council. I shall be speaking about some of the important issues the parish council has dealt with, and what they are hoping to deliver in the coming years. Some of these issues have been the subject of great concern, and councillors have put a great deal of their time into finding effective solutions to them. As with all councils, we meet with agreement and disagreement from residents, on how the council resolves the issues it has had to consider.
As we are having a general election, and Parliament has now been dissolved. I am pleased to announce that Alistair Burt has kindly come tonight to speak on matters which he has taken a very keen interest in and answer questions. Alistair has spent many hours working on behalf of residents bringing his influence to bear at higher level than normal with Anglian Water and The Royal Mail, without his input these important issues would not have been resolve as quickly.
Unfortunately, our Central Bedfordshire Council Ward Councillor Steve Dixon is unable to be at the meeting due to illness so our other Ward Councillor, Brian Saunders will be speaking about their role in CBC, and how they work with the parish council. Steve and Brian have been instrumental in ensuring the new developments along Hitchin Road meet the needs of residents. Also with Councillor Dixon’s assistance, CBC officers have been able to monitor the odour problem Fairfield faced last summer.
We also have representatives from Anglian Water. Mr Chris Hayton, Anglian Water Public Affairs Manager and Mr Tim Blackmore, Anglian Water Regional Treatment Manager. They will be providing information on the actions being taken at the Letchworth Sewage works. Officers from CBC Environmental Services are also present if required to answer questions.
In order to allow each speaker to provide you with information, please can you wait until they have finished their presentation before asking questions?
Before I hand over to our guest speakers, I would like to take a few minutes of your time. Following recent comments from residents. I would like to explain that:
- All our parish councillors are unpaid and devote their time for the improvement of Fairfield.
- Fairfield Parish Councillors are elected to represent all residents of Fairfield regardless of where they live within the parish.
- We act independently of all the management companies and any organisation which report on the parish council.
- All councillors have to follow regulations and act lawfully.
- Fairfield Parish Council has a policy of transparency and accountability.
- It has a policy to deal with complaints that complainants can use to prove whether a Councillor or the Council has acted improperly.
I hope that statement has cleared up any doubts held about this council.
Last year the parish council faced some very important issues which required a considerable amount of time and effort from Councillors to find a solution to each of them. At least one of these issues has impacted on family life in one way or another.
One area which affects us all is money. This year saw a rise in the Central Bedfordshire Council tax. Again, I am pleased to say that, as in previous years, our precept charge has not increased.
As a fairly new council we have to build up a reserve to fund future projects. The parish council continues to allocate funds for grants and to community projects and groups. Some of these funds are being held for road safety, and other improvements around Fairfield. The council is also considering several other larger projects and are looking at ways to provide for the teenagers. These new areas will allow the youth to engage in sports and provide them with interests and a place to go and meet in safety. Other proposals include, allotments for residents, a garden of remembrance and CCTV coverage of certain areas of Fairfield. We are not looking to monitor the whole of Fairfield. A survey will be carried out later this year to identify areas where cameras could be installed to provide the necessary information for the police.
The land for allotments we hope to obtain is adjacent to Fairfield, this is an ongoing process and requires land transfer and agreements with CBC and the current land owners. Once we have the land a system of management and control then needs to be setup. The remembrance garden we hope will be part of the existing cemetery. The council is in discussions with CBC on how we can provide this.
These projects have a high initial setup cost and then continuing running costs which FPC will have to fund.
The council is also looking at road safety improvements. These include an additional parking area off of Dickens Boulevard, and in the old road off Hardy Way. This is the disused road located behind the school, which we hope could be used by school staff and by the community hall users to reduce parking in residential roads. To safely use this road and footpaths, each will require, clearing, lighting and new surfaces.
We are also looking to improve a pedestrian crossing point in Dickens Boulevard, in order to provide a better view of the traffic for pedestrians crossing the road.
We have also been successful in asking Central Bedfordshire Council to provide a school road crossing patrol. The parish council are funding the first year and hope to find commercial sponsors thereafter. This control crossing is to improve pedestrian control during school attendance and going home time. Should anyone be interested in doing this, it is now being advertised by Central Bedfordshire Council and applications should be sent direct to them.
Another area we are considering is to try and reduce parking on some road junctions. This may involve road markings. Again, we hope cars will stop parking on these junctions and allow clear views for pedestrians crossing and to drivers. This has support from the police who will take the necessary action against drivers who obstruct junctions.
In addition to all this we are also promoting several other safety schemes. These require volunteers to commit to and help implement and deliver. These are to reduce crime and vandalism which seems to have become a problem in some areas. I like to say here it appears most of these problems are not always from the young people that live on Fairfield. They are youths from the surrounding areas who find it necessary to come here and destroy our environment. Work is in progress to help reduce this sort of behaviour, one way is for volunteers to become involved in the following:-
- Neighbourhood Watch
- Street Watch
- Speed Watch
All these are part of Bedfordshire Police Initiatives, and training will be provided by the police. We have been asked before to start these schemes up without success. This time we hope we will have residents support and involvement, otherwise it is impossible. The council, will where necessary, provide support to those volunteers involved with these schemes. Councillor Steve Foster is the contact for these if you wish to find out more information.
Bedfordshire Community Policing Team will be in Fairfield on Wednesday the 24th May they will be giving advice on crime prevention, and safeguarding, they will also patrol and targeting parking issues.
Our Neighbourhood Plan, has been completed and sent to Central Bedfordshire Council for wider consultation. It is now before a government planning inspector. The final stage will be a referendum involving all Fairfield electors. The parish council has been very effective in producing the plan much earlier than the expected five years we were told it would take. This is thanks to Phil Mitchinson, who has worked hard to bring representative groups from Fairfield together. Phil stood down from the parish council in January this year, but has agreed to continue working on the plan. I would like to publicly thank Phil for the work he has done, and for continuing to oversee the plan and its progress.
We have a Green Infrastructure Plan as part of the Neighbourhood Plan. This has identified areas of open green space in and around Fairfield and protects sites from future development. A good example of this, is the cricket club ground, which has been incorporated into the plan and therefore is protected from developers trying to build within the centre of Fairfield. Another protected area is the open space between Kingsley Avenue and Eliot Way along the Hitchin Road. Also included are the orchards. More protection to the orchards will be added when agreement has been reached on the transfer of land from Fairfield Hall Management Company to the parish council. The parish council has now taken ownership of a section of the West orchard which runs parallel to Hard Way. This was agreed with PJ Livesey the former developer and land owner.
The hard work of volunteers can be seen to have taken effect within the orchards. Those volunteers having given up time to come out during the winter months to help clear dead wood and create areas for wildlife in all the orchards on Fairfield, the effects can now be seen with more trees showing signs of growth. That hard work was worth their effort. The orchards are looking better and surrounding areas also looking tidier.
Along with the volunteers, the parish council employed two tree specialists with the approval of Central Bedfordshire Conservation Officers and other interested groups. These two specialists guided and trained the volunteers with the much-needed skills to improve the trees and encourage new growth. These skills will be used in the future management of the orchards.
The volunteers have also planted 18 new fruit trees in the West Orchard, and all look as though they have been successful and are showing signs of new growth. To all the volunteers, “Thank you for volunteering and the hard work in all weathers, which you have done for the community of Fairfield”. If you have not been involved and would like to, information is on the parish web page, or ask Councillor Daffarn.
The ‘Apple Day’, has been a great success and again I would like to thank those in involved in the organisation and preparations for a great day which brings the community of Fairfield together. Thanks also to those involved in organising our cider making which is improving each year. I believe there are some cups of cider on the tables at the rear of the hall so please try some before leaving tonight.
The parish council has in recent weeks held discussions with Fairfield Hall Management Company, where they exchanged views on the areas of land under consideration of transfer from the halls management responsibility to the parish council. These also involved talks between the land owners Hotbed Investments during last December.
The three parties involved meet to find satisfactory boundaries and to allow FHMC control over trees which provide screening to hall residents. Transferring the remaining sections of land transfers the financial responsibility from the hall residents to the parish council.
We hope our proposals which were sent recently to the Hall Directors, provide the hall residents with control on areas where they think screening is required and also a satisfactory way to have the remaining areas of land transferred from their responsibility to the parish council.
These discussions are still ongoing and hopefully agreement can be reached locally. The aim of the council is to improve the appearance of the whole of Fairfield, and allow areas of land to be used by all residents that are not currently available to them. No time scale has been agreed for this but I hope we can agree the transfer before the summer holidays start.
Should any resident have concerns or wish to make comment regarding these areas, they can do so via the web page or the Hall directors.
The full minutes of the meeting can be downloaded from this link.