Chariman’s report 2017-18

Chairman Chris Bidwell gave the following report at our annual meeting in May

Chris Bidwell2017 saw the parish council having to deal with several major issues which have affected Fairfield residents. The positive approach of this council to improve and maintain the feel of Fairfield is clear. This council will continue to provide and to protect the environment and safety, for the enjoyment of residents. The council is constantly looking to improve how it provides to residents.

Each councillor gives considerable amount of their time per week in finding answers to residents’ questions, general enquires, which is shown by their commitment in delivering the detailed answer to residents and to councillors.

This parish council is open and transparent and accountable and acts with reason and care to protect Fairfield and its residents.

At the start of last year Steve Foster joined the parish council. Steve was full of ideas and vigour. Unfortunately, due to personal circumstances, Steve found he could no longer give sufficient time to the council and took the decision to stand down. I would like to thank Steve for the commitment he gave to Fairfield Parish Council. He began the highly successful 5k run which is being run again shortly and we are happy to be able to support it.

Amanda Marioni Hunt, who has been a Fairfield resident since the early days of Fairfield, is well known by many of you, put her name forward for election, and was duly elected, unopposed, to the parish council. This saved the council several thousand pounds in costs by avoiding an election.

We have been successful in our achievements in the five years since the parish council was formed. FPC was the first in Central Bedfordshire to have a Neighbourhood Plan. Councillors worked hard with the developers on the designs of the new homes in Fairfield Gardens. We had expert advice on the orchards and other areas which required maintenance.
We are all aware that local government has a speed of its own and sometime our expectations move faster than the actual system will allow. The buildings within Fairfield are unique by design, and this council is working hard to keep that appearance and will work with others to achieve the views of residents shown within the Neighbourhood Plan and Design Statement.

Parish councillors have worked with several of the management companies within the parish. Those we have met with, offered ideas and suggested alternatives in how to deliver objectives identified in the parish plan.

The council will always endeavour to answer residents’ questions fully. However, when they are outside of the scope of this council, those questions will be passed onto the responsible authority to ensure those asking receive a full reply wherever possible. Which I believe any resident would expect this council to do.

A great example of working with residents is the idea of the telephone box library, this is well on its way to being completed, located on the corner of Dickens Boulevard and Kipling Crescent. We are now just waiting for the delivery of the phone box. Once the box is fitted out with shelving, the council will place a notice on the website requesting books. It is hoped to have the lower shelving for children’s books. If you have some books and you would like to recirculate them you will be able to in a few weeks’ time.

Another idea we are investigating, is to install outdoor gym/trim trail equipment. This will be for use for ages of 14 upwards. Several types are being considered and where the best locations are to install the equipment is undecided. You can see on the notice boards, the ideas that are being considered, please take a few minutes before you leave to look at them and give us your views.

Last year we held a litter picking day, which was a great success we again hope to hold this event during the summer months, we will be asking for volunteers to help clear away litter from around Fairfield.

Our Road Crossing Officer has now been in place since September, and the help she has provided to the children and parents is clear. Many thanks to her for coming out in all weathers to ensure our young people are safe. We hope to continue with this and add other road safety improvements.

CBC has now agreed match funding for the road safety measures FPC has put forward and the parish council is now waiting to meet with officer to progress these safety improvements.
This parish council has supported several of our organisations, such as the Scouts, Youth Club, The Lower School, Bowls Club and Community Church by providing funding grants to allow them to proceed with projects which benefit our residents of all ages. One project is Fairfield Church, where its members have worked hard to bring the area of land adjacent to the bowls club into a remarkable garden. These changes made by them with our financial grants, have made such a difference to that corner of Fairfield and to our community. We have worked with the FPRA in the planning and some of the ideas to improve the urban par. This work is due to start, and residents will see a remarkable change to that area.

As part of the World War 1 remembrance, the parish council has purchased a beacon to join in remembrance in November. Our beacon will be one of many around Bedfordshire which will be lit as part of the remembrance service held each year. More details about this will be published later in the year on our website.

The parish council is aware of concerns made recently about the numbers of children waiting at the bus stop in the mornings. Local schools have been contacted and asked to speak to those involved about safety whilst waiting for the school buses to arrive. The council also requested a police attendance to monitor and to speak with those children who risk causing accidents by their behaviour. If you do have to leave your child at the bus stop, please make sure they are aware of road safety and act accordingly.

Some of the street lighting has been repaired by one or two of the developers who have come back and repaired some of the defective street lights around Fairfield. I hope by the end of the summer we may have the more of street lights working. There are still a few which the developers have not yet shown any interest in returning to repair, this parish council, with CBC, will continue to write to them asking them to carry urgent repairs.

Speedwatch has been carried out on Fairfield. We now have six volunteers waiting to be trained by Bedfordshire Police, they will then start checking the speed of vehicles on Fairfield. If you are interested in being a volunteer, please contact the parish clerk.

The orchards have been funded by this parish council and maintained by volunteers for several years. Areas have been cleared of brambles and debris, trees have been pruned under guidance from our specialist and they are now showing signs of improved growth. Wild grass meadow seeds were sown on the area of land at the end of West Drive and new fruit trees of cherry and pear have been planted. Thanks to all the volunteers who come out in all weathers to help in the orchards, with the pruning, clearing and planting.

The parish council is now well on the way to have the orchards included into the Etonbury Green Wheel walks. Information boards, seating and marker post are being designed, many of these you can see on the notice boards. The information boards will be used to identify as much of the wildlife and trees within each orchard. The school pupils have been actively involved with this project, we hope this will be where they learn about the trees and the environment as part of their education. Please take time to look at these designs, do ask questions of Wendy who has design them, and most importantly please give us your views, all will help the decisions that are needing to be made.

Apple day is again planned for 2018 and like the pervious years there will be great entertainments and food, along with our cider making and free samples of last year’s apple pressing. Each year we see more residents attending. All see it as a good afternoon out with children and free drinks for the adults. This event would not happen without the help of volunteers and the effort they put into making it a very successful enjoyable afternoon for all. On behalf of the council, I would like to thank them for making this a successful Fairfield event.

We have had a problem during the year where youths decided to walk around Fairfield and cause damage to property and vehicles. The Police were made aware and have been asked to carryout visits to Fairfield more frequently. It is believed the youths involved are not all Fairfield residents. FPC obtained advice from the Police on the taking of photographs for recording crime. If you do take photos of a crime in progress, and you want it used by the police for investigating. Please do not post the photographs on any web site, ensure you inform the Police you have taken photographs, and wherever possible have a date time marker imprinted by the camera on each photo.

Please those of you who have a dog. The council and FPRC had sixteen dog waste bins installed, but still some dog owners do not clear up their dog’s mess, they just walk away and leave it on the footpaths and grass areas which is a danger to young children and unpleasant to others. If you are not aware, a dog owner can be fined a £1,000 should they allow the dog to foul and not clear it up, any person witnessing this can report it to CBC officers who will then take the necessary actions.

The Anglian Water odour that affected so many residents of Fairfield and beyond, involved Parish Councillors, CBC officers, Ward Councillors and with help from our MP, The Rt Hon Alistair Burt and our own Specialist Derek Manning. All meet with AW representatives over several months, and eventually with Peter Simpson, the CEO of Anglian Water. Thanks to all those involved in bringing AW to finally accept responsibility, and for them to make the necessary changes on how they stored raw waste. The improvements needed are now in operation. I am hoping this summer will be one where we can all enjoy our gardens and homes as we should, and also allow the full use of the open spaces around Fairfield.

The Council is aware some residents have recently suffered from an odour which has been difficult to trace. Recently discovered is a chicken farm, which started operating within the last year. This has caused an odour problem, when they cleared the chicken sheds out. This Farm is licensed by the Environment Agency and the telephone number was printed in recent edition of Fairfield Matters.

During March residents complained of an odour occurring over several days, this could be from the AW site, and investigations are being carried out to determine why and how this occurred. Central Bedfordshire Council did not close the abatement notice. AW is still monitoring their site and Fairfield to ensure there is no odour being emitted. As I mentioned the abatement notice is still enforce, to bring any legal or other actions against AW, residents still need to register an odour nuisance with CBC officers as and when it occurs. The parish council fully appreciates, this situation is unpleasant to have reoccurring. However, for CBC to act for breach of the Abatement Notice they need sufficient evidence that the frequency, duration and level of the odour amounts to a statutory nuisance at residential properties and that the source of the odour was the sewage treatment works. To do that officers require evidence from you and they need to witness it themselves.

How long this may take I cannot say, much depends on other identified locations where an odour maybe issuing. Fairfield is surrounded by fields, some with livestock and other areas are used for arable croups, both will create some form of odour at times during the year. To always point the finger at AW each time slows down investigations into these other potential sources. If an odour is detected contact CBC officers and have it registered so they are aware and can investigate which, if any, of these sites are the cause of the odour.

At the start of this year, I contacted Peter Simpson regarding compensation he offered for community projects. AW have made two offers of compensation and each were considered by the parish council. All Councillors agreed each offer was insufficient to accept the amount equalled to just under £6 per household approximately, which totalled £7,000. I shall be replying to Peter stating the parish council were shocked and felt the level of compensation offered to-date is considered unacceptable.

The council is seeking legal advice on how it could proceed though legal systems to obtain a more acceptable level. Our own solicitors have found evidence of compensation which amounted to £80 per household, this would equal £96k approximately for Fairfield if offered. There are several factors which need more consideration by the council and advice from solicitors. However, taking legal action is a risk, a court may consider a much lower amount, or it could be higher level of compensation. This legal action is yet to be decided by councillors. I am hopeful, this council will not find it necessary to proceed via the legal system.

FPC in its fifth year of existents has achieved many things and is seen by CBC as an active parish council. Without a parish council many of the achievements mentioned may not have happened. It is very important to have a parish council who represent the views of all residents.

Next year in May, the Local Elections are due to take place. I would like to invite any resident who is interested in or considering and would like to know more about being a parish councillor to come along to our meetings and shadow a councillor, that way you will be able to have a first hand view of what is involved and how the council interacts with the community and Central Bedfordshire Council.

Having a Parish Council allows local people to have some controls over their environment, helps local organisations and clubs which need local support, it also allows residents to be involved in determining how Fairfield develops. If anyone is interested, please contact a councillor or the parish clerk for more information.