Annual Parish Meeting

For many people in all walks of life, the COVID-19 virus has left an indelible stain in a way, for the post war generation, perhaps as significant as World War II. The aftermath of WW2 was a focus on the social as well as the human cost which led to the foundation of the National Health Service which has as we all know played a key role in addressing the disease today.

This focus on this social agenda, albeit on a smaller scale than the establishment of the NHS, has caused a shift evidenced by the way in which various organisations – of which we are part – are re-shaping their response to community needs. Here are some examples:

  • As a Council, informed by the Community Survey, we are actively collaborating with the newly established Community Hub with a focus on being a ‘Community for all Ages’.
  • The new Community Bus – which you will soon see on the road – is the outcome of a new working collaboration between the Parish Council and Rosie Bus.
  • Whitewater Health are well advance in re-configuring their services in what hopefully will be an enduring Post Covid environment.
  • Our own High Street retailers – as have many businesses – are now successfully trading online.
  • We are part of a group working now to extend fibre broadband across the Parish recognising the shift in working patterns.

These changes will undoubtedly have an impact on the mosaic of our lives.

Moving the spotlight on, the need to provide both affordable housing and meet the needs of a rapidly aging population was identified in our Neighbourhood Plan. Two initiatives on the table at the moment aim to do this:

  • Firstly, what is known as a Rural Exception site in Springwell Lane is at an advanced stage of planning and there may be an opportunity to see further developments of this nature once the tip also in Springwell Lane moves on. The real advantage of these sites is that it allows the Parish to prioritise local residents as occupants.
  • The second initiative is the re-development of the Grey House site as a Care Home. This is, I believe, generally accepted in principle but the current execution has led to justifiable objections.

Less palatable, however, is the proposed ‘Garden Village’ of 5,000/10,000 homes in an area designated ‘Shapley Heath’ being espoused by Hart District Council which we continue to challenge.

In his usual style, Jeremy Clarkson alleged that Parish Councils are clubs for people who want everything to remain as it was in 1858. I’m confident that what I’ve outlined here – ably aided and abetted by the Parish Office led by our clerk, Karyn Reid, and our ‘internet savvy’ and engaged Parish Councillors – seriously challenges that notion.

Chris Farrance