Alvechurch Parish Council Newsletter Spring 2015

The current 4-year term for the PC ends this April, with elections, if needed, in May for the next one. There are several councillors standing down in April, and local people are urged to consider putting themselves forward for what is challenging but very rewarding community work. There will be time at the beginning of the next PC meeting, 9 March, to meet the council and ask questions, if you are interested.

The parish caretaker, Rob Watkin, and his wife Audrey, have been awarded a Certificate of Appreciation for their work as specialist foster carers. In twenty-seven years they have fostered forty children. The Parish Council added its thanks for their service.

An application to build housing for elderly people on the land behind 2 Birmingham Road, and improve the facilities for local sport, was opposed by the Parish Council after much difficult discussion and listening to representations from local people. Much of the proposed development is in the green belt. It was not felt that this development was one where community benefit sufficiently outweighed the preservation of green belt to be an exception. Bromsgrove District Council will review the green belt once its local plan is approved, possibly later this year. They have power to vary the green belt, and will be asking Alvechurch to take their share of extra housing after 2023. The Neighbourhood Plan will suggest areas to be taken out of green belt, having consulted parishioners. However, until this happens the green belt will stay as it is unless a developer can show exceptional circumstances.

Our District Councillors had money available last year from a government Council Tax-related grant fund to support parishes. They decided to use this to support a defibrillator in Alvechurch, improvements at Hopwood Village Hall, and the Lounge. The money for this year has been agreed by the District Council, at just over £6,000 for us, which we hope will come directly to the PC this time. The PC has set its “precept,” the amount of Council Tax which is set by the Parish Council for parish needs. The uncertainty of grant support funding each year makes setting it difficult, but the PC voted to keep the precept at the same level as the last two years, which is good news for Parishioners.

After sustained pressure from the PC, there is now a Vehicle Activated Sign on the A441 at Hopwood, which we are monitoring. The PC has also decided to buy one for Bordesley but are waiting for the County Council to order and install it. The PC has worked with Bromsgrove DC to use money from developers for new play equipment in the Wiggin Meadows, to be installed in spring. There is now a separate Wiggin development fund within the PC, which is developing a plan for further enhancements to the Meadows as a whole.

Other issues addressed at recent meetings include assessing pathway lights in Alvechurch village, and approving a new Communication and Media Policy covering the PC’s relationship with the press and other media including social media, and the attendance of the public at meetings. The PC recently wrote a letter of complaint to the Leader of Worcs CC and the Chairman of Bromsgrove Conservative Association about continuing lack of involvement of our County Councillor in parish issues.

The Council has approved a budget plan for 2015/16. Some items of expenditure proposed are a replacement bridge and new footpaths in the Wiggin meadows. An application is in to the District Council for New Homes Bonus funding to cover the costs of improvements at Hopwood Community Centre, including a hearing loop. The PC also hopes to finance canal-side notice boards with Alvechurch information, following the excellent towpath refurbishment currently being carried out by the Canals and Rivers Trust. CRT has been asked to look into similar improvements in Hopwood.

The Neighbourhood Plan group have progressed well, and have made the first draft of the Plan. After more work on the detail with the District Council and an independent specialist, we hope it will come out for consultation to the Parish in a few months time.