Alvechurch Parish Council Newsletter Summer 2013

Alvechurch allotments formally opened

The new allotments in Alvechurch, available to residents in Alvechurch parish, were formally launched on 10 August 2013 by Philip Aubury. Philip is a former director of the Botanical Gardens in Birmingham, and an Alvechurch resident whose garden is in the Open Gardens scheme. The opening was attended by Sajid Javid, our MP, June Griffiths, County and District Councillor, and several Parish Councillors.

Andy Humphries, chairman of the Parish Council, said that the allotments have come to fruition after much hard work: securing the land and funding, clearing and laying it out, and then by the allotment holders digging it over in a cold wet spring. He thanked the district and county councils for their support, the landowner, and parish councillors and the parish lengthsman for all their hard work in getting the site ready.

Philip Aubury welcomed the new allotment holders and gave some advice about planting. He spoke of how “growing your own” has become popular again in recent years. Tony Ellis, who chairs the plot holders’ association, told us that he had been amazed by how quickly people got to grips with their plots, and how well all the vegetables had done. In the warm summer after a wet spring, everything grew so fast that the allotments were soon full with ripe produce.

The allotment holders and other guests all admired the diversity of the plots and crops, and agreed that this new venture was a great addition to Alvechurch parish.

Redditch rail branch enhancement scheme

The Parish Council involved itself in Network Rail’s Redditch branch line enhancement scheme. We support it, because increased rail use puts less strain on the environment than car use, and an improved service would benefit people and the economy here. But we think station access improvements should form part of the plan: currently parking is insufficient, badly laid-out, drained and lit, and has no cycle storage or disability provision. We have succeeded in getting improvements to the existing parking at the station included in the plan. Subsequently we hope to be involved in travel and access planning for this stretch of line.

Our Parish precept and Bromsgrove District Council Tax

Every year, your Council Tax bill includes a sum to support the Parish Council, called the precept. Alvechurch’s precept has increased this year by 2%, from £102,899 to £104,957 – an average of 1p per week per household. However, most will find the increase is more than that, because the government changed the rules. Now households which get Council Tax benefit are taken out of the calculation, so the same amount of money is being collected from fewer households.

Central government has helped District Councils reduce the impact of this change by providing a grant, part of which could be passed on to Parish Councils. Bromsgrove District Council unfortunately failed to communicate the details adequately and in time to Parish Councils. So, residents have been billed for the full amount for the 2013/14 year without reference to the grant. We are trying to get this rectified for next year.

The Big Lunch

The Parish Council co-ordinated a picnic in the Meadows on 26 May, with entertainment and stalls, to contribute to the Big Lunch. The event amply covered its costs and money was collected for many local voluntary organisations. The weather was perfect, and about three thousand people attended.

Redditch Housing Expansion

By law, Bromsgrove district has to cooperate with Redditch in finding sites for some of their housing expansion. Out of over twenty sites, two were chosen for public consultation: Foxlydiate/Webheath, and Brockhill East, both next to new housing within the Redditch boundary. A possible site in Bordesley, in our parish, was considered but rejected. The consultation has finished and a decision is expected soon.

Alvechurch and Beoley Pact

The latest PACT meeting was held as part of the Annual Parish Meeting on 15 April. Bill Longmore, the West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner, attended. There were over 50 residents there. He outlined his aims as PCC to balance budgets against a changing policing environment. He acknowledged the good relationship with our local Policing Team especially PCSO Mark Hyder. He agreed that speeding was a major issue for communities like ours, that some A roads like the A441 were less safe than either motorways or smaller country lanes, and that they needed more focus from both the Police and County Highway authorities. The next PACT panel meeting is on Monday 15 July at Alvechurch Library.

Alvechurch Parish Neighbourhood Plan

Consultations have been held throughout the Parish. We have been asking people their views on housing, transport, environment and business. From your answers we will propose policies for the Parish to form the core of the Neighbourhood Plan. We are a little held back by not yet knowing what Bromsgrove District Council will expect of us, as they have not produced their Local Plan yet. So, for example, we are not sure how many new houses we will be expected to have in the Parish from 2021 to 2030. When we have drafted our policies, we will undertake a major consultation throughout the Parish. This Plan has to represent the views of the Parish, but has to be within the guidelines of the District Plan. If we can get it through all the hurdles it has to pass, it will then have legal force in deciding future development.

Dog bins & grit bins

Among the unglamorous but necessary things we do is to provide and maintain grit bins for bad weather, and dog waste bins. We have recently provided a new bin for dog mess, by the canal in Alvechurch. How effective this is will depend on the behaviour of the irresponsible dog owners who let their dogs foul our footpaths and the towpath.

Vehicle Activated Signs

We have provided a mobile vehicle activated sign (VAS) to alert people to their speeds in some of the areas where people don’t keep to the speed limits. This has had some impact, in Weatheroak and Rowney Green. We are looking at getting another, initially for the A441.

The Lounge

We have supported the youth project at The Lounge (full name Alvechurch Communities Together), having a representative on their committee, making a grant to them, and assisting them in collecting donations at events. We recognise the positive effect the project has had on the parish.

Medical facilities in Alvechurch

Although the Parish Council has no direct responsibility for parishioners’ health, we do take an interest in the adequacy and sufficiency of medical facilities in the Parish. One of the councillors has joined the Patients’ Participation Group for the Alvechurch practice. Anyone wanting to raise general issues can contact her via the Parish Council.