Annual Report of the Parish Council
1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021
- Introduction from the Chairman of the Parish Council
- Report of the Chairman of the Parish Council
- Report of the Chair of the Planning & Environment Committee
- Report of the Chair of the Community Engagement Committee
- Report of the Chair of the Estates & Facilities Committee
- Report of the Chair of the Highways & Cycleways Joint Council Working Group
- Report of the Chair of the Finance & Governance Committee
- Minutes of the Previous Meeting on 21 May 2019
- List of Councillors, Officers and Contact Details
ANNUAL PARISH MEETING
- INTRODUCTION FROM THE CHAIRMAN OF THE PARISH COUNCIL
The Annual Meeting of Electors, or the Annual Parish Meeting, is a relatively informal event for the community and is a totally separate meeting from the Parish Council’s formal meetings. It is for the registered electorate of the parish and there is no set agenda. Someone needs to call the meeting, so it often falls to the Parish Council to organise it. There is no set format for the meeting, but it usually includes a presentation of the Parish Council’s annual report, discussions of ideas for future action, public comment, or questions and a celebration of local community organisations.
Due to the unprecedented Coronavirus Pandemic in 2020, the United Kingdom Government introduced lock-down measures that banned any groups of people meeting face to face. It was therefore not possible for the Parish Council to call an Annual Parish Meeting on behalf of the electorate, and the decision was made to cancel the 2020 meeting. Instead, the Annual Report was published on the Parish Council’s website.
Once again, this year, anticipating a lack of certainty over being able to a hold the meeting in person, the Parish Council agreed to publish its Annual Report on the Parish Council’s website, but also to embrace technology and to hold the meeting by a webinar on 18th May 2021. In doing so we have widened the scope under the theme “Working together for a sustainable future” and with several thought-provoking presentations and related updates. We are hoping that this will help us to develop further our current Environmental Policy into one which will both support the operations and output of the Parish Council, and in some way meet the aspirations of our Parishioners as well. I hope that you enjoy reading our report and please do not hesitate to contact the Clerk to the Council if you have any questions. Contacts details are set out at the end of this document.
Malcolm Llewellyn, Chairman of the Parish Council
- REPORT FROM THE CHAIRMAN OF THE PARISH COUNCIL
Whilst it was clearly not the year that we planned for when we put the budget together in December 2019 overall, we are probably in a much better position at the end of the year than we could have hoped. Once again, the Parish Council has been engaged in a wide range of activities. I will not seek to duplicate that detail here but recommend that your read the reports written below by the respective chairs of the committees.
Early on, with over 30% of income derived from other than Council Tax, we took the decision to conserve resources, to minimise expenditure, and to focus very much on supporting the community in whatever way we could as the need was identified. We made facilities available and compliant when Government COVID-19 restrictions allowed, whilst in the background we continued to work on developing those facilities, identifying gaps in services and outputs that our residents required, and to seek ways to resource and meet those requirements in the future.
Initially our efforts were coordinated and prioritised through an emergency panel of councillors, and then via the normal Parish Council and Committee structure, but using Microsoft Teams or Zoom as appropriate, and accessible to those residents who wanted to attend. We have continued to build upon the range of community facilities for which we are responsible, and enjoyed productive engagement with many more community groups; one of the latest being Hurst Rethink. We also continued to work in close partnership with County and District councils to try and achieve the best results for our residents in areas for which the senior councils are responsible.
With the magnificent COVID-19 Neighbours Support Group standing up and taking the initiative through the first lock down, we also turned our attention to assembling and distributing newsletters to all residents containing useful local information and contact details, mindful that not everyone can access the web. We supported the move of the foodbank from the Court Bushes Community Hub to Village Centre to give it more room, and to not be on their own in a closed Court Bushes. We suspended our cancellation policy for hiring facilities so that hirers were not out of pocket if the Government changed the restrictions – instead, the Parish Council stood the loss.
Projects that relied upon income to fund them were suspended until that income could be identified, or other sources of funds found such as Section 106 funds from developers’ contributions. However, other small-scale projects and work continued from tree safety work, upgraded footpaths, tree & hedge planting to replacing lights in the bus shelters or supporting the installation of 5 further standpipes and tanks at the allotments; a project ably led by the Allotment Association.
With everyone taking their daily exercise locally, it soon became apparent that we needed to make Hurst Meadows more accessible for all. So instead of waiting for Bovis Homes Ltd to complete the planned access to the village from the southern end of Bramble Park, we made the decision to enable access through Hovel Field and to follow that up with one of our contractors putting in the necessary paths. The use of Hurst Meadows over the last year has just been incredible, and as a village we are so lucky to have these 50 acres of countryside open space and woodland on our doorstep. It is also of note that The Woodland Trust have chosen our ancient woodland, the Wilderness and Tilley’s Copse as part of their Lost Woods Project.
In last year’s report my predecessor explained the rationale for higher increase in the level of council tax attributed to the Parish Council in 2020/21, after several years of little or below level of inflation increases. This had previously led to some costs being covered using our general reserves, but more importantly not placing the Council in a strong position to support new and improved community facilities that our residents have requested. Whilst the 2020/21 increase did not address the shortfall in the reserves, that plus savings made as outlined above, and some small grants from Government COVID-19 support funds, have placed the Parish Council in a good position to hopefully weather the Pandemic. The only real area of concern remains the Village Centre which is covered by the Village Centre Charity of which the Parish Council is now the sole Trustee. Irreducible costs in that area have been covered by the reserves that we inherited from the former Village Centre Association. We are now looking forward to a bounce back in use once restrictions permit.
Once again, and very conscious of the impact that the Pandemic has had on household finances the Parish Council Tax rose by 3.5%, or 5.5p per week for a typical Band D property in 2021/22. This together with other income from rents, hiring fees, allotments and cemetery fees, is expected to cover the on going day to day operations and maintenance requirements. Our auditors still advise that our General Reserve remains well below that for a Parish Council of our size, but again we have decided against trying to rebuild those reserves at this time in order to limit the increase. Instead, the rise aims to prevent any further depletion, a reduction in the outputs of the Parish Council, or the closure of a key asset. Further supporting detail is contained in my Finance & Governance Committee report below.
On the wider front we were disappointed to receive notice that the Nationwide branches within both Hurstpierpoint and Hassocks would be closing. We were concerned about the likely impact, particularly on residents, those without cars and our High Street. We pushed back hard in concert with other Councils and councillors and our MP, but to no avail. We similarly anticipated the loss of the Post Office ATM on the cessation of the Bank of Ireland contract with Post Office Ltd, and again made the point that only one ATM in a community of this size was insufficient at this time.
During the Autumn, there were three strategic planning consultations which could have a significant impact on the type and number of homes built in the parish in future. The Government asked about making changes to the current planning system and an overhaul of the future process. The Parish Council’s view, continuing to support and reinforce our made Neighbourhood Plan, was that the proposed changes would have the potential to significantly increase the target figures for house building within the District. Given the pushback that the Government received from all quarters it will be interesting to see what appears in their forthcoming plans. Meanwhile, the MSDC draft Site Allocations Development Plan Document (DPD) was more specific and included a proposal for further homes to be built on land north of Lyndon, off Reeds Lane in Sayers Common; as part of meeting extant District Housing Targets to 2035. The Parish Council submitted that Sayers Common, as a Category 3 settlement, does not have the facilities to support a further expansion in the built environment. The draft MSDC Site Allocation DPD will shortly be subject to external examination and the Parish Council will be represented at that examination by our Sayers Common Ward Councillors.
Councillors and External Assistance
My thanks to my fellow councillors for their kind support and advice during my tenure as Chairman. I would like to highlight the Vice-Chairman and Chair of the Estates and Facilities Management committee, Allan Brown who is far wiser and more measured in his approach than I could probably ever be. My thanks also to Claire Majsai, Chair of Community Engagement; Martin Machan, Chair of Planning and Environment; John Lowman, Chair of Strategic Policy and Resources and Tony Lank as Chair of the Joint Council Highways and Cycleways Working Group for all their effort and commitment throughout the year. To Dr Georgina Judd, a local resident, who has given so much of her own time to develop the Management Plan for Hurst Meadows and a range of other key activities associated with that open space – her enthusiasm, assistance and knowledge have been invaluable – thank you. To Martin Sadler, another local resident, who is our lead and drive behind our developing Heritage Apple Orchard – thank you. He has collected, identified and nurtured every tree within the Orchard and without his efforts and commitment it would not exist. Finally, my thanks again to the previous Chairman, Stephen Hand, for his 5 years of leadership and for leaving the Parish Council in such good order. Our best wishes go for his future endeavours as a Trustee of the National Coastwatch Institution. Stephen Hand has now been replaced as a Councillor by Helen Bedford – welcome! She was Co-opted onto the Council at our meeting of 29th April 2021, and had previously been co-opted as a member of the public on our Community Engagement Committee so understood the workings of that committee and what she could bring to the Council when the opportunity arose.
Parish Council Staff
Our staff were not furloughed this past year, but instead at various stages in the Government COVID-19 measures they have worked from home, been in the Parish Council Office, or out on the ground. We did not immediately replace 2 members of staff who left earlier in the year, and it was only just before Christmas that we filled one of those vacancies, the Estates and Facilities Manager. We welcomed Stephen Witchell who joined us latterly from the private sector, but also having previously been employed by MSDC. He thus brings with him a good understanding of both the local estate, and how it is supported by the local authorities. Sarah Groom, our Clerk to the Council who joined in Spring last year, has yet to enjoy “normal working conditions” in the office, but has ably held everything together through these challenging times, responding to residents needs and queries, and facilitating Council’s priorities. We took the opportunity to temporarily retain our former interim Clerk to the Council, Andy Beams in the role of Locum Finance Officer to enable the full transfer and embedding of our completely restructured budget – after all given that he had been the principal architect it was only appropriate that he led on implementation. Assistant Clerks Helen Valler and Lorna Cooksey have juggled home-schooling, broadband challenges and yet continued to support everything from burials, allotments, planning application responses, facility bookings/cancellations, committee meetings, to the diverse range of Community Engagement priorities – no day quite the same as the last. Finally, throughout Richard Lechmere has continued to manage the Cemetery and to enable burials in these challenging times. Whilst our Maintenance Officer, Hamish Raby has been the front face of the Parish Council on the ground; as ever happy to speak to anyone and to try and help as appropriate. To all, on behalf of the Council, I would like to congratulate them for their good humour in adversity, and a willingness, drive and enthusiasm to support both the Council and the community that we serve.
Malcolm Llewellyn, Chairman of the Council
- REPORT FROM THE CHAIR OF THE PLANNING & ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE
The Planning and Environment Committee had yet another busy year holding 12 meetings and considering 213 planning applications. Meetings were held virtually using Microsoft Teams Video Conferencing due to Coronavirus.
The Parish Council makes recommendations to either Mid Sussex District Council (MSDC) or South Downs National Park (SDNP) as the case may be, and whilst our recommendations are considered by either MSDC or SDNP it is these bodies that make the planning decision. There have been several meetings where members of the public have spoken on planning applications on the agenda. Their views have been welcome.
The Parish Council Neighbourhood Plan covers the whole of the Parish area for the period from 2014 to 2033 and sets out the development principles and allocation of areas for future building and land use. We continue to try and ensure that all Applications meet these criteria, and by doing so restrict future development within our parishes as far as possible.
The South Downs Local Plan was adopted on 2nd July 2019 and covers the South Downs National Park for the period 2014 to 2033. In July 2020, Mid Sussex District Council issued a Design Guide as a supplementary planning document. This document gives guidance on such matters as household extensions, building conversions and sustainable building design as well as covering other planning issues. On 1st September 2020, there were substantial changes made to the Use Classes and the Committee is beginning to see these changes coming through in recent planning applications.
Committee members have to prepare for each meeting by familiarising themselves with each application not delegated to the Chairman and Vice Chairman. This will involve reading through many documents and considering the application in the context of our Neighbourhood Plan, the Mid Sussex District Plan, the Mid Sussex Design Guide and South Downs Local Plan.
I thank each and every committee member for their time, support and comments at the meetings and to Tony Lank, Vice Chair, in working with me. His advice and commentary has, as always, been invaluable. I would also like to thank Helen Valler for clerking our meetings and to Sarah Groom Parish Clerk and for their valuable advice and guidance.
Martin Machan, Chair of the Planning & Environment Committee
- REPORT FROM THE CHAIR OF THE COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT COMMITTEE
Writing my report last year in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, it was inconceivable that this would still be continuing a year later, yet here we are still facing the same challenges but hoping that better days are in sight. The Community Engagement Committee have adapted to the changes imposed on us by Covid by focusing on improving communication between the Parish Council and residents and on allocating grants, particularly to those groups most affected by recent events.
Although slightly delayed by events and the challenge for our web-designer of simultaneously having to home-school, the new Parish Council website went live in July 2020. The website features beautiful images of our villages and surrounding countryside kindly supplied by two talented local photographers. We have received many positive comments on the website’s brighter, more modern layout and its user-friendly design.
We are now including a weekly Parish Council update on the website and will develop this further as we seek to keep residents better informed.
We have also developed our use of social media, keeping in touch with the community through better use of our Facebook page, again including more frequent updates. We recently gave High Street shops and businesses the opportunity to advertise themselves on our Facebook page as they seek to recover from recent lockdowns and this has resulted in some really interesting posts which hopefully will encourage residents to ‘Shop Local’.
The Committee have also expanded and improved the Parish Council’s page in the Hurst Life magazine. We have started to include helplines and other useful information for residents alongside what is hopefully a more attractive and interesting insight into the work of the Council. We have been particularly pleased by the response to our request for volunteers for Hurst Meadows and for input from the community towards the Council’s review of our environment policy.
The Community Engagement Committee has a responsibility for funding projects to enhance the attractiveness of the villages and we were pleased that restrictions allowed the planned improvements to the Village Garden to go ahead in 2020. Bee-friendly perennial plants were put into the flower beds and the new fountain planters provided a colourful focus, over the summer in particular.
Purple crocuses were also planted by the Rotary Club as part of their on-going campaign to work with global partners to eradicate polio. The Christmas tree, which was so popular in its first year when we rented it on a trial basis, has now been purchased by the Council. It shone out like a beacon of hope during a very difficult period and it was lovely to see so many children and adults taking pictures of themselves with it. The High Street Christmas lights were also extended with the support of Hurst Society. The roll-out of the Heritage Trail, another joint project with Hurst Society, has unfortunately been held up due to a planning issue with the sign that features the Trail map. However, this exciting project is ready to go as soon as this issue is resolved
Rather less successful in terms of increasing the attractiveness of our local area, as well as the health and wellbeing of inhabitants, has been our “No Such Thing as a Dog Poo Fairy” campaign. Posters to this affect have been put up in places where owners have left dog faeces both in plastic bags and on the ground and we have highlighted this unpleasant issue frequently in our Hurst Life article and elsewhere. Dog ownership has increased in the last year and we would implore you to act responsibly and either dispose of waste in a bin or take it home to do likewise.
At the beginning of the year, decisions on grant requests were deferred due to the financial uncertainty caused by the likely reduction in Council income from lettings etc due to Covid. We were pleased when, as a result of careful financial management, an improved situation meant that we were able to allocate grants at our January meeting. Grants were given to a range of groups including Victim Support, West Sussex Mediation, and St Peter & St James Hospice. With the increase in people walking in our local countryside, we were also pleased to give a grant to the Monday Group who do sterling work maintaining local stiles and gates so that footpaths can be accessed safely. A grant was also given to Sussex Clubs for Young People towards the youth club (currently the Purple Bus which visits Court Bushes) and we have initiated meetings with stakeholders looking at putting the youth club on a more sustainable long-term footing as we recognise the need for better facilities for young people in the villages.
The Committee shared national concerns about the effect of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns on certain vulnerable groups. As a result, our new Health and Wellbeing grant budget was shared between Citizens Advice, Young Minds (who support young people with mental health difficulties and their families), and Refuge (who help women who are experiencing domestic violence).
As with all Council meetings over the last year, Community Engagement have been meeting virtually via Microsoft Teams but we have still been able to invite guests such as representatives from the Hurstpierpoint Food Bank, local Police, etc. so that we can discover more about their role and resources, share concerns that we and residents may have and work together to improve life for everybody in our community.
The Community Engagement Committee still have a variety of initiatives ready to launch once large groups are able to meet inside again, including Dementia Awareness and further defibrillator training. We are also hoping that some of the groups that we have helped to support in the past such as the Melting Pot Café and the Memory Moments Café will soon be able to resume.
Finally, we were delighted in the summer to nominate Hurst Covid-19 Neighbours Support Group and the manager of the Sayers Common Community Shop for Mid Sussex Applaud Awards for their fantastic contribution during the pandemic.
We would also like to take this opportunity to thank Lorna Cooksey (Assistant Clerk) and all members of our community who have, despite many challenges, supported others as key workers, volunteers, carers, NHS, or school staff and parents, and to those of you who have abided by difficult restrictions and helped keep everybody safe. We hope for a better year ahead for you all.
Claire Majsai, Chair of the Community Engagement Committee
- REPORT FROM THE CHAIR OF THE ESTATES & FACILITIES COMMITTEE
This has been a difficult year for all elements of the Parish Councils facilities, which include the Village Centre in Trinity Road, Court Bushes Community Hub in Willow Way, Hurst Meadows, as well as the public toilets and bus shelters we are responsible for in the Parish.
The various Covid lock downs and associated restrictions have effectively closed down the Village Centre and Court Bushes facilities for long periods in the last year. The Parish Office in the Village Centre was also closed for much of that time, and is only now opening to the public within the limits set out in the regulations. Our Clerk and staff have been working from home, and have been managing the oversight of all our facilities and regular users at a distance, using our new Facebook page and Website to keep the community updated.
At an early stage in the year, and when it was obvious that many of our hirers would be unable to use the Village Centre and Court Bushes facilities, the Council decided to minimise the overhead costs of the buildings by closing down or reducing utilities where possible. The opportunity was also taken to carry out remedial work and maintenance at both sites whilst activity was low.
The Village Centre
As previously noted, many of the clubs and village societies that normally use the Centre where unable to do so through much of the year. However, the Hurstpierpoint Pre-School group did manage to continue operating and offered key worker child care when possible. This group have also been increasingly using the Meadows area as a Forest School facility when weather permitted. Many people in the Village will have seen the string of youngsters in their day glow coats as they were escorted to the Meadows.
Other changes in the building during the year have included lighting and hot water system upgrades and some limited decorating. The opportunity has also been taken to carry out a long overdue refurbishment of the Parish Office to include redecoration, new flooring and the acquisition of new furniture. The cost of this work was minimised by self-help with the decorating and the identification of some nearly new furniture that was being offered at no cost.
The fact that all our staff were working from home using laptop and other devices highlighted the need to carry out a review of our IT system security and procedures.
This review has identified significant issues with the current system, and resulted in recommendations for reconfiguration and hardware changes which will implement in the next financial year. Part of the reconfiguration will include and enable better video conferencing capability within the building, which have become more important during lockdown periods, and which will be offered as an additional facility to hirers in future.
Court Bushes Community Hub
As with the Village Centre, most of the activity on this site was halted due to lockdown. This was particularly disappointing as the facility was becoming very active with a community café and various youth, parent and baby activities and private parties becoming established. The Kiddie Capers pre-school did remain open and offered key worker child care and parent support throughout the year.
As with our other facilities, the quiet period has been used to carry our minor maintenance and to develop an area adjoining the pre-school which can be used for Forest School activities later this year. A grant has also been obtained from MSDC to extend the outdoor patio area and to make it a useful extension to the hall for hirers
As Covid restrictions ease, we are beginning to see bookings for the various facilities increase, and there have already been courses held by various organisations taking place.
Although activity in most of our facilities has reduced significantly, the use of the Meadows has seen a significant increase in people exploring and exercising even though the weather has at times been very wet. The addition of a hard new path through Bellows Nose has helped make that area more usable, other informal grass paths have been getting wider as walkers have tried to remain socially distanced and escape the mud. The installation of new footpaths by the developer, from Bramble Park into the Hovel Field to the south of the development, has also seen more people using that route to access the village for the school, medical centre and shops. The increased activity has not been without its problems, and issues with dog waste and litter are an ongoing problem which need constant attention through various user awareness programmes.
One of the most significant developments this year has been the completion and adoption of a Management Plan for the entire Meadows area, written and produced by Dr Georgina Judd. The plan defines the short, medium and long term management of the entire area. We owe a huge vote of thanks to Georgina for this work which has been complimented by many experts and professionals as a very comprehensive document. We are already using this to start to plan activities for the next year across the Meadows and woodland areas. The Management Plan can be accessed on the Councils web site.
Another significant development this year has been the adoption of the Wilderness and Tilleys Copse as one of several sites across the county that have been identified as part of the Woodland Trust Lost Woods of the Low Weald and Downs project. Using funds from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, this programme will provide expert help and some funding to improve the ancient woodlands of designated sites. Our woodland was selected because of its ancient woodland features and the fact that it is at some risk due to its location within the village. We have already received a Management Plan specifically for the woodlands and have incorporated it into our overall plan for Hurst Meadows. Details of this project can be found on the Woodland Trust web site.
With a limited budget to maintain and improve the Meadows it is becoming important that we establish a volunteer group to help with work in the area. A register of volunteers has been started, and when restrictions allow we will be starting informal walks and discussions on projects that can be undertaken. Butterfly monitoring groups are already being formed and trained to monitor types and numbers to be recorded over this summer.
The blossom has started to appear on trees in the Community Orchard in Buckwilly, and Martin Sadler, who has been developing and maintaining the orchard, has planted several more types recently including some new varieties he has identified and named. We owe a vote of thanks to Martin for his work in the orchard and its development. I suggest he should have the first pint of cider produced from the orchard in the next few years!
Reeds Lane Play Area
Initial planning for the replacement of the playground equipment in Reeds Lane Recreation Ground has been undertaken. Because we hope to gain from Section 106 money from developer contributions, the project has been delayed until we can access that funding. As soon as the money becomes available, we will complete the project.
Advisory Group activity has been much reduced during the year due to the lockdowns. We have managed a few video meetings and hope to re-established a programme across all sites as restrictions allow.
Allan Brown, Chair of the Estates & Facilities Committee
- REPORT FROM THE CHAIR OF THE HIGHWAYS & CYCLEWAYS JOINT COUNCIL WORKING GROUP
It is probably accurate to say that this time last year we were hopeful of making more progress on various issues than has been the case, the pandemic being the main reason for this. As matters ease we will endeavour to catch up as much as possible!
High Street – Not a year goes by without this topic arising. When Social Distancing became a major issue, and at very short notice, we were asked by the Mid Sussex District Council for measures we would like to see implemented. Various suggestions were made with the aim of keeping pedestrians safe and widening of the pavement, though some suspension of parking spaces was the result of this. They remain in place subject to regular review by MSDC and a further review will take place very shortly when their effectiveness will be re-assessed.
Community Highway Scheme – This Scheme involving changes to parking arrangements, crossing points etc in Hurstpierpoint and Sayers Common that we have drawn up has been publicised several times in the past and I will not detail them again here. The overall plan was put to the Central and South Mid Sussex County Local Committee and was rejected as a Scheme to be centrally funded, but instead we aim to fund it from Section 106 funds paid by developers. We believe that we have identified such funds but need this confirmed before we can proceed further. COVID has been a stumbling block but we continue to pursue matters.
I would reiterate that before any measures are implemented they are all subject to public consultation.
Cyclepaths – West Sussex County Council are currently working on two proposals:
- A Cyclepath linking Sayers Common, vis Albourne and Hurstpierpoint, to Hassocks. This is aimed primarily at schoolchildren going to and from Downlands School, rather than the adult cyclists going through the villages, particularly at weekends. Especially on Hassocks Road there are certain locations that need to be considered very carefully and we are asking to be consulted on every aspect of this.
- Cyclepath links between venues to the north of the parish, e.g. the Triangle and future sports facilities within the Burgess Hill Northern Arc, and Hurstpierpoint and Sayers Common. This work is in the early stages, but we have again asked for sight of these plans as soon as they are available.
Speed Indicator Device (SID) – We have now purchased our own device, and which flags any vehicles speeding above the appropriate limit. It also enables us to collate statistics as to vehicle numbers, average speeds etc. Previously we have shared a SID with neighbouring parishes. We will use this at various points we have identified throughout the parish, but if residents feel there is a particular problem area, please contact the Parish Office, and we will see if we can help.
Wickham Hill – In response to specific concerns about speeding we have been in discussion with residents, and as a result additional 30mph warning signs have been placed on the Neighbourhood Gateways. As some motorists may have also noticed, Wickham Hill is also now a road that will see “Speed Traps” from time to time. You have been warned!
New Way Lane – Anyone who has been down New Way Lane recently, especially at weekends, cannot have failed to notice the problems of parking causing damage to the verges, and the conflict – literally in some cases – between motorists, cyclists and walkers. It may be that the problems may reduce once the pandemic eases, but we are in contact with both our County and District Councillors to see what measures might help, at least in the short term.
St George’s Lane / Latchett’s Lane – Following requests from the Parish Council, the footpath that runs from the top of St George’s Lane to College Lane was upgraded by WSCC over the Summer of 2020. Improvements were made to the drainage, ditches and the surface of the footpath using Section 106 developers contributions. As a result, the improved footpath has opened up all year round accessibility in this area of the village.
Tony Lank, Chair of the Hurstpierpoint Highways & Cycleways Joint Council Working Group
- REPORT FROM THE CHAIR OF THE FINANCE & GOVERNANCE COMMITTEE
Building upon the reviews undertaken during the previous Parish Council year, and with the agreement of Council, the Finance and Governance Committee has been able to consolidate the alignment of the Council Committees with the agreed outputs of the Parish Council, the supporting budgets, the Parish Action Plan, and Council staff. With this alignment there is now more empowerment and accountability within those Committees, with a reduced overlap, and hopefully a more efficient use of our limited Council staff time. The new budget structure was fully implemented at the start of the 2020/21 financial year for both the Parish Council accounts and the Village Centre Charity (for which the Parish Council is now the sole Trustee). As the result of the Pandemic this new system as been fully tested. Throughout there has been a much better understanding of the costs of ownership of each asset and output and, with much improved controls, we were therefore able to very quickly re-prioritise resources to focus upon delivering what the community needed. At the same time, with the closure of our facilities there was a significant drop in income, but we were able to reduce costs elsewhere with the emphasis on trying to preserve reserves for the future.
As of 31 March 2021, the Parish Council had total funds of £470,037. Of that, the General Reserves were £84,973, with the remainder as Earmarked Reserves; mainly for the ongoing maintenance of Hurst Meadows and can only be used for that purpose. The Council’s policy remains to ensure that revenue income and expenditure are generally in balance year on year, but that one off, or capital expenditure, should be met from grants, borrowing or developer contributions in the form of Section 106 funds. During the financial year Council has received no developer contributions but was awarded a COVID-19 support grant in respect of the Court Bushes Community Hub. The grant not only helped to stabilise the position of that facility through the Pandemic, but also usefully assisted the wider financial position of the Parish Council.
The following charts and tables show the financial position of the Parish Council on 31 March 2021.
Table 1 – Income and Expenditure in 2020/2021
|Hurstpierpoint & Sayers Common Parish Council|
1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022
Very conscious of the impact that the Pandemic has had on household finances the Parish Council Tax was limited to a rise of 3.5%, or 5.5p per week for a typical Band D property in 2021/22. This together with other income from rents, hiring fees, allotments, and cemetery fees, is expected to cover the ongoing day to day operations and maintenance requirements. Our internal auditors advise that our General Reserve remains well below that for a Parish Council of our size, but again we have decided against trying to rebuild those reserves at this time to limit the increase in Council Tax. Instead, the rise aims to prevent any further depletion, a reduction in the outputs of the Parish Council, or the closure of a key asset. Any rise will not be appreciated, and we continue to seek efficiencies wherever possible. For example, we have achieved approximately £1100 saving per annum in electricity and gas costs across all sites through competing our utility supplies on a Council wide basis. The following is our planned expenditure budget summary for 2021/22 year with a total of £363,619 (excluding Village Centre which is accounted for within the Village Centre Charity):
Since setting the above budget during the period Dec 2020/Jan 2021, and noting the year end position for 2020/21, Council has decided to redirect about £28,000 from the General Reserves to specific Earmarked Reserves (EMR). These EMRs have been set up to address some of the shortfall and pressures in the funding that exist in specific cost centres. They are focused on the maintenance work required within the Cemetery, road repairs in Pitt Lane and South Lane, the provision of youth facilities within the Parish, and the further provision of Christmas lights.
I would like to thank again the Vice Chair of this Committee, Julia Shorrocks, for her diligent input and for keeping me “grounded”; Sarah Groom, our Clerk to the Council, for her diligence in both preparing for the meetings and then accurately recording the outcome in a timely manner; Andy Beams, our locum Finance Officer and architect of the new budget structure for both fully implementing it and successfully operating it for a full year in difficult conditions. Finally, but no means least, I thank Committee members for maintaining a focus on the detail, and being prepared to challenge assumptions, priorities, and proposed changes throughout the year, but always aiming to identify the best solution to meet the needs of the community.
Malcolm Llewellyn, Chair of the Finance & Governance Committee
- MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS MEETING OF 21 MAY 2019
MINUTES of the ANNUAL PARISH MEETING held on Tuesday 21 May 2019 at 7.30 pm at the Village Centre, Trinity Road, Hurstpierpoint
Stephen Hand (Chairman of Council)
Allan Brown (Vice-chairman of Council )
10 other Parish Councillors
2 Mid Sussex DC ward Members
The Clerk and 5 members of staff
22 Members of the public
Apologies for absence had been received from Cllr Joy Dennis (WSCC) and Cllr Colin Trumble (MSDC).
- Introduction by the Chairman: The Chairman welcomed those present and introduced the Parish and District councillors, and Parish Council staff attending the meeting.
- Minutes of the Annual Parish Meeting held on 22 May 2018: The Minutes were approved as a true record and signed by the Chairman.
- Annual Report of the Council 2018/19: The Chairman Stephen Hand presented the Annual Report for the Year 2018/19. The Council had another busy year, with important projects taken forward, in particular:
- Opening the new Court Bushes Community Hub at Willow Way. In partnership with MSDC as landlords, the Parish Council had just secured a long lease on the building, following its refurbishment, and it would shortly be accepting it first community users.
- Establishing the Hurst Meadows parkland areas as a valuable parish amenity. All 50 Ac of the meadows and ancient woodland had now been acquired. Special thanks were noted for members of the Hurst Meadows Advisory Board for their commitment and diligence.
- Installing new ‘Gateways’ around Hurstpierpoint and Sayers Common
- Developing a Community Highway Scheme to manage traffic speeds and parking in Cuckfield Road, which had now been lodged with the Highway Authority WSCC for consideration.
- Supporting Community initiatives in Hurstpierpoint and Sayers Common
- Completing the replacement of all of the 137 street lights that owned by the Council with more energy efficient ones
For the coming year it was expected that new play equipment would be installed at the Reeds Lane Recreation Ground in Sayers Common, and that further investigations would be made into providing a network of cyclepaths around the Parish, including a connection from Sayers Common, through to Hassocks. It was also intended that encouragement would be given to WSCC to continue to improve broadband speeds in rural areas.
The Chairman expressed his thanks to all Councillors and staff, but with special regard to the Vice-chairman Allan Brown and the Committee Chairmen Martin Machan, Rodney Jackson and Bob Sampson, and to John Lowman as Chairman of the Policy Working Group. The Chairman noted with sadness the loss of Councillor Amanda Geel in December and said that the community would particularly miss her energy and enthusiasm for many aspects of the environment. The Council thanked retiring members Rosemary Burns and Steve Whitehead for their years of dedicated service, and welcomed new members to the Council. Special thanks were also noted for members Claire Majsai for arranging the popular Hurst Meadows ‘walkabouts’ and to Malcolm Llewellyn for chairing the Court Bushes Working Group, which had been responsible for delivering the new Community Hub.
During the year the Council had said farewell to assistant clerk Charlotte Kempson, following 9 years in the Parish Office, and welcomed new assistant clerks Helen Valler and Barbara Scorer. Nick Sinclair had been promoted to Facilities Manager and Hamish Raby had joined the team as new Maintenance Officer. The Chairman advised that the Clerk Stephen Hoyles would be retiring later in the year following nearly 11 years in the post, and thanks were offered to him for his service.
- Financial Report of the Council: The Clerk to the Council presented the audited Annual Accounts for the Year 2017/18, the unaudited Accounts for the Year 2018/19, and the revenue and capital expenditure budget for 2019/20. In 2018/19 the Council had a surplus of £18,000, taking the total funds to £257,000. The General Fund was about £88,000 and the remainder as earmarked reserves, mainly for the ongoing maintenance of Hurst Meadows. The Council’s policy was to ensure that revenue income and expenditure were generally in balance year on year, but that one-off or capital expenditure could be met from grants, borrowing or developer contributions in the form of s106 funds. In the year the Council had received developer contributions in respect the Hurst Meadows project, intended for preparatory works and for the ongoing maintenance, of £73,800. Further sums were due in the new financial year. For 2019/20 the Council had increased the Council Tax by 5% for a typical Band D property which, together with other income from rents, allotments and cemetery fees, was expected to meet the ongoing day-to-day operations and maintenance requirements. The slightly higher increase was to pay for the expected running costs of the Court Bushes Community Hub.
5. Court Bushes Community Hub. Councillor Malcolm Llewellyn introduced this project to the meeting. The building reverted to landlords Mid Sussex District Council following the vacating by the former Ex-servicemen’s Club in 2017. The Parish Council then worked with MSDC to design and implement a refurbished building as a new community centre. MSDC had invested considerable funds, including those coming from a fire damage insurance claim, and the Parish Council was investing nearly £50,000 in completing and furnishing the building and its surrounding grounds.
The centre offered three zones: a large function room, a smaller club lounge, and a nursery dedicated to a pre-school group. Each zone had its own entrance, kitchen facilities and toilets, such that three different groups or activities could take place simultaneously. A number of local groups were now committed to taking sessions at the Hub, including the Melting Pot café, dementia café, youth club, food bank, as well as a wide range of other activity and meeting groups.
The Parish Council had now signed the lease with MSDC, an Open Day was being planned for Saturday 1 June 2019, and a new website www.hurstpierpointvillagehalls.org was available. In due course it was intended to form an Advisory Group of regular users, to give advice and suggestions on the day to day running of the Hub.
A question from meeting was raised about the future of the Ex-servicemen’s Club, and it was explained that they had been offered use of the Club Lounge area, including some dedicated storage for their drinks, and their response was still awaited.
6. Community Initiatives: Cllr Clair Majsai introduced this topic, explaining that the Parish Council had carried out a number of activities during the year, including:
- Grant support to community organisations (Hurst Players, St Lawrence Fair, Hurst Festival)
- Grant to Sayers Common Village Society for tree planting
- Health & wellbeing – new NHS local plan, ante-natal care, walkabouts, grants to charities (St Catherine’s, Cancervive, Victim Support, etc)
- ‘Dementia Awareness’ Initiative
- Working Group on Sayers Common Reeds Lane play area
- Working Group on Cycle Path network
- Public walkabouts around Hurst Meadows.
7. Hurst Meadows: Council Vice-chairman presented the Council’s progress in acquiring the meadows and woodland and making it available to the local community. All the 50 Ac of meadowland and ancient woodland had now been transferred to the Council, secured freehold and covenanted against future development, for the benefit of the whole community, and this was now substantially open to the public. The public were encouraged to visit the site and enjoy the excellent views to the north and west of the village.
The maintenance and conservation of the parkland was monitored by the Hurst Meadows Advisory Board, which included representatives from local groups, residents and specialists, and gave very valuable insight to the management. The indigenous Sussex apple orchard of 40 local species had been planted in early 2019 and special thanks were made to local resident Martin Sadler for his expertise and time and effort in bringing this about. It was noted that the orchard had been temporarily fenced while the saplings established. Public ‘walkabouts’ had taken place on New Years Day 2019, and again on Easter Monday, at which a large number of families and children attended, and were shown the extent of the Meadows.
- Village Centre: The Chairman advised the meeting that the volunteer trustees of the Hurstpierpoint Village Centre Association had been responsible for its day to day running for many years, but were now finding the obligations of compliance and regulations to be very demanding. There was also the challenge of finding suitable successors to join the trustees, as older members retired. For this reason the trustees had approached the Parish Council in 2018 requesting that the Council took over the charity and become its sole trustee. The matter had been discussed in detail over many months, and the Council were very keen to see the facility continue in its present form, and agreed to take on the role. The Charities Commission had been informed and Action in Rural Sussex had advised on the process. The registered Charity would continue in its current form, including its financial resources, but the Council would be the trustee and responsible for the day-to-day operation.
9. Open forum for the public: The Chairman took open questions from the meeting and the following matters were raised:
(1) There were continuing problems with HGVs in College Lane, and could signs be added? The Chairman advised that this was the responsibility of West Sussex County Council as Highway Authority, and the matter had been discussed on many occasions. However, it was thought that additional signs would not alleviate the problem.
(2) St Georges footpath can be very muddy during the winter, particularly around St Georges Green and also the entrance into the Meadows, so could some surfacing be added? The Chairman confirmed that the matter would be investigated.
(3) The reinstatement of utilities work in Cuckfield road, after the welcome resurfacing, was sometimes very poor.
(4) The road junction around Chalkers Lane and Cuckfield Road had damage to the road edge. The Chairman advised that the WSCC ‘Love West Sussex’ website was a useful means of reporting road damage.
(5) Were new carparking areas being found, and could the hammerhead at the top of Brown Twins Road have restricted parking? The Chairman advised that no new carparks were planned, but that better and more efficient use of existing on-street parking was being arranged, for example in South Avenue. The matter of the hammerhead had been considered but was not thought to justify restricted parking.
(6) The timing of the traffic lights at Stonepound Crossroads was against east-west traffic and presented a problem.
Closing remarks by the Chairman:
The Chairman thanked all those attending and noted that he was pleased to see public participation in many aspects of the local community. The meeting applauded. The meeting closed at 9.15 pm.
- LIST OF COUNCILLORS, OFFICERS AND CONTACT DETAILS
- Cllr Malcolm Llewellyn (Chairman)
- Cllr Allan Brown (Vice-Chairman)
- Cllr Michael Avery
- Cllr Helen Bedford (Co-Opted on 29 April 2021)
- Cllr David Evans
- Cllr Stephen Hand (Resigned on 28 February 2021)
- Cllr Rodney Jackson
- Cllr Seth Jee
- Cllr Tony Lank
- Cllr John Lowman
- Cllr Martin Machan
- Cllr Claire Majsai
- Cllr Duncan Ranger
- Cllr Bob Sampson
- Cllr Julia Shorrocks
- Cllr Peter Griffiths (Co-Opted)
Officers (at May 2021):
Sarah Groom, Clerk to the Council
Helen Valler, Assistant Clerk
Lorna Cooksey, Assistant Clerk
Stephen Witchell, Estates & Facilities Manager
Andy Beams, Locum Finance Officer
Hamish Raby, Maintenance Officer
Richard Lechmere, Cemetery Manager
All Councillors and Officers can be contacted through the Parish Office:
Tel: 01273 833264
Postal Address: Parish Office, Village Centre, Trinity Road, Hurstpierpoint, BN6 9UY