Town Council Carved badge smThere were many highlights at the Annual Town Assembly held in the Parish Hall but little can surpass the recognition of the very special people who tirelessly give their free time to the town.
Each year since 1994 up to six awards have been made “to honour those who work voluntarily for the good of our local community, or who inspire others through their achievements.”

But this well-attended meeting had another side.
It is a time when local people hear reports from their elected representatives as well as being an opportunity to find out what has been taking place in the town.

Introduction and Town Council Chairman’s Report
The evening was opened by the retiring Chairman and Mayor of the Town Council, Cllr Andy Jordan, who ran through his aims of the last year, including setting in place a robust financial planning system and introducing strategies for future operation. Particular note was given to the Neighbourhood Plan and its importance to the future of Whitchurch. With the Referendum due soon, Cllr Jordan said “Rejection would be catastrophic” adding that without the Plan it would be an open-season for developers.
In summing up Cllr Jordan stressed a wish for people to talk to each other more and to share all the good work and activities that take place in the town before thanking all those in the Town Council, the Town Clerks and all the others who had provided support.

Reports from Borough and County
Reports from the town’s two Basingstoke & Deane Borough Councillors followed. Cllr Chloe Ashfield remembered how she had been elected last year before highlighting many of the area’s social needs, with housing for the town’s young people being a particular priority. Her’s had been a “steep learning curve” while forging contacts with the various decision makers at Basingstoke had been an important aim. Cllr Keith Watts recalled many of the aspects he had been dealing with, announcing that parking issues were soon to be discussed further.
The town’s current Hampshire County Councillor Tom Thacker was not present.

Special Presentation
A special feature of the evening was a presentation by the 4 Platoon (Overton) Army Cadets who have many members in Whitchurch. A very professional and informative description of their activities was provided, including details of camps, navigation skills, weaponry and exercises.

Networking and Displays
The refreshment break enable the surrounding stalls and displays to be visited, which ranged from the work of the Silk Mill to that of Walkers are Welcome. It was an opportunity to network and share experiences and plans for the coming year.

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The Main Highlight – THE COMMUNITY AWARDS
Then came the highlight of the evening. The task of choosing this year’s winners was said to be a tough one as all nominations were worthy of recognition.

Without further ado, the recipients were:

HELEN KNIGHT
Helen was nominated for her unstinting work over many years as the telephone coordinator for Neighbourcare – the local group who arrange transport for people needing access to clinics, hospitals and care homes. This has been carried out tirelessly, despite some periods of her own ill health.

BRIAN COUSENS
For many years Brian has run Brian’s Bingo mainly for the elderly and often including a meal and refreshments for them. These have been at various venues and several sessions are held weekly. As well as being a lot of fun and a good social occasion the activity keeps the brain active and must be a major preventer of dementia.

PAUL & JAN McGARVEY
Maybe better known for running the superb Bell Inn, Paul and Jan were nominated for their support over many years for the Royal British Legion. They have helped provide support to former service personnel and their families across Whitchurch, as well as supplying a room free for meetings and regularly contributing prizes for fund raising. May glasses be raised to them.

SARAH CASTLE
Sarah was nominated for developing so many activities whilst manager of the Gill Nethercott Centre, ranging from musical evenings and coach trips to the craft fair and late-night shopping at Christmas. She has also set up Singing for the Mind that helps slow dementia as well as a Guide Pack which now has a waiting list.

JOHN CLARK
John was a Town Councillor for over 30 years and a Mayor five times and holds a strong belief in transparency and doing “the right thing for Whitchurch”. He helps the Festival Committee with activities ranging from collecting funds for the Fireworks to washing up at the “We’ll Meet Again” event, but the list goes on including selling poppies for the RBL to to planting snowdrops for the Queen’s Jubilee.

WHITCHURCH SCOUT LEADERS
Since Nikki Farley became scout leader, Whitchurch Scout Troop has been built up from 10–15 to the 60 of today. As well as running scouts on two evenings a week many hours are spent planning programmes that are fun, informative, useful and constructive, all in addition to arranging weekend and summer camps. Many youngsters have benefitted through their experiences with the Troop. This Award was made to all the Leaders.

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All the above have the town’s gratitude.