Residents of Whitchurch gathered at the Gill Nethercott Centre last night for the Annual Town Assembly, one of the most important events on the official calendar.
Each year those who represent us, along with a number of local organisations report on their activities and future plans.
As befits a lively town there was plenty both presented and discussed, as over 40 residents listened intently to the mass of local activity over the past year, as well as hearing of exciting plans for the future.
The Mayor Cllr John Clark opened the meeting and welcomed those present, before the Minutes of last year’s meeting were agreed.
Here we report on just some of the highlights – there were many many more. It is hoped that the full reports will be made available in due course.
Update: the full reports are available HERE.
WHITCHURCH TOWN COUNCIL – Cllr John Clark
- There was a summary of Councillor positions and thanks given to all who were standing down this year for their commitment to the town;
- Rabbit fencing has installed at the Weir allotments, but is it also keeping the rabbits in!
- Paths have been resurfaced at the Cemetery;
- A speed control unit is in shared operation with Overton and it also collects important data as well as reducing drivers’ speeds;
- “Blame dog owners, not the Council”, for the dog mess!
- Town Council website introduced www.whitchurchtowncouncil.org.uk;
- Bollards are brightening town and are now recognised and admired by other towns – and even abroad;
- BT Broadband Campaign was a major success;
- John Buckley was asked to announce the good news received only hours previously regarding the award of the BT Broadband ‘community prize’. Both the Community IT Library and the Primary School will be receiving funding!
- Cllr Clark then gave his best wishes to to Prince William and Kate for their forthcoming special day.
POLICE – Sgt. Martin Cullis and P.C.S.O Wendy Eaglestone
- Crime statistics were run through in detail by Wendy;
- Whitchurch is into its third year of setting three priorities, of which the Your Voice Counts feedback leaflet is an important part;
- Speeding, anti-social behaviour and criminal damage have been the main areas of focus;
- Alcohol concerns are very low in the town;
- Patrols continue with the aim of reducing anti-social behaviour;
- Sgt Cullis stressed that the high-energy drink advice strategy was only one of a number of initiatives in dealing with unacceptable behaviour. Police see their role as ‘engagement’ with young people, more than enforcement.
BOROUGH COUNCILLORS – Cllrs. Keith Watts and Eric Dunlop
Cllr Keith Watts:
- Keith explained he has mainly been dealing with planning, housing, parks, highways and transport, Royal Mail, NHS, grants and training matters;
- Next year is Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and Daniel Park has been put forward to be called Queen Elizabeth II Park, as part of a nationwide scheme (a competition is expected and locals were encouraged to vote if and when)
- Young people are leading calls for improvement to the Skate Park;
- Concerns continue over town parking but it must be recognised that “this town was not built for lots of cars”;
- Continuing to campaign for better Royal Mail delivery and for support for the CAB Outreach provision;
- Committed to retaining 76/86 bus route but there may be changes;
- Keith gave a major presentation on the future of Housing for Whitchurch;
- There are 111 registered households in need of affordable housing, while in 2010 only 6 new homes were built in Whitchurch – and ran through the sites supported for future development.
Cllr Eric Dunlop – presented by Cllr John Clark
- Eric participates in several committees, including Standards and Licensing;
- There is no Council Tax increase this year but future years may require some hard decisions as further funding from Government will be cut;
- Residents are encouraged to apply for funding for environmental improvements to their locality;
- The Council is looking at reducing its accommodation costs in Basingstoke;
- Untaxed vehicles are being targeted by the Council, who can now impound them;
- New rules on banning under 18s from using sunbeds could lead to £20,000 fines;
- Use of low-energy light bulbs is being encouraged.
HAMPSHIRE COUNTY COUNCILLOR – Cllr. Tom Thacker
- No Report was submitted.
TOWN HALL TRUSTEES – Cllr. Barry Jackman
- Use of the Town Hall was explained – As well as the Council Meetings it provides accommodation for Information service, Police Surgery, twice yearly MP surgeries, Citizen Advice Bureau, Relate, local organisation uses, etc;
- Income comes from rentals and HSBC lease;
- The HSBC lease ends in September and the Trustees are presently looking at future plans for the premises;
- Repairs are required, especially to the tower;
- The clock is also going to be repaired and a grant is being sought.
WHITCHURCH ASSOCIATION – Richard Cooper
Gill Nethercott Centre:
- Income and bookings are continuing to rise;
- A noise limiter is installed to consideration for neighbours;
- The AV sytem is being used well for film evenings as well as use for presentations;
- Several larger successful events held – Folk nights, Volunteer fair, Film nights, etc;
- The grounds have been improved and an otter holt also built.
- The Visible Differences application is underway, setting standards of service for the Association;
- Trustee Jean Watts received a Community Award for her hard work for the WA;
- The WA was pleased to act as ‘treasurer’ for the successful Faster Broadband campaign;
- A town map has been completed and will be available soon;
- A new community noticeboard is soon to be installed;
- Other projects reported on included leaflets, the arts project, and plaques around the town.
WHITCHURCH ARTS ~ Andrew Reeves-Hall
- W.Arts has a very strong ethos of working with other groups, such as Beth’s local organisation group, the Primary School, Testbourne, the Youth Project, Whitchurch Festival, and others;
- Strong ties with the Meadow develop;
- A recent meeting has been held with the History Society with a goal of a joint show next March.
- Peter Honri, actor and writer is to receive the 2nd Whitchurch Arts Award on May 17th;
- W.Arts joined in the official bollard launch and party and more colourful designs are being added;
- Noted that two ‘creatively-focussed’ shops have opened in the town;
- The Off the Walls scheme is turning local venues into public art galleries;
WHITCHURCH MILLENNIUM GREEN TRUST – John Wall
- The Meadow has hosted a wealth of events, including dog shows, Halloween and fireworks, childrens’ events, science labs, pond dipping, even dinosaur hunts;
- Many wildflowers have been planted, and observation platforms installed with grants and donations;
- A new noticeboard is to be installed and the laminated leaflets are being improved;
- A new sit-on mower has been obtained with support from Four Lanes Trust;
- Electricity will soon be available;
- Helpers are always welcome!
WHITCHURCH AMATEUR DRAMATIC SOCIETY – Mike Stead
- Last year the first full-length Shakespeare play was performed on the lawn. The real star was the setting! Story-telling sessions have been very popular;
- A Murder Mystery is being held in conjunction with the White Hart on 2nd and 3rd June;
- This summer’s main performance is Twelfth Night and rehearsals are underway;
- Thank you to Kingsley Management for their support.
WHITCHURCH WELFARE TRUST – Irene Clark
- There are eight Trustees who administer the funds;
- Many individuals received both gifts and support throughout the year, with around £5.000 being distributed at Christmas;
- Organisations were also supported including the CAB, the local schools, Testbourne Teapot, the guides and brownies, and the Youth Project;
- Students receive help towards books and fees through the Richard Woollaston Charity;
- The trust has its own web pages on the town site at: www.whitchurchwelfaretrust.org.uk
PARISH HALL MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE – Gill Clarke
- Bookings have been increasing;
- Plans for the Hall’s refurbishment progress including access to disabled toilets, extended kitchen, oak flooring throughout, changes to the stage area, cavity insulation to walls, lowering the ceiling and full decoration;
- The Committee is thankful for the generous donations received;
- Work is to start on the building within the next six weeks;
- Fundraising is to shortly commence, possibly with a “Bums on Seats Fund’ to obtain 100 new chairs.
WHITCHURCH YOUTH PROJECT – Nigel Russell
- Chill2This (under 14s) is the best attended club in Hampshire. It regularly attracts 80+ to the Gill Nethercott Centre on Friday evenings;
- The Bench (14yrs+) attracts around 25 to the Parish hall on the same night;
- Wish to obtain permanent dedicated premises and a number of options are being explored;
- As well as clubnights, many other activities are arranged;
- Relationships with other community groups , the Police, and the schools are being fostered;
- More volunteers are needed – unfortunately the club has had to close on a few occasions due to a lack of adult helpers.
There was no report from Working4Whitchurch this year.
Requests for information as to active status have been requested but not received.
Presentation by B.D.B.C Officer Carole Ruse
Carole Ruse gave a summary of what a Community Plan comprises and the benefits of creating one. It was explained that it was setting a vision for an area over the next 5 – 10 years and requires extensive consultation by the community in the community.
It acts as evidence when approaching agencies for support for community projects.
Whitchurch has just started down this path and a small group of local residents have started meeting.
Further details will be announced.