Annual Nettlebed Parish Meeting held on Wednesday, April 6th 2005

Members Present Councillors J. Simon, J. McWhirter, N.Gibson, J. Reynolds, B. Lewis, D. Ackerman and M. Atkins. and the clerk D. Elms.
Also Present County Councillor R. Belson, District Councillor D. Sloan (part time), M. Lewis - Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator.
Apologies for absence from Councillor D. Butler

Welcome Councillor Simon welcomed everybody to the meeting and introduced Mrs Anne Kelaart who had just completed her busy year of office as the High Sheriff of Oxfordshire.

Minutes The minutes of the meeting held on March 31st.2004 were read, approved and signed.

Mrs Kelaart Mrs K. resplendent in her exotic velvet uniform complete with a feathered cocked hat gave a fascinating talk on her extremely busy and varied year in office. It was a very high honour as the High Sheriff is the oldest office under the crown, the main purpose of which is to support law and order in the county working closely with the judges, police etc. Whilst the Lord Lieutenant represents the queen mainly, the High Sheriff represents the queen in the courts. It is a non political appointment and involves working with so many different sections of the community from all corners of the county irrespective of age, creed or colour Mrs Kelaart is very proud of the fact that she has been carrying out similar duties as were carried out by Geoffrey Chaucer who was once a High Sheriff. .On reaching the end of her term of office she selects four candidates whose names are taken to the queen , after which, her successor is chosen.

Councillor J. Simon gave a brief resume of Council activities which have taken place during the past year. The Children's Playground has recently been re-fenced and all the surrounding undergrowth cut back. More work is yet to be carried out - levelling of the ground, - sowing grass seed, adjusting, painting and cleaning the appliances. There will be a litter blitz on May 7th. when it is hoped that plenty of volunteers will assist.. The Planning sub-Committee have dealt with 23 planning applications during the past year. A new bill has been introduced whereby Parish Councils will be given greater powers if they wish to use them. . They will be empowered to issue on the spot fines for offences such as litter dropping, not controlling dogs, graffiti, abandoning cars, causing undue noise etc. The Nettlebed Website has been widely acclaimed and is proving very popular with enquiries from many different countries apart from local parishioners.

County Councillor R. Belson Councillor Belson was proud to announce that the Audit Commission had recently awarded the County of Oxford a 'good' status, having been rated as' fair' previously. The ambition now is to reach the highest category of '. excellent' The Structure plan of the county will determine where new houses can be built since they have been directed from the office of the Deputy Prime Minister to build 36000 houses by 2016. Deciding on the locations is very difficult since transport, schools, job opportunities , and medical facilities have to be considered. The County has to fight every inch of the way since the introduction of the new assembly based at Guildford which covers areas ranging from Milton Keyes to the Isle of Wight. It has 111 members covering 74 local authorities and is constantly putting pressure on and undermining the County's plans. Whilst accepting the need for new houses the figure of 36000 is considered to be far too high
Mr.M. Lewis - Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator South Oxon. is sub-divided into Didcot, Thame and Henley, all of which are the responsibility of Inspector Jason Purnell. The Henley Crime and Safety Group consists of representatives from S.O.D.C., Education, Youth leaders, Churchmen, Henley trades people, Neighbourhood Watch, the Fire Service and the Police. Mr. Lewis is the N.H.W representative for Nettlebed and the surrounding villages. One initiative introduced by the group relates to distraction burglaries, especially among the disabled and elderly. Nettlebed has been chosen to pilot a scheme by which vulnerable people can be identified They will then be visited by PC Keith Brockington or Julia Wheeler the crime officer. They will be advised on better security and where considered necessary, arrangements will be made for new locks or chains to be fitted. In most cases these would be carried out by the Anchor Trust at little or no cost. All co-ordinators are kept informed of local crimes via Ringmaster at Abingdon The Telephone Preference Service can be contacted on 0845 07 007 07 if we wish to put an end to unwanted telephone calls. Particularly at this time of year we are warned to ensure that our garages and sheds are secured and expensive garden equipment can be security marked - police will advise. We are reminded that we live in one of the safest areas in the country with a very low crime rate , but this gives no cause for complacency.

Mrs Tessa McWhirter gave an update on the Nettlebed Companions , an Age Concern day centre which meets every Friday in Nettlebed. This group .has been operating for three years and has filled a great need for many folk, where it is often their only outing. There is always a wonderful atmosphere - coffee and biscuits are provided in the morning followed by a two course lunch at mid-day. Usually 25 -30 people stay to lunch, that being the maximum number which can be accommodated.Where necessary, transport can be arranged. A very wide range of activities takes place , with several outings and holidays and a monthly lunch club. We have a great group of volunteer helpers although others are always welcome. Monthly raffles provide useful funds , with many of the goods donated by local folk to whom we are very grateful. Sadly, our organiser is leaving shortly to return to her native South Africa so anybody interested in this very rewarding post - male or female should contact Tessa.

Councillor Lewis - new school For six years our local community, represented by the Nettlebed Forum, has been negotiating with O.C.C. and S.O.D.C. in order to incorporate community facilities within the new school. All the many parties involved , including the Parish Council, signed the agreement on January 12th. this year, thereby committing them all to this most important project. Work started on January 31st and is expected to take 48 weeks, with a grand opening next spring 2006. Once built, and when the new school is occupied, work will commence on building houses on the site of the existing school 7 houses and 4 flats have been approved for the site., and 4 affordable homes are included. Although the education department provides the actual school, several community facilities will be included. There will be a community hall and kitchen and an all weather sports pitch. All of these will be available on hire at market prices, out of school hours and at weekends and during school holidays. In addition, a pre school room is being provided to enable the Happy Days Pre-School to rent accommodation which will be for their sole use . Once the school is in use, the Church Hall and School Dining Room will be sold. One big advantage is that there will be a lay-by for the school buses provided from the front of the grassed area fronting the existing school, thus eliminating the congestion caused at present by the school buses.

District Councillor D. Sloan was proud to state that the increase in the Council Tax apportioned to the District Council was only 2.5% higher than last year. Recycling is a subject very much under discussion as by the autumn a decision has to be made as to what methods should be adopted - landfill is not an option Planning decisions are being made considerably quicker now that planning meetings take place fortnightly Open Session Only one matter was raised by the audience - a request for a repeater 30 m.p.h. sign at the northern end of Watlington Street since the limit is being ignored.

Councillor Simon. Thanks were given to the Councillors, the Clerk, the Transport representative, the Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator, to all who deliver the news sheets, to the surgery who print them and to all who pick up litter. Special thanks to Stan Nowak who manages the allotments, and to Denise and Randy at the Post Office who kindly issue the bus tokens each year and also handle the green refuse bags. Finally he thanked Mrs Kelaart and the 40 odd parishioners who attended the meeting.

The next Parish Council Meeting will be on May 3rd.
Meeting closed at 10.20p.m.