Friday, 29 May 2009

Planning Application Consultation

One of the benefits of the blog is that information can be quickly and easily shared with large numbers of people, and it is for this reason that I'd intended to post details on here of new planning applications in Barnacle and Shilton that members of the public may want to comment on.

Planning permission is given by Rugby Borough Council, but Shilton Parish Council and nearby residents affected by any planning application do get the opportunity to give their views in support or opposition to the application. Timescales for responding are normally quite tight, so if you want to comment you have to act quickly. Fortunately, Rugby make it reasonably easy to do this online.

This week, a planning application has been submitted by:
  • St Andrew's Church, Shilton - erection of a single story rear extension.

Full details of the application (including detailed site plans) can be found by clicking here. All comments must be received by Thursday 18 June.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Parish Council Meeting - 2 June

The next Parish Council meeting will be held on Tuesday 2 June at 7.30pm in the Parish Council Room, Church Road, Shilton. Local residents are welcome to attend, and are able to raise any issues of concern to them with the parish councillors at the start of the meeting. The agenda for the meeting is posted on the village noticeboard for information.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Church Road Car Park

One of the best things that the Parish Council has done in recent years has been to convert an area of waste ground in Church Road, Shilton into a public car park. Like many villages throughout the country, a significant number of houses in Shilton were built before the off-road parking needs of residents were a consideration. People therefore had little choice but to leave their cars parked on the road, made worse when friends and family came to visit. This was a particular problem for residents in Church Road, and added to those already caused by cars and lorries speeding into the village from the direction of Ansty.

The car park hasn't come cheap (the Parish Council itself has contributed over £18,000 to the cost of the project from its savings, and other funding has come in the form of grants), but I believe it's made a real improvement to the area, both in providing somewhere for residents to park their cars, and in making the entrance into Shilton safer for through traffic by removing much of the on-street parking that used to occur.

It's therefore disappointing that Rugby Borough Council has seen fit to charge the Parish Council nearly £800 per year in Business Rates for the car park. This is despite Rugby actually owning much of the site itself and leasing it to the Parish Council for a peppercorn rent in recognition of the community value a car park provides. Even the best endeavours of Borough Councillor Neil Campbell have been unable to influence the resolve of Rugby's Finance department to receive the monies they consider now due.

The upshot of this is that the budget for the Parish Council will need to increase by £800 next year just to cover future years' Business Rates for the car park. Given that the entire amount that residents in Barnacle and Shilton pay through the Council Tax towards the Parish Council's spending is only around £15,500 a year, and you can begin to see the effect that this sort of expenditure can have on the Parish Council's finances.

The car park is an asset to the parish, and it was right that money was spent providing for it, but it's a clear lesson that making things better almost always costs money, and we all need to be prepared to pick up the tab when the bills need paying.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Annual Parish Meeting - 20 May

Next Wednesday, 20 May, is the Annual Parish Meeting. This isn't to be confused with the Parish Council AGM, but is a public meeting to which all residents in the parish are invited to discuss local activities and debate current issues in the community. The meetings alternate each year between Shilton and Barnacle, and this year it will be held in Shilton Village Hall, Wood Lane starting at 7.30pm.

The meeting will receive reports from County Councillor Phillip Morris-Jones, Borough Councillor Neil Campbell, Parish Council Chairman Bill King, plus updates from the two village hall committees, the Shilton playing field committee and the BASIS editor.

Further details are available from the agenda posted up in the village noticeboard.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Warwickshire County Council Elections - 4 June - Fosse Ward Candidates

The nomination period has now ended for the upcoming elections to Warwickshire County Council, and four people have put themselves forward hoping to be the county councillor for the Fosse ward for the next four years. The candidates are:

The election will be held on Thursday 4 June.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Parish Council AGM - 12 May

Next Tuesday, 12 May, is the AGM of Shilton Parish Council. The AGM is similar to most of the monthly Parish Council meetings that are held, except that this is also the meeting where councillors will choose the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Parish Council for the next 12 months. As ever, the meeting is open to the public to attend and observe, and starts at 7.30pm in the Parish Council Room, Church Road, Shilton.

The agenda for the meeting includes updates on issues relating to the new village car park in Church Road, traffic issues in Shilton, as well as proposals to plant some new trees in the cemetery, and a copy of the agenda is posted in the village notice board for information.

I am particularly interested in the update from Rugby Borough Council on the introduction of the 'Rural Link' minibus scheme and further information about affordable housing needs in the parish, both of which were discussed at the WALC Rugby Branch meeting I blogged about

Members of the public are also encouraged to raise any issue of interest to themselves that they think the Parish Council might be able to assist with.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Consultation Response - Bus Service Improvements

You may remember that on 22 April I blogged about a consultation exercise being carried out by Warwickshire County Council concerning the future provision of bus services in the county (linked here). The deadline for responses was 5 May, and this evening I emailed my submission to the County Council.

My comments centred on the current subsidised Flexibus service 213, which operates weekly on Tuesday mornings and provides a single there-and-back service to Bedworth town centre via Bulkington. I would suspect that this currently has very low passenger numbers (for a host of different reasons) but I believe there is scope for a more frequent service to attract increased patronage. I have suggested in my response that an additional service, operating towards the end of the week, could encourage more people to switch from cars to public transport, as well as providing a means for people without access to a car to be able to get to shops and services in either Bedworth or Bulkington.

There also needs to be greater local publicity of this bus service to encourage its uptake, and I have pointed out in my response a number of instances where Warwickshire County Council's own travel information literature omits to refer to the existence of the 213 service.

Increasing the use of public transport can be a hard sell to make (most people seeing it as a good thing, but to be used by "other people"), but we must not forget that not everyone has the advantage of enjoying the freedom and flexibility that comes with car ownership. Hopefully, a more frequent local bus service, better publicised, can play its part in connecting Barnacle residents with the local services they need.

I'll post more when I hear the outcome of the review.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

'Gypsy and Traveller Site Allocation Development Plan' Meeting - 29 April

On Wednesday night, I attended a meeting in Church Lawford, arranged by Rugby Borough Council for all the parish councils in the area, to discuss their 'Gypsy and Traveller Site Allocation Development Plan'.

The issue of gypsy and traveller sites in Barnacle and Shilton has a long history and has provoked many strong views. I don't propose to give a history lesson, except to say that of the 14 gypsy and traveller sites in the borough of Rugby, ten are currently located within the Shilton parish area. And of those ten sites, nine have permanent planning permission (or are designated as 'tolerated' by Rugby Borough Council - in effect, the same as having planning permission) and one site has a temporary permission that expires in July 2010.

In an announcement commonly attributed to John Prescott, the Government required all councils across the country to identify the accommodation needs of the gypsy and traveller community in their area (the so-called 'Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment'). Councils were then required to identify where in their area they would be predisposed, in principle, to grant planning permission for sites to house this number of pitches.

Rugby Borough Council's Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment identified that an additional 60 pitches were required to provide for the accommodation needs of gypsies and travellers in the area up to 2012. This was in addition to the pitches already provided for at the 14 existing sites in the borough. Of these 60 new pitches, 12 were already planned to be provided at the Council's Woodside Park site near Ryton-on-Dunsmore. That meant there was land for 48 further pitches that was needed to be identified. And that is what the Gypsy and Traveller Site Allocation Development Plan is currently trying to do.

The purpose of the plan is not to identify the specific land where the sites will be located, but rather to come up with a criteria against which to assess whether a gypsy and traveller site should, or should not, be given planning approval, if applied for. The application of this criteria by the Council's Planning Committee, and the Planning Inspectorate for any subsequent appeal, should give a clear indication of the areas in the borough where sites would be more likely to gain approval, as well as where they would be considered unsuitable and permission refused.

It should also be stressed that Rugby Borough Council will not be building gypsy and traveller sites at any of these locations, nor will they provide any of the 48 additional pitches that are required. It will be for gypsy and traveller families themselves, who wish to set up home in the borough, to seek to purchase land suitable for a site within the areas indicated by the Borough Council in the Gypsy and Traveller Site Allocation Development Plan.

The meeting itself on Wednesday night was a useful event. To its credit, Rugby Borough Council is not seeking to develop a plan that is simply imposed on parishes, and we are being given ample opportunity to have input into the development of the site location criteria. There is a recognition at the Borough Council and amongst the parish councils, that this is an important opportunity to provide for the accommodation needs of the gypsy and traveller community, therefore reducing the future instances of sites being developed in inappropriate locations.

There were no firm proposals arising out of the meeting, and the development of the site criteria and identification of land is an on-going process. There will be a full public consultation once the draft plan is published, including, in the summer, a public meeting in the parish for all residents to come along and have their say. I will keep you posted on this as things develop. The plan itself is expected to be finalised and become 'live' in February 2011. Despite frustrations over how long this process is taking, I am encouraged that the views expressed over many years by the Parish Council, and residents in Barnacle and Shilton, are feeding into this process and are being heard by Rugby Borough Council.