The December PC meeting was postponed. With no time critical items on the agenda and in the absence of clear guidance on meeting protocols against the backdrop of the then emerging Covid Omicron threat, a decision was taken to carry forward agenda items to the January meeting.
There was one new planning application, to convert a garage and build a small single storey extension on the East side of 9, Huntham Close. The PC supported this application.
With the allocation of the final social housing properties in the Broomfield Park there was a lengthy discussion on the allocation process particularly for local residents and those with local connections. Two divergent views were expressed. On the one hand, having taken an active role in identifying the need and actively promoting the development the PC is entirely excluded from the process of allocation. Conversely the choice based letting system is managed by professionals according to government guidelines, and as such is independent of any bias that a local process may engender. All agreed that it was pleasing to see that so many local people had successfully applied, but equally that there is insufficient suitable housing to meet the ongoing demand.
Following the summary of responses to the community survey on use of CIL funds no further input has been received. Emphasis was put on the fact that all expressions of interest originally received were incorporated into this Survey. It was agreed to proceed with developing a proposal and costings for a Multi-Use Games Area (MUGA), which the PC will consider at a future meeting. The search also continues for a small tract of land that can be used as a green space for the community. Use of CIL funds to improve footpaths and bridleways was also mentioned, particularly in the context of footpath T25/15 where there is a significant hazard of steep and slippery steps. The PC has received an estimate for the work but the possibility of matched funding from SCC will be explored.
It was agreed that the Give Back at Christmas initiative instigated by Anne Merritt was an outstanding success despite the short lead time. A number of families received gifts of toys, food and vouchers. These were given in the context of a Christmas gift from the community and not intended to be seen as charity. Several key lessons were learnt which will be applied next year, not least to try to cover a broader age range. The PC recoded its thanks to Anne for her efforts and the community at large for the gifts kindly donated.
The progress toward a reorganisation of local government continues, however the implications for small parishes such as Stoke St Gregory remain to be defined. While participation in Local Community Network such as the proposed Heart of the Levels network, is a means of exerting more direct control over the allocation of key resources to communities, it will rely on extensive participation from local volunteers. With this reorganisation pending the date of the next local government elections has been brought forward to May 2022.
We have been informed that at long last, that work on changing the speed limit in Meare Green will commence in February. While on the subject of road safety, with the long winter nights persisting for some weeks yet, concern has been expressed to the Parish Council regarding the number of individuals, both pedestrians and cyclists who are not wearing high visibility apparel when traveling around the village, particularly in the early evening and morning busy times. To address this the PC has purchased Hi Vis vests which are available free of charge at the shop for those who need them. Distribution will be on a strictly one per person basis.
Some of you may have noticed that the collection times for the post box in the square have changed to 09:30 in the morning. This has reportedly been changed in the interests of efficiency (cost saving!) but it effectively excludes use of the first class, next day service from the village if you have an item to post after 09:30.