The first meeting of Feniton Parish Council following the announcement of the planning inquiry into mass development in the village was held on Monday evening.
It was the annual parish meeting, where all the organisations in the village make a report to the Council outlining their activities the previous year and receive S137 grants from the Council.
Martyn Smith, the chairman of the Parish Council, couldn’t attend the meeting, but instead sent a report which was read out by Vice-Chairman, Pete Privett, who took the opportunity of adding a note at the end.
I would like to offer my apologies and regrets for not being able to be with you this evening. My regrets because I am always buoyed up by the diversity, enthusiasm and dedication of the organisations and clubs within the village and their interesting and colourful reports. It brings home succinctly to me, what an excellent and caring community we live within.
A difficult year
The Council has had a hard and intense year with the issues of development and flooding, but I believe we have done everything possible to support the village. In return, the village has shown its support to the Council, both in actions and in financial support. I don’t intend going into detail about the various issues, but I believe it is important to recognise some of the key players who have been involved during the year.
Firstly I would like to thank the Parish Council. Each member has contributed a lot during the year and without them, nothing would have been possible.
We had to appoint a new Clerk at the beginning of the year and Bridget has been a breath of fresh air. Her enthusiasm knows no bounds and she has become an indispensable asset to the village, so I would like to offer her my personal thanks.
We lost our District Councillor, when he was caught in a sting set up by the Daily Telegraph and the criminal investigation into his behaviour continues. Following a landslide election, Susie Bond became our Ward Member. Her commitment and enthusiasm is remarkable and I cannot believe any other Parish has got such an excellent working relationship with their Member. So my thanks to Susie for everything she has done this year.
At the same time as Susie was elected, we had Claire Wright elected as our County Councillor and Claire has worked tirelessly this year to support the village and I must offer my sincere thanks to her as well.
Whatever your political persuasion may be, I don’t believe we could have had a better Member of Parliament than Neil Parish. He has attended meetings with the Parish Council and has written to Ministers on our behalf on a number of occasions and in fact turned up at the inquiry to give evidence in person. So my thanks must also go to him.
Flood warden scheme
We set up a flood warden scheme following the last bad flooding event and it has evolved into an organisation that is held up by the Environment Agency as being a benchmark for other communities. The two co-ordinators, who work so hard are Jayne Blackmore and Susie Bond, and the village, will I am sure, join me in thanking them for their dedication and commitment to ensuring the scheme works. I am certain, without them and the volunteer Flood Wardens, we would have had houses flooded this year.
Fight for Feniton
I would also like to thank Dr John Withrington and the FFFF, who have supported the Council during the year in all sorts of ways.
So many people have worked tirelessly this year for the village, it would be almost impossible to mention them all by name, but what they all show is what a remarkable community we live in and I am proud to be a part of it.
Financially, this is likely to be another difficult year with precepts limited by the Government and the Parish Council not wishing to add unnecessarily to the financial outgoings of our parishioners. This means that we have to manage our budgets carefully and, unfortunately, that we have less available for S137 grants than we would like so we can only sympathise with those groups who were unsuccessful with their applications for the next financial year.
You will, without doubt, now know the outcome of the “Super Inquiry” and I am sure you will agree that it is a result that we could have only hoped for. It is so satisfying for the Parish Council, because we knew at the outset, when we applied for Rule 6 status, it was going to be hard work. However, I must acknowledge the assistance of individuals outside the Parish Council; John Withrington and Susie Bond in helping with the written proofs of evidence – something that had to conform to very strict guidelines, but at the same time cover all the aspects we needed to cover. Jayne Blackmore along with Susie in helping to get the massive files of evidence put together for delivery to the Planning Inspectorate and Nigel Bond and Alyson Smith who printed the thousands of pages needed. I must also acknowledge the input of Claire Wright who critiqued the evidence. I am sure most people in the village (and the press) followed Susie’s blog every day during the Inquiry. This was such a useful resource for everyone and I know how hard Susie worked every day to ensure the blog was fully up to date.
Having had the time to read the Inspector’s decision in detail, although some of the written evidence was considered as having weight in her decision, it is very clear that a lot of the verbal evidence given by Feniton Parish Council was acknowledged and given weight in her decision. How much weight? we will never know, but I am convinced, without Feniton Parish Council taking an equal part in the Inquiry, as it did, the result could have been very different. So I must thank Dr Claire Horrocks and Roger Giles, our two non-Parish Council witnesses, who passionately gave their detailed verbal evidence
And finally, we could not have done it without the generosity of residents who contributed financially to allow us to engage Charlie Hopkins, who effectively took the Parish Council witnesses through their evidence.
I sincerely hope that we do not have to go through this process again.
Vice Chairman’s additional remarks
I feel it only fair to add to the Chairman’s address as, whether he were here or absent, he would not draw attention to his own contribution to the recent planning super-inquiry, but he’s not so I can! Martyn has put in an immense amount of time to this matter not only in attending every day of the inquiry and every meeting associated with it, but also spending long hours researching, reading and, in association with others, putting together the Parish Council case against the proposed developments.
The whole village has cause to be grateful to Martyn for all he has done and I propose, whether it is correct etiquette for this meeting or not, that a vote of thanks to the Chairman be recorded in the minutes and I hope this will be carried with acclaim by all present.