Chairman’s Report for the years 2019 and 2020
This report covers the work of the Parish Council for the last two years. It does so because there was no annual meeting in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and therefore no Chairman’s report.
It has to be acknowledged that the pandemic has had a profound affect on the work of the Parish Council for over a year, just as it has dominated all of our lives. This is not least because we were unable to meet for several months and then have largely met through video link for much of the rest of the time. In addition what work the Parish Council could do was also affected, for example, there were for much of the time fewer planning applications to consider.
Whilst the Parish Council had no significant role to play in responding to the pandemic, it did at least try to reinforce the advice being provided to people by central and local government. We did this through our website and by our messages in the two local newsletters.
The Parish Council was aware of the efforts that were made by a number of local residents to support their families and vulnerable neighbours, especially those who were unable to shop for themselves or collect essential medicines. We can only pay tribute to the care and responsibility shown by so many.
The Parish Council was successful in obtaining additional funds to repair a number of drainage problems affecting local roads. As of May 2021 all this work has now been completed. All the work was carried out by the Lengthsman as an extension of the contract that Parish Council lets each year. It has to be said that this work was done because additional funds were available. Ordinarily such work is the responsibility of land owners to ensure that drainage from their land is properly maintained and functioning.
Speed limit on the B4348 in Vowchurch
The last Report mentioned the request which the Parish Council made some years ago for a 40 mile per hour speed limit on the B4348 through Vowchurch and also for a speed limit between Turnastone and the junction with the B4348. This request has been on a list of similar requests from other areas for at least five years waiting its turn for consideration.
The Parish Council spent some time in 2020 trying to find out what was happening to this application which seemed not to rise any closer to being considered in spite of the time we have been waiting. In part this was because of the concern expressed by local residents about the increasing size and speed of farm vehicles driving through Vowchurch and Turnastone during the day and evenings. Many people wrote to Herefordshire Council to press for action because of their concerns.
We now understand that the Council applies a number of criteria to every application for traffic controls. It does this afresh every year so that only those applications judged to be most pressing are considered in that year. These criteria do not include expressions of concern from local residents. We have yet to be judged of a high enough priority to be considered. We live in hope that perhaps next year we may be.
One impact of the pandemic has been to make it clear (if this was ever in doubt) how essential good internet access is for us all. This includes people trying to run businesses from home, people required to work from home and all of us who have needed to buy online because shops were closed and who have been unable to see family and friends in person.
The importance of internet access was something that was identified over ten years ago when we prepared a Parish Plan. Work was done at that time by Herefordshire Council working with Gloucestershire Council and central government to establish and fund a project to provide fast broadband across both counties. Many parts of Herefordshire do now have access to some form of fast broadband, mainly the city and towns and the larger villages. But those of us who live in more rural areas are largely still waiting.
There is a contract with a commercial company to install fibre broadband to rural homes in the county, including the Golden Valley and areas nearby. We understand that this work is going to begin this summer and that people in our five parishes and those around us will be able to be connected to fast broadband, hopefully fibre to the premises, by early 2022. It will be about time!
Involvement with the Parish Council
The Parish Council has welcomed new councillors over the last year, but we continue to have a vacancy. We hope that more people will consider supporting their local community by becoming a councillor.