Chairs Report 2023/24

Chair’s Report April 2024

Last May we had elections for our local councils. All bar one of our Councillors stood and were duly returned. We were sorry that Tim Williams stood down, but thank him for all his support over the years, in particular for his professional knowledge of accountancy matters. We were glad too that our Ward Councillor, Peter Jinman was re-elected for he had given great support and wise counsel. His sudden death was a great loss. The willingness of Toby Murcott to stand in the new election was welcome for he had done so much for us pursuing the problems with Gigaclear and connectivity. Toby’s unexpected death was a cause for much sadness. We were grateful to Matthew Engel for offering his candidacy. Duly elected our Ward Councillor Matthew has continued to attend our Parish Council meetings, keeping us posted on developments at Herefordshire County Council level and representing our concerns. We were delighted to co-opt Jim Kernahan to represent St Margaret in place of Tim, and more recently John Andrews in place of Matthew. Gaby Franklin had to relinquish her place representing Michaelchurch. We thank her for her input to our deliberations over the past years, and now welcome Anna Mason in her place. This means that all our parishes are fully represented on the Vowchurch Group Parish Council. I also give my wholehearted thanks to our Clerk, Mrs Linda Cowles, for all her wise advice, inestimable support and efficient management of our council matters.
During the year your council have continued their diligence in relation to planning matters, using the adopted Neighbourhood Development Plan as our reference point. Where there have been concerns we have pursued these with the planning department.
Mr Terry Griffiths was contracted as our lengthsman, and continues to give two days cover a month in winter and one in summer. He was able to advise on the priority of more complex drainage problems, and we successfully applied for an extra grant, match funded, to clear the badly neglected ditch near the old station in Turnastone.
The Police attend meetings and have kept us informed about any matters relating to our parishes, or neighbouring ones. The Abbeydore Group Council invited representatives to attend their meeting hosting the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Mercia, John Campion. He gave an informative talk and was willing to take questions.
Some eight or more years ago the Parish Council had applied for a speed limit on the B4348 by the junctions of the Bacton turn (B4347) and the Poston Mill turn. The traffic Management team at HCC rank all applications for speed limits across the county each January so if there have been incidents on a given stretch it moves up the priority ranking. However length of time since initial application also counts, and this year we had the first step in assessment with strips placed both on the B road and on the C1206, the road running through Vowchurch and Turnastone, for since our initial approach we had added an application for a speed limit on this stretch. To our surprise the majority of vehicles were recorded at 40 mph on the B road and slightly less, 37mph, on the C road. We had a ‘teams’ meeting with the Traffic Management team to discuss these results, and a subsequent site visit. We await their recommendations, so this is an ongoing matter.
Another cause for concern amongst residents was verge cutting. Balfour Beatty use contractors for this, and will cut twice, from May 1st and then in late September. Last year we arranged for only a single cut on U74202 (the middle road) in St Margaret, but this led to a lot of aggressive weeds such as bracken smothering others. For this reason we will revert to a double cut on all our verges this year, unless individuals are prepared to ‘adopt’ a stretch with many flowering plants. In this case Balfour Beatty must be informed and grid references given for that stretch. The individual would also need to cut it back after seeds have set, and remove the ‘thatch’ or cuttings.
Our footpaths and bridleways are still walked and problems reported by the two volunteers who have agreed to continue in role. We thank those landowners who co-operate in helping us to maintain these rights of way, which indeed have the same standing in law as any highway.
Finally my thanks to my fellow councillors for their continued engagement and participation.

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