Annual General Meeting

Minutes of the Annual General Meeting held on Wednesday 5th May 2021 at 7.30pm. Virtual Meeting held by Zoom.

Present; Cllr. Jonathan Baker, Cllr Gill Denny, Cllr David Lines, Cllr Balavant Barber,

In Attendance:  Jane Thicknesse, Clerk, and 8 members of the public.

Item No.Action
2021/024Chairman’s Report for the year 2020/21

For South Perrott Parish Council, the year 2020/21 has been dominated by two matters: one, the Covid pandemic and two, planning issues, especially those relating to The Coach and Horses.

Covid restrictions had an immediate impact upon the workings of the Council. One regular
meeting and the AGM were cancelled entirely and for the remainder of the year meetings were
held over Zoom. The use of such technology had the unfortunate effect of excluding some village members, but it also encouraged others who might have otherwise not engaged.

The first National Lockdown commenced in March 2020 and the Council decided it was
appropriate to produce a Newsletter, whose purpose was to act as both reporter and liaison for
locals confined to their homes. In all, four editions were produced and my thanks go to Chris
Kennett and especially Jane Thicknesse for their outstanding contributions. The entire village
came together at this testing time to ensure vulnerable members of the community were
supported and not allowed to feel isolated.

As mentioned earlier, planning issues occupied a great deal of both the Clerk and my time
throughout the year. Unauthorised building work at the Coach and Horses was first reported to
the County Council in February 2020, but despite repeated requests, the Planning Department did not require the owners to make a planning submission until August 2020. Sadly, the saga is still running and appears to be no closer to a conclusion. The latest position will be given in the Parish Council’s meeting to be held after the AGM.

Although the Coach and Horses planning issue dominated, it was not the only one. For whatever reason, the Planning Department at Dorchester appears to see the Parish Council as a minor irritant rather than an essential cog in the planning process. As a result, action which is requested from our end is only actioned belatedly and then only after numerous emails and telephone calls, which wastes time at both ends. It’s as if South Perrott lies at the other end of the earth from Dorchester rather than a twenty five minute car drive away.

The net result of such inaction by the County Council is, of course, complacency or downright
disregard towards planning procedures and regulations. At the end of the year, the Council briefly appointed a planning officer who liaised closely with us and took immediate action to remove unauthorised building work in the Coach and Horses car park. That individual showed what could be done, but I have to say it was utterly typical that his temporary contract was not renewed and we have returned to a situation of delay and obfuscation on the part of the Planning Department.

Moving on to happier things, our desire to make a difference to the village through enhancement activities was met with a very positive response from Jill Turner, who did a marvellous job acquiring trees and shrubs for the village and all under budget. At the same time a proposal was made to engage with the ‘Britain in Bloom’ competition, but it was agreed that we should start small and work our way up. Bee Barber has volunteered to take this proposal further in the new financial year.

Our environment will clearly benefit from Jill’s efforts, but some villagers expressed concern over dog waste. Although it is not considered a major issue it was felt that any problem that existed could be mitigated effectively by the acquisition of more bins. They were ordered, delivered and one is now in place at the end of School Hill and another in Manor Close.

The budget itself is in a healthy state, but that is in large part due to previous Parish Councils’
reluctance to spend money. As a result, certain urgent repairs have not been undertaken. The
most obvious of this neglect is the Parish Council notice board in the Pound, which is in a very
sorry state of repair. A new one has now been ordered and will soon be in place.

The Pound provided the centrepiece for a Parish council tree at Christmas. Generously supplied
by Little Groves in Beaminster, it provided a warm welcome to the village for all those driving and walking through. One evening, socially distanced members of the community gathered round for the singing of carols. It was a bittersweet moment as we reflected on a Covid world quite different from the one we were living in only twelve months before. The sadness of the occasion was heightened by the unexpected loss of Tony Kennett a few weeks earlier and the resultant resignation of Chris from the Council. We thank her for the work she undertook while she was a councillor, especially regarding the Newsletter and the road improvements.

Speaking of the A356, it was an unusual year for South Perrott Parish Council, in that the road
was not the dominant topic of conversation. It was a joy during lockdown to have it empty of
traffic and virtually silent. It was like going back to an earlier time, though we still managed a
couple of potentially life threatening incidents at the junction of Pickett Lane and the main road, which were recorded on a neighbour’s camera. The ‘pinch point’ outside Sarum is and will always be a hazard, which can only be mitigated by drivers slowing down. To that end, The Council took the opportunity to spend some of the money in the budget on safety and reducing speed. We will soon have road markings at both entrances to the village denoting 300, 200 and 100 yards from the 30 mph speed limit and also a SID at the eastern end. It is a legal requirement for the SID to be moved periodically but anyway within a six week timetable, which raises the issue of who is going to do the moving.

This issue was part of a larger debate over whether the Council should employ a Lengthsman on a part-time basis to undertake small tasks as and when required. Although there was strong
support from certain quarters, a majority felt that volunteers might be garnered from within the
community, which would not only engage more people but also avoid the potential hazards of
employing someone. An example of the kind of work that might be done is the ‘village entry’ gates which are obscured by vegetation and unpainted. They were part of the original road
scheme and would be much more effective if they were looked after and painted white.

We have enjoyed regular reports from Sue Coutanche, our footpaths officer and Martyn
Gillingham, our River Warden. In both cases we have had some success. The damage to
Langmore Lane has been repaired and the long running problem with flooding at Sarum has, it
appears, also been solved. We are grateful to Dorset Council for their efforts in both cases.

Our community police officer Alex Bishop has unfortunately been unable to attend any of our
meetings in person, but we have had written reports. Mercifully we are relatively free of crime in our village, although there have been thefts of agricultural implements.

Rebecca Knox, our County Council representative has been active in supporting us in our
disputes with Planning, and has regularly attended our meetings, offering us often salutary
messages regarding finances and services in Dorset.

One planning issue that has not so far been mentioned is the Solar Farm proposal to be built on land belonging to Pipplepen Farm. It was during the initial stages of the proposal that Jane and I discovered that what we knew as Pipplepen Lane was being described as School Hill, as that was what was shown on Google Maps. Following discussion with interested parties, including South Somerset DC, it was agreed that the name should indeed be Pipplepen Lane. The Ordnance Survey has been informed and it is expected that a correction to Google Maps will take place at any time.

The railway bridge over Pipplepen Lane has become notorious for flooding over the years and this year was certainly no different. Cars and people get trapped there and it seems only a matter of time before a major safety issue arises. The Council has made strenuous efforts to contact North Perrott PC, South Somerset DC and Railtrack and there are signs that something positive will come out of discussions, but there appears to be a great deal of buck passing going on. In the meantime, the effective closure of the Lane created a wonderful, car and mud free footpath or cycle lane for residents during lockdown.

The Solar Farm offers the Parish Council considerable opportunities. Although the location
actually lies inside Somerset, the owners of Pipplepen Farm, and the company building the farm have agreed that a percentage of the financial benefit from the farm will be allocated to South Perrott. It is a wonderful, once in a lifetime opportunity to have some serious money and I urge everyone in the village to have an equally serious debate on ways in which it can be spent.

In conclusion I would like to thank all members of the Council for their help and support over the past year and in particular our clerk, Jane Thicknesse, whose humour, energy and efficiency have been a considerable boon. My thanks also go to Jonathan Baker for his professionalism and commitment during the Zoom meetings and at other times through the year, especially his
work with the Parish Council website, which is now simpler to navigate, up to date and at the
same time, cheaper to run. I must also mention Vicky Read, who gamely stepped in to help out
when the Council was in flux following Chedington’s withdrawal. She helped me enormously
during the changeover and has continued to help Jane and the Council generally during the past twelve months.

So, it has been a year like no other, but South Perrott and its council have shown enormous
resilience and community spirit throughout. Over the past fourteen years Jill and I have enjoyed
great fun and companionship here, and we shall miss everyone enormously. But we only moving to Bridport, so it is not good-bye, merely adieu. We wish you well.

And on that note I hereby tender my resignation as Chairman.

David Lines
4 May 202
2021/025Election of Chairman
Cllr Barber proposed Cllr Baker as Chairman. Seconded by Cllr Lines. Unanimously approved.
2021/026Financial Report for the Year 2020/21
Approval of 2020/21 Annual Accounts
a. The Clerk, having previously circulated the documents, presented the Annual Governance Statement to the Parish Council. They were considered and approved by the Council.
b. The Annual Accounting Statements were accepted and approved by the Parish Council.
The annual accounts for the year 1 April 2020 – 31 March 2021 were reported as follows:
Total Income for the year                             £3963.00
Total Expenditure for the year                     £3567.65
Balance in hand as at 31 March 2021        £7195.03
Full details will be available on the website shortly.  The Clerk recorded her thanks to Mrs Angela Gillingham who carried out the internal audit. The accounts will now be sent for external audit.