The 2021 Annual Assembly for the Parish of Blackmore, Hook End and Wyatts Green was held on 20th May at the Youth Centre, Nine Ashes Road, Blackmore.
The venue was relocated to the Youth Centre from its usual Tipps Cross Hall meeting place in order to achieve an increased attendance capacity under social-distancing covid limitations.
After the minutes of the previous Assembly were approved, the chairman, Cllr. Roger Keeble, gave the following report:
"This Annual Report comes after a year when our country has suffered the ravages of a global pandemic. During the first lockdown many people knew of a local person that had had the virus culminating in the fact when the second lockdown arrived there were the tragic stories that some people had either passed away or were suffering from the effects of long-term Covid. Let us hope that with the present success of the UK's vaccination process this dark cloud is beginning to pass us by and, in the months to come, this will, let us truly hope, be repeated on a global scale.
Of course, the Parish Council has had to alter the way that it operated during these lockdown periods with regular Zoom meetings taking over from face to face gatherings.
Towards the end of 2020, Tom Bennett, our Parish Chairman, decided to move to Suffolk and I must sincerely thank him for the vast amount of work he carried out especially on the Local Development Plan and the attempts to prevent any new development on sites R25 and R26 in Blackmore village. We also had the subsequent retirement of Tom Lennon from the Council due to work commitments after many years of sustained service.
The Parish Council has continued to work for the benefit of its residents by scrutinising the fact that, in our opinion, we are effectively being double taxed by Brentwood Borough Council (BBC) for items such as emptying waste/dog bins, grass cutting on the sports fields and refurbishment of play areas.
These costs have to be covered by raising the Parish Precept year on year and yet we are already paying our share of emptying waste/dog bins etc in the town centre areas through our Council Tax - hence our claim of double taxation.
With regard to the Parish Precept, an administrative error by BBC led to a 1.5% additional amount being added to the original figure proposed by the Parish Council. This extra money has, at the time of writing, not been paid back to the Parish and we aretalking to the BBC to try and resolve the situation.
The Parks and Open Spaces Committee, with Andrew Watley as chairman, is responsible for items such as the Village Pond and Greens, sports fields and flower planters as well as the installation of Christmas lights and the planting of daffodils in various areas of the Parish which certainly brightened us up this Spring.
Some of the Parish's "street furniture" is well past its sell by date and it is intended that some of the wooden benches and planters will be replaced by composite versions that last much longer with minimal maintenance. We are experiencing several enquiries for memorial items such as park benches and these new additions will be a way for those wishing to have a permanent item installed to remember a loved one.
Despite the severe limitations due to Covid, the Parish Council has achieved some large scale projects such as the installation of a zip wire and repairs to the cabin slide at the Ted Marriage Recreation Field in Wyatts Green; a new flag pole on The Green adjacent to the War Memorial in Blackmore; the renewal of the footbridge from the Walter Hobbs Field to Service Lane in Blackmore; and an extension of the brick pathway by the Village Pond.
The Mill Lane Play Area in Hook End has also benefitted from extensive tree and hedge cutting making it a much brighter and user friendly space for parents whilst watching their children on the play equipment.Last year, a Contingency Fund was set up for work to be carried out on the Village Pond and a further sum of £2,000 has been added so that funds are in place when this work becomes a requirement.
Legal fees for opposing the BBC's plans to develop sites R25 and R26 in Blackmore have been met during the last year and a further provision has been made against any potential future costs. On the subject of the Local Development Plan, we are currently waiting for a decision after the two extended Inspectorate sessions in December and February. The Parish Council and Blackmore Village Heritage Association produced excellent arguments against the development of these prime Green Belt areas in our rural setting noting the non-existence of additional Primary School places; the extensive risk of flooding; an already over-subscribed doctors' surgery; and poor access to the proposed development sites.
The Planning Committee, under the chairmanship of Terry Lockhart, has met on a monthly basis to discuss and comment on plans that have been submitted to Brentwood Planning Department. This gives us a say as local Councillors to determine the way in which the area develops especially when it comes to the Conservation area in Blackmore. It is vitally important that, within reason, we maintain the historic values of our heritage so that it can be passed onto future generations.
Each year the Parish Council likes to make a Parishioner of the Year Award for people who have gone above and beyond to make an impact on our local area. For 2020, it was an easy choice to make as Hook End residents Ros and Geoff Rose have continued to pick up litter from our ditches on an industrial scale filling literally hundreds of black bin bags. Our congratulations and thanks to them for their continued support and efforts.
At this time I would like to thank all the Parish Councillors who have generously committed their free time over the year to make our Parish a very special place.
Also I would like to thank Sue Clapham, our Clerk who has not only fulfilled her administrative job with distinction, but has also had to become an expert on all things relating to the Covid virus.My thanks also go to Rosemarie Nelson, our Responsible Financial Officer, with the valued support of Councillor Ken Bennett, for keeping our Parish accounts in order.
Finally I would like to thank Eileen and Terry Smith for their 20 plus years involvement in producing The Herald, our Parish magazine. The Herald has not been published since March 2020 but Eileen came up with the idea of producing a Year Book and Local Directory which contains details of the workings of the Parish Council, contact details for the PC, Brentwood Borough and Essex County Council councillors, a list of clubs, organisations and community groups; and a comprehensive advertising section for local tradespeople and services.We hope that you will keep this Directory handy during the next 12 months as it will provide vital reference points for all that you require to access services and organisations applicable to our Parish."
Trustees of the Parochrial Parish Trust -- a charity that has provided aid to needy cases for over 300 years -- also reported on its activities to the Assembly.
Finally, it was agreed that with a return to non-pandemic normality, it would be beneficial to seek greater participation by the parish's many community groups in the Annual Assembly due to be held in May 2022.