The 2020 Annual Assembly for the Parish of Blackmore, Hook End and Wyatts Green was cancelled by order of HM Government, as was the Annual General Meeting of the Parish Council, also due to be held in May.
As a result, there will not be an Assembly held in 2020. It is expected that there will be a resumption of normal local government activity in 2021.
Below is a report on the 2019 Assembly.
An Annual Assembly is a statuatory obligation for civil parish areas, intended to provide an opportunity for the local community to exchange information. This year's event was held at Tipps Cross Remembrance Hall on the 16th May, a presentation was made to the inugural winners of the Parishioner of the Year award, Mrs Jenny Dodd and Mr John Hughes. The following is a transcript of the 2019 Parish report given by the Chairman, Neil McCarthy, to the assembled residents and guests:
It is now eighteen months since parishioners learned, to general distress, that previous assurances from Brentwood Borough, regarding the sanctity of our Green Belt were worthless. The Local Development Plan's annexation of four of the Parish's Green Belt fields has therefore continued to be the dominant issue of concern for our community. Challenging these ill-conceived schemes, now reduced to two, is a priority for Blackmore Village Heritage Association and its hundreds of members, just as it is for the Parish Council. Both organisations are now in liaison and closely assisted by expert outside legal and independent planning advisors at every stage of the campaign. Last November the Borough was forced to capitulate and remove the two housing developments proposed for Hook End. It was farcical that they were ever considered suitable. A packed public meeting held this January at Blackmore with four of Brentwood's planning team only served to reinforce the need for the Woollard Way and Orchard Piece developments on Redrose Lane to also be scrapped. The Borough has fallen even further behind schedule to deliver its Plan for Government approval, so as of 7pm this evening, its final public consultation exercise having finished in March, we still do not know if it has repented of its ways and spared Blackmore's Green Belt from the bulldozer. If not, then assuredly it will be vigorously contested at every future opportunity.
I'll make reference to another grievance with the Borough before we move on to more genial matters. Last year Brentwood, without consultation, choose to unilaterally axe all financial support to the nine parish councils in the Borough – grants and central Government taxes earmarked for the Parishes. This is money to provide for the services relinquished by Brentwood to be provided more efficiently on its behalf by the Parishes. The double-taxation burden on our householders has shot up as a result. Forced geneneral rates, unfairly subsidising and unfairly benefiting only the town and urban districts. Led by this Council, the Nines Parishes, are building a case to have this inequity overturned.
Now we come to the good stuff, and a brief summary of how our resourceful residents continue to create a vibrant and thriving community, maintain our beautiful environment including its nationally recognised conservation area, and generally do the right things for the right reasons. Attempting to improve our rankings in the Village of the Year competition, a group of us were recently extolling the merits of our widespread Parish to the visiting judge from the Rural Community Council for Essex. Two hours later and we still hadn't finished with our list of community achievements. Poor man was still being bombarded with our bragging as he walked to his parked car having made his excuses in order to get to his next appointment. Surely we deserve to be outright winners in 2019, having already swept up seven wins in the Essex Playing Fields Association competition for our outstanding Community run recreation grounds. These cater for all ages, in our three separate population centres. We hope to add to appointed croquet lawns at Tipps Cross.
What did we boast about to the judge?...for starters our fantastic extensive and modern facilities based at Blackmore Village Hall with its many sports and social clubs. From drama productions to tennis, there is barely an hour of the day when there isn't a wide range of activities taking place. The provision for youth remains outstanding with yet another project for additional play equipment – zip wire and kick wall included – nearing completion. And there's this hall too, administered on behalf of the Parish Council by a charitable trust, it provides a vital meeting place and social centre for the locality. It too hosts sport, fitness, dance, seniors and social clubs and a pre-school throughout the week. But it is the people that are key to our Parish character. Our army of volunteers, organisers, foot-soldiers, church-workers, charity fund raisers, litter-collectors and generally-involved neighbourly folk. They are why we had so many successful events over the past year while continuing to ensure we maintain the everyday Community resources and support on which less-fortunate residents rely. The free to enter Music Festival drew crowds in the thousands to Millennium Park last Summer. Alternating each year as it does with the May Fayre means we will also have thousands of visitors on the village green next Bank Holiday Weekend. The Round-Table organised fireworks night was another resounding village success . We added a new permanent item to the Parish calendar by setting aside September 3rdto take part in a ceremony to honour the past and present service on Merchant Navy Day. It doing so we directly linked with maritime charities and support groups across the Nation. We were honoured to have an Atlantic Convoy veteran raise the Red Ensign at the War Memorial. And then there was that other commemoration that took place last Autumn, the 100thAnniversary of the ending of World War One, and how proud we can be of the way the Parish came together to remember the fallen – inspired by the efforts of two people. But more of that later. All of this, and more, is accomplished by volunteers.
My appreciation goes to the members and officers of the Parish Council. The only tier of local government where councillors provide their time and effort entirely without cost to the taxpayer – that word volunteer comes up yet again. They've achieved a great deal this year with projects such as the splendidly restored traditional Essex oak roadside finger-posts, new street furniture, and bigger and better Christmas light displays. This has been done in conjunction with obtaining large donations and grants from outside organisations to defray the expense. Less visible, yet still enthusiastically tackled has been the mundane business of keeping the show, and the parish bus, on the road. Residents will be aware of all of this of course, and much more, as it is covered in our brilliant magazine, The Herald, – delivered to every home in the Parish... by yet more of those volunteers.
As to the year ahead, uncertainty remains over the outcome of the Local Development Plan but combating it, if it remains in its present form, will be paramount. I can report that despite the Borough's reprehensible withholding of our funding contribution, the budget has been balanced and the Parish is set to complete another comprehensive set of improvement projects for the benefit of our 3,000 residents.
The following is a transcript of the Chairman's report to the 2018 Assembly which began the proceedings...
This summary of the past year repeats some familiar cyclical aspects of parish life with the signficant addition of a threat to the extisting character of the area through major housing developments proposed in the Local Development Plan.
As the name of our civil parish suggests, the 3000-plus residents are spread between three separate areas of population, along with a scattering of remoter homes. Blackmore village, with its historic conservation status, and amenities, serves as a natural hub for surrounding communities. The settlements of Hook End and Wyatts Green are also able to utilise the retail and social facilities closer to hand at neighbouring Doddinghurst.
The village hall successfully continues to provide a venue for many activities in Blackmore while Tipps Cross Remembrance Hall, operated as a trusteeship by local people, remains a thriving community resource.
We are grateful to the many organisations offering a wide range of activities and companionship for the service they give for the benefit of others. There is a club or group for every age within the parish.
Last summer Blackmore was judged in the Village of the Year Competition, winning a Merit Award to add to previous commendations.
A tremendous amount of work went into raising more than £18,000 for charity at the hugely enjoyable 2017 Village Fayre. The Fayre alternates with the Music Festival and preparations for that event in July are well under way.
The replacement and upgrading of the playing surface at the floodlit Multi Use Games Area has been completed.
Parishioners came together to stage a successful Fireworks Night in November, and to participate in street litter collections in October and March.
The 61 bus serving Brentwood again became a worry in June, when the operating company gave sudden notice to quit, and in February this year with a possible new route and reduced timetable. Both concerns were overcome without disruption for passengers and Essex County Council have offered to support the service with a subsidy until at least August 2020.
It wasn't such a good outcome for users of the mobile library after the County revised – ie worsened – the schedule earlier this year. This resulted in cuts to the frequency of mobile library visits and even these are at far less convenient times. A review is promised in a few months time.
Now we come to the major concern of all: the Local Development Plan that seeks to impose four housing estates on the parish as the Borough belatedly attempts to meet Government targets for new-build homes in Brentwood. This became public when the draft LDP was published as a document for consultation at the turn of the year. All previous versions of the LDP, in preparation since 2009, excluded the possibility of development in our parish. The 2018 draft documents a total of 116 homes on the four sites, 96 in Blackmore and the remainder on adjoining fields in Tipps Cross. The Borough claim to be assessing the submissions made to the consultation, leading to the next stage in the process later in the year.