Report from the outgoing Chairman of the Parish Council

Back in May 2015 at the time of the General Election, the Parish Council welcomed three new Councillors, Hubert Hills, Johnny Marsh and David Miles. As this left two vacancies on the Council, Julie Upton and John Nash were co-opted in June. It can be a daunting experience understanding all the nuances of how the Parish Council operates, especially in the early months, but I’m pleased to report all have settled in to their various committees and look forward to their continued support and further involvement over the coming months.

 

We are currently in the middle of a major undertaking with the replacement, refurbishment and conversion of all our streetlights. This has been planned as a two-stage process with new LED lamps installed along the A267 and in Southmead Close. As part of stage one, the replaced sodium light units are then used to convert existing mercury lights due to EU legislation. The second stage is then a rolling programme to convert all remaining lights to LED. Migration is going well and we anticipate completion within the next year. This is a major cost, in the region of £30,000 over two years, but the savings in energy costs over the next few years will recover the funds. LED lights are up to 80% more efficient than traditional lighting with 95% of the energy converted into light and only 5% is wasted as heat. I’m sure by now everyone is aware that by using less energy we reduce the demand from power plants, decrease greenhouse gas emissions and that we all have a duty to take care of the environment as best we can. Every little helps – as they say!

 

Speeding on our roads has again been high on the agenda over the past year. We have worked particularly hard on behalf of the residents of Argos hill and are delighted to report that the speed limit is to be reduced from 50mph to 40mph at Argos Hill in the dangerous narrow curved section of the A267. Let’s hope this goes someway to make this stretch of the road safer and reduce the number of accidents.

 

In June, to celebrate the Magna Carta the Parish Council organised a ‘Picnic in the Meadow’. In spite of an unseasonably cold wind the occasion was well attended with several stalls and the Mayfield Band providing a fitting background. We were also pleased to help in breathing new life into the High Street Christmas lights. The traditional late night shopping was all the better for it and we must thank the Chamber of Commerce for all their efforts in making the evening such a success.

 

The overflow car park at the Memorial Hall has proved popular and with the introduction of new line markings in the main car park, we have helped to relieve some of the congestion at school collection and dropping off times as well as providing much needed extra parking for busy functions. Exterior lights have also now been installed to aid visibility at night.

 

A litter picker has been engaged after requests at last year’s Annual Parish Meeting, and a fox proof bin has been installed on Court Meadow which should prevent the weekly scattering of its contents across the field. We continue to provide and maintain numerous dog bins around the parish at some considerable cost, so we do urge dog walkers to use them!

 

It’s always nice to get positive feedback and the decision to take on the maintenance and running of South Street toilets from Wealden District Council has been well received with numerous favorable comments from residents and visitors about its general state and cleanliness. This is one of the last public conveniences available within the area and we have made a commitment to ensure we carry on its maintenance and upkeep for the foreseeable future.

 

The High Street is very much the focal point of our villages and starting this summer, the Parish Council has set aside some of its budget to give a makeover with the installation of more flowering baskets, tubs and planters. The only thing missing is the village sign, sadly brought down in a storm back in March. Typically this had just been refurbished but quotes for reinstallation are already coming in so we hope to move things on speedily.

 

Our rights of team of volunteers have installed numerous stiles and repairs to steps over the year including a major step installation on footpath 12, a notoriously steep slope which should now be easier to navigate. However, on a negative note, our attempts at gaining access along the old Cuckoo Line from north of the village to Rotherfield seems to have finally hit the buffers. We have spent countless hours over the last few years maintaining and clearing the route and gaining a permissive licence to allow access. However negotiations with East Sussex County Council have failed to reach a viable plan for a permanent right of way because of the huge costs involved with us having to maintain the bridges and tunnels along the route. There were other obstacles too numerous to mention here but with Rotherfield Parish Council recently voting not to pursue the project further it was sadly decided that we couldn’t take the project further.

 

This year, the weekend of June 11 will be a busy one. We celebrate the Queens 90th Birthday on June 12 with another picnic on the meadow coupled with Clean for the Queen. This is a nationwide scheme to ask residents to have a look outside their front doors and tidy up anything they think looks unsightly. We hope as many people as possible will give some of their time over the weekend to get involved. It is also the weekend of the National Gardens Scheme and we believe the Mayfield Boyes and Belles are holding an evening event in court Meadow. Hopefully the weekend will have something for everyone to enjoy. Let’s hope the weather is a little kinder to us this year.

 

I have mentioned in previous reports that the Parish Council is a much tighter ship in the way its finances are conducted. We have now introduced a five-year finance plan allowing us to plan and set aside funds for future projects. This will be reviewed each year and feel this is a prudent way to forecast what our financial commitments will be in the future.

 

This is my last report as Chairman as after four years it feels the time for someone else to take up the mantle. We have made great strides in how the Parish Council is run and I am proud of the improvements we have made. However none of this could have happened without the support of fellow councillors. In particular I would like to single out Robert Fitzsimmons for his insightful advice as Vice Chair and Chris Lilly who has been so influential in putting us on such a sound financial footing. However, special thanks must go to Janna Todd who has been so efficient and supportive in her role as Parish Clerk and made my job a lot easier than it might have been!

 

At our last full council meeting earlier this month, Deveda Redman was elected as Chairman and Gill Weavers as Vice Chair. I’m sure they will be a formidable team and look forward to working with them during their term in office.

Jerry Watkiss

Parish Council Chairman 2015/16

 

Parish Council expenditure 2015/16

The table below gives a breakdown of the 2015/16 outgoings to 31 March 2016 and an indication of the main areas of expenditure within each category.

Category Type of expenditure Expenditure
Projects Overflow car park (financial commitment from 2014/15)

LED street lighting upgrade

Village sign refurbishment

Fingerpost refurbishment

£31,164
Salaries & NI Parish Clerk salary

National Insurance contributions

Temporary clerk

£16,652
Village Services Hanging baskets

Litter & dog bin clearance

Litter picking

Graveyard & Church clock maintenance

War Memorial Maintenance

High Street Christmas lights

South Street toilets running costs

£14,618
Office Expenses Day to day costs of running the Parish Council Office

Administration

£9,593
Recreation Play equipment maintenance

Grass cutting in Mayfield and Five Ashes

Safety inspections

£8,708
Community Village functions

Library support

Community bus service

Village website maintenance

£7,440
Council Corporate Subscriptions to council support services

Training

Legal and audit fees

Insurance

£4,908
Reserves Elections expenditure

Reserves for asset refurbishment

£4,571
Grants Community grants £1,369
Other Miscellaneous expenditure outside main categories £802
TOTAL £114,359

The Mayfield and Five Ashes Parish Council Annual Report is available online at:

www.mayfieldfiveashes.org.uk in the key documents section.

 

Picnic in Court meadow

As mentioned above, the village picnic to celebrate Queen’s official 90th birthday will be held on Sunday 12th June at Court meadow. Please come along from 1pm and help celebrate. There will be music from the Mayfield Band, some maypole dancing and refreshments will be available. If you would like a stall on the day for some fundraising please contact the Parish Council office 01435 873784 or email clerk@mayfieldfiveashes.org.uk .

Affordable housing survey

Wealden District Council has just commissioned Action in Rural Sussex, an independent local organisation that works with rural communities to undertake a Housing Needs Survey. The purpose of this piece of work is to determine the level of need for affordable housing (if any) within communities across the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Our parish is included in this piece and all households will be receiving a survey shortly. The survey should be completed by those households that are in need of affordable housing. This means those who are unable to afford to rent or purchase a property on the open market. All personal information provided will be kept confidential.

Natwest Mobile banking Service

The Natwest mobile banking service is in Mayfield on Mondays (except bank holidays) between 13:15 – 14:15 please in the Memorial Hall overflow car park

 

PCSO Surgery

Sadly, PCSO Julie Pearce-Martin will be holding her final surgery on Wednesday 15 June 2016 at 11am in the Parish Council office. Please come along to see her if you have any police related concerns that you wish to discuss. I think we can all agree that her visits to Mayfield and Five Ashes and assistance in local matters has been invaluable. She will be sorely missed and wish her well in her new role.

 

What a mess!

During May we received several complaints about dog poo in Court Meadow particularly near the children’s play area and the adjacent path leading past the Pre-School and towards the Primary School rear entrance. Please check the area when you return to your dog and clean up after it.

We have also received complaints of horse poo on the pavement along Tunbridge Wells Road to Little Trodgers Lane. Please refrain from riding on the pavements, as it is not acceptable for pedestrians to have to dodge the piles!

 

Future plan for public rights of way and countryside sites

East Sussex County Council has started a consultation on their draft Countryside Access Strategy.  This is a proposed plan that looks at how they manage public rights of way and countryside sites in the future.

 

You can read the full Countryside Access Strategy at www.eastsussex.gov.uk/shapingthefuture.  You can take part in the survey which runs to the 29 July 2016 by visiting eastsussex.gov.uk/haveyoursay or pick up a copy in the local library. The survey is open to everyone, from individuals and user groups to landowners and partners.  It should take around 15 minutes to complete.  If you would like a hard copy of the strategy and consultation, please contact the Highways Contact Centre on 0345 60 80 193 or email scs@eastsussex.gov.uk. They can also provide the survey in a different format, such as large print, braille or a different language.