The meeting took place in Great Shefford Village Hall and was attended by about 50 people. As well as the speakers, there were also information stands for the Sports and Social Club, the Bell-ringing Group, Shefford Under 5s, the Friends of Lambourn Library, the PCC, the Youth Club, Welford Cricket Club, the Allotment Society, 4Legs Radio and Great Shefford Parish News.
The Chairman of Great Shefford Parish Council (GSPC), Steve Ackrill gave a brief summary of the main events on the previous 12 months, including:
• Speeding: although this was at times an issue the speeds recorded were not judged by WBC to merit any further action.
• Salt bins: two new ones have been purchased, on in Hawthorne Way and one near the school.
• Dog mess: this remains a problem. Please clean up after your dog. If you see someone else not doing so, take a photo and send to GSPC (but do not take any action that’s likely to lead to a confrontation).
• Repairs: one thing that will require work in the near future is the roof of the small pavilion in the Recreation Ground.
• Emergency Management Team: more help is needed for volunteers who can help with co-ordination during an emergency. Contact GSPC for more information.
• River cleaning: many thanks to all who assisted with this in September.
• Playground: various repairs have been undertaken: thanks to all those who assisted so helping keep the costs down. (The work cost about £6,400, £2,000 less than would have been the case without volunteers. A grant of £1,000 was also received from Tesco through their token scheme at the store in Hungerford.)
• Recently departed: Steve paid tribute to Sue Benn and Alan Dawkins, both whom have died since the last meeting.
• Great Shefford Parish News: a survey was conducted to discuss what changes should be introduced to ensure it remains viable. The results suggested that in increase in the cover price and a reduction from 12 issues a year to 10 would be acceptable and these have been implemented.
• Great Shefford Flood Alleviation Association: this had now raised nearly £70,000 towards its agreed £80,000 contribution to the project. All donations made via The Good Exchange will be match-funded until 7 June 2019 and some ‘last push’ fundraising events are planned to take place before this deadline. These include bingo in the Village Hall on Saturday 27 April; and Easter Village Trail Scavenger Hunt (any time between Sunday 10 and Saturday 16 April), more details of which, and entry forms, can be found in the Village Shop. See also ‘Environment Agency’ section below. For more on the GSFAA, please click here.
• Thanks: Steve thanked all those who had contributed their time, expertise and money to village causes over the past twelve months, ij particular Ray Plowman at the Shop whose golf day in 2018 raised an estimated £16,000 (including matched funding from the Greenham Trust). Steve and also thanked his fellow councillors and the Clerk, Kim Lloyd.
• Contacting GSPC councillors: Councillors welcome comments, questions and information from residents but said that these cannot be accepted by social media. Please click here for a list of councillors and methods of contact.
Great Shefford Under Fives
Denise Herrington reminded the meeting that this organisation had now been in existence for nearly 50 years (the anniversary will be in 2021). She pointed out that it was easy for these kind of groups to fold: however she was delighted to report that the Shefford group had, once again, had its busiest year ever with 28 children enrolled. She was particularly gratified that children from neighbouring villages were attending.
She stressed how vital this kind of early-years work was and how it helped ensure that all children started school with more similar levels of attainment. It also played a vital role in helping reduce social isolation.
There were, she added, some challenges including the fact that transport was not provided for those unable to make the journey themselves which didn’t encourage the levels of social inclusiveness that could otherwise be achieved. None the less, the story was very much one of success and achievement.
For more information about the Great Shefford Under Fives, please click here.
Friends of Lambourn Library
David Ruse addressed the meeting and reminded everyone of the successful battle to keep Lambourn Library – and all the libraries in West Berkshire – open despite the threat of closure since 2015. It provides a vital local resource for people of all ages and children and families in particular.
He listed some of the services. As well as the conventional book-borrowing, it’s also possible to visit the West Berkshire Council library Service’s online catalogue and reserve a book which will then be delivered to your local library for you to collect. Magazines and newspapers can also be borrowed as well as being read in the Library. Downloadable books can also be borrowed. The Library Service also has access to a number of online services and databases, such as Ancestry and The Times, which exist behind an often expensive paywall. All these services are freely available.
An increasing number of groups now use the Library for regular events and it also hosts occasional activities and talks on a range of subjects. These are given wide publicity, including in Penny Post.
Due to the different arrangements that now apply, and the desire for the Library to increase its opening hours, volunteers are often needed.
For more information on any of these points, please visit the Lambourn Library in the High Street or the Library Service’s website.
The Environment Agency
Richard Hancock from the Environment Agency (EA) explained about the progress on the flood alleviation scheme (see the GSFAA post here for an outline of and the background to this).
He was unable to provide any firm information on when work would start and spoke of funding gaps that still needed to be bridged at the EA. However, he stressed that the fact that the plan had been adopted by The Thames Regional Flood & Coast Committee (TRFCC) – which has a role of holding the EA to account on its projects and providing a link between the EA and other bodies on flooding issues – gave an air of certainty to the project. If the EA were to abandon it, the TRFCC would need to agree and he implied that that this agreement would not be given lightly. It thus seems fairly certain that the scheme will be built at some point: exactly when, however, is currently unknown.
It was pointed out that the lack of a firm start date had hindered the local fundraising as some grants could not be allocated until this was known. It was also mentioned that local residents were constantly asking about this. Mr Hancock said he could only repeat that he was unable to provide this information as it hadn’t yet been confirmed.
It was also asked whether on this occasion the EA would ensure that the presence of the flood defence, when completed, was promptly marked on the necessary maps so that insurance companies would be aware of it. Mr Hancock said that the EA ‘does its best to learn from its mistakes,’ and made reference to the flood defences in Eastbury which, despite being completed in 2015, is still not so marked as officially existing, or even planned. It was unclear what mistakes were involved but all local residents will hope that they won’t be repeated in Great Shefford.
To the question as what would happen if there was flooding before the project was completed, Mr Hancock explained that planning and technology have improved since 2014 and he outlined a number of temporary measures that the EA would take, including protective barriers on the east side of the A338 and pumping. It was admitted that these were neither ideal nor long-term solutions. As to the matter of groundwater rising into properties, he explained that this was a problem which no flood defences, nor the EA, could address.
The fear was also expressed that unexpected costs, such as the need for compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) to landowners might delay the project and/or increase its cost and so make it non-viable. Mr Hancock said that although the EA had CPO powers he did not feel that matters would get to that stage in Shefford. Penny Post also understands that a generous contingency has been built into the costing, presumably based on the extra costs incurred by similar schemes in the past.
This information has been compiled by Penny Post based on the Great Shefford Parish Council Annual Parish Meeting and is not an official record of the event. Every reasonable effort has been made to provide a clear and dispassionate summary of the points covered but this may contain expressions of opinion which may not accord with Great Shefford Parish Council ’s official view on the matter. Links have been provided to other posts, on the Penny Post site or elsewhere, to provide additional information where this has been judged useful or necessary. The presence of such a link should not be taken to imply that Great Shefford Parish Council necessarily agrees with, endorses or supports any of the material contained therein.