title="Over Parish Council in Cambridgeshire">

News  »  Parish Council Report for 2015-16

   Parish Council Report for 2015-16    25 April, 2016


Last year’s elections left us with two vacancies, which were filled in September with the co-option of Brian Sutton and Stephen Friend. We have remained at full strength since then.

Boundary Review

Both the County and District Councils have been undergoing a review of their internal boundaries by the Boundaries Commission, with the intention of achieving greater efficiency (fewer Councillors) and greater electoral equality (the number of voters per Councillor). We proposed a new grouping of Willingham, Over, Swavesey & Fen Drayton, but this was rejected – we have instead been put in a new County Division of Longstanton, Northstowe and Over. Our District Ward seems certain remain as Willingham & Over, but with just two District Councillors instead of three. The changes will come into effect in 2018.

Registration of Parish Land

Work is still continuing, in conjunction with our Solicitors, to get our title confirmed to various ponds and assorted pieces of land that have come into our stewardship in past years. This task is complicated by the absence of any deeds for the oldest pieces of land (what the Land Registry calls “Historic Ownership”), but their forms still ask when the deeds were lost, who last had them and what we are doing to locate them!

Standing Orders and Financial Regulations

It had become apparent that our Standing Orders had not kept pace with recent legislation, particularly the 2011 Localism Act, and that a thorough review was necessary. It quickly became clear that some tweaking the existing documents would not be sufficient – so we made a fresh start, adapting the new Model Standing Orders to match our circumstances. This work inevitably threw up some difficult questions, about which we received conflicting legal advice, but we eventually found a solution that we all felt comfortable with and they were formally adopted in February.

Relations with The Over Community Centre

Relations with the Centre have always been complicated due the historic structure of its management and their full repairing lease with the Parish Council. Their status as a charity supported by a trading company was complicated by shared membership between the two groups and their accounts being combined. The repairing lease also made it difficult for the Parish Council to offer any grants, and our discussions were always dogged by the issue of potentially declarable interests. Our attempts to seek legal clarification as part of the Standing Orders discussions proved fruitless, but we did eventually find a way round the impasse, and the air was substantially cleared by a meeting of representatives in January.

Parish boundary between Willingham & Over

Barry Papworth is leading a fresh call for the Highgate Industrial Estate to be moved into Willingham Parish, on the grounds that they are geographically closer to Willingham and that Over Parish Council consistently ignores them! This was hardly likely to enlist our support and we have objected to the latest proposal, as we have done several times in the past, arguing that the boundary is historic, that it’s just the way things are, and that Willingham’s development towards the west has created the geographical anomaly. The boundary was clearly defined, after years of disputes between the two villages, in 1618 – almost 400 years ago – and we are starting to explore suitable ways to celebrate that historic 400th anniversary in 2018.

Pavilion refurbishment

After many discussions, trying to get quotations and keep the Conservation Officer happy, we have finally decided on suitable replacements for the windows and doors, and work should be commencing shortly.

Planning applications

The Parish Council usually adopts a neutral stance, responding with “No objection” when consulted by the District Council. It did, however, oppose a few applications during the year, notably:

  • The enlargement of a garden at the Doles to enclose some open space outside its boundary
  • The creation of four flats at The Exhibition
  • A new house in the field behind No.18 Mill Road
  • A current proposal for 55 dwellings in the field at the corner of Mill Road and Willingham Road

If we decide to object to an application, we now consider whether we want it to go the Planning Committee and also appoint a spokesman to make our case in person if that request should be granted.

Parish Precept 2016-17

The precept has increased this year, the first increase for some time, to allow the creation of a Community Centre Projects Fund to make possible some agreed refurbishment of facilities that are wearing out. This goes beyond the absolute requirement of the repairing lease, and should make sure that the Centre’s facilities remain attractive for potential business customers. The danger of allowing facilities to deteriorate is that business may decline, and the building might one day be surrendered to the Parish Council, leaving us with a much larger bill for refurbishment before any other group would be prepared to take it on. The increase of £14,000 may look large, but it works out at an extra £1 per month for the average household.

Other significant happenings during the year:

  • The County Council’s long-running street light replacement programme has almost been completed
  • Having renewed all its lamps, the County Council announced a switch-off and light-dimming programme, but Over is not affected. However, Willingham and all the larger villages will see significant changes.
  • Permission was given for Farmers Markets to take place on the Green
  • We paid for the installation of the village’s defibrillator on the school wall
  • Various items of play equipment and safety surfacing have been repaired
  • Despite initial concerns, Giffords Way residents are now happy with last year’s works to their grass area
  • We are still troubled by 4x4s using The Gravel, but satisfactory long-term solutions are difficult to find

Looking further afield:

  • The A14 Improvements look sure to go ahead, but they will impact our travel until completion in 2020
  • Building is about to start in earnest at Northstowe, with 10,000 homes expected there eventually
  • The B1050 will be affected this summer by the excavation of 2 large balancing lakes beside the bypass and the transport of the excavated material to the main site to create an overall slope away from Longstanton

Projects currently being developed:

  • Some recognition of the 70th Anniversary next March of the 1947 breach in The Ouse Bank in Over
  • Some recognition of the Meridian Line that crosses Chain Road close to Overcote
  • Some recognition of the “Over Monuments Group” of five Round Barrows close to the Ouse river bank
  • Some recognition of the 400th anniversary of the 1618 definition of the Over-Willingham parish boundary
  • The refurbishment of the Over Village website

And finally some thanks:

To Dave Bridgman, our groundsman, to Linda Poulter, our Clerk, and to Graham Fenn, our Chairman, and to my fellow Parish Councillors for their support and encouragement during the year.

Geoff Twiss, Vice Chairman, April 2016

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