The Sibford Gower and Burdrop Annual Parish Meeting 30th April 2018

Parish Cllrs Mrs Susan Bannister, Roger Mallows, Oswyn Muray (Chairman), Mrs Gilian Soden and Mrs Susan Tompkins. Peter Hardman (Clerk).
District Cllr George Reynolds.
Tim Huckvale (Chair) and Mrs Maureen Hicks (Vice Chair) Sibford Ferris Parish Council.
Twenty Six Local Residents.

The Minutes of the Annual Parish Meeting held on Monday, 10th April 2017 were approved and signed by the Chairman.

Matters arising
There were no matters arising which did not feature in the agenda items.

Chairman’s Report
The retiring chairman reviewed the last ten years of village activities, and thanked his retiring colleagues and the Clerk; he wished the next Parish Council a successful future. His speech appears as Appendix 1 to these Minutes, in the Sibford Scene and on the website.

Clerk’s & Financial Report
During the year ended 31st March 2017, the Parish Council met four times.

There is nothing that I can usefully add to what the Chairman has covered in his report so my report will be related to financial matters.  The financial year started off with £12,636 in the bank account and ended with a balance of £12,596 at the end of the financial year (31st March 2018). Of this sum, £2,660 relates to the residue of a bequest of £5,000 by the late Miriam Tebbs. As most residents know, she bequeathed this money to the Parish Council to be used for the benefit of the Parish as and when suitable situations arise.  

The Parish Council has the responsibility of maintaining the Burial Ground and the Churchyard with the Ferris Parish Council providing 50% of the financial expenditure. For the last financial year the cost of the Burial Ground and the Churchyard was £3,196.

Reports of all Parish Council Meetings are published on the Parish Council’s website. All financial information and details are freely available to residents from the Clerk upon request.

My thanks go to the Parish Councillors for the support that they have given me in my role as Clerk with special reference to my Chairman to whom I have been most grateful, as always, for his guidance.  You may know that very shortly there will be an entirely new Parish Council and I look forward to working with the new Parish Councillors.

Highway & Footpath Matters
Mrs Bannister is handing on footpath matters to Mr Ian Sharp. The chairman invited Mr George Reynolds (OCC Councillor) to comment on the state of the roads, and he explained the financial constraints that the OCC was under. He advised driving more slowly on minor roads to avoid tyre damage.

Report by Holy Trinity Church 
Rev Ronald Hawkes sent his apologies that he was unable to speak at the Meeting but a prior engagement had over extended. He left a message to say he was very pleased that the Youth Group is coming along very well.

Report byThe Town Estate Charity
The Report was presented by Peter Morgan, Secretary to The Town Estate Charity.

The Trustees met 4 times in 2017 and have met twice so far in 2018.  In addition there has been much electronic discussion .  Joanne Gilkes resigned in March 2017 and was replaced by the Reverend Elisabeth Hawkes.

Whilst the [unaudited] accounts show receipts and payments are generally in line with previous years, maintenance and repairs at the Wheathills Livery Yard, associated with a number of continuing vacancies at the Yard, has continued to be a drain on resources. 

However, the Yard and the neighbouring Town Estate properties of the Wheathills and Millennium Fields continues to provide an important landscape break between the settlements of Sibford Gower and Sibford Ferris. And the Millennium Field, an attractive tree planted area, has provided a well-used amenity for the villagers.  The Parish Council shares the costs of the maintenance of the Field with the Charity.

Sibford Heath Farm rent remains an important income source for the Charity, although this year has seen major costs, of around £6,000, to fix the water supply problems that have bedevilled the farm for a number of years.  A rent increase agreed with the tenant should enable the recovery of this major outlay over time.

A substantial rent increase has also been agreed for the telecommunications mast site at Sibford Heath.  Other important sources of income for the Charity include the rental of the School House and the return on funds invested with fund managers.

The Charity continues to fund chiropody services, personal alarms and half the cost of coaches for outings arranged by the Friendship Club.  Other major grants included £500 towards goalposts at the Village Hall and £2,000 towards sound system improvements and a hearing loop at the Village Hall.  The Charity has helped with funding for individual children on school trips but has not received other requests from Primary School that have required payment in 2017.  However, the Charity has agreed to provide around £5,000 towards expected refurbishment costs and the After-School Care Facility. 

Distributions made in accordance with the Charity’s rules are as follows: [unaudited]

Relief in Need                      £4,896  

General Benefit                   £875

Primary School                    £0.

Report by The Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator
Peter Hine gave his Report.

Firstly my thanks go to those unsung Street Co-ordinators who assist in disseminating and distributing Watch information, and without whom the impact of our Neighbourhood Watch would be considerably reduced. Thank you for all your help.

I will probably regret saying this, but we are fortunate to live in a relatively crime free area with few obvious signs of burglar bill and co. However, I remain concerned that there are a sizable number of elderly and some vulnerable residents in the area. Modern technology and values have passed many of them by, exposing them to telephone fraudsters in particular (‘I am a BT engineer and need your personal details’ type). Please keep an eye on your neighbours and help them where possible.

Fraud by means of an e-mail purporting to be from a reputable company to trick you into revealing personal information, is called PHISHING. The same in a text message is SMISHING, and similar telephone calls are VISHING. These absurd words may only ever appear in ‘Only Connect’, but do not click on www.links  or attachments, simply ring the Fraud office.

The National Fraud and Cyber Crime reporting centre is managed by the City of London Police, tel: 0300 123 2040.

Finally, we continue to receive a large number of crime alerts (via e-mail) from Thames Valley police. Whilst these may not all be relevant some are quite interesting, and as Tim Huckvale reminded me this morning at the boys’ breakfast, they can all be viewed on the excellent Sibfords’ website:

Report by Sibford Village Hall
David Allen presented the Report on behalf of the Village Hall Committee.

Sibford Village Hall is in a strong position. We have completed the refurbishment of the Main Hall and installed an amazing Audio/Visual system. This has mostly been achieved with grants. We have a strong level of bookings with a preference now being shown for the Main Hall.

We no longer employ a caretaker as we found this an unnecessary expense, and now employ a couple who clean the Hall early every Tuesday morning.  This is proving to be successful.

The Management Committee have run several fundraising events to support further maintenance and improvements, some of these using the ‘Sibford Big Screen’.

However we do have three areas of concern:

  • Firstly the shingle roof. We believe that no grant will be available for the replacement of the roof, so a fundraising project needs to be started.
  • Secondly the car park is in a poor condition and quotes are being sought. As mentioned in my last report, this car park has much use from others, and not just Village Hall users.
  • Thirdly the overall age of our Management Committee, some of whom now wish to take a lesser role. Our Village Hall will be an asset to the Sibfords for many years to come, and we desperately need the input of younger members of the Community, both mentally and physically, to continue its success.

The Management Committee and Trustees are grateful for the support of both Parish Councils and the Town Estate Charity. Your contributions are greatly appreciated and we always try to use the money wisely.

Report byThe Friends Meeting House
The Report was presented by Tim & Gill Yeomans.

Our Meeting House, in Sibford Gower, is open for worship at 10.30am every Sunday, and everyone is welcome. We have a well equipped children’s room, and children often spend most of their time here before coming into Meeting for the final few minutes. We maintain close links with Sibford School, and these have been encouraged by the new Head, Toby Spence.

After Meeting there are refreshments and time to chat. We like to have more sociable occasions from time to time, meeting in each other’s houses for a bring and share lunch, for example. Last June we opened up the Meeting House and burial ground on a glorious day and held a tea party for Judith Weeks. Judith had lived in Sibford for many years and a good many local residents came to join us in to say farewell to Judith, who now lives in Banbury. Each year we welcome students from Tokyo University, who as part of a study tour of the UK are given a talk on Quaker history.

Sibford Meeting is part of a larger organisation, Area Meeting, which covers the Banbury and Evesham area. Area Meeting meets monthly, twice a year at Sibford. This gives us a chance to socialise and exchange ideas with other Quakers.

Quakers are very involved in helping asylum seekers. We send dry goods and toiletries to Asylum Welcome in Oxford, and one member visits Campsfield House on a regular basis to ensure inmates receive the legal representation they are entitled to.

The Reports in full are available on the website and from the Clerk upon request.
Under Public Business Mr Inns requested that the Parish Council move the road salt currently on Town Estate land, and it was agreed that the new council might consider the purchase and siting of more grit bins.

The Chairman thanked all those who had presented the reports and there being no further business to discuss, declared the Meeting closed at 8.35 pm.



Sibford Gower Annual Parish Meeting

Chairman’s report 2018

This is my last meeting: I became a councillor in Sept 2008, and was elected chairman in May 2010. Eight years is long enough, and I have decided, along with all my fellow councillors (who have served as long or longer than myself) to stand down. From May 3rd you will have a completely new set of councillors, and we wish them all the best in attempting to uphold the traditions and interests of the village.

I would like to start by giving my thanks to all the councillors who have worked alongside me: we have been a most harmonious team. I would also like to thank our District and County Councillor George Reynolds, who has attended most of our meetings, and has been the most helpful adviser and supporter of the interests of the parish, notably in his unfailingly successful interventions on our behalf in the Planning Committee of Cherwell DC. And finally and especially I would like to thank Peter Hardman our Clerk, without whom I would have been completely lost: his diligence, good humour and unfailing efficiency have really made my task as chairman as easy as it could possibly have been.

For me it has been a privilege and an honour to serve what I believe to be the oldest continuous Quaker community in the world, and I give my heartfelt thanks to all those villagers new and old who have by their goodwill and friendliness shown that the old Quaker spirit still lives on.

Instead of simply reviewing the past year, I thought that I would take this opportunity of recording the successes and failures of the past decade.

We began with a most ambitious Sibfords Community Plan for both villages, involving a questionnaire to all villagers: it took over a year to complete and was masterminded by Richard Hartree and Sue Mattinson. The result was outstanding, and its conclusions are available on the website, where it offers a blueprint for the future. Although (because of expense and incredible bureaucracy) we did not seek to turn it into a full planning document, I don’t think this matters because, as far as I am aware, even legally binding Parish Plans have been systematically ignored by a government allegedly committed to localism. Nevertheless we have used this plan often, especially to assess specific planning applications, and we commend it to our successors.

Another very ambitious survey was supported by the Parish Council, the review by Cherwell DC of the Conservation Area of the two Sibfords, and the listed building Review. This was carried out by Rose Todd and her conservation team at Cherwell, and has again been incredibly useful in arguing for sustainable development in the Sibfords; this is on the Cherwell website, and is also a very good potted history of the villages.

There are two other important developments which we hope will continue to benefit the village for many centuries    

The first is the taking in hand of Miriam Tebb’s donation of a small pocket of land in Burdrop. With the help of a grant from TOE2 we have cleared this plot and turned it into a bird sanctuary and a community orchard: half a dozen trees, chosen as eaters to be scrumped by children, are beginning to fruit – I tasted my first apple last autumn, and it was delicious. All that remains is to keep the hedges and undergrowth trimmed, and to provide a new bench opposite the view, to replace the old one that Miriam used to sit on; the plaque of this old bench is in the safe keeping of Peter Hardman.

Secondly, thanks to the Town Estate Charity, virtually all the land along Acre Ditch is now in the hands of the community in perpetuity. They already owned the school buildings; they acquired the remaining part of Wheathills (the livery stables: the upper field was purchased by the Trust with the help of a public subscription in 1998). And thanks to the generosity of Margaret Hobson they have acquired the Millennium Field, which was so lovingly planted with trees and laid out as a series of walks by her husband Paul over the thirteen years that he lived in the village. It is amazing to think that this major asset will delight villagers for the next millennium. The Parish Council has committed itself to managing and maintaining the Field with the cost shared equally between the Charity and the Parish Council.

These are village assets that we hope will last for ever. But there have been other lesser achievements:

Broadband arrived in the village in 2016, before it was available in the Ferris.

The procedure for selecting new Trustees to the Town Estate Charity was clarified: officially 4 trustees are chosen by the Parish Council and 5 by the Trustees. We established a formal procedure for nominating the Parish Trustees, and our first vacancy was filled by the Rev. Liz Hawkes.

Extra grass cutting has gradually accrued: firstly the churchyard and burial ground is our 

responsibility by an Elizabethan law, and we agreed with Sibford Ferris to share the cost, secondly Miriam Tebb’s Land and the Millennium Field need maintaining, and thirdly the verges within the 30 mile speed limits have been abandoned by OCC except for once a year, and we have agreed to take on three extra cuttings.

Now the item for which you have all been waiting: the Bishop Blaize, also known by a succession of aliases. The Parish Council was reluctantly drawn into this dispute because of public pressure and the continuous series of planning applications by the owners over the last twelve years. In 2013 and 2014 there were two full public hearings by Planning Inspectors, both of which ruled against the applicants. There was huge public support on these occasions from the two villages. In 2014 the owners were convicted of continuing to use the property as a private house contrary to planning laws; they then opened it as an occasional public house. In 2016 they advertised it for sale as a pub, which enabled us finally to have it listed as an Asset of Community Value. This can be renewed every five years, and means that the property must remain a public house, rather than becoming a private dwelling. In summer 2016 the two Parish Councils organised a public meeting to ascertain whether the community was in support of this action: roughly 100 people turned up and voted almost unanimously to support the ACV status. Currently the owners have launched another application to the Planning Inspectorate to have the refusal of Cherwell DC overturned. SGPC supported the original refusal with a detailed series of comments, and we have reinforced these for the current Appeal. The new Councillors have indicated that they will continue to pursue the matter of enforcement once the Appeal is concluded.

Finally a list of things we have not yet done or failed to achieve:

The provision of a defibrillator is still outstanding.

Cherwell District Council has failed to respond to our many letters protesting at the two Sibfords being lumped together as a Category A village in all their planning documents. This is important because it lays us open to new housing allocations. But I think they are not going to change their minds.

From time to time the question of merging the two councils of the Gower and the Ferris has been raised. Quite apart from the incredible length of the 4-hour meetings that would result, I am happy to say that Cherwell has just concluded a revision of parish councils, and will not be looking at such questions for another 16 years. Nevertheless under Tim Huckvale’s chairmanship of the Ferris we have established the practice of the chairmen of each PC attending as many as possible of the other parish’s meetings. 

We have investigated providing allotments for villagers, having found the land and ascertained that there was a handful of villagers who wanted one. But none of those interested was willing to act as organiser, so we abandoned the idea: there are anyway allotments available at the Friends’ Meeting House.

We have spent a huge amount of time trying to discover who owned the village pond. In fact no ownership is recorded in the Land Registry. After exploring the possibility of registering it as a village green, we were warned that Health and Safety issues would mean installing ridiculous precautions, and we decided to leave it as an unowned hole in the ground. However the surrounding banks are owned by Oxfordshire Highways.

We attempted to oppose a major development at Muddle Barn Farm, which was well outside the village envelope and contrary to all planning rules. However the Appeal Inspector made no reference whatsoever to our carefully argued submission, and ruled in favour of the applicant.

So with this record I hope no-one will say that we have neglected our duties, or that we leave too many serious unfinished business issues to our successors.