... Annual Report

Chair's Annual Report to the Village

The Chair of the Parish Council, Philip Ayles, issued his Annual Report to the village
at the Annual Parish Meeting on Monday 11 April, 2022. which you can read below. 

Once again it has been a very active year for the village and the Parish Council and I would like to give you a summary. 
Jubilee Celebrations
I would like to start with the Jubilee and let you know that Ashleigh Barrie has kindly taken on the organising of three events for us over the long weekend on Thursday 2nd June and Saturday 4th June . Ashleigh will be speaking after the council reports and I hope you will be able to support the events and indeed offer to help out if you can.
The Parish Council has decided to offer a Jubilee mug to all children and youths, under 18s, in the village. If you would like one, please register with Polly Lewis by email pollylewis1985@hotmail.com or on FaceBook Polly McGee.
A tree has been planted in The Chequers and a plaque will be installed to note that this is a Jubilee tree. Incidentally, the Parish Council is very supportive of tree planting but, surprisingly for a rural village, there are very limited places to plant one. Most are either on the highway verge, which is not normally allowed for safety reasons, Castle Field or the Fishponds which are both Scheduled Ancient Monuments and tree planting is not allowed or at the sports ground where we have already planted some trees. Suggestions are always welcome.
Modified Neighbourhood Plan
It may seem like the distant past but we did have a referendum on 22nd July for a modified Neighbourhood Plan which was passed with 95% in favour on a 30% turnout. It has now been incorporated by MKC as one of their Planning Policies.
This did achieve its primary objective of extending the validity of our original Plan though, as it happens MKC had got their house in order on new development so we were actually unlikely to suffer the same fate as Hanslope with lots of unwanted building. The new Plan also gave protection to a number of our historic Edwardian houses which are not formally listed.
However, we did fail again to get Gobbeys field made into a Local Green Space. I should add that it is outside the settlement boundary and not in any immediate danger of development but, as a Local Green Space, it would have been protected indefinitely.
The Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group and our professional advisor all thought that MKC were less than even handed on this, focussing on the legality of their decision not to protect it and they actually refused to ask their legal advisors whether it was legally safe for them to designate it. We eventually escalated this to the very top, Cllr Peter Marland, and even then formally challenged his decision. You may gather we all feel bruised about this.
Carrington Close
Another planning problem has been Carrington Close previously known as ‘Maltings 2’. This site was proposed in our original Neighbourhood Plan and was given outline planning permission. It was then bought by Stonewater, a social housing provider.
In our view and also in the view of MKC, the detailed plans for the houses did not match Paddock Close which was the intention. Stonewater went to Appeal and a Planning Inspector decided it was close enough and allowed the plans. But we have continued to have issues with them such as the colour of the brick where we persuaded MKC to insist on a reddish brick to match Paddock Close, as in the Neighbourhood Plan, instead of an orangey one and Stonewater have still not discharged a number of their conditions. Indeed, they have only just had the archaeological survey accepted which was meant to have been done before building work started.
However, the two big issues with Stonewater have been the financial payments due under a contract signed with MKC, called an S106 Agreement, as part of the planning permission and the percentage of affordable housing.
Stonewater didn’t want to make any financial payments which would have been due to, among others, Education, Healthcare, Police, Fire Service, Highways, Waste Services and some to the Parish Council for improvements.
Fortunately, and with the support of our Ward Councillors, MKC decided that the payments must be made. This is important for us when we come to discuss the Carrington Arms in a minute.
The second issue is that they want to have 100% affordable housing instead of the 30% in the S106 Agreement. MKC has a Planning Policy that this should normally be a maximum of 50% and again that affordable housing should be pepperpotted in groups of no more than 12 houses to ensure there is integration of social and open market housing.
Our own Neighbourhood Plan said there should be some open market housing to accommodate both downsizers, older residents wanting to stay in the village but move into a smaller property, and certain first-time buyers, particularly with a connection to the village who might not qualify for social housing. MKC initially said that they could not enforce this legally as I wrote in a Newsletter before Christmas. However, we 

have challenged this and it turns out that there is Case Law saying that an S106 Agreement has to be enforced. Ironically, it was a case against Stonewater which they lost last year. MKC are now discussing how they can enforce this. 
Fibre Broadband
Fibre broadband is the next generation of broadband where fibre is provided directly our homes instead of the current fibre to the cabinet by the triangle and then existing copper wires from there to our houses. It gives higher internet speeds and greater reliability.
As many of you will know, we decided to try for Openreach’s Community Fibre Broadband and we leafleted the village and built up a list of expressions of interest. However, when Openreach sent us the preliminary costing, it required 70% of all households to commit to take the service which was unrealistic.
Coincidentally, Gigaclear, which has installed fibre broadband in Cosgrove and Hartwell decided to install in Castlethorpe without requiring upfront commitments.
Gigaclear doesn’t support suppliers such as BT, TalkTalk, Virgin or Zen so contracts will have to be taken out directly with Gigaclear or one of their partners who, frankly, are not household names.
Nevertheless, we have worked closely with Gigaclear to ensure that the necessary roadworks have been as painless as possible and generally feedback from residents has been good.
Gigaclear offer one free connection in each build area and the Parish Council has offered this to the First School.
Service is expected to start in April with a full rollout in the village by June. We have invited Gigaclear to hold a launch event at the village hall to answer any questions and no doubt try to sign us up. This is on
Saturday 14 May from 11am to 1pm,
There are always a lot of issues with MKC Highways and we work closely with them to resolve most such as the repairs to the two narrows.
A big project has been to piggy-back on the MKC streetlight LED programme and convert all our streetlights to the heritage style we have in the conservation area. This has now been delayed to April but we hope it will improve the street scene in the village.
After complaints were received, we have been told that the surface water drains on the roads in North St and South St will be cleared in April or May.
We have responded positively to an offer from BP Pulse under grants given by the Energy Saving Trust to install a public EV charging point. We will install one in South St near the east junction with North St. After representations from residents, we withdrew a proposal to install one in Station Rd.
We continue to use the Speed Indicator Device and have just bought a new battery as MKC are no longer supporting them. We hope to apply for a grant to buy two solar powered SIDs later in the year.
We have also asked for volunteers for Community Speed Watch which entails doing some online training and then using a speed gun and reporting speeding vehicles to the police who will issue warning letters. CSW requires three volunteers. We have had a total of 5 which includes just two members of the public. We need more volunteers to ensure the scheme will be viable.
Other News and a New Editor
There is a separate article on the Carrington and we will discuss it later in the Agenda. There were two other items that came up when Simon Hill attended the Open Forum in March.
In addition to the nine houses currently being built in Station Yard, he said he intends to apply for planning permission for four more terraced houses and he expected the development to be completed in about a year.
He said he had acquired a bungalow in South Street and intends to make a planning application for a further house in its garden that would be accessed through the gap in the stone wall between the Buff Room and the back of the Carrington Arms on North Street.
Both of these will be considered under the normal planning process.
You may have noticed that Castlethorpe News has not been published recently. This is because Russell Forgham has stepped down as editor after 8 years. We owe our thanks to Russell for doing a great job.
As a result, I have just published occasional leaflets though we do now have an email subscription list which will send you news without you having to look on the website or FaceBook. You can register on the website or at https://castlethorpe-pc.gov.uk/alerts.html
However, we also need a physical newsletter to reach many of our residents who don’t use social media and that means we need an Editor. If you think you would like to edit a newsletter, please contact Russell who will give you any training necessary.
Philip Ayles
Chair, Castlethorpe Parish Council