Annual report 2019/2020

While we are still under lock down and will probably be under social distancing restrictions for some time, we may not be able to hold the Parish Council Annual Meeting for a while. In this report I will cover the work of the Parish Council over the past year. I intend to include all of our activities in the report, even if it is “business as usual”, to give an overview of what we do.

Our main source of income comes from the Council Tax precept of £16,000, with additional income from fees and grants making a total of about £23,000. This year our total spend will be about £34,000. The shortfall has been made up from our reserves. As we still have ample reserves, we have not raised the precept for 2020/2021. Our main expenditure is on services around the village such as grass cutting, the salary of our clerk who acts as our secretary and finance officer, and grants for various activities. This year we have spent an extra amount, £7,000, on legal fees which will be explained in our activities regarding Common Shares.

The easiest way to describe our service is to go through each one in turn.
Cemetery management and churchyard maintenance
The Parish Council continues to manages the new cemetery and keeps the old (closed) churchyard tidy.
Common Share management
Common shares are areas of land which the Parish Council owns and rents out. The plots of land had never been registered with the Land Registry and this year we have completed the registration, hence our large bill for legal fees. We are now in a position the decide how to mange the plots in the future, including the option to sell the land, should we think it appropriate. As the Parish Council manages the plots of land on behalf of the village, any changes to the way we manage things in the future needs to be discussed with residents, to give us a view on how to move forward. We were hoping to do this at our Annual Meeting and will not change anything until this has taken place. The rental for the plots had been the same for several years, so we have had them valued and have raised the rents for 2020/21 to a market value. This give us a small increase in revenue. We have also issued tenancy agreements to our current tenants with the aim of ensuring that the plots are well looked after.
The defibrillator on the shop wall is checked regularly to ensure that it is in good working order and parts are replaced as required.
This year we have authorised the following grants to a total of about £2,300.
Playing field
We have funded grass cutting on the Playing Field for another year.
Citizens Advice Bureau
We have also give a small grant to the local Citizens Advice Bureau.
Litter and dog waste bins and litter picking
We aim to keep the village as clean and tidy as possible. In March we organised a communal litter pick, which was very successful. Thank you to all of the residents who support us in this. We intend to continue these on a regular basis.
Millennium Green management
The Parish Council is the sole trustee of the Millennium Green. Last year we secured a £5,000 grant from Ryedale District Council to improve the area and this work is ongoing. We planted hundreds of bulbs in the autumn and started a community orchard by planting 6 heritage Yorkshire apple trees and other fruit trees including crab apples and cherries. Some residents have donated trees, including an oak which is planted at the centre of the Green.
Planning Applications
We are asked to comment on all planning applications, but are not part of the decision making process. We aim to represent the views of residents as much as possible. The largest application, which was outstanding from the previous year, regarding a development on Knoll Hill, was approved, in spite of strong opposition from residents and our District and County Councillors. A smaller development in the East End suffered a similar fate. There is genuine concern that the Planning Committee at Ryedale District Council is ignoring comments from local residents.
Roadside Services
These include grass cutting, street furniture and grit bins. The Parish Council is responsible for cutting the verges. We would like to thank the residents who cut the grass in front of their homes as it reduces our costs and keeps the village looking attractive. The verges have been cut for many years by Richard Wedgewood, who has recently retired. We have now set up a new service for 2020/2021.
We report faults and other issues to Ryedale District Council, North Yorkshire County Council and other services as appropriate and monitor their progress. The main issue is potholes, which is ongoing.
The Parish Council is responsible for looking after roadside trees and those on the Millennium Green and in the churchyard. During the year we commissioned a tree survey which is completed ever 5 years to check the health of the trees. This includes a maintenance plan. Following this some remedial work was done including pruning of trees in the main street, the removal of 2 large conifers from the churchyard and the removal of a dangerous ash tree on Beacon Bank. The plan is reviewed annually.
Plans for 2020/21
Grass Cutting
In order to reduce our carbon, footprint, encourage biodiversity and reduce costs, we have a new cutting regime for the year. The new service started in April and covers the roadside verges, the churchyard and cemetery and the Millennium Green. As nearly all residents cut the verges in front of their houses, we are concentration on “public areas” only, including the churchyard and cemetery, and these will be cut 6 times during the year. We are leaving some areas to grow wild during the summer, to encourage wild flowers, and these will have one cut in the autumn.
Millennium Green
We aim to continue improvements to the Millennium Green. The new grass cutting regime will reduce cuts to a minimum to allow the it to revert to a wildlife area, which was its original purpose. This will encourage the growth of wild flowers and again encourage wildlife. We still have some funding left and intend to install a picnic table and new seat.
Common Shares
As the land is now registered with the Land Registry we need to consider the future of the plots of land. The plots have been rented to Ampleforth residents for over a century and the options are to continue as we are or do something different, including possible sales if this seems appropriate. We are keen to get the views of residents. If you have a view, let us know.
In addition to this report , we will now be issuing our News Letter annually, in January, to give a further update and include items of interest regarding other groups and societies within the village.

It has been an interesting year and I would like to thank my fellow councillors and our clerk Louise for their support. I would also like to thank all of the residents who help maintain the village and keep it looking attractive. Finally, I would also like to thank Ray and Deb from the Village Shop for setting up a delivery service, so helpful in the current situation.

3rd May 2020