About two dozen people attended the Annual Parish Assembly on Thursday 14th March in the village hall at which representatives of village groups and organisations gave presentations on their activities during the last year and their plans for the future.
The meeting was opened by Gordon Rogers, Chairman of the Parish Council, who welcomed the speakers and residents, and talked about the main challenges for the council over the past year.
Our County Councillor Lynda Atkins spoke about her work helping individuals with issues such as Blue Badges, social care problems and school places, and also the broader challenges facing the county such as planning for Brexit.
District Councillor Sue Lawson gave an update of the status of the South Oxfordshire Local Plan which, when finalised, will run until 2034. The development of the plan has been somewhat contentious owing to the allocation of housing sites on green belt land, but it will now be submitted to the government by the end of the month and the examination of the plan by an independent government inspector is expected to follow in the Summer.
Catherine Harrison, the Chair of the Pre-school said that it is now in its forty-seventh year and is thriving, with fifty percent of the children coming from the village. It has an excellent, very well qualified staff, but recruitment of trustees and managers is proving difficult.
Lynn Parker has been a governor at the Primary School for ten years. Despite a recent, disappointing Ofsted report, the school is doing well with an excellent head and teaching staff, and very positive support from parents. A challenge for the immediate future is that a new roof is needed at an expected cost of about £44,000.
Janet Haylett has just been appointed president of the WI, which is celebrating its seventieth year. She read a review of the events of the past year, provided by ex-president Jane May. Janet, in her capacity as secretary of the Parochial Church Council (PCC), also talked about the challenges of maintaining two listed churches within the parish. The major project to add a toilet extension at St. Mary’s is now largely completed and residents are encouraged to attend a coffee morning at the church on 4th May to see the new facilities.
Dom Jarman, Chairman of The Friends of St Mary’s described the aims of the Friends in providing funds to help maintain the church and provide extras that the PCC cannot. It runs several fund-raising events throughout the year, the most recent of which was the very successful antiques evening with Jonty Hearnden on 8th March. The Friends were a major contributor to the recent church toilet extension.
Julia Sargent represented the Long Wittenham Bell Ringers whose current major project is to raise funds to have the bells in the church refurbished to make them easier to ring. She has so far raised about £12,850 towards an expected cost of £36,900. More help from the village is needed.
Amanda Holland came along from the Oxfordshire South and Vale Citizen’s Advice Bureau and said that it is grateful for the support provided by the parish and district councils. They have approximately one hundred highly trained volunteers, and a significant number of Long Wittenham residents have been helped by their service.
Gabriel Hemery from the Sylva Foundation talked through a hand-out summarising the current building projects to improve facilities the Wood Centre. The centre regularly hosts events for the village including the annual Apple Day. This year will also see the building of the House of Wessex, and a number of Anglo-Saxon living history days are planned.
The village Good Neighbours Group was represented by Steve Brown who said that the group will be marking its sixth birthday in May and he is hoping to organise a local outing to celebrate. The group is grateful for the support of the parish council and our county councillor. New members are always welcome at the meeting on the second Thursday of each month in the village hall.
Peter Rose, the chairman of the Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) Steering Committee explained why the referendum on the revised plan would be later than expected owing to technical difficulties raised by the examiner. These have now been resolved and after another six weeks consultation, it is hoped that the referendum will take place in June.
Finally, Steve Brown, the parish council’s lead on the Community Hub project, presented the plan of the hub site and talked through the latest refinements. He announced that there will be a village meeting on 11th April at which the developer, Thomas Homes, will present detailed plans and residents will be invited to comment. Depending on the response, it is hoped that a full planning application can be submitted in the Summer.
Thank you to all the speakers for a very interesting and informative evening. More details will be found in the minutes of the meeting which will be available in the “Parish Council Documents” section of this website in due course.