Chairman's Annual Report 2007-08 Print

IPC Annual Report Council year 2007-2008
by Cllr Heathcliffe Bowen

 

Annual Report of Ilkley Parish Council 2007 – 2008
19 March 2008

I am pleased to present to you the Annual Report of Ilkley Parish Council. It is the first occasion that I have presented a Report to you, although I have served on the Parish Council for nearly ten years in total, two of those as Vice-Chairman. I was greatly honoured to be asked to take on the responsibilities of Chairman for 2007-8, and the civic year has so far been an interesting and challenging one.

2007/08 has once again seen much activity in the life of Ilkley Parish Council and I believe it has resulted in a number of substantial, positive developments for the benefit of the people of Ilkley. As in previous years, a significant amount of work has fallen to the committees of the Council, in particular our Plans Committee headed by Councillor Kate Brown and her core group of dedicated councillors. The Committee has dealt with almost 200 planning applications, plus numerous amended plans, Appeals and Area Planning meetings. The most significant recommendations by the Committee during the past year were for the proposed re-location of a much larger Tesco store to the Spooner's Mayfield Road site, together with an Outline application for the use of the original site. There was a lengthy waiting period prior to Tesco submitting formal planning applications and the Parish Council arranged a very necessary and successful Public Consultation to collect views prior to making a formal recommendation. Regrettably, recent news of the decision of Tesco to withdraw its planning application probably means that the Committee will have to undertake further scrutiny of a new application in the near future.

The work of the General Purposes Committee has continued apace this year, with members electing me as Chairman of the committee for the second year running. The focus of the committee has continued to develop into one where councillors have the opportunity to discuss issues under fairly broad headings, for example Environment, Traffic and Leisure. In this way it is possible to bring forward specific proposals that councillors wish to discuss and to examine suggestions and comments put forward by members of the public. One such idea has been the proposed transfer of the trusteeship of the Darwin Gardens Millennium Green to the Parish Council, which has been well-received by both committee members and the Full Council. Hopefully this is one suggestion that will become a reality in the not-too-distant future. I would like to thank all members of the committee, who have engaged in some useful and productive discussions over the year.

The Awards and Projects Committee too has had an eventful year, considering some 19 applications giving a grand total of £55,485 (£51,985 plus the held-over figure of £3,500 towards the work on the riverside pathway) for this financial year. Under the able chairmanship of Councillor Mike Gibbons, the committee has considered projects and grants from a diverse range of bodies around the town, including requests from the Ilkley & District Third Age, the Ilkley Senior Citizens Club and the Cantores Olicanae. On a slightly bigger scale, a £10,000 grant to the Friends of the Kings Hall was recommended by the committee, and in the most ambitious single application seen so far by the Council, a £20,000 grant to restore the riverside pathway was recommended for approval. More recently, a presentation made by Ilkley Rugby Club on their plans for re-development of the club, was discussed informally by councillors prior to the formal application going before the Committee in June. The guiding principle of the committee remains that of being a focus for local groups and organisations to apply for funding for specific items or projects that they have identified as necessary for their own purposes, rather than Council members judging what the needs of the local community are and allocating monies accordingly.

Maintaining a watchful eye over the finances of the Parish Council is the Finance Committee, chaired very capably by Councillor Alan Morrell. All members of this committee have a keen interest in ensuring that the money raised from the parish precept is well spent and budgeted correctly. The precept for this financial year was set at £101,850, with £10,000 being transferred from the reserves to make a budgeted total for 2007/08 of £111,850. From this total, £45,000 was allocated to the Awards and Projects Committee and £6,000 to Community Events. This year, with Full Council's approval, these budgets were exceeded using funds from our reserves. As previously said, £51,985 has been agreed for grants and £7,633 for Community Events. The latter is regarded by councillors as very important, as the various Festivals in the town bring much pleasure to Ilkley and many visitors. The Public Consultation, which was a crucial part of the planning process for the Tesco applications, cost the Parish Council just over £400, which had not been budgeted for and provided another reason for a prudent amount in reserves. Committed funds include £8,000 for election expenses accrued over the last 4 years, £20,000 to be put towards the budgeted expenditure for 2008-9 and the Allotments money, which has been ring-fenced (c. £3,000) as it is not intended that the Allotments should be a charge on the Parish. With regard to the reserves, members of the committee debated this subject at length and Full Council approved a figure of 45% of the total budget, which has been met for this year. Our budget for 2008/9 is £124,144 with a precept of £104,144. We will be below this figure once the committed figures are taken away leaving reserves of around £37,000 (45% would be £55,864). Given the possibility of allocating funds towards the re-development of the Rugby Club, the policy of maintaining reserves has been shown to be a prudent one. Perhaps consideration could be given in future to developing the precept in order to provide funding for similar one-off projects that would benefit the whole community.

Almost all members of Council are actively involved as representatives on various charitable bodies, groups and organisations within the community, for example the Civic Society, Road Safety Committee, Ilkley in Bloom, Coutances Twinning Committee etc. In particular, members take their work on all community bodies very seriously and I know that this involvement is well-respected. To mention just a few other areas in which Councillors are involved I would list, in no particular order, Churches Together in Ilkley, Friends of the Kings Hall, Wharfedale Festival of Performing Arts, the Darwin Gardens Millennium Green, Police Ward Tasking, Friends of Ilkley Moor and the Ilkley Council for Voluntary Service. Of the ones that I am involved in, our membership of the Yorkshire Local Councils Association is invaluable for the advice and support on a wide range of legal and other matters relating to parish council work. In addition, working with members of parish and town councils in the district through Parish Council Liaison Meetings has also proved beneficial, highlighting a number of local and national developments including Locality Planning, the South Pennines Leader Programme and changes to the Standards Board for England.

This year has seen a further extension of the Council's policy of appointing project managers from amongst the councillors, using members with particular abilities to carry forward specific schemes and initiatives. In addition to Councillors Walbank and Gibbons who were appointed as Project Managers for the Allotments and the Concert on the Grove respectively, the names of Councillor Robinson and Councillor Mann have been added. Councillor Robinson was named as Project Manager for Ilkley Cemetery and Riverside Pathways, building on nearly 3 years' work to improve the riverside pathway by the Crum Wheel, together with over 10 years' experience of campaigning to maintain and enhance the cemetery. The first stage of the Council's efforts to restore the riverside pathway has been realised with the opening of the renovated section of riverside pathway adjacent to the cemetery. It is hoped that the work, jointly funded by the Parish Council and Bradford MDC, will ensure that this section of the riverside pathway is secured for many years to come. Councillor Mann's interest in car parking and traffic management in the town was recognised when he was named as Project Manager for these 3 areas. It is anticipated that Brian and his newly-formed committee of interested local people, will report back with some initial findings in the very near future. Following a very detailed bench audit carried out by Councillor Walbank, Brian has also been working on replacing lost benches around the town, and arranging for benches to be installed in new locations

It is hard to believe that our first year has nearly ended since Ilkley Parish Council took over the management of the allotment sites on Castle Road, Bridge Lane and Leeds Road. There are 100 allotments, 14 of which have been assigned to new allotment holders this year with a further 5 to come. Despite a total waiting list of 171 to date, local residents are still applying to join, although many will be well into their dotage before they are able to take up their plots. The intention has always been that the allotments will be self-supporting and not a cost on the Parish, which has been the case so far. The small grant from Bradford Council has been used to order new signs for the Castle Road and Leeds Road sites, and new tenancy agreements will be issued in the coming year to replace the previous agreements from Bradford MDC. Councillor Walbank, Project Manager for the Allotments, has hosted two successful meetings of the allotment holders, which has shown that a positive and meaningful relationship is being established between the Council and the allotment holders. Long may it continue!

Last summer, Ilkley Parish Council was approached by the Trustees of the Darwin Gardens Millennium Green with a proposal for the Council to take over the management of the Gardens as Corporate Trustees. The land is on a 999 year lease from Bradford Council and their permission will be required before any agreement is finalised. The current Trustees are concerned that the future management of the Gardens must be considered, in order to maintain this award-winning facility for the benefit of residents and visitors alike. I trust that the proposal will meet with approval from Bradford Council and ensure the continuity of the Gardens for generations to come.

The last year has seen a high level of civic involvement in the community and a genuine effort has been made to involve the Council in the life of the Parish wherever possible. Unusually fine weather favoured the Concert on the Grove at the end of August, which many who attended said was 'the best yet'. The Concert is the main contribution of the Parish Council to the annual Ilkley Summer Festival and was ably masterminded for the fifth year running by Councillor Mike Gibbons. The Christmas Lights Switch On at the end of November was also blessed with good weather, with the switch on being admirably performed by BBC television presenter, Christa Ackroyd, and much enjoyed by the crowds, particularly the children who were well-supplied with sweets. The cost of maintaining the Christmas Lights, from putting them up to taking them down again, is almost £13,000, of which £8,000 comes from the parish precept with the remainder from a Bradford Council grant. In addition, new fitments have to be purchased each year, which has to be added to the costs of testing and keeping the lights lit at the right times. The annual Carols on the Grove in December, organised jointly by the Parish Council and Churches Together in Ilkley, was also well-attended by both parents and children despite the freezing weather. As part of the celebrations to mark the centenary of the Kings Hall and Winter Garden, the Parish Council will be hosting a civic concert featuring the Black Dyke Band. As in previous years, students from Year 7 at Ilkley Grammar School visited the Town Hall to take part in a mini debate as part of their citizenship coursework. With help from Councillors Brown, Gibbons, Roberts and myself, the students appointed their own chairman for the meeting and debated a number of issues of interest to them. Prominent among the topics discussed were the skateboard park, a proposal to develop a cinema and youth provision in the town. We have received many letters of thanks stating how interesting the experience had been for the students, reinforcing the view that it was a valuable two-way learning process to both councillors and students.

Throughout my year as Chairman of the Parish Council I have been pleased to represent the town at many events and occasions, both within the parish and in the wider district. These have included the Prize-Winner's Concert of the Wharfedale Music Festival, the Westville House Speech Day and Prize Giving, the judging and trophy presentation at the Ilkley Flower Show, the Over 90s Party, the Soroptimist Annual Dinner and civic services in Denholme, Keighley and Skipton. My consort, Councillor Pauline Dixon, and I were pleased to be present at the Lord Mayor's Civic Service in Bradford Cathedral and also to attend a number of productions by the Upstagers and Ilkley Amateur Operatic Society in the Kings Hall. Regrettably I was unable to attend presentation evenings for GCSE and A Level students from Ilkley Grammar School due to illness. It gave me great pleasure to represent the Parish at the service of welcome for Rev Arnold Clay at Ben Rhydding Methodist Church and also the inauguration of Canon Philip Gray at St Margaret's Church, Ilkley. Whilst thinking of services, I was proud to lay a wreath on behalf of the people of Ilkley at the annual Remembrance Day Service. A special evening was spent in the company of Cantores Olicanae, who invited me as guest of honour to their 30th Anniversary Concert. Unfortunately it is not possible to state all the events that I attended, but I wish to thank the many groups and organisations that have invited me to functions and made Councillor Dixon and myself very welcome. It is greatly appreciated and I see it as a very important part of the Council's year.

I have been pleased throughout the year that the activities of the Council have been highlighted by coverage in the local media, covering such items as the refurbishment of the riverside pathway, the Council's support for the Designation Order for Ilkley and the proposed transfer of trusteeship of the Darwin Gardens Millennium Green.

Looking to the future the Council's support of the Friends of Ilkley Moor will play a significant part in its development, hopefully assisting with applications for grants from external funding bodies. Additionally, close liaison between the Parish Council and the Police will be important, particularly around the effectiveness of the Designation Order to counter anti-social behaviour in specified public areas and the maintenance of sufficient police officers in the town. Continued threats to the post office network and the on-going provision of medical services at the Coronation Hospital will offer many challenges to both the Council and local residents in the year ahead.

In closing this report I should like to offer my sincere thanks to all my colleagues on the Council, who serve in a voluntary capacity and do not receive any allowances for attending the many meetings of Council and other bodies. My thanks also go to Councillor David Roberts for being a very able Vice- Chairman. He has provided much support and background information during his period of office. Also, particular thanks must go to the Committee Chairmen, Councillors Kate Brown, Mike Gibbons and Alan Morrell, for all their invaluable advice and support throughout the year. I have certainly found it immensely beneficial to be able to discuss problems with them and to ask their advice regarding local issues. I would like to thank those members of Council who work hard as members of our Council Committees, and also to our project managers who continue to develop their areas of responsibility with a high degree of dedication and enthusiasm. Mrs Eileen Atack and her staff at the Town Hall, and Mr Martyn Burke and his staff in the Planning Office, should also be thanked for their co-operation during the year. Finally, I would like to thank our Parish Clerk, Chris Dale, for yet another year of fine service to the Council and the community. Without her diligence, expertise and hard work, the Council would not be the efficient local authority that it is at present.

I would like to wish Councillor David Roberts all the best for the year to come as your Chairman of Council.

Councillor Heathcliffe Bowen

Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 May 2014 19:36