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A Parishioner Lament

Posted on 15th April, 2017

I attended the April Annual Parish Meeting this week. There were 7 councillors (three resigning), 1 absent, the clerk (who is also resigning), a District Councillor and 6 members of the public in attendance, that included me, Jo.

 

At the appointed time I put my hand up and asked councillors to publicly declare what had happened to the current adopted Parish Plan. After some debate I was effectively told 'Who appointed me to be caring about/representing our community, who was I to be asking BPC for the plan?'. Well, I am a resident who, on hearing my neighbours in the community say that councillors 'do what they want', is trying to ensure that BPC at least hear our concerns.

 

Again I was told the Parish Plan is not lost, yet the Clerk still stated that he does not have one in his possession to send to me, the same situation since I asked for a copy for the public Inquiry four months ago. I am tired of the contradictions. I am tired of BPC's miscommunications and inaccurate minutes, of being told "The issue of whether what was said is incorrect or not is irrelevant", and tired of councillors choosing which policies they will ignore and which ones they will follow, adopted or otherwise. 

 

I am resident who is tired of BPC implying that unless residents physically attend meetings and speak to the council, in front of anyone attending, then they will do as they feel fit with little regard to feedback or consultation. I am a resident trying to do something, to improve communication and representation within our community, despite BPC's negative pubic comments about me or Bleadon BOB, our community website. Perhaps the appointment of up to four new councillors can rectify this public communication situation and make it more honest, open and transparent?

 

Again the public was told that councillors are our elected representatives. At full complement Bleadon has 9 councillors who are responsible for maintaining and supporting our rural community, involving feedback from residents and financed through the annual precept (currently £39K). Then how can BPC justifiably ignore the current 20 year Parish Plan as adopted in 2009, that was created by feedback from 265 households involving many hundreds of associated people? How can they justifably indicate that the plan is 'lost' less than 8 years later, that represented the views of "60% of residents"? During the recent public inquiry, and again at the meeting, BPC indicated that "Parish Plans carry very little weight nowadays". That may or may not be so with regards to some planning issues, but what about all the other wide ranging topics of the more holistic plan? (Since the Localism Act 2011 Neighbourhood Plans are now used to determine where development is desired).

 

We believe, like CPRE, that the current Parish Plan is still valid. Aside from the fact that it was costly to produce and that it represents the views of 60% of residents, it still reflects some of the current local action groups and initiatives, ongoing issues, and items highlighted in BPC minutes. Just have a quick look at the leaflet associated with the Parish Plan, previously distributed to residents in 2009.

 

Instead of addressing this situation it appears that councillors are now going to dismiss the Parish Plan, with no apparent plan to take its place. If so they will be ignoring hundreds of residents' views i.e. 60% of our community who took the time and effort to give their long-term feedback to the council, in addition to those few who have been able and willing to attend public meetings and/or send feedback along the way! 

 

In this hectic day and age people say that they find it difficult to physically attend parish meetings, this doesn't mean they are not interested in what goes on. The community depends on key documents to guide councillors' actions on their behalf, those that represent and support Bleadon and its residents (like the parish plan and other policies, protocols, agreements, etc.) with the public relying more heavily on timely, accurate and accessible forms of communication such as agenda, minutes, etc. 

 

I have found public access to information on this and other topics very difficult and BPC have yet to supply us/residents with a copy of the adopted Parish Plan, or publicly declare their view/plan for the future of Bleadon. The draft plan indicated that "The parish council will act as champions for the plan with the knowledge that it reflects the wishes of the wider community not just the parish council".

 

So, if the plan is 'lost' what have councillors been basing their decision making on to date and what will the future of Bleadon be based on and at what expense?

 

For more background on Bleadon`s Parish Plan click here.

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Comments (1)

Perhaps this is the time for you or Jo to join the council.