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West Hunsbury Parish Council

Parish Plan

Parish Plan 2017

The Parish Plan is currently being updated - if you have any suggestions as to what should be in the plan please contact Alison Benson Clerk to the Council.

Parish Plan 2015

A copy of the Parish Plan was delivered to every household in West Hunsbury Parish during May 2015. The Parish Plan will always be available to read on our website (see below) or a hard copy can be obtained by contacting our clerk.

Introduction

Following the formation of West Hunsbury Parish Council and the election of eight Councillors in May 2013 much of the activity has focused on establishing the new Parish Council.

The final building block is the publication of the first Parish Plan based on views gathered from residents and community groups.

The Parish Plan will provide a framework for the newly elected Councillors, who will serve for the next 4 years, following the elections in May 2015.

The Parish Council will continue to listen to and engage with residents and community groups, to better understand the current issues and priorities as they implement this plan. 

It is anticipated that consultation on a refresh of this plan will commence in about two years’ time so that an updated plan is available before the next set of elections. The plan will be next subject to a full revision in 2018/2019.

Our First Two Years

May 2013—May 2015
A lot of the work done by the Parish Council in the first two years has been behind the scenes with the formalities required to set up and run a Parish Council. The elected Parish Councillors came together with different views and experiences so there was a steep learning curve for them all.

The decisions made were always made with the interest of local residents in mind but inevitable not every Councillor or resident will have supported every decision and we’re all extremely proud of the changes we have made and projects we’ve supported all of which should help steer the Parish Council forward into 2016 and beyond.

Communication

To keep residents fully informed we erected 4 Notice Boards around the Parish (Camp Hill Shops, Ladybridge Drive, Ladybridge Park & Green Lane) and established a website and social media accounts on Facebook & Twitter. All communication directly to the Parish Council can be made through our Clerk. (See the back page for full details)

Financial Budgets

Essential to the proper running of the Parish Council has been the setting of budgets and reviewing financial reports. The clerk is the Financial Officer and presents financial information at each monthly meeting.
The elected Councillors have set two budgets, the first budget was set by the Borough Council, and on both occasions have reduced the Parish Council Tax to be paid by local residents.
For more detailed information on the Parish Council Finances & Structure please refer to pages 21 & 22.

Next Steps

As a newly formed Parish Council we were able to claim a government New Council Grant which was specifically awarded “to support the sustainability work of new councils receiving their creation order between 1 April 2013 and 1 April 2014”. This money referred to as “Next Steps” has already helped fund the activities, survey etc. to gain the views and opinions of local residents to help us prepare this first Parish Plan and erect “Welcome to West Hunsbury Parish” signposts at the entrances to the Parish.

Parish Improvements

Following the initial feedback we received from street meetings conducted in the summer of 2013 we set about making a number of small improvements within the Parish. In total we have installed 7 dog poo bins, 13 litter bins and 5 picnic benches and 4 benches.

Grants

The Parish Council awarded grants as part of our Community Grants Policy to the Welland Valley FC for removable bollards to improve access for events held in the park. In addition to grants to the Friends of West Hunsbury Parks for projects around Ladybridge Park and Hunsbury Hill Park for new play equipment and improvements to the parks.

Parish Plan Survey

In 2014 we distributed a Parish Plan survey to every household within West Hunsbury. The survey gave residents the opportunity to tell us about their views and opinions on a wide range of issues that the Parish Council might want to include in the first parish plan.

The surveys returned told us about things that residents liked but also areas of concern and improvements that residents would want to see. The results were collated and added to information gathered during the first two years of the parish Council to inform the content of the first Parish Plan.

Survey Numbers

A total of 198 surveys were returned representing 10% of the households within the Parish. The council appreciate that the 90% who did not respond will have views and will strive to understand the views of all residents through the work of the council over the next 4 years.

Many of the surveys received commented that West Hunsbury was a nice place to live and they did not have any problems. This may be why other households did not return the survey and which would have led to a higher response rate.

Survey Analysis

The Parish Council also recognises that the analysis of the survey results showed clear areas of the Parish we need to engage with more closely. The survey failed to capture the views and opinions of our younger residents and there was a clear bias in the households that responded (some areas had exceptionally low response rates and other areas relatively very high) and therefore the responses cannot be said to be truly representative of the diverse communities across the Parish.

How this has informed us:

Most of the local services provided to the residents of West Hunsbury are provided by the Borough Council or the County Council. Residents also rely on the Police and national agencies such as the Environment and Highways agencies and Anglia Water Activities considered for inclusion in this plan fell into two types:

1 - Where the improvement or activity should be provided by other agencies in which case the Parish Council needs to champion this and campaign.

2 - Where the Parish Council should engage in some activity as responsibility does not rest elsewhere or improvement is wanted on a basic provision or service.

Crime And Antisocial Behaviour

Fortunately West Hunsbury has a very low crime and anti-social behaviour rate. Despite this however some residents and particularly older residents perceive there to be a higher rate than there actually is.

Any residents with particular concerns or fears should contact us and or our local police team to seek help, assistance or advice on any preventative measures that can be taken.

Local Community Police

A member of the police team attends each of our monthly meetings. They read out a monthly report of any incidents that have occurred within the parish and update us on any significant incidents or local concerns. All this information is recorded in our minutes and circulated for all residents to see.

If you have any immediate concerns we recommend you raise these directly with the police or if you speak to a Councillor we can pass them on for you.

Street Watch

The police have introduced a new scheme called “Street Watch” where residents can join forces with the police in helping to patrol our local streets. Acting as the police’s eyes and ears within the area it is hoped that these volunteers will help discourage low level crime and help with passing on any suspicious activity. For more details visit: www.northants.police.uk/streetwatch

Work with residents and the appropriate agencies to make West Hunsbury feel a safe place to live.

Establish a strong working relationship with the local police team, monitor crimes and work to reduce the fear of crime. 

Work with the elected Borough and County Councillors and the responsible agencies to address issues of antisocial behaviour. 

Promote schemes such as Neighbourhood and Street Watch to assist crime prevention.

Environmental Issues

Noise

West Hunsbury was developed close to the motorway and more recently the development of the Blisworth by pass has brought traffic close to the households along Ladybridge Drive. With the growth in traffic environmental issues such as noise and air quality problems have increased for residents close to these two busy roads.

Flooding 

The Wootton Brook passes through the lake on Ladybridge Drive and in 1998 when Northampton experienced the Easter floods in St James and Far Cotton flooding, in West Hunsbury land either side of Wootton Brook was flooded. Thankfully no households were affected. 

National Agencies such as the Environment and Highways Agencies are responsible for these matters, rather than the local County or Borough Council; therefore the Parish Council has to consider how it can influence the impact on local residents.

Contact with these agencies normally occurs when a new project is proposed but the concerns of residents expressed in the Parish survey need to be brought to the Agencies attention. 

The Parish Council is well placed to express these concerns but residents should not expect immediate results. It will take time to establish contacts with the agencies, understand their plans and to lobby on behalf of the residents. 

This will be an ongoing role for the Parish Council to ensure that the Agencies are taking mitigating action to reduce the level of road noise and potential air pollution and to reduce the light pollution from major developments. 

The Parish Council will also take an active interest in the flood defences along the Wootton Brook which protect the households in West Hunsbury.

Represent residents to ensure that flooding, road noise and air quality is monitored and mitigating action is taken.

Work with the Environment Agency, Highways Agency and the Borough & County Councils to ensure that risks are understood and problems experienced by residents are recognised

Lobby on behalf of residents to ensure that there is a programme of planned maintenance to the water course through West Hunsbury. 

Where unacceptable levels are reached, lobby for mitigating action to improve air quality and to reduce the level of road noise

Community Identity

West Hunsbury today is an established residential area and part of a town environment and not a classic village that generates community identity through the close proximity of residents, facilities and social events. Feedback from many local residents is that they feel there is a lack of a strong community identity. It has a town identity so a Parish identity will need to be generated and the Parish Council can act as a leader and facilitator in this.

Working with residents and community groups to encourage a sense of Community within West Hunsbury the Parish Council can use many tools: notice boards, local newspapers & magazines, community activities big and small, setting an annual press and promotional plan and the development of our website and social media presence will all help promote the Parish activities available.

Within the parish boundary we are fortunate to have a number of established community facilities and groups but it is surprising that not all local residents appear to know about them or participate in the activities they offer. Most groups operate out of the following centres:

Camp Hill Community Centre
The Hunsbury Hill Centre
St. Benedict's Church
Parsons Meade Community Room

These centres run a wide variety of programmes of activities including sessions run by the local Upton childrens centre, scout groups, dancing & karate lessons, coffee mornings and many many more. 

The Parish Council does not currently run any activities itself but has already established relationships with a number of local community groups such as the Friends of West Hunsbury Parks and The Ironstone Railway Trust. We aim to build upon these and reach out to all groups operating within the Parish to help promote the good work and opportunities to get involved and volunteer.

Community Grants

The council has set up a Grants Policy through which Community Grants can be applied for. We will continue to promote this opportunity for assistance to encourage new ideas for activities within the Parish and/or to improve existing facilities.

Work with residents and community groups to encourage a sense of Community within West Hunsbury.

Build upon the success of existing relationships with established local community groups and reach out to all groups operating within the Parish. Work together to understand their aims and objectives and to see how we can support them if needed. 

Establish a consistent approach for keeping residents informed of the latest happenings within the Parish by making better use of our Notice Boards, regular “Link” Articles, Website & Social Media. 

Promote the availability of Community Grants to encourage new ideas for activities within the Parish and/or to improve existing facilities.

Planning and Development

In the 1970s / 1980s Northampton experienced a period of sustained growth which increased the Town’s population from 120k residents to 180K in a very short period.

West Hunsbury contributed to the expansion with a mixture of properties ranging from self builds, small private estates and social housing. A number of sites were retained for possible school sites but in recent years these have been released and now support additional houses.

Planning Applications

Northampton Borough Council is responsible for developing planning policies and for approving new applications. When the Borough Council receives a new planning application it will consult with local residents in the immediate vicinity and there is normally 21 days to respond.

Planning Policy

The Parish Council does not play a major role in determining current planning applications but it should play an active part on behalf of residents when future planning policy is being considered.

A new local plan which will influence developments in West Hunsbury over the next 10 to 15 years is currently being considered by the West Northamptonshire Joint Planning Unit. 

The Borough Council is responsible for developing this plan on behalf of the whole of Northampton and will at some stage consult on the development of sites within West Hunsbury. When this consultation takes place the Parish Council will play an active role representing the interests of the residents.

Key Sites

Many residents commented on the “empty pub” and wanted to see it brought back into use. The Parish Council has and will continue to take an interest in matters such as this but the Parish Council is not in a position to directly influence the development of privately or commercially owned sites.

Work to achieve the best outcome for the community in all future developments within the Parish.

Respond to planning applications where clear planning issues are identified. 

Participate in consultations to planning policies that affect West Hunsbury and its residents. 

Explore opportunities for development at key sites within the Parish with the relevant owners.

Parks, Open Spaces & Play Areas

In West Hunsbury, we are extremely fortunate to have so much green space around us – indeed, if you look on a map of the area, you’ll see that the area of green, open space is larger than the area covered by our houses and private gardens. Comprising two main parks Ladybridge Park and Hunsbury Hill Country Park – the footpath up the hill – Green Lane, the path leading up from Icknield Drive and the path through Shelfleys Copse (beside Tall Trees Close) – as well as the lesser known pockets of land ‘hidden’ behind some of our houses.

Northampton Borough Council are responsible for the maintenance of most of these areas although Northamptonshire County Council (as the highways authority) are responsible for the maintenance of the roadside verges (although they have an agreement with the Borough Council so that the borough council’s contractor carries out that work in conjunction with their work on the borough-owned areas within West Hunsbury). To further enhance this work we have a number of long running voluntary community groups who also contribute directly to the maintenance of these areas:- 

Friends of West Hunsbury Parks

An enthusiastic residents group who have achieved much to improve the parks, in particular, securing funding to install play equipment and seating in both Hunsbury Hill and Ladybridge Park and to install the wonderful brown information boards, working to develop a proper management plan for the hill fort area as well as carrying out other improvement work. In 2014, the judges for the East Midlands in Bloom competition visited West Hunsbury as part of their judging tour. They made a Judges Award in recognition of the work undertaken by the Friends in the Parks. 

Welland Valley Football Club

A passionate club with a long-term agreement with NBC to use the pitches in Ladybridge Park they undertake additional regular mowing and maintenance of the pitch and adjoining areas as well as locking the entrance gates every evening which has led to a significant reduction in crime and nuisance in the park. 

Northamptonshire Ironstone Railway Trust (NIRT)

Operating the small heritage railway in Hunsbury Hill Country Park, with newly acquired equipment they continue to enhance and expand the maintenance work they do within the areas they occupy to benefit and increase visibility for all who visit.

Attempt to ensure the proper maintenance by the responsible bodies and encourage improvements to our parks and green spaces.

Hold NBC and NCC to account in respect of maintenance of the green spaces across the Parish. 

Work with community groups and residents to encourage the use of the open spaces and to improve standards.

Traffic and Speeding

West Hunsbury was designed with 4 access points at either end of Hunsbury Hill Road and Ladybridge Drive. These were intended for residents entering or leaving the area but they soon became through roads for drivers looking for an alternative route to the Motorway or just a way of avoiding Danes Camp Way. 

Improvements have been made to the junction of Towcester Road and Ladybridge Drive which quickly became an accident black spot but now has a roundabout. Also restrictions have been introduced to restrict Lorries from using West Hunsbury as a rat run. 

Whilst accident figures in the area are low it was clear from the Parish Survey that local residents were concerned about the speed of traffic on all the primary roads within the Parish. There was also a concern about parking along Hunsbury Hill Road close to St Benedict’s Church and the Hill Shop Area.

Representatives from the Police attend most Parish Council Meetings and speeding cars and inconsiderate parking are often discussed. The Parish Council also has regular meetings with the County Council Highways engineer to discuss resident’s concerns about traffic signage and safety issues. 

The Parish Council does not have any direct responsibility for these matters but will continue to bring resident’s concerns to the attention of the Police and County Council to reduce traffic speed and improve highway safety.

Endeavour to make the Parish a safer place to walk, cycle and drive.

Work with the police and highways departments to ensure that regular speed monitoring is undertaken and speed limits are enforced. 

Liaise with the Highways Department to ensure that residents traffic concerns and safety issues are addressed. 

Ensure that highways signage is appropriate and well positioned.
 

Parish Finances

The Parish Council is the lowest tier within the English system of local government sitting below (in our area) Northamptonshire County Council and Northampton Borough Council. However, this means that naturally it is the tier of local government with the closest relationship to its community, electorate and residents.

As a result, the parish council’s achievements will fall into one of two key areas, either:-

Acting as either a conduit or advocate as appropriate to represent residents’ views on the services provided within its area by either of the other councils, 

or

Directly undertaking activities or providing services which either are not currently provided by the other councils or ‘topping up’ to a higher standard services currently provided by those councils for the benefit of the local community. For example, if residents wish the parish council could use its funds to provide better standards of maintenance of paths and parks or additional street lighting.

A parish council obtains most of its funds through the parish precept. In our area, Northampton BC is responsible for collecting Council Tax. Each year, the Borough Council issues council tax demands which are calculated to provide sufficient funds for the borough council itself as well as for the precepting authorities – the county council, the police authority and the parish council.

The parish council each year agrees its budget for the coming year and generally the budget total represents the amount of the precept which the parish council then obliges the borough council to collect on its behalf. The parish council has reduced the precept each year that it has been in existence as follows:-

2013/14 - £75,280

2014/15 - £45,000

2015/16 - £37,500

2016/17 - Zero Precept

(The parish precept for 2013/14 was set by Northampton Borough Council in advance of the first parish council election in May 2013 using a national average precept value for a parish of this size).

Many parish councils manage to undertake activities and provide services in excess of that provided from its local Council Tax payers through the precept through successfully accessing other funding sources such as grants and sponsorship. The parish council bid for and was successful in receiving a ring-fenced grant of £21,142 from a central government fund set up to enable new parish councils to undertake community engagement projects.

Like many local authorities, Northampton BC has for many years operated what is known as a Special Expenses policy. Stated simply, this means that where Northampton BC provides a service specifically for an area where there is a parish council then, quite reasonably and equitably, the cost of that service is charged just on Council Tax demands issued in that parish. Since West Hunsbury Parish Council came into being the borough council has excluded the costs of maintaining our large areas of parks from this policy and, as a result, the level of special expenses is comparatively low.

As the Parish Council currently have healthy reserves moving forward into the new financial year - April 2016, it was decided that for this year only a Zero precept would be set.