BV County Councillor’s Report on September

September is the month most of us associate with that feeling of going back to school, freedom, warm days and long light evenings over….. That is certainly what it feels like in local government. August was a busy month as far as I was concerned, but at least there are fewer formal District and County Council meetings. But now the pressure is back on……

The budget setting process for 2017-18 has started. At Sturminster Newton Town Council we are embarking on a Business Plan, in order to prioritise our expenditure and explain ourselves, we hope, more clearly to the electorate. The big problem is how do you fund the things you need to do for the sake of the town but cannot justify raising Council Tax to do it. We are well into worrying about the Christmas lights and how these are to be funded for the next three years. Local businesses are being very generous as is Liz Whittingham who has been working hard to run the monthly Craft Markets at The Exchange, any profit from which goes towards the Christmas lights. We will not have strings of lights across the street in Stur. this year as it would cost around £800 just to get the fixings stress tested and replaced if necessary, because otherwise we would not be insured. That has to be done every three years….so no strings of lights across the road. We will have our big Christmas tree and the traders will have their trees and lights so all should be well. The Christmas Lights switch on will be on the afternoon of the 2nd December with a children’s lantern parade, High School Choir and Father Christmas’s grotto.

Another important but not essential expenditure was the painting of the railings coming into Stur across the Town Bridge. Thanks to the efforts of generous donors, Community Payback, and our Grounds Manager plus three councillors the task has been three-quarters completed. The most difficult section is the last quarter, which is the dirtiest, most vulnerable as far as traffic is concerned. and has just had a tree fall on it. We had hoped to finish it in time for the Cheese Festival but that did not happen. Maybe we can finish it in time for Christmas.

The Cheese Festival in Stur. was a success in spite of the inclement weather. Although numbers attending was down the retailers appear to have been satisfied by the amount of trade as those who did come bought goods. Any surplus will go to The Cheese Festival Changing Young Lives Fund. The fund aims to provide substantial financial support to young adults to enable them to undertake activities which they would otherwise be unable to and from which they will gain experiences which will be of radical benefit in their future lives.

At the point of writing this report we still do not know if the government is minded to allow the County and District Councils of Dorset to merge as one Unitary Authority. The uncertainty makes financial planning very difficult. All councils know they will have reducing amounts of money coming from central government over the next two years, until revenue support grant ceases in 2020. There after they are reliant on Council Tax, Business Rate and any revenue they can earn. Council Tax rises have been capped at 1.9% and Business Rates do not bring us in a great deal locally, however hard done by the businesses feel. The money goes to central government and is redistributed across council’s according to need. I have been attending Dorset Councils Partnership meetings looking at how we may operate more commercially to earn income. In Weymouth the Council already has a considerable portfolio of hotels. West Dorset has seaside car parks which bring in considerable sums. North Dorset District Council has very few assets and certainly none which are going to make much of a contribution to our income – only the car parks and we are not allowed to make a profit on those beyond the cost of running them. We did look at the possibility of putting a crematorium on the Nordon Office side but that was ruled out as not being a good business case.

Sturminster Newton has now lodged its Neighbourhood Plan with the District Council who will send it to a planning Inspector for examination. The hope is that this will give the town some control over developer applications. The District has a Local Plan, which sits above the Neighbourhood Plan but this has now been undermined because the District is reckoned no longer to have a five year land supply for housebuilding. Although a number of planning applications have been approved, developers have not built as yet and it is therefore reckoned that if permissions are not built on within a period of time, three years, the land does not count in the land supply (totally illogical it seems to me as the land is still there to be built on). The reality of this is that the Countryside policy of the Local Plan, which did not permit housebuilding in the smaller villages except in certain limited circumstances, no longer applies. Our villages are therefore much more vulnerable to development although a Neighbourhood Plan, once approved, does give some control.

Surgeries in October:
Saturday 7th October 9.30 a.m. – Glanvilles Wootton Village Hall; 10.30 a.m. Pulham Village Hall; 11.30 The Exchange, Sturminster Newton.
Saturday 14th October 10.30 Hilton Chuch Coffee Morning; 11.15 p.m. Okeford Fitzpaine Mud Pie Cafe
Saturday, 21st October 9.30 a.m. Hazelbury Bryan Village Hall;
Preferred e.mail address – cllr.p.batstone@btinternet.com
Phone 01258 472583
Post – Elvlyn Cottage, Glue Hill, Sturminster Newton, Dorset, DT10 2DJ
Twitter @paulinebatstone Facebook Page Councillor Pauline Batstone

County & District Councillor’s August Report

August is supposed to be a quiet month in the world of local authorities with few committee meetings but it never quite works out that way.   It is a time for working on much more local issues  like our ongoing concerns about our local roads.

The worst road in our area in terms of damaged surface is Marsh Lane which runs from Hazelbury Bryan through to Stoke Wake.   I have been nagging Highways for a date when the promised resurfacing will take place.   I now understand that this is unlikely until next year as it needs a major work-over which will cost just short of £250,000.   Although a country lane it is a road which actually forms part of an important rat-run down to jobs in Poole and Bournemouth via the top of Bulbarrow.   It also receives a considerable hammering from heavy farm vehicles.   I have just been reading a letter from a now retired Councillor colleague published in the Blackmore Vale Magazine calling for all heavy vehicles to be banned in the country.   Interesting to see how she might believe that could be accomplished as the countryside is not just a suburb, it is a working industrial site in many ways, and even suburbs have to have large delivery vehicles from time to time.

Just after the County election in May the Highway’s Department reallocated responsibility for highways in my Division to a gentleman called Paul Starkey, who is our new Community Highways Officer.   Paul is has a lot of experience of working on Highways and also of using our local roads.   He is steadily making himself known around the patch and when you report a roads issue on dorsetforyou or via a phone call to County Hall, that report immediately appears on Paul’s iPad for attention.   In reality repairs have to be prioritised according to seriousness but the team do endeavour to sort matters out as quickly as possible.  Overgrown pavements,  footpaths and verges, flooded drains and other problems can also be reported via dorsetforyou or by phone.

I have just been reading an article about yet another initiative of the Prince of Wales.  A charity established by Prince Charles has unveiled over £540,000 of grants to 18 new rural projects.

The Prince’s Countryside Fund is supporting community shops in Crowle, Beckbury, Trawden and Great Paxton.   Funding has also been awarded to Pub is the Hub, and the Bird in Bush pub in Northumberland National Park.  Other grants include funding for training projects in Suffolk and Cornwall, and to support the Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue.    Established by the Prince of Wales in 2010, the fund has given over £8.5 million in grants to improve the quality of rural life over the past seven years.   It is something which could merit closer consideration in our rural area.

A reminder of what I said in my last report – although the bus companies have lost the subsidy for some rural routes, and therefore decided to discontinue them, Nordcat is open for business and looking to replace some of those services with a more personal one.   As a Community Transport organisation it is not generally able to put on daily public bus services but is running weekly services to Dorchester, Sherborne and Yeovil from the rural villages.   Nordat  also prepared to consider other services to other towns if there is sufficient support.   Nordcat’s Manager is Helen Reed on 01258 472164 or 01258 473154.   Journeys have to be booked in advance with Helen  because the bus will pick you up at your door.   Pensioners bus passes are accepted but it costs £5 to register with the scheme each year.

Anyone driving into Stur. will hopefully have noticed that we have almost finished the repainting of the railings along the A357 and in Bridge Street.   The work completed so far has been undertaken by Community Payback (CP), a scheme whereby offenders make reparation to the community by giving their labour.   We have now reached the point where CP can do no more because of health and safety constraints so the remaining work will be undertaken by we Town Councillors and any other volunteers we can find.   We still have to ensure we are safe because a by-election would cost a lot of money.   The aim is to get the project completed before the Cheese Fair brings thousands of people into town.   Our shops have also been smartened up by their owners and tenants and we are trying to encourage  more interesting window displays in some of them – maybe we should do a competition.

I have been trying to do my bit to encourage people to come and explore our beautiful countryside by taking long walks on most days, taking photographs of our lovely scenery as I go and putting them on my Councillor’s facebook page.   To my amazement some walks have had over 500 people look at them and have been commented on from people as far away as New Zealand, Australia and Canada.

The North Dorset Business Park at Rolls Mill, on the Lydlinch side of Stur. is now in private ownership, the last of the plots having been bought by Rose Engineering who plan to encourage a range of businesses to come and occupy buildings which Roses will design and build for them.  These businesses need to be ones which provide employment and an ambition is to have a prestige Enterprise Centre on the front side, offering office space to predominantly digital enterprises, in other words people who earn their living from computers.   In North Dorset there are 9000 or so businesses but many of these are one-man operations, based at home.   The Enterprise Centre, and other buildings on the estate will offer space for those who want to grow.   We, the Economy Board of Sturminster Newton, are also considering how we can offer serviced office space to small businesses in Sturminster itself, possibly using one of the former bank buildings.

Surgeries in September:

Saturday  2nd September 9.30 a.m. –  Glanvilles Wootton Village Hall;  10.30 a.m. Pulham Village Hall;  11.30 The Exchange, Sturminster Newton.

Saturday, 16th September 9.30 a.m. Hazelbury Bryan Village Hall;  10.45  a.m. Okeford Fitzpaine Village

Preferred e.mail address – cllr.p.batstone@btinternet.com

Phone 01258 472583

Post – Elvlyn Cottage, Glue Hill, Sturminster Newton, Dorset, DT10 2DJ

Twitter @paulinebatstone   Facebook Page Councillor Pauline Batstone

Road Closures

Temporary closure of the C73 road (Stock Hill Lane) at Proctors Bridge, Holwell

Work to repair and strengthen Proctors bridge is planned to start on 30 October 2017.

The scheme is part of our programme of maintenance works to the county’s bridges and culverts.

To enable the work to be carried out safely it is proposed that the road at the bridge will be closed to vehicles.  The road closure to vehicles will be in place 24 hours per day from 30 October 2017 to  24 November 2017.  Temporary measures will be put in place to allow pedestrians and cyclists through the closure.

If there is anything you wish to discuss or have any concerns you would like considered, please do not hesitate to contact me.  Alternatively, in my absence please contact my team leader John Burridge, Tel. 01305 225366,  Email: j.burridge@dorsetcc.gov.uk

Village Barbecue

After having been postponed by poor weather, the barbecue at the village hall held on Sunday 23rd July was a great success with many people joining in the fun. Welly throwing, skittles and horse-shoe tossing were just some of the activities taking place. The Sherborne branch of Waitrose very kindly contributed burgers and sausages for the event.

For Sale

Michelle McCullagh kindly drew this sketch of our lovely church so that we could raise much needed funds for the church through the sale of postcards and notelets.  If you would like to purchase any of these, please contact Annie Dove on 01300 345450.  Postcards are 50p each and the notelets (including envelopes) are £1 each or 5 for £4.  There will also be some for sale in the church.  We would like to thank Michelle for allowing us to sell the original in the silent auction at the fête.

 

Proposed Road Closures

SUNDAY 17TH SEPTEMBER 2017

Click here for full details.

Temporary road closures will be in place on IRONMAN 70.3 Weymouth race day (Sunday 17th September 2017) to ensure the safety of athletes and the public. These legal road closures are implemented under the Road Traffic Regulation (Special Events) Act 1994, and apply to all vehicles and bikes that are not involved in the event.

Holwell, Glanvilles Wootton, Middlemarsh

The bike course follows Holwell Road onto Holwell Drove, Stock Hill Lane, Park Lane and Kennels Lane heading southbound down the C12.

Access Advice:

08:00 – 12:30   Holwell Road, Holwell Drove, Stock Hill Lane, Park Lane and Kennels Lane FULLY CLOSED.

12:00   B3143 re-opens for eastbound access.

 

County & District Councillor’s July Report

April, May and June were dominated by the two elections – the County Council election which probably was not noticed by so many people and the General Election which definitely was.   In the meantime, life as a County and District Councillor went on with meetings and casework to deal with, whilst leaflets had to be delivered, social media contributed to and posters put up.   I am grateful to all those who turned out to vote, whether they voted for me or not, because that is what our democratic system depends on.   Those not involved in elections presume the  candidates must be enemies, but in practice in this County election two of my opponents were my friends and the other I have now got to know.   I pledge to continue to work for all those in the County Division of Blackmore Vale regardless of their political allegiance or none.

The General Election delayed any government decision on whether the District and County Councils merge to become a Unitary Authority.  We had expected to hear several months ago whether or not the Secretary of State was minded to support our application to merge and put the necessary legislation before Parliament.   However we now have have to wait until the autumn before we know whether there will be a Unitary Authority, a combined Council of West and North Dorset District Council’s and Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, or whether we continue as we are now, i.e. with a County Council completely separate from the Dorset Council’s Partnership.

This uncertainty does make planning, particularly budgeting, very difficult.  What we do know is that we have to continue to pursue economies of scale in order to live within our means, which are diminishing all the while.   In particular the government are withdrawing routine support grants from Councils over the next couple of years but saying that Councils will keep 100% of the business rate.   That sounds very reasonable except that it means the money from business rate, which is set by central government,  continues to be spread over Councils across the country to the most needy areas   We in North Dorset  do not qualify as “most needy”.   We also do not raise a lot of money from business rate and are in what is called “the safety net” which guarantees us a certain level of income but we struggle will to get out of it.  Our particular problem was when the Army at Blandford Camp were classified as an educational institution and no longer paid the full business rate.   Our North Dorset businesses, and there are around 9,000 of them,  tend in the majority, to be small businesses, often one person working from home, so they do not pay business rate.

As a Councillor, from time to time I get dissatisfied residents complaining that they do not get their money’s worth from the Council tax they pay.   In particular the complaint is that we do not get the services in the rural area which people in towns get.  The counter to that is it costs more to deliver services in a rural area and in any case more often the services we pay for are not those we are using at that particular time but may need in future, for example elderly care, or preventative services which operate below our awareness most of the time.  As has been well publicised, the biggest expenditure for the County Council is the growing social care budget.

One example of a difficult service to provide in a rural area is the transport service.   The bus services for Dorset have been subject to the routine three yearly re-tendering of the contracts.   The information about this is available on dorsetforyou and by telephone from County Hall.  There have been changes of providers, but the commitment of the County Council is to ensure the routes between the market towns and services should continue as now.  The one service which appears to have gone in Blackmore Vale is the 307 as from and discussions are taking place about how the needs of residents who use that service can be met in other ways.   The new providers take over on 24th July.

In my June Report I wrote of the intended closure of Lloyds Bank in Sturminster, the last bank to have a permanent base there.   Discussions continue with the intention of Lloyds to provide a mobile bank on three days of the week for an hour or more.   The mobile bank will park in the Library Carpark.  Meanwhile NatWest also provide a mobile service between 2.00 p.m. and 3.00 p.m.  Friday in the Station Road car park.  We are also negotiating for the provision of cash machines in the market place to replace the ones lost when the banks closed.  There are classes being run in The Exchange Learning Centre for those who want help to set up and understand on-line banking.

Surgeries in July:

Saturday  1st July  9.30 a.m. –  Glanvilles Wootton Village Hall;  10.30 a.m. Pulham Village Hall;  11.30 The Exchange, Sturminster Newton.
Saturday,   – 15th July 9.30 a.m. Hazelbury Bryan Village Hall;  10.45  a.m. Okeford Fitzpaine Village Hall

Preferred e.mail address – cllr.p.batstone@btinternet.com
Phone 01258 472583
Post – Elvlyn Cottage, Glue Hill, Sturminster Newton, Dorset, DT10 2DJ
Twitter @paulinebatstone   Facebook Page Councillor Pauline Batstone

Fete

SATURDAY 10TH JUNE

Another successful fête was enjoyed by all who visited Church Farm on Saturday 10th June.  Despite dire weather forecasts of heavy rain and dark skies earlier in the week the sun decided it had other ideas!

Opened by the newly re-appointed Conservative Member of Parliament for North Dorset, Simon Hoare, crowds gathered well before opening time to grab the best bargains at the Bric-à-Brac and the sweetest of cakes on the cake stall!  New for this year was a fun dog show which brought in visitors from further afield.  Eight classes from Prettiest Bitch to Waggiest Tail culminated in hoots of laughter from the audience when canine Musical Mats was fought out to the end!

Visitors enjoyed the delights of the BBQ, Pimms Tent and Tea and Cake whilst listening to the sounds of the Black Down Hills Steel Band.  Other stalls included a Treasure Hunt, Skittles, Coconut shy, Tombola and guess the number of sweets in the jar to name but a few.  A silent auction and raffle kept eager potential winners staying to the bitter end ever hopeful they might be successful.

The Photographic Competition was displayed in the church alongside beautiful flower arrangements to greet visitors.  Photographs will be displayed on the website in due course.

A record turnout and lovely weather contributed to what was a quintessential English country fête.  We would like to thank all those involved behind the scenes and on the day but particularly to our hosts Mr and Mrs Frankcom.

Click on the “Fête” heading to see more pictures from the day.

Annie & Georgina

Flood Alleviation Scheme

 

 

 

 

 

Some of you may have noticed groundworks happening on Home Farm this spring.  Before the start of these there were 3 x 300mm pipes going into a chamber and 1 x 300mm pipe going out thus water backed up and flowed down through the village causing flooding at Mead Corner.  A new 500mm pipe has now been laid and the outflow is further down Home Farm’s ditch system.  We must thank Ian Sargent and Jerry Curtis for giving many man hours to the project.  Now we must await the rain to see if this is going to finally resolve the water issues we have in this village!