It is customary and proper to start my report by thanking those individuals and organisations who have contributed to the village in the past year.
I thank my fellow councillors all of whom give freely of their time to serve on the Parish Council. I am sure it would surprise the public if they knew of the amount of time and commitment your councillors put in vetting planning applications, inspecting play areas, writing reports and attending council meetings where difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions have to be made. Special thanks are due to Tony Gill and Pauline Joslin. Tony and Pauline were unsuccessful in the May 2015 elections but still they offered to continue providing valuable help to the Council on matters concerning planning, trees and paths. Such was their dedication that the Council had no hesitation in co-opting them onto the Council when vacancies arose through resignations.
Special thanks also to our Vice Chairman Jim Stewart and to our District Councillor Grenville Chamberlain for their much appreciated advice to your rather inexperienced Chairman and to Martin Cassey for volunteering to lead the Village Plan Group.
The Parish Council could not function without the help of Gail Stoehr, our Parish Clerk, and her team and they are helped in publicising what goes on in the village by our webmaster Robert Cassey and by the Hardwick Happenings team headed by the new editorial team of Peter Cornwell and Howard Baker.
Last but not least thanks to all those volunteers who give of their time to organise clubs and other organisations, manage local football and cricket teams etc. for the benefit of all in the village. You know who you are, be proud of what you do, and if the Parish Council can help you then let us know.
There are ongoing proposals to build further major housing developments along the A428 e.g. at Bourn Airfield and by extending Cambourne. The Local Plan for South Cambridgeshire was referred back to our District Council [SCDC] by the Inspector so our District Council is currently without an approved Plan. (As an aside this is causing problems for our planners due to a large number of speculative developments.) SCDC has made small modifications to their Local Plan and resubmitted it but it still includes proposals for major developments along the A428.
Hardwick Parish Council is a member of the Coalition of Parish Councils which comprises 19 local Parish Councils adjoining or near to the A428. The Coalition was formed to make known the views of local parish councils to the proposed developments and it has responded on consultations for the modified Local Plan.
In summary the Coalition position, which Hardwick Parish Council voted to support, is that the proposed major housing developments in the A428 corridor are unsustainable (as defined by SCDC’s own policies) because there are no major employment opportunities where they are being built which means unsustainable traffic on our local roads. The new large centres of employment include the Cambridge University West Campus and the Cambridge Biomedical Campus (Addenbrookes) both built on green belt land. The Coalition argues that the major housing developments should be built closer to these areas of employment on the urban fringe of Cambridge, possibly on the Cambridge green belt, rather than in the A428 corridor on “our green belt”. The Coalition believes that the City Deal on transport does not alter the unsustainable nature of the proposals.
City Deal – Cambourne to Cambridge improved bus services
Even without further development along the A428 it is evident that improved public transport services will be needed to ease congestion on the routes into Cambridge. The Government has pledged funding to finance improved public transport on the route from Cambourne to Cambridge. Hardwick looks set to benefit from any such improvements lying midway along this route. The proposals are currently for dedicated bus routes. One such option would go along the southern edge of Hardwick but it appears more likely that any such bus route would go alongside the A428 or along St Neots Road. Hardwick Parish Council decided during the year not to make a submission to the consultations but instead decided to persuade residents to attend the local exhibitions and submit their individual responses to the consultations.
Potential housing developments in Hardwick
Two developers intend to make planning applications in the coming months to build houses in Hardwick.
Circle Housing are looking to build about 185 houses off St Neots Road and Hill seek to build about 100 houses off Grace Crescent.
The Parish Council and residents will be asked by SCDC for their views and comments only when a planning application is made. Until then it is only speculation as to what an application might contain and the Parish Council does not make any decisions in advance of such application.
However both developers will have to meet planning obligations for any application to be approved and they have consulted on several occasions with myself, Jim Stewart and Grenville Chamberlain among others as to the nature of existing facilities in the village and how these might need to be improved to cater for an additional population should an application be approved.
Such facilities include provision of health services, provision of education services, play areas, recreation facilities, allotments, library facilities, highways, transport and finally community facilities. I provided a summary of the consultations to the Parish Council in February which provides further details and which can be found on the village website in the meeting papers for the February Parish Council meeting.
In addition the Parish Council commissioned a small survey in the village to gauge the general feeling towards the St Neots Road development in particular and to provide some feedback as to the facilities lacking in the village. The survey results are also available on the village website – see news item for 21 October 2015.
The Parish Council endorsed the concept of developing a Village Plan in August 2015. Martin Cassey leads the Village Plan Steering Committee and will address the meeting tonight with an update. We need the village to think about what it wants for the community and to have this documented in the form of a plan to guide the Parish Council on matters such as those described above. Please can residents do what they can to support this project and the excellent work that Martin Cassey and his team are doing.
The village has had a website for many years and was one of the first village to have one thanks to former resident Andy Smith. But without a webmaster the site became out of date and irrelevant. We are most fortunate that Robert Cassey agreed to become the new village webmaster. He has redesigned the site to make it easier to use and he adds new features and news items on a regular basis and he will give an update tonight.
Hundreds of users access the website each month so we can see what a successful project this has been. It has been helped in no small part by the existence of the Hardwick Facebook page founded and administered by Nicola Ellender. If I want to draw people’s attention to items on the website I shamelessly use Facebook to do so knowing it reaches so many. Thank you Nicola for your initiative.
Our village magazine has been through difficult times over the past couple of years but has been reinvigorated thanks to Peter Cornwell, Howard Baker and their team.
The magazine is financed, published and, in theory, run by the Parish Council but in practice the magazine is dependant on volunteers. The Parish Council intends to continue providing financial help if this is needed but otherwise the Hardwick Happenings team believe that they could operate more effectively by being independent and the Parish Council is pleased to support this transition.
Burnt out building St Neots Road/ Cambridge Road junction
At last a formal process has begun which will lead to the demolition of the unsightly and dangerous burnt out building at the junction of St Neots Road and Cambridge Road. Grenville Chamberlain, our District Councillor has been instrumental in moving this forward and will give an update tonight.
Cahills Corner improvement
After several decades of concerns over the safety of a narrow footpath round a blind bend work has been completed to widen the footpath and improve visibility.
The work was commissioned and paid for by the Parish Council as the County Council, pleading poverty, refused to make the improvements needed. The quality of the work carried out has drawn much praise from within the village.
The Parish Council had set aside £50,000 for improvement works and expects the final cost to be around £28,000. Of the savings the Parish Council agreed to make a further transfer of £3,000 towards a new scout hut fund and to use £7,000 to reduce the amount of precept requested for 2016/17. The rest goes to increase our reserves.
Yellow lines in three locations in the village
This was a difficult decision for the Parish Council in balancing the views of affected residents with safety concerns. The majority of the Parish Council voted in favour of the safety concerns. The yellow lines have been installed and the Parish Council hopes that the inconvenience to some residents is not as great as they feared.
Some other achievements in 2014/15
Support for play park survey
Agreement of a three year maintenance programme for the recreation field
Responses to about 30 planning applications
Parish Precept for 2016/17
As residents may have noticed the amount of money requested by Hardwick Parish Council through Council Tax has reduced this year. This is because some of the savings made on the Cahills Corner project have been returned to the tax payer.
The amount requested for 2016/17 is £47,580 of which about half is spent on maintenance of recreation fields and play areas and other repairs of public assets.
Chairman, Hardwick Parish Council
16th May 2016