Chudleigh Town Council Annual Report
So much has happened since the Council’s last report that it is difficult to keep track. Here is a synopsis.
The Town Council comprises 13 councillors, all of whom were elected in May 2015 with the exception of our newest councillor, James Bushell, who was co-opted in March this year.
Councillors not only debate issues within the council chamber, but are also very busy around the parish. We represent the council on various bodies, both within and without the town, working with charities and being “hands on” for litter picking, grass raking, renewing and planting native species in parks and hedgerows etc. This winter councillors and town hall staff manned the Emergency Snow Centre for 24hrs providing shelter and succour to stranded motorists who fell foul of the weather.
Whilst on the parochial theme, the Town Council has been able to further develop the “bat garden” by planting fragrant species of plants that attract the right kind of insect. Working in harmony with “Chudleigh Wild” the plants are chosen as being those upon which the greater horseshoe bats thrive. You will also have noticed that some areas of Chudleigh grasslands have been left to grow a bit longer. Again, deliberately done to encourage insect and other invertebrates to help sustain bats and birds. For every field we build on with increasing development, we need to find alternative areas for the wildlife to inhabit. What better way than to encourage wildlife into our townscape.
Grass Cutting and the Environment
The council continues to pay for additional and appropriate grass cutting in Chudleigh. Devon County Council has reduced its cutting down to some verges only and generally the splays on roadside corners to aid safety. This means that Chudleigh Council now picks up the shortfall and is currently maintaining at least four cuts per year of most verges.
Last year the council paid for the roadside kerbs to be sprayed with weed killer in an attempt to smarten up the major routes in town and also to aid water drainage. Because of the wet autumn, there is still a bit to do in terms of spraying, but now the quest is to encourage the County Drainage Team to unblock the drains!
Flooding and Water Courses
Meetings were convened early last year (2017) with the TDC Flood Risk Management Officer to determine an action plan for the leat which takes water from the A38 and channels it to the Kate Brook and the Kate Brook itself.
Because of TDC budget restrictions this work was delayed and just as the programme was underway, the officer was re-assigned. The new officer has not been in post long enough to pick up all of the Chudleigh programme, so the Council is virtually back to square one. However, we are on the move again now. Safe to say, flooding issues and “overtopping” of the leat remain a major concern for the council and negotiations are ongoing with all the agencies involved.
The portion of the leat which flows through Millstream Meadow, to drive the waterwheel at Town Mills, was the subject of purchase agreements between the initial owners of the properties and Cavanna, the developer. As such the leat and its maintenance is in the ownership of those properties that abut the leat and not the responsibility of the council.
Chudleigh is an official “Emergency Landing Site” for the Devon Air Ambulance. Facilitated by the Town Council, and thanks to the Sports centre Committee, and the Football Club in particular, this facility is a real boost for residents. Should a medical emergency arise requiring swift attention and transport the landing facility is on hand easily accessible from all corners of town. Chudleigh Town Council has been able to cover the cost of minor repairs to gates etc. during the year.
A speed survey up Station Hill has been conducted by County Highways which proved what we all knew – drivers are speeding as they approach the built up area. The Town Council is instigating an automated “speed sign” in Station Hill which will flash motorists who approach the town at more than 30mph. This should be in place in time for the summer.
We continue to be mindful of parking issues around the town, which in line with most communities in the UK seems to be an ever increasing problem. Through the Neighbourhood Development Plan process the council is striving to alleviate parking turmoil – at least into the future.
Negotiations with County Highways last summer for a safer crossing point at the school have, at least, been partially successful. From an entrenched “NO” position, councillors together with the school safety team have managed to encourage Highways to fulfil its obligation of two years ago and extend the zigzag lines, make them enforceable and increase the spread of double yellow lines in the vicinity of the school entrance. The provision of a “lollypop person” at the school is ongoing work in progress.
The Town Council is ever mindful maintain and increase its assets. In the past twelve months, where appropriate, all the play parks have been given a face lift, hard surfaces replaced and indeed a whole playpark has been renewed. This takes some financial dexterity, applying for suitable grants, juggling the capital in the coffers and ensuring that money is in the right place at the right time. For instance, the refurbished play park at The Gardens cost just under £50,000.
A huge expense facing the council is the replastering of the Woodway Room. The lime plaster, probably 200 years old is, in small places, peeling away from the wall and will need to be totally replaced within three years. Since the Town Hall is a listed building, this will need to be re-plastered by a specialist.
The Exeter Road allotments, owned by the Sion Trust which managed the Convent all those years ago, have been rented to the council for the past 90 years. The council was offered the possibility of purchasing the site at a very realistic price and thus the purchase was completed in late 2017. Both allotment sites are constantly being maintained with upgraded driveways and new replacement fencing.
The Tower Hill Natural Burial site has now been screened and planted with a new natural species hedgerow. It will take a couple of years for it to thicken up, but will become a more valued asset to Chudleigh as years go by. Natural burial plots have already been reserved.
During this last year the council has renewed some CCTV cameras and installed others.
The skate park in Millstream Meadow continues to be popular. In order to provide something similar for the younger ones the council will will begin consultation on the extension of the Palace Meadow play area, and there is a proposal to create a wheeled sports track for kids, responding to requests from young residents and their families. Could this be a “dad’s and toddlers track”.?
The adult exercise area is now installed at Millstream Meadow and in full operation. Adult classes are in full swing – literally!
There are areas of Chudleigh, including the town centre that now have very fast broadband. Up to 35MPS some say. But for most folk broadband is still delivered by long copper wire from a BT roadside box, so speeds are correspondingly lower.
The town council, along with most other organisations in town, struggle to communicate with residents. There is a web site, and Facebook, Twitter, email, Chudleigh News, Chudleigh Phoenix, and monthly surgeries but folk still do not know what is going on! The council decided to revert to a good old fashioned newsletter for a trial period, the second issue of which is being delivered around the Easter break. The council will monitor resident response over the coming months to assess its value in getting information across.
Neighbourhood Development Plan
Through its Town Enhancement Committee the NDP Team is pulling together the final draft of the plan before “pre-submission”. This means that the plan will be scrutinised by an independent body to ensure that it contains all the legal elements required before residents are consulted (again). This is proving a long and arduous process, but will reap benefits in terms of new developments in the future and of course finance. It will mean that Chudleigh Council will be better able to fund infrastructure project and the like in the future.
The proposed developments at Rocklands and Grovelands have exercised councillors for months. Issues of drainage, access, parking, property design and open spaces are all up for discussion, with continually moving goal posts from Central Government, Teignbridge Council and the developers themselves.
An Annual Report would not be complete without mention of the “Chudleigh Volunteers”. From litter picking, to hedging and lane clearing, from orchard pruning to leat and drain clearing. From planting natural species of flowers and bulbs and from grass clearing and play equipment cleaning. We thank and salute you all.
Chudleigh. What a great place to live with something for everyone!
Mike Underwood – Chair of Council and Mayor