Mitford Parish Council – Annual Report – May 2023
This is my first annual report as Chair and ‘change’ has certainly been a key theme over the year. Last August, we said goodbye to Stephen Rickitt, who decided to retire, having been our Clerk for the previous ten years. We also said goodbye to Councillors Esther Ridley and Sheena Hudson, who both stepped down for personal reasons. Fortunately, we were successful in our recruitment, so have welcomed Damian McEnroe as Clerk and Councillors Eric Dodd and Michael Jeans, representing Tranwell Woods and Tranwell village respectively. I must also give thanks to Councillor Mike Sharp, who stepped down as Chair last year but continued as Vice Chair, for his guidance and advice over the last 12 months. We and the nation also said goodbye to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and I hope all parishioners noted that we followed all central government instructions in raising and lowering our flag. We very much appreciated the numbers of residents who came out to sign our Book of Condolence, which is now housed in the Northumberland Archives at Woodhorn.
In terms of local road safety improvements, we continue to work closely with Northumberland County Council (NCC) to implement speed restrictions and gateway features, like those at the top of Spital Hill. Initial plans presented to us last July for Tranwell Woods and Tranwell village unfortunately proved too costly, so new designs are in the process of being drawn up and costed and the hope this time is that they come in on budget. Given these proposals have been part of our transport improvement bids since 2020/2021, we will press hard for them to come to fruition this coming year. In parallel, NCC have agreed that the road through Tranwell Woods should be a 30mph, not 60mph, zone and we’re just waiting for the legal process for this to be completed. In conjunction with the gateway features, it’s hoped that these measures will reduce the amount of speeding vehicles we see every day. Going forward, the plan is to have similar features at the western and eastern approaches to Mitford and we’ll ensure funds are ring fenced for this, should they be needed.
To the frustration of residents, a continuing problem in Mitford is the water running off Spital Hill and onto the recently resurfaced B6343. We know that the source is an underground spring which can’t be re-routed, but if we work closer with NCC to increase the drainage capacity into the river, we may prevent the road being damaged further. At the very least, we need to ensure that when the drain is formally reported as fully blocked, NCC understand the importance of unblocking it as a priority and quicker than has recently been the case.
Over the course of the year, the Parish Council have considered and commented on 16 planning applications and 3 Tree Preservation Order (TPO) applications. Whether we support or object, the aim is always to ensure that any development or change is appropriate and not out of character with our green belt setting.
We’ve also worked to improve the aesthetics and environment of the Parish throughout the year and to this end, a total of 14 new trees have been planted. After a successful bid for NCC funding, 12 trees to mark last years’ Platinum Jubilee were planted on the eastern approach to Mitford, mirroring the 10 Millennium trees. We thank Mitford Estate for allowing us to plant just inside their field boundary, given the highway verge was too narrow. Also, 2 new flowering cherry trees now welcome visitors into Fontside. We continue to maintain the look and tidiness of the parish with regular grass and hedge cutting and footpath clearance. In other positive news, this past year has seen an increase in joint collaborative working with the Village Hall Committee on a number of projects such as improving the Hall’s Audio Visual (AV) facilities and assisting in funding bids to gain future energy resilience. I’d like to give particular thanks to Councillor Ted Roger for his work on this. We also sponsored two very successful free First Aid sessions for residents, held in the Village Hall, and the hope is that this type of community event can be repeated. Following the previous Covid restrictions, it was a joy to see so many parishioners celebrate the Platinum Jubilee Fayre last year, and it’s hoped that the same success can be replicated in the events for the King’s Coronation and the 2023 Village Fayre.
Financially, the Parish Council remains in a strong position; we’ve restricted our budget to a small increase this year but this has translated to a small decrease in the Parish component of the Council tax, known as the precept. Reserved funding is in place, should it be needed, to contribute to the gateway features mentioned above and funding has also been allocated for other initiatives to improve the look of the parish: new benches, wooden containers by the noticeboards and more flowers and bulbs being planted. This leaves total unreserved funding of £10,426.
Looking ahead, I hope that we can conclude the projects which seem to have been on our agenda for some time, as well as make progress on some new smaller projects which are in the pipeline. Finally, I wish to thank our County Councillor for his continued support despite his heavy workload as well as all members of the Parish Council for their input and the Clerk for keeping us on track with meetings and finance.
Councillor Alison Young