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The last year was the first year of the new council, elected on 1 May. The Council has the advantage of 4 members also being members of Medway Council, two of them two of the three ward members for our ward, Strood Rural, and the other two representing Strood North and Strood South. This has helped in putting the Parish Council’s views to Medway Council and, conversely, in getting feed back and information.

The change in the parish’s wards also took place on 1 May. There are now four wards, each represented by four councillors. I am pleased to say that although Upnor is not a separate ward, two councillors live in Upnor, one in Lower and one in Upper Upnor, so that all parts of the parish have representation.

This time last year Cliffe Airport was uppermost in everyone’s minds. We were in the middle of the second consultation period, following the inclusion of Gatwick in the Government’s document. The Parish Council made a further submission by the deadline of the end of June and then all we could do was wait for the outcome. This was announced just before Christmas and to everyone’s relief the Government appeared to have listened to all our representations and discounted the site as being suitable and economically viable.

Apart from this, the Council has been busy during the year with various activities. The outcome of the meeting referred to by Cllr Etheridge at last year’s Annual Assembly was a scheme for youth provision, where Phase I alone would have cost £48,000. The Council felt the scheme would cost too much as grants available to parish councils directly are limited and it never got off the ground. Meanwhile, unknown to the Parish Council, some residents of Holly Road were in discussions with Groundwork Medway Swale over provision for something for youth on the recreation ground. When the Parish Council got to hear about it, a group was set up which included Cllrs Bamber and Etheridge. The Parish Council committed some funds towards the costs of a feasibility study and consultation. The Council was worried about contributions from the local residents in terms of fundraising and volunteer help and also the long-term implications. The residents were asked to form themselves into an association, which would have enabled grants to be obtained as well as providing a body to work with the Council in the long term, especially where maintenance of the equipment was concerned. The residents felt unable to do this and the project as such has been dropped. The Council however remains committed to providing at least one piece of equipment suitable for teenagers.

An approach was made by the Medway Swale Estuary Partnership who can access European funding to see if the foreshore at Upnor could be tidied up. Catherine Smith and Martin Hall of Medway Council have been brought in and the project will be an environmental enhancement of Lower Upnor, to begin with, and will include the green and the woodland as well as the foreshore. It’s early days as yet but it is hoped grants can be obtained to make a real difference to the village for residents and tourists alike.

The Council saw and commented on planning applications as usual. Medway Council is the planning authority and has the final say. Some decisions of refusal went to appeal but on each occasion the appeal was dismissed. The Chairman and Clerk had a meeting with the planners over the detailed plans submitted for the development site between Wainscott Road and the eastern by pass. The meeting was very useful and enabled a coherent response of objection to be made, with the planners taking on board the Parish Council’s comments. At the Inquiry on the Local Plan the Parish Council fought unsuccessfully for this land to remain open space. Since it is now zoned for development, the Parish Council wants to ensure that whatever development takes place, it is the best available for the village. In this instance, the application as submitted was refused. An outline application has been made for the land between the northern bypass and Hoo Road/Higham Road, also in the Local Plan for development.

Much to the Council’s surprise, it has been decided to give names to the A228 (eastern bypass) and A289 (northern bypass). We were also consulted on the renaming of the parts of Upnor Road and Anthony’s Way that form the road between the Sans Pareil roundabout and the tunnel approach roundabout. Yes, we all thought it was Anthony’s Way for the whole length too and couldn’t see why it needed a new name until we were informed that it was down to a request from the emergency services. In spite of the suggestion of “Arethusa Way” for the A228 it has become “Wulfere Way”, Wulfere being a Mercian King whose daughter was the Patron Saint of Werburgh and “Anthony’s Way” is now Berwick Way after a ship built at Chatham in 1679. Medway Council had to confer with Gravesham Borough Council about the A289 and the Council was expecting a short list of names to be put forward. The chance of a choice was not given and this road is now “Hasted Way” after the eighteenth century author of “The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent”. The Chairman is now considering running a competition to name all the motorways in the UK, particularly the M2 where it is not already part of Watling Street.

Following this rather unsatisfactory consultation the Council has been pro-active and put forward suggestions for the names of the roads on the two new developments when they are eventually built – names with an ecclesiastical theme for the Church Commissioners land behind Wainscott Road and as this year is the 60th anniversary of D-Day, the code names for the Normandy beaches for the MoD land.

The road calming on Brompton Farm Road and Hollywood Lane has been controversial as it was not understood that the incorporation of a cycle track on the south side of Brompton Farm Road would mean the destruction of the bank and the building of a footway. The Chairman had also been told at the public exhibition that build outs would be incorporated. These have not materialised, the road is no narrower than it was and the whole exercise has not had the desired effect. The Highways engineers are well aware of the Parish Council’s views and concerns about this. The works caused the removal of the Parish Council’s hedge in front of Temple School, planted six years ago and just beginning to look good. We have been promised this will be replaced.

The Council continued to receive a rural projects grant from Medway Council and was pleased to help the hall with a new boiler paid for out of this fund.

The Council gave grants to the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal and to the British Red Cross.

The Council’s footpaths officer, David Levy has walked the footpaths for us and has reported any problems back to Medway Council. Last year he and Wendy, one of his helpers helped keep the paths clear using strimmers provided by Medway Council and the Parish Council. They both work as volunteers and we are grateful to them for their diligence on our behalf.

Personally I am grateful to my councillors for their support and help over the last year and I thank them most sincerely.

I conclude the Council’s annual report.

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