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ANNUAL REPORT ~ 2005/2006

It’s time again to reflect over last year’s activities of the Parish Council. Residents may be unaware that the parish boundary stretches from the Medway border with Gravesham in the west, in Dillywood Lane; from the junctions of Brompton Farm Road with Cliffe Road and Cooling Road with Bill Street; from Parsonage Lane on Frindsbury Hill and from part way up Four Elms Hill. It includes Upnor, farmland to the north towards Cliffe and Chattenden, the Medway City Estate, half the Medway tunnel and the River Medway across half its width where it flows beside parish land. So it’s quite a big area geographically and has nearly 4,700 electors. The population according to the 2001 census was 5,395, of whom 1,171 were under the age of 18.

Again it’s been busy in terms of planning applications that apply to this parish and our planning committee has had to continue to convene between parish council meetings in order to meet the deadlines imposed on us as statutory consultees. Between April last year and the end of March, we considered and responded to 82 applications, ranging from the smallest extension to major development. The Parish Council is not the planning authority and does not determine the decisions, that is a matter from Medway Council, which does not have to agree with the parish council’s views. We always respond on planning grounds and cannot have subjective views on whether we like or dislike a proposal.

During the year minor grants were given to various bodies and charities that do good work in the parish.

Major projects we have undertaken include installing fencing with pedestrian and disabled access to prevent motor bikes from riding around the recreation ground and the planting of hundreds of daffodils in the parish. Many sites have been identified that could do with cheering up in this way and I anticipate that councillors will want more planted this autumn for an even better display next spring. Thanks are due to Cllr Jane Etheridge for organising this and to the young offenders team for doing the planting. Several councillors also helped.

David Levy our footpaths officer has walked all the public footpaths in the parish many times during the last year and together with Wendy Williams has kept them clear. Anything remiss, such as non-reinstatement after ploughing, has been reported promptly to Medway Council, whose responsibility it is to ensure they are maintained properly. Unfortunately under a new scheme of reporting to customer services rather than Medway’s footpaths officer Vivienne Kent, action has not always been taken. This has been frustrating both for David and for Vivienne. On behalf of the Council I would like to thank David and Wendy for all their hard work.

The recreation ground and hall have taken up the major part of the Council’s focus. Development money has been made available for improvements to the hall, which will provide a smaller hall in addition to this. The hall needs bookings but potential bookings have sometimes been put off because a group such as Brownies finishes too late for an evening booking to start, leaving the hall unused for the majority of the evening. It will also help the youth club on Fridays to expand. The Parish Council has helped the hall in a number of ways, both in practical help with councillors giving time to do some minor repairs and with grants given for bigger repairs and maintenance.

Outside on the recreation ground football has continued to develop. The permanent goalposts put in last March are used both by casual footballers and by a regular Sunday team. A junior team playing on the upper level has also started. Both teams are playing successfully. Any complaints about the teams and their behaviour should be reported to me as soon as possible. Both sets of organisers are keen to play responsibly and will make every attempt possible to remedy any situation.

The major problem remains the youth. Unfortunately youth from the Darnley Road area of Strood were given a dispersal order. These orders were intended that youth is prevented from congregating in an area and disperses home. In the real world this just doesn’t happen – they disperse elsewhere and make other people’s lives miserable. They seem to have found our recreation ground and are using it as their own. I seem to be getting reports almost daily of unacceptable behaviour, of an extensive amount of litter, of broken glass, even of needles and of dog mess. The dog mess probably can’t be attributed to them, but the rest certainly can. Until a few months ago we had the area litter picked once a month and fortnightly during school holidays. If exceptionally an extra litter pick was needed, this was done, but this regime was adequate for the small amount of litter dropped, even when the youth shelter was first put up. I don’t need to remind you that this costs the Parish Council each time and that the Parish Council is funded by you through the parish part of the council tax. We don’t see why you should have to pay more to keep the field clean because of an invasion by people who don’t live here and who don’t care. Our contractor who did the litterpicking is now refusing to come out if there is a report of needles. We are seeking a meeting with the agencies involved in how to resolve the situation.

A youth club has now been started and last summer a summer scheme was run. Both activities are organised by Medway Council’s youth service.

I mentioned dog mess as one of the complaints received from the public. There are 2 bins provided. All responsible dog owners pick up after them. Unfortunately there appears to be a large number of irresponsible dog owners using the ground. They can be fined but they have to be caught in the act – or rather their dog in the act and them not doing anything about it.

The environmental enhancement scheme in Lower Upnor that I mentioned last year has been held up because it has proved extremely difficult to identify all the landholdings that will be affected. We expect this to be resolved in the near future and eventually a public consultation exhibition will be held. While we are metaphorically speaking in Upnor, the Medway Swale Estuary Partnership organised a clean up of the foreshore in Lower Upnor yesterday. It was all a bit short notice but they have promised to give better warning if they repeat the exercise in the future.

The web site continues to be popular. It has certainly raised the profile of the parish and from time to time I get requests for information from far flung places and from those tracing their family tree. The latest one, which I got over the weekend was “Would you be able to tell me if the Wesleyan Methodist Church located on Frindsbury Road, Strood, still exists? I am in Canada. My grandparents were married at this church in 1899.” Perhaps whoever is doing my job in 100 years time will get a similar request, only it might be about Upnor Castle – “my grandparents were married there in 2006”. Well, you never know!

That concludes my report.

Roxana Brammer
Parish Clerk

24 April 2006

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