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Council Business

Chair’s Report 2024

A report from the Chair of Council business from 2022/23 and plans for the coming year.

Published: June 11, 2024

Instead of saying that it’s been another challenging year I am going to start by saying that we have made considerable progress on several big issues and that our new Clerk Sophie and Admin Officer Nichola have hit the ground running. Coxhoe Parish Council has continued to deliver good services to our residents.

We continue to support with the administration of the Coxhoe Community Pantry and it has provided invaluable support to those who need it most. Over 1,000 different people from within and around our villages have used the Pantry over the last 12 months and in increasing numbers. Thank you also to the volunteers and everyone who has made donations of food. All really appreciated.

Our youth Team lead by Sarah Graham and Jasmine Morris has gone from strength . Our youth team have again been staggeringly good in their performance and support to young people in our communities. They have extended the number of sessions delivered and young people engaged. The comments we have received from young people and their families demonstrates how important their contribution has been and how much it has mattered, helping many of our young people endure the isolation effects of the pandemic and beyond. They have set up an entirely new SEND provision which is proving really popular with young people and their families. They also successfully bid for a £10,000 grant to improve and refurbish the Youth Room at Active Life Centre which is their main base in Coxhoe. The number of young people attending Quarrington Hill youth sessions has increased considerably. They have also delivered a number of popular family events, with ‘DJ Nichola’ coming into her own!

Our annual fireworks display was enjoyed by over 3,000 people, despite many others being cancelled we braved the weather and continued after carefully monitoring the conditions and assessing the risks. Part of the reason for an organised display is to reduce the impact on animal owners by encouraging people not to buy fireworks for private displays and for them to be going off ad-hoc in the weeks before and after. Our Christmas Tree lighting event in Coxhoe was again well supported, with an epic visit from Santa, who’s coming again this year we hope.  With the combined event at the Coxhoe Village Hall and fairground rides in the car park a good time was had by all.

A lot of people don’t realise that all the hanging baskets and tubs and main green areas and on the estates around Coxhoe and Quarrington Hill are provided and maintained by the Parish Council. Durham County Council (DCC) don’t do any planting in our villages they only cut the grass on the housing estates and playing fields at the parks.

At Kingswood, in Quarrington Hill we have carried out some major footpath improvements this year, trimming back of bushes around the walkways as part of our 5-year annual Countryside Stewardship Grant that we have been awarded to make further improvements. All these trees and the other 340 that we are responsible for across the Parish don’t just keep our villages looking green and lovely and prevent development they also help with our contribution to the Climate Emergency. The Parish Council also maintains some of the countryside walks around our villages too. We are looking to build a partnership with the County Council and residents to make still further improvements.

Your Parish Council continues to pay annual grants to help sustain our community groups and facilities too, to Quarrington Hill Community Centre, Coxhoe Village Hall, and Active Life Centre, and also rental income for them by basing our youth services there too. Works to restore the Coxhoe Cricket ground as an all-purpose community sports ground were completed and this was re-launched as the Shaun Henderson Community Sports Ground this year, and this is already being used by Coxhoe United, our youth services, and Scouts. This is also available for community use. We are working with Coxhoe United to deliver further improvements too, potentially including significant drainage improvements.

We have worked with developer who bought the land behind Cornforth Lane to hopefully provide off-street parking for residents and a school drop off parking area only accessible from the roundabout, as part of their aspirations to develop the site for housing. We have consulted residents throughout and await details of what they finally propose in the shape of a planning application soon, which could help with the much needed expansion of Coxhoe Primary School. We continue to talk to DCC about potentially removing all school traffic from Cornforth Lane in line with the public consultation carried out in October 2020, which was supported by nearly 90% of residents across the village who replied.

We re-surveyed residents about the installation of CCTV on Coxhoe Front Street to improve public safety, and this was again strongly supported. We have made a funding bid the Durham Crime Commissioner for potential match funding. We are also looking to extend Christmas Lights in the village which are also provided by the Parish Council.

In line with the 2020 survey results we have continued to challenge the closure of Quarrington Hill Churchyard, by the Cassop-cum-Quarrington with Bowburn Parochial Church Council (Church Council) which 87% of residents of Quarrington Hill opposed, with more than half of the households in Quarrington Hill responding to the 2020 survey. We re-surveyed Quarrington Hill residents about this and the closure was still strongly opposed by residents.  The Ministry of Justice turned down the application for closure.

One casualty of pressures of work due to staffing and the pandemic had been preparations for a Neighbourhood Plan and settlement boundaries to protect our villages from even more housing, which again was supported by 87% of residents in both villages. We have had a study carried out by a Planning Consultant on the work done so far and with their assistance and available Government grant funding to cover most of the costs, we hope to complete this over the next year.

Our aims of getting a new GPs surgery opposite Coxhoe Village Hall were frustrated by a lack of financial support from the County Durham Clinical Commissioning Group and the GP surgery losing interest. A developer’s plans for 16 bungalows for rent by Karbon Homes on the site and adjoining Parish Council land sadly collapsed due to legal issues during covid. We are exploring potential use of part of this land for increased parking for the village. We are also investigating improving parking at the bottom of Coxhoe too.

We have worked with the County Councillors to provide information on the Leachate plant proposed by Durham County Council at the Recycling Centre. DCC have not been willing to take up our offer of a public information meeting to discuss the proposals.

Our Clerk has built good working relations with our new Police Beat Officer and PCSO and hosts monthly PACT meetings with to engage with residents. Our best wishes and thanks go to Mark our former Beat Officer for many years. Our Clerk holds regular surgeries for residents at Quarrington Hill and Coxhoe for residents to raise any issues they may have.

We have re-started the publication of the Chronicle, and these should be regularly produced three times a year going forward.

We were very proud to have made a bold step to freeze our Council Tax for 2023/4, due to the impact that the cost-of-living crisis was having on residents. To do this involved making significant, but unsustainable cuts to various budgets, despite our costs and staff costs still rising considerably. We have done our utmost to keep the rise for 20224/5 to a minimum to cover our increased salary costs in line with the local government pay awards.

I hope and trust you will agree that Coxhoe Parish Council is continuing to work hard for you. As ever you are more than welcome to come along and talk to us at our monthly meeting or contact us at any time.

 

Stuart Dunn

Coxhoe Parish Council Chair

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