Annual Parish Meeting: Chairman’s Report for 2019/20

Normally Wootton Courtenay Parish Council would host an Annual Parish Meeting in May but due to coronavirus we are unable to do so this year and James Wilmoth Chairman has written this report:

Usually I give my chairman’s report at the Annual Parish Meeting in early May but, as you will appreciate, this will not be possible this year.  Instead I will take this opportunity to use our excellent village website, which may reach a wider audience, but is not the same as having the opportunity to socialise in the Village Hall with a talk on a locally important topic or issue and get an update on the societies and clubs held in the village.

Firstly, though, I would like to take the opportunity of thanking Bill Hodgson for setting up the Wootton Courtenay Good Neighbours Plan, and to the volunteers for their support to the more vulnerable residents.  Underlining what an extraordinary self-contained village we live in is the wonderful service being provided by Andy Giles in the Villagers’ Stores and his team, together with deliveries by Stuart Lowen.  Claire Lynch and John and Jane Bradley are providing inspiring takeaways and show what an extraordinary effort is being made by everyone.  All this help not only helps protect everyone in the village, but also takes the pressure off the NHS at this critical time.

Turning to the parish council over the last year, we have welcomed Ruth Walker and Andrew Bray on to the council and I should like to thank everyone for their enthusiasm and hard work with the various issues that have come up over the year.  Roz Griffin is now well settled in as our parish clerk, and my thanks go to her for her comprehensive agendas and minutes and dealing with all the correspondence.  We have also received excellent support from Frances Nicholson, our County Councillor, and Andy Milne who has taken over as our District Councillor.

We have held nine meetings over the last year, and as a meeting was not possible in April we dealt with the much reduced agenda by email.  In future we will look at holding virtual meetings using Zoom whilst the lockdown continues.  We have had a number of varied planning issues to deal with during the year, of a generally uncontentious nature, and in the absence of meetings in the coming weeks we can get comprehensive information from the Exmoor Park planning website to allow us to make a collective response.

Of the more unusual issues worth highlighting is the decision made to save the Porlock Fire Station, much of which was due to the considerable effort made by Andy Milne, and our drama with the village post box, now restored to its rightful place in the wall of the village shop after an absence of close on a year.  Two of us on the council have taken over the role of Parish Paths Liaison Officer from Patrick Hoyte, and my thanks go to him for the time he has put in over the past years.  We have kept the precept at the same level as last year to enable us to maintain the defibrillator in the village, and also for the provision of salt bins to help protect vulnerable points on our roads.

I must finish by again thanking Bill Hodgson for providing us with such an excellent and invaluable website, and to Marion Jay for all her hard work posting the news on it.  It should also not be forgotten that our winter was brightened up with another excellent production from the Dunkery Players and their director Mary Noble.  I can’t see the vicars getting in much of a twist if subjected to the current lockdown!

Hopefully we will be able to celebrate next year with a proper meeting and talk in the Village Hall.

Best wishes and stay safe.

James Wilmoth
Chairman, Wootton Courtenay Parish Council