This report was presented to the Annual Meeting of Coxhoe Parish Council on 10 June 2020 by the Chair, Stuart Dunn. It would usually be presented to the Annual Assembly of Electors, but the 2020 meeting is postponed to May 2021 due to Covid-19.
This is my fifth annual report as Chair. We are a very active Parish Council and there is a long list of people below to thank for helping to make Coxhoe and Quarrington Hill the great places that they are to live. It is through our collective efforts that this council has made such progress for the benefit of our communities.
What have we achieved?
This year has been a busy year looking forward and seeking to develop community facilities. We have reviewed most of our policies, our administrative and support systems so they meet the needs of the Council and community. With the Covid19 lockdown our staff have been meeting from home and the Parish Council meetings are being held remotely by ZOOM to ensure continuity. Members have again rolled up their sleeves and delivered on identified priorities. Listed below are some of the actions, activities and progress that have been achieved towards delivery of community priorities:
- The Parish Council staff together with Coxhoe Village Hall and Quarrington Hill Community Centre volunteers have been co-ordinating Covid-19 support to vulnerable members of the community with over 80 volunteers from our villages
- To safeguard it from development and restore it for community sports and recreation use we have taken a lease of the Coxhoe Cricket Ground. We have been awarded £26,260 in grants by the East Durham Rural Corridor Area Action Partnership, County Durham Community Fund and Durham Football Association. With match funding by the Parish Council, works have started to update the semi derelict pavilion and fully restore the fields and cricket square, also introducing a 7 a side and a 9 a side football pitches. This will double the public playing fields available in the village. Particular thanks to local builder Ray Lawson for his support.
- The Parish Council lost out on the opportunity to purchase the Old School site but working with the new owner we carried out a public consultation on the potential uses which supported a new Doctors surgery and social housing for senior citizens. Subject to satisfactory business case, NHS and social landlord funding, hopefully a planning application will be submitted soon.
- Plans to commemorate the centenary of the end of WW2 (World War 2) had to be cancelled due to Covid-19. The community response with pop-up street parties was fabulous. In Quarrington Hill a tribute was added to the Village Green, particular thanks to Clive Lawson for this. We also commemorated Merchant Navy Day with a special service, and the people of both villages turned out in large numbers to pay their respects at Remembrance Day Services.
- Coxhoe hosted its second Fireworks event 5 November. This was a Parish Plan 2 priority that the community requested and which was very well attended. Due to the high volume of requests, it’s already been booked again for 5 November 2020.
- The Parish Council has committed significant resource to employ a team of youth workers to ensure that Youth Services continue to be provided in our villages. An average of 80 young people enjoy these each week. One of the groups raised funds to host an inflatables day, which went really well and a lot of fun was had. During Covid-19 our Youth Team have set up remote sessions and quizzes for our young people.
- Having taken on various pieces of Land around the parish to protect them from development and keep them as green spaces, we continue to make improvements. Tree bush pruning has been carried out on some of the village greens and at St Mary’s Churchyard. We are also looking at improvements on the green next to Bower Court for residents, whilst maintaining a biodiversity corridor.
- We held our first Christmas Tree lighting event 1 December on Coxhoe Village Green and erected our second Christmas Tree. Thanks also to St Joseph’s, St Mary’s and St Andrew’s Churches for their support.
- Kingswood is part of ‘Durham Woodland Revival’ project that has been awarded £434,200 to restore and reconnect woodland in the County. The Parish Council continue to support this community wood for local people.
- The Parish Council has continued to provide grant funding to help cover costs, support and improve facilities and activities available to Quarrington Hill Community Centre, Coxhoe Village Hall and the Active Life Centre. For example, Coxhoe Village Hall used their grant to fund an Admin Support Worker and the Active Life Centre were advanced their 2019 to 2020 grant to fund additional gym equipment as part of their gym refurbishment. We have also provided financial support to a number of local groups and teams in the villages such as Quarrington Hill Runners, Quarrington Hill Banner Group and Coxhoe United
- The Council has focussed heavily on parking this year. We welcomed the introduction by Durham County Council (DCC) of waiting limits on the Front Street in Coxhoe and restrictions around the crossroads at Quarrington Hill. The Parish Council working with local businesses increased parking behind Commercial Road Working with residents and Groundwork Trust to design improved parking and amenity around Basic Cottages, sadly a grant application to fund this was unsuccessful. We continue to explore parking and traffic solutions on Cornforth Lane.
- The Parish Council objected to planning applications at Landsdowne Road for Town Houses amongst the bungalows, and also increasing the proposed number of houses at Station Road for the original 50 in the outline approval to 70.
- Our Facebook, Twitter and Website continue to provide invaluable information to our community. A huge Thank You to Ian Forster for the massive amount of work he puts into this.
The above list provides a snapshot of the main areas of work that the council has progressed and continues to work on.
In terms of finance we have prudently managed our budgets this year to leave us in a position to address future projects whilst making clear progress on the priorities in the Parish Plan. Our Statement of Accounts for the year ending 31 March 2020 will be posted on the Website for all to see and the opportunity exists for any parishioner to examine our financial records by appointment with the Clerk during the exercise of public rights which will take place between 22 June and 31 July 2020.
Thank you to our Clerk, Claire Llewelyn who gained her professional qualification, the Certificate in Local Council Administration, this year. Thanks also to our Youth Team. Karen Williams, our Admin Assistant left us and we wish her well for the future. We welcome Jasmine Morris, Amena Uddin, Ellie Lowes, Sean Davison and Emma Fail to our Youth Team and Angela Searle as our Admin Officer.
Thanks also to our supporting members from Durham County Council and to all those volunteers, groups and organisations who are a vital part of our community. Furthermore, I must thank those many individuals who have attended our parish meetings throughout the year, raising issues and concerns that affect their lives. This additional input is also a vital part of making sure our council works for its community.
I have to thank all members of this council, particularly our Vice Chair Kay Simpson for her commitment and support in what has been another challenging year.
I also thank Julie Smith, Graham Mills, and Barbara Hepplewhite for their service as councillors who retired throughout the year and welcome to the Council Nathan Brown and Ian Armstrong, who were co-opted to replace them. Barbara Hepplewhite deserves particular thanks, she served as a Councillor for nearly 20 years, she was extremely hard working and an awful lot of major initiatives would just not have happened without her determined input. She is great miss, however, she continues to work hard for residents as part of Coxhoe History Group.
Sadly, as I write this I learn that Cllr Keith Pounder passed away in May 2020. Keith served as a Councillor for Quarrington Hill for 15 years and represented the village with passion and determination. Keith offered critical challenge on many issues to make sure that the Council performed effectively.
It has been another very busy year for the Council and next year promises to be every bit as challenging as we look to deliver on initiative in progress. I hope that you will agree that the Council continues to work hard to improve our villages.
Stuart Dunn, Coxhoe Parish Council Chair
Councillor Kay Simpson (Vice-Chair)
Councillor Ian Armstrong
Councillor Darren Brown
Councillor Nathan Brown
Councillor Adrian Hedley
Councillor Wendy Lavelle
Councillor Kim Lowes
Councillor Colin Thirlaway