Hellifield Parish Council

Chairman's Annual Report (May 2022 to May/July 2023)

 This is my report as Chairman of Hellifield Parish Council (HPC) for May 2022 to May 2023.

I do not propose to go through every item which has been placed before HPC in the last year which are all adequately covered and available in HPC meeting minutes on HPC’s website.

There are however various items and people worthy of mention:

Firstly it has not been an easy 12 months. Unfortunately at the end of the last Council a year ago, 6 out of seven Councillors decided it was time for them to retire from office, together with Mary Blackwell who had been HPC Clerk for 8 years. This resulted in considerable difficulties caused by this sudden and virtually complete exodus of man/woman power and the incumbent knowledge and skills that went with the departing Councillors and Clerk. I decided that given this situation I had to stay on to give some continuity and a knowledge base for the new Council although I did foresee that this would be difficult as has proved to be the case. 

The situation facing the new Council has been exacerbated by the fact that there are quite a number of requests and proposals from people for matters to be dealt with and addressed. Sadly the number of such proposals and requests for action are not matched by preparedness to give up time and also physically take part in the implementation of proposals and actions required. A number of attempts to fill some further Council places have taken place and are ongoing.

This brings me to my next point(s).

I would like to very sincerely thank Councillor Barry Hills for stepping into the vacuum left by the departure of all but one of the incumbent councillors at the end of the last council (Barry particularly for his work in seeing HPC playgrounds and equipment maintained in a safe functional and usable condition).

I also thank Mary Kenning for the year that she put in as a Councillor. Unfortunately Mary resigned by email 1 hour before the Annual Parish Meeting and the HPC meeting (both arranged for 18th May) with no notice and no reason given, then or since. This left HPC inquorate, unable to hold meetings or even approve the annual accounts.

I would also like to thank James Webb our village handyman for all his work around the village, and Simon Myers now our representative on the new unitary North Yorkshire Council (NYC) who has been very helpful to and supportive of HPC, as was Chris Moorby before his role was discontinued under the new local governance arrangements. Judgement is reserved on the effectiveness of the new NYC arrangements, whilst noting there has not yet so far as I understand even been a substantive planning meeting by the new authority.

I reserve special thanks for Julie Sleath, HPC’s new clerk who has dived head first into this role and certainly hit the ground running. It is my view that the fact that HPC has been able to function with any semblance of normality has been very largely due to Julie’s efforts and input. The Clerk and I live almost in the centre of the village (the last Clerk lived in Harrogate, not a bad idea) which seems to attract people attending our house unannounced up until around 9:00 p.m. It is good people feel they have access but not always entirely convenient!

Given that HPC has been operating with three Councillors and the Clerk, no new major projects have been undertaken during this last 12 months. It has been a case of trying to maintain the status quo as far as possible, and repairing and replacing as necessary rather than any earth shattering new projects. It is a tribute to my colleagues as already mentioned particularly Councillor Barry Hills and the Clerk to HPC, my wife Julie Sleath that by and large it has been business as normal.

Thanks to the various volunteers around the village who do planting and other tasks to make the village a more pleasant environment in which to live.

HPC has pressed (quite often successfully) for the usual road, pavement and street lighting repairs as required over the year (often with assistance from now NYC Councillor) Simon Myers. In addition, there have been some minor but practical improvements to the village:

A bench was sited and installed at the entrance to Hammerton Drive to commemorate the late Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee (installation work carried out free by Greg and his team from GT Builders, thank you Greg).

The HPC official noticeboard had become dilapidated to the point it was surprising it was still surviving and HPC has had this replaced with a splendid new one crafted by local master of wood Colin Ward.

A further new bench has been commissioned by HPC to commemorate the coronation of King Charles III and although this has now been delivered, due to various issues including illness on the part of more than one of our limited number of HPC Councillors this has not yet been sited/installed, this will hopefully be dealt with shortly.

One subject worthy of mention that is noticeable that local people will have seen on their council tax bills is that only one item has gone down, which is HPC’s share of the budget which if I recall correctly reduced by 2.1%.  

Various playground equipment, fencing etc has been repaired or replaced.

It is very regrettable that wanton vandalism continues to plague the village, particularly the playgrounds and equipment stored therein, and the underpass and bus shelter. This mindless damage is time consuming and expensive to rectify. 

All allotments are let and rents collected by the clerk.

The Christmas light switch on and event in the Village Hall (Institute) was as always extremely well supported. Thank you to the WI for catering at this event.

HPC has supported in a limited way the laudable Hellifield Herald which is run by volunteers and distributed free of charge to every household in the village.

HPC being unable to organise any event for the celebration of King Charles III’s coronation did again give limited financial support to an “open to all villagers” event held in the grounds of St Aidans Church.

Another organisation which benefits numerous local causes is the Hellifield Beer Festival. HPC were proud to nominate this organisation for an award in the closing legacy awards of Craven District Council, where recognition was given at CDC Closing presentation. Also, congratulations to PCSO Jayne Grace who was  recognised for her services to the Community at the Legacy awards event.

There are various charity reports. Representatives who are here will present their own reports, I will read any reports out for those not present.

I hope that the forthcoming Council year will be a successful one for HPC and the village generally. Anyone who feels that they could contribute by offering their services as a Councillor please feel free to contact the Clerk and consideration will be given to any valid application.

That concludes my annual report apart from the charity reports which will now follow.

P.S. Given that this report was written in May and we are now approaching the end of July, I would like to mention the following: Thanks again to Simon Myers, who has taken the temporary role as HPC Councillor to assist HPC in getting going again. Wayne Harding and Angie Pedley are stepping into the breach and being co-opted as Councillors which should leave HPC in a far better position going forward and thanks to them both in advance.  

Julian Sleath - Chairman of Hellifield Parish Council

Chairman's Annual Report (May 2022)

My report this year is slightly different to previous ones as it is my last final report as Chairman. Having being co-opted to the council in June 2003, becoming vice chair in 2004 and then chairman in 2005, I have seen a lot of improvements and achievements by the parish council during my reign of almost 19 years. Here is a summary of the more memorable ones:

  • Station Road playing field had a complete refurbishment with various funding, grants and 106 monies. MP Julian Smith opened it in September 2010
  • Both Station Road and Thorndale Street playgrounds have been well maintained with various new equipment installed (with huge input from former Cllr Bob Moore)
  • Flooding in the centre of the village became an issue, especially after the Hammerton estate was built. Meetings and pressure applied to Craven District Council led them to agree to pay for replacing a section of old culvert down the side of the Institute allowing surface water from the new houses to be piped into it further upstream. Unfortunately, it meant the public toilets had to be demolished.
  • CDC refurbished the car park and HPC liaised with them to maintain the grass, lighting and to keep it free of charge to use.
  • We have been consulted on a vast range of planning applications and I have attended many site visits and spoke at planning meetings & consulted about the parish boundary changes
  • Four years ago, we embarked u[on a street light upgrade programme to replace 57 parish street lights to LED due to their age and condition and to save electricity costs. Together with our clerk Mary we engaged NYCC along with Electricity NW and withs some input on my part, we completed the programme within budget and timescale. In fact, I connected the final new light on my last day as Chairman.
  • The Land on the Hammerton approach was transferred to HPC by the developers which enabled us to build a bus shelter. Recently I installed a light in the shelter following a spate of vandalism and arson.
  • The parish council provided hanging baskets and plants along with the troughs at either end of the underpass and the village markers. In addition, we have provided and installed the village Christmas tree and lights. Hard wiring was put place last year which will make installation in future years more straightforward. 
  • In my term I’ve attended 2 services for the licensing of new vicars for our parish – the latest being the Revd James Rodley who has recently joined us.
  • The War Memorial had a complete refurbishment and a very formal rededication service was organised by the British Legion.
  • Along with my vice chair, Cllr David Statt, we have attended the Annual Remembrance Service each year. Doing the readings, laying a wreath and reading the names on the War Memorial is a very moving experience which I feel very privileged to be part of.
  • We have organised 2 beacons on Haw Hill - thanks to the land owners for giving us their permission. I was very involved with both and pleased to say they were very well attended
  • The allotments have been maintained and well used and there is usually waiting list of villagers wanting one.
  • The parish council maintain the 16 benches around the village and replace them when necessary. The latest being a new bench to commemorate the Platinum Jubilee. The family of the late former councillor Lloyd Popay have also placed a bench in his memory down Back Lane.
  • Ex-councillor Bob Moore set up the village Emergency Plan in conjunction with NYCC. During the recent floods, councillors were monitoring the beck and flooding on the square.

I’ve worked with four different clerks in my term as Chairman and how things have changed in 19 years. My first clerk was the late Angela Lawson. Back then in 2003 Angela used to run round the village putting planning applications and correspondence through councillors’ doors for reading and passing on to the next councillor (who hopefully wasn’t away). And to where we are today with emails, WhatsApp and Zoom meetings in the pandemic, when our clerk did a fantastic job of getting every one online despite the limited technical ability of some of our councillors! 

On that note, I’d like to thank Mary our Clerk (who’s retiring soon after 8 years) who has really moved HPC forward on the technology and communication front and James our Handyman, who continues to keep our village clean and tidy. I’ve said it before, we are very fortunate to have such good employees, without them very little would have happened, so thank you both.

And finally, I’d like to thank all the parish councillors I’ve worked with and the other volunteers, without which our village wouldn’t be half the place it is.

I can’t name you all, but on behalf of Hellifield Parish Council, as outgoing Chairman, thank you all so much for your valued input and contributions, and I hope it continues for the new council. It’s been a privilege to have served the community for almost 19 years

And my best wishes to you all especially our new clerk Mrs Julie Sleath and the new councillors for the future challenges that lay ahead.

Brian Hugill

Chairman of Hellifield PC

June 2003- May 2022.