Minutes of the Annual Parish Meeting held 29th April 2019 at Somerford Park Farm
Present: Councillor G Bell who chaired the meeting, Councillor R Crookes, Councillor P Crompton, Councillor K Wainwright, Councillor S Hughes and the Clerk.
Public: 63 members of the public
Minutes: The minutes from 14th May 2018 had been circulated and were signed as a true and accurate record.
There was a minute’s silence in memory of Cllr Tony Swain who sadly passed away on 15th April 2019. Tony was 48 years of age and will be much missed by his wife and two sons. The Councillors thoughts and prayers are with them and his wider family.
Welcome from the Chairman;
The Chairman summarised the past twelve months and all the activity which had happened in Somerford. He presented a bouquet of flowers to thank Cllr K Wainwright for all her services to the Parish. She had decided to step down as a Parish Councillor after 28 years’ service.
The History of Somerford – Cllr P Crompton
There was an information leaflet/pack on the table if members wished to take it away and he would place it on the website. Astbury had dominated the area years ago due to the size of the church. It even over powered Congleton in size. Somerford was a township in the ancient parish of Astbury and became a civil parish in 1866. The geographical boundary that we know today as Somerford, is an amalgam of the two ancient parishes of Somerford and of Radnor, which became Somerford through a boundary change in 1895. As to the origins of the parish’s name it is easy to surmise as being a convenient place to cross the River Dane. According to the 2001 census, the population of the civil parish was 343, increasing to 430 at the 2011 Census. Somerford Park estate and the house were sold between 1926 / 1927. The house was demolished in 1927. Manchester Education Authority purchased the grounds and built a summer school and camp which opened in 1940. The school was fully equipped and staffed and had excellent facilities for 250 boys. In later years’ the camp was sold to Leeds City Council, who used it as a similar facility, but in 1959 they proposed to sell the land and the buildings to the Prison Commission as an open prison. This infuriated the residents of West Heath and the plans were defeated. All Saints Chapel, Somerford was built in 1725 as a domestic chapel to Somerford Hall by Sir Peter Shakerley, ostensibly because he had an argument with the Rector of Astbury. Since 1943 it has been a Chapel of Ease.
RSPB land – Ms Alex Frogatt
The excellent news is that the land had been confirmed as sold to a developer that day so progress could now commence as the monies would now be transferred to the Parish Council.
- The land was bequeathed to the RSPB by local resident, Mrs Lavinia Rhead. The former agricultural field was maintained annually by the RSPB but left fallow.
- The land is being donated by the RSPB for the creation of a nature park, which will benefit local wildlife and the people of Somerford.
- The RSPB has commissioned a local landscape designer to develop the designs for the nature park and will be contributing financially to its first phase of development, as well as some of the ongoing management costs.
- The designer, Alexandra Froggatt has extensive experience and knowledge in garden design and horticulture. She previously lived in Somerford and has been supplying design and consultancy at a reduced rate to support the project.
- To create a sustainable nature reserve which will provide a community space for local resident to enjoy and to provide a habitat for local wildlife.
- Features to improve the space include; paths, open lawn areas, new native plantings and bird boxes, benches and tree seats, a community orchard, decorative archways, timber animal structures and natural timber interactive play features.
- Planning permission has already been granted
- Additional funding sought from the New Homes Bonus Scheme
- Connectivity between residents, amenities and schools
- A green oasis in the centre of new housing developments: A place to meet and relax
- Natural play features to encourage children to engage with nature
- Community orchard
- Native plantings to enhance the environment and provide homes for wildlife
There would now be a meeting with the project manager for the RSPB as the current liaison manager had left and there would be a full consultation arranged.
Points raised by the public;
- Can the housing developers financially contribute?
- Please plant wildlife flowers in the project as they have disappeared from West Heath.
- Can the site have legal protection from developers? – protection by using the Neighbourhood Plan
- There is too much emphasis on play area as all the new housing estates have play areas in situ already, you should concentrate on the wildlife.
- There should be cycling racks on every entrance and an area available to help children to learn to cycle
- They would like scooters and motorbikes excluded
- Access to the site was questioned and if cars would be accommodated
- A resident said he wanted it just to happen and not be talked about as it was such a delightful idea.
- There was doubt the PC should rely on volunteers to upkeep the site as people were very busy.
- Keeping the hedges was important
Blackfirs Nature Reserve on Blackfirs Lane – Cllr R Crookes
Cheshire Wildlife Trust had taken ownership of this site as a bequest by Ms L Rhead. The PC had approached the CWT to ask for improvements as it had been neglected in recent years. There had been two meetings and some improvements to the site had been made this year. There was still concern in reference to the boundaries, especially the rear one adjacent to the housing development by David Wilson Homes.
CWT wished the Parish Council to take over the site and the following options were available: (i) to lease the site on a peppercorn rent and have full control or (ii) purchase it at a cost of just over £6K an acre = £13k or (iii) just leave the site with CWT. The Parish Council welcomed the thoughts of the parish.
- Don’t spend as much on the Rhead’s meadow and buy it
- Lease it and let them have the responsibility as the tree maintenance can escalate to thousands.
- There are no volunteers at the current time and if the PC took it over this would change
- It should be maintained with the RSPB
Congleton Link Road – Cllr G Bell
Everybody was aware the construction of the road had commenced, and the next twelve months would be very disruptive in Somerford. There had been a good relationship formed between the PC and the GRAHAM construction company and there were regular meetings being carried out to resolve issues as they happened. Overall, they had been very supportive, and Mr Dan Cawthra the Communications Manager was very helpful. Giantswood Lane was due to be closed this week and a diversion was in place. Sandy Lane was due to be closed form 28th May which would cause an immense amount of pressure on Box Lane especially at school times. The PC had tried to negotiate this closure, and they had delayed it from March, but it was due to close for the duration of the construction. There were drainage works being carried out and due to health and safety concerns there was no option but to close all access.
The black geo-textile barriers were to enable newts to be caught and relocated. Graham had received the licence on Friday last. The removable top soil was being utilised in other places to aid construction.
It was noted that there was a pedestrian access across the A54.
If there were any queries, please contact the PC and the details for GRAHAM were on the website.
A map was presented and there was a question and answer session
- There was a request for the Parish Council to support a speed reduction on Chelford Road and Blackfirs Lane.
- There was a request for the PC to support a footpath along Blackfirs Lane as it was unsafe for people to walk.
Meeting closed at 9.30 pm