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 Great Blakenham Chairmans Report Annual Parish Meeting Thursday 9th May 2024

Welcome to the 2024 Annual Parish Meeting and thank you for attending. It’s fair to say that the impact of Covid, Brexit and the war in the Ukraine is creating difficulties in the UK. The cost of living is too high for most of the population, so it was a difficult decision to raise our precept for the years 2024 to 2025. It’s the first time we’ve increased it for 6 years. For a Band D home this meant an increase of £61.09 or 3.29%

Our strict financial control and ensuring we get the best value for any projects we undertake. In summary we started the year with £215,610, we finished the year with £202,557 and total outgoings were £73,847, the additional funds came via the precept and CIL monies, more detailed information will be reviewed in the meeting following this one). Whilst this might seem a large amount, it ensures your parish council can remain viable for 6 months with no additional income. Included in that figure are the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) monies that are assigned to projects (a tentative figure is around £80,000, TBC at the following meeting), the 3 major ones are for 24/25 are, improvements to our Village Hall, the Crown Bowls Club and the playground and picnic site in Barham and hopefully in the near future a new Pre-School serving Great Blakenham, Claydon and Barham.

It may not have hit the news yet but there is a strong commitment from central government to fund and build a new Medical Practice somewhere in between Great Blakenham and Needham Market, at last alleviating the volume that’s being carried by the current practice in Needham Market.

I’d like to give my fellow councilors a well-deserved thank you. We couldn’t do what we do without willing candidates to stand and help support the parish.

Our County Councillor Chris Chambers has been a stalwart with all matters relating to Suffolk Highways, he continues to get support for the flooding that occurs around the parish, and I’ll buy him a pint or two when the area around the rail crossing remains dry after heavy rain. Regarding flooding, I’m aware of a planned works to resurface all of Chapel Lane and improve the drainage, just awaiting a date for the works to begin. District Councilor Adrienne Marriot had settled well into the role in her first year and is very supportive with all district matters.

As of March 2024, there were 1926 names listed on the electoral roll for our parish (obviously we have around 50% more living here). We are now aware of a possible development on the land opposite JT Few. No application has been submitted yet, again there is a cloud over any possible impact on the allotments.

The allotments are doing well, only a couple of vacancies which were awaiting commitment on. If you want an allotment reach out to Karen our clerk and register.

We’re still awaiting final confirmation on the “Water Meadows” over the small bridge at the end of Mill Lane. It seems this land has been part of planning chess and the delays have been passed down the line. The main cause was a major delay to Phase 3 of Port 1 planning application by BMSDC.

We still struggle to get traction on open space projects, the north side of Hackneys Corner is looking better with daffodils and tulips and 4 replacement trees planted. Later this year we have a meeting with the bio-diversity officer for BMSDC to discuss further improvements. We are also looking at the land west of Bugden’s on Hackneys Corner to see if we can improve the area to benefit wildlife. Of course, you can all do your bit by leaving an area of your garden for wildlife, let the grass grow, sow wildflower seeds, put in a small pond or bird bath. We’ve ordered and received hedgehog tunnels to promote movement through gardens and green areas, if you fancy helping this declining species, again ask our clerk for information, they fix on the bottom of a fence panel and form a solid arch.

Suez has hit a new record producing power from waste, in 2023, they processed 294,607 tonnes of waste, this generated 185,144 MWatt hours of electricity which powered 52,243 homes. Which saved 22,142 tonnes of fossil fuel, they also spent £681,135 with Suffolk suppliers. They should be commended for their engagement with the parish and local authorities, they do set the benchmark for local support and engagement. Unfortunately, last year our resident peregrines had a bit of a problem with one of the fledglings didn’t survive, hoping this year is a happier one, it demonstrates how nature adapts and wildlife can be supported in modern industrial areas. As well as the falcons, they have a nice wildflower area, beehives, and a large pool of water (for firefighting) which has its own inhabitants, ducks, dragonflies and damselflies. Thanks to Suez for designing its plant with environmental benefits in mind.

We’ve exhausted sites for Dog Waste bins, but it does sadden me when I see dog waste only feet away from a waste bin. Please can owners of dogs, clear it up and bin it. Our litter pickers can fill 6 large black bins with waste and rubbish from around the village, again please dispose of your rubbish correctly. We’ve had the new hi-visibility lighting installed at the zebra crossing on Stowmarket Road. The two poles have been installed for the Speed Indication Devices; installation should be imminent.

We saw a change in the village last year with a whole new committee taking over the Village Hall and Playing Field charity. I have to say the drive and commitment shown by the new committee is fabulous, they all have the village at the heart of their plans, pop along to one of the social events for the parishioners and have a chat. Your parish council is very engaged with the improvements and the committee. It was nice to see the bar at the hall have a revamp and being officially named as “Lockwoods” after the decades of service by Doris & Derek.

There is a new test waste incinerator being installed next to the landfill site, new technology burning waste with no flame, sounds very interesting and has little or no impact to the village or its traffic.

We have continued to maintain a good presence on social media which helps us to get messages out where possible as well as our own website. What we are looking for is how to raise our engagement with the parishioners, any ideas are always welcome.

As always, we are looking for more councilors, we have three vacancies (at time of writing) if you wish to join a friendly team, with a desire to improve the parish think about asking our clerk for details.

Kindest Regards

Steve Plume Chair for Great Blakenham Parish Council