Annual Report 2023-2024

Annual Report 2023-2024

Parish Council Chair Maureen Caton provides an update and overview of some of the work of the Stansted Mountfitchet Parish Council over the last year.

As I write my report I am conscious we have achieved some of our aspirations, but also acknowledge that others are still works in progress.

Potholes & station staffing

We have all experienced the lack of joined up working by Essex Highways on our local roads. We worked with others and ultimately were able to get some of the decisions that had created unnecessary delays and diversions reversed. This, along with the pothole issue—which remains a focus for answers from Essex County Council on the expenditure in Stansted—must be addressed.

Along with our local District Councillor for the North, we successfully supported the local campaign to retain the staffing levels at our railway station.

Peacock Pharmacy & TouchPoint Partnership

We were also a key advocate in the appeal—which was successful—to grant the Peacock Pharmacy a dispensing licence. We continue to work with our partners at the surgery to provide additional services and a collection access point here at Crafton Green for our residents in the North—since the decision by Boots to close over 200 smaller premises, including Stansted’s on Cambridge Road.

We continue to partner with TouchPoint to promote services to benefit our community and congratulate them on their continued success and achievements in securing grant funding to promote the gradual transformation of our Day Centre and Crafton Green House. Other than helping TouchPoint by organising and funding repairs to the Day Centre and adjoining buildings, the Parish Council agreed to lease Crafton Green House to the organisation. Handing over the keys to both buildings will open more doors (excuse the pun) for TouchPoint to run and expand its service provision to the community.

Finding room for almshouses

You will be very aware that we have been in search of and exploring potential sites for the re-provision of the Fuller-Maitland Almshouses, previously sited on Church Road. Due to a lack of available appropriate sites, Legacy East Almshouse Partnership, who are the managers of the fund, have made the decision to begin negotiations on the purchase of a house within Stansted to ensure the funds are retained for our community’s benefit. We do not have the detail of these negotiations at the time of writing, but more information should be available by the time of the Annual Parish Meeting.

Sticking up for residents...

Additional cemetery land is still required and is now becoming more urgent, and so remains an ongoing focus in discussions on community benefits with planners and developers. Our relationship with Uttlesford District Council (UDC) planning officers—to promote and gain community benefits where land has been agreed for development—has improved and we hope appropriate land can be made available in future negotiations.

SMPC has sought legal advice in relation to Gigaclear’s siting of “the box” on Five Acres without our permission. The advice was to informally negotiate rather than begin a costly legal challenge with a probable negative outcome as the utility cannot be feasibly moved. A meeting with residents, Gigaclear and ourselves will have taken place before the Annual Parish Meeting to hopefully promote an acceptable outcome for all concerned.

Amplifying the voice of local business

UDC will have completed a consultation on car parking access and charging by the middle of March. Local businesses, the Stansted Business Forum and the recently re-established Economic Development Working Group (EDWG), have robustly questioned the proposed doubling of charges—we await the final outcome. The EDWG works closely with Business Officers from Uttlesford Council and has promoted their drop-in sessions at SMPC offices at the Mountfitchet Exchange for local businesses to get support to apply for grants.

…& helping younger residents have their say

We realise that we need to invest in our youth and you will hear at the Annual Parish Meeting about the exciting projects that are planned for the young people attending our Youth Club provision. Our Youth Council has become energised with the support of staff and pupils at Forest Hall School. The group’s Chairman will give a brief outline of some of the projects and ideas they wish to pursue. The Youth Council is helping to promote the needs and interests of the young people in the community and gives our young councillors the experience, skills and competencies they will be able to utilise in their working lives.

Support for climate group bears fruit

Within the focus on Climate Change, Sustainable Stansted will commission a biodiversity study if the outcome of their grant application to UDC ‘s Zero Carbon Fund is successful. Meanwhile, the council has selected two sites for meadow flower planting—the land surrounding the north knight sign at the junction of High Lane and Cambridge Road, and the two grassed areas at the junction of Pennington Lane and Rainsford Road. Sustainable Stansted is now in its second year which is itself an achievement. Apart from setting up and establishing a Facebook page, a number of initiatives have been started. Articles are published in The Link and The Flyer every month. A leaflet on energy saving has been delivered to all households and presentations made. Looking ahead the group hope to identify and lobby with others for safe cycle routes in Stansted.

Flicking the switch to part-night lighting

The programme to convert the majority of the street lights owned by the Parish Council to LED has progressed successfully. The expectation is that this will result in less maintenance and with a minimum energy saving of 40%. The introduction of part-night lighting to some areas will produce further savings, which cannot be calculated until we agree the new contract in September.

Shepherding the NDP nearer to completion

Having received input from UDC officers on our draft Neighbourhood Development Plan, we are now putting the final touches to it to ensure that our policies and objectives are sufficiently robust to withstand an Inspector’s review.

Working with nearby councils to fight boundary changes

I will be able to update you on discussions held with Elsenham and Henham Parish Council Chairs in relation to this Parish Council’s response to the Boundary Commission following proposals from ECC to realign Stansted with the rural wards to the west of the district. These include Langley, Elmdon, Wendens Loft and Chrishall—all within the sphere of Saffron Walden influence and no connection with wards along the A120 corridor. If agreed, the impact of such a change would be significant in relation to issues such as HGV traffic up and down Grove Hill.

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