The Annual Meeting of Cold Ash Parish – April 2021

The Cold Ash Annual Parish Meeting (APM) took place on 22nd April 2021. Although the APM is set up and run by Cold Ash Parish Council (CAPC) it is, in fact, a parishioner meeting that aims to celebrate the successes of the last year and debate local issues in the community. The nature of the meeting was influenced by COVID and legislative restriction on when it needs to be held. It is for these reasons that the meeting was held via videoconference, which wasn’t ideal, but it was felt that it would be better than not holding one at all, which is what happened last year. Attendance at the meeting was however lower than when we hold meetings face-to-face, with only 13 parishioners joining it. Let’s hope that we’re back to face-to-face meetings…. and cheese and wine… from next year.

The meeting was opened by Richard Marsh, CAPC Chairman, who provided a summary of what has been going on in the parish over the last 24 months. He also highlighted that there would be a number of non-binding polls during the meeting. The aim of these is to get a sense of where parishioners would like the Parish Council to focus on over the next year. It was acknowledged that that the low number of attendees meant that we’re dealing with a very small sample size and that the results could well be unrepresentative of the views across the parish as a whole. Therefore, the results will only be used as an indicator and further work will be undertaken to firm up on the proposals (for information: CAPC are currently investigating options to increase the opportunities for parishioners to provide their views on ideas and proposals that come forward).

This was followed with a presentation from Cllr Ivor McArdle on the work that has been going on in the Wildlife Allotment Garden over the last year, highlighting the clearance, tree planting and other enhancements that have been made to the site. Particular mention was made of the Community Tree Planting Day that was a joint activity between the Cold Ash Greening Group and CAPC and was one of the most successful events of the year, in the parish.

Cllr Peter Adams then provided an update on what has been going on with the Neighbourhood Development Plan. He highlighted the current status of the plan and the fact that the emerging preferred site, coming out of the site selection activity, is CA10 (the site currently owned by Sims Metal Management and Passey & Sons Butchers, in Manor Park).

Peter introduced a poll on the question: ‘In principle, from what you’ve heard, do you support CA10 as the preferred development site for our parish? The results were:

Yes  82%    /    No  0%   /   Dont Know  18%

Cllr Richard Hanks did a presentation on Public Rights of Way and the work the Parish Council has been doing on this over the last year. This is a very topical subject, as West Berkshire Council is currently undertaking a strategic review in this area. There was a good discussion on the Footpath Marshall proposal, which centred mainly around the name of the role. It was agreed that this would be considered further. 

Richard put forward a number of ideas CAPC has had on the subject and a number of polls were taken, the results of which were:

Q1 – Are you supportive of CAPC looking to lead proactive action on our parishes PROWs?

Yes – 100%

Q2 – Are you supportive of us trying to establish a team of Footpath Marshalls?                          ​

Yes – 89%   /   No – 5%  /  Don’t Know – 5%  

Q3 – Would you be prepared to volunteer as a Footpath Marshall?                     

Yes – 42%  /   No – 37%  /  Don’t Know 21%    

Q4 – Would you be prepared to volunteer to join a team of Footpath Volunteers?                       ​

Yes – 47%   /   No – 26%    / Don’t Know – 26%  

Q5 – Would you support CAPC in allocating budget to the Footpath Volunteer initiative?​

Yes – 79%   / No – 5%   /  Don’t know – 16%  

Overall, this was a very positive set of responses with a majority of attendees being supportive of taking proactive action, including providing some funding, and a good proportion of attendees indicating that they’d consider getting involved in the initiatives.

Cllr Marie Fenner did a presentation on Biodiversity; what it is and why it’s important. She then introduced a Biodiversity Toolkit that contained 26 things that can be done locally to improve biodiversity. Marie proposed that we start off in a small way by reviewing our hedge cutting and grass mowing policies. ​

Marie ran a poll to get views on a number of questions, the results of which were:

Q1 – Do you support CAPC taking a ‘Biodiversity-friendly’ approach to managing the parishes assets?​

Yes – 100%  

Q2 – Do you support a change to our mowing policy? ​

Yes – 76%   /   No – 0%    /  Don’t Know – 24%  

Q3 – Do you support a change to our hedgerow cutting policy? ​

Yes – 62%  /   No – 10%    /  Don’t Know – 29%  

Q4 – Would you like us to explore other options in the Biodiversity Toolkit? ​

Yes – 90%   /   No – 0%    /    Don’t Know – 10%  

The results showed a strong level of support to moving towards a more ‘Biodiversity-Friendly’ approach to how we manage our parish. 

Abi Layton, who is the Leader of the 1st Cold Ash Brownies & 1st Cold Ash Rangers,then gave a presentation on their year. Her presentation was entitled ‘Still going strong in 2021’, which summed up the success she and her team have had in maintaining engagement and activities during lockdown. She outlined how this had been achieved and gave examples of the activities they’d undertaken. 

Cllr Richard Marsh drew the presentations to a close by thanking all of the groups of volunteers and service providers (pubs, post office, etc) for the service they give to the parish, which has been particularly important during lockdown. He gave special mention to the COVID Support Group, who’s contribution to the parish was recognised through the West Berkshire Community Champions Support Scheme, and the War Memorial Action Group, for their work in securing the funding and managing the restoration of the war memorial in St Mark’s churchyard.

The meeting concluded with a Q&A, with questions being raised on the future NDP referendum, speeding, parking outside St Finian’s School and the position of Woodland Leaves. Responses were provided by Cllr Silsby, District Cllr Simpson and Cllr Fenner.

Here’s looking forward to an enjoyable and fulfilling year and let’s hope we can meet face-to-face for our 2022 Annual Parish Meeting.

Copies of all of the presentations are available below:

The draft minutes are available on the following page.