Minutes of the Annual Parish Assembly
held on Friday 12 May 2023 at Litton and Thorner's Community Hall


Present: Bill Orchard (Chairman); Quentin Blacke; John Firrell; Andy King; Andrew Price; Maggie Walsh (Clerk).  Also in attendance: Chris Loder MP and 23 local residents


1.     Apologies: Bella Spurrier; Cllr Mark Roberts

2.     Chairman’s review of the year


Councillor Bill Orchard, Chairman, welcomed everyone to the meeting and provided a review of Parish Councillors’ work throughout the year.

He began by outlining the importance of Parish Councils as the first tier of local government: the work they perform makes a difference in local communities and influences decisions made by higher tiers of government: Litton Cheney Parish Council regularly met with, and were listened to by, Dorset Council’s representatives.

DC consulted Litton Cheney PC on Planning Applications in its area and the PC could influence how decisions were made and what decisions were taken: as it had in the Litton Lakes application.

Every PC meeting included Democratic Time, where residents could highlight issues and ask questions – raising important issues with the PC was more effective than starting a thread on social media.

The Parish now had a flood warden: a network of residents was planned to help prevent, or respond to flooding, leading up to and during extreme weather events.

Cllr Orchard ended by thanking the Premier Crew and John Firrell for their remarkable contribution to the Parish. He then asked each of the other Parish Councillors to give a brief summary of their responsibilities and contribution during the year.

Cllr King held responsibility for the playground, recreation field and allotments.  The allotments were well maintained and attended and there was a waiting list for plots.  The grass in the field and allotments was cut by Dorset Council. The PC had agreed in principle to reinstate the large goalposts, subject to receipt of some information from those who had requested them. Sadly, the Big Help Out at the playground had to be postponed due to the weather and ground conditions but he had been encouraged by the number of volunteers and would reschedule over 2 days on 27 May and 3 June.  There had been no recurrence of vandalism but there were intermittent instances of dog fouling.  The PC would welcome suggestions from playground users over what equipment should replace the climbing frame as its ropes were worn and it would be prohibitively expensive to replace them.

Cllr Firrell represented the PC on various external bodies.  The Premier Crew volunteers were always quick to help, including litter picking, and DC Waste Partnership usually promptly removed any waste.  The Queen’s Bench by the Jubilee Hut was a credit to all involved: Philip Dyke (design); Russell Randall (construction); Steve Elliot (stone work); Paul Kingston (historical research).  A village map was being designed and would be mounted on the wall.

Cllr Price held responsibility for liaising with DC on highway matters.  HGVs continued to cause problems.  One option being considered was a weight limit on Whiteway, which would force National Highways to erect signage on the A35.  Chris Loder, MP had been diligently pursuing this matter. There seemed to be no prospect of any road improvements in the village, other than continued patching. The PC had received advance notice of a closure affecting Looke Lane in July.

Cllr Blacke monitored footpaths and administered the Community Bench scheme.  During the past year, new benches had been erected in Chalk Pit Lane, Pins Knoll and the Vineyard, with a further bench planned for the Vineyard.  Please let Cllrs Blacke or Spurrier know of any footpath obstructions such as electric fences or ploughing.

3.     Chris Loder, MP attended to speak and answer questions

Cllr Orchard introduced Chris Loder and thanked him for attending.

Chris Loder thanked the PC for inviting him and said that he wanted to hear what those attending felt most passionate about and invited questions.  He provided information and/or answered questions on the following:

Working week in Westminster he had been Parliamentary Private Secretary for the Department of Environment, Food & Rural for just over one month, which had given him greater insight into environmental challenges.

A35 Good progress had been made improving safety and signage on the A35.  There now existed a strategic focus that had not previously existed.  A connectivity study had looked at the area between the M4 and the south coast and he hoped improvements to the A37 would reduce traffic on the A35.

Enforcement of 30mph speed limit: in his experience, a ‘community speed watch team’ was the most effective way of enforcing speed limits

There were a number of footpaths and bridleways that ended at the A35: there was no easy answer for this. Bridges and tunnels were prohibitively expensive and walking alongside the A35 would be unsafe.

Rural funding: his top priority was to increase funding and access to services for rural areas, which typically fared less well than urban areas.  Dorset County Hospital had secured £65m and Kingston Maurward £3.5m.

Water companies discharging sewage: monitoring and reporting was now 91% compared to 7% 6-7 years ago: the problem was therefore far more visible. The system had been designed to allow discharge only in emergencies and water companies could now be held to account, with far more punitive penalties.  He felt that Wessex Water did not have a grip on discharges and that the problem was greater than had been believed. He had established a Clean Waters Action Group to cover a large tranche of the coast.  He was disappointed that the situation had become a political issue and felt his position had been misrepresented.

Children living in poverty  Many factors affected poverty. Dorset Council Tax was amongst the highest in the country and he constantly tried to challenge Government investment in rural areas.

Migrant barge at Portland: Portland Port had agreed with the Home Office to take 500 single men in their late 20s and most would stay there no more than 3-4 months. Most of their time would be spent on board with 4-5 hours ashore on a rotational basis.  The proposal was for the barge to remain there for 18 months.  He did not think Portland Port was the right place but if it had to happen, it needed to be managed properly.  He found the situation regrettable but, with the number of migrants crossing the channel, he felt the situation was inevitable. He stressed the difference between genuine and economic refugees and said the UK had done a large amount for refugees in genuine need.  He therefore supported the Government’s Illegal Immigration Bill.

Availability of housing for local people and appropriateness of planning permissions for large/luxury dwellings in rural villages that were likely to be brought by outsiders: Government housing targets no longer applied.  He did not subscribe to the policy that housing should be based in fewer, larger developments but instead believed that small numbers of modest houses, spread around smaller towns and villages would better sustain rural life.  Community Land Trusts were a good way forward and he would personally like to see planning policy do more to support local people.

Large HGVs using narrow roads through the Bride Valley. Many were driven by foreign drivers, unfamiliar with rural roads and properties and grass verges were being damaged: The PC had been doing everything possible to find a solution.  He had been working with local councils and National Highways as well as the company responsible for many of the lorry movements.  Several meetings were planned. He didn’t have a solution but was happy to try to help.

Journey time and cost of fares to London: The track from Dorchester South to London was winding and slow, with many stations.  This restricted the number of trains, which in turn increased fares due to supply and demand. Much of the line from Poundbury to Thornford had been upgraded and he was seeking further improvements on the line from Dorchester West via Yeovil, which would reduce journey times to 2:15 and allow increased numbers of trains to operate. He felt that much work was being undertaken to repurpose disused railway lines for cyclists and pedestrians, although this was not always publicised.

Cllr Orchard thanked Chris Loder for his candid answers.

4.     Community Infrastructure Levy

Developers constructing new houses were required to pay a “Community Infrastructure Levy” (CIL) towards infrastructure.  The PC received 15% of this payment, but were restricted with regard to how the money could be spent.  For example, it could be used to buy new equipment such as playground equipment (all ages) or benches, but not to reduce the Precept. Improvements to a footpath linking the school to the church was suggested.  Please contact the Parish Clerk or speak to any Parish Councillor with any suggestions.

5.     Open floor: this was an opportunity for local residents to raise matters they wished to bring to the attention of the Parish Council and/or other residents:

·         No additional matters were raised however, Freddie Spicer thanked the Chairman and the PC for all the work they undertook on behalf of the village

6.    The Chairman finished by reminding those present that PC elections would be held next May.  A number of existing Parish Councillors were likely to stand down.  If insufficient villagers stepped forward to stand for the Parish Council and a quorum was not achieved, there would be no Parish Council: all decisions would revert to DC and local residents would have no voice. Being a Parish Councillor was not too onerous and he encouraged those present to give some thought to standing, or encouraging others to do so. Any of the existing Parish Council would be happy to answer any questions on an informal basis.

Meeting closed

Maggie Walsh
Parish Clerk