Kennington Community Council's Chair Addresses Annual Assembly
Posted on 25th May 2023 at 08:22
COUNCIL CHAIR’S ADDRESS TO ANNUAL ASSEMBLY 2023
Good evening and welcome. Thank you for coming this evening to the Kennington Annual Assembly. I would like to introduce those of at the front.
You have copies available of the annual report of Kennington Community Council and this will soon be available online. It provides details of the activities of the Council for the past year. I will mention just a few highlights and give a view on the coming year, before taking any questions you may have.
It takes time to get things done – taking the decision is only the first step in many cases. But this year we have seen the fruits of the previous three years’ efforts. Two magnificent new play areas have been installed by ABC in Rylands Road and on Spearpoint playing fields- The Ridge as many of us know.
When the Council was formed, there was one public access defibrillator available in Kennington, thanks to the foresight of the Kennington Women’s Institute. The Council originally planned to install 3 more and budgeted for this. Thanks to partnerships with Ashford Borough Council, the Co-op and One Stop, who paid installation costs on their sites, we have installed 5. We plan one more in the redundant phone box acquired from BT. We are encouraging the developer on Conningbrook Park to install one on the outside of the new Bowls Club. We will listen to any proposals if residents think there are significant gaps in the network but do not plan more after the phone box.
We now have the 20 is plenty speed limit in force in the Bybrook Road-Pasture zone, complete with a raised table on the pedestrian crossing. Our friends in Speedwatch will help to monitor compliance and, if necessary, we will request a police presence to ensure enforcement.
Last summer we undertook a series of engagement activities in Bockhanger Square including the Big Tidy in which we began repainting the concrete balls. One activity was training to use a defibrillator and we aim to repeat that training session across Kennington this year.
We put a lot of effort this year into devising alternatives to ABC’s housing-led scheme to develop a Community Facility on Bockhanger Square. The response rate to the public consultation was not encouraging and certainly not representative of the population. As a result, the Council has decided to favour replacement of the previous facility by something comparable in size and, as soon as we know the new Leader of the Borough Council, we shall be writing to ask them to agree to meet the majority of the cost of this. We are also constantly looking for sources of grants towards the cost.
We finally took transfer of the Bybrook and Burton Allotment sites from ABC. They were not well maintained and one in eight plots were vacant. As well as losing out in income for these plots, it meant that neighbouring allotment holders suffered with weeds spreading onto their plot. These were all quickly let and we have a very quick turn-around when there are new departures – over a single weekend in one case. This has benefitted those who have spent years on the waiting list. The Community Council decided to increase rents to reduce the subsidy paid by other council taxpayers. We still have preferential rates – a 50 per cent reduction – for the 25 per cent of holders who enjoyed concessions under ABC.
Looking ahead to the coming year, we have started traffic surveys on Ulley/Canterbury/Faversham to establish traffic patterns and speeds and assess whether there is a case for a 20mph limit in that area, which surrounds two schools.
We are not finished on play areas. Together with ABC ward members, past and present, we shall improve the Little Burton play area, especially for smaller children. The Council is also considering action at others eg Bybrook Road, in conjunction with ABC and other ward members.
We have the ambition to set up a Youth Council and to identify actions necessary to make Kennington a dementia friendly parish and we need to think about more community engagement projects in coming year e.g. litter picking – we have purchased the equipment.
The Council has also determined that an allotment plot should be improved in a 3 year project, in which we hope local GPs will partner us by prescribing gardening for suitable patients.
The War Memorial renovation should at last see the repairs starting when we get the go ahead and grant from the War Memorials Trust.
We have renewed our own grant schemes, including the new one which supports start up societies introducing a new club or class in Kennington. The main scheme permits grants of up to £5,000 for non-recurring costs and an organisation can make two applications in any three year period. There are several represented today that have already benefitted from grants. But we do not spend the full allocated budget, so do not be afraid to discuss an application with Deborah, me or any councillor. We are always on the look out for good projects to benefit residents.
Before I finish, I want to say a word about the staff position. This time last year we had taken on an Assistant Clerk two days a week to try and relieve the workload on our Clerk, Deborah Prior. That didn’t entirely work out and he decided that council work was not for him. We have been trying to recruit ever since. This has left a very heavy burden on Deborah, without whom the Council would, frankly, collapse. So I want to go on record and thank her personally and publicly.
How much we can achieve in the coming year depends on people. The Council is not a magic or automatic machine. The Council is not a remote body, like the Parliament. We meet here and we are people just like you.
9 people stood as candidates this month, which is 50 per cent up on the number in 2019. In June, we hope to co-opt to fill the 7 vacancies. There is no reason why anyone here should not put their name forward to become a councillor. If that sounds too much of a commitment, you could become a non-councillor member of a committee or simply attend some of our meetings and ask questions or put forward ideas from the public seats.
What we can achieve will depend how many councillors and others are involved and how much time they are able to commit to Council business.
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