Perhaps you have an image in your mind; worthy people sitting around talking, the great and the good pontificating to hear the sound of their own voices, or something out of the Vicar of Dibley.
In a small rural parish, being a Parish Councillor is entirely practical; getting your hands dirty and your feet wet. Ascott has its own challenges distinct from the rest of the Wychwoods; our geography and geology, a small settlement in a steep valley running alongside the river and the Coldwell Brook, constantly on a knife edge with regard to flooding.
This year we have fought, once again, developments that we believe would harm the village by increasing flood risk, affecting the already overloaded sewerage system or adding traffic at the hot spots in the village. Finding locations where it is safe to develop is a real problem (Ascott has doubled in housing since the 1970s). Fighting inappropriate development takes huge amounts of time and effort, sometimes requiring fifty-page responses of evidence and calling on legal advice. Representing the village and its interests in the face of huge landowners and developers is a tremendous challenge. These concerns, particularly flooding and development, are being pulled together, after wide consultation, in our Neighbourhood Plan.
But, most of the work is the day-to-day practical stuff that keeps the village safe. Whether checking and clearing drainage ditches, pulling debris out of pipework, strimming back vegetation to allow flood water to drain through or lines of sight for traffic, putting up signs to encourage drivers to take care especially near the school and preschool, keeping our emergency plan up to date, recruiting volunteers, cutting back ivy, tending the playing fields, repairing vandalism, dealing with diversions and road closures. Maybe not too exciting, but all very necessary. Dog poo bins matter!
This is a new Parish Council. Three of the five councillors joined this year and, of course, we are all volunteers. As a newly appointed Chair, my best achievement this year? Finding such willing, able and talented councillors to work alongside me.
Brian Leach, Chair, Ascott under Wychwood Parish Council
February – March 2022