The main object of the January meeting was, as always, to consider applications for grants from local charities, clubs and associations, and to set the budget for the coming year. All councillors present declared any interest that they might have with regards to any application e.g. membership of a club, and therefore did not vote when that application was considered.

A total sum of £25,950 was set aside for grants for the upcoming year to improve the life of those in Backwell requiring support as well as for some appropriate leisure activities, again for Backwell Residents to enjoy.

The precept i.e. the amount which the Parish Council will collect from residents via the Council Tax to fund normal business including grants, was set at £131,795.68, a rise of just over 1% on the previous year. The rise was in part due to the reduction in the grant allocation from North Somerset Council NSC).

Expenditure for the month of December 2017 included repairs at the Moor Lane playground, and for fence repairs at Oatfield to maintain the high level of safety for children playing in those areas.

The Council were full of praise for everyone involved in publicizing the consultation period for the Joint Spatial Plan( JSP). Villagers had written well over a hundred letters of objection. For the future, the Parish Council, Backwell Residents’ Association and Backwell Resistance are working together with a solicitor and planning expert, preparing Backwell’s response to the JSP and strongly arguing that it is not fit for purpose. The group is also seeking an environment or construction expert to comment on the proposed link road.

With regard to new housing issues in the village other than at Grove Farm, Councillors heard that Taylor Wimpey (TW) had yet to supply their proposals for the mix of housing at Moor Lane. Councillors have worked tirelessly to try to ensure that TW’s plans meet villagers’ needs as set out in the Neighbourhood Plan.  Councillors were also reminded that the decision on the ‘Farleigh Fields’ appeal was due on 18th January.

Great concern was expressed by Councillors at Bristol Airport’s apparent failure to leaflet all the households which could be affected by their expansion plans. Cllr Bob Taylor is to deliver the leaflets himself to ensure that Downside parishioners are kept fully informed. The Parish Council’s representative on the Airport’s Consultative Committee, Cllr Steve Mitchell, will press home the concerns of all those living nearby.

The Chairman thanked Cllr Bowerman for all her hard work which made the Senior Citizens’ and Chairman’s Party so very successful, as well as ‘Carols around the Crib’. As well the latter event giving all who attended a wonderful start to the Christmas season, over £170 was raised for the Children’s Hospice South West and Weston Hospice Care, Congresbury Brass Band’s charities of choice.

Councillors discussed five planning applications relating to building works. Three were unanimously supported. However the Parish Council understood and supported the concerns raised by residents in the vicinity of the other two proposed sites. They asked that NSC’s Planning Officer visit these sites before submitting any report, so that NSC’s Planning Committee can make a fully informed decision.

There are currently some difficulties being experienced when trying to access NSC’s Planning Portal. Villagers who wish to comment on a planning application may need to persevere

The next full Parish Council Meeting will be on Thursday, 1st February 2018 at 7.30pm in Backwell Parish Hall. All are welcome to attend.