Coldest site meeting ever

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On Thursday 6th December, Councillor Kirkman and I attended a site meeting in the car park of the Loughton Sports & Social Club to discuss the parking implications of the expansion of Loughton Manor First School. The temperature was -5 degrees celsius! This was a factor which may have curtailed the discussion somewhat.

There were 3 representatives from Milton Keynes Council plus Lizzie Bancroft (Headteacher of Loughton Manor First School) and Rachael Parkin (Chair of Governors), and Neil – Secretary of the Loughton Sports and Social Club.

We discussed the draft plans for the car park which will be upgraded as part of the planning application for the expansion of the school. The expansion will now go ahead if they can get planning permission.

There will be additional pressure on the parking facilities if the expansion goes ahead and the upgrading of the car park is part of that. I am pleased that the plans have been upgraded to provide additional safety features. Milton Keynes Council is paying for the works which will included fixing the collapsed drains which currently turn the car park into a swimming pool at times of rain. The Parish Council will take over responsibility for maintaining the car park in due course and MK Council have agreed to pay £10k as a reserved sum against future maintenance costs. It seems unlikely much money has been invested in the maintenance of the car park in the last 30 years, so hopefully this will not be a particularly arduous responsibility.

The Club premises itself and the field has also lacked investment. I am hoping we can improve the quality of the grass with some additional care and potentially install a cricket pitch. Every village should have at its heart a cricket pitch and team – and it would be wonderful to see it back in Loughton again. The inside of the club could potentially do with an upgrade too; the changing rooms for example don’t seem to have had any attention for a very long time. It would be good to upgrade the facilities to a modern standard.

The school will suffer considerable dusruption if the Parish Council makes a formal objection to the planning application. I think I am persuaded there is no point in doing so. We discussed the possibility of additional parking spaces outside the school too but the cost of this seems prohibitive. There are services to move and the cost of this is at least £50k alone, as well as the cost of going into the bank and building a wall. If we don’t object the application can be expedited. Much depends however on whether local residents contact us about concerns when the planning application is advertised, and the overall conclusion of the full Parish Council. We shall see – but I hope we can minimise disruption for the school and it will be good to see them in their larger facilities next year.

A further thought occurred to me at this meeting. There is something in common between Neil, Secretary of the Club, Rachael, Chair of Governors of the school and Simon and I – Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Parish Council. That is that we are all serving our communities unpaid and as volunteers. The role of the volunteer is just as key in fact as the role of the professional – the Headteacher and the Officers from MK Council. I am no great David Cameron fan and this is not his doing; but there is already an army of people in this country who serve it as volunteer – whether as a Scout group leader or a football coach or a member of a school parents association. The roles these people play are crucial in making our local communities a better place. These roles are not driven by market forces – they are driven by altruism although they are often rewarding other than in monetary terms. Where Cameron was right, I think, was saying that these roles are important. I think he was on to something there.

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