Parish Council involvement in landscape management

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Brian Barton (Parish Clerk) and I attended another meeting today with Andy Hudson (Head of Environment and Waste at Milton Keynes Council) and John Price (Landscape Manager of MK Council) to discuss our involvement in managing the landscaping in the Parish.

Landscape management comprises the maintenance of those areas of land which falls under the responsibility of the Council (rather than others such as the Parks Trust or private owners). It includes grass cutting, shrub pruning and tree work not involving working at height. The Localism Act 2011 legislated to decentralise power to local communities including transferring assets and services. MK Council has invited the Parish to take over responsibility for management of landscaping as part of this.

Today’s meeting was part of a series of meetings which have happened over a couple of years and during which time there has been significant change. We have now reached a point where it seems there is a clearer way forward with this.

One option is for landscaping to be entirely devolved to the Parish Council and we could contract with our own supplier. Overall, this solution works best for larger Parishes and where there is a long track record of experience. L&GHPC is a small Parish with a skeleton staff and we have no track record of any involvement in landscape management so it would be a large leap to take on responsibility ourselves. This does not seem an appropriate step, at least at the present time.

Should therefore we leave arrangements alone and do nothing and allow our landscape maintenance to be managed from outside the Parish and with little or no local involvement? For a number of reasons I strongly think the answer to that is no.

We discussed an alternative solution where MKC gives L&GHPC agency power to manage the landscaping budget. They would provide us with training on the contract specification which consists of various key documents. We would have quarterly meetings with SERCO and Frosts who deliver the landscaping services. We would form a L&GHPC landscape working group which would review the current state of the landscape and identify issues for discussion with the contractor. We would provide an input into checking the service delivery to ensure it was compliant with the contract specification. We would provide some funding ourselves which we could contribute towards re-planting and improvement of the area. We could also find funds within the existing budget by resource-switching towards priorities which local people approved. We could also integrate some of the existing landscaping responsibilities we have with the SERCO contract where savings and efficiencies could be achieved. We will also access expert advise from MKC’s horticultural experts.

Overall, I hope the Parish Council will see that our involvement in management of our local landscape has the potential through Localism to achieve both efficiency savings and improvement in outcomes which will make Loughton and Great Holm an area noted for the excellence and beauty of its local landscape and management.

Peter Todd

Chair, Loughton & Great Holm Parish Council

3rd December 2015

 

 

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The Jubilee graveyard

On Sunday 18th November, I attended the second meeting of the new Jubilee graveyard management committee. In attendance was Councillor Kirkman and the two Churchwardens of All Saints Loughton, David Thom and Roger Blackburn.

We met at my house at Church Farm which is situated next to All Saints after morning service and then carried out a site inspection where the works have been ongoing all last week.

It was a beautiful, cold, crisp and sunny morning with an azure blue sky.

It was good to see progress on the site and the landscape changing. The land between the new extension and the older part has been levelled by the beginnings of the installation of a natural ramp.

There was a wall between the Jubilee graveyard and the older part and part of this had collapsed a long time ago. The contractor has been working on the ruins of that wall. We discussed and agreed investigating how much it would cost to restore that wall as it may be something which the Parish Council could fund by a grant, if affordable. Possibly we could install an engraved stone in the new wall to mark the creation of the Jubilee graveyard. We also looked at the boundary with Pitcher Lane and discussed how best the bank should be planted. We agreed to consult with the MK Council tree officer on the issue.

Returning to the warmth of the house, the meeting continued. We approved a draft allotment licence agreement for the tenant who continues to cultivate the part of the land which presently remains allotment. We had also agreed to consider the question of the charges which would apply for those qualifying for burial in the new graveyard.

We decided to consult on the following :-

Right of forthwith interment for a grave of single depth

£750

Right of forthwith interment for a grave of double depth

£1000

Right of interment during next 30 years for a grave of single depth (ie reservation)

£600

Right of interment during next 30 years for a grave of double depth (ie reservation)

£800

Right of forthwith interment of ashes of single depth

£300

Right of forthwith interment of ashes of double depth

£400

Right of interment during next 30 years of ashes of single depth

£240

Right of interment during next 30 years of ashes of double depth

£320

Right to install a grave headstone of approved specification

£250

Right to install a tablet of approved specification on an ashes plot

£100

These rates are set a bit above the rates applying at the local Crematorium. These rates will be discussed by the congregation meeting at All Saints and by the Parish Council and we will then consider them further in the graveyard management committee. I’d welcome any comments/feedback on the proposed rates via this website too.

Unfortunately it now seems too cold to sow the grass on the site before the winter, so this will now have to wait for the spring. Looking at the quality of the topsoil however, which looks dark and rich, there shouldn’t be a problem in the grass growing once the weather warms up.

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