I’ve stood down

I wrote the following for the current edition of Hisimp News, the community newspaper of Histon & Impington Parish Council.

I joined Histon & Impington Parish Council in 2012. I’ve stayed a little longer than I think is wise but now I’ve stood down so maybe now’s a good time to reflect on the highlights.

1 the Neighbourhood Plan

This has got to be my number one. It was a long process but I shepherded it through from start to finish. Some people were with me for the duration, thank you Denis Payne, and some made material contributions when it mattered, thank you Hooda Abdullah, Sue Lee and Jon Pavey, and several other were there when they were needed. Delivering a Neighbourhood Plan for a community is a major achievement because it provides a framework against which planning applications must be measured. I’m proud that Histon & Impington has one.

2 Station

My involvement with the three development sites associated with Histon Station began when I was a county councillor with the successful campaign to save the station building itself. Thanks to Pene Nudds for her support with this. I was then witness to the first, unpopular plans shared with the public for the development of the Bishop’s site. By the time I became Chair of the Parish Council (see below) the developer showed itself determined to press ahead despite the lack of local support. I began the process of engaging with it whilst at the same time supporting community opposition to the application.

Eventually South Cambs rejected the application and finally the developer agreed to talk. It proposed a new plan which was much more acceptable but also agreed to join with the developers of the other sites so that a unified approach could be facilitated. Local architect Jon Polley was an invaluable ally in this work. It was favourably received and subsequently we’ve seen a redeveloped Station site, with its associated popular coffee shop, and developments pending for the other site. I’m really pleased that this has all been possible and am a regular customer of the Station House cafe.

3 the Rec Alliance

The Parish Council has had an unfortunate record of not working in partnership with other parties within the community and this has meant a less than optimal approach to the provision of formal open space. The Neighbourhood Plan recognised this and policy HIP13 challenges the Parish Council and Impington Village College to work together. Early in 2021 I facilitated first meetings to move this forward. Histon Football Club also participated in this ‘rec alliance’ and all parties agreed to support a single 3G pitch bid by IVC. The alliance has continued to meet and at its last meeting was joined by representation from the two primary schools. Yvonne Murray has been immensely supportive in ensuring that it can be a success. It has been an important initiative and I trust that the new council will continue to support it.

4 the HIPC brand

HIPC came into being in 2011 when the previously independent parish councils of Histon and Impington agreed to join. It operated with an interim logo and a rather unsatisfactory website and when I became chair we resolved to sort this out. We tried to do it ‘properly’ starting with a vision, thank you Derek Marsden for your work on this, which we used to brief a designer before getting a website builder to build a new site for us. Of course because we were (are) a public body we had to choose between alternatives at each stage and chose Matt Willatt for the design and Cambridge Web Solutions for the build. Matt came up with the colour (purple) and the ‘hi’ speech bubble logo and its first public outing as it were was a presentation to the Village Society which Denis Payne and I gave. VilSoc is not a society not exactly dominated by young people and we feared the worst. We should not have worried. As soon as they saw the new logo smiles lit up the room and the hi logo has been a feature of the parish council’s activity ever since. It’s most publicly visible on the sides of the small vehicles which carry out many of the council’s duties around the community.

5 being Chair

I hadn’t been a councillor for long when the then Chair, Max Parish, stepped down in 2013. I didn’t have any ambition to become Chair but I was proposed and after two rounds of voting was elected. I did the job for the maximum four years as allowed by the Council’s standing orders and enjoyed the opportunity of community leadership which came with it. In addition to my role in Station and the new brand (see above) I took steps to streamline council meetings by being strict with respect to agenda items which merited no debate, to better utilise its officers by encouraging more delegation and to improve the Council’s standing in the community by engaging with developers, landowners, other councils, the police and other bodies. I was exceptionally well served at the time by the excellent Clerk, Angela Young (see photo above).

It’s been a fine experience but it’s time to move on. I need to allow space for others to join the council and I recognise that, despite all good intentions, if you stay too long in a role you can get stale.

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