Shortly after Remembrance Sunday I attended an Advisory Panel Meeting. Again, another learning curve for me. Advisory Panel meetings are basically where councillors do their homework about a particular issue or project they are involved in. The general public are not invited to these meetings as it is all about fact finding and not decision making.
So, the Advisory Panel I was with that day were meeting to look into repairs and/or replacement of some parts of the ground cover in the play areas in Beacon Field. Surprisingly this was a lot more interesting than you would think it could be. Along the way, as we all walked around the park looking at various areas of concern, I heard a lot of the history of Beacon Hall and how the Parish Council have been funding and maintaining the park. When I first moved here, I was very pleasantly surprised to find a dedicated dog area - perfect for new arrivals who are so excited they might just run off home with a stranger! I moved from a large seaside town and there weren’t any facilities like that there so I was very impressed by the thoughtfulness of providing a separate area where you can safely let your dog off the lead and at the same time, if needed, let the children have some playtime.
Back to the Advisory Panel meeting – so, we inspected the damage and wear and tear, photographs were taken, and comparisons made to different parts that have been previously repaired or replaced then back to the Hall to discuss our various findings and opinions. We also came up with a plan of action, in as much as we asked the Parish Office staff to get some quotes for both repairing and replacing the areas of concern, so that we had a comparison. It would be lovely to replace the whole area, but we have to work out as best we can, what would be cost effective and do we have the funds in our budget. For me personally I also would like the environmental impact of the materials used to be looked at before a final decision is made.
By the end of the meeting the Clerk had our recommendations and an action plan to find out more information. All of this will be presented to the Full Council - where the public can come and hear what we have put forward as evidence - and it will be the Full Council who go through the decision-making process. This is where the public get to scrutinise and contribute - after the initial information gathering is done. The Advisory Panel are not telling the Full Council what to do but they are presenting factual information to help the decision-making process, so, if you feel you have something to contribute it is now, at the Council meeting, when you can add your voice to the process. At all times the Council has to take into account what is best for the majority which may not be you so step up and let them know your opinion - the more information we have the better the decision.
It was very interesting being a part of the Advisory Panel and I look forward to following the process through to completion. You can be as involved as much or as little as you want or have the time for. Any extra information you would want to put forward - you might have done your own homework - is always gratefully received, as everyone understands the more we know about something, the easier it is to make informed decisions and then the outcome is more successful for everyone.
Bye for now