Being a New Councillor - Gill's Blog

Update on the Planning Committee

Another Tuesday, another Planning Committee meeting. It’s all starting to feel more familiar and a lot less daunting. I think I’ve nailed it with the pre-reading which is not as arduous as it sounds. Of course there are varying degrees of amount depending on the number of applications but once you get the hang of where to find the info it all falls into place. My fellow councillors are also happy to help and explain anything I don’t understand. Experience is definitely an advantage so if you find yourself on the Planning Committee ask, ask and ask again - there will be someone who can help. Remember there’s no such thing as a stupid question!

At the meeting we were looking at the proposed changes to the LLPAR - Local List of Planning Application Requirements.

This is a consultation open to the public and I would urge anyone who is interested or is perhaps thinking about alterations to their property to get involved.

This link will take you to the relevant page on the B&NES website. The proposed changes are to continue B&NES’s policy changes in all areas following their declaration of a climate emergency in 2019. These changes are to help our environment to survive the climate changes that are coming our way. As I understand them - and I’m no expert - they are positive changes that if implemented will give a level of preparedness for what is to come.

A reminder for the upcoming elections - if you do not have photographic ID you will not be able to vote in person.

Please be prepared - you can apply for a free ID document from here

or a postal or proxy vote. There are approximately 2 million people in the UK who do not have the correct form of ID to vote so please check that you are ready. There are inconsistencies on what is OK and what isn’t - for example an over 60’s bus pass is acceptable but a student ID or travel card is not. It’s free to get the correct document.

Bye for now.

The Importance of the Vote

Hi Everyone.

The point of this blog is to give information about being a Parish Councillor in the hope of encouraging local residents to join in with the Parish Council.

However, we have elections coming on May 4th, both local and Parish and I feel passionately about access to voting, which is vital for a democracy, so please indulge me for a few minutes of your time.

Please be aware that if you do not have photographic ID you will not be able to vote in person. This is a massive change to our voting laws, designed to pre-empt any possible fraud, despite the UK having a long history of safe, fair and democratic elections. That said, it is vital that everyone understands what they need to do to be prepared for voting.

If you have a passport, photo driving license, travel card, etc. then you must bring it with you to vote or you will be turned away. Student ID cards and student travel cards are NOT included in accepted forms of ID.

Please look at for all the information you need.

For many it will be easier to do a postal vote or a proxy vote - neither of which require photo ID, but I would urge you to sort this out now. As the election draws closer, the higher will be the demand, and the slower the process will get.

So please make sure you CAN vote and if you don’t want to vote anyway then you have nothing to worry about. Apart from… why wouldn’t you vote?

Thank you for your time reading this and good luck to everyone standing in elections this May.

Bye for now



Making a Difference... Traffic and Speeding

Hi Everyone.

Spring is definitely on it’s way sparking all sorts of planning - gardening, more outside activity, longer dog walks and maybe even a bike ride. And there I was at another planning meeting. I’m definitely getting more information about procedures under my belt which does make life a bit easier. There wasn’t a lot on the agenda this evening but what was there was really interesting.

The school has taken on the massive project of putting in a ground source heat pump. This is forward planning in action! The government has earmarked funding for such projects, but it still has to be applied for and I can’t imagine the paperwork and months of research that has gone on behind the scenes.

Included with the planning application was an ecology report - just to make sure nothing was being displaced - a rare newt or unusual orchid for instance. Sadly, or happily depending on how you see it, nothing of huge significance will be uprooted.

I took the opportunity to raise the traffic and speed issues felt by many along Ashgrove and Bath Road. The 20 miles an hour speed limit doesn’t seem to be being respected a lot of the time hence our local volunteers who have formed a speed watch group. The information they gather will be extremely useful but just as important is how residents feel about these subjects. If you have an opinion or suggestion, please go to the Parish Council website or Facebook page to let me know. I will be gathering information and evidence over the coming months. I am also putting together a plan to at least improve signage to encourage drivers to respect the speed limit as they pass through the village. Any ideas will be gratefully received - we have the power collectively to improve our village so let’s get going.

Bye for now


Precept, Financial Planning and Extraordinary Meetings!

Hi Everyone.

The Parish Council has to work within its allocated budget but does have some powers to raise money from our Council Taxes. This is the precept, which has to be reviewed each year and agreed upon by the Parish Council. To this end we had a Full Council meeting which was a review of our annual accounts. We looked at overall expenditure, projected expenditure, projects that we would like to get off the ground - basically everything financial.

The presentation was very detailed and could easily have become overwhelming, but Andy and Jo did a huge amount of work along with our Clerk to give us as clear and concise an overview as possible. This was all about having the right information so that we could vote on setting the precept for 2023/24 so we didn’t make any decisions on the night.

However, a proposal was put forward about purchasing or hiring a vehicle for the Parish Council Caretaker to use. Up to now, the previous caretaker was using his own vehicle so it made sense that we should have our own. Andy had done his homework and had a proposal to put forward. At the meeting a few questions were raised but generally we were in agreement that we should proceed which would require an Extraordinary meeting.

Therefore, an extraordinary meeting was called for the following Tuesday. This would give Andy time to get answers to the questions raised and clarify all of the terms and conditions. An extraordinary meeting is only called for a specific reason, and for something that cannot realistically wait until this next scheduled meeting. The minimum number of councillors needed at any meeting, extraordinary meeting or committee meeting is called a quorum which is generally a third of the number of sitting councillors - in our case a third of 17 making 6 for Full Council, and 3 for Committees.

It was really interesting to hear everyone’s views and some interesting questions were asked. This was our Parish Council in action and moving quickly on an essential asset - a vehicle - but getting the best deal possible. After all this is your money we’re allocating so everyone wants to secure the best value for money for the things we need.

All our accounts are available to the public on our website - the Parish Council only works when it is as transparent as possible. So, if there is something you feel you don’t know but want to know it will be on our website and if it’s not there, call Beacon Hall and you will be directed to the information you are looking for.

Bye for now


Embracing Planning and Planning for Change

Hi Everyone.

Well, I guess it was inevitable - I was invited to join the planning committee as there was a vacancy and I just couldn’t turn it down! Then I got the pre-reading for the next meeting and I was worried again but I was also given some online training for Parish Councillors about planning and that has helped a great deal.

Page one declares - Planning control is the process of managing the development of land and buildings. The purposes of this process are to save what is best of our heritage and improve the infrastructure upon which we depend for a civilised existence. - now all I have to do is work out how to apply that to the various planning applications, large and small, within our village!

As I understand it, the guidance is saying change is inevitable and is going to happen and if we live in a democratic society then just as some of us want everything to stay the same, just as many of us are ready to expand, improve, alter and re-vamp. And at the moment it feels like Parish Councils are stuck in the middle. However, as I said last time, fortunately there are councillors who have some experience in what is expected of us and how that can be applied. Looking at the applications is helping me to get to know the village - I do like to go and have a look at the proposed building area, extension, change of use, that we are being asked to comment on. It does feel a little bit like we are just being asked to endorse whatever is put in front of us but it is possible to add important and relevant information to the application. It is also possible to ask for amendments to be made to lessen the impact of some proposals.

If you have a passion for being involved in the changes that happen in the village, I really cant urge you strongly enough to come and get involved. Why not keep an eye on proposals - on our website or on B&NES Council website, just go to planning and put in Peasedown and its all there - get comfortable with making comments on the B&NES website and if you feel strongly enough come to our planning meetings. There is a window of opportunity to come along and put forward your idea or proposal at the beginning of all planning meetings.

And if this has inspired you to think about becoming a Parish Councillor then all the better. Time wise, once you’ve read up on the basics it takes no more time than reading a magazine once a fortnight. Anything that you dont understand or aren’t sure about can be discussed at the planning meetings - everyone is there to help each other.

My goal this month is to do a bit more re-reading to build confidence and to try not to commit to any more committees for the meantime - Im not sure how feasible that really is!

Bye for now


Newly Appointed Member of the Planning Committee

Hi Everyone.

Planning, planning, planning - is there ever a more contentious issue than planning? We are either unhappy, confused or downright nonplussed by planning decisions or feel that nonsensical ideas are being forced upon us and we have no voice. Well, thats how I have viewed some decisions made in areas where I have lived and unless there is a really obvious improvement the outcome to these decisions is often hard to take on board. That some change must happen for lots of very good reasons is hard to swallow when you are perfectly happy with your surroundings. When you live in a place, even for a very brief time, there is a feeling of ownership so then to not even be consulted about change feels like weve been ignored. But - thats just what the planning meetings are for and my goodness this is a complicated one.

Applications for building new houses, improving and expanding old buildings, change of use of a building - a myriad of different reasons why planning needs to be applied for - are made at the local Council level which is B&NES. They have the responsibility in the process of allowing or asking for changes or stopping an application from moving forward and the process we go through as a Parish Council is part of that process. From the Parish Councils viewpoint, we are looking at the request for planning permission in a holistic way - is it reasonable, does it suit the local area, are there potential problems that have yet to be pointed out, how will the village benefit, can we make information available that will improve the plan? We are not there to simply block a planning application because we dont like it - we are tasked with looking at the proposal and looking into how this will affect the immediate area and the village as a whole. Disagreeing with the plan doesnt mean it will definitely not happen - the local council is responding to rules and dictate from central government and as a Parish Council we have the unenviable task of making those rules and dictates more palatable - no easy task.

So, at my first planning meeting I felt completely out of my depth. But then I hadnt done the pre-reading with a planning head on, I had just read it.

Fortunately, I had experienced people all around me and I was able to observe and listen. It was a bit daunting I cannot lie - you are acutely aware that you are trying to make an informed decision about something that will impact not just those directly involved but also the environment and people’s day to day lives. Im going to have a think about this one - there is definitely homework to do, so before I commit any further, Im going to ask for input from fellow councillors and our Clerk, to get a better handle the whole process.

Bye for now


Christmas Tea Party for our Senior Residents

Hi Everyone.

Merry Christmas! I know Im early, but our Christmas party really got me in the mood. What a lovely, lovely afternoon it was. Due to Covid this is the first party for three years and I think everyone was determined this would be a cracker!

A fantastic group of people worked together to put on a really jolly Christmas Do with all the trimmings you would expect - a welcoming drink on arrival, delicious homemade food, as much tea and coffee as you could handle, games and singing - everything you could possibly want. It was fabulous to meet so many new people and see the community come together.

One of the people I met was retired Parish Councillor, Calvin Bird, I suspect many of you already know this gentleman through the amazing work he does for the Food Bank and with the Hive.  Calvin very thoughtfully introduced himself to me and wished me well in my time as a Parish Councillor.  It was lovely to meet him in person as his reputation for his organisational abilities and management of projects preceded him.  I am sorry not to be able to work along side Calvin but I appreciate he is already doing so much with local organisations that he had to prioritise how he uses his time.

I am so glad to be living in Peasedown and very proud of all the wonderful people who gave up their time to put on such a lovely Christmas Party.

Bye for now


Introduction to Advisory Panels

Hi Everyone. 

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


Remembrance Day Afternoon Tea

Hi Everyone.

Another first! My first event held at Beacon Hall in remembrance of all those who lost their lives at war. What a privilege to be part of honouring the lives lost of those who lived in Peasedown and around the world.

And yes! There was a fair amount of tea making. Sandwiches and cakes with tea and coffee was the order of the day but it wasn’t just about the tea and cakes. Cllrs Jonathan Rich and Kathy Thomas read the names of those we lost from Peasedown and Carlingcott. Poems were read and a short film presentation was given about the beginnings of WW1.

The two most striking speeches were given by Cllrs Gavin Heathcote and Jo Davis. It was really interesting to hear such different experiences of having a family member in the armed forces. Jo told us about her son who is in the Army. Her pride in all he has achieved shone through and interestingly she said she was not worried about him all the time as he is doing the job he loves and is well trained to do that job. In contrast Gavin’s experience was growing up with his dad in the Navy and he described the feelings of fear and loss he experienced throughout his childhood. It was a very moving speech and I think it surprised everyone. It is rare to hear someone talk so candidly about the often-hidden side of having a parent in the forces.

It really was a lovely afternoon so I will be happily volunteering for more tea duty.

Bye for now


First Committee Meeting

Hi Everyone.  

My first committee meeting! Committee meetings are different to the Full Council meetings in as much as they are concentrating on a specific area. So there are the Full Council meetings which address everything that needs to be dealt with and in some ways are like triage for all the business to be conducted. Some items are dealt with directly in the Full Council meetings and some things are forwarded to the relevant committees.

There are several committees that focus on specific jobs. The meeting I went to was a Finance & Amenities Committee meeting. This is where the accounts for the running of the Parish are discussed, examined and decisions are made on spending. All of this information is open to public scrutiny and checked and verified by an independent Internal and External Auditor - otherwise how do we know that our money is being spent wisely and for the things the village needs and wants? Fortunately for Peasedown, the Chair of the Finance & Amenities Committee - Andy Larcombe - worked in banking before taking early retirement and his expertise is clearly a great advantage in this situation. Pages and pages of columns of numbers can be quite daunting to get to grips with but when someone experienced in these matters is at the helm it is not as daunting as you would expect.

The main reason I was at the meeting was to get involved in the village Christmas Tea Party for older residents. This will be the first in person tea party since before Covid - the last two years the Parish Council arranged and delivered hampers to those who would usually attend. So why the Finance Committee meeting get involved in a Tea Party? It’s all about the spending!

Not being an elected member of this Committee (Committees are made up of six councillors voted on by Full Council) I could attend the meeting as a member of the public (all Committee meetings are open to the general public), however, as a councillor, I expressed an interest in coming and was then invited by the Chair to participate in discussions but I was unable to vote. As I said on my last Blog, this can all seem like procedure where procedure may not be needed but it keeps everyone on the straight and narrow.

As before in the Full Council meeting the procedures must be followed - proposing and seconding motions, minutes taken and published for everyone to see, opinions and suggestions taken into account and plans for future projects put in place. Reassuringly detailed and exhaustive so if finance isn’t your thing perhaps this particular committee wouldn’t be for you but with experienced people running it and all the checks in place you can rest assured it’s in safe hands.

I’m not sure where I will be turning up to next. Sadly I will miss a Planning Committee meeting next week due to other commitments but there are plenty of committees on the go so plenty of choice for something to get your teeth into. Don’t forget there is a co-opted slot open now which would take you through to the elections in May - a fantastic opportunity to test the waters before diving in!

Bye for now


Co-option and First Meeting

Hi Everyone.

My name is Gill and I am a newly co-opted member of the Parish Council. Co-opted means I have not been elected but have been approved by sitting members of the council to fill a vacancy until the next election which will be in May 2023.

When I first found out there was a vacancy I was immediately interested. I moved here only last year and would very much like to be involved in this lovely community. If Covid showed us anything positive it is surely that strong communities do the best for everyone. So as a newbie I wanted to get to know my village and the people and contribute what I can. This was a perfect opportunity but I was nervous about the process and just exactly how much I was taking on.

The process for me to fill a vacancy between elections was to answer some questions about myself and why I wanted to join the Council. Once that had been circulated to the Councillors I was invited to an informal interview at the September Council meeting. I met everyone attending the meeting and answered a few more questions. I was then asked to leave the room whilst they discussed my application and voted on whether or not I was suitable. Fortunately for me it was decided that I would be given the opportunity to join the Council and I was up and running straight away. I stayed on for the meeting and got to see the workings of how decisions are made, projects are moved on to the next stage and a very small insight into just how broad the remit of a Parish Council is.

I had expected layers of rules and procedures and its not till I saw it in action over so many different topics and situations that I started to understand why those rules and protocols are in place.

The Council is made up of residents of the village and they are in charge of a decent budget and have the power to make decisions about changes to the local area which may or may not please people. Therefore the process of making these decisions must be transparent and fair which then inevitably involves procedures to keep the process transparent and fair. So although at first it all seemed a bit long winded, it is actually the best way to keep everyone on track to do the best for the Parish.

It was all a bit daunting at first but before you knew it I was putting myself up for an Advisory Panel or two and seconding proposals. Everyone was helpful and supportive and allowed me to ask questions and to be unsure which is so important at the beginning of something new.

By the end of my first meeting my head was spinning! I wasnt entirely sure just what Id signed up for or how I would get started but I had nothing to worry about - there were plenty of people happy to offer a bit of direction, advice and help should I need it over the coming months. Tanya, the Council Clerk, is a wonder and I suspect I will be emailing her quite a lot till I find my feet.

So onward to the next meeting. I have some reading to get done so that I have a better understanding of procedures and processes and a couple of meetings coming up to introduce me to ongoing projects. Parish Councils may sound stodgy but they are the community in action. If youre not sure what they get up to come to a meeting - they are open to the public because they work for the public.

Bye for now