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Role of the Parish Council

Role of the Parish Council

We are always pleased to hear from you and if you have any issue of concern that you think we may be able to help with please get in touch by phone, e-mail or the contact form on the website. We don’t monitor community social media pages but if you get in touch directly, we will be happy to listen and help, where we can. In situations where we don’t have any direct influence, we may be able to assist you in lobbying the responsible authority for action, where appropriate.

We take pride in the appearance, maintenance and protection of our semi-rural parish and spend much time and effort, with the help of a maintenance contractor and volunteers to make improvements and keep the parish looking good. Our projects are often small and sometimes go unnoticed.

A litter picker is employed on a part time basis x 6 days a week to tidy specific areas of the parish (small contributions towards this rec’d from The Spires Shops via Caxtons, DCA & the Medical Centre). He is often assisted by councillors and residents.

Future Projects Examples of our work that’s planned for the parish include: a mini orchard for land adjacent to The O/Spot roundabout+ ongoing maintenance of the roundabout. Speed surveys for Deringwood Drive, Church Road and Willington St (a repeat of those previously carried out during unexpected road closures). A bee/insect totem pole & buddleia plants (secured with a grant from MBC) to complement the bee corridors. Christmas Carols & Lights Ceremony (2 Dec) with music provided by The Dulcettes (The Dulcettes UK - YouTube).

Free Annual Events currently provided: Garden Competition, Family Fun Day – The Olympicnic, and Carols & Lights.

Previous projects include: Native woodland planting at The Triangle (pedestrianised Old Spot Lane) + installation of the tablet and bat/bird/hedgehog boxes. Mallards Park – provision of picnic benches, outdoor gym equipment, table tennis table, play equipment, contribution towards revetment work + work on the islands. Foxden Drive –play equipment and fencing provided. British Legion Tommies purchased (+ a donation to RBL). Donations are also made to other charities who assist local residents. 2022 saw the passing of our dear Queen and we installed a memorial plaque (funded by The Stone Shop) on Deringwood Drive. We will be very happy to consider other projects in the parish, so please get in touch if you have any ideas.

Financial Matters. The council is responsible in law for ensuring that its financial management is adequate and effective. The generally accepted recommendation with regard to the appropriate minimum level of a Smaller Authority’s Reserve is that this should be maintained at between 3 & 12 months. The smaller the authority the closer the figure should be to 12 months. Downswood is considered a smaller authority.

Due to the rising costs of producing a newsletter, much of the day-to-day information appears online as the events happen + flyers are posted on the noticeboards. Watch out for our November NL edition!

Working with other Authorities We liaise with the Police/Maidstone Borough Council & Borough Councillor Gordon Newton to help resolve ASB and other issues.

Planning issues impact both the here and now and the future of our parish. The Parish Council does not have the power to approve or refuse planning applications, we are a statutory consultee and comment on the effect applications would have on our residents and the local area, using planning policy to guide us. The majority of planning applications are decided by delegated powers to MBC planning officers. However, we do have the ability to insist an application is decided by elected members and in such an instance, we are required to attend the relevant MBC planning meeting to have our say.

Another area of our work is highway issues. KCC are the responsible highway authority and have sole responsibility for maintenance of roads throughout the county. We meet regularly with KCC officers and your elected KCC member, Cllr Gary Cooke, to discuss issues affecting us in Downswood and we lobby for improvements and report faults (which any member of the public can also do: https://www.kent.gov.uk/roads-and-travel/report-a-problem) Tele: Emergencies - 03000 418181 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday or on 03000 419191 at all other times

We are often not directly responsible for issues with a negative effect on the parish but we work closely with the relevant authorities and regularly report problems such as fly tipping and overgrown footpaths. As a resident, you can play your part by using the relevant online portals to report issues as and when they arise. For public rights of way, use https://www.kent.gov.uk/environment-waste-and-planning/public-rights-of-way/report-a-problem-on-a-right-of-way For fly tipping report via https://maidstone.gov.uk/home/primary-services/street-care-and-cleaning/litter,-bins-and-street-sweeping/report-fly-tipping. Tele: 01622 602000. With fly tipping in particular, MBC act very quickly to remove dumped material and have been successful in finding and prosecuting offenders.

If you are interested in becoming a Parish Councillor, please contact the parish clerk, Teresa Irving, by email: clerk@downswoodpc.org or telephone 01622 717466

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