Sadly, we are once again losing a member of the Parish Council – Anne Oliver, who had had to stand down because of the requirements of her job. We are very sorry to lose Anne, who has been an active and thoughtful member of the Council for the last couple of years. By the time you read this, the notice of the vacancy should have been on our notice board for a while, offering people the chance to call an election. If no election is called, we will then move on to co-opt a new member. If you think you could make a contribution to the Parish Council, this is an excellent opportunity to find out if it is for you, because you will only be on it for a year before everyone stands again for election in May 2019. So please think about it now.
Over the past year or so, there has been a steady trend for Wadhurst (like other rural areas) to lose the facilities and services it once had. This is a national trend, caused in part by the diminishing of local authority budgets, and in part by the increasing tendency of most of us to purchase goods and services on line. In addition, policy and commercial decisions are often made far from rural areas, in places where the impact of a “small change” on a community is not understood. For instance, since we stopped having blood donor sessions in the village, I have been travelling to Tunbridge Wells to give blood. A couple of weeks ago, I turned up for my booked session only to be told they had “phoned me” to say it had been cancelled. Yes, they had, but on my mobile (which gets no signal at home) and after I had set out to get there (which now takes me the best part of an hour to drive and park). A small example of the general lack of understanding of the needs of rural areas, but typical.
I’m mentioning this, of course, because yet another facility is under threat – the household recycling site. It became a part time site (3 days a week) some time ago, now it is threatened with closure as part of East Sussex County Council’s efforts to balance their budgets. A consultation on this will begin shortly – you should find it at https://consultation.eastsussex.gov.uk by the time you read this. The Parish Council will also be organizing a petition, so PLEASE DO BOTH – SIGN AND RESPOND TO THE CONSULTATION. Closure of the site will inevitably lead to more miles driven, more pollution and more fly tipping – this is a valuable service and we must fight to keep it.
Times are clearly hard on the High Street too, with several shops standing empty or up for sale. This is also something the Parish Council is very concerned about, and at our meeting in February we asked a small group of Councillors to look at what if anything the Parish Council can do to encourage trade, and tourism, and keep businesses thriving. We are talking to Wealden District Council about how to encourage more visitors to the village centre, particularly on ways to improve links between the station and the village, but it is of course up to us too. It’s a classic “use it or lose it” situation. We have a great range of shops in the village at the moment, where you can buy almost anything you want, and most of them will quickly order items in for you if they don’t have them in stock. So next time you reach for the computer to order an everyday item, ask yourself if there is an alternative just down the road. I mentioned above that there was a vacancy on the Council – perhaps one of the High Street Traders would like to put themselves forward so their voice can be heard clearly on these matters.
The Annual Parish Meeting will be held on May 15th this year – please put the date in your diary now. The two main subjects will be the Neighbourhood Plan, and the pedestrian improvements to the High Street which should finally be put in place over the coming months.
We will soon be placing orders for first batch of the new “Dark Skies” street lighting which we hope to roll out eventually throughout the village, to preserve the wonderful view we have of the night sky. Please think about whether you can do anything to improve your own lighting at home, to contribute to this – perhaps converting lights that are on outside all evening to be motion sensitive, or by shielding lighting so the beam only fall where it needs to.
And finally, after all I’ve said about using or losing our high street shops, if you really must leave the village, timetables for the Wealdink bus service, which links us to Crowborough, are now available in Carillon Cottage and in Jepsons.
I hope the weather is more spring-like by the time this is published!
(Chair Wadhurst Parish Council)