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WELCOME to Fishburn Parish Council’s Annual Report. Two casual vacancies occurred when Councillors Darren Welsh and David Irvine resigned as members of Fishburn Parish Council. Stephen Tinkler was duly elected unopposed and Madeline Hodgson was later co-opted onto the Council.

Throughout the past year the Parish Council has been continuing to work hard to keep our village vibrant. We arranged a summer display of tubs and flower beds planted in red, white and blue colours to mark HM The Queen’s 90th birthday. We lifted and re-laid the paving stones surrounding the bowling green and planted some new rose bushes to replace the old ones in the flower beds.

We proceeded with work to de-compact and aerate both football pitches over the summer months. The cost of much-needed drainage to the pitches by a specialist contractor may be incorporated in future plans. The Parish Council and officials from Fishburn Community Football Club have agreed to a partnership to create a new sports facility [pavilion] with assistance from Lionsraw Football Charity.

Fishburn is now home to a new state-of-the art sports facility after the Parish Council and local County Councillors Rachel Lumsdon (who is also a parish councillor) and John Robinson joined forces. The village’s multi use games area (MUGA) was unveiled on the site of the overgrown, redundant tennis courts. Phil Wilson, Member of Parliament, joined Cllr Rachel Lumsdon who cut the ribbon - marking the play area open to the public.

The Parish Council does not take any planning decisions but monitors all planning applications and comments where appropriate. Parish councillors carefully considered the application for a new development of up to 70 houses north of Salvin Terrace and were supportive of the proposals and the thought which appears to have gone into many aspects of the design. It was felt that the plans would benefit the sustainability of the village.

The Parish Council has carried out modification of the water supply system at the allotment site to bring stand pipes and taps to a legal standard and agreed a new Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the Allotment Association. Within the cemetery, we are starting work to level old graves with soil and remove dangerous or unsafe headstones and surrounds to allow proper grass maintenance and to retain the overall dignity befitting a cemetery.

During our monthly discussions with the local police over the year we have established that Fishburn has low reported incidents of crime or anti-social behaviour, but we continue to receive complaints about inconsiderate parking, and people obstructing the road and pavements with their cars and vehicles on Front Street and outside the Medical Centre on Butterwick Road, and have requested yellow lines/road markings to restrict parking to help traffic flow smoothly and to prevent obstructions on the road. Dog fouling is of concern to residents and can cause serious health risks particularly to children. The Parish Council has increased street signage to encourage dog owners to clean up their dog's waste in the village and not to exercise their dogs on childrens’ play areas, sports pitches or maintained areas. The great majority of dog walkers do pick up after their dog and get really annoyed with the few who do not. There is no excuse for not picking up.

The Council's income is wholly derived from a local tax collected by Durham County Council on behalf of the Parish. It is essential that we continue to watch expenditure and ensure that we provide a cost effective service. The Parish Council took into account the estimated budget for this financial year and requested a precept level of £71,322 [plus a local council tax support scheme (LCTS) grant of £10,500 = £81,822]. This means Band D council tax will be set at £116.20, a 1.77% increase [a cash increase of £414 from 2016-17]. This money will be used to pay to maintain and improve facilities and services for local people, deliver activities and events, and run the Council.

The Parish Council recognises the key work that the parish groundsman has undertaken in his role but various factors left the Council with no option but to engage a new company (Greenfingers Landscape Limited) to take over all grounds maintenance activities. The groundsman's job transferred over. You can be assured of the same high standards.

The Council regularly receives requests from charities and other organisations for grants or donations and we have only granted money towards activities which we consider “will bring direct benefit to the area, or any part of it or all or some of its inhabitants”. A large crowd of residents joined parish councillors to sing carols in front of the Christmas tree as we officially switched on the Christmas tree lights at the Village Green. Fishburn Band played a selection of Christmas carols followed by soup from produce supplied by Fishburn Allotments Association in St. Catherine’s Church Hall. We have it in mind to extend the event this year to provide a Santa Claus for the children; a children's choir from a local school; free children’s rides; and free refreshments.

We invited anyone living or working in the parish of Fishburn to enter a competition to design a new distinctive logo for the Parish Council reflecting the heritage, history, culture of Fishburn. The Council awarded a £50 cash prize to Rebekah Watret for the winning design and presented a display replica of her design, kindly  donated by The Signs Man in Coxhoe.

Looking to the future, the Parish Council wants to develop several initiatives to improve the village wherever possible as well as maintaining current projects. We would very much welcome feedback from residents and businesses regarding your priorities for the parish over the coming year.

The Council’s website is regularly updated and is a useful source of information about the Council‘s activities. Our meetings are held on the second Thursday of each month (except August) in Fishburn Community Centre, Butterwick Road, at 6.30 p.m. The general public are welcome to attend and to bring forward any concerns or comments.

I conclude by thanking all parish councillors for giving their time and expertise freely for the well-being of our village.

Councillor Andrew Pearson

Chairman of the Parish Council