The Annual Parish Assembly took place in the Church Hall on Thursday April 9th.

Police Constable “Gez” Shillito of Northamptonshire Police’s Brackley Rural Safer Community Team was unable to be present. His report was read by the Chairman. Community Police Meetings during the year have concentrated on speeding, improvements in communications with the public and more visible policing. There have been 16 speed checks in the villages for which PC Shillito is responsible, leading to 4 endorsable fixed penalty notices and 12 verbal warnings. There have been 6 crimes in the village in the last 12 months (compared to 8 last year). These were 1 non-dwelling burglary, 1 dwelling burglary, 1 theft from a motor vehicle, two other thefts and 1 case of criminal damage. In response to a question the Chairman agreed to ask PC Shillito how many of these crimes had been solved.

There is a new Police Community Support Officer for this area who will be introduced at the next Parish Council meeting. There is an on-going problem in the area in respect of travelling criminal gangs who pretend to be offering services such as repair works to drives etc., but who are actually sizing up properties for breaking and entering. This is currently being targeted. Following the recent armed robbery at Greatworth Post Office, two men have been arrested and charged.

Councillor Ben Smith of Northamptonshire County Council reported on the County Council’s continuing problem in securing enough government funding to provide the services needed. There was a backlog of £350m to put all the roads in county into reasonable condition. The Council is very conscious of the annoyance that this causes and continues to lobby central government for adequate funds. Atkins have been replaced by MGWSP for road maintenance in Northamptonshire. Now that Sulgrave has acquired Quality Council status it is likely that the Parish Council will in future become responsible for deciding the priorities for road repairs and also authorise payments. Economic downturn has meant a decline in house construction with implications for the £20,000 “roof tax” levied on each property to provide infrastructure. Central government is also being lobbied on this with a view to be able to catch up with infrastructure provision during the current lull in housing construction.

A member of public said that he had heard that the county not as good at dealing with fly tipping as other counties. Councillor Smith said that the issue was being addressed.

There continues to be a problem in parts of the village with the storm water drains – heavy rainfall again this year would cause problems and it was not always possible to get officers out to assess the situation. Councillor Smith said that he was always happy to act as “backstop” in difficulties of this kind but would appreciate full details of the problem in note form.

Finally, Councillor Smith touched upon the work of the River Nene Regional Park, drawing attention to the Treetop Walk in Salcey Forest.

The treetop walk in Salcey Forest

District Councillor Ashley Warren reported that South Northants Council were no longer the providers of council housing in the area. This responsibility had been transferred to South Northants Homes who are carrying out a programme of refurbishment. The Council’s new Director of Service Delivery, Steven Shuttleworth is seeking improved feedback from parishes in respect of the planning system, details of which can be seen at

The Council was now up to 29th in the “recycling league” with 47.9% of waste being recycled. Farthinghoe Recycling and Re-use Centre was operating very well but users were reminded to sort their waste into the various categories before visiting.

Major developments in the area continued to be concentrated in Daventry and Towcester under the plans of the West Northamptonshire Development Corporation although the economic downturn was leading to a decline in housing starts, especially in Towcester. Hopefully this would allow a breathing space for the provision of infrastructure e.g. 30 acres of flood meadows at Towcester had recently been transferred to the community as a pedestrian area.

Parish Council Chairman Graham Roberts gave a summary of the work of the Parish Council during the previous year. Full details of this will be contained in the forthcoming Annual Report, which will be posted in the Village Newsletter and this website.

Parish Council Chairman Graham Roberts allocates tasks
at a village litter pick

Footpath Warden Christina Shillito reported on four trouble spots on the parish paths as shown on this map:

1. There are consultations between the Rights of Way Officer and the landowner with a view to the installation of drains to this extremely boggy area.

2. A surveyor has recently inspected the railway tunnel and pronounced the structure generally safe. However one of the spandrels is in danger of collapse and the owner is being sought.

3. The Rights of Way Officer is seeking to make improvements to the original line of this path which is very difficult to use at the crossing of the former railway line.

4. The Rights of Way Officer is seeking to secure improvements to the boggy sections of this footpath.

Christina has now resigned as Footpath Warden after 10 years of dedicated service for which she was thanked by the Chairman. The new warden will be Digby Lewis.

Jill Barrett reported on the Sulgrave Charities. The Education Charity had an income during the year of £1162 with nil expenditure and has £4012 available. There had been no applications during the financial year. Any villager under 24 years of age can apply, setting out full details of their educational requirements. The Relief in Need Charity had an income of £50 and has a balance of £778. There had, however, been no grants from this charity since no-one in the Parish could truly be said to be “wholly in need”.The Charity Commissioners had agreed that the two charities could be combined but only if the original criteria for distribution were maintained, which was of no practical benefit.

A report by Martin Sirot-Smith, Chairman of the Castle Green Management Committee was read to the meeting:

The last year has been a problematic one for the Committee with some aspects of the enhancement project having moved forward successfully but others still to be concluded satisfactorily.

The main area of concern is the retaining wall and its capping. We are far from satisfied with the present state of both. Through the project manager, Cecil Rhodes, we have requested that the contractors, Underwood and Weston, completely remove and rebuild the capping and that the bulges and weak points in the wall are attended to. As this work cannot be done until after the risk of frosts in May and would hopefully be completed satisfactorily by June/July, with the six months retention period it would be the end of the year before we were prepared to sign the completion certificate. This being so we have felt it prudent to ask the Heritage Lottery Fund for a two year extension of the project completion date. This they have done, which will enable us to hold the final payments until April 30th 2011 if necessary!

Volunteers work on Castle Green, July 2008

Now on to happier tidings! We could not have asked for better weather conditions last year (rain and plenty of it) for the growth of the grass on the Green and the absorption of the supporting plastic grids underpinning the new access path. After three rebuilds the steps and the handrails are now as we wanted them. Information Boards have been designed and will soon be with the manufacturer. Hopefully these will be in situ by early summer.

The new steps up to Castle Green

News relating to the benches is very good indeed. Three of them will soon be in position on the Green, two of them being generously funded by the Cave and Wootton families in memory of Emma and Sid respectively and one being provided through the grant funds. Geoff Ratley will be fixing them.  They will enable all to sit and enjoy the lovely views and peaceful atmosphere of Castle Green.

Bench of the type being installed on Castle Green.

The event planned to celebrate the official completion of the enhancement project will take place either on Sunday 30th August or the following Sunday 6th September. Keep your eyes on the village newsletter or website for full details.

One of the joys of last year has been seeing how many villagers of all ages are now using the Castle Green. There have been many complementary comments about what has been achieved since the original purchase by the village. To quantify this increased usage we have been asked by the grant giving organisations to provide evidence of such use. To this end we will be enclosing in next month’s newsletter a very short questionnaire and would ask you to be so kind as to complete it and return it to the address mentioned as soon as possible.

My thanks are due to the Committee who have had a very difficult year to contend with and specifically to Clare Pollak, who as project co-ordinator and Parish Councillor has been at the forefront of all the trying negotiations. Hopefully the way ahead is now clear for all aspects of the enhancement project to be in place before the end of the summer.

Colin Wootton reported on his work in maintaining the Village Website. Since the last Parish Assembly he had completed the transcription of the 1990 parish appraisal known as the “Sulgrave Chronicles” which is now out of print. This is available on the site in an interactive form which allows individual chapters to be accessed without having to scan through the whole document. The text is unaltered from the original which represented a huge amount of work by the History Society but there are additional photographs where appropriate.

Further information about the village can be found on the Parish Council Home Page where back copies of the minutes of meetings and former Parish Assemblies can be accessed. Similarly, the latest Village Newsletter can always be accessed online and printed if required as can previous editions back to 2006.

A new feature is an occasional series on birds with former villager John Sheppard’s wonderfully detailed photographs and text by George Metcalfe.

As many village events as possible had been covered during the past year, such as the village fete, the Grafton Team Chase, happenings at the Manor and the village Christmas decorations, Christingle and Carol Singing. This year’s events will include the gardens open to visitors. There are now over 40 different picture galleries on the site and there is to be a new feature on the home page allowing instant access to each of them.

The section on planning information is to be improved, giving details of all listed buildings, conservation areas, village envelopes, planning applications and so on.

A high proportion of visitors to the site continue to be from the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Some of these are regular visitors, often former villagers or those whose ancestors emigrated to those countries.

Anyone in the village not having access to a computer and the internet is welcome to visit Colin Wootton’s house and have a look at the village website.

The website is now with a new service provider and the cost of this to the Parish Council, together with the cost of retaining the simple domain name has been reduced by half to about £60 per year.

Open Forum

1. Attention was drawn to the urgent need for a childproof fence at a hole in the hedge between the Pocket Park and the adjoining field used by racehorses. Any child straying into the field would be in grave danger. The Chairman agreed that this matter should be addressed immediately.

2. There was a general discussion on the disruption being caused by the current work of undergrounding the electricity cables. The Chairman re-assured the meeting that the contractors were required to reinstate all footpaths and verges. At the end of the contract a meeting would be held to agree all outstanding work with a two year guarantee.

Road works in Helmdon Road

3. General concern was expressed as to the damage caused to the footpath adjoining Stone Court in Helmdon Road, both by the current works and by passing traffic, especially large tractors. The road is very narrow at this point and the path was in a perilous state despite recent attempts to repair it. A view was expressed that part of the problem lay in the fact that the Stone Court boundary wall had bulged outwards. The only long term solution might be for the highway authority to widen the road and rebuild the footpath with kerbs that would deter vehicles from crossing it.

The damaged footpath

This report was compiled for the website by Colin Wootton from notes taken at the Assembly. It in no way pre-empts the formal Minutes of the Assembly which will be prepared by the Clerk to the Parish Council in due course.