We currently have 3 vacancies for Councillor, if you are interested please contact the Clerk for more information.
Upwell Parish Council Statement
31st August 2021
We are aware of a lot of talk on social media about various aspects of the way the council operates and some individual projects in-particular.
Firstly, the refurbishment of the Upwell Hall and the potential costs involved have been discussed.
Upwell Parish Council took on a lease for Upwell Hall in 1996 when it had been closed by its private owner. At this time the village did not have a hall and the council felt a village hall was an important community asset it should do its best to preserve. After a year leasing the building, the hall was purchased by the council for £60000. Since the lease started the hall has been run by a changing group of volunteers from not just Upwell but also Outwell and Three Holes. This group was essentially a sub group of the council and ran the hall on its behalf. During that time the council has spent relatively little on the hall with most of the running and maintenance costs coming from hall revenue. In 2019 it became apparent that the hall would need significant investment to keep the electric and heating system going. The parish council consulted Community Action Norfolk for advice and were told that, as the building was publicly owned, it would not qualify for the majority of grant aid available to other charity owned halls. The hall committee staged a public consultation in July 2020 where it delivered leaflets to the majority of the households in Upwell asking if the public supported the council investing in the village hall and received 100% positive feedback urging the council to do so. We held a public council meeting in the hall garden in August 2020 and again the public spoke in support of the council renovating the hall. At the meeting some councillors were concerned about the costs and urged we consider transferring the hall to a charity. It was felt at that meeting that we would find it difficult to identify a charity to take on the hall in its current state as considerable investment was required. It was therefore agreed that the council would renovate the hall, and then find a charity to take it on in future so the council would not in future face financial demands upon it.
As a result of that meeting, we tried to find individual contractors to address the various individual problems that the hall had, but we could not find sufficient businesses who were interested in doing the work. Therefore, the council finance committee recommended in November 2020 that we appoint an architect to identify all that needed doing and to put together a tender package and project manage the renovation through one contractor. It was also agreed that making the hall more energy efficient would be a sensible and desirable thing to do, both to reduce future running costs, and to reduce the negative environmental impact of the hall.
Three firms were approached, and one was selected. They surveyed the building and following discussion about their findings a tender package was sent to 5 building firms in the area that the architect felt were qualified to carry out the project; of those 5 firms two chose to tender and we are at the stage where we are about to choose which firm to go with. Unfortunately, the costs currently quoted are much higher than those we originally envisaged; this is partly because, following the surveys, a lot more work was identified as needing doing than previously known about, and secondly because of the unprecedented increase in building costs that have occurred in the last 6 months as a result of Covid and Brexit. We have already secured over £56000 towards the cost from the Borough council CIL fund and have applied for further grants available to parish councils to try to mitigate the cost. If and when the project goes ahead, we will hold an open session at the hall to share the plans.
Secondly, we have faced criticism that we are not open and do not communicate with the parishioners adequately. We are disappointed by these suggestions as we have been trying to improve this area in the last few years. We publish and deliver to as many households as we can a quarterly Parish magazine in which we tell people what the council is doing. We also have developed a new website where all our activities and meetings are published and we have a Facebook page where we post all significant information.
Thirdly, we have been criticised for being too Upwell focused at the expense of Three Holes and Lakesend. This has been an area we have been concerned about and for some time we have been holding council meetings in the two villages to make it easier for parishioners in the villages to access them, we now have one quarter of our meetings in the two villages; recently there were significant problems in the drainage systems in several areas of Lakesend and we helped our Borough Councillor put pressure on Freebridge to get remedial works carried out.
Finally, the council has, in recent years, taken on many more responsibilities than in the past to help the community: we have taken over Upwell Cemetery to try and improve its maintenance; we have been very proactive with improving the access to, and the information on, public rights of way in the parish; we provide allotments for both family use and small holder use; we purchased the speed sensor (SAM) unit which is moved around the parish by a volunteer to monitor speeding vehicles to help improve road safety; we fund and monitor footway lighting throughout the parish and we have recently been funding the improvements to the memorial garden around the war memorial in Upwell.
We have recently received resignations from three councillors, and they will shortly be advertised. If any of you want to become involved in the council to help us improve our community feel free to apply for one of the casual vacancies.