Minutes of the Village Assembly
held on Tuesday 27 July 2021 at Litton and Thorner's Community Hall


Present: Bill Orchard (Chairman); Quentin Blacke; John Firrell; Andy King; Diana Maston; Andrew Price; Bella Spurrier; Maggie Walsh (Clerk).  Also in attendance: Cllr Mark Roberts and 40 local residents


1.      Apologies: the Chairman reported apologies from 2 local residents

2.      Chairman’s review of the year


The Chairman, Bill Orchard, welcomed everyone.  It had been a strange year but that the Parish Council (PC) had continued meeting online (one of which he had chaired from Portugal) during the pandemic and had been kept busy with its work.  He thanked the Parish Councillors and Clerk and welcomed Andrew Price, Diana Maston and Quentine Blacke who had joined the PC since the last Village Assembly in 2019.

As part of their Council Tax, villagers paid a precept to the PC (currently £10,400 pa) and the PC used this to maintain village facilities and infrastructure. He encouraged villagers to make use of their Parish Councillors.

In addition to representing villagers’ views on Planning Applications, the PC also liaised with Dorset Council (DC) over the level of services and facilities within the village, including maintenance of footpaths, bridleways and roads. He thanked the “Premier Crew” for their outstanding voluntary work around the village. During the previous 2 years, working groups had been responsible for improving the area around the bus shelter and The Rocks.  He thanked all those involved and especially Philip Dyke, John Firrell, Russell Randall and the Litton Cheney Trust.  

The Parish Council had taken ownership of the telephone kiosk which Peter and Beverley Dennis and Liz Pinfield had transformed into a book/game/jigsaw/seed exchange of which the village could be proud (more of this later).

The PC felt it important to respond to consultation documents and had responded to the Local Plan, Climate and Ecological Strategy and the proposed National Park.  The Government had indicated there would be no Dorset National Park in the foreseeable future – there was a lively debate about this as a local resident had personal experience of how National Parks operate.

The Chairman asked Andy King to provide an update on the allotments, playground and playing field.  It was good to see the playing field better used and the recent inter village football match had been well attended: the PC hoped to replace the goalpost nets.  A new 3 year grass cutting contract would commence in 2022: DC currently provided this service very well. The playground was well used, although some maintenance was needed.  There was a waiting list for allotments.  There had been no further issues with dogs or vandalism.

The Chairman invited Ward Cllr Mark Roberts to speak.  Cllr Roberts reported that the pandemic had required DC)to work in a different way and there had been financial implications.  DC had received over 60,000 responses to the Local Plan consultation, from 7,000 people ranging in age from 7 – 84.  The responses were currently being analysed, after which the plan would be redrafted and further consultation would take place. It was hoped the plan would be approved Spring 2023: without it, DC was less able to resist inappropriate development.

Neighbour notification on planning applications would cease, with applicants being asked to display site notices instead.  He hoped that PCs would take an active role in ensuring villagers became aware of planning proposals.

Switching to a Unitary authority combined with remote working meant DC needed less office space and South Walks House would be converted to affordable flats, although the library and adult education centre would remain.

DC was committed to addressing the climate emergency but an estimated £105 million would be required to be net zero carbon by 2040.  DC had already secured a government grant of £19m towards this, which represented one third of the entire grant for the country.

During the pandemic, DC had distributed £317 million in grants to businesses, many of which were not eligible for any other grants, such as rate relief.


3.      Local Plan The Chairman explained that the Local Plan set out strategies to plan housing, businesses and infrastructure in the right places at the right time whilst protecting local assets and the natural environment.  Without a plan and an ability to demonstrate a 5-year housing land supply (calculated using central government’s algorithm), Dorset would be at risk from inappropriate development.

Currently, DC envisaged 1,800 new houses would be required each year to meet government targets and so resist inappropriate development.  DC’s draft Local Plan proposed a hierarchy of settlements where new development should go. It proposed most development for Tier 1 settlements (Dorchester and Weymouth); with Tier 2 and Tier 3 settlements allocated progressively fewer new houses.  Finally in Tier 4 settlements, which included Litton Cheney, new development would be strictly controlled and restricted to only certain categories.  When responding to the Local Plan consultation, the PC had supported the Tier 4 allocation, with the proviso that it wished to better understand and represent the views of villagers before committing further to this position. 

The village currently had a good balance of old and young, newcomers and those who had lived there for a long time. It had a balance of housing types, a successful school and a public house.  How could the village best preserve its vibrancy over the life of the local plan if development were strictly controlled?

Villagers discussed affordable housing and community land trusts and the impact of second homes.  A straw poll indicated that the majority of those present felt that Tier 4 would be appropriate for the village.

4.      Community Bench fund/public footpaths Cllrs Spurrier and Blacke share the portfolio for agricultural liaison, footpaths and rights of way.  Cllr Spurrier reported that the gate from Court Close to the playground track had been replaced but that problems with the footpath by the bridge were yet to be resolved.  Repairs were usually the responsibility of the landowner but DC could be helpful.  Any issues with public footpaths should be reported to Bella.

Cllr Blacke had lived in the village for two years and it had become apparent to him whilst walking his dog that there was nowhere to sit. He proposed setting up a Community Bench Project.  Benches would cost around £300-600 as they needed to be robust.  Several people had already asked about donating to a fund and it should be possible to reinstate the bench on Pins Knoll. He had several ideas for possible locations and welcomed suggestions, being mindful of the need for sensitivity with regard to nature and possible litter.  Was there sufficient impetus for the PC to set up a fund?  The PC would make a formal decision on this at its meeting in September.

5.      Climate change Cllr Maston held the Environment Portfolio.  Mowing of the verges had caused consternation in the village this year as it had been done before the plants had set seed.  Cllr Maston was working with a group of villagers to identify areas that could safely be left uncut until the end of August without impairing highway visibility. 

Rachel Ellman was coordinating a new working group to maintain interest in the discovery area behind the school where over 130 trees had been planted. It was hoped a community woodland could be created if suitable land were available.

Cllr Maston highlighted an electric car share scheme and answered villagers’ questions.  The scheme cost £25 pa plus mileage and would need 30 participants to be viable. Please contact Cllr Maston if interested.

6.     Highways and new speed limit Cllr Price held the transport and highways portfolio and reported that DC’s Community Highways Officer was helpful and aware of the need for road improvements. Essential repairs and maintenance were usually undertaken promptly but there was a need for carriageway reconstruction rather than repair at the narrows from White Way to the bus shelter - as well as stretches down Main Street.  The PC had noted an increase in traffic within the village and had been working with Long Bredy and Kingston Russell and Ford Farm to try to resolve some of these issues.

Following a strong call from villagers last year, the PC had asked DC to introduce a 30mph speed limit within the village (at that time it was national speed limit through most of the Bride Valley). This had been agreed by DC for the current years’ programme.  DC had consulted on the proposed TRO and, following the PC’s comments, had reconsulted on an extended area. The new TRO would come into effect on 30 July.  The PC had asked to be involved in a review of signage and made a number of comments on the proposed locations, including questioning the need for so many repeater signs. The signs being installed were causing controversy and Cllr Price agreed that signs at entry points on Whiteway and Chalk Pit Lane were not appropriate for a Conservation village in an AONB. Villagers present supported the introduction of the TRO but considerable concern was expressed about the number, format and location of signs. 

7.      Village fabric Cllr Firrell thanked the Premier Crew.  The PC presented certificates to Beverley and Peter Dennis and Liz Pinfield, thanking them for their contributions towards refurbishing the telephone kiosk and also thanked The Litton Cheney Trust for funding most of the refurbishment.

In thanking the Social Committee, Cllr Firrell informed the Assembly that the Social Committee was being disbanded and asked Chairman Ron Davidson to say a few words.  Ron Davidson had been on the Committee for 15-17 years and the other three committee members for up to seven years.  However, all had now decided to stand down.  Both Cllr Firrell and Ron Davidson indicated there was a wonderful opportunity for a new group of people to bring fresh ideas and energy and participate in something that contributed so much to the village.  Many activities (fetes, carol singing, duck race) had ceased during the pandemic.  A villager was prepared to take on open gardens, which was encouraging, but they would need help.  Anyone who may be interested should please contact should contact either John Firrell or Ron Davidson. This really was a time to step up to the plate.

Sally Dyke asked if Bride Valley Films should continue or if it was time to call a halt? Consensus was that it should continue.

8.      Open floor: this was an opportunity for local residents to raise matters they wished to bring to the attention of the Parish Council and/or other residents

·         With regard to the ROW case for Watery Lane, Steve Kourik advised the PC to submit the evidence as soon as it was ready and not wait as advised. He also encouraged the PC to continue to apply pressure to DC to resolve the obstructed bridleway.

·         An update on ultrafast broadband was provided.  The village already had Superfast BB, which used old copper wires. Ultrafast BB used new cable. A number of avenues were being pursued to obtain Ultrafast BB and progress was being made.

Meeting closed

Maggie Walsh
Parish Clerk