Coleford Town Council

Coleford Town Council Clocktower

Welcome to the Historic Market Town of Coleford with its Clock Tower. This is a focus for many occasions throughout the year, ranging from the Carnival of Transport, Sealed Knot through to the Festival of Words and Christmas Lights Switch-On.

Coleford is a centre point to attract visitors to the Forest of Dean with emphasis on Local History and walking and cycling routes passing through the Town.

Mayors Annual Report 2012/2013

It is once again my great pleasure to be able to give the Annual Report on behalf of Coleford Town Council for 2012/2013.

The last financial year has proved yet again to be difficult and contentious for the Town and its community, despite the educated debates and impassioned pleas put forward by the Town and Parish Councils, Traders and the communities at large, car parking charges were introduced this year by the Forest of Dean District Council.

It has proved to be disastrous for many traders not just in our own town but across the wider Forest, in last year’s annual report I spoke of towns becoming dormant and having a “ghost like” appearance due to empty shops, and reduced foot fall.

Sadly this has proven to be the case, in Coleford we have lost some very established retailers within the past year, others are desperately trying to keep going, many on a week by week basis, uncertain of their businesses future within the Town.

Both the Clerk of the Council and myself have met regularly with the Traders Association, lending support, and advising where possible on what can be done to improve trade, discussing what could help to encourage people to choose to shop in town rather than visiting large out of area supermarkets.

Many ideas have been muted, including bringing a market back to the centre of town, showcasing local crafts and produce, Coleford Town Council is willing to support this idea both financially and practically.

We look forward to continued partnership working with the Traders Association to bring this idea to life, using the architecture of the town at its best, to host communal events on this area below the clock tower, persuading people to stay, to bring the “Market Town” descriptive of Coleford back into a reality once again.

As a Council we have always strived to use the centre of town to its best effect, staging many events in the last year, these have included The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. The Council hosted a “Tea on The Tump” inviting parishioners to have tea and cake with us, talking about their memories of the Coronation, it was good to see young and old enjoying each other’s company. The Town Council also presented a celebration cake to our local Nursing Home for the residents and staff to enjoy.

The Olympics soon followed; unfortunately the Forest was not chosen to be part of the official route of the Olympic Torch. Far from being disheartened at this, the Forest Mayors came together and organised a Forest Flame procession, a flame lit at Hopewell Colliery would be kept alight in a Miner’s Lamp that would travel across the Forest being presented in the individual towns over a weekend.

Coleford was chosen to host the lamp overnight, we were very grateful to the County Scout Association who volunteered to take this task on as part of their Olympics themed jamboree County camp which was taking place locally. I am pleased to report that the flame was kept alight and safely handed over to the Lydney Mayor to light the beacon the following morning.

Events have also included the return of live music to the centre of town. Cllr Nick Penny’s passion and drive to bring back free music events for all to enjoy should be acknowledged, he successfully organised and managed Coleford’s first Busking Festival.

This was very well received and provided popular with all ages within the community, I am pleased to report that this year’s Busking Festival is already planned and we look forward to this being an annual event in our calendar.

Coleford Town Council remains the principal financial sponsor for The Festival of Words, Christmas Lights Switch-On, and the Carnival of Transport. We remain committed to these town events and the diversity that they bring to the community and its visitors.

The Sealed Knot Memorial Service has also become an annual event and numbers continue to grow among the Sealed Knot members that wish to travel and participate in this service.

A Plastic Bag Free Day in Coleford was well supported by shoppers and traders and I look forward to its return this year, my thanks go to Councillors Charlotte Morgan and Roger Drury who had the inspiration and drive to organise this.

We were also honoured this year to host the start of the 2013 Wyedean Rally. This is a national racing event, bringing interest from not just the local but also national press, allowing Coleford to be showcased in the best possible light across the country.

Mayors from the Forest, Monmouthshire and Herefordshire joined us on the day and enjoyed hospitality sourced from our local award winning food retailers.

The Town Centre was also used as a platform for the community to air its views on the changes to the Five Acres site and the implications to the College, a large march wound its way through the area before culminating in the town.

As a Council we have sought to lend support to West Dean Parish Council and FANS Committee, we will continue to be a part of the discussion process about the impact on the proposed changes to the site, endeavouring to influence decisions in order to gain the most beneficial outcomes on behalf of the community.

We have also chosen to be part of the Neighbourhood Plan process; this document will ultimately be used to shape the area for future generations. It is important that consultation with all aspects of the community is carried out effectively as the document will reflect requirements of an ever expanding populous and its subsequent needs.

An influx of people have moved onto the new Angel Fields development, with another large development being planned on the Owen Farm site. Coleford will continue to see an increase in population, for the near future.

Concerns over social infrastructure and its ability to meet the demands of an ever-growing population are voiced regularly at our Council meetings. We continue as a Council to question and request answers from the statutory services that the community will be kept healthy and safe.

That people living in Coleford and the Forest of Dean will be given equal opportunity as those living in other areas of the County to access clinics and medical provision, that where possible these be delivered locally rather than having to travel to the sites.

We have continued to improve upon the CCTV system that we invested in last financial year, committee members being in agreement that this is a valuable resource. It has been recognised that it has assisted the Police in many areas of law enforcement, most recently being credited with the safe return of a missing person after their image was captured on our town cameras and Police were able to trace and assist the individual to a place of safety.

The Town Council is aware that we were fortunate to be able to save this vital resource once the Forest of Dean District Council had taken the decision not to fund it any longer, but it did result in the Council having to take some very hard financial decisions that impacted onto the precept.

This year we have also shown an increase in the precept, the Council supports local organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau and the Young Carers both of which would struggle to continue their presence without the grants that they receive from the Town Council. We allocate grants across Coleford and are the primary sponsor for many of these organisations; no other Town Council finances its grants to the degree of Coleford Town Council.

The financial cut backs that are being demanded of the District and County councils can only have a detrimental impact on communities. Town and Parish Councils will be asked to take on greater financial responsibility for services and amenities as the process of cascading these down take place.

We would not want to see erosion of any amenity or service, but must be robust in our debates that where amenities are threatened with closure. We negotiate transfer of a capital asset to the Town Council in response to any funding that we provide.

Community amenities are very precious; the Town Council was saddened by the outcome of a recent court case which has seen the closure of the Coleford Bowls Club Pavilion and Green. We had very much hoped that some mediation and negotiation between the parties concerned may well have stopped this from happening.

The Council has on several occasions offered to facilitate meetings between the Bowls Club and the Angus Buchanan Trust. Disappointedly at the recent Buchanan Committee AGM, members of the public were advised by the current Trustees that no further discussion would take place on this matter.

The Town Council are also seeking to improve the football pavilion on our land inside the Victoria Park this financial year, I sincerely hope that the Trustees of the Angus Buchanan Committee will work in partnership with the Town Council to achieve an improved community facility for all to enjoy.

Coalway Recreational Committee have done just that and are gradually breathing new life back into a tired community hall and under used open space, having successfully hosted several open air events which Coleford Town Council have happily supported we look forward to the next phase of this development.

In addition to the sixty plus statutory council meetings attended throughout the year I have also represented Coleford Town Council at more than seventy civic events. This has included the honour of being presented to Her Royal Highness Princess Anne when she visited SPP Pumps in Coleford this year, and the retiring Archbishop of Canterbury during his final pilgrimage in which he visited and officiated a service at All Saints Parish Church, Newland.

I have continued to travel outside of the Forest and this year have been invited to various events in Monmouthshire, Herefordshire, and Worcestershire speaking with civic leaders about the many issues we all face in these difficult economic times.

I would sincerely like to thank the Deputy Mayor for his hard work throughout the year for the times he has represented the Council on my behalf, as I would also extend my gratitude to all Councillors for their continued support and attendance at meetings throughout the year. It must never be taken for granted that we are all volunteers giving up our time and efforts to strive to make Coleford a better place to live in.

Thanks go to the Town Clerk and the newly appointed Assistant Clerk for keeping the Council informed and organised throughout the past year.

To Nigel for his continued assistance within the office.

Last but by no means least, I would like to thank my family, without who I would not have been able to have completed this last year, for the many hours that they have also given the Council indirectly and for the support in attending in the civic events.