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Chairman's Report


This is my first report for the Parish Council so I am hoping I have included everything.

Firstly, I want to say a big thank you to all of the Parish Council for their support and faith in me this past year. I had big shoes to fill and a lot to learn as Brian had done this for so many years and his wealth of local knowledge was so comprehensive.  However, together, we have pooled our thoughts and ideas with varying knowledge to get where we are today. Each member has their own expertise in various fields and, now having a full complement for the committee, we are in a much better position to achieve our goals for the forthcoming year, or at least some of them!

This has been a trying year for us in many ways and we have pulled together to get through it.  This has resulted in a very strong team alliance and one we will continue.

As everyone knows, Parish Councillors are effectively volunteers, we receive no recompense for our commitment, and we give up our time freely. To follow in the footsteps of my predecessor, I know we sadly have no magic wand that we can wave to improve the situation with the roads, electricity supply, flooding and parking issues which plague our village. However, whilst this list of things we have no powers over seems endless, we do our upmost to help support the village by contacting the relevant parties to pass on your concerns and ensuring these points are chased on a regular basis.

The team and I carefully reviewed the precept costs this year, and whilst we tried keep the rate as low as possible, owing to the current economic climate, we felt there was no alternative but to raise it in accordance with the anticipated extra costs for the coming year.

One item in particular which cropped up several times, was the need for a Street Cleaner/Litter picker. Owing to increasing pressure to assist Medway Council in helping to keep the village clean, we are currently advertising for a Street Cleaner on a four hours per week basis but, as we all know with the need to recruit an extra member of staff, often comes the need for additional associated costs.

One of our main priorities is to try to improve the playparks and due to the financial restraints, we plan to start on the Heron Road playpark first as we understand this is the most used and clearly needs an update. However, as the pot of money we still hold is low, we may not be able to immediately fix everything at once, so please bear with us.

Last year the Coronation Party in May was held in the main car park. Plans were already underway with the road closure in place and entertainments arranged by the Stoke Community Project. It was great to see the bunting up and all the hard efforts that went into making this day a success and for the Village to enjoy. The clean up afterwards was also well orchestrated and the car park was returned to its original purpose as soon as the festivities had ceased.  Once again, I wish to pass the Parish Council’s upmost thanks onto everyone who was involved in this event and for making it a day to remember.

This year saw the worst rainfall for over 200 years (so I was told) and the constant deluges caused all sorts of flooding issues around the villages. The worst area was in Middle Stoke and our very own Flood Warden – Cllr Shane Back - was straight out battling the elements. Alongside support from other residents, he was able to report various issues to the Environment agency, so these matters could be addressed quickly to help protect our village. I would therefore like to pass on my most sincere thanks to Cllr Shane Back and the gentlemen from Stoke Airfield, for their rapid response, which also included the removal of various debris.

In fact, following Shane’s hard work, he was rewarded with an article in the Village Voices publication highlighting his role as the Flood Warden for the Peninsula and calling for more volunteers to come forward.

In addition to a Flood Warden we are now lucky enough to have a team of three Snow Wardens living in our village. This team have been trained and are ready to assist in the event of any severe bouts of snow. We hope we will not need to rely on their services now until next winter. As part of their role, they are responsible for making sure any areas, deemed unsafe owing to ice and snow, are gritted to prevent any accidents. So again, on behalf of the Parish Council, we wish to pass on our most sincere gratitude onto this new team for stepping forward and offering their expertise.

To mark the arrival of Christmas 2023, we purchased a large Christmas tree, along with several sets of battery-operated lights for the Lower Stoke car park. With a small gathering and with the assistance of the Stoke Community Project, who kindly provided refreshments, we organised a ‘Christmas Tree light switch on’ event in early December. It was lovely to see the bottom of the High Street looking festive and we hope to continue this tradition this coming year, with a bigger and better event planned to mark the start of the festivities.

Last financial year a steering group was formed to help develop a Neighbourhood Plan. This committee, being led by Peter Egan (a previous Parish Councillor, who stepped down at the Local Elections in May 2023), is now busy organising various meetings for different audiences. We encourage all residents to attend these meetings, relevant to their interest, to understand how this plan will help shape the future of our village and benefit the next generation.

Stoke Village Hall committee saw changes this year too, with Mr Brian Stone resigning from his position as Chair. Alongside the election of a new Chair, the committee welcomed several new members.  Councillor Karen Mansell, who originally joined as a representative of the Parish Council, took over the role as Treasure, owing to the resignation of her predecessor. In conjunction with this new team, she has worked tirelessly to uplift the hall, including the introduction of various wall decals whilst the committee hold various fundraising events to help boost their funds in order to carry out essential repairs and redecorate the hall throughout. They still wait, however, for further news on the future of the Doctors surgery. We would therefore like to thank all the Stoke Village Hall Committee team for all their hard work and efforts in helping to keep this vital village amenity open.

Finally, we were deeply saddened to learn of the recent passing of our former colleague Richard Bridge, following a brief battle with cancer. We will be holding a minute’s silence for him at our Annual Parish Council meeting, following this meeting.

The Festival One event, organised by Mr Juan Van Niekerk, appears to be a great opportunity to get together and raise some money for cancer research We understand this event was being co-organised by Richard and Juan, prior to Richard’s passing and we would actively encourage residents to purchase tickets and help support their fundraising efforts.

Julie Wallace