Last night was the council's AGM (and my first one), which took place between 19:15 and 19:30. Cllr David Crompton stood down as Chairperson and Deputy Cllr Ann Barnaby was elected unanimously as the new Chairperson.
I was also elected to be the Deputy Vale of Glamorgan Community Liaison, taking over from Cllr Steve Haines.
Following that our usual meeting took place from 19:30.
We briefly discussed the brown site development of the Old Boys Village which has become a popular Urbex site. I say briefly because everyone who spoke on the matter was simply in support of the site's development, save concerns over the lane giving access to the housing. The site is to be mostly dismantled apart from the iconic Church and Caretaker's hut to allow new homes to be built. I am very delighted this application was made and wholly support it. Some details-for-joy are:
- 40% of the housing is to be affordable housing, generally only 20% is allocated for affordable
- The site has been subject to a lot of vandalism over the years and some theft of wood from the roofs of some of the properties has made the site dangerous. Re-developing the site will remove a danger to the public
- The history of the site, which includes a memorial on the plans is included in a public green area and symbiotically with the development of new houses the history will be protected
Here is an image of me when I visited the site some time ago. As you can see the site really needs this redevelopment.
At the end of the meeting I mentioned the community mapping is going well and there have been over 100 responses. Hannah Dineen, Senior Regeneration Officer for Planning and Regeneration is planning the next phase of drop in centres, online surveys and dropping leaflets through doors to get a strong, good sized and representative sample of what the residents of St Athan feel about the area. Hannah is hoping to update the council herself in June. I hope other councillors will see the value in the data Hannah is collecting as it can really help us decide on making evidence based decisions.
The foodbank event at The Gathering Place on the 12th went well. There was a good turn out of over 20 people. Representatives from different political parties and different levels of government attended. I'm keen not to be a photo-op politician so I've submitted my details for possible volunteer work at this food bank. Everyone seems to agree on the bitter sweet feeling with food banks... sad that they are needed but uplifting that so many are willing to donate and help.
I also chaired a Police and Crime Commissioner Hustings event on the 25th and I go into that here.
The meeting with with GMB's Regional Political Officer, Mike Payne had to be pushed back to the 9th due to my son being incredibly ill. Additionally I've been involved in two separate car accidents. It isn't a set-back though as the 750 jobs for Aston Martin are not immediate, so nothing is wasted.
The talk at The University of Bath on all things Pirate Party UK and how our first "Pirate in Power" is doing went very well. Students had quite a number of questions for me and were very engaging. The students were really good to me, making time to discuss anti-politics so close to their final project deadline.
Thursday just gone I met with students from Cardiff University on how social media can improve communication between councils and the public. We took a walk around my ward and the village area so I could show them some of the physical barriers that social media can easily over-come. Many councils fed back that they didn't feel the social media would be used by the public – of course you do need to think of the size of the area and the demographic but generally speaking I find a few thousand people from any area have already set up a facebook or twitter “hub” discussion page in absence of the community council doing so. Councils should be taking the lead in this field and be fit for the 21st century. In St Athan, our website infrastructure contract is up in November, I'm hoping we can dramatically reduce the cost of hosting the site as the grants will run out and we can look to including a social media aspect to the site. I'd also like to see councillors declaration of interests and disclosure data on a profile on the site.
Finally there is a Keep Britain Tidy event at St Athan Primary School a week today where the children, staff, myself and others will be cleaning the road that leads to the school. This came about due to there being a belief that the school children were responsible for the littering, however the majority of rubbish does not seem to be related to children-aimed product packaging. Regardless, actions speak louder than words so the children will be getting involved in keeping the community clean.
I'm finding an awful lot can happen in a village all at once, so I'd say to any prospective councillors, don't underestimate just how much you can be involved in!