Eynsham Parish Council
Lockdown Blog submission
The meetings that didn’t take place:–
Full Council – 24 March at the Pavilion. We were just a little too late to go ahead with this meeting. Lockdown was announced by the Prime Minister, the day before. We discussed the possibilities of meeting inside, outside, spaced apart, meeting for only a few minutes – but events overtook us and we could not go ahead. The planned agenda was brief and the Scheme of Delegation (which allowed Council decisions to be made in certain situations such as this) had to be approved in an alternative way. Interestingly, the printed quote on the page of my diary for 23 March is certainly becoming a reality. ‘The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.’ Bill Gates.
Annual Parish Meeting – 21 April at the Village Hall. The Coronavirus Act was enacted on 23 March with secondary legislation (The Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020) coming into force on 4 April. It is this legislation that permits remote meetings for local authorities. It does not extend to Parish Meetings and therefore the decision was made to postpone it until further notice.
Holding remote meetings (using Zoom) was an important step for the Council as it allowed decisions to be discussed and made in public again thereby ceasing the Scheme of Delegation. The Council’s first remote meeting was held on 5 May. It is not an ideal platform for holding meetings as it feels awkwardly restrictive by its necessity for clear communications. That said, if it means the Council can meet to debate and agree its business, then it has to be a good thing. One positive aspect of the Government’s requirement for everyone to work from home if they can, is that I and the Council’s Finance Officer were already set up and doing this. With cloud-based software and online systems, thankfully it was business as usual for us.
It was heartening to see the Eynsham Good Neighbour Network expanded and modified to help residents in times of need. (Shopping, food deliveries, prescriptions/medicines etc etc). The Parish Council remains available to help in whatever way is needed.
The Play Areas, Pavilion and Bartholomew Room were rapidly closed (and continue to be closed). The regular release of new guidelines are reviewed to check whether normality can return. Sadly, normality is unlikely to return to these amenities, just yet.
Katherine Doughty, Clerk to the Council
From a Parish Councillor’s perspective, one of the things that I’m personally having to deal with is, of course, the vagaries of Zoom! What can I say?! Also, from a Footpaths/Fishponds point of view, it’s been very heartening to see so many people using our beauty spots and rights of way, some of whom it’s clear have never explored them before.
Our paths have never been so clear or well-worn. We have been incredibly lucky with the weather: if it had been grey and rainy throughout, the mood would have been very different, I think. Imagine those queues in the rain, or not being able to take your children outside!
Almost everyone I’ve “bumped into” (of course, that doesn’t happen any more), either out walking or in the village streets, has exchanged friendly words; the community spirit has been almost palpable at times. Also, having been Eynsham- rather than Oxford-based has meant that I’ve used our shops and services much more and got a “feel” of how the village is during weekdays, which has been lovely. I will continue using our facilities more once lockdown is over.
Chil Bridleway, heading west out of the village, proved exceptionally popular with residents taking and their much-needed daily exercise. As it was a delight to cross the usually busy, noisy A40, I was able to walk off Covid19 stresses to the north of the Parish as an alternative route. This was the first time I have walked this area, the site of the proposed Garden Village, in detail. The landscape and views are magical. And if the number of map downloads from Eynsham Online are anything to go by, many other residents were enjoying these footpaths as well. The joy of footpaths and – for the time being – access relaxing green spaces, has never been in sharper focus.
Since Lockdown, the Council has hosted 4 meetings by Zoom. Virus or no virus, the planning work (A40, Northern and Western Development) continued to rumble on in the background. For the first time, a developer presented to residents online, their vision for the development of West Eynsham. One hundred residents were reported to have joined in the online presentation.
Easing lockdown: Enjoying a takeaway coffee, all this in the name of council research, in the wonderfully peaceful, sunny Square proved to be a real treat and very entertaining. Lone residents occupying other benches, on their brief outing, got to watch and draw comfort from others move about the village streets.
The passing lockdown traffic was very different. Cyclists, going to who knows where, with the seriousness of the Tour de France; the much loved S1 going tirelessly back and forth, Witney – Oxford with much depleted passengers numbers; the odd skateboarder enjoying the rare freedom of an empty road and sadly, an eager driver or two reaching never before achieved speeds on the not-really-fit-for-modern-cars/vans Conservation Area streets.
How were the shoppers going to be able to form socially distanced queues on pavements that are not much more than 1 meter wide once non-essential shops could open as well? While under tight lockdown the essential shops managed exceptionally well with informal use of the highway and every combination of home delivery possible.
Another Zoom meeting and Councillors put their suggested changes to the highway to West Oxfordshire District Council who in turn will consult with Oxfordshire County Council. The outcome of which is yet unknown. Will we get an Eynsham wide 20mph or access only traffic through the busier shopping streets? Watch this space……