The Annual Town Assembly due to be held in the Corn Exchange on Monday 6th April 2020 was cancelled as a result of the pandemic and social distancing.
Ordinarily, this meeting of parishioners must be held in March, April or May but the government has relaxed this obligation due to the Coronavirus COVID-19 and the next Town Assembly will therefore take place in 2021.
However, the Mayor had already prepared her report for this meeting, which is as follows:
My name is Lynn Lindsay. I am a Town Councillor and the Mayor of Blandford Forum.
Ordinarily, this report would be delivered in the Corn Exchange with members of the public present. However, this is not possible this year and I have summarised the key points from each month over the last year to provide you with an update of what the Town Council has been doing.
- I was appointed Mayor for 2019/20 with The Community Kitchen as my Charity for the year.
- The extension works to Woodhouse Gardens Pavilion started.
- A new Deputy Mace Bearer was appointed.
- The Town Council approved expenditure of £2,700 for essential works to the Skate Park.
- A grant of £500 to Blandford Home Start was approved.
- A grant of £1,000 to ‘Oh No it Isn’t’ for room hire for three pantomime performances was approved and dates secured for future pantomime performances up to 2023.
- Online ticket sales for Town Council events was set up.
- Tree photography competition launched by Cllr Russell.
- High level cleaning carried out in the Corn Exchange.
- Community Payback Scheme introduced at Elizabeth Road allotments for one day.
- The Town Council supported the Dorset Council in its new environmental approach and formed a working group to formulate actions in order to address the climate emergency.
- A grant of £281.40 for free room hire for the Free Expression Festival was approved.
- Two new Councillor robes were made by a local seamstress.
- I enjoyed drawing the winners of 100 free tickets for the Great Dorset Steam Fair, which was our first live video shown on Facebook!
- Consultation with Damory Down estate residents carried out to seek views on what tree species and location they would like to replace the seven trees that were felled due to being dead, dying or diseased, and if they would like wildflower meadow areas.
- Unveiling of new plaque at Dr Davies garden (pictured).
- VE75 Planning Group formed to organise events for the town on Friday 8th May 2020.
- The Town Council approved expenditure of £2,339 for the purchase and installation of a new boiler for Woodhouse Gardens Pavilion.
- The Town Council created a Public Art Plan, went to tender for designs for the Badbury Heights development and approved a submission due to be installed in 2020.
- The first Town Council organised Skatefest was held and was a great success! There will be another one in 2020.
- The Town Council held free summer holiday entertainment with Jamie Jigsaw.
- The Woodhouse Gardens pavilion extension was completed and reopened to the public.
- A bustling Community Expo was held.
- The Town Council was part of the Dorset Architectural Heritage Week again, with the cemetery chapel, Town Hall and Council Chamber included in the list of venues to visit.
- Work started preparing the budgets for the 2020/21 financial year.
- Africa Trust – The Town Council purchased two hot water boilers, one for Woodhouse Gardens Pavilion and one for the Corn Exchange kitchen. The company these were purchased from donates on behalf of their customers to the Africa Trust. These funds are used to directly build fresh drinking water wells in areas in Africa where it is needed the most, like in schools and villages. They selected the Town Council to aid the project that they are running which involves installing additional water wells (which are referred to as Elephant Pumps) in Africa. The pump has been inscribed with the Town Council’s name and a photo, a certificate and letter of thanks from the villagers / pupils will be presented to us.
- The Town Council agreed to nominate the buildings of the Methodist Church, RBL, Knees Up Hall, the Post Office, Nordon and the Library on the Community Right to Bid register because these community buildings are an asset to the town, are important architecturally and offer services to the town.
- A Website Accessibility Statement was adopted to improve access for everyone.
- A Climate Change and Biodiversity Action Plan was approved and has been regularly updated since.
- The great-great-grandson of Charles Dickens, Gerald Dickens entertained a full house in the Corn Exchange with A Christmas Carol.
- Remembrance events were held in the town, including the whole community.
- Expenditure of £1,375.80 was approved for essential work to the Skate Park.
- Free hire was approved for the foreseeable future for the Tea Dances held in the Corn Exchange.
- Expenditure of £300 was approved for temporary traffic monitoring in Edward Street and Black Lane, due to complaints of speeding in these areas. However, as it didn’t meet the criteria for Speed Indicator Devices these will not be installed.
- Free parking days for 2020 were set in conjunction with the Dorset Council, which is the organisation that owns the parking areas.
- Additional expenditure of £1,614 was approved for the Railway Arches.
- The renewal of the four-year agreement with MVS Blandford Ltd was approved.
- The Tree Lighting & Carol Service were held. This is always a lovely community event.
- Shops and businesses of Blandford Forum contributed to the small Christmas trees and were very supportive. Thank you again to everyone that contributed to this!
- The Christmas Window Competition was held
- A grant of £2,300 was awarded to Age Concern Blandford.
- Free venue hire was approved for the Town Team meetings 2020/21.
- Expenditure of up to £3,500 was approved for the purchase of a new van, bringing the number of council vehicles up to three.
- Expenditure of £306.50 was approved for the services of a sound technician for the Remembrance Sunday outdoor service and the Royal Corps of Signals Freedom Parade in June 2020.
- Expenditure of £175 was approved to commission a survey at a specific site along Black Lane to monitor the speed.
- Expenditure of £1,420 was approved for safety railings at the Railway Arches to assist the public when accessing the top of the arches.
- The Town Council confirmed the precept for 2020/2021 at £801,180 which is an increase of 1.11% and equates to £2.49 per Band D property.
- Expenditure of up to £6,600.00 was approved for essential tree/hedge works.
- The Town Council agreed to sign up to the Tree Charter.
- Expenditure of £13,117.66 was approved for essential works to be carried out on the Cricket Pavilion.
- Expenditure of £4,793 was approved for structural works to the railway arches.
- The Neighbourhood Plan referendum was announced for 7th May 2020; however this has since been cancelled due to COVID-19 and postponed until May 2021.
- Ingham Pinnock Associates appointed to assist in progressing the Corn Exchange project.
- Expenditure and a design were approved for a VE Day 75th anniversary bench.
- A 2-minute litter pick board was introduced to the Market Place.
- Grants awarded to Blandford Police, Blandford Scout Group, St John Ambulance and free venue hire for 60% of the bookings for Oh No It Isn’t, Poacher’s Moon, Artsreach and Free Expression Arts Festival. The T&GP Committee supported the Dorset Council Councillors in working towards a 20mph speed limit across Blandford Forum.
- The T&GP Committee approved expenditure for the purchase of four, three-tiered planters, for a total of £2,216.12 and although they may not be on display this year, due to the virus, we look forward to when they will be out and full of flowers!
- A total of 57 Planning Applications were considered by the Town Council between May 2019 and March 2020, which are dealt with by the Planning department at the Dorset Council.
- Coronavirus COVID-19:
- In March bookings, events and meetings were all cancelled for the foreseeable future.
- Office staff were set up to work from home and to continue with their functions.
- Grounds and caretaking staff were set up on a rota basis to minimise contact with each other, but still ensure areas continue to be maintained.
- The grounds staff have also been able to carry out vital community work.
- All hirers have been refunded, contrary to our booking conditions.
- Sports Clubs (cricket, rugby, football and bowls) have been given a payment break for April to June because they are unable to use the facilities or make any income.
- The free hire of tables and chairs was offered to people working from home and children requiring a desk space.
- Staff directly contacted elderly and vulnerable people the Town Council was aware of offering them our support.
- Staff have since been assisting elderly and vulnerable people by taking their telephone calls and arranging for them to have shopping and prescriptions collected, gardens looked after or just to have a chat.
- Grants of £1,000 were awarded to both Age UK (North, South & West Dorset) and the Blandford Forum Food Bank in March to support them in the essential work they are doing.
- A webpage was set up with useful information and contact details. This was displayed on posters in notice boards throughout the town from the middle of March and has been updated whenever additional support streams arise: https://blandfordforum-tc.gov.uk/coronavirus
- Large banners were printed and displayed around the town reminding people to follow the government guidance to stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.
- The Town Council has been prioritising payments to small businesses and the self-employed.
- My message to Blandford Forum, uploaded to the Town Council’s Facebook and Instagram pages on Friday 27th March 2020, was as follows:
I am born and bred Blandford and love living here but never before have I been so proud of this town and what it has achieved in such a short space of time under immense pressure.
And the clapping being heard throughout our town last night, in support and appreciation of the NHS, was incredibly moving. Well done Blandford.
Over the last few weeks I have seen pharmacists and staff in the chemist, supermarket and shop workers, and delivery drivers pushed to their limits working so hard to keep Blandford catered for.
We are frustrated with queues to get medicines but we understand the pressure chemists are under and that they are dealing with anxious and sometimes upset members of the public when they too are worried.
Our wonderful cafes, restaurants and retailers in this town have been through a very difficult period which eventually resulted in many closures and I am sure, like me, you cannot wait until you can give them your custom once more.
Like many, I am having to self-isolate due to an underlying condition and I am so impressed with the number of people who are volunteering to support their local community. Those who are in a position to do so, really are going above and beyond for those who are vulnerable at this unprecedented time. In some cases, it is shopping, picking up medication or just having a chat and being kind.
I admire the teachers in the local schools who are dealing with such extraordinary times, and the work they had to put together quickly for their pupils, and I feel for the students who had been working so hard towards their exams this year. I urge parents not to put yourselves under pressure to stick to schedules at home when you may also be trying to work from home and enjoy the extra family time you now have.
So many people, who are able, are continuing to carry out their duties for the benefit of the town including our doctor surgeries and their staff, emergency services, post office and council workers.
My heart goes out to those with the uncertainty of their businesses and employment.
The carers who have continued to put their patients first should be praised.
Our beloved NHS, and its dedicated staff, is what we really need to protect, in order to save lives.
We have all been affected by this situation and we can all do something about it:
Stay at home!
• Only go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if you cannot work from home)
• Stay 2 metres away from other people
• Wash your hands as soon as you get home
You can spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms.
Obviously we have had to postpone our VE Day celebrations for 8th May and hope to combine them with the VJ Day events in August but, whenever these do take place – Blandford – we will certainly be having an over-arching celebration of VC Day – Victory over Coronavirus!
Please take care of yourselves, and others.
Feedback from some of the organisations in receipt of a Town Council Grant 2019/2020 explaining how it has helped their work:
Blandford Literary Festival
A small team had a vision to develop an idea for a community literary festival in Blandford. The vision was to highlight local talent and include as many buildings and businesses to showcase what the town had to offer. The funding for the hire of council venues took away the financial pressure of being able to include the Corn Exchange and Woodhouse Garden Pavilion, which were fantastic venues for some of the events held during literary festival week. It was very much appreciated. Thank you.
Treads Young Person advice and information centre has been providing services to young people in Blandford Forum and the surrounding area for over 22 years and is very proud of the relationship and the support that it has received from the town council.
Over 760 young people used the services that we provided last year receiving either one to one support or taking part in one of the many workshops that we arranged.
The reasons that young people choose to seek advice have changed over the past 10 years and so it is particularly important that we listen to what they need and adapt our services so that they stay relevant.
Most of the inventions currently are around mental health, peer relationships, bullying and gender issues.
To ensure that as much of our funding as possible is used to provide front line services rather than fund support costs, Treads relocated to the Youth Centre at the end of March We are continuing to help young people on on-line during the current lockdown and look forward to launching new workshops this summer
Oh No It Isn’t
We are now approaching our third year’s production, and even though these are challenging times for all of us, we are confident of continued success. The support of the Town Council has been a vital part of this success and we very much hope to maintain this partnership to enable us to continue to provide a high quality locally produced community and family-based pantomime for Blandford.
Blandford Fashion Museum
As always, the Blandford Fashion Museum is extremely grateful to the Town Council for the provision of the SLA grant. Last year the Museum’s focus was on the following items, for which the grant has made a significant contribution
- Continuation of our carpet renewal programme
- The installation of a panelled glass door into the tearoom to ensure it demonstrates a welcoming appearance (rather than visitors being face with a closed door)
- The ongoing restoration and conservation of some of our costumes.
Blandford Museum, Heritage and Arts Centre
The museum’s refurbishment during the winter of 2018-19 was funded by an EU Leader grant, with additional funding from a Section 106 Lidl grant and Museum match funding. We re-opened in April 2019 and has remained open since, with a brief period of closure for cleaning during January and subsequently closed on 15th March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of our volunteers are in the ‘at risk’ category and soon after the government announced closure of all spaces where people gather. It was a part of the conditions for the Leader Grant Funding to open for a longer period of time with the aim of increasing our visitor numbers. Of course that meant a restructuring on times for opening and staffing. Thankfully our volunteer stewards have risen to the challenge and offered their services, when and where they can.
From April 2019 to 15 March 2020, our first full open year we increased visitor numbers by 2994. We had predicted an increase of 1500, so we very pleased. We can probably attribute this to several different factors – economic as we are free and there has possibly been a rise in staycations rather than going abroad (pre-Brexit). Our Art Exhibitions have also contributed to this increase and have not only brought an exciting range of local artists work to the only permanently open exhibition space in town, but the art was on sale and produced access to affordable, original art. Numbers were also increased by the different events, gatherings, social functions and activities that take place during holiday times as well as throughout the year. Access to the garden, which has become a haven for local people, provides colourful plants, vegetables, a resting space /pausing point for families, shoppers, students, workers, older and younger folks. Talks, organised by the Archaeology Group as well as the museum also enrichment to our community. The renovated space has definitely given the museum a more acceptable, accessible, comfortable floor space for all our events.
Until the ‘lockdown’ there were a group of four year 12 students from the Blandford School working on two different projects, which could certainly have an impact on increasing the age range of visitor numbers for the future. This is a key objective for us. So, future planning and sustainability are important as we are a small institution aiming to fulfil a noticeable face within the town’s community and beyond.
We have been accepted for a place on the South West Insights Programme for 2020 – with our focus on ‘growing our audience’ a key aim and concern for us as we prepare our new Forward Plan 2020-2025. We are also applying for the ‘Small Grant, Big Improvement’ scheme with another key focal point ‘improving our volunteer base and succession’- two major and necessary topics to address.
As I write this I am acutely aware that as the community repairs itself from the Coronavirus, financial distribution may well be a greater concern for the Town Council. The museum has been dependent and thoroughly grateful for the annual sum that the Town Council has granted us for many years. We understand that it is not just ‘a given’ – but has to be weighed up against all the other demands on its purse. It does enable us to stay open. We are free to the public and our only other funding is from membership fees, donations, shop sales and all the other ways as outlined above. So, thank you Town Council we have been and are indebted to you for your support to keep us open!
The Town Council office is temporarily closed to the public, but the staff are still working so please do not hesitate to get in touch with us using the contact details below…
Tel: 01258 454500 • Fax: 01258 454432
Last modified: April 14, 2020