The system of rural parishes and parish councils in England and Wales was established by a Government Act in 1894. This Act transferred to new rural councils most of the civil functions previously performed by the Church of England and other bodies. Parish councils were created only in rural areas and these rural parishes were grouped into districts. The basic parish structure remains the same, although various local government acts have made changes to ethical systems, financial systems and powers to create by laws.
Westhall Parish Council's main function is to look after the fabric of the village. These are some examples of its responsibilities:
• Planning - Parish Councils have a right to be notified by the District Council of any planning applications made, and can approve or object to such applications. Objections can, however, only be made on the grounds of a material planning consideration - examples are where the development would have an adverse effect on other residents' daylight, sunlight or privacy, or where the property is in a Conservation Area or is a listed building, or where issues arise from the development's proposed access arrangements, layout, density, design and appearance or character.
• Rights of way - Suffolk County Council is responsible for keeping the footpaths and bridleways clear, and so the Parish Council alerts them to any obstructions or other issues.
• Allotments - The three allotment sites located at Cox Common, Mill Common and Locks Road were allocated to the parish in the nineteenth century as part of the Enclosure Acts. Allotments can be rented for a modest annual charge, and the Parish Council carry out an annual inspection to ensure the sites are kept tidy and under cultivation.
• Highways and Street Lighting - Parish Councils have a duty to notify the local highway authority, Suffolk County Council, of any problems such as pot holes, flooding, overgrown or dangerous hedges and verges or ditches that need clearing. Residents can also obtain up to date local highway information, eg about road closures, at: https://roadworks.org/
and can report problems at: http://highwaysreporting.suffolk.gov.uk/
For updates on whether Suffolk Highways' gritting lorries are out see: www.suffolk.gov.uk/gritting
• Westhall Pleasure Ground and Car Park - In the centre of the village land was bequeathed to the community for recreation and the Parish Council is its trustee. The land is a registered Village Green and so it cannot be developed or enclosed but must remain available for community use. The grassed part can be used by the village for fetes and functions, and the remainder forms the village car park serving the adjacent Village Hall, playing field and childrens' play area.
Councillors and Nominated Officers
The Parish Council is a body of nominated and elected people. It is an essential part of the structure of local democracy and forms a vital link between the community and principal authorities. The elected councillors are bound by a ‘Code of Conduct' and, in performing their duties, must act with integrity, honesty, impartiality and objectivity and any personal interests must be declared. The councillors must not allow their own personal or political opinions to interfere with any decisions made.
Mrs Edna Clark Millers Cottage, Cox Common, Westhall, IP19 8RJ - 01986 781492