Frensham Parish Council – one of 9000 such councils in England – is an elected corporate body in the first tier of local government. Higher tiers, known as principal authorities (such as Waverley Borough Council and Surrey County Council), have many legal duties to deliver services such as education, housing, town and country planning, environmental health, social services, policing etc.
While parish councils do have some legal powers, they have far fewer duties than principal authorities and greater freedom to choose what they do in the interests of improving the local environment and quality of life in the community. They play an important part in representing the interests of the communities they serve, for example by influencing decision makers in the principal authorities, and in delivering services to meet local needs.
As well as managing the land and assets which it owns or is responsible for (eg Shortfield Common, the Hollowdene Recreation Ground, and our three red telephone boxes), Frensham Parish Council is closely involved in matters concerning, planning (see below), highways, traffic, community safety, the War Memorial, public seats, grit bins, rights of way etc. The Council also maintains close contact with, and supports where appropriate and possible, a wide range of social, sports and welfare clubs, societies and organisations within the community.
The Parish Clerk
The Clerk’s overall responsibility, as an employee of the Parish Council, is to carry out the policy decisions of the Council and to advise and guide it on matters of procedure and law. The Clerk is responsible for seeing that the business of the Council runs smoothly and efficiently and is conducted in accordance with the law, including ensuring that the Council’s financial transactions are properly authorised, recorded and audited. The Clerk also performs clerical and secretarial tasks without which the Council’s business cannot properly be transacted. The Clerk’s office is in the Community Building at Willets Heath in Shortfield Common Road.
Frensham Parish Council consists of seven councillors: a chairman and three councillors from each of the two parish wards – Frensham and Rushmoor. None receives any remuneration or expenses for the work they do. Councillors are either formally elected or, in the event that a vacancy occurs, co-opted by resolution of the Council. Elections are held every four years – the next will be in May 2019.
On election, councillors formally undertake to perform their duties in accordance with the Code of Conduct for Councillors, and with the Council’s Standing Orders and Financial Regulations. They also have to disclose, and register with Waverley Borough Council, any personal interests that may conflict or be seen to conflict with their work as councillors.
At the Annual Meeting of the Parish Council, a Chairman for the coming year is elected and councillors are allocated responsibility – either individually or in small groups – for implementing projects or particular aspects of the Council’s routine work according to their expertise, experience, interests and availability.
For anybody interested in knowing more about how a parish council works and what its councillors do, a useful short summary is given in ‘The Good Councillor’s Guide’ published by The National Training Strategy for Town and Parish Councils which can be found online.
Parish Councils are required by law to hold, as a minimum, an Annual Meeting of the Parish Council (in May) and three other meetings. In practice, the full Council meets formally every six weeks. Its Planning, Environment and Highways Committee meets every three weeks depending on the number of planning applications and other business on the agenda. Details of forthcoming meetings are posted on the Meeting Dates page and on the Parish Council notice boards in the village. Council and Planning Committee meetings are held in the Parish Office at Willets Heath and are open to the public.
Waverley Borough Council (as the Local Planning Authority) consults the Parish Council on all planning applications originating in, or of relevance to, the Parish. These are considered by the Parish Council’s Planning, Environment and Highways Committee at its three weekly meetings. Comments and any recommendations are forwarded by the Clerk for consideration by Waverley’s planning committee (or more usually by a delegated planning officer), alongside representations made by members of the public or other organisations. The planning authority may or may not agree with our views, but can normally be expected to take account of them in determining the outcome of each application.
Although the Parish Council has no statutory powers in the planning process, its local knowledge, combined with an understanding of the planning system and its feel for local public opinion, means that it can still make a worthwhile contribution to Waverley’s decision-making process.
It is also able to draw Waverley’s attention to the relevant sections of our Village Design Statement. As this document has the status of Supplementary Planning Guidance, Waverley Borough Council must take it into account as a material consideration when determining whether or not to approve planning applications. It can therefore strengthen the influence the Parish Council has in the planning process. Councillors also attend Waverley Borough Council’s Planning Committee and any relevant appeal hearings, when these are of particular interest and importance to the Parish, and speak when permitted.
At its meetings, the Parish Council’s Planning Committee examines each application together with associated drawings and documents, and agrees the comments and recommendations to be made to Waverley Borough Council. The planning process is transparent, with all plans and documents relating to each application (including written representations by the Parish Council and members of the public) being published on Waverley’s Planning Applications On-Line Enquiry System