Binsted Parish Council – one of 9,000 such councils in England – is an elected corporate body in the first tier of local government. Higher tiers, known as principal authorities (such as East Hants District Council and Hampshire 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. It is a legal requirement to be consulted in Planning matters.
As well as managing the land and assets which it owns or is responsible for, Binsted Parish Council is closely involved in matters concerning, planning, traffic and highways, community safety, footpaths etc. The Council also maintains close contact with, and supports where appropriate and possible, a wide range of 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.
Binsted Parish Council consists of nine councillors and a chairman. 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.
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 East Hants District Council, any personal interests that may conflict or be seen to conflict with their work as councillors.
At the Annual General 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.
Parish Councils are required by law to hold, as a minimum, an Annual General Meeting of the Parish Council (in May) and three other meetings. In practice, the full Council meets formally every month. Planning applications and other business are on the full Council agenda. Details of forthcoming meetings are posted on the Meeting Dates page and on the Parish Council notice boards. All these details can be found in the quarterly Parish newsletter. Council meetings are held in the Parish Office and are open to the public.
East Hants District Council as well as the South Downs’ National Park (as the Local Planning Authorities) consult the Parish Council on all planning applications originating in, or of relevance to, the Parish. These are considered by the Parish Council’s Planning Committee at its regular meetings. Comments and any recommendations are forwarded by the Clerk for consideration to the local planning authority 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 the decision-making process. 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 East Hants District Council or the South Downs’ National Park.
As part of this consultative process it is also able to draw attention to the relevant sections of our Parish Plan. This document has the status of Supplementary Planning Guidance, and must be taken 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. 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 the Planning Applications On-Line Enquiry System.