So, another example of our Town Council taking over a District Council facility: the public conveniences in Mound Street. Have to say I’m relieved that our town councillors agreed we would keep these open, although I fear we might be caught short on the funding.

It’s all very well the District Council boasting about how they keep their Council Tax down through the careful way they spend their pennies, but it’s our dear Town Council that is left having to ensure local residents and visitors to the town aren’t inconvenienced.

Durham delight

Just spent a few really enjoyable days in Durham. Such a beautiful city with its cathedral , university, museum and shops. Some lovely walks beside the river as well.

However, I was really surprised to discover that, as such an important destination, it doesn’t have a tourist information centre! I wonder how many people miss out on some of the delights that Durham has to offer simply because they’re not being promoted properly.

In terms of services to visitors and tourists, I reckon its one-nil to Chipping Bonhunt!

Bohemian Bonhunt?

Just read a fascinating piece in The Guardian by John Harris, ” A lament for the death of bohemian London.”

He describes how an area called St Giles, next to  Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road, is set to be redeveloped. The setting for Hogarth’s Gin Lane in the 1700s, it has more recently been home to the music industry and various people we might describe as “bohemian.”

All looks set to be swept away as new development replaces it with the usual shops and multi million pound flats, way out of reach of the people who made the area so diverse and exciting.

Now Soho is very different from our much loved town of Chipping Bonhunt, but for how long? We’ve never been particularly bohemian, although we have a lively cultural scene and a great reforming tradition. The point is, everywhere is starting to look a bit too similar. The same shops, the same restaurants, the same coffee chains.

Long may Bonhunt still have its gentlemen’s outfitters and its shops that sell fine furniture and things, not forgetting our excellent second hand furniture and book shops. We may not be very bohemian, but let’s treasure what makes us different.




And another one!

Another one of our Chipping Bonhunt Town Councillors has resigned their political affiliation (Conservative) and joined the local residents’ group. Gone are the years when we had an election and everybody stayed part of the same political party over the next four years.

It makes for interesting times and who knows how many candidates we’ll have for the Town Council election later this year. One thing is certain, it’s going to be a very long ballot paper!

Educating Essex

This week’s front page news in our local paper, The Chipping Bonhunt Recorder, is the retirement at the end of the year of Bonhunt Academy’s Head Teacher. He has made an enormous contribution to the town as well as leading our local secondary school to outstanding status with Ofsted.

Local estate agents tell me that having such a good school increases the value of local properties by at least 10%. It’s certainly one of the reasons so many families want to come and live here.

Here at the Town Council we really appreciate what the school has done in partnership with the local community. Thanks to Bonhunt Academy we have facilities that otherwise it would not be possible to provide, and then there are the charity functions and events such as the tea party for older residents run by the school’s sixth form.

So, thank you Head Teacher for all you have done to benefit our young people and community.

Counting the Pennies

It’s that time of year when we have to finalise our budget and set the Town Council’s precept for 2015/16.

It used to a simple exercise, but now we’ve taken over some local facilities from the District Council, such as the cemetery and Chipping Bonhunt’s excellent tourist information centre, we have to count the pennies very carefully. I’m sure my Town Councillors won’t mind me saying that I’m always very careful to give them clear guidance on how we should manage our income and expenditure.

The precept forms part of the Council Tax and impacts directly on everybody living in the town, so we have a duty to ensure that we only collect what we really need and that we spend it wisely.

Fortunately, thanks I might say to careful management over the years by yours truly, we’ve been investing sensible amounts in maintaining our assets and our Town Council Business Plan has ensured that we haven’t had any nasty shocks, unlike one or two other towns in Essex that I could mention.

Cold and frosty morning.

It might have been cold and frosty this morning, but Chipping Bonhunt was looking at its very best as I walked around town with a visitor. They absolutely loved it, and their jaw dropped when we went inside St. Andrew’s Parish Church. We take it for granted so it takes a visitor to remind us what a truly magnificent building it is.

A gentle sun eased the chill and the market was in full swing. We couldn’t ask for a better place in which to live.

Common Law

One of our most important assets in Chipping Bonhunt is our Common. It’s a wonderful resource for the whole community and acts as a green lung almost in the centre of town.

The law governing commons can be quite complicated, but in practice as long as everybody is sensible and shows a bit of tolerance then we can all enjoy the open space. Over the years I’ve tried to impress on our hard working town councillors that it’s often better to turn a blind eye than get on our high horses when a group of young people play a football match.

I see another North Essex town is getting itself in a bit of a pickle over their common. I recommend they chill a bit.

Three Councils, not Three Wise Men

In Chipping Bonhunt we have not just one, not just two, but three Councils. I find I’m often having to explain to confused local residents how our particularly English system of local government works.

The County Council is responsible for big budget items such as social services, highways, buses, libraries,  and education (although successive governments have been taking schools away from the County Council’s control).

The District Council is responsible for more local functions such as planning, housing, environmental health and refuse collection.

So what does Chipping Bonhunt Town Council do, apart from producing a Mayor each year? Well, we pick up the very local services that the others don’t want to be responsible for. We look after the common, the town hall, the town cemetery and the museum. We provide allotments and support the tourist information centre. We cut various areas of grass, provide play equipment for the young and seats for the elderly. We also provide a “town view” on planning. All of this is managed by yours truly, Tobias Gibson, your town clerk.

A number of our Town Councillors are also District Councillors. I find it fascinating that sometimes they vote one way in the Town Council and another on the District Council, particularly on planning issues.

One thing is certain: In Chipping Bonhunt we are not short of councils!

Twelfth Night

A busy couple of days for the Town Council staff and our contractors taking down the Christmas tree and all the lights. We’ve had lots of positive comments this year, so thank you to everyone who has helped make Chipping Bonhunt look so festive over the Christmas period. The Market Square was particularly attractive.

If only we had three wise men who could influence the District Council to come up with a sensible Local Plan!


The undiscovered jewel of North Essex