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Twenty years ago when I first became a councillor I remember being hugely impressed by the wealth of knowledge about Wollaston that there was among my colleagues ~ and I was born and brought up here. Twenty years later as I am leaving the Council that knowledge is still there. It is knowledge that is used constantly to the benefit of the village. You have to be patient to be a parish councillor as things do not happen very quickly. We have very little executive authority as most of what we do is in one way or another dependent on other organisations. But with the power of influence and persuasion we do get things done albeit usually rather more slowly than we would wish. Over the years we have been given more and more authority in the day to day running of the village and there is no doubt that the village is more professionally run and is the better for it. As councillors we are an apolitical group of colleagues and friends doing the best for the village we love and it has been a privilege to have been part of it.
It is sad therefore that once again in a community of some 3,500 people there have not been enough volunteers to fill the vacancies on the Council so there was no election for councillors in May. The Parish Council was inaugurated 121 years ago in 1894. It was a big council as they were mainly occupied with setting up the gas company and the sewage farm, each of which needed its own committee.. I think historically that this is why we have such a large council (13 councillors). Two of my forebears were founder members and for 109 of the years since then there has been a member of my family on the council. My father served 49 years, a record at the time but there are several of my fellow councillors who are now not far off this; a marvellous testament of their service to the community. These include Eileen Higgins who is also stepping down. She has been a councillor “since Adam was a Lance Corporal” and the village owes her a huge debt of gratitude for all she has done for us over the years.
I wonder how many people remember Walter and Milly Willis who kept the greengrocers shop at the bottom of Queen’s Road. When I was a boy I remember Walter ploughing the field at the end of our garden as at that time, apart from the cottages in Duck End our house was the last in the village. Now there are 290 houses between our house and the A509 (plus another 24 in Prospect Close. The field the Close was built on was very good for mushrooms). “The village will never be the same again”, people said. But of course it was and it prospered and flourished. Mind you, people had said the same when they built the Council Houses in the late 40s and early 50s ~ there were 103 of those in the first tranche. And they said the same again when the estates on Shelton’s Garage and the Pyghtles were built. But despite the prophets of doom the village continued to prosper and flourish and so it will when the next lot of houses have been built on Hookhams Path. Only this time it is different. Nobody asked my parents or the residents of Duck End, or anyone else for that matter, where they thought the houses ought to be built, or what sort would be best for the village. And there certainly was not an organisation that spent four years ensuring that when they were built, they were built to cause the least possible impact on the local residents. The truth is that any organisation, be it a business, a club or a village that does not grow and move with the times, dies. One has only to look at some of the wonderfully preserved Cotswold villages. Picture-postcard pretty to look at but dead. No employment, no shop, no school, no pub, no post office and most important of all, no young people. We are fortunate to live in such a vibrant and flourishing village.
It has been both a rewarding and a humbling experience to have been a parish councillor. I hang up my boots knowing that the village is in safe hands.