23 Northern Lights Award 27 September 2015

£800,000 raised over 28 years for activities for children with life-limiting conditions: that’s the record of Northern Lights charity (founded as the Christopher Johnson Fund).
Over 100 guests at Neston Cricket Club witnessed the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service awarded to the charity on behalf of the Quenn by Mr David Briggs MBE, KStJ, the Lord-Lieutenant of Cheshire. He said, “Northern Lights were nominated for their volunteer work in the community since its founding and were assessed by a panel of Deputy Lords-Lieutenant on the benefit the charity brings to the local community and its standing within it. Rarely have I seen such a wholehearted endorsement that the panel gave to Northern Lights.”

Northern Lights raises funds to give children with life limiting illnesses the unique experience of a very special holiday they will never forget. Every December, the charity takes a group of children, aged between 6 and 11, on a 5-day holiday to the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland to meet Father Christmas.
Accepting the award on behalf of the Charity, Chairman Karen Jones thanked not just her fellow committee members, but the hundreds and thousands of people who had helped with donations and with organising and attending fund-raising events over the years.

“We have now been able to expand our activities so that as well as continuing to benefit children in the north-west others in the north-east can participate. This year we will be able to take 30 children to Lapland to enjoy that feeling of freedom and independence that so often they have been unable to experience.

“Our committee has expanded over the years – we now number 11 people – including a new, younger generation and we hope that they will be taking an increasing responsibility for the future of the charity”.

Following the ceremony guests and supporters enjoyed afternoon tea and convivial chat.

Northern Lights Presentation

Deputy Lord Mayor of Chester Cllr Angela Claydon (with daughter on far left), Karen Jones, Lord-Lieutenant of Cheshire Mr David Briggs, Neston Town Mayor Cllr Mike Shipman, Sue Shipman. Picture courtesy of Gareth Powell



22 Parkgate Primary School 16 September 2015

What difficult questions 9 to 11 year olds can ask!

I was asked to contribute to their work on Magna Carta, democracy and the School Council by giving a talk to years 5 and 6 of Parkgate Primary School on how the Town Council and my role as Town Mayor fitted into things.  And they sat (I’d like to say with rapt attention, but certainly with interest) through all 30 minutes of it.  The questions they’d prepared beforehand were clear and searching and I was put on the spot more than once.

I passed the mayoral chain round at the end.  One or two were allowed to try it on – hopefully that was legal; I’ll have to ask the Town Clerk.

We ended with some photographs of two of their School Councillors with a Town Councillor – very apt.

My thanks to staff members Mrs Watkins and Mr Hewson.



Mayor (still shell-shocked at the perceptiveness of some of the pupils’ questions) with members of the School Council.

21 Neston High School Awards Evening 15 September 2015

It was a privilege to be asked to distribute some of the awards to students of the Cheshire Outstanding School of the Year, Neston High School. The ceremony to mark the achievements at the end of key stages 3,4 and 5 took place at Thornton Hall Hotel and was attended by over 100 parents and friends as well as the 150 or more students receiving awards.

It was good to see that half the subject awards were for progress:  rewards for hard work are not confined to the top achievers.

The accolade of School of the Year was won in competition from over 60 other schools in Cheshire West,  Cheshire East, Halton and Warrington.

The guest speaker was former student Dr Jessica Bell who gave a detailed account of her journey from the school via Manchester University Medical School to trainee GP in Wirral via trips to such exotic places as the Himalayas and Snowdonia Mountain Rescue.

20 Neston Town Council Meeting 8 September 2015

First business was to co-opt to the Council Susan Chambers. She was the only applicant to fill the vacancy caused when Pete Eccleston had to resign as an elected member for Parkgate Ward when he was moved by his work to London. She is known as a local historian, amongst other things. Welcome Susan.
The Council readily agreed to Janet Griffiths’s proposal that, as a first stage to getting Fairtrade status for the town, the Council itself should commit to buying Fairtrade materials for refreshments at Council events.
I vacated the Chair to propose my own motion, seconded by Adam Cray, about the need for Neston’s transport links to be improved so that people can get to work. The Council agreed unanimously that the situation would not improve unless the borough council was prepared to subsidise early morning and evening services, since the Town Council would find the burden of this prohibitive.
A response to the CWaC consultation on public open spaces was agreed. Importantly the discussion led to a commitment to discuss at our next meeting the need for improvements and a secure future for the Neston Recreation Centre.

19 Neighbourhood Plan Endorsed 3 September 2015

A process which began in the Town Council working group in February 2012, and progressed through the appointment of a Community Steering Group in September of that year, culminated in the Town Council unanimously endorsing the Neston Neighbourhood Plan on 3 September.
This has been one of the best examples of local community involvement in strategic planning there has been in Cheshire. After the Town Council set the parameters and set the ball rolling, it has taken a minority role on the steering group whilst at the same time giving it as much support as needed.
The procedures of the Town Council were (legally) adapted to allow the Chair of the Steering Group, Phil Baker, to present the Plan and its six associated documents, and for him and Peter Hamilton from consultants Cass Associates to answer questions.
The clarity of the document and the presentation of the huge body of evidence on which the Plan is based, including documented feedback from residents, can be seen at https://www.neston.org.uk/nplan-archive/neighbourhood-plan-submission-version/ or at Neston Library or the Town Hall.
The names of those who assisted throughout the process are recorded in the minutes of the meeting https://www.neston.org.uk/meeting-minutes/



18 Another Bus Launch 26 August 2015

Having already taken part in a launch photoshoot with Merseytravel (Blog 14), I was invited to another to celebrate with Cheshire West and Chester Council the introduction of the new “Streetlite” buses on the 487 route. Arriva have invested over £500,000 on this fleet just for the Neston-Liverpool service.
CWaC officers and Neston councillor Andy Williams, and I picked up the bus in brook Street before heading off the Parkgate.
And I didn’t need to show my bus pass.