At Stapleford’s Annual Parish Meeting on 4th May, scores of residents took a few moments to celebrate and thank Cllr David Pepperell for over 50 years of service to Stapleford Parish Council. Here is Anthony Browne MP presenting David with his Honorary Freedom of the Village.
It’s hard to summarise significant David’s contribution to village life, so perhaps it’s best to leave it to the man himself. The following article, in which David reflects upon his years on the Parish Council and the changes he’s seen, was published in Stapleford Messenger in April 2021.
Parish Councillor Diary (April 2021): David Pepperell
David Pepperell is this month’s diarist in our series highlighting the aims and activities of our Parish Council. David was ‘interviewed’ by fellow Councillor, Jenny Flynn – a meeting of the newest and longest-serving members of the Parish Council.
JF: When did you first join the Parish Council and what was the initial motivation for doing so? What did you feel that you could bring to the role?
DP: I moved to the village in 1965 and joined the Parish Council in 1973. Why? By then I had lived in the village for eight years and liked its inclusive community spirit. Our children attended the local Community School. My wife, Lyn, worked there too (ultimately, for over 25 years), and I worked in Duxford at the Swiss Chemical Company, CIBA-GEIGY (in total, for over 39 years). The village was half the size it is today and there was a lot going on, and I wanted to make an active contribution with my skills. I joined the Parish Council in the knowledge that work is entirely voluntary and without political association.
JF: What was Parish Council life like in the early years of your involvement?
DP: We used to meet in several rooms on the Community School premises. There were nine Councillors: a farmer, builder, tradespeople, sports representatives, and me from industry. All of us and the Parish Council Clerk were involved in everything going on in the village and were well known to residents and readily approachable. These days, communication with the Council normally goes via the Clerk but until quite recently our phone numbers and addresses were available for people to contact us directly.
The computer age had not yet reached us and the Clerk, in my early days, was George Dunn, who recorded beautifully scripted entries of the agendas and minutes in bound ledger books. Our agendas worked well, with no sub-committees considered necessary, and were largely contained to matters happening within the village, with hardly any outside issues arising. The elected District and County Council Officers were our local links to the ‘outside world’, with little or no pressure from the large property developments which were to emerge in later years. It was fun!
We used to enjoy the ‘Beating of the Bounds’. This was an old parish tradition of Councillors and villagers walking the parish boundaries, with prior permission from landowners. In 2000, the millennium bonfire and lighting of the beacon was held on the Drift Road land. This was a great all-village occasion. A candlelit procession started from the recreation ground, with the evening culminating in a grand firework display.
JF: What roles and responsibilities within the Parish Council have you taken on over the years? When you look around the village, what are some of the main things you see which reflect Parish Council decisions of which you have been a part?
DP: Through the Parish Council, I have been involved with the Twinning Association since its inception in 1979. I arranged with British Telecom for a traditional phone box, and with Royal Mail for a post box, to be donated to our twinned village, Villedômer, in the Loire Valley of France. They are still there after 40 years and the bond of friendship remains today. In fact, Villedômer Wood, part of the extensive tree planting programme at Magog Down supported by the Parish Council, was named by me during one of my three periods as Chair.
As a Councillor, I have attended many police liaison meetings, supported the Magog Down project, and for several years was the Parish Council’s representative on the Stapleford Chalk Pit charity and involved in working parties at the Parish Pit. I was also Chairman of the Village Flower Show Committee, a Parish Council-nominated trustee of Feoffees, and the Parish Council representative on the school’s board of governors. More recently, I helped to get extra land for the new cemetery extension when development on land adjacent to the old cemetery became a real threat. Outside of the Parish Council, I was Chairman of the Friends of St Andrew’s on two occasions.
I have seen a lot of changes at the Recreation Ground during my time. The present pavilion building is now 10 years old and replaced a small, rudimentary toilet and changing room block. Building the pavilion cost around £250,000 and was only affordable because of a public works loan grant of around £120,000 that I helped to secure. It was a major undertaking for the Parish Council and for five or six years before building started we put aside half of our entire annual budget to cushion any impact on the parish precept. The pavilion still looks good and is serviceable today, although modifications are now necessary to meet present day usage and the requirements of new legislation.
One of the proudest moments of my parish service was to be nominated for my contribution in 2018 for an invitation with Lyn to the annual May Buckingham Palace Garden Party. It was one of those occasions I shall never forget.
JF: What do you think are the main challenges facing the village over the next five years in which the Parish Council will have a role to play?
DP: Early days on the Parish Council were far more relaxed and not nearly so intensive; probably we did not have so much to contend with. Things are quite different today! In my view, the biggest challenge for the Parish Council now is to contend with outside pressures from large developments encroaching upon our fringes. I can bring knowledge and background to Council debates on these matters, taking an active role in s106* expenditure, planning and other financial matters.
My regular walks around the village keep me abreast of many other issues that may arise, from potholes to individual householder planning applications. Litter waste is a particular problem in the village (as elsewhere) and I continue to undertake ad hoc clearance along the cycleway and on the Slaughterhouse land.
[* s106 is a legal agreement between an applicant seeking planning permission and the local planning authority, which is used to mitigate the impact of new development on the local community and infrastructure.]