Northchapel village goes under the spotlight

IT was a controversial move five years ago when Northchapel parish councillors doubled their share of council tax.

But chairman Willie Poste said: “We have never looked back, it has enabled us to do so much for ourselves and meant we have been able to take matters into our own hands on several projects.”

Northchapel parish chairman Willie Poste with Robert Moss, a third generation farmer at Horton's Farm with his new snow plough.''Picture  By Louise Adams C131527-1 Mid Northchapel village

Northchapel parish chairman Willie Poste with Robert Moss, a third generation farmer at Horton's Farm with his new snow plough.''Picture By Louise Adams C131527-1 Mid Northchapel village

The village precept went from £15,000 to £34,000 overnight in 2008 and caused a bit of a stir. But there is almost universal support for the decision now as it has put Northchapel in charge of its own destiny in many ways.

Increased funds meant the parish council could put a hefty chunk towards the £250,000 project to repair and modernise the decades-old village hall.

Now run by a committee chaired by Jane Dadswell with bookings secretary Sharon Holden, which is home to keep fit, the annual flower show, a toddlers group and a host of private functions as well as the thriving monthly lunch club.

Villagers flock to the occasion which provides a home cooked two course mean prepared by stalwarts Pam Bruce, Ruth Vivian, Jan Glover, Jeanne Stemp, Stephanie Hipkiss, Gaye Jordan, Judy Burden, Yvonne Coonan and Anne Charlton.The added funds also meant the village could create its own Golden Jubilee commemoration.

And villagers are justly proud of their eye catching sign on the village green depicting some of its landmarks.

“We had been wanting to do something like it for years,” said Mr Poste, “and when we had more money it meant we could go ahead.

“I put out a flier to everyone in the village asking for designs and we went with one created by Ivan Talbot.

There were great celebrations last year when Ivan unveiled the new sign.

Sadly Ivan died earlier this year, but his son Terry is the third generation of the family running Talbot’s coal yard in the village - one of the oldest in West Sussex.

But the benefits of raising the precept do not stop there.

“We have been able to help the village a lot more in many ways,” said Mr Poste, “we have been able to make donations to the Acorns Play Group and to provide funds to buy books in the primary school. It was absolutely the right thing to do and other parishes in the area are beginning to realise its the only way to help villagers.”

Northchapel has the rare good fortune to have its own swimming pool.

Standing in the school grounds, for many years it was run by a committee of parents and other villagers.

The raised precept meant parish councillors could give a loan and a gift of finance. It meant villagers could put a cover on the pool giving it more use throughout the year for children and open it up for the whole village in the summer holidays.

And Northchapel has just bought its own snow plough as part of its winter maintenance plan, together with six salt bins dotted around the village

Farmer Julian Moss stores everything at Hortons Farm along with the supplies of salt sent out by West Sussex County Council.

“It means when the snow comes Julian will clear our side roads for us so the children can get to school and people can reach the A283.”

Northchapel has lost one of its two pubs in the last two years after Pat Gillham and her son Mark son a legal battle to turn their recession hit pub into residential property.

But a stone’s throw away Keith Sandieson is still behind the bar at the Half Moon pub which he has run for some 30 years.

Another focal point for village life is the Working Men’s Club used for social and fund raising events and run by a committee currently chaired by John Carter.

Northchapel School continues to thrive and now has an extra year at the to end of the school.

And the village still has its own shop run by Elizabeth and Steve Hardy and has managed to keep its own post office.

But Northchapel’s St Michael’s Church is once again without a vicar.

“We seem to have spent more time without a vicar than with one over the last few years,” said Mr Poste.

The parish shares its vicar with Lurgashall and Ebernoe, the Rev Malcolm Pudney retired, stands empty yet again.

It meant church warden Robin Walter had to stand it to conduct the recent Remembrance Service in the village.

There isn’t as much sport as there was when Mr Poste was a lad. Several football teams have swindled to one men’s team. But there is still stoolball played regularly on the village green.

But speeding on the busy A283 which divides the village is an ever increasing headache, made worse by the opening of the Hindhead tunnel.

“It became a designated lorry route when the tunnel was being built,” said Mr Poste, “and everything was diverted this way. They have carried on coming even though the tunnel is open.

“We have tried to curb speeding and now have vehicle activated signs either end of the village.”