The Council’s determination to maintain, manage, and develop the Recreation Field provides the major story of the early 1970s. There were many difficulties to be overcome: legal queries over the transfer of land to the Parish Council, the withdrawal of government grants for new village halls, fundraising at a time of rising inflation and rapidly increasing costs, and frustrating delays in dealings with various officials.
A ‘Development Committee’ of volunteers and representatives of village organisations worked hard to raise money for the proposed children’s play area and village hall. The Council co-operated closely with the committee, and donated 55000 towards the new building.
At last, in May 1973, the ‘Conygre Hall’ was officially opened, taking its name from the coal mine which had once existed on the other side of the road. The names of two other local pits, Grove and Tyning, were given to small rooms in the hall as a further reminder of the legacy of the mining industry to the village. By 1975, the Hall was well used and financially sound, with all the costs of construction met. The Development Committee handed the hall over to the Parish Council which accepted responsibility for its future management.
Plans to designate part of the Recreation Field as a children’s play area also encountered many problems. Its location and lay-out had to take account of the needs of various sports clubs in addition to considerations of safety and security. Somehow the field had to accommodate two football pitches, a cricket pitch, and an upgraded tennis court, which would also be marked out for netball. In the past twenty years, the play area has undergone many changes which reflect new ideas about the value of play equipment and its safety in use.
The appearance of the Recreation Field has been enhanced by the tree and hedge planting undertaken during the 1970s. The Council was concerned about the loss at this time of all the elm trees in the village through Dutch Elm Disease, in addition to the loss, for a variety of reasons, of other mature trees. In 1973, £100 was allocated for tree planting, and later grants funded other schemes in the village where the necessary consent was obtained.
Another significant development took place when, despite local objections and despite Council support for the ‘Save Our Somerset’ campaign, Timsbury was included in the new county of Avon, created in the reorganisation of local government in 1974.
One crumb of comfort in the legislation was the right at last for Parish Councils to receive notice of all planning matters affecting their parish, for comment within fourteen days. Since then, an important part of most Council meetings has been the consideration given to all planning applications, and it is often for this reason that members of the public exercise their right to attend. The centre of the village was declared a conservation area in 1977, a fact which influences many planning decisions. The Planning Authorities can still over- rule the wishes of the Parish Council without having to give any reasons.
The work of the Clerk grew steadily as Council business increased. It was decided in 1972 to provide him with a telephone and a replacement typewriter which cost £28. In 1975, his salary, based on the national scale, rose to £340 a year. The first ‘Chairman’s Allowance’ was made in 1976 when the Council granted the Chairman £25 towards the expenses of his office.
The powers of Parish Councils are many, their statutory duties are few. One duty is to provide allotments where there is a demand for them. Timsbury Parish Council had, for many years between the wars, rented land at the top of Lippiatt Lane for allotments. That land was later used to help meet post-war housing needs. However, towards the end of 1975, sufficient interest in allotments was expressed for the Council to purchase suitable land in Lippiatt Lane. All 68 plots were immediately taken and a waiting list of unsuccessful applicants drawn up.
The Annual Parish Meeting is often the place where new ideas are put forward, discussed, and then referred to the Parish Council for further action. A good example of this may be seen in 1974 when a bi-monthly newsletter was suggested, to pass on Parish Council news and to give details of village events. This led to an arrangement whereby Council news was included in St. Mary’s Church newsletter for £4 per month.
The Parish Council subsequently itself became responsible for producing a village newsletter. Initially limited to six sides of paper, and subsidised to a maximum £150 for six months, the first copies of ‘The Timsbury Letter’ were distributed in August 1978. It met with a favourable reception, and within a year, the Council agreed to spend £180 on the purchase of a small printing machine. The newsletter continues to provide a valuable line of communication between many local organisations and the residents of Timsbury.
At the approach of the Silver Jubilee of the Queen in 1977, the Parish Council called a public meeting to discuss how to celebrate the occasion. This resulted in the formatively of two committees, one to raise funds for the events planned by the other. Various dances and parties, a house to house collection, and the sale of Jubilee Tea Towels showing an old map of Timsbury raised a total of £1248.22. A week of festivities in June included parties for the under fives, for primary school children, and for older children, all of whom received a Jubilee Crown Piece. The over sixties were invited to a dinner at the Conygre Hall, and everyone was invited to a bonfire and barbecue. Finally, a commemorative white horse chest- nut tree was planted on the Recreation Field, and the Jubilee Clock unveiled outside the Conygre Hall.
Throughout the decade, Council work continued routinely. Footpaths were kept open and signposted, with stiles in good repair, road seats and bus shelters received attention, and street lighting became more efficient and more effective, particularly with the introduction of all night lighting in 1978. At the same time, the Council began to take on other responsibilities. From 1971, annual grants were made towards the upkeep of the cemetery. In 1973, the Council organised a village Christmas Carol Service, starting a tradition which changed little until the Centenary Christmas Concert in 1994. The referendum in 1975 on membership of the ‘Common Market’ prompted the Council to organise a meeting at which the issues could be discussed by well informed speakers.
A measure of the increase in the activities and responsibilities of the Council during the 1970s is to be seen in the number of its sub-committees. In 1970 only the Paths and Lighting Committee is listed. By 1979, seven sub-committees covered Planning, Environment, Finance, Recreation Field, Allotments, Newsletter and Carol Service, in addition to management of the Conygre Hall and representation on other bodies. Clearly these were years of particularly significant development and achievement.