Chairman’s Report 2010

 ‘The Friends of Bellie Churchyard’
Annual General Meeting
Wednesday 28th April 2010 at Fochabers Heritage Centre
Chairman’s Report

The Friends of Bellie Churchyard are most grateful to the Fochabers Heritage Centre for providing the facilities for this AGM.

The first phase of the planned developments at Bellie Churchyard is now under way, with the planting scheme developed by the Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh in progress, the work being undertaken by Threaplands as and when the weather permits, and when planting conditions are suitable. The estimates for this work proved to be well beyond the resources of the Friends of Bellie Churchyard, and the group is most appreciative of the funding which has been provided for this work by the Gordon and Ena Baxter Foundation.

The lack of a regular membership income to the Friends of Bellie Churchyard has been of considerable concern to the Committee, and it was decided that a concentrated effort should be made to recruit more members on an annual subscription basis, in order that there should be a regular cash flow into the FOBCY funds. At the last Committee meeting all members of the committee were challenged to recruit at least one new member on this basis. It will be interesting to see how many new members we have managed to inveigle into our ranks this evening.

The website is now well-established and is providing a useful source of information to people searching the web for information on our historic churchyard. It would be interesting to know how many hits there have been on the website since it was established, and whether it has generated any new members.

It seems unlikely that in future FOBCY will be able to pay for outside contractors to undertake any maintenance work on the churchyard, and the sense of direction of the membership now seems due for a change, to bring it in line with the many other graveyard conservation groups across Scotland. This would mean that we may need to set up specific days when a team of volunteer members go into the site to do general tidying up, removal of weeds and unwanted growth, etc. With the impending cut-backs in Local Authority funding, it is likely that the Moray Council maintenance of the site will be reduced, and it is now up to the membership to keep the place looking as we want it. The Moray Council cemeteries department are quite happy for volunteers to undertake this work, but they must be covered by their own insurance, as the Council will accept no responsibility for any damage or accidents caused during this voluntary work.

The proposed work on the entrance roadway and the associated parking area seems to be coming up against many obstacles. Not least is the problem of the ownership of the land, and also the major costs involved. A planning application has been submitted to the Moray Council, but requires additional paperwork and a fee of £145 before it can be processed further. Full written specifications are required from a registered contractor as regards the roadway and parking area construction, landscaping and especially drainage. Various suggestions have been received from neighbouring landowners, even including the possibility of FOBCY purchasing the appropriate land. It is not the remit of the group to become landowners, and the main focus of the group must remain in the churchyard itself. Some of the suggested costs of the proposed work at the entrance are presently out of reach of the group, and even the proposal that some boulders may be placed on the ground adjacent to the entrance could result in the need to take out a partial road “stopping-up” order if there were objections to this proposal.

As Chairman I am worried that these ideas for the entrance may be diverting the interest and the funds of FOBCY away from its main purpose, which is to conserve and beautify the churchyard and the new cemetery, and that we have to look carefully to our future targets in these times when local authority funding is rapidly diminishing.

Over this summer, hopefully, we will see a few visits by teams of members armed with a multitude of gardening tools, black bags, maybe even hip flasks, to attempt to keep nature at bay in the historic Bellie Churchyard.

Bruce B Bishop, Chairman, 22nd April 2010