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Parish Feature: Pirbright, the Parish That Operates Around Its Village Green

Published on: 13 Apr, 2021
Updated on: 15 Apr, 2021

Following our article, Most Of Us Don’t Have a Clue About Parish Councils, we have asked the parishes to tell The Dragon readers about themselves. This is the first in a series that will, hopefully, tell you how the 23 parishes in our borough operate.

The parish of Pirbright, whose first tier of local government is their parish council, is in the north-west of Guildford and incorporates the village itself, Fox Corner and the Pirbright Army Camp, for many years the Guards Depot.

Cricket on The Green in Pirbright.

The council, chaired by Cllr Steve Fidgett, has seven volunteer councillors from several walks of life, bringing a variety of skills and experience to the parish table.

And Pirbright is always looking for more councillors to help support their 3,700-strong population, including 1,500 village residents, the 2011 census records.

There is the quintessential village green, complete with duck-pond, a children’s play area and a couple of traditional English pubs.

The Green also hosts the village football teams in winter and cricket in summer, both of which have flourishing junior sections, and the Lord Pirbright’s Hall, donated to the village in 1901.

But Pirbright has other claims to fame, being home to Ross Lowis Mangles, the first of only five civilians to be awarded the Victoria Cross, his for saving wounded under fire during the Indian Mutiny. There is a plaque honouring him on the north wall of the village’s St Michael and All Angels Church.

And Pirbright was also the home of the judge, Sir G A H Branson, grandfather of today’s Virgin billionaire Sir Richard Branson, and the explorer, Henry Stanley, who famously met his fellow explorer with the words, “Dr Livingstone, I presume?”

Pirbright has a “quintessential village green, complete with duck-pond”.

Village affairs are maintained by the parish council and trustees, all councillors, and account for a significant amount of time and expense. Over the past 12 months, people have “stayed local” and The Green has been a rendezvous point for friends and family and an opportunity for the children to play.

The heavier usage has meant more rubbish collections and parking “challenges”.

Playground on Pirbright’s green.

The council works closely with its schools, sports clubs, parish church and the Army, contributing to a strong community spirit that has increased throughout the pandemic to support vulnerable residents, care for its youngest charges and provide support for new visitors to its Green.

This partnership is perhaps best illustrated by the plans to Your Fund Surrey to modernise the cricket pavilion put together by cricket, football, youth football and tennis clubs and the parish council.

Pirbright Hall.

Every parish council employs a clerk. The Pirbright clerk, Ms Helen Myers, is also the Responsible Financial Officer who organises meetings, liaises with electors, helps support the council’s business and advises on matters of legal governance.

The PC also employ a groundsman and now, for the first time, an assistant groundsman to help clear the extra litter generated by the lockdowns. They also employ a secretary, a caretaker and two cleaners for the village hall, all part-time.

Pirbright, like all parishes, has the power to raise money through an element of the council tax called the precept. Their precept this year is £65,608 which, with about 1,225 households, up from the 2011 census listing 1,105, and equating to each household paying £53.54.

The main expenses are salaries, work on the hundreds of trees, grass-cutting, village seating and office running costs. The precept ranks 13th out of the 23 parish councils in Guildford.

People are always welcome at the monthly meetings (details are on the website). These evening gatherings are a great way of finding out what is going on in the parish.

The council, accountable to the electors, holds an annual meeting. The next is scheduled for Monday, April 26 at 7.30pm via Zoom. The council would encourage everyone to attend. Zoom details for this are on the website at www.pirbright-pc.gov.uk.

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