The prize-giving of HAWARDEN IN BLOOM Competition took place on a rare sunny evening on 23rd July at the Institute. Tables were laid out with winners’ certificates of various categories with supporting photographs of their floral achievements.  Best back, best front, best courtyard, and best hanging baskets, best whatever and 18 entries in all had all been determined by the Judging Panel a few weeks ago. (Councillor Capers, passim). Cllr Helen Yale, Chair of the Community Council opened with a few words and I followed her with the task of describing how the judges had reached their decision.  “With great difficulty” was my message as we struggled to be fair about so many gardens that offered space and features, one tended by a gardener; and had to be compared with small gardens and even pavement plots in sheltered accommodation in urban Mancot.  Do we award first prize again to last year’s winner in a certain category or do we spread the good news more widely.  The only easy choice was judging the forecourt class.  There was only one entry but a well deserved victor with white painted walls, a stunning hanging basket and the green mock astro-turf grass that required no mowing.  Junior householder even caught our eye with his vegetable patch of sweet corn and other exotics all grown in a small container.  I was chuffed that a Ewloe garden won the best back garden award and could have scooped the hanging basket category too but we were determined to allow as many winners to emerge as possible.  We wanted to encourage new comers and to avoid where possible, the same competitor winning every year even though each display gave us a real treat in colour and versatility.  We all had our favourite garden, one loved the hens scratching around off stage, whilst another though the tiny coloured handkerchief of a pavement garden in a neat pensioners’ complex was the real star entry!  Everyone deserved to win but life’s not like that. The judges enjoyed the evening in such lovely and varied gardens and we all hope that even more gardeners will be preparing their precious plots ready to go into battle next year too. Lest readers think that my life as a councillor is one treat after another, a quick snap shot of the commitments of the past few days balances up the seemingly long line of “jollys”!  17th July the Planning Protocol Committee met with Cllr Patrick Heesom in the chair. It’s had a weighty agenda but worth the effort as little by little, members involved with planning issues are working in conjunction with planning officer to improve all aspects of planning and enforcement. Preparations are almost complete to allow interested parties to speak at Planning Committee meetings and the usual venue, the non citizen friendly Council Chamber will be substituted for a committee room where microphones and round the table discussions are exchanged from the “Top Table” officer versus the rest” situation. Another difficulty that is being worked on is how to cut down on losing appeals from the Planning Inspector.  As things stand, if members went against a planning officer’s recommendation, unless excellent grounds to support the decision existed, the Authority faces adjudication and costs in the decision go to appeal.  With shrinking budgets this is not what is wanted but there must be a balance between the collective wisdom of Planning Committee members and officers, who are by no means infallible. Patrick’s Planning Protocol Committee is tasked to explore options and its good that progress is being made and the previously very poor opinion of how planning operated in Flintshire is now moving in the right direction. Upwards!   On 23rd July, the full Council met to decide how to determine priorities on how money should be spent from the Housing Revenue account. The Constitution Committee met on 28th July and much of the agenda endorsed the recommendations made by the Planning Protocol Committee.  Our new Planning supremo, Andrew Farrell opened a Planning seminar on 31st July when we discussed with officers how to make committee papers more readable and user friendly.  A large agenda can produce as many as 20 plus reports which is costly in time to read and expensive in sheer amount of paper and postage if the documents are not collected from County Hall.  A good exchange of ideas followed and we all thought the seminar had been a great success. The Chain Gang hovered around the foyer of Holywell Hospital on 30th July ready to welcome Princess Ann for the formal open the hospital.  We chatted to the Companions of the hospital who manage to raise enormous sums for patients’ requirements despite the credit situation. The hospital is an amazing building, built on a steep slope and packed with so many excellent facilities including a wheelchair friendly dentist’s chair.  The children’s dental unit, the ultra sound and the ex- ray departments were all proudly shown to us by bubbly staff.  The visit by the Princess was greatly enjoyed by staff and patients and cameras snapped her every move. I was so pleased to be present as in 1999; I had hosted a delegation of councillors from Holywell to petition Jane Hutt, health minister at the time, for a new hospital.  Much to the annoyance of her official, she naively agreed that it would be built and soon.  Councillors were euphoric and they returned rejoicing to North Wales, celebrating the fact that a 27 year wait for a replacement was going to end.  By early 2003, with months to go before I retired as an Assembly member, I confronted Jane, reminded her of that promise and said, “It’s got to happen or no one will vote Labour again in the area if you renege on that promise.”  “Please let me achieve something for the constitutions before I go!” She kept her word and just weeks before the first four years of the Assembly term ended she came to Holywell and repeated that promise.  This time it was really true.  Daffodils were handed to her and further rejoicing took place whist the press snapped the scene.  A picture appears in “Leeks from the Back Benches” in fond memory of a small but important battle won for Holywell residents. Thank you Jane and well done to all those who built and equipped this lovely little hospital that was finished on time and on budget.

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