wooden model houses with snow falling on a red backgroundAs 2020 draws to a close, we understand that this remains a time of anxiety and uncertainty for many people. Normal life has changed as we know it and it is difficult to imagine what the future will bring over the coming months, however, we continue to see acts of kindness and compassion in the parish which serve to inspire and uplift the spirits.

At the start of lockdown in March, Stone Pavilion was forced to close its doors to the public but councillors and staff offered support to the most vulnerable members of our community. We launched a dedicated COVID-19 Support Page, enabling residents to sign up as a volunteer but also providing a source of information with links to local support groups. We awarded a £1,000 grant to Mary’s Child food bank, donated over 100 Easter eggs for distribution to local families, and staff contacted over 160 senior residents to check on their welfare and offer assistance with food shopping or collecting medical prescriptions.

Since our regular parish events were cancelled, in autumn we turned to online events to replace our traditional Remembrance Service and Parade.  We donated a further £500 to both the Mary’s Child food bank and the Dartford Toy Appeal to continue helping local families.

At the end of November, we hosted a Christmas card competition for local children and held a virtual Christmas lights switch-on event. In the last week, we delivered over 200 Christmas hampers to senior residents, and our festivities came to a close on Sunday when a horse drawn sleigh took Father Christmas on a mini tour of the parish.

Although Christmas will likely be very different for many now we are in a Tier 4 area, we hope the sacrifice of not seeing our loved ones will enable us to regain our freedoms as we move into 2021.

We have a lot to look forward to next year. Our new community facility, the Claire Tiltman Centre, is set for completion by the end of May and will provide a fantastic resource for local youth activities and education on sustainable living. We are also looking to commence significant upgrades at Stone Recreation Ground and will look forward to getting local families involved in deciding plans for a new playground.

The Stone Neighbourhood Plan is awaiting formal examination and we are anticipating a referendum on this in summer/autumn 2021. Support and adoption of this plan will unlock further investment in the local infrastructure to make Stone Parish a high-quality environment.

Our forthcoming strategic plan will set out priorities and what we intend to deliver for the community over the next three years, so residents know what to expect from us.

Even if restrictions continue into the new year, we are working hard in the background to ensure the community can benefit from some wonderful new facilities once things start returning to normal.

The council office will continue to remain closed for the foreseeable future but we would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone in Stone Parish a very Merry Christmas – keep well and keep safe, and we hope for a better New Year for all.