This week, we are celebrating the ongoing hard work of a semi-rural parish in North East Hampshire, crowned as the place with the best quality of life in the UK for four years in a row.
Hook Parish Council is within the District of Hart and is a council that works hard to ensure its population of 8,334 (2011 census) is provided with facilities and services which contribute to maintaining that high quality of life.
Surveys of residents, businesses and employees have demonstrated a high level of satisfaction with Hook as a thriving place to live, work and play and the council can be very proud of that achievement.
Conscious of the economic climate, Hook Parish Council strives to provide a value for money, high quality service and standards of maintenance for all the facilities under its management and it continues to find ways to improve and develop what it has.
The council is responsible for six areas of open space, including Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation in Hampshire (SINCS) and sites deemed as Suitable for Alternative Natural Green Space (SANG). Within these areas are facilities for football, cricket, tennis, basketball, a skate park, 10 play areas including a multi-use games area and an outdoor gym, which is well used by all ages.
Hook has over 300 members to the youth football club and a very strong cricket club. This year they have invested £60,000 in drainage improvements to enable youth football in the cricket outfield. The council also manages the cemetery and owns two community buildings and a bowling club.
Since 2007 Hook Parish Council has undertaken two major construction projects. The first was a complete rebuild of the Elizabeth Hall which cost £1.1m and was opened by Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex in 2008. Elizabeth Hall has been the home of the local amateur dramatic society, Hook Players, for many years and the main hall is equipped for theatrical performances. Three other halls are hired to a wide range of local organisations.
The second is a £1.6m refurbishment of Hook Community Centre to bring it up to the modern standards required for a growing community such as Hook. This new facility has three halls for hire and offers opportunities for sport, social and business use, which complements those of Elizabeth Hall. NALC is pleased to learn that the building is not only home to the Parish Council, but also provides facilities for the Base Youth Centre, Hook Village Nursery, Hook Squash Club, a Citizens Advice Bureau Information Kiosk and a stunning Community Café which is proving very popular.
Located adjacent to some football pitches, play spaces and the two Hook schools, means it has become a hive of activity and a central point for the local community.
Hook Parish Council is a council that embraces new ideas and technology, clearly demonstrated by the design and facilities for the new building. Funding for these projects has come from a combination of sources; the council precept, S106 monies and grants.
Like many communities, Hook is grappling with the challenge of pressure for more housing and has to accept that hundreds of new homes will be built in the near future. The council has tackled this challenge by creating a Hook Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, comprising both councillors and residents that consults locals and reviews sites, in preparation for when Hart District determines the further housing allocation for Hook.
NALC would like to congratulate Hook Parish Council for its continued hard work and for its resourceful and innovative approach to improvement and development in the Parish.