AGM of Parish Council (24-4-18)
Cropwell Bishop Parish Council held its Annual General Meeting last night at the Old School.
All residents were invited and, as usual, there was a presentation by an outside speaker prior to Council business. Last night, two representatives of Cropwell Bishop Creamery were there.
The Skailes family run the business and it was Ian Skailes who described the history of cheese making in Cropwell Bishop and how his family transformed his earlier company, Somerset Creamery, from a making cheddar cheese, into a maker of top quality Stilton Cheese.
Alastair Simon is responsible for product development and gave us an insight into the challenges and opportunities for a small food producer.
Sixty years ago, they were making Stilton cheese in Melton Mowbray and moving production from there to Cropwell Bishop in the 1990s, proved a challenging task.
Nevertheless, since then the business has prospered but its team of workers appreciate the need to continually innovate if they are to stay competitive in what has traditionally been a small market.
Only six diaries are allowed to sell cheese with the ‘Stilton’ label. Long Clawson is by far the biggest producer and Cropwell Bishop is the third biggest with about 10% of the market share. This is a position the company is happy to maintain.
It focuses on supplying top quality cheeses to premium retailers. So, while you won’t see its cheeses in Tesco, you will be served Cropwell Bishop Stilton when you travel 1st Class on British Airway flights (so I am told).
Almost half its sales take place in the two months before Christmas so everyone is very busy during late summer and autumn: but what about the rest of the year?
This is when they have to focus on exports and it was interesting to discover the preferences of American customers. Older, stronger smelling Stilton that we might reject, is preferred by some Americans.
Selling cheese is a complicated business and their Cheese Shop in the Village has proved a big success in many ways.
Residents at the meeting described how they value it for: buying for family and friends, buying for themselves, enjoying the creamy coffee, including a shop visit as part of the ritual when family/friends come to visit, and enjoying the quality biscuits.
The shop has also proved useful to the company for getting customer feedback and as a venue for their business customers.
The Creamery has long been a regular supporter of Village events. The Stilton Stumble Run, Picnic in the Park, Village Show, all spring to mind but their involvement in local events goes back a long way. I recall that in 1985 the company (then calling itself Somerset Creamery) sponsored the ‘Cropwell Bishop 10 Mile Run’.
It was surprising to discover that virtually all their milk is supplied by a handful of small family farms in the Peak District that sell all their milk to the Creamery.
They spoke about other ways of rewarding their Village customers; no doubt we will hear more on this later in the year.
It was good to hear how popular Cropwell Bishop Stilton has become but it was even better to enjoy their success by eating some!
Our speakers had brought along five different Stilton cheeses for us to sample together with their specialty biscuits. It was an opportunity to compare the different qualities of the Stiltons on sale in its shop.
Then it was time for official business; the AGM and report from its chairman, Alan Wilson. This developed into questions from residents and answers from relevant councilors.
Points raised included:
Pot holes: the online reporting is efficient and deep ones are filled within 48 hours. We are still waiting to see if a request for road resurfacing between Kinoulton Road and the Church will be successful: the only obstacle is the County Council's shortage of money!
Roundabout near the A46: it looks uncared for.
Bus Service: at times it is well used (early morning and later afternoon), but at other times the buses are often empty. During the day it falls short of what many residents want and they are shunning the service and, for example, using the park and ride at the Shepherds Restaurant.
Co-Op build: it would appear that the Co-Op (nationally) is reconsidering all its developments—probably because of intense competition from Aldi and Lidl. Will it still go ahead: likelihood 50/50?
Plans for new housing in Cropwell Bishop: Rushcliffe BC meets on Thursday to make its decision.
All in all, it turned out to be a very informative and entertaining evening.
To discover more about the decisions being made about your Village, go along to the next Parish Council meeting on 1st May.