Ordinary Meeting Minutes 2/3/2015


Minutes for the Ordinary Meeting of Penshurst Parish Council held on Monday 2 March 2015 at 7.30 pm in Fordcombe Village Hall


1.            PRESENT:     Cllrs J Cass (Chairman), Mrs D Broad, I Carson, S Frederick, J Horsford, J O’Shea, B Townsend


In Attendance:  SDCllr P Cooke, Mr R Sellings (Speedwatch & Swaylands), Mr P Johnson (Alms Houses & Neighbourhood Watch)


APOLOGIES:     Cllrs J Broadhead, A Campbell.   KCCllr C Pearman


2.         MINUTES OF MEETING HELD ON 2 February 2015, having been circulated, were approved and signed by the Chairman.


Declarations of interests in agenda items

If a Member has a disclosable pecuniary interest in an item of business this must be declared at the start of the meeting, unless dispensation has been granted.  The member may not participate in any discussion, vote or discharge any function related to that business.

Non-pecuniary interests may be declared at this point if not already registered.  Members with a non-pecuniary interest may speak on the subject if members of the public can do so but may not vote.     NONE


Elections:   Prospective candidates can apply for Nomination papers and Certificates of authorisation for completion at Sevenoaks District Council, further information on their website.  Nomination period is 9am daily from Wednesday 1 April to

4 pm Thursday 9 April which is a strict deadline.   Please Note:  Easter is 3 – 6 April and SDC will be closed on Good Friday and Easter Monday.

Postal or Proxy Votes:  To obtain an application form to vote by post or by proxy, contact elreg@sevenoaks.gov.uk or call 01732 227000, you must first be registered to vote.


3.         OPEN SESSION


Clerk confirmed the Headteacher of Penshurst Primary School had advised the request for yellow lines to deter dangerous parking would be best painted on the corner opposite the school, cars parked on this bend created a dangerous situation as passing cars were forced to pull out into oncoming traffic.  The yellow lines would also deter parents from parking there and letting their children out into the road to cross to the school, despite requests to the contrary.   The PC noted comments with regard to the school coach used for swimming which parked blocking the road adding to the problems.   Members supported the provision of yellow lines in principle but were conscious of the affordable housing issue affecting Forge Field which, should this come to fruition, would alter the configuration of the road; this should be borne in mind.


4.        PLANNING




SE/14/03882:  Hammerfield Cottage, Penshurst Road, Penshurst:  Four replacement windows to property.  PC Support.  The PC also support the applicant’s desire for double glazing, the proposed replacements are unobtrusive and will therefore have no harmful impact.

SE/15/00277:  1 Pumping Station, Saints Hill, Penshurst:  Demolition of outbuilding. Erection of single storey front extension, two storey side extension and a single storey rear extension with two velux windows to side, a dormer window, a roof lantern and a flue to rear.   Assuming the 50% rule is not breached the PC support.

SE/14/03773:  The Bungalow, Daneby Hall, The Lane, Fordcombe:  Notification from SDC application no longer valid.  Summary of invalid reasons:  Red line boundary needs to match 2009 application, correct plans and conformation of uses.

SE/15/00339:  The Willows, Walters Green Farm, Walters Green Road, Penshurst:  Proposed window alterations.



SE/14/03892:  Penshurst Place Estate, Penshurst Road:  Proposed plant room, fisheries lodge, welfare facilities, workshop and a below-ground fuel store to replace existing structure.    GRANTED

SE/14/03955:  Woodside Kennels, Penshurst Road, Penshurst:  Demolition of existing outbuildings within the residential cartilage of Woodside Kennels and construction of new outbuilding and garden wall, with amendments to the soft landscaping.   GRANTED

SE/14/03819:  April Cottage, The Lane, Fordcombe:   Erection of single storey side extension.   GRANTED

SE/14/03418:  The Sheiling, Coopers Lane, Penshurst:  Erection single storey extension with chimney to SE elevation (side) and erection single storey conservatory to NW elevation (side).  Alterations to fenestration.    GRANTED


Tree Surgery:

SE/15/00444:  8 Latymers, Penshurst:  Fell large Ash tree on rear boundary in sections to near ground level.


Breach of Condition Notice:

Land at Salmans Farm, Salmans Lane, Penshurst:  Non-compliance with removal of covers from 1 November – 1 March annually.


SDC/Affordable Housing Enabler:  2nd Stage Survey:   Two site visits undertaken on 6 and 13 February, update awaited from SDC on suitability/availability of sites visited.  Cllr Cass confirmed information was now awaited from Becket Trust on the sites they had identified which were being included in the process.   Land at The Glebe had been put forward, a meeting was being held on site at 2.30 pm on Friday, if Cllrs Broadhead, Carson or O’Shea could not attend the clerk would.  A further site on New Road might be Penshurst Estate land.   To date 25 sites had been put forward but a number were probably not available and would therefore be penalised by the SDC scoring policy assessment.  Letter received from Mr Harley of Becket Trust requesting information of availability of the PC allotment site adjacent to Bottle House was discussed.   Cllr Cass was aware that allotment land could be put forward for affordable housing but the fallow field adjacent to the worked site at Bottle House had no access.  Clerk confirmed that selling or giving allotment land for building required agreement of the Secretary of State and, in view of the previous refusal for this on at least two occasions in 1990 and 2014, unless the criteria had changed since the previous year it was doubtful it would be successful this time.




a.         Long Bridge Project:    Cllr Pearman advises that unfortunately the bad weather has prevented surface work on virtually all roadways, particularly if the work entails road closures;  these arrangements are required weeks in advance so it is now anticipated that this work will be postponed until April or May, if not June.   Secondly the Highways directorate has been re-organised during the past few weeks in readiness for 1 April new regime, a new Member has been appointed; Matthew Balfour, further information under Cllr Pearman’s report.   Cllr Pearman has now approved expenditure on the Long Bridge Project (14MHF-SE-61) – Priority Give-Way Signage – £3000.   Clerk was unsure what the final design of signage had been, Cllr Pearman was unable to obtain information regarding the officer in charge.   Members were advised that SE Water were commencing work on the alignment of the water pipe on 30 March.


b.         Litter Bins – Rectory/Leicester Square:  Cllrs Carson and O’Shea had been able to find a volunteer to undertake the painting work to the litter bins, clerk had some paint that had been donated but, if this was unsuitable, she would obtain an alternative.   Work would be undertaken when weather conditions permitted.


c.         Bus Service – Fordcombe:  Clerk forwarded information to Mr Mike Gilbert received from Graeme Smith, Public Transport Planner at KCC in response to queries regarding the Services 231 & 233:


‘The reason the timetable had to change was that it was unsustainable in its previous form.  Discussions were had with Metrobus about how they could alter the timetable as little as possible, but still make the services more sustainable for the longer term.  Most of the changes are small and have little effect on the travelling public, however some evening peak services have been amalgamated.  Whilst the vast majority of users have another option to their destination, the last service via Fordcombe from Tunbridge Wells is now at the earlier time of 17:05.

The timetable will continue as it is in the attached document.  The change to the timetable was given sign off by the KCC cabinet member for transport and was apparently communicated with local members in advance of the change.


Members were told that a parishioner had experienced difficulties during a trip to Edenbridge Hospital when the bus driver had been unable to gain access to the hospital due to building works and had consequently dropped the passenger quite a distance away.   Due to failing eye sight he had needed assistance to finish his journey.   Cllr Cooke advised that there was a voluntary service which arranged transport to the hospital.


The Edenbridge Voluntary Transport Service can be reached at Edenbridge & District War Memorial Hospital/Mill Hill, Edenbridge, TN8 5DA:   01732 865353.   This is a non-profit organisation but please note the office is not manned all day.


d.         Broadband Initiative/BT Openreach:   Problems still not being addressed by suppliers regarding unacceptable service, clerk obtained information from Ofcom who advise users who are unable to resolve their problem to request a ‘deadlock letter’.  This enables a request for an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).  There are two ADR schemes available:  Ombudsman Services:  Communications and Communication & Internet Services Adjudication Scheme (CISAS) all providers must belong to one of these.   Sir John Stanley MP had advised resident that he was submitting representation for a Government review to investigate the true state of UK Broadband provision to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.   Resident had also written to SDCllr Cooke regarding the KCC’s Make Kent Faster plan schedule which is not comprehensive in provision of the technology.


6.         REPORTS:


a.   Sevenoaks District Councillor Paddy Cooke:


Government Planning Policy Changes:     Cllr Cooke advised that building small scale housing developments across Kent will be easier after the government made planning policy changes.    The move will help smaller regional house builders and landowners by exempting most developments of 10 homes or fewer, from making contributions towards affordable housing and other planning payments.      The new rules also establish a lower threshold of five dwellings in areas of outstanding natural beauty, but local planning authorities are free to work to the higher figure. It was quoted that ‘this change to legislation presents new opportunities for rural landowners to look again at sites which were unviable previously and to make effective use of their existing assets in and around towns and villages.    The requirement to provide the contributions following completion , on developments of six to ten in AONB will help the developer’s cash flow and increase delivery in these areas making sites more viable.    The government estimates that the policy will save an average of £15,000 per dwelling in section 106 housing contributions.     Local councils can still seek obligations for site specific infrastructure, such as improving road access, where it is appropriate to make a site acceptable in planning terms.   The change will be a big step forward in providing housing in rural areas and will help bring forward sites which up to now have been considered unviable or marginal in these areas.   It should be noted that the planning criteria for affordable housing in the Metropolitan Green Belt remains unchanged.


The Big Community Fund:   Cllr Cooke announced, with regret, that the Sevenoaks District Council Big Community Fund had been closed indefinitely after the last of the ‘ringfenced’ funds had been allocated.

Sevenoaks District Council Parking Charges:  Sevenoaks District Council had amended its parking charge proposals

following consultation with the community.    In November, the Council’s Cabinet put forward proposals to freeze all on street charges, to increase some car park charges and to replace the £1 evening charge in Sevenoaks town car parks with the standard daytime tariff.    At the same time it planned to reduce the time drivers would need to pay for parking during the evening by an hour so charging would end at 8.30pm instead of 9.30pm. The changes would come into effect in April but first the Council asked the community for its views.      Nearly 100 people and businesses responded to the consultation with a number objecting to the proposed changes to the evening charges.    In light of the comments, the Council’s Cabinet agreed to drop all proposals to change the evening charges. The remaining proposals will go ahead as planned.     Cllr Roddy Hogarth, the Council’s Cabinet Member for parking, stated SDC had listened carefully to residents, businesses and partners and in light of their comments had changed their proposals recognising challenging economic times and therefore all on-street charges and the majority of off-street car park charges would be frozen.     Cllr Hogarth advised extending daytime charges into the evening was never intended to generate additional income but to make the charging structure more straightforward for customers. People parking before 6pm and staying into the evening found it confusing purchasing a ticket.  The new parking charges were agreed by Sevenoaks District Council’s Cabinet on Thursday 5 February 2015.

b.   KALC:   No report

c.   Kent County Councillor Clive Pearman:

Education:  An extra £92million has been allocated to KCC by the Department for Education to help it meet the need for more school places across the county over the next three years. This funding from the Basic Need Allocations is in addition to the £27.5million already promised for 2015-17.     It follows vigorous efforts by KCC to gain increased schools funding because of anticipated demand through population growth, housing developments and inward migration.   KCC’s Cabinet member for Education, Roger Gough said: “This is excellent news. We are pleased that the government has recognised the case we have been pressing.   KCC had serious concerns over the allocations for 2015/16 and 16/17 because of the significant increase in the demand for primary school places and we voiced those concerns quite forcibly.    For the next few years the pressure will be predominantly for primary school places, but the need for extra secondary school places will then start to come through. Across Kent 15,000 extra primary school places are needed over the next five years.     The Basic Needs Allocations is the highest for any local authority in the country and will help KCC continue with its school-building programme.

Kent’s figures are as follows:    2015/16 top-up £16.25 million in addition to £13.4 million already allocated;  2016/17 top-up £34.62 million in addition to £14.1 million already allocated;   2017/18 £38.55 million, plus an extra £2.27 million for new primary schools.

Matthew Balfour has been named as Kent County Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport.   Mr Balfour, who represents Malling Rural East, and also serves as a borough councillor for Tonbridge and Malling, had been Deputy Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport. It follows the resignation of David Brazier, who had held the post since May 2013.    While a Chartered Surveyor by profession, Mr Balfour has extensive experience in local government, serving as a borough councillor for some 16 years and a member of the borough cabinet for 10 years. He was made Deputy Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport in May 2013 after being elected to the county council.    Mr Balfour thanked his predecessor for his hard work over the previous 18 month and said he was fully aware of the vital role that roads, transport and the environment played in Kent, he was committed to making hard-pressed funding go as far as possible to get the best deal for council payers.


Monthly Report:      This month was characterised by one single issue – setting the budget for the forthcoming financial year.  Or perhaps it would be better to say that the real single issue was getting agreement to the proposed budget.  This is, indeed, probably the only occasion in the year when party politics raises its head whilst all around it are losing theirs!  And it is getting worse each year, with no sign of improvement.


The County Council has, between the 2011-12 and the 2014-15 financial years, made savings of £350 million in response to reduced government funding, and the requirement to meet additional spending demands over which the council has had no control or choice.  The pressures to identify savings of this magnitude, year-on-year, gets more and more difficult and complicated.  And if we take into account this Government’s aim to eliminate the budget deficit over a 5-year period, then that pressure will continue to intensify.  Real and hard choices have been and continue to be made when faced with the scale of these reductions, yet in certain areas – particularly the provision of services and support to the most vulnerable people in society and, in particular, children’s and adult social care, it is all but legally and morally impossible to reduce spending in these areas.  This is not solely a business case;  it is what we all know to be the hallmark of a caring and compassionate society, and we spend what we have to spend in order to gain a good level of support and service for such people.  So, in a few months’ time and in the heat of the summer, when people are complaining about hedgerows growing over the roads, or next winter when flooding occurs in certain low-lying places and drains keep getting blocked, and in both cases the County Council stands accused of not doing anything, just spare a thought ………………which service would you rather have less of in order to have a bit more of the other?


The County Council’s budget for the forthcoming financial year, agreed at the County Council meeting held on the 12th of February, has endeavored to be both fair to the expectations of all residents, whilst remaining focused on those caring services where there cannot be any form of reduced investment.   If there are more pot holes than we would expect, or that they take longer to repair than meets our impatient expectations then, perhaps, we all need to drive a bit slower and with a bit more care.  After all, whilst we can prevent damage to our cars, or get the cars repaired if damage does occur, we cannot stop the ageing process, nor prevent real vulnerabilities from occurring so, having agreed a good budget, we will now have to live with it and get on with life, perhaps with a greater degree of toleration!


The two budget books – the annual revenue budget and the medium term financial plan – are worthy of a good read if only to get a grasp of the complexity of dealing with the revenue budget of £916m for the forthcoming year, together with a capital investment plan of £727m spread over the next three years, both documents being readily available on the KCC web-site.  The final comment on the budget is merely to point out that, even before this next financial year’s budget starts being spent, work has already commenced on the 2016/17 budget, a process which now starts off earlier and earlier each year in order to identify service areas and methods of ‘doing business’ where real and required savings can be made.  This preparatory process will, undoubtedly, be impacted by the outcome of the forthcoming General Election and will, therefore, be even more complicated and difficult to work through than in previous years.


On a different subject, following on from my meeting with Ian Watts, the newly-appointed Area Education Officer for North and West Kent last November, and the positive and supportive outcomes which he set in motion following that meeting, I met with him again on Thursday, the 26th February, to work through progress which had been achieved to date, and to agree which issues to take forward.


Although the parking situation at Penshurst Primary School continues to be a cause for concern, this will have to be ‘held in abeyance’ for the time being and pending the outcome of discussions between the school, the Parish Council and the District Councillor as to the best way forward.


The Department of Education has just allocated to the County an extra £92m over the next 3 years specifically for investment in primary school education and in the face of an increasing need, consequent upon a rising birth rate.  This allocation is over and above the £27.5m already promised by the Department for the 2015-17 financial years.  However, as the allocations are to meet Basic Needs, the grants can only be spent on projects to meet the increasing number of primary school pupils; unfortunately, the money cannot be spent on improving existing facilities which are not linked to that increasing pupil number criterion.


The final comment with regard to education is that although the focus has been on primary education, senior education has not been ignored, but proves to be as intractable as ever in identifying better, or more appropriate, ways of securing senior education for pupils in the division.  Sad to say, but even with a projected increase in the birthrate in the county of 16% between now and 2030, and despite the increase in pupil numbers which new homes in the division will inevitably bring, the projected pupil numbers will fall way short of any possible likelihood of a justification for the construction of a senior school west of Sevenoaks.  Our senior pupils will still have to travel, within and beyond the county, as they currently do.  Unsatisfactory, disappointing and frustrating though that is, it is a fact which we will have to continue to accept.


Other than the above matters worthy of reporting back at this point in time, there is one more piece of work which is currently in progress of development which will be of interest to all Town and Parish Councils and which relates to roles and responsibilities with regard to the maintenance of ditches, gullies, drains, hedgerows, etc. adjoining highways.  It is the ‘who should do what’ aid memoire to dealing with such problems.  I hope to find out when this document is likely to emerge, and to what level of consultation it will pass through prior to being formally approved.  But having said that, and as the document will merely set forth the correct legal positions, it might not require any degree of consultation as ‘fact is fact’ and within the law!  The difficulty will arise at instances of implementation when it is found that what has previously been happening is not what should have been happening.  A clear example here is where KCC Highways’ Teams have been undertaking the clearing of gullies and ditches which should, by law, have been the responsibility of the adjoining landowner to undertake from the outset.  Some thought will have to be given as to how this alignment of need and responsibility is actually brought together.  More on this in due course.


And that, and with my personal thanks to all of you for your continued support, concludes my report for February.


d.    Alms Houses:    Mr Johnson reported that a meeting had been held on 23 February to agree on the method to cure the dampness at the property.   The north facing wall took a long time to dry out after rain as it was not a cavity wall.  Bedding of the stonework some year earlier had now failed and a more advanced remedy would not be used.   This would necessitate tenants, and furniture, being moved out – treatment carried out and a further period for the property to be left to allow the treatment to take effect.


e.    Neighbourhood Watch:     Mr Johnson advised members information had been taken from e-watch.co, the Police Information Agency.  The reports record only one crime in each village during the six week period covered.   A lawn mower was stolen from the outbuilding of a property in Fordcombe Road and a quad bike was stolen from a car port in Chafford Lane.   The PCSO for the parish was now Anne Kingscott, this news was welcomed by parishioners.


Salmans Lane Coach Road:  Mr Johnson reported the bridge had been inspect on 25 February and the north west retaining wall, after being tie barred to the south west wall, had not moved since it was last inspected.  There was some movement beyond the bridge as a crack has appeared in the road surface.  No immediate work was considered necessary but monitoring would continue.


f.     Speedwatch:    This had commenced again with the improvement in the weather.


g.    Gatwick:   HWCAAG & Penshurst Parish Council responses both submitted by due date to Gatwick air.   Cllr Cass reported on the meeting with Charles Kerwyn Taylor from Gatwick Airport Ltd (GAL).   Clive Pearman had attended, as had Richard Streatfield – Chairman of the HWCAAG.   GAL recognized that they were not on good terms with the Parish, District, Borough and County Councils.   It had been made plain that the councils wished the pain to be spread across the area and that a second runway was not considered necessary and that noise and night flights needed addressing. Minutes of that meeting are attached to these minutes with attendees.   The result of the Davies commission group considering the cases put forward by Gatwick and Heathrow for an extra runway would be available after the election.


7.         HIGHWAYS:


Reported Faults Update:


Bidborough/Penshurst Road Boundary & Glebelands to School:    Further inspection undertaken by officers, minor repairs carried out to potholes covered by criteria, area being monitored for any further work necessary.

PROW:  862385:   Footpath 469 lack of stile or signs at either end, track also ploughed over.   PROW Officer to inspect on return from holiday, response regarding action required awaited.

PROW:  843172:   Footpath 469 Gate tied up causing difficulty on entering area.   Problem listed for inspection on timed inspection tour.

136309:  Outside 6 Glebelands:  Gully drain sinking and blocked.    Site inspected, metal replacement required, job raised for action.

Penshurst Bus Shelter:  Clerk notified bus shelter glass vandalized again, arrangement being made to repair.

Kerbstone – Junction Penshurst Road/High Street:  Highways contacted again regarding date for highlighting of kerbstone around corner, no response received by date of meeting.

Pothole:  Towards Bidborough between Meadow Bank and Ashour.

Culverts:  Clearance needed adjacent to Marlpit Cottages/Poundsbridge junction.

Fly Tipping:  Poundsbridge Lane – Long Wood bath in gateway and builders bag further along road.

Ditches:  Clearance required near Swaylands.

Potholes – Bradley Road:  It was thought this was scheduled for work, a road closure notice having been circulated.

Cllr Clive Pearman:  Information regarding drainage issues had been promised for end of February, information regarding the Lengthsman service not received.


8.                     FINANCE:


The following accounts were presented and approved for payment:


Mr I Streeter                                                                  Lengthsman                                           £89.00

RIP Cleaning Services                                                                 Dog Waste Removal                               £79.20

Mrs E M Divall                                                                            Professional Fees                                   £4,743.58

a.   Sevenoaks & Swanley Citizens Advice Bureau:   Letter of thanks received from Angela Newey, Bureau Manager for PC donation recently provided.   Cllr Cooke also registered his thanks for the contribution made by Penshurst PC which was much appreciated by the CAB.


b.   Verge Work:  Possible extra cut suggested for 2016 season, costs being checked for discussion.   Decision to be made when costs available, conditions to be taken into consideration.


c.    Fordcombe Churchyard Paths:   Request for financial assistance with the cost of repairing the pathways in the churchyard.   Clerk to obtain further quotations for work involved and report to PC.


d.    Bulk Freighter Date Options:   Dates for attendance at villages 25 April, 18 July and 17 October, these dates miss the school holidays.   Clerk to confirm with SDC Dunbrik Depot and provide information for village newsletters.


e.    Annual Return 2014/2015:   Preliminary information received from KALC regarding requirements for the annual financial returns, the paperwork should be dispatched to PC during mid-end March.    Members confirmed the PC held Standing Orders which were based on the KALC guidance, plus Financial Regulations; these having been approved 16 May 2011 for the PC term of office, members confirmed their continued relevance.    It was agreed the appointment of the existing Internal Auditor for the year 2014/15 be re-confirmed.


f.    Allotment Agreements/Fees:   Clerk working on revised Allotment Agreements with other local clerks, fees to be examined for 2015/2016.   This issue of the sheep temporarily in the fallow field had been resolved.


g.   GON:   Cllr O’Shea to check if business plan or basic accounts available yet.


h.   Becket Trust Survey:   Cllr Cass advised that Mrs Louise Howard had not provided a copy of the specification as requested to support their affordable housing survey, in view of the fact this had now taken place the issue would be considered closed.


9.                   CORRESPONDENCE:


a.         Sevenoaks District Council:   Naomi Shipman – local business advisor for the Kent Healthy Business Awards offering support to local businesses taking part in award programme for workplace health and wellbeing programmes.  Information on website:  http://www/kent.gov.uk/business/grow-your-business/business-awards-and-events/kent-healthy-business-awards .


b.         Kent County Council:  KCC working in partnership with Public Health, District and Borough Councils, the NHS and Sustrans on Kent Smarter Travel Challenge project.  Information on https://thebigcommute.getmeactive.org.uk/results/176.


c.         Sir John Stanley MP:    Copy of Dr John Godfrey’s (Chairman of Gatwick Airport Consultative Committee) reply to Sir John’s letter together with paper attached headed ‘A statement of intent prepared for members of GATCOM by Gatwick Airport with respect to our relations with our neighbours’.   An Airspace Change Seminar was being scheduled for March 4 which Sir John considered it to be of great importance that the presence of Kent local Councils at all levels at GATCOM meetings should be substantially strengthened.


10.                 ANY OTHER BUSINESS:


a.         GAL Meeting:   Cllr Cooke asked if the minutes of the meeting could be added to the PC minutes as an Addendum.


b.         Public Toilets:   The possibility of portable toilets being provided was suggested, a site would be required, the toilets now closed were on land rented by SDC.



Meeting concluded at 8.50 pm                                                                 Next Meeting – Ordinary Meeting

7 April – Penshurst

`                                                                                                                      Annual Parish Assembly

13 April – Fordcombe




Dates for 2015  Meetings:  Penshurst:     1 June, 3 August, 5 October, 7 December.      Fordcombe:  11 May, 6 July, 7 September, 2 November.






































Addendum 1







Present:      Gatwick Airport Ltd:                          Charles Kirwan-Taylor (Director of Corporate Affairs & Sustainability)

Hannah Staunton (Head of Community Engagement)

Chiddingstone Parish Council:            Paddy Cooke

Julian Menges                                                             Louise Kleinschmidt (Clerk Chidd. & Leigh Parish Councils)

Leigh Parish Council:                          Colin Stratton-Brown (Chairman)

Sue Smith

Bidborough Parish Council:                Quentin Stevens

Dormansland Parish Council:             Jane Vogt (representative of DPC & member of GACC)

Edenbridge Town Council:                  Bob Orridge (Chairman)

Vernon King

Clive Pearman

Christine Lane (Clerk)

Hever Parish Council:                         Stephen Lark

Penshurst Parish Council:                   John Cass (Chairman)

Sevenoaks Weald Parish Council:       John Blackman

Speldhurst Parish Council:                  Joy Podbury

Hever Aviation Working Party:         Peter Rusbridge


Apologies:  Richard Streatfeild                              Chiddingstone Parish Council (Chairman)


Colin Stratton-Brown welcomed Charles and Hannah to the meeting.  Charles thanked the parishes present for agreeing to meet, and said that the purpose of the meeting from GAL’s point of view is to try and put right some of the things that they have been told that they have done wrong, in particular the way that they have communicated with the parishes and the communities at large around the airport.  Charles asked that everyone present gives their contact details so that GAL can keep in touch and invite them to further meetings in future.  Matters discussed tonight will be taken to the Executive Board at GAL.  Charles added that GAL has been doing a great deal over the past twelve months, including an airspace change and they have trialled a new possible route on departures, but admitted that GAL did not made it clear that this was happening. Charles said that GAL has communicated well but has been misunderstood.


Clive Pearman said that there are a lot of people that have experienced lies, innuendoes and downright contempt by GAL since the Airports Commission came into being.  The second runway will not happen as far as those Town and Parish Councils present were concerned, and discussions tonight should not focus on the proposal for a second runway but on the present issues, which are no night flights and a reduction in aircraft noise. The parishes will not negotiate.  Clive said that he understands that it is difficult and there will be an uphill struggle. Clive said that there is a lot of knowledge in the room, and there is a lot of anger and resentment amongst the communities in the West Kent area. Clive asked what Charles is going to take away from this meeting?  Is Charles now in a position to reach out to communities because the communities have moved away from a relationship with GAL?


Charles said that he understands the strength of feeling behind the representations received. He regrets that communities feel that they have been treated with contempt. He added that it has never been GAL’s intention to create that impression but he understands why communities feel the way they do. He hopes that GAL can now set about reversing this.  Charles said that there are some things that GAL cannot agree to.  He has had discussions with Richard Streatfeild regarding the cessation of night flights but that is not something that GAL can necessarily represent as part of the negotiation. Night flights form part of GAL’s clients’ routes and operate within the limits imposed by the CAA.  Clive said that Sir John Stanley has sent to the parishes a copy of a letter from Dr John Godfrey, Chairman of GATCOM, together with GAL’s statement of intent to enhance communication channels with its neighbours, which was written by Charles.  Dr Godfrey says “The local authorities (Town/Parish, District/Borough, County) currently represented on the Committee are only those whose area abuts the airport boundary or the M23 spur”.


Clive said that the parishes present at the meeting do not abut the airport but they suffer more from aircraft noise than any other.  This area has been left out of the GATCOM membership from the beginning and is not being consulted on any aviation matter. Clive said that the letter goes on to say “I have considered your concern about communities in Kent only having the one membership body (KCC) represented on GATCOM. I can assure you that the current Kent County Councillor (Mr Matthew Balfour) is effectively representing the views of communities in Kent ….. In addition to this, the GACC is represented on GATCOM and also effectively represents the views of the wider community, including the views of other community groups in Kent.”  Clive said that Matthew Balfour and GACC do not represent the parishes in West Kent.  Charles said that GATCOM was created at a time when a lot of the considerations were different from those today. Noise was less up the agenda then.  The composition of membership was historically agreed.  Charles said that he has sympathy that the overall membership of GATCOM may not appear to represent the interests of all communities around the airport, and some change in representation is arguable. For it to be a useful committee, it has to have a limited number of members. GATCOM is not a GAL Committee, it is an independent committee that invites its own membership. Vernon King reminded Charles that GAL finances GATCOM. Jane Vogt said that GATCOM has been talking about noise since 2008 and has given promises and promises, yet ultimately dismiss us.  Colin said that GATCOM does not fulfil its purpose; there should be a proper forum which includes local communities.  Charles said that he personally is not against different representation on GATCOM and is open to suggestions on how they engage with the parishes. Clive agreed with Colin that there should be a sub-committee of GATCOM that engages with the parishes and allows the parishes to have a line into decisions made.


Bob Orridge said that he joined Gatwick in 1958 and worked for fifty years at the airport. He sat on GATCOM for many years and, at that time, GATCOM was a small committee of users and suppliers within the immediate area of Crawley. Now the area represented by the committee is small. Night flights are relevant and there were restrictions at Gatwick at least until 1988. Aircraft were much noisier in the 1960s and 1970s.  Now, although aircraft are quieter, communities in this area suffer from aircraft noise at night with 11,000 night flights per year.


John Cass said that this area also suffers tremendously from the whine from the Airbus A320 series of aircraft.  Charles said that he understands this issue, which is specific to a particular configuration, a particular speed and height of aircraft. It is fixable with a retrofit and GAL is engaged with Easyjet encouraging them to do this.  GAL is also thinking about ways in which they can alter the speed or angle of approach so that the impact is less intrusive. GAL has tried to find the answer, but the problem does not only lie with Gatwick.  Charles added that since the 1980s, air traffic has grown. There have been some improvements in aircraft noise but GAL operates within the context of being a commercial operation, competing for air traffic across Britain.  GAL negotiates with the Government for proposals to do certain things. Decisions by Government are set in a framework and GAL cannot make things happen on its own.


Jane said that GAL offers night flights with no landing fee charges or, in summer months, a winter landing fee charge.  Those flights are from leisure destinations.  GAL as an organisation must have the moral compass to see that by waiving landing fee charges at night you are encouraging more night flights, and thus disturbing many thousands of people who suffer from overflight.  Charles said that Gatwick is running to full capacity. Jane said that it is not.  Charles explained that, yes, Gatwick is full in respect of its ability to offer year-round slots as peak time slots are full. Therefore Gatwick has to do load management to distinguish between people who will take day flights at a certain cost, and those who will only fly at night as it is cheaper.  It is a normal commercial decision.  John Blackman said that GAL has no moral responsibility for those they fly over.  Colin said that he felt that Charles is talking down to us by saying that Gatwick is full.  Charles said that there is a level of detail and he has to find the particular level of detail that is suitable for that particular meeting.  GAL has been criticised in the past and now has agreed to include a summary, which is easily understood, in its consultations, plus a technical specification.  However, when talking, it is not always easy to get it right, and Charles said he is not trying to obfuscate.  Colin said that he hopes this meeting will help to improve the relationship GAL has with the communities.


Sue Smith asked where and how GAL would limit the number of night flights?   Charles said that there is not a definition he could point to.  This exercise, this meeting, is to understand and inform GAL’s discussions with the policy regulators.  In October 2014, Gatwick was the first airport in the UK to introduce Performance Based Navigation on arrivals, part of a Government programme to be rolled out in the next three years to allow it to reach its target by 2018 of allowing less noise on the ground. It would do this by raising the entire European airspace and get rid of some technical differences at mid-level.  This is phase one of the London Airspace Strategy.  GAL went to the CAA and the DfT and said that it was too early for this change and the implications had not been properly thought through. The concentration of flights would result in an extreme impact of those living under the flight path.

Colin raised the issue of point merge, and asked whether Charles knows where the proposed point merge locations would be. Charles said that pushing out the ILS is not part of GAL’s direct control, neither is the responsibility for approving different points to join the ILS nor points merge positions.  Eighteen months ago, CAA and NATS agreed to move the ILS from 7-12 nautical miles from the airport to 10-12 nautical miles from the airport with a concentrated joining point and a narrowed ILS.  NATS and the CAA did that so that there could be an increase in the number of stable approaches and reduce the number of go-arounds which are not necessarily safe.  Charles surmised that the CAA could have said that noise and discomfort as a cost is something they could bear for less risk.  The overriding consideration is stability and safety.  Charles said that air traffic in the South-East is constrained due to the lack of capacity, and less aircraft in the sky is unlikely unless there is a new national policy.  It is not rational for him to say that GAL will reduce the number of aircraft in the sky themselves. The Government’s target of fewer people overflown will mean that those people will be consistently overflown and GAL now sees that would be an intolerable situation.  There is currently dispersal around the joining point.


Charles said that GAL did undertake a trial on departure routes.  Clive said that Gatwick undertook a trial on arrival routes too, but this was denied.  Clive added that GAL did not involve the CAA;  everyone knew exactly what took place but GAL denied it. Charles said that he did not know what trial Clive was referring to. There has been a change in the joining point.  Sometimes there is change and sometimes there is a different type of change.  It is important because we operate in a regulated world and some changes require certain consultations, and some do not.  It depends upon whether the change requires consultation. There has been a lot of debate in that GAL has not consulted.  Is it implementation or use of existing capacity that does not require consultation? GAL needs to be accurate in how it refers to it.  There are changes regarding volume and changes that require consultation – there are different types of change.  Colin said that although a statutory consultation may not have been required, on a moral basis, GAL should have consulted the communities. Clive agreed, saying that GAL should be trying to improve its social capital.


Charles said that he has worked at GAL for eight months and he will see what he can personally do to help, and to ensure that GAL accumulates and understands the issues in our area and other areas.  He will try to work towards the best solution in the circumstances, and believes that this is a good thing to do.  There is clearly dissatisfaction about how GAL has behaved. Charles has had a number of meetings with NATS along with Tom Denton, and GAL is trying to find answers that will work.  There is another controversial issue which is the LAM 26 departure route.  GAL has used PBN on this route which is now overflying communities that were not overflown before. GAL has met representatives from the community and they have expressed their point of view. The route was approved by the CAA.  The community has hired their own airspace designer, GAL has also hired an airspace designer and between the two of them it is hoped that they can come up with a different solution which GAL can take to GATCOM and the CAA to see if they will approve it.  GAL has spent time and money in trying to help this community and improve the good will.


Vernon said that a senior member of GAL made the following statement on national television the day before the consultation closed: “Because of the new technology we’re proposing to put in, it allows us with Air Traffic Control to then rotate some routes, especially for arriving traffic to provide those people on the ground with days, weeks or even months in some cases where they have no traffic at all”.   Vernon said that this gives GAL no credibility.   Charles said that, if PBN is used on arrivals, there would be hundreds of people who would not be overflown, so what was said is true.


Colin asked about respite routes. Charles said that it seems fair that there should be respite routes. There is the theoretical possibility for a virtually infinite number of routes across the area but it will be on purpose, rather than the current swathe approach.   GAL is in discussion with the senior delivery group on the different possibilities of using PBN to best effect. However, respite is against Government policy as it exists currently.  There is a let-out in that policy that says that if there are practical reasons or local reasons, respite could be introduced.  Colin suggested that the communities work with their MPs to see if this could be achieved.  Charles said that, in 2012, discussions were held on the implications of P-RNAV and it was supported by communities.  Charles added that perhaps the issue wasn’t fully understood.  Records show that the principle of concentration was approved.  Vernon asked Charles to please supply the references to this discussion, and to identify which communities supported concentration. Charles agreed.  Charles added that he believes that there should be a second consultation which makes it clearer, and is a democratic choice as to what is an acceptable level of respite.


Jane said that Heathrow and HACAN (Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise) have formed a noise forum specifically to look at noise on arrivals.  Jane asked why Gatwick has not also formed a noise forum – and if they had done two years ago, it is likely that the situation now would be much improved.  Charles said that Heathrow has now closed down this group.  NATMAG (Noise and Track Monitoring Advisory Group) is a sub-group of GATCOM and considers the technical aspects of noise around Gatwick.


Charles said that there is discussion about a national noise ombudsman being created, and perhaps that might be something that communities in this area might like to support.  Hannah said that she has investigated the Heathrow noise forum, and GAL has agreed that that is not something that they would like, i.e. just one group to discuss these issues and the structure that Heathrow adopted would not suit Gatwick. Clive said that that decision is not only GAL’s – it should be taken with the communities concerned as well.   Charles said that he is at the meeting in good faith.  A change in behaviour has happened in other areas and GAL is progressing further on the matters that people care about.  GAL has had a number of meetings with Plane Wrong and has offered to pay for their costs in an effort to achieve a satisfactory outcome. Plane Wrong have refused the offer of financial help.  Charles said that he hopes that the meeting tonight will be the start of a two-way conversation about problems effecting this area.   Colin said that the meeting at the Eden Centre as part of the second runway consultation was a very poor event – the staff representing GAL were too junior and could not, or would not, answer questions. Charles was unaware of this event and undertook to look into it.


Charles said that he has had a number of meetings with HWCAAG and discussed their agenda with them.  He asked how HWCAAG fits with the group attending the meeting.  Colin said that you have only met with Richard, not HWCAAG as a whole.  Charles said that there is representation on GATCOM from John Byng who represents GACC and other amenity groups, and Sally Pavey from CAGNE is his alternate, and that is one avenue for people to raise issues with GATCOM.  Colin said that John Byng from GACC said that our group of parishes should have separate representation to cover issues that only effect this area.   Clive said that HWCAAG has a chair (Richard) and clerk (Louise) and there are full, associate and cc Town and Parish Council members of the group.  Each Town and Parish Council is democratically elected to represent their community and, therefore, HWCAAG comprises of democratically elected members who represent over 46,000 residents. The HWCAAG policy was drawn up and is approved by each Town and Parish Council member.  All representatives on HWCAAG report back to their own Town and Parish Council, and each council at the meeting tonight is a member of HWCAAG.  John Cass added that although HWCAAG has an active role in responding to consultations and writing letters, each Town and Parish Council also does so independently as exact issues do vary from parish to parish.  Charles said that it is helpful to know what the real level of representation is on the protest groups, and also to know that HWCAAG’s policy is agreed by all members.


Paddy said that residents are angry and frustrated.  The parishes present are grateful that Charles and Hannah have come to meet them, and it is important that Charles now does something positive, whether it is to make sure that Easyjet retrofits the modification to the Airbus A320 series, or that our representation on GATCOM is recommended.  Charles said that he understands that these communities are angry and he doesn’t deny that they have a right to be.


Jane said that this is an area of AONB and GAL has a duty of care of the AONB. There are a lot of historic castles, houses and gardens in this area that rely on tranquillity.


Charles said that there is no policy on concentration at the moment.  If one was to ask the regulators (NATS, CAA, DfT) whether concentration had been introduced in this area, they would say no.  There is an increase in volume of air traffic over the past five years and a narrowing of the joining point on arrivals, but no deliberate change to concentration yet.  Some of those affected areas, particularly further east, may have benefitted from P-RNAV.  Charles added that, bearing in mind what is technically possible, it would be useful to know what the democratic consensus is regarding the right level of concentration.   With P-RNAV, you have to tell the plane precisely where to go, that’s OK if you have one route, but the flight management systems cannot accept a number of different routes programmed in.  GAL is looking into this as it would give infinite possibilities but the airlines and the controllers in the tower would have to recognise each technical programme stored, and approve it. GAL has not given up, but additional routes worry NATS and the CAA. If there is a simple answer that could be implemented tomorrow, GAL would do it as they have a commercial interest in finding a solution.  There are more planes in the sky, which is due to economic growth. GAL wants to be a good neighbour but also has commercial objectives that it wants to achieve.  Charles asked that residents are objective about the body they are dealing with, it is a commercial organisation that does contribute towards the local economy. Jane said that GAL is destroying the local economy in this area.


Julian Menges said that it is proven that sleep deprivation is a form of torture.  It is terrible for people of all age groups to be woken repeatedly during the night.  Julian added that this group needs to come up with some solutions; whether it is a reduction in the number of night flights, aircraft arriving at a steeper angle or the A320 retrofit.  The recent collapse in oil prices has saved Easyjet a huge amount of money and so, if GAL and the parishes work together, it is possible that we could persuade Easyjet to fit the modification to the Airbus A320 series with money they have saved by the reduction in the price of fuel.


Julian added that it is important to work together, surely GAL has an internal committee that has the remit to improve credibility. Could a representative of this group stand on that committee?  Charles agreed that Easyjet has had a useful windfall with the drop in fuel prices.  It would be useful if this group could liaise directly with Easyjet.  John Cass said that the parishes and HWCAAG have written to Easyjet but did not receive a reply.  They also wrote to BA, who did have the decency to respond.  Charles said that the group should continue to talk to the airlines.  He added that the matter is on the agenda for the next senior meeting with Easyjet.  GAL acutely feel that this matter is achievable and they are working to achieve it.  The trouble is that Easyjet will have to pay for the retrofit, but GAL supports the parishes in this request.  John suggested that Easyjet are penalised if they land an aircraft that does not have the modification fitted.  Charles said that GAL has introduced a penalty on noisy aircraft. Jane reminded Charles that this is on departures only, not arrivals. Charles agreed but said that this fine will make that particular flight unprofitable.   Bob said that the Airbus A320 is not on the international list of noisy aircraft, which needs updating.  Charles agreed, adding that the fix is identified and is therefore a solvable problem. Bob said that he noted that Easyjet supported the proposal for additional runway capacity at Heathrow, not Gatwick. Charles said that Easyjet is a ruthlessly effective operator.


Peter Rusbridge asked how GAL accounts for the commercial value of the complaints from this area. Charles said that there is no commercial value but GAL wants to be a better neighbour and that is why he is at this meeting.  The scale of the discontent in this area if great, and it is a good start to open discussions in this way, and Charles said that he hopes progress can be made.


Julian said that it is known who the owners of Gatwick are. They have a financial objective but no other interest in these communities.  They have made it clear that they are intending to sell the airport in 2019.  HWCAAG started in 2013 with four Parish Councils and has grown to represent fourteen Town and Parish Councils. The group has become a significant organisation.  Strength of feeling in this area is high, and the legal aspects of GAL’s practices are being looked into.  Do the owners of Gatwick want this negative publicity just prior trying to sell?  Julian added that GAL needs to engage properly and fully with HWCAAG and these communities and build credibility.  Charles said that he does understand that people in our position will take this up legally. The Town and Parish Councils present could write to GIP but Charles said that it is not an especially profitable form of engagement as GIP just writes to him and asks him to respond.


Clive said that he had a long conversation with Sir John Stanley on Saturday and he mentioned the letter from Dr John Godfrey about the membership of GATCOM.  Clive requested that a representative of HWCAAG is invited to sit on GATCOM.  Clive drew Charles’s attention to the following excerpt from Charles’s statement of intent prepared for GATCOM: “We are looking for ways to increase our involvement with local employment groups: we are working a number of amenity groups to explore ways of offering employment to, for example, wounded soldiers re-entering the community or other disadvantaged individuals seeking particular opportunities”. Clive said that he read that to a lady who said that the sentence is condescending and patronising.  He added that he did not feel that anything has changed and there must now be action, rather than just saying that GAL is engaging with communities.  Charles apologised for the wording in the statement and said he would contact the person concerned if he could have her telephone number.   Charles said that it is unrealistic if Clive expects immediate action.  He said he was glad he attended this meeting, he has learnt a lot.  He thinks that HWCAAG securing representation on GATCOM is unlikely as it is just one group representing one area.  However Charles said that he has heard in a number of different meetings that Kent should be represented on GATCOM.  He feels it would be a mistake to apply as an action group, but better to say that the group is a democratically elected group of Town and Parish Councils representing a wide area. Charles said that he would support further representation from Kent, but the representative from the group of Town and Parish Councils must get prior agreement from SDC and TWBC that he or she best represents the communities in the area. Charles added that he can offer no reassurance that the representative would be invited to sit on the committee, but if prior assurances are obtained from all levels of local councils then he will be happy to make the recommendation.


Colin said that the final question, which Charles might like to take away and consider, is regarding how complaints are counted.  Charles said that it is difficult to track complaints.  One house for example made 500 complaints in one day. The policy is that one complaint per day per household is accepted.  However if, say, forty residents complain about the same incident, forty complaints are lodged. He added that action groups disguise the issue rather than help, and said that he doesn’t like to intervene with the complaints department.


Colin thanked Charles and Hannah for coming to meet the group and the Town and Parish Councils will continue this dialogue and hopefully matters will improve.    The meeting closed at 9.50pm.

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