PENSHURST PARISH COUNCIL
Minutes of the Ordinary Meeting of Penshurst Parish Council held on Monday 3 November 2014 at 7.30 pm in Fordcombe Village Hall
1. PRESENT: Cllrs J Cass (Chairman), Mrs D Broad, J Broadhead, A Campbell, I Carson, S Frederick, J Horsford (Part), J O’Shea, B Townsend
In Attendance: Mr M Knowles (Gatwick), R Sellings (Speedwatch and Swaylands)
APOLOGIES: KCCllr C Pearman, SDCllr P Cooke. (Cllr Horsford advised late arrival)
2. MINUTES OF MEETING HELD ON 6 October 2014 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
3. OPEN SESSION
Cllrs O’Shea and Carson answered questions for a parishioner who raised concerns over their involvement in discussions over possible land sale/exchange adjacent to Bottle House Cottages. Issues relating to the Forge Field/Glebelands Judicial Review were reiterated.
Cllrs O’Shea and Carson raised the issue of appointment of a land agent and stated that despite the PC not having survey results available they would propose later that the PC vote on the principle of appointing such an agent.
Clerk had been advised that the survey results should be available in detail for the December PC meeting.
Clerk to report blocked drains near Weavers Cottage, Walters Green Road.
The edge of the road opposite the entrance to Riverside near Long Bridge was collapsing, the Chairman hoped this would be included in the forthcoming project at the site, clearance of vegetation had commenced at the site.
Clerk asked to chase the estate with regard to repairs to the pothole in Warren Lane.
Flytipping between Swaylands and Poundsbridge Lane to be checked and advised to the clerk. Reported to SDC under reference 355360)
SE/14/03134: The Leicester Arms Hotel, High Street, Penshurst: Alterations to car park layout and garden at rear of premises. PC Support.
SE/14/03033: Netherwood, Smarts Hill, Penshurst, Tonbridge: Demolish conservatory, erect front extension, verandah to front and side, loft conversion with dormer window, alterations to fenestration and creation of terrace area. PC Support.
SE/14/03222: 3 The Green, Spring Hill, Fordcombe: Demolition of sun room and replace with single storey rear extension.
SE/14/03351: The Old Laundry, The Lane, Fordcombe: Demolition of rear extension, erection of replacement extension, and provision of new roof windows.
SE/14/03418: The Sheiling, Coopers Lane, Penshurst: Erection single storey extension with chimney to south east elevation (side) and erection of single storey conservatory to north west elevation (side). Conversion of existing roof space into bedroom, bathroom and study. Addition of two dormer windows and alterations to fenestration.
SE/14/02488/89: Finches, Chiddingstone Hoath: Demolition of side garage and erection of 2 storey extension and glazed entrance hall. Creation of new access, driveway and garage/carport. GRANTED
SE/14/03408: Thimble Hall Cottage, Fordcombe Road, Penshurst: Various work to trees.
Tree Preservation Order:
HW/TPO/08/2014: Fordcombe Village Hall, Spring Hill, Fordcombe: Tree Preservation Order confirmed 6 October 2014.
SDC/Affordable Housing Enabler: 2nd Stage Survey:
A decision with regard to the possible appointment of a land agent to identify sites deferred until survey results available, clerk had been advised that the survey results should be available in detail for the December PC meeting.
5. MATTERS ARISING:
a. Long Bridge Project: Current Situation: Phase 1 – provision of coloured markings of SLOW on the road required road closure. With regard to replacing the unserviceable fence, removal of vegetation awaited prior to erection of replacement fence. Vegetation clearance commenced. Phase 2 – Priority movement of traffic as at Colliersland Bridge plus moving 30MPH sign marginally towards Fordcombe. Any scheme promoted under Phase 2 will be made subject to the necessary investigation process which will include an independent road safety audit.
b. Swaylands: Clerk advised that the agreement to access under the Garden Scheme not considered legally enforceable due to poor wording of original agreement, as nothing further had been heard from the contact, it was assumed the Management Team would not be complying with the Garden Scheme. In view of this issue considered closed. It was noted there had been great interest in the gardens at the site and particularly the rockery, this being unique and listed. The possibility of Penshurst parishioners visiting the site in the future was raised, it was felt this would not impact on the site with little need of vehicular access.
Reports were received again with regard to lighting from the Swaylands site shining into properties along New Road, Mr Knowles offered to check the issue. (Issues of light pollution can be reported to SDC Environmental Health Department)
c. Rectory Hedge: See note under KCCllr Pearman’s report, condition of hedge to be monitored.
d. Churchyard: Clerk advised by PC Churchyard contractor debris consisted of two bags of spoil from paving repairs and a Christmas tree from the church, clerk confirmed the PC contractor had removed the debris.
e. Litter Bins – Rectory/Leicester Square: Clerk contacted SDC regarding possibility of supply of paint so that the PC can arrange to have the units painted, response awaited.
f. Hever Triathlon: Cllr Mrs Broad advised that the organizer would be happy to make a donation to Penshurst School if this was acceptable to members, this was unanimously agreed.
a. Sevenoaks District Councillor Paddy Cooke: Report received subsequent to meeting:
Planning and travellers: proposed changes to planning policy and guidance – Department for Communities & Local Government Consultation
The government states that it remains committed to increasing the level of authorised site provision in appropriate areas, but believes further measures are needed to ensure that planning rules apply equally to all groups and strengthen the level of protection afforded to the green belt and other sensitive areas.
They are therefore consulting on proposed changes to national planning policy and planning policy for traveller sites to ensure that the planning system applies fairly and equally to both the settled community and travellers; strengthen protection of sensitive areas and the green belt; and deal with the negative effects of unauthorised occupation of land.
It also seeks comments on new streamlined planning guidance for travellers which is aimed at supporting local authorities to objectively and robustly assess their traveller accommodation needs and further clarifies where Temporary Stop Notices can be used.
This consultation closes on 23 November 2014.
Subject: Refuse collection arrangements Christmas/New Year 2014/15
22, 23 & 24 December – Normal Collection; 25 December Collection on 2 January, 26 December on 27 December; 29, 30 & 31 December Normal Collection; 1 January Collection on 2 January and 2 January on 3 January.
Cllr Cooke recommends the Sevenoaks Charity Fireworks Display on 8th November organised by The Sevenoaks Round Table. This year SDC has allocated free car parking for the event:-
Free Parking for Sevenoaks Fireworks: Residents can park free in all SDC car parks and on street parking from 4.30pm as well as Sevenoaks Leisure Centre car park on 8 November 2014. The event beings in the High Street from 5pm with firework display at 7.45 pm following a torch procession at 7pm. This annual event is organised by Sevenoaks Round Table with all proceeds going to local good causes. Usually bringing in around 4,000 people, this is certainly not an event to miss out on. Residents should remember that although parking will be free of charge all other parking restrictions will continue to be enforced. Those looking to attend should book tickets in advance though www.sevenoaksfireworks.co.uk, where more information is also available
b. KALC: Next meeting scheduled for 17 November 2014.
c. Kent County Councillor Clive Pearman:
There is a real need to get landowners or their tenants/representatives to undertake the hedge, verge and gulley clearing on a regular basis so as to prevent complaints in the expectation that someone else will undertake this work. Not easy changingold habits, but we’ve got to try and start somewhere!
With regard to the new Rectory Hedge, in essence, KCC would not want to undertake this work unless it was absolutely essential and meets the single criterion of the hedgerow posing a real danger to road users. Provided this was the case, KCC would want to be assured that all possible steps to resolve the situation had been taken locally – by the Parish and District Councils and Councillors before it was then formally requested to become involved. All of this would need to be re-assessed if the hedge was deemed to be ‘of ancient origins or nature’ and, if it were, KCC involvement would be as a last resort and in the face of the hedge posing a very real danger to road users.
All of this being so, and having had a good look at the hedge, it would be very difficult to claim real and immediate
danger to any road users. Inconvenience, yes, but not danger, as all road users are expected to use the road, by whatever means – on foot, cycle or vehicle with due care and attention, so this level of possible danger should be identified and catered for by all road users. There is, also, the question of the age of the hedge and whether or not it could be judged ‘ancient’.
Once the summer school holidays were over, the second week of September was characterised by what appeared to be a sudden and urgent need by the County Council to ‘make up for lost time’, with several meetings arranged for the first two weeks.
The Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) was a case in point. By the very nature of its overview responsibility, and of the need to address major proposed changes to the broad spectrum of health services provided across the county, much of its work tends to be retrospective and, almost invariably, negative and critical based upon reports of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for this organisation’s inspections. Again, by the very nature of its critical role, the CQC’s inspections identify a range of shortcomings in the provision of healthcare, particularly at hospitals. Time and again one’s heart goes out to the front-line staff whose dedication and commitment to providing the best possible services which they can, are seldom acknowledged as the failings are laid at the door of the middle and senior management tiers where staffing levels are found inadequate, or old buildings and the services provided within them as ‘not being fit for purpose’. Somehow this negative approach to service provision has to change, particularly as the move towards integrated health and social care is getting underway. My views as set out here area shared by many of my colleagues on this committee, and moves are certainly afoot to redress the tone of the agenda items of the HOSC.
And if meetings were not enough to busy my time with, I have also offered to support and represent five families from Edenbridge who were appealing against KCC school transport decisions affecting their children who are attending senior school for the first time. At first glance, these families seem to have a very good case to argue and for me to represent them at the appeal hearing; the decisions made in respect of each of these families can only be described as perverse and really defy logic, let alone common sense. That said, following my meeting with Paul Carter, Leader of KCC the day before I went away on holiday, in my absence these four decisions have been overturned and decisions found in total favour of the four families to both their relief and to my personal satisfaction. The fifth case went to appeal on the 28th October and, after having presented the case for the appellant family, the decision of the appeal panel was to uphold the appellant’s appeal and overturn the decisions of the Education Dept., of KCC; a very satisfactory and sensible outcome!
Such common-sense outcomes could not, of course, have been achieved without the commitment and the preparedness of each of these families to pursue the injustice inflicted on them in the first place. It takes a very brave parent to stand up and to be prepared to take on the organisation, and I am indebted to them for that stand and for their trust in my support for them at this time. There are, of course, lessons to be learned her and, in particular, with regard to the advice and guidance given to the parents of children in the last year of primary school as they approach the issue of places at senior schools, and of the related transport issues. I will be discussing these and other points with Ian Watts, the newly-appointed Area Education Officer for North Kent, when I meet with him on the morning of the 3rd November, his first day in his new post!
One of the other issues at that meeting which I will be addressing will be the possible consequences for the education system of the release of land for building domestic residences on the north side of Edenbridge. The construction of somewhere in the region of 275 dwellings in a relatively short period of time cannot but fail to have a major impact on the local education, health, transport and highways services in particular and, although KCC has had an ‘early-warning’ of this combined impact in an email of a couple of weeks ago, I have little faith that a more robust and strategic view will be taken at an early stage. The pressures likely to occur here will back up against similar pressures on Leigh Primary School in the east of the division, which have occurred as a consequence of the construction of new private residences on the old Powder Mills site. The Edenbridge development will add intolerable pressure not just on Edenbridge Primary School but, also, on Four Elms, Hever and Chiddingstone Primary Schools as well. I suspect that this will be yet one more case where I will have to make myself extremely popular with some of my colleagues!
The allocation of my Members’ Grants is moving steadily along, with a number of local organisations making applications for a range of services. As I have previously stated, it is not my intention to allocate funds to the same organisation two years in succession so as not to give the impression to any organisation that they can sustain their activities from the same source; they must seek other financial streams if only to give others a chance to gain valuable funding for the first time. That said, I am working with two organisations – one providing services to youth, and the other to people with learning difficulties – to get them to conduct a quick and simple feasibility study on how they might each expand their services into my electoral division so as to cater for youth and those with learning difficulties in the villages and hamlets east along the valley – Cowden, Hever, Chiddingstone, Penshurst, Leigh, Fordcombe, Mark Beech and Charcot in particular – as the basis for an application for funding in the next financial year. This will not be easy, and I appreciate that, but if we do not try, then we will never find out what is possible. The Parish Councils will play a key role in this process in being able to ‘point’ these two organisations in the appropriate direction so as to access these groups of people, and to either bring the services out to them, or get them to a location where the organisations will operate from; this is so much more than the mere advertising of services. But enough on this, other than to put you all ‘on notice’, as it will be for the two organisations concerned to get on with this in the first instance, calling upon me for help as, when and if this becomes necessary.
Another piece of work concerns the Community Wardens and the need to reduce the existing budget level for this service. The proposal will be for Community Wardens to be grouped into teams of 6 or 7, with a Team Leader, and to be assigned to a District Safety Unit from which they will be providing their services across two neighbouring districts. So, for example our local team, excluding the Edenbridge Community Warden whose office is funded separately and locally, will cover both Sevenoaks and Tonbridge and Malling Districts; the decision as to which one of the two districts will be their ‘base’ has yet to be decided, and will probably not be set until after public consultation on the proposed changes, which starts on the 9th October and extends for 8 weeks; a final decision will be made in January following an analysis of the consultation feedback. Any reduction in staffing numbers, including the back-office functions, will be achieved through natural wastage. Sad times for what is really a valued service across the county.
The County Council meeting on Thursday the 19th September was treated to an in-depth discussion, led by three NHS practitioners, on the topic of the integration of medical and social care, with the patient being placed ‘at the centre’ of all considerations so as to give each individual the dignity of seeing out their lives in their own homes. A laudable principle but, inevitably, it will and as with all of similar matters require a considerable change in prevailing cultures before the aspiration becomes a reality. But at least this journey of change is now well on the road.
This reasoned and often poignant debate was then followed by a nasty and ill-tempered final discussion (and that is really stretching one’s sense of proportion to describe it as such!) on the topic of street lighting or, more accurately, the desire to turn back on those street lights which have only recently been turned off so as to save valuable money and limit CO2 emissions. This was a time-motion debate, brought to the meeting by the opposition groups and based upon anecdotal evidence. All sense of proportion and reason was lost in this debate, possibly because of the decision to complete the agenda before breaking for lunch. The decision was to retain the existing policy but with the proviso, which has been in place all along, that if the police statistics show that there is an increase in crime, or an increase in the incidence of road traffic accidents, the street lights in this particular vicinity will be turned back on. Lunch at 2 pm and at the end of a three-hour meeting was both welcoming and essential in restoring basic good manners.
A couple of other matters of interest to Town and Parish Councils are as follows.
· KCC has issued a new policy directive with regard to fly-tipping so as to clarify the legal position and to rationalise the different approaches and perceptions of responsibility for dealing with issue which currently exist across the county. As of April next year, it will be the responsibility of District and Borough Councils to remove waste on the highway which results from fly-tipping. KCC action will be restricted to ‘advice and guidance’ to Districts and Boroughs. This clarification of the policy has been circulated to all District and Borough Council, and to other relevant bodies such as the Environment Agency.
· Following pressure exerted on KCC by the Parishes and Town Councils with regard to aviation matters created by Gatwick, the County Council has called a meeting of selected representatives from the various layers of the local authorities in West Kent affected by aviation noise. The event will be held at Hever Castle, one of the symbolic venues for convening such a gathering, if ever there was one! Based upon the principle of consultation, this event will be crucial in helping KCC clarify its policy with regard to Gatwick’s proposal for a second runway. Those representatives attending will need to be aware of what is at stake, and that any clarification in KCC’s aviation policy must not only expressly reject the proposed second runway, but must also and of equal importance, call for a ban on night flights. The opposition to the existing night flight regime has been expressly and forcibly voiced over the past few months by local residents through the new web-sites, and at meetings of the HWCAAG. This level of community anger and resentment cannot just be heard and not acted upon. As the elected representatives attending, we must bring this to the table of the meeting on the 27th and demand its inclusion in the policy change as an equal and key aspect alongside the rejection of the proposed second runway.
d. Alms Houses: Report subsequently provided: The Trustees considered the current vacancy at their meeting and, after discussion, an offer was made to the chosen applicant who accepted the offer.
e. Neighbourhood Watch: Report subsequently provided: No crimes had been reported during October however, having checked a previous report when this had occurred it was found that crimes had indeed been committed including the theft of metal fencing, gates left open with cattle left to stray and further metal fencing cut to gain access to a remote property without activating the security system. It would be helpful if all crimes could be reported, with the current information indicating that crime was falling we should not be complacent if this is merely due to them not being recorded.
f. Speedwatch: No report
The Chairman reported that Michael Knowles would be relinquishing his co-option to the PC and the thanks of the Parish Council members and parishioners were recorded for all the invaluable help that Michael had given in the recent campaign against the expansion of Gatwick and its associated problems. His contribution would be greatly missed although he had said he would be available in the future if he was needed to help.
Michael subsequently reported that there was a lot of activity now going on directly and behind the scenes as a result of the parish councils and action groups’ involvement in taking on Gatwick Airport, the airlines, the CAA and the DfT over aircraft nuisance and plans for airport expansion in the south east. As the parish councils are now becoming focused through the High Weald Councils Aviation Action Group (HWCAAG) so are the many town and village environmental action groups focusing their efforts through umbrella groups such as Gatwick Obviously Not (GON). These groups together with Gatwick Airport Conservation Campaign (GACC) share information and collectively have become a serious opponent to the commercial ambitions of airport operators in their relentless and unsustainable development. However, they all need our continue support financially and in making our complaints on aircraft noise know to Gatwick Airport, the CAA, our local MPs and where appropriate the DfT.
This is my last attendance at a council meeting as a co-opted member with specific role on aviation matters. It has been my task to keep the parish council up to date and responsive to the threats posed to the community by further development of Gatwick Airport and additional runway capacity in the south east; to monitor the effects that current aircraft movements are having to the detriment of people’s lives, the local economy and the attractiveness of the High Weald as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. I hope in some way with the councils support we have all made a difference to people’s attitudes particularly that their voices do count and their complaints to Gatwick Airport are recorded and an essential data base to support the activities taken by the action groups. Please see my report to the council for further information. Thank you all for the trust you placed in me in this role.
Michael Knowles OBE – 3 November 2014
Reported Faults Update:
83586: Entrance to The Lane, Fordcombe: Damaged grating cover reported for repair/replacement. Work authorized for contractor, information awaited regarding date of work, traffic signal control required.
93431: Blocked drains from Chafford Lane towards Walters Green. Clerk advised by councillor majority of work now carried out.
127732: Drains: Issue originally reported under 93436 – Drains blocked on New Road past Burzes Cottages, reported again with request to ensure drains/gullies cleared prior to onset of icy weather, this in view of the number of accidents historically occurring on this stretch of road. Works re-programmed on 22 October 2014.
91196: Penshurst Road/Poundsbridge: Further contact received from Highways indicating further investigations required to find route of water during heavy rain, possible ditch/road side gulley clearance necessary to prevent incursion on to road.
113139: Path/Kerb Damage: Work completed. Clerk requested painting of corner stone be considered in view of number of vehicles already hitting stone on entrance to road to Leigh. New reference: 127729. Highways Officer advised area would be checked for suitable action.
119592: Hedge – Sandfield Road to Colliersland Bridge: Request made to clear vegetation from bridge/corner area to aid visibility. Website indicates issue investigated as of 4 September, further work required, now programmed.
Bidborough/Penshurst Road Boundary & Glebelands to School: Officers for Sevenoaks/Tunbridge Wells contacted with regard to site meeting.
The following accounts were presented and approved for payment:
Mr I Streeter Lengthsman £89.00
Penshurst Village Hall Hall Hire 2013 £66.00
Fordcombe Village Hall Hall Hire July-Aug 2014 £56.00
RIP Cleaning Services Dog Waste Removal £79.20
Chiddingstone Parish Council Advertising Boards/Leaflets Fun Day £77.24
“ “ “ High Weald Administrative Costs
“ “ “ Including website fees
“ “ “ April – October 2014 £348.64
SDC Bulk Freighter Fee £173.04
Oast & Oak Services Churchyard Mowing £1676.40
a. Gatwick Obviously Not (Planes over Penshurst): Proposal to provide payment of £250 agreed at September meeting, PC were advised that a bank account was being arranged. Issue had been deferred to November meeting, clerk confirmed no further information had been received regarding bank account details.
b. Precept 2015/16 – Clerk checked with members that they wished to continue with the Bulk Refuse Service and the Fun Day for the parish, this was unanimously agreed. Cllr Townsend requested that the precept remain at the current level in order to retain the reserves as existing. Clerk provided information on various cost centres and reminded members that an allowance for election costs for 2015 would need to be included.
Clerk had circulated an email from Cllr O’Shea received that day requesting PC provide funding of £3K towards an independent land survey relating to affordable housing sites. It was noted that a decision on this issue would be deferred until the result of the recent housing survey was provided for the December meeting.
Cllr O’Shea had also requested £15K be allocated towards the Gatwick plane noise issue; GatwickObviouslyNot (Planes over Penshurst) costs of £100K with 80% being legal costs were offered as a rough cost estimate although as the project was only in its early stages this could not be a firm cost quote at the present time. Members asked if a business plan was available.
Cllr Campbell reminded those present that the PC could only approve expenditure when it was for the direct benefit of the parishioners, in view of the work undertaken by the PC itself in conjunction with the High Weald Group, it was difficult to see – and prove – what actual benefit the work of GON had provided, or would provide in this project. Cllr Campbell asked Cllr O’Shea how the level of direct benefit arising from the action of GON over and above what had been done by the PC and the High Weald Group could be ascertained, Cllr O’Shea said he was not prepared to discuss this.
Chairman provided an example in that the number of complaints recorded from the first six months of 2014 totalled 11,300 whereas in 2013 there were 2600. The High Weald Group had commenced its campaign during September/October 2013 whereas POP/GON had formed in August 2014.
Clerk advised there was no statutory power available to the PC to make such payments, the only option available under which this issue could be considered was S.137, this was generally used for charitable type donations but again needed to meet the criteria as for all payments i.e. proven to be for the direct benefit of parishioners. There was a maximum allowable annual payment under S.137 which provided £7.20 per elector (currently approximately £9.5K).
Clerk stated her other PCs had never been in the position of allocating this level of funding under S.137, the sum already allocated of £250 could be considered to be an average level of payment to ‘good causes’ or similar.
It was agreed the clerk research this issue and provide a report for members for consideration, she would also discuss the issue with KALC legal department prior to circulation. Cllr O’Shea to check if business plan available regarding actions taken and planned by GON.
a. Sir John Stanley MP: Copy of Sir John’s letter to Paul Carter, Leader of KCC together with his reply regarding the financing of the Leigh Flood Storage Area. It was stated that Parish, Borough and District councils will also have to pre-cept significantly for this work. Clerk to check what the position was with regard to this proposal.
b. Dalcour Maclaren: Letter from South East Water agent requesting assistance with proposed installation of small bypass on existing main at Fordcombe. Plan of exact proposal requested, not received at date of meeting. (Clerk called company, further information promised again for circulation)
c. Sir John Stanley MP: Copy of response from Tom Denton at Gatwick Airport Ltd confirming deferment of proposals for new flight paths.
d. Kent Police: Advice that new crime prevention campaign would be running during the autumn in partnership with four other police forces in the South East. Information would be forwarded to PCs including promotional materials for use.
10. ANY OTHER BUSINESS:
Dates for 2015 Meetings: Penshurst: 2 February, 6 April, 1 June, 3 August, 5 October, 7 December. Fordcombe: 2 March, 13 April (Annual Parish Assembly), 11 May, 6 July, 7 September, 2 November. (Fordcombe dates confirmed)
Meeting Concluded 9.10 pm Next Meeting 1 December 2014 – Penshurst 7.45 pm