9th September 2021

MINUTES OF A MEETING OF THE PARISH COUNCIL HELD IN THE VESTRY HALL, CRANBROOK ON THURSDAY 9th SEPTEMBER 2021

PRESENT: Cllr. Fletcher (Chairman), Cllrs. Bunyan, Dyke, Fermor, Gilbert, Hatcher, Hartley, Kings, Pethurst, Warne and Waters.

APOLOGIES: Cllrs. Beck, Fairweather, Smith and Rampling. Borough Councillor Dawlings.

Declaration of Interests, Dispensations and Predetermination:

The Chairman read out the following statement:

Members are required to declare any interests, dispensations or predetermination on items on this agenda in accordance with the Council’s Code of Conduct. Members are reminded that changes to the Register of Interests should be notified to the Clerk. The meeting is routinely recorded as a clerk’s aid.

67/21: Minutes of the Previous Meeting to be confirmed:

The Chairman Proposed the Minutes of the Meeting held on the 12th August be adopted as a true record, this was seconded by Cllr. Bunyan and agreed. Cllr. Warne referred to item 54/21 paragraph 8 of the Chairman’s Report where it states that Borough Councillors were in attendance at a meeting convened by Helen Grant. She asked that it be noted that she had not been invited to the meeting.

68/21: Community Centres/Medical Centre:

Cllr. Gilbert reported that a G.P had now come forward to help with the specification of the Medical Centre. Cllr. Fletcher has a meeting scheduled with them the first week of October.

69/21: Hartley Road (A229) proposed 30mph TRO Consultation:

The Chairman explained we had received an invitation to comment on a proposal being submitted to Kent County Council to change the speed limit on Hartley Road, Turnden from 40mph to 30mph. The plans provided by a consultant, working on behalf of the developer had been circulated to all Members with the agenda for tonight’s meeting. It was agreed that Members would send their responses to the Clerks by Thursday 16th September. These would be collated in order to formulate a response on behalf of the Council. Cllr. Pethurst questioned if lowering the speed on the road would affect streetlight provision. He also queried the scale of the drawing provided.

70/21: Chairman’s Report:

The Chairman reported on two very successful recent community collaborations. The Weald Games organised by Cranbrook Sports Club and ‘Cranfest’ by Wendy Waters and her sister Julie. He thanked everyone concerned for their contribution on what were two spectacular events.

He reminded everyone that Cranbrook Apple Fair was taking place on the 2nd October, the theme this year is ‘Friend, Romans and Countrymen’ so he hopes that some attendees will dust off their togas and dress accordingly.

He referred to the anti-social behaviour flyer which had been put out by Helen Grant MP and was pleased that it had resulted on an increase in incidents being reported to the Police. We have a new PCSO covering the area on a temporary secondment, who was here tonight and will be invited to introduce himself later on.

He reported on the Brick Kiln Farm public presentation that had been held in the Vestry Hall. Councillors had also received the presentation separately online. The plans put forward by the new developers Hill, were much improved on what Persimmon had submitted and had received approval for. We are obviously still awaiting the outcome of the Public Inquiry into Turnden which is being held later this month.

The Chairman voiced his concern that the management of The High Weald Academy had changed to the Leigh Academies Trust, who also managed Mascalls Academy in Paddock Wood. It was a concern that if the roll numbers remain low, pupils will be bussed to Mascalls and The High Weald Academy will close.

He advised that Cranbrook Juniors FC, who had been in receipt of a Parish Council grant, had invited all Councillors to their first match of their first season on Rammell Field this Saturday.

He concluded by congratulating Cllr. Fermor on the latest edition of The Cake.

Reports from Committees:

71/21: Policy & Resources:

Cllr. Fletcher referred to the minutes of the meeting held on 7th September and highlighted the Social Media Policy that the Committee had approved. This should have been circulated with the minutes; however, it had only been sent to members of Policy & Resources in error. As not all members had not had adequate time to review the policy, it was proposed by Cllr. Fletcher, seconded by Cllr. Pethurst and agreed that the minutes be adopted omitting the Social Media Policy, which would be considered for adoption separately, at the next Full Council meeting. Cllr. Hatcher also asked for a correction to be made to show that it was members of the Tourism Group that had discussed the possibly of incorporating a tourism office in the new Community Centre, not the Economic & Community Committee as had been stated in the minutes.

Cllr. Pethurst referred to the item on public toilets and asked Cllr. Gilbert to expand on the resistance received regarding siting temporary toilets in Carriers Road. Cllr. Gilbert explained that in order to make it feasible financially, we would need support of one of the retailers in sharing their water supply, foul drainage and power and they were not keen on the having the toilets located next to their business. More work is required to identify a suitable location.

72/21: Planning & Preservation:

Cllr. Bunyan referred to the meetings held on the 17th August and the 7th September and invited questions. Cllr. Warne stated that she understood a Code of Conduct complaint had been submitted regarding one of the applications discussed on the 7th September. The Clerk confirmed she had been informed a complaint had been submitted to the Monitoring Officer and suggested that when the minutes are published on our website, that the reasons for refusal on that particular application should be redacted, until the Monitoring Officer had concluded her investigation.

73/21: Properties & Burial Grounds:

Cllr. Gilbert confirmed there had been no recent meeting. He advised the work to install the railings around the turning circle at Golford was nearly complete. As soon as the lockable bollards are received and in position it would allow for the gates to be left open again.

74/21: Economic & Community:

Cllr. Hatcher confirmed there had been no recent meeting, although he had attended local networking events at the Hive and with the Cranbrook Together Group. He has formed some useful contacts which will be followed up. The Council now has a Facebook page which is being updated by linking Be in the Know emails that are already currently circulated.

75/21: Environmental Management:

Cllr. Kings advised the next meeting was Tuesday 14th September.

76/21: Neighbourhood Development Plan:

Cllr. Warne referred to the minutes of the meeting held on 23rd August and highlighted the consultation on Brick Kiln Farm which is open until Sunday. Hard copies of the information packs are available from Snapdragon, the company appointed by the developer to host the consultation.  

She advised the group have finished going through all the responses received form the Regulation 14 consultation and are hoping to submit all the necessary information to TWBC by the end of September, for them to conduct the Regulation 16 consultation. Cllr. Bunyan queried the use of ‘ground source heat pumps’ referred to in item 1 of the minutes, relating to the stakeholder engagement with the developers Hill Residential. It was agreed this should be corrected to read air source pumps. With the correction made Cllr. Warne proposed adoption of the minutes., this was seconded by Cllr. Pethurst and agreed.

Cllr. Fletcher commented that the developers at Brick Kiln were looking to import soil as all their houses are built on pile foundations as opposed to the Turnden developers who are looking to spread the 24,000 cubic metres of spoil over a large area.

77/21: Delegate Reports:

a) Tourism Group:

Cllr. Hatcher advised the group had discussed the “Walk Through Time” walking maps. Cllr Dyke offered to investigate the possibility of a further print run and updates as there are only two boxes of the last print run left.  It had also been agreed to invite other organisations to join the group. Headcorn Aerodrome had expressed an interest in becoming involved through Graham Holmes, who is a long-term volunteer at the attraction.

b) Katherine Elizabeth Wood:

Cllr. Hatcher advised that the Charity were looking to potentially help an applicant through three years of college.

c) CCAAC:

Cllr. Hatcher advised there is a meeting planned for later this month.

d) Age Concern:

Cllr. Warne reported that Roni and David Summers were stepping down at the AGM in November. New trustees have already been appointed and at the stall they had at the Cranbrook on the Green event they were able to enlist several new volunteers. They are also looking at constructing a new website for the Cranbrook and District branch of Age Concern.  Cllr. Fletcher advised they are going to clear the wheelchairs we store for them; we have accepted the offer to retain one for emergency use. If anyone knows someone that needs a wheelchair, they should contact Age Concern.

Cllr. Bunyan suggested the Parish Council write a letter of thanks to the Summers for their contribution over the many years they have served the organisation.

78/21: Clerk’s Report:

The Clerk advised we had received the audit report from the external auditor and she was pleased to report there were no matters raised.

79/21: Borough Councillor Reports:

a) Cllr Warne advised the responses to the consultation on changes to the electoral system will be debated by Full Council in October. She had been interested to learn that all the rural parishes with the exception of Frittenden, were in favour of the current system.

She had attended an Audit and Governance meeting where independent member, Cllr. Ridley presented a framework on how to oversee major projects for the Council. In the first instance this will be used to decide the future of the Town Hall and Assembly Hall. This will ensure a good oversight of any major project.

b) Cllr Fletcher read a precis of the following email report from Cllr. Dawlings:

Waste Collection.  The suspension of the garden waste service has enabled Urbaser to focus on the recycling and residual waste collection services.  The national shortage of HGV drivers is having an impact. Companies are offering substantial pay rises to retain drivers and substantial packages to recruit drivers.  Urbaser has also increased pay but with agency drivers now being paid about £50k per annum (that is a cost per driver of £65k when the agency fee is taken into account) it is no surprise that drivers are leaving regular jobs to join agencies.  The number of agency staff being used impacts on the service, as drivers and crews are not familiar with routes.

Housing Afghan refugees.  The Council is doing what it can to find properties to house Afghan families and encouraging private sector landlords to make available properties for this purpose.  What they cannot do is to pressure social housing providers to make available social housing because that simply puts Afghans ahead of those who may have been on waiting lists for social housing for a long time.  Three Afghan translators were housed in Tunbridge Wells back in 2013 and are employed by TWBC as Parking Officers.  Their wider families to whom they send money each month are now being targeted back in Afghanistan – one has been told he must return to Afghanistan or relatives will be killed. 

Finance.  In the current financial year, TWBC is in a better position than anticipated, mainly because the Government has continued to come good with promised financial assistance.  The fundamental problems remain – the Council’s main source of income is from fees and services and this has been adversely affected by Covid and unlikely to fully recover.  That is the reason why they need to continue to look for savings to balance the budget for 2022-23.

On increasing income, using the surplus space in the Town Hall for co-working is being pursued with all pace and last week they had meetings with some companies providing co-working space which were very positive. In making plans for the Town Hall, he is working with the Opposition groups which he is very happy to be doing, as he believes strongly in cross-party co-operation.   

On saving costs, he listened to the discussion at our last meeting about changing electoral arrangements.  His personal view is that a smaller number of Councillors and all-out elections would save money – funds that would be far better spent on Council services.

Planning.  The Local Plan has completed the Regulation 19 consultation. 

Turnden Public Inquiry – From everything he has heard he believes it is unlikely the Planning Inspector/Secretary of State will overturn the planning approval for the development.  If it goes ahead, we will need to remind ourselves of the community benefits of the scheme, including the transfer of about 33 acres of the wider landholding to the Kent Wildlife Trust ensuring a green buffer between Cranbrook and Hartley, effectively preventing any further expansion of Cranbrook to the south.  This with the hedgerow and tree planting and protection of ancient woodland is assessed to bring a biodiversity gain to the area.  There will be cycle and footpath connections between Cranbrook and Hartley and a wider public right of way network.  There will also be s106 contributions, not least towards the Community Centre.  This week’s exhibition of plans for Brick Kiln showed the cycle and footpath connections going through that site and also the land to be protected along the Crane Valley.  This is not development that he favours in any way.  But it could be so much worse, the developers promoting Turnden and Brick Kiln are amongst the best. 

80/21: Items for Information:

a) Cllr. Fletcher stated that Val Mummery had requested that he announce Phil’s Memorial Service is taking place in the Church at 4pm on Monday 4th October, refreshments will follow in the Church.

b) Cllr. Pethurst advised the Museum’s exhibition on ‘A Look at Cranbrook through Maps and Aerial Photographs’ is now running through to the end of October. This Saturday is the second and final chance to help create a map.

c) Cllr. Bunyan advised the planning application for the new Village Hall in Sissinghurst is due to be submitted this month.

d) Cllr. Hatcher advised the auditions for the COD’s Christmas Pantomime; Dick Whittington are being held at 11am this Saturday in the Queen’s Hall Theatre.

The Meeting was closed

The Police Community Support Officer, Oliver Underdown introduced himself to the meeting. He advised he is taking over the area on a temporary basis for the next three months. He will provide his contact details to the Clerk for circulation to members. In response to the Chairman, he advised he is based in Cranbrook but also covers, Sissinghurst, Frittenden and Benenden.

A member of the public suggested that if the High Weald Academy were to close as a school, that it would make an incredible medical centre. He also paid tribute to the organisers of the two recent events held in the Town.

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