Full Council Minutes 12th December 2020

The meeting was held remotely using Zoom software.

The Chairman welcomed everyone to the meeting and reminded those present that the meeting was being recorded as a Clerk’s aid.

PRESENT: Cllr. Fletcher (Chairman), Cllrs. Beck, Bunyan, Fairweather, Fermor, Gilbert, Hartley, Hatcher, Kings, Pethurst and Smith.

APOLOGIES: Cllrs. Hall, Meewezen, Warne and Waters. Borough Cllr. 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.

Cllr. Hartley declared a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest on the item Community Centre/Medical Centre and reminded Members of his offer to the Doctor’s to site a Medical Centre on land in which he has an interest.

The Chairman advised that the Clerk had received a written request from Cllr. Hartley for a dispensation which would allow him to participate in discussion and vote on an item in which he has a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest. A copy of the request is filed with these minutes.

Cllr. Hartley offered to remove himself from the meeting whilst Members discussed his request. The Chairman felt it important he remained to hear Member’s discussion and response.

Members discussed the request at length and felt it important that Cllr. Hartley should remain and have input, when the discussion did not have any commercially sensitive value, but in consideration of his rival bid, he should be removed from any meeting when discussion involved detailed costings and contracts. These would all be treated as confidential items due to commercial sensitivity and would also permit exclusion of the Public under the relevant legislation. Members also felt that Cllr. Hartley should be allowed to be fully involved in discussion and voting as soon as an agreement between the Clinical Commissioning Group and the Council is signed, as any rival bid would then be irrelevant.

In response to the request for a dispensation, Cllr. Smith proposed that Cllr. Hartley be afforded the same rights as Members of the Public, however due to his rival bid, he should be excluded from all commercially sensitive discussions and voting on the Community Centre/Medical Centre until such time that his interest is no longer relevant. This was seconded by Cllr. Fermor and agreed unanimously. 

Cllr. Hartley accepted the decision and thanked Members for taking the time to consider his request.

106/20: Minutes of the Previous Meeting:

The Chairman proposed that the Minutes of the Meeting held on the 12th November be adopted as a true record.  This was seconded by Cllr. Bunyan and agreed.

107/20: Community Centre/Medical Centre:

Cllr. Gilbert advised that we had now reached a point where we have a clear idea of the size, potential income and build cost of the project, which gives us a good idea if it is viable or not.

Substantial contingencies had been included, all the details of which are included in the Outline Business Case. An Extraordinary Meeting will be scheduled for 7th January, when the OBC will be presented to Members, if they choose to reject it, that is their democratic right and the project will cease and the land will be handed back to Guy Johnson to develop.

Assuming the OBC is not rejected, at Full Council on 14th January, Members will be asked to consider a motion approving the project up to RIBA stage 4. The plans excluding any commercially sensitive information will be published on the website.

We hope to follow in Paddock Wood’s footsteps on how they are keeping everyone informed on progress of their project. Paddock Wood Town Council upload the latest plans to their website on a weekly basis and allow for parishioners to make any comments they wish to.

There will also be regular updates appearing in Parish Cake and ‘In the Know’. Once complete the Parish Council will own a valuable financial asset. We are moving towards a position where we can cover any loan repayment costs without increasing the precept.

Updates and ongoing consultation will continue to be carried out to ensure everyone is aware of the intention to include a medical centre and the Library in the facility. Members need to see the OBC before coming to any conclusion on the project. If the GP’s and C.C.G. do decide that the option we offer is the best, they will responsible for consulting with their patients on the plans. Some members expressed concern that residents they have spoken to do not want to be further consulted they just want us ‘to get on with it’.

108/20: ANPR – Kent Police:

The Chairman reported that we had received a letter from Kent Police who were seeking our opinion on the use of ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) in our area. Members were advised how it works and agreed unanimously that it was an excellent initiative and should be fully supported.

Cllr. Fairweather encouraged everyone to respond to the Police Crime Commissioner’s Annual Policing Survey, which is a way for Kent residents to get across their say on what matters to them regarding policing.

Reports from Chair and Committees:

109/20: Chairman’s Report:

The Chairman feared that as numbers of Covid cases continues to increase, there is a low chance of being removed from the current Tier 3 status.

He referred to the unsuccessful judicial review that Hawkhurst PC had lodged against TWBC in respect of a planning application, south of Hawkhurst crossroads. This only goes to show that even if KCC Highways recommend refusal of the Turnden application, this will not ensure that the application is refused by the Planning Authority.

He advised that he had attended a zoom meeting at which Lee Colyer, Head of Finance at TWBC had given a presentation on how the tax base is calculated, explaining why most in the Borough had been reduced. There had also been a presentation from Stephen Baughen – Head of Planning at TWBC who had advised that there would be an update on the status of the Local Plan in January. Two new officers had been appointed to deal with S106 requests. It was explained that only fully costed projects would be considered. The Chairman had asked for a list of consultants experienced in undertaking these types of costings. He was also informed that the government are currently consulting on making it easy to change building classifications from retail to residential, which will create havoc on our high streets.

He was still working alongside Cllr. Pethurst, with the Church, Wellbeing and TWBC on volunteer development and how a volunteer database can be created in different areas.

110/20: Policy & Resources:

Cllr. Beck referred to the Minutes of the meeting held onth December. He highlighted the discussion on budgets and commented that due to the astute financial management of Brian Swann over many years, we were in a robust financial position. With careful consideration it was looking like we would be able to reduce the overall precept demand in what has been a very difficult year, which would help offset the increases made by other precepting authorities such as the Police and KFRS.

He also referred to the decision made to nominate Wellbeing in the Weald for the KALC Community Award Scheme. Cllr. Beck invited questions, as none were raised, he proposed adoption of the minutes, this was seconded by Cllr. Gilbert and agreed.   

111/20: Planning & Preservation Management:

Cllr. Smith referred to the minutes of the meeting held on 17th November and highlighted the Approval of Revised Matters on the Brick Kiln application and the revised Turnden application. Our recommendation to refuse was reiterated on both applications. He also referred to the meeting of 1st December and the application on land adjacent to the Tanyard Car Park for the erection of four dwellings, which had been also been recommended for refusal.

112/20: Properties and Burial Grounds:

Cllr. Gilbert advised that the precept for properties had been reduced slightly in light of information received from TWBC on the tax base. He confirmed this would not affect any projects the Committee had previously agreed to pursue.

113/20: Environmental Management:

Cllr. Fairweather referred to the minutes of the meeting held on the 24th November. He highlighted the decision to enter into a maintenance package for the electric vehicle charging points.

Cllr. Fletcher reported that Kent High Weald Project had completed a lot of work in the Crane Valley, there was now wire meshing covering the broadwalk to prevent anyone slipping on a wet surface.

Cllr. Fairweather invited questions, as none were raised, he proposed adoption of the minutes, this was seconded by Cllr. Fletcher and agreed.  

114/20: Neighbourhood Development Plan:

Cllr. Pethurst advised that the Draft Regulation 14 Consultation ran until midday tomorrow. Once all the responses had been collated and written up, which would happen after Christmas, the Plan could then be prepared for examination. It had been a long hard process. In response to Cllr. Hatcher, he confirmed that the Committee had the power to accept comments after the deadline, existed in some cases, which would be at their discretion. Cllr. Bunyan offered her congratulations to the whole team, which was echoed by other members. Cllr. Pethurst referred to the minutes of the meeting held on 30th November and proposed adoption; this was seconded by Cllr. Hatcher and agreed.

115/20: Reports from Delegates:

a) CCAAC:

Cllr. Hatcher advised he had prompted the Committee to respond to the application for the four dwellings on land adjacent to the Tanyard Car Park. Their response was listed on the Planning Portal.

The Chairman read out the following report from Graham Holmes:

b) Cranbrook Tourism Group:

The group would like to correct the record that it is not responsible for the election of the Honorary Mayor of Cranbrook as had been reported in the September Full Council Meeting. It did however fully support the initiative.

c) Hop Pickers Line Heritage Group:

An Information Panel similar to the one in Goudhurst is due to be placed on the Green at Horsmonden. This panel provides a history of the line in words and pictures, suitably adapted to reflect the location.

d) Transport Accessibility Group:

The Chairman had attended a meeting held on 25th November. He reported that anti- virus fogging was being undertaken on trains resulted in 28 days of virus free swabs. Traveller numbers had gone from 2-3% in the height of the summer to around 20% before the beginning of the 2nd lockdown. The Kent Rail Strategy predicts there will be130-180,000 more people living in Kent within the next fifteen years. Staplehurst will continue with two trains per hour, while Paddock Wood to Ashford will have four non-stop trains.

He had also been informed that S106 monies for bus routes, has to prove the route is viable within three years.

116/20: Clerk’s Report:

There were no items to report. The Clerk wished all Members and the public attending a very merry Christmas.

117/20: Correspondence:

Letters of thanks had been received from Tunbridge Wells & District Citizens Advice Bureau and Home Start for the grants we had awarded them last month.

118/20: Reports from County and Borough Councillors:

a) Cllr. Fairweather reported the Weald Leisure Centre had re-opened and encouraged everyone to use it.

He also advised that due to a fire at the Sevenoaks Waste Depot and having to share the North Farm site, bin collections were starting earlier at 6am so residents should consider putting out their bins the night before. He had used the household waste service yesterday after booking online and it worked well.

He also encouraged everyone to complete the TWBC Budget Consultation Survey which is currently available on their website.

b) The Chairman read out the following report from Cllr. Dawlings:

Finances remain in a poor state due to loss of income from fees and charges.  After operating with a monthly shortfall of £1m for the first lockdown, income recovered to be down about £500k in the summer but this increased in November to £600K.  Their hope was that the monthly shortfall would narrow to around £250k by March.  Perhaps that now looks optimistic.  In the current year, 95% of losses are being partly funded by Government in the ratio 75:25 and that will continue until the end of June.  The draft budget forecasts a loss of £3m for 2021-22.

They have been encouraged by Government not to make drastic cuts to services but instead to maintain services and fund from reserves.  TWBC has adequate reserves to cover this loss for 2021-22 but they are of course considering how they might save £3m a year (through a combination of increasing fees and seeking to reduce costs and services). 

Covid and Tier 3 – When the second lockdown ended TWBC had lobbied hard and unsuccessfully for only the boroughs in North Kent (and not the whole of Kent) to be included in Tier 3. Infection rates in Tunbridge wells Borough continue to rise (notably in Cranbrook) and so the assessment from yesterday’s meeting of all Kent leaders was that a change to Tier 2 on 16th December was unlikely, mainly because of pressure on Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone Hospitals, which now have more Covid patients than during the first lockdown. This is depressing especially for business in the hospitality sectors.   

Theatre and Ice Rink – TWBC hoped to open both these at the beginning of December but Tier 3 prevented this. He believed they now have permission to open the Ice Rink for limited use, but if we are to remain in Tier 3 the pantomime will not be able to go ahead.   

Grants – TWBC is administering several grant schemes for businesses impacted by the lockdown and being in Tier 3. Information is on the website but as has happened throughout the pandemic, Government makes announcements about schemes and it takes time before guidance and funding is received. The guidance leaves very little to their discretion.

He extended his best wishes to everyone for Christmas and hoped that 2021 would be a better year.

119/20: Items for Information:

None were raised

The meeting was closed.

Members of the public present were asked if they had any questions. None were raised, however one member of the public thanked Members for all their hard work and wished everyone a very happy Christmas and a very happy, healthy and cheerful New Year.

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