The meeting was held remotely using Zoom software.
PRESENT: Cllr. Fletcher (Chairman), Cllrs. Beck, Bunyan, Fermor, Gilbert, Hartley, Hatcher, Kings, Meewezen (in part), Pethurst, Smith, Warne and Waters.
County and Borough Cllr. Holden.
APOLOGIES: Cllrs. Fairweather and Hall.
The meeting was also attended by:
Jonathan White – Project Surveyor TWBC.
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. He reminded everyone present that the meeting was being recorded as a Clerk’s aid.
Cllr. Hartley advised the meeting of his Disclosable Pecuniary Interest, in that he has submitted a rival bid to the GP’s, offering an alternative site on which to develop a Medical Centre.
122/20: Minutes of the Previous Meeting and the Extraordinary Meeting to be confirmed:
The Chairman proposed that the Minutes of the Meeting held on the 10th December be adopted as a true record. This was seconded by Cllr. Gilbert and agreed.
The Chairman proposed that the Minutes of the Extraordinary Meeting held on the 7th January be adopted as a true record. The Clerk confirmed to Cllr. Pethurst that the typographical errors he had highlighted when the draft minutes were circulated, had been corrected. The proposal was seconded by Cllr. Bunyan and agreed.
123/20: Precept Demand:
Cllr. Beck explained to Members how the figure of a precept demand for £351,603 which represented a decrease of 0.09% had been arrived at and invited questions. In response to Cllr. Warne’s query on how the figures had fluctuated over the last five years, he explained that last year’s precept had been increased mainly to cover the cost of increasing staffing levels in the office. Cllr. Pethurst thought the decrease had been delivered by removing the contingency budget and the amount was too inconsequential to be relevant and the contingency should have remained. It was pointed out that all committees have the opportunity to discuss and authorise their budgets and the demand is set from the figures agreed. Cllr. Hartley felt that the Council had failed to take the opportunity to make a sizable reduction.
Cllr. Beck proposed that the precept demand be set at £351,603 for 2021/2022, this was seconded by Cllr. Kings and agreed. Cllrs. Hartley and Pethurst abstained.
124/20: Community Centre/Medical Centre:
The Chairman advised the motion for consideration listed on the agenda had derived from the Extraordinary meeting held last week. He invited questions and discussion.
Cllr. Warne felt that public engagement should be written in to the motion.
The Chairman invited Jonathan White to comment.
He explained that in his opinion, rather than stipulate when engagement occurs at specific stages, it should be a continual process throughout the project and gave the example of how Paddock Wood have engaged with their parishioners. Cllr. Smith felt that someone should take responsibility for undertaking this, to ensure it is done.
Cllr. Hartley asked for permission to speak before Members voted on the motion. He was advised that he would be allowed to comment when the meeting is opened to the public as per the dispensation granted, but should not be seeking to influence the vote.
Cllr. Smith wanted confirmation of what protection we are afforded until such time the NHS sign the rental contract. Jonathan White advised it is possible to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the NHS in regard to proceeding with the project, but ultimately, we will be seeking as part of RIBA stage 4 the lease agreements to be signed. Expenditure on professional fees associated with the Medical and Community Centre will be required before that point. Some of the costs such as a topographical survey on the site would be required, whether the Medical Centre was included or not.
Cllr. Pethurst queried that as not increasing the precept was fundamental to the Business Case, should this be written into the motion? The Chairman confirmed that generous contingencies had been built in and at the current time there was no intention to increase the precept. The Chairman proposed that:
This Council approves the development of a new community and medical centre on Wilkes Field and adjoining land owned by the Council.
The Project Board is authorised to engage all the necessary consultants and undertake all the necessary works including surveys to progress the project.
The project will use the earmarked funds allocated to the project and any subsequent funds which are received towards the delivery of the project.
Enter into all necessary legal agreements to secure the delivery of the centre.
There will be a public engagement process throughout the Project.
The project will seek further approval from the Council at the following milestones:
RIBA stage 2
RIBA stage 3
Agreement of the amount and approach to the Public Works Loan Board.
RIBA stage 4
RIBA stage 5
The proposal was seconded by Cllr. Meewezen and agreed unanimously.
125/20: Financial Support for Parish Magazine:
The Chairman explained that selling advertising had been extremely difficult during the lockdown and there would be a shortfall of around £2K – £2.5K on the next edition of the magazine. He feels that the magazine is a crucial communication vehicle at the moment. Editor of the magazine Cllr. Fermor, reiterated the importance of the publication. It allows the Council to promote its services and keep in touch with those people that do not use the internet, informing parishioners of vital services during the pandemic. If publication stops even for a short period it would be very difficult to resurrect. Cllr. Bunyan reminded members that the old parish magazine, that was hugely inferior had cost around £2K a year when that was produced. Cllr. Beck felt it was a tool to be used as part of the public engagement process for the Community/Medical Centre and a necessity going forward. Cllr. Kings felt it should be supported but should revert back to the original title of Parish Cake.
The Chairman proposed that: This Council underwrites any shortfall in printing and distribution costs of ‘The Cake’ for the next two issues. This was seconded by Cllr. Meewezen and agreed unanimously.
126/20: Chairman’s Report:
The Chairman voiced his concerns that Coronavirus seemed to be hiding around every corner. Our thoughts go out to those who have been affected, He understood that there had been several deaths at Hartley House and reiterated his plea to ‘please stay in and stay safe’.
Vaccinations start in Headcorn next week for our parishioners over 80. He hoped that would change the mind of anyone that did not want a medical centre here in Cranbrook.
Cranbrook Sports Club have offered their car park for vaccination locally. From what he has heard he believes you are vaccinated in your car, so wear an ‘off the shoulder’ dress should be considered! You are asked to remain in your car and providing you feel no ill affects you can leave after fifteen minutes.
The Vestry Hall is to be used for asymptomatic testing from Wednesday 20th January. Eight booths have been fitted today, and the army take over on Monday. If you Google ‘asymptomatic testing Kent’ the booking form is on the front page of the KCC site. Photo ID and a booking confirmation is required before you attend. You get a call back on your mobile with the result within thirty minutes. Cllr. Gilbert thought you may also need to take your NHS number.
The Chairman commended the work of Cllr. Pethurst and Marion Cranmer on pulling all the responses from the NDP consultation together. He voiced concern that Colliers Green and Hartley residents appeared to feel disenfranchised and unheard. Hopefully it would encourage them to find candidates for the next Parish Council election in 2023.
The changing housing allocation numbers in the local plan from over 800 to around 450 are welcome, but he expressed caution at the high ‘windfall’ number of 1300. He had noted an application for 20 houses by Whitewell Lane that had been scheduled for the next planning meeting which is outside the designated sites. Cllr. Warne advised she’d had a meeting with Debbie Dixon who had warned her to expect quite a few applications of that nature to come in.
He reported that all the schools are having a hard time with testing, staff illness, pupil numbers (as only key worker’s children attend), access to IT, so if anyone has an old laptop which is no longer required, he was sure the schools would appreciate it. He had a meeting today with the new headmaster at Cranbrook School, Will Chuter.
He thanked everyone who attended the extraordinary meeting last week for contributing so positively. There were 79 attendees at the peak. He hoped that any concerns held had been addressed.
Finally, he had to report the sad news at the loss of Brigid Longley, who had been a Councillor in this Parish for many years in the nineties.
Report from Committees:
127/20: Policy & Resources:
Cllr. Beck referred to the minutes of the meeting held on 12th January and highlighted the grant application from the Cranbrook Primary Out of School Club, which after careful consideration was awarded in full. Cllr. Warne highlighted to members the points she had raised under Items for Information and encouraged everyone to respond to the government consultation. Cllr. Beck proposed the minutes of the meeting were adopted; this was seconded by Cllr. Smith and agreed.
128/20: Planning & Preservation Management:
Cllr. Smith referred to the minutes of meetings held on 15th December and 5th January and invited questions. None were raised. He highlighted the change in numbers allocated to the Parish in the Draft Local Plan but expressed caution in the fact that we were still open to opportunist developers and windfall sites, which we would have to assess as and when they came forward.
129/20: Properties & Burial Grounds:
Cllr. Gilbert advised that no recent meetings had taken place. He thanked the Clerks for dealing with KCC and the army to facilitate the use of the Vestry Hall as an Asymptomatic Covid Testing Centre.
130/20: Environmental Management:
The Chairman advised that no recent meeting had taken place and no issues required reporting.
131/20: Neighbourhood Plan:
Cllr. Warne advised that no meeting had taken place in December and gave a precis of the meeting held on the 11th January. She advised the Consultation had finished on 11th December and Cllr. Pethurst has been sorting all the responses into the different chapters. Cllr Pethurst confirmed there had been 170 responses completed online with a further 40 emails received which contained approximately 2.5 thousand individual comments. Once agreement is reached as to the changes that are needed, it gets handed to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council to run the next six week consultation over the summer. Any documents submitted to them will need to conform to Accessibility Regulations. It was hoped we would be ready to go to referendum sometime in the Autumn. In response to Cllr. Hatcher, she advised the Turnden application was due to go before an extraordinary meeting of the TW Planning Committee on the 27th January. Cllr. Warne proposed the minutes of the meeting held 11th January be adopted, this was seconded by Cllr. Hatcher and agreed.
Reports from Delegates:
132/20: Age Concern:
Cllr. Warne advised a meeting is scheduled for next week.
Cllr. Bunyan advised that the meeting normally held in January had been cancelled.
134/20: Clerk’s Report:
There were items to report.
The Chairman reported that we had received letters of thanks from the Sissinghurst Flower Show and Hi-Kent for the grants we had recently awarded to them.
136/20: County & Borough Councillor Reports:
Cllr Holden voiced concern at the alarming news he had received, advising of a supply issue of the Covid vaccine to the PCN and the risk they will not have sufficient to carry out the vaccinations already booked for next week. Helen Grant MP has become involved but it is not yet clear what will happen.
A meeting of the KCC Environment and Transport Cabinet Committee is scheduled for next week. The government have launched a consultation which would see the introduction of 48 ton lorries to our roads to move freight. He has proposed that this should be rejected.
He also intends to raise that the government have just agreed emergency measures to allow the use of neonicotinoids pesticides in the sugar beet industry which will have a detrimental effect on the land long term.
He also reported on the KCC budget discussion which would see possible cuts to some services next year. He reported that he has agreed a grant of £3,200 to Cranbrook in Bloom for flower boxes to be hung on the unsightly railings of St. David’s Bridge/The Hill which will make a huge difference to that entrance into the Town.
He referred to the reduction in housing numbers being allocated to Cranbrook in the Draft Local Plan, however he will continue to press for more of the Cranbrook allocation to be pushed towards the Paddock Wood area.
137/20: Items for Information:
No items were raised.
The meeting was closed
The following questions were raised by Members of the Public present:
Q. Why has the magazine changed its name from Parish Cake to The Cake?
A. Cllr. Fermor advised that the title had been changed to The Cake as it sounded less parochial.
Q. Why are residents being expected to travel to the Medical Centre in Headcorn for vaccinations, could Cranbrook Leisure Centre not be utilised?
A. Cllr. Holden advised he had posed that exact same to the Chief Executive, William Benson and was told that using a site under the control of a third party was difficult and should restrictions be lifted Fusion would want the Centre back.
Comment: A parishioner raised concern at the length of the initial lease with the NHS in comparison to the length of a loan being mentioned.
Response: The Landlord and Tenants Act allows for the lease to be rolled over. No decision on the length of a loan had been agreed as yet. All the existing calculations within the OBC had been based on very conservative figures. Cllr. Pethurst also pointed out that if a fixed loan is taken out then in real terms the loan will decrease in value over time.