Full Council Minutes 12th August 2021

MINUTES OF A MEETING OF THE PARISH COUNCIL HELD IN THE VESTRY HALL, CRANBROOK ON THURSDAY 12th AUGUST 2021

PRESENT: Cllr. Fletcher (Chairman), Cllrs. Beck, Bunyan, Dyke, Fairweather, Gilbert, Hatcher, Hartley, Pethurst and Rampling. Borough Councillor Dawlings & County and Borough Councillor Holden. PCSO Simon Humphreys.

APOLOGIES: Cllrs. Fermor, Kings, Smith, Warne and Waters.

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.

51/21: Minutes of the Previous Meeting to be confirmed:

The Chairman proposed that the Minutes of the Meeting held on the 8th July 2021 be adopted as a true record.  This was seconded by Cllr. Bunyan and agreed.

52/21: Community Centres/Medical Centre:

Cllr. Gilbert advised there was little to report at this time. The GPs are still talking to each other and the CCG. They are all dedicated to ensuring there is a medical service in Cranbrook when they retire. They are still to decide who will take the lead in supplying the information we need to provide for architects, to move the project forward.

53/21: Tunbridge Wells Borough Council Consultation – Electoral system and number of Councillors:

TWBC had created a document detailing the changes being considered. The Council is considering moving to ‘all out’ elections which would mean that over the four-year term, elections would only be held in year one for all Councillors at the same time. It is also considering how many Borough Councillors it should have in the future. There are currently 48 Borough Councillors in 20 wards. Some wards have only one Borough Councillor representing them, whilst others have up to three.

The Chairman asked Members to vote on the Parish Council response to the consultation.

One Member voted in favour of the ‘all out’ option and seven in favour of the ‘By thirds’ option which is the current system.

One Member voted in favour of having fewer Councillors, this will save money, but Councillors will represent more people. Five voted for the number of Councillors to remain at forty-eight. One  voted to increase the number of Councillors to take into account the growing population.

The Clerk would complete the response to the consultation with this information. The Chairman pointed out that every member can also respond to the consultation as an individual.

54/21: Chairman’s Report:

The Chairman voiced concern that Cranbrook could be in danger of becoming a diminishing community in the Borough, as we could potentially lose essential elements of town life.

High Weald Academy is in danger of closure, due to falling rolls. It is the last local school to have been rebuilt and in the meantime, children have preferred to go to Mascalls, Homewood, Tunbridge Wells or Maidstone as their schools are more mature in their offerings.

We have lost two of the four banks, and it is getting more difficult to recruit Doctors, Dentists and particularly Pharmacists to the area.

He was therefore asking councillors to take a strategic view for the future, to ensure we remain a connected, vibrant community.

New shops are springing up, such as the Podiatry Shop, Mrs Potts Sweet Shop, a beautician and a plant shop and there is a shortage of office space, as people want to work in the town and be able to walk to work.

Hill Development, who have taken over the Persimmon site seem to have a far better grasp on how a community can expand without becoming full of anonymous housing, so he is hopeful of a better outcome for Brick Kiln Farm.

The Event on the Ball Field on 1st August was a great expression of a community getting together after lockdown. Wendy Waters, her sister Julie, Stuart Cleary and the Larkins Ale House crew deserve a huge vote of thanks for organising and running the day, as do the Councillors who supported the event.

He referred to the recent catapult damage we have sustained and reported that two meetings with Helen Grant MP had been held. The second included the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, local Police, the PCSO, KCC Community Warden, County and Borough Councillors and the local social housing managers from Town and Country. It was a positive meeting and we have since seen police action and a presence on the street. Helen Grant is putting out a leaflet urging parishioners to report anti-social behaviour, crimes in progress and criminal damage. The Police and Crime Commissioner will be putting a police constable into all schools to establish a presence and authority figure.

He stated he is heartened by Cllr. Hatcher’s new Economic and Business Committee, as it has shown there is much to do and a willingness to do it.

One issue that keeps getting raised is the use of the Tennis Courts at High Weald Academy. Given the turmoil there at the moment, he fears we will not get replies to our questions for a while.

He was pleased to report that we have signed a 125-year lease with TWBC for the parking places in Carriers Road.

Due to Covid and the concern that the Parish Room in Sissinghurst is too small for a Parish Council meeting, exceptionally the September meeting will be held in the Vestry Hall this year.

Reports from Committees:

55/21: Policy & Resources:

Cllr. Beck referred to the minutes of the meeting held on 10th August and highlighted the grant of £2.5K that was awarded to CPRE Kent, to help with legal advice and representation at the forthcoming public inquiry into the application for 165 new homes at Turnden.

Cllr. Hatcher requested that two errors in the minutes be corrected, the first in ref 28/21 the storage solution being investigated is for ‘cloud’ back up not iCloud, which is a specific product. He also referred to 29/21 and clarified his meeting with the licensee of the White Horse is to discuss various issues, not specifically regarding public toilets.

With these two amendments made, Cllr. Beck proposed the minutes be adopted; this was seconded by Cllr. Fletcher and agreed.

56/21: Planning & Preservation:

Cllr. Bunyan referred to the two meetings that had been held and invited questions. None were raised.

57/21: Properties & Burial Grounds:

Cllr. Gilbert referred to the minutes of the meeting held on the 13th July, highlighting the change in the Burial Board regulations in respect of pre-purchasing a plot. He also referred to the replacement security alarm being installed in the Vestry Hall this week. He proposed adoption of the minutes, this was seconded by Cllr. Bunyan and agreed.

58/21: Economic & Community:

Cllr. Hatcher advised there had been no formal meeting, however the Committee had got together and discussed progress on the various issues raised at their first meeting. Cllr. Dyke had been appointed as a second delegate for the Tourism Group. Work on an events checklist is ongoing. There had also been discussion on the use of social media. He proposed a Parish Council Facebook page be created and used as an information sharing tool in much the same way Be in the Know is currently used but with the ability to reach more parishioners. He would help the Clerks link the Facebook account to the current “Be in the Know” Mailchimp account, avoiding any additional workload.  The Facebook account will not allow for comments to be submitted; it is intended for information purposes not as a platform for opinions. His proposal was seconded by Cllr. Beck and agreed.

59/21: Environmental Management:

Cllr. Fletcher advised there had been no recent meeting, however there had been a lot of activity around looking at play equipment on the Ball Field and Jubilee Field. We are expecting to receive quotes in the near future. In response to Cllr. Bunyan, the Chairman advised it was hoped that some of the costs would be met by S106, although we would also need to dip into reserves to fund new equipment.

60/21: Neighbourhood Development Plan:

Cllr. Pethurst advised there had been no formal Steering Group meeting, however there had been several working group meetings to finalise the amendments required in response to the hundreds of comments made following the Draft Regulation 14 Consultation.

Cllr. Hatcher reported on the presentation by Barton Willmore, the Planning Consultants appointed by Hill, the new owners of the land at Brick Kiln Farm, in relation to the forthcoming Reserved Matters Application. He had come away more positive than usual, they appeared keen to listen and were also keen to engage with other local groups such as CPRE Kent and CCAAC. All Members would be forwarded a copy of the presentation and the questions raised by the attendees. Cllr Fletcher advised that he had been asked to arrange a suitable time when the presentation could also be delivered to the Parish Council. After a show of hands, it was agreed to arrange a zoom presentation for Tuesday 31st August.  

61/21: Police Community Support Officer:

PCSO Humphreys reported that following the concerns raised by the Parish Council with Helen Grant, regarding the level of anti-social behaviour recently, an increase in police presence, had hopefully been noted. There had been more foot patrols and last week PCSOs had been deployed alongside youth workers to engage with young people in the Parish.

Speed checks had been carried out on the A262 and in Common Road, Sissinghurst which suggests that around 5% of motorists were guilty of driving above the speed limit.

He had attended the Cranbrook on the Green event to offer crime prevention advice.

Officers from the Rural Policing Team had achieved some good results recently, several vehicles had been seized from the Hartley Road area, one of which contained catapults.

PCSO Humphreys explained how resources are deployed in the area. He confirmed that Police have the power to seize catapults if there is a suspicion they have been or will be, used for criminal activity. He also reiterated that members of the public can report crime to CrimeStoppers anonymously.

62/21: Delegates Reports:

a) Age Concern:

The Chairman reported that Age Concern had been present at Cranbrook on the Green and had been actively seeking new volunteers.

b) Museum & Local History Society:

Cllr. Pethurst had attended a meeting and had learnt that the Museum had purchased another Cranbrook Colony Artist painting, at a bargain price to add to their healthy collection. A long case clock had also been obtained. The opening hours had now returned to their pre-covid schedule. The current exhibition on the pictorial history of Cranbrook Primary School runs until the end of the month, when it will be replaced by an exhibition on maps and aerial photography.

The lack of a tourist office was discussed and a decision was taken to display a small number of local tourist leaflets at the Museum.

The Chairman read out the following delegates reports:

c) Tourism Group – Graham Holmes

Arrangements are now in hand for the Group to hold its first meeting since the start of the pandemic. A date is due to be finalised shortly.

Cllrs. Hatcher and Dyke would be attending as representatives of the Parish Council.

d) Hop Pickers Line Heritage Group– Graham Holmes

The Group continues to maintain a watching brief on the infill proposals near to the former Cranbrook Station.

In the meantime, as part of the High Weald Walking Festival 2021, the Group are hosting a walk that covers parts of the former Hop Pickers Line in the Goudhurst area. The date of the walk is the 19th September and bookings must be made in advance via highwealdwalks.org

e) Transport Accessibility Group – Graham Holmes

No further reports on the Group’s activities will be posted until such time as it decides to restart meetings.

f) CCAAC:

Cllr. Bunyan advised that the Conservation Architect from TWBC, Mark Stephenson, was not able to attend any of the scheduled meetings at the present time.

Cllr. Hatcher informed Members that as part of Cllr. Warne’s university project, she had come up with a proposal to extend the Cranbrook Conservation Area to include some of the houses in Carriers Road. The report would be shared with Members.

CCAAC had raised concern regarding the Wilsley Spinney and would be contacting the residents responsible for its upkeep.

63/21: Clerk’s Report:

Nothing to report.

64/21: Correspondence:

A letter from West Kent Neighbourhood Watch had been received, thanking us for the recent donation of £100.

65/21: County & Borough Councillor Reports:

a) Cllr. Seán Holden referred to the recent meeting with Helen Grant and was keen to promote the idea of a Town Meeting.

He referred to the recent road repairs and reshaping currently taking place at Golford Crossroads, a project he has been pushing for many years. He also spoke about the garish yellow lines that had appeared over the top of the more acceptable narrower primrose lines on The Hill in Cranbrook. He has written to Highways asking them to consider replacing them with the narrower, paler heritage lines.

He reported that KCC are moving closer to receiving the power to enforce moving traffic orders. They did have the power to clamp lorries parked in laybys. Four and a half thousand were clamped over a period of six months in seven districts, in the East of the County. They hoped this would be extended to cover the whole of the County, however this power has now been removed after transport companies lobbied the Government, stating it was threatening the economic recovery.

As a Borough Councillor, he spoke about the Leisure Centre and the Council’s decision to extend the contract with Fusion, following signs that the standard of service was improving.

b) Cllr. Tom Dawlings referred to the positive meeting with Helen Grant which he had also attended.

He advised that all councils had been asked to help with housing some of the translators fleeing from Afghanistan. TWBC will do what they can but it is difficult as the housing list is already long and many people have been on the waiting list for a long time.

He spoke about the student accommodation and teaching campus at Tunbridge Wells Hospital which has obtained planning permission. It is being manufactured off site and hopes to be ready for the next academic year. Research reports that 50% of doctors work within the geographical area they were trained.

He referred to the recent issues with the refuse contractor which was not helped last week by the huge fire on the A21, hopefully they will have now caught up with the backlog. There is still a problem with having sufficient drivers for the refuse lorries. For the 44 crews needed only 24 drivers are available, agency drivers are being used to try and make up the shortfall, which is why the garden waste service has been temporarily suspended.

He spoke of the electoral consultation and how he was in favour of the ‘all out’ elections system.

He revealed that there are 80 County Councillors in Kent and 48 Borough Councillors at TWBC. There are 16 other boroughs in Kent, all having between 40 and 50 councillors and 16 parish areas in Tunbridge Wells, with 15 parish councillors here at Cranbrook & Sissinghurst. He was amused at the analogy with rats in London, in that you are never more than 2 metres from a councillor!

66/21: Items for Information:

a) Cllr. Pethurst referred to the Cyber Security webinar he had recently watched which he had found to be a real eye opener, with the concerns raised about the risks to the Council in using out of date equipment.

b) Cllr. Pethurst advised that the Bowls Club were celebrating their 100 year anniversary tomorrow with a bowls match to mark the occasion starting at 11.30am.

c) Cllr. Pethurst felt that during National Allotments Week, the Council may wish to consider a possible need for additional allotments. He is considering suggesting to Cllr. Warne that allotments are added to the Satellite Conservation Area.

d) Cllr. Hatcher advised he had attended a seminar on Rural Economy mainly aimed at smaller villages. There had been some very interesting speakers, one was a group called ‘Pub is the Hub’. He will be speaking to the White Horse and Larkins Ale House advising them of the grants available to those who have ideas to enhance the local community.

e) Cllr. Hatcher also advised the Windmill was having a rededication ceremony at 3pm tomorrow, when a fanfare would be played from the very top of the Windmill.

f) Cllr. Dyke spoke of the issue of public toilets and asked if the local retailers in Carrier Road had been consulted regarding the possibility of siting temporary toilets in one of the parking spaces. Cllr. Gilbert advised that until it is clarified as to whether the location is suitable, no consultation will be undertaken.

The meeting was closed.

A member of the public raised concern at the continuing deterioration of the mosaic seat in Crane Lane and asked if the Council would consider moving at least a part of it to a safer location. They had also noted the increased police presence in Town.

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