MINUTES OF A MEETING OF THE PARISH COUNCIL HELD IN THE COUNCIL CHAMBERS, CRANBROOK, ON THURSDAY 11th JANUARY 2024
Public Participation – there were no questions or comments from members of the public
PRESENT: Cllrs. Fletcher (Chair), Bunyan, Gilbert, Hatcher, Page, Pethurst, Swenson, Mills, Newman, Selby and Tomlinson
Borough Cllr. Warne and County & Borough Councillor Holden (in part)
110/23: APOLOGIES: Cllrs. Fairweather, Stone and Somers
111/23: 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.
112/23: To approve and sign as a correct record the minutes of the Full Council held 14th December 2023
The Chairman referred to the minutes of the Parish Council Meeting held on 14th December 2023 that had been circulated before the meeting by the Clerk. They were agreed for accuracy and proposed for acceptance by Cllr. Fletcher, seconded by Cllr. Pethurst and agreed.
113/23: Precept Demand: Motion for Consideration: The Precept Demand be set at £386,712 for 2024/2025
Cllr. Pethurst referred to the document that had been circulated prior to the meeting, summarising the proposed 24/25 precept demand. There will be a one penny increase on a Band D property. There were no questions. Cllr. Pethurst proposed the motion. This was seconded by Cllr. Gilbert and agreed.
Cllr. Fletcher thanked everyone who had worked on producing the individual budgets.
114/23: To discuss options for football pitches on the Ball Field in relation to PROW WC100 and WC102
Cllr. Tomlinson explained that the initial proposal for a full sized 11 aside pitch, plus a 7 aside pitch, was not possible due to the Public Rights of Way on the Ball Field. However, there was space for a midsized 11 aside pitch and a 7 aside pitch. This would mean that there will be no pitch available for a competitive men’s side, but is a suitable compromise.
Cllr. Tomlinson will continue to explore other avenues for a full sized 11 x11 pitch, including identifying a landowner who has land available, and considering applying to redirect PROW WC100 around the outside of the field. Funding for Section106 monies will be required.
115/23: To decide response to letter received from Buchanan Hartley Architects Ltd regarding Providence Chapel
The Chairman referred to the letter and the TWBC advisory planning brief that had been circulated prior to the meeting.
The Chairman took an action to seek further guidance from several parties, including the TWBC Conservation architect, so the matter can be decided at February Full Council. The Clerk will update Buchanan Hartley and request that the Parish Council be allowed additional time to respond.
116/23: Resolve to proceed to RIBA stage 3 of the development of a community centre, library and medical centre as specified in the OPE grant application, utilizing the 150k OPE grant, if successful, and funding the difference from the councils’ reserves
The Chairman referred to the OPE expression of interest document that had been circulated by the Clerk prior to the meeting.
The Cranbrook Community Centre continues to make progress and just prior to Christmas, a bid was submitted to the One Public Estate (OPE) who have a budget of just under £2M to support projects of this nature. From five bids submitted throughout Kent, the Cranbrook Community Centre was seen as the strongest bid and was therefore selected to go forward to round two. The bid is seeking £150k grant towards the delivery of the Pre-Construction Services Agreement (PCSA) to help move the project from RIBA stage 1 to RIBA stage 4 detailed design just prior to start on site.
To date the community centre has been on hold pending agreement from all three GPs on the NHS specification. This has been delayed due to health reasons of one of the GPs who is shortly to retire at the end of March 2024. With this retirement, their contract will either be novated to another GP practice, or could be dispersed. Both these options would then potentially allow the remaining GPs to agree the specification and allow the project to finally move forward with an agreed specification.
There are still numerous risks in delivering the Cranbrook Community Centre, inflation on building costs; agreements by all parties to invest in the scheme; District Valuer setting the GP rent; and high Public Works Loan Board rates, although these have recently started to fall and it seems may fall more in the coming 18 months which, if done in tandem with the PCSA could see the parish commence build once rates hit their lowest levels. The PCSA would cost just over £400k, if the OPE funding is received, this would cover £150k of this cost. CSPC would need to fund the rest of the costs at risk of the project not proceeding for any reason. There will be break clauses in the PCSA so that at each RIBA stage Cllrs will have the opportunity to agree whether they should continue or not.
In order to proceed through the second gateway, the OPE bid will require the parish to confirm that they are prepared to match fund the OPE investment.
This opportunity now seeks to de-risk the costs to the parish and, with the NHS hopefully shortly able to confirm a specification, a potential down turn that might lower the cost of construction and with interest rates looking like they might start to fall, this opportunity might provide the best moment for the parish council to start moving this project forward subject to Members agreement.
Cllr. Fletcher confirmed that the project will continue without the OPE grant, however the opportunity to receive the grant would accelerate the next phase, at less financial risk to the parish council. Public Works Loan Board rates would need to be at 3% or below to make the current business case viable.
The Clerk took an action to provide Cllr. Swenson a copy of the current business case.
Cllr. Fletcher proposed the resolution be accepted. This was seconded by Cllr. Gilbert and agreed.
117/23: Local Council Award Scheme:
Resolution: Cranbrook & Sissinghurst Parish Council confirm that all criteria for the Local Council Award Scheme Quality Status is in place and ready for submission including all documents which are published online.
118/23: Update Community Centre/Medical Centre: – including GP Surgery Situation
Old School Surgery are proposing taking over the Crane Surgery.
119/23: Chairman’s Report:
Thank you to everyone that worked on the application to register the 6th Form Centre as an Asset of Community Value.
Also, thanks to those who have commented on the planning application for ‘Long Field’.
120/23: Approval of Committee Reports as detailed below:
- a) Policy & Resources:
Cllr. Pethurst referred to the minutes of the meeting held on the 9th January 2024. He highlighted the policies that had been updated. In particular the grants awarding policy that has been amended to allow donations up to £250 to organisations that provide a benefit to the community, without the need for a full application.
Cllr. Pethurst proposed the minutes of the meeting be adopted; this was seconded by Cllr. Bunyan and agreed.
- b) Planning & Preservation:
Cllr. Bunyan reported on the meeting held on the 19th December 2023. The application for 34 dwellings had been refused.
The housing applications at the meeting on 9th January had been refused due to lack of non-selective secondary school and water supply issues.
No reply has been received from the Head of Planning in response to the letter that the planning committee sent in December, setting out the Parish Council’s reasons for recommending refusal for new dwellings.
The letter will be printed in the next edition of The Cake as an open letter. It could also be shared via Be in the know and to TWBC councillors.
The Long Field planning application is still open for comments for anyone wishing to submit.
121/23: Delegate Reports:
- a) Hop Pickers Line Heritage Group:
A meeting was held in Goudhurst on the 8th January 2024. Much work has been undertaken in order to install the new interpretation panels near the Paddock Wood Church Farm Development. Delivery and installation are expected to be completed in mid-January.
- b) CCAAC:
Cllr. Bunyan advised the next meeting is arranged for the end of January. She reported the sad news that Peter Allen had passed. Cllr. Tomlinson advised that through his role at Cranbrook School he had produced a tribute to Peter Allen on behalf of the school. He was happy to assist with writing an obituary for the next edition of the Cake.
- c) Tourism Group:
The next meeting is due to be held on the 16th January 2024.
122/23: Clerks Report:
Storm Windows will commence installation of the secondary glazing in Vestry Hall w/c 5th February.
a) The Clerk refereed to the KALC newsletter that she had circulated to all members, highlighting the name change of the ‘High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’, to the ‘High Weald National Landscape’.
b) The Clerk referred to the communication she had shared regarding D-Day 80th It was agreed to include an agenda item for discussion at the February Policy and resources Committee meeting.
124/23: County and Borough Councillor Reports:
a) Borough & County Cllr. Holden
Cllr. Holden reported that had come straight from the Windmill public meeting, organised by Cranbrook Windmill Association. As Chair of the KCC Environment & Transport Cabinet Committee he has, and will continue, to make the recommendation that KCC keep all 8 windmills within their ownership.
He will continue to press for Rory Love, the KCC cabinet member for Education and Skills, to come to Cranbrook to meet with stakeholders.
Cllr. Holden had meet with the Goudhurst, Sissinghurst and Biddenden members of the A262 group who are campaigning for the road to be reclassified as a B road to help reduce the number of large lorries using the narrow roads. Regrettably the Highways cabinet member had advised it would be rejected on a technical issue.
Cllr. Fletcher highlighted the Parish Council’s success of listing the old HWA 6th Form Centre as an Asset of Community Vale. This is in spite of Leigh Academy Trust opposing the application via solicitors. Cllr. Fletcher advised that Leigh Academy Trust are not engaging with Cranbrook & Sissinghurst Council, and requested assistance from Cllr. Holden, who agreed to speak to KCC member Paul Carter (who is also a Trustee of Leigh Academy Trust and Leigh Academy Trust Audit Committee member) and Roger Gough, Leader of KCC (who is member of Leigh Academy Trust board member).
The next KCC budget meeting is scheduled for February.
b) Borough Cllr. Warne:
Cllr. Warne advised that the TWBC Local plan consultation can be found on the TWBC website under Planning Policy à New Borough Local Plan. The consultation is open from Monday the 15 January until midnight on Monday 26 February 2024.
A consultation for a new corporate plan is upcoming.
She reported that a flood caused by development works on Crane Lane has been resolved.
125/23: Items for Information:
Cllr. Selby reported that a group had met on Monday 8th to discuss the strategy to build a strong case for the creation of a new school to serve the families of the parishes in and around Cranbrook. The next meeting is taking place on Monday the 29th January at 7.30pm. All welcome. If you wish to attend, please advise Cllr. Selby directly.