The meeting was held remotely using Zoom software.

PRESENT: Cllr. Fletcher (Chairman), Cllrs. Beck, Bunyan, Fairweather, Gilbert, Hatcher, Kings, Pethurst, Smith (in part), Warne and Waters. Borough Cllr. Dawlings, Kent County and Borough Cllr. Holden.

APOLOGIES: Cllrs. Fermor, Meewezen and Hall.

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.

170/20: Minutes of the Previous Meeting to be confirmed:

The Chairman proposed that the Minutes of the Meeting held on the 11th March be adopted as a true record.  This was seconded by Cllr. Gilbert and agreed.

171/20: Turnden 2 Planning Application No: 20/00815/FULL

The Chairman explained the agenda had been altered to enable parishioners to state their case in respect of Turnden 2. Unfortunately, no parishioners present requested to speak on the item.

He had learnt yesterday evening that two directors of the High Weald AONB had made a complaint regarding TWBC’s handling of the application. This was fully investigated by Natural England who decided there was no case to answer. The two directors have accepted this and withdrawn the complaint.

TWBC are still waiting to hear if the Secretary of State is prepared to ‘call it in’ and if he does, whether he will delegate the decision to the Planning Inspectorate or whether he would make the decision himself. As yet there was no indication of when this will be.

In response to Cllr. Gilbert, the Chairman confirmed that no written request for funding from parishioners had been received.

The Chairman advised members that he had received two emails in support of the application, one of which was from an ex-parish councillor.

Cllr. Pethurst felt this was a good opportunity to reinforce and record our position in respect of the application. In November, the Planning Committee, on behalf of the Council had recommended that the application should be refused and this decision should continue to be supported.

Cllr. Warne felt that more detail on the legal arguments that would be presented was necessary, before the Parish Council could decide if they would be prepared to make any funding commitment. She also felt Members should be aware that if Turnden 2 does not go ahead, the Borough would not meet its five-year land supply, which would impact other applications currently being considered.

Members agreed unanimously to defer any decision until it is known whether or not the Secretary of State agrees to ‘call it in.’

172/20: Community Centres/Medical Centre:

Cllr. Gilbert reported that following the meeting with Mike Hill – the KCC cabinet member for Community and Regulatory Services, we have submitted a request for ‘a letter of comfort’ which we hope will be considered favourably. The appointment of a project manager is on hold until we receive a similar letter from WKCCG. A Fundraising Committee is in the process of being set up.

He confirmed that the Southborough Hub is now open and it is hoped any member who would like to visit, will have the opportunity soon. In response to Cllr. Warne, the Chairman confirmed the final cost of that project, came in on budget. Cllr. Pethurst pointed out it was a very different financial model than was being proposed for Cranbrook.

The Chairman confirmed that Cllr. Smith was at a meeting of the St. Georges Committee this evening and would hopefully be in a position to update the meeting later on the progress of the Sissinghurst Village Hall Project.

173/20: Virtual Meetings:

The Chairman explained that the government had announced they do not intend to extend the legislation which permits remote meetings beyond 6th May. The Clerk has made enquiries to see if it will be possible to hire the Church for the Annual Meeting of the Council and is awaiting a reply.

The Chairman advised that he was preparing to respond to the government’s ‘Call for Evidence’ in relation to remote meetings. The Deputy Clerk is working on a spreadsheet which demonstrates improved attendance figures during the period remote meetings have been permitted.

174/20: Chairman’s Report:

The Chairman reported that he and Cllr. Gilbert met the developer of Cranbrook Engineering and they hope to be on site in June or July.

Mark Lawrence is putting together information for how to widen sports participation across the Parish, and beyond. TWBC are doing some strategic thinking about sport and recreation.

Cranbrook Sports Club (formally known as the Rugby Club) are very keen to widen the number of sports available. There are issues over the old tennis courts at the High Weald Academy, and also the management of Fusion Sports Centre. If Members have strong views, he asked that they let him know, so he can feed them in.

He was given a planning update at a meeting yesterday. The key issues were:

The Local Plan is out for consultation. It has changed a lot from the original and is worth looking at. Until Turnden 2 is approved, TWBC do not have a five-year land supply, so developments such as at Whitewell Lane and the Long Field are difficult to defend.

TWBC are open to the new ‘First Homes’ initiative launched by the Government last week – for truly affordable homes to buy. He hopes to have a discussion with Hill Developers, who have purchased Brick Kiln, to follow through on this initiative.

As Cranbrook is in the AONB, shops cannot automatically be turned into housing. This is important for the future of the High Street, and is something for a future discussion on what our High Street looks like. He proposed that the Economic & Community Committee that was placed in abeyance several years ago be resurrected. This was seconded by Cllr. Hatcher and agreed. The Clerk advised that Members can volunteer for the Committee at the Annual Meeting of Council next month.

Annual Parish Meeting – April 28th. After the various Chairmen have made their short presentations, local organisations have been invited to come online and say what they are doing to help the Parish out of lockdown. At least eight have come forward already.

Report from Committees:

175/20: Policy & Resources:

Cllr. Beck referred to the minutes of the meeting held on 6th April and invited questions. In response to Cllr. Bunyan, Cllr. Beck assured her that there are sufficient funds available for the two grants that were awarded at the meeting and there would still be enough left for the grants we normally award annually, to organisations such as Cranbrook in Bloom and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. It was also suggested that when the Community Centre’s at Cranbrook and Sissinghurst were discussed they should be minuted under separate agenda items to avoid any confusion.

Cllr. Beck proposed the minutes were adopted; this was seconded by Cllr. Gilbert and agreed.

176/20: Planning & Preservation Management:

Cllr. Bunyan referred to the meetings held on 16th March and 6th April. She highlighted the application on the Long Field site and the valid reasons for recommending refusal. One of the reasons listed was that part of the site was on an ancient Quaker Burial Ground. Cllr. Warne advised that she had learnt that this was incorrect, the Quaker Burial Ground was in fact the other side of Quaker Lane and had already been built on.

177/20: Properties & Burial Grounds:

Cllr. Gilbert reported that the Vestry Hall would continue to be used for a Covid Testing Centre until the end of June. He also advised the next meeting was scheduled for 20th April; the agenda would be circulated next week.

178/20: Environmental Management:

Cllr. Fairweather referred to the minutes of the meeting held on 23rd March and invited questions. As none were raised, he proposed adoption of the minutes, this was seconded by Cllr. Fletcher and agreed.

179/20: Neighbourhood Plan:

Cllr. Warne reported that more people were looking at the design policies to ensure they are more specific to the Parish. The group looking at it included Hilary Horsford, Elaine Capon and Pip Gill. They are hoping to improve the design policies within the plan and will look at adding more illustrations and graphics.

She has also been approached by the owners of the Shotcrete site in Swattenden Lane for a meeting which has been arranged for next week. They have some development ideas for the site and would like to ensure they align with the NDP.

Cllr. Warne proposed adoption of the minutes of the meeting held on 22nd March, this was seconded by Cllr. Pethurst and agreed.

Reports from Delegates:

180/20: Age Concern:

Cllr. Warne advised there is a meeting scheduled for next week.

181/20: Transport Accessibility Group:

There was nothing to report.

182/20: Tourism Group:

The Chairman advised Cllr. Dawlings would report on the group’s activities later in the meeting.

183/20: Hop Pickers Line Heritage Group:

The Group have been invited to attend the Horsmonden Nostalgia Day in September, subject to any Government restrictions being in place.

184/20: Clerk’s Report:

The Clerk reported that filming of a TV series called “Queens of Mystery” a light hearted detective show based on a fictional village, would take place in Cranbrook on 27th April. The company had previously filmed in the Town a couple of years ago. Cllr. Gilbert advised he had secured a small fee for the use of Vestry Hall in a brief scene. The production company is operating under strict industry Covid 19 guidelines and will ensure public safety is kept as paramount importance.

The Clerk also reported on the very sad loss of Denis Hemsted. He had been a parish councillor and Chairman of the Properties and Burial Grounds Committee for many years and would be missed by his friends and family.

185/20: Correspondence:

The Clerk read out an email from Tunbridge Wells and District Citizen’s Advice thanking the Parish Council for the additional grant of £1,000 that had been recently awarded.

186/20: County & Borough Councillor Reports:

a) Cllr. Holden reported he had attended a meeting with Forestry England and several other stakeholders regarding the parking issues that had become a problem in Park Lane. Local residents of the lane had been affected by inconsiderate parking by some visitors to Bedgebury Forest. The Forestry Commission have worked with KCC Highways in a scheme to erect bunds and passing places. Twelve parking places have been created on Forestry land. An enforcement regime is also being discussed and considered by them.

KCC are also looking at lorries inappropriately parking in laybys and in country lanes and the littering which has followed. There has been a trial of clamping these vehicles in seven districts in the eastern part of the county, which he is hoping will be extended to the whole county. There are approximately eleven thousand lorries a day that travel through Dover.

He also reported as a Borough Councillor on the processes involved for companies claiming Restart Grants to help them come out of lockdown.

b) Cllr. Dawlings referred to the 8183 grants already awarded to businesses during the periods of lockdown which totalled £44.4m. There had been some delay in launching the application for Restart Grants due to their complexity. Businesses will be able to make their claims via the website from next week. 

Cllr. Dawlings also reported on the activities of the Tourism Group. A web app for mobile phones has been created to showcase Cranbrook and Sissinghurst and what visitors can expect from the area to include local attractions and places to eat and stay. The cost is in the region of £3,000, which he hopes will be covered by contributions from TWBC, Cranbrook Business Association and the Parish Council. In response to Cllr. Hatcher’s request to see the app before it goes live, Cllr. Dawlings agreed to send a link to the Clerk, to be circulated to Members.

c) Cllr. Fairweather advised he had been busy dealing with reports of fly tipping and planning issues.

d) Cllr. Warne reported the Pre-submission version of the Local Plan is now out for consultation. It will run for ten weeks until 4th June, which is 4 weeks longer than legally required. Paper copies are available to view by appointment, at the Gateway Office in Tunbridge Wells.

187/20: Items for Information:

a) Cllr. Smith reported that the Option Agreement had been signed with Fernham Homes to build the new Sissinghurst Village Hall. It was expected they would submit their planning application within the next four to six weeks. The hall will be approximately twice the size of the existing hall and have parking for twenty cars. The design is currently being finalised by the Committee and Fernham Homes. There will be a public consultation/information event as soon as the planning is hopefully approved.

He also wanted to thank TWBC for the Additional Restrictions Grants that St. George’s have been able to claim, without which the hall would not have been able to remain viable.

b) The Chairman advised he was in discussion with Kent Wildlife Trust and the owners of the land on opposite side of the Crane to Brick Kiln Farm, as to its future ownership.

The meeting was closed.

A member of the public advised Cranbrook in Bloom were holding a plant sale on Saturday 1st May at 1 Providence Cottages and their Garden Safari on Sunday 27th June.

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