Councillors Present: Cllr. Fletcher (Chair), Cllrs Beck, Fairweather, Gilbert, Hatcher, Kings, Pethurst, Smith, Warne and Waters.
Borough Cllr. Dawlings, County Cllr. Holden.
Approximately 35 members of the public.
The Chairman welcomed everyone to the meeting and thanked them for coming. He explained this was a parishioner’s meeting rather than a council meeting although the Committee Chairmen would be taking the opportunity to report their committee’s activities over the last year to parishioners.
MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING:
Cllr. Fletcher explained the minutes to be adopted were from the last meeting held on 24th April 2019. He proposed they be adopted as a true record; this was seconded by Cllr. Gilbert and agreed. The Chairman signed the Minute Book.
CHAIRMAN’S REPORT: Cllr. Fletcher
The Chairman explained he had asked all participants to provide PowerPoint slides which can be shared along with the recording on the website, allowing those that could not join the meeting to know what was reported and discussed. Local organisations had been invited to attend and present their plans for emerging out of lockdown. These would follow the Committee Reports from the various Chairmen.
He felt our greatest achievement of the year 2020-2021 had been to maintain services and a sense of normality during the pandemic. A big thank you has to go to the Clerks for their part in this.
This has been the year of the Volunteer. So many came forward and deserve to be applauded and commended for the amount of time and effort they put in. The Parish Council had ‘enabled’ activities and then supported volunteers to deliver them. He gave examples of this such as the Council initiating the Covid Helpline and then handing it over to volunteers to deliver the service. He gave several other examples including the creation of the Spinney on the Ball Field, which the Parish Council had funded through a Members Grant from KCC Cllr. Holden, with the Cranbrook in Bloom volunteers undertaking the planting.
The Chairman gave an update on the Community and Medical Centre. Access to the donated land has finally been secured after seven years. The Tanyard Dental Surgery has been purchased which provides us with a larger piece of land on which to build. We have a robust business case with financial plans available on the website. Following a public meeting with 78 attendees, Members of the Council voted to proceed to the next stage. We have received a letter of commitment from KCC libraries and hope to receive similar from NHS. They want to be a part of this project but Covid has slowed their involvement processes.
He advised that all parish councillors are volunteers whose purpose is to improve life for parishioners and enable change for the better. This year we have lost three previous members who all left their mark, Bridget Longley, Denis Hemsted and Brian Clifford. With the resignation of Dr. Linda Hall, who he thanked for her service over the last few years, we now have a vacancy. He urged people to come forward for the role. We are a proactive council not afraid of the future or of shaping it. We are also a ‘Quality’ accredited Council with excellent services and processes in place.
REPORTS FROM COMMITTEE CHAIRMEN
POLICY & RESOURCES COMMITTEE: Cllr. Beck
Cllr. Beck tabled a slide showing an overview of the finances, including earmarked reserves. With the able assistance of the previous Chairman of the committee, Brian Swann the Council has accrued a substantial reserve of earmarked funds for capital projects. The cost of the services the Parish Council provide amounts to around 37p a day per household.
He listed the most notable increases in expenditure as staff costs due to a new member of staff and the acquisition of the Tanyard Dental Surgery. The fall in receipts was mostly due to Vestry Hall bookings, a reduced revenue from Parish Cake advertising sales and the substantial decrease in interest from our savings, all as a direct result of the pandemic.
The recent spate of vandalism to parish property would affect the expenditure in the current year.
In response to a question from the public, monies have been put into reserves for future provision of public toilets.
PROPERTIES AND BURIAL GROUNDS COMMITTEE: Cllr. Gilbert
Cllr. Gilbert gave an overview of the Committee’s responsibilities which includes Golford Chapel and Cemetery, Sissinghurst Cemetery and the closed churchyard of St. Dunstan’s. The lych gate at Sissinghurst Cemetery has been repaired and refurbished in the last few months. The Vestry Hall Complex comprising of the parish offices, the hall, council chamber and cottage are also the responsibility of this Committee; as are the War Memorials in Cranbrook and in Sissinghurst, the bus shelters, noticeboards, cycle racks and red telephone kiosks.
It was necessary to increase the burial fees this year, but we are still competitive in comparison to surrounding parishes. A decision to keep the gates locked at Golford Cemetery had been taken due to a few vehicles driving over the grass, raising concern that some graves could be damaged. It is hoped this will be resolved soon as a new metal barrier, in keeping with the Cemetery, has recently been commissioned. We continue to monitor the effect of the ‘wilding’ areas in St Dunstan’s Churchyard.
The asymptomatic testing in the Vestry Hall will cease from tomorrow.
There has been a film crew outside this week, filming a drama where the outside vista is dressed to represent a bank.
All the buildings are maintained and are in good order. Unfortunately, due to the recent spate of vandalism, the bus shelters, some streetlights and the red telephone box are in need to repair, which we are in the process of receiving quotes for. We have been in discussion with the police as to how this can be addressed.
He thanked the Clerks who work very hard on all of our responsibilities and also the Parish Warden, Ivor Hatcher who does an excellent job of looking after the Cemeteries for us.
PSCO Humphreys was invited to advise everyone how they can help in reporting crimes. Residents’ property has been damaged as well as parish council property in recent catapult incidents. Unfortunately, there are no specific lines of enquiry to follow however the Community Policing Team has been allocated to the area to assist with extra patrols. The PCSO Task Team for the Western Policing Division which is now based at Cranbrook Police Station will be in a position to pay more attention to the area as they arrive and depart from the police station. He reiterated the that if people witness criminal damage taking place, then it is a crime in progress and should be reported by calling 999. If it is discovered after the event has taken place then it can be reported by calling 101 or using the live chat on the Kent Police website which is manned by Control Room staff.
In response to a question PSCO Humphreys confirmed that police dogs are not available to PCSO’s, they are a very limited resource in Kent.
ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE: Cllr. Fairweather
Cllr. Fairweather reported on the Committee’s activities since the last Parish meeting. These included the creation of the new spinney on the Ball Field, funded by a Members Grant from County Cllr. Holden and planted by volunteers from Cranbrook in Bloom.
Dog waste bag dispensers were installed on the Ball Field and Jubilee Field. Several streetlights in the Cranbrook Conservation Area have been replaced with heritage style street lamps.
Six electric vehicle charging points have been installed in Jockey Lane Car Park. Repairs of signage, lineage and patching have been completed in all the town’s car parks.
Tree Safety Audits and any associated works have been undertaken in all areas that the Parish Council is responsible for.
The drainage system in the Crane Valley Skate Park has been upgraded and what has been an issue for many years, we hope, has now been resolved.
The allotments continue to be managed and are offered to residents as and when they become available. The office holds a waiting list for those who would like to consider becoming an allotment tenant.
Cllr. Fairweather congratulated Cranbrook School on their recent initiative to undertake fortnightly litter picks. He also expressed his thanks to local volunteers that continue to litter pick in both Cranbrook and Sissinghurst. Official coordinated litter picks will be arranged in the near future. In response to a parishioner, Cllr. Fairweather offered to contact all the local schools in the Parish to see if the importance of correctly disposing of litter could be raised in a school assembly or added to the curriculum in some way.
PLANNING & PRESERVATION COMMITTEE: Cllr. Smith
Cllr. Smith explained the planning process and the part of the Parish Council Planning Committee in that process. The Committee have looked at and offered comments on approximately 160 different applications. He also highlighted recent changes to the TWBC Agreement which allows for further scrutiny and consultation.
He reported on the changes to the TWBC housing figures for the Parish from the Regulation 15 consultation version to the pre-submission Draft Local Plan, which had been reduced significantly.
Cranbrook from 718-808 to 415-429 and Sissinghurst from 100-115 to 38; which is more in line with organic development of rural areas and allows time for proper impact assessment of existing permissions as they are built out. All too often developers tend to look at the shorter term and profit margins rather than the longer-term bedding in of developments.
As a committee they aim to support sustainable development in line with the Neighbourhood Development Plan and national guidance and continue to recommend refusal for inappropriate development that does not align with our local plans. Local views and concerns have to be balanced against the required housing provision and environmental protection. The need to hold remote meetings over the last year has not been ideal especially when considering major applications.
The recent fall in neighbour comments received, is most likely been a result of the Planning Authority deciding to advertise applications via the yellow notices, which puts the onus on neighbours to inform themselves on applications that may have a direct effect on them. This has been raised with TWBC.
In summary planning for the future is all about the right development in the right location at the right time, which hopefully is what the NDP in conjunction with the Local Plan aim to deliver.
He concluded by thanking the Clerks and his Committee members, who do a huge amount of background work on the applications, for their commitment and local knowledge which is of great value. Cllr. Fletcher reiterated his thanks to the Committee and to the Chair for the huge amount of background reading and understanding that is required from members.
NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN: Cllr. Warne
Cllr. Warne reported on the progress of the Neighbourhood Development Plan over the last year.
May – September 2020 was spent preparing the draft NDP document. October – December 2020 was the Pre-submission (Regulation 14) Public Consultation, how the events were held for this was greatly affected by Covid 19 restrictions. There were approximately 300 posters and banners put up around the Town inviting people to submit comments.
Zoom meetings were held to enable questions to be asked and to help people with their responses. The consultation was also advertised in the Wealden Advertiser, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the Parish Council website and via Be in The Know.
January – April 2021 was spent collating all the responses from the consultation and proposing amendments, most of which had to be done virtually which came with its own challenges.
In March 2021 the Design sub group were formed to look at the design policies. A total of 3,583 were received in total by various means such as SurveyMonkey, email and post. A graph was tabled showing 81% of respondents supported the draft policies.
The timeline ahead shows that April – May will be finalising the Revised Draft Plan. June – July will be the submission to TWBC for the Regulation 16 Consultation followed in August/September when it will be sent for examination and October/November when the referendum will be held.
Cllr. Warne thanked the Deputy Clerk for recording the minutes and ensuring everything is documented for evidence, the NDP Steering Group and working group members for their continued support.
The following local organisations were invited to give a brief presentation on their plans following lockdown, their slides are available to view on our website:
- Wellbeing in the Weald
- Cranbrook in Bloom
- U3A Cranbrook
- Cranbrook Literature Festival
- Cranbrook & District Age Concern
- Weald of Kent Bee Keepers
- Chalkdown Riding for the Disabled
- Cranbrook Sports Club
- Cranbrook Museum and Local History Society
- St Dunstan’s Church
- The Strict Baptist Chapel
- Kent Wildlife Trust
- Cranbrook Honorary Mayor
- Cranbrook on the Green
- Cranbrook Town Market
- Cranbrook Town Band