MINUTES OF A MEETING OF THE PARISH COUNCIL HELD IN THE COUNCIL CHAMBERS, CRANBROOK, ON THURSDAY 14th DECEMBER 2023
Public Participation – there were no questions or comments from members of the public
PRESENT: Cllrs. Fletcher (Chair), Bunyan, Fairweather, Gilbert, Hatcher, Page, Pethurst, Somers, Stone and Swenson
Borough Cllr. Dawlings & Warne.
97/23: APOLOGIES: Cllrs. Mills, Newman, Selby and Tomlinson
98/23: 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.
99/23: To approve and sign as a correct record the minutes of the Full Council held 9th November 2023
The Chairman referred to the minutes of the Parish Council Meeting held on 9th November 2023 that had been circulated before the meeting by the Clerk. It agreed that two minor amendments were necessary in the reports from Cllrs. Holden and Dawlings, after which they were agreed for accuracy and proposed for acceptance by Cllr. Fletcher, seconded by Cllr. Fairweather and agreed.
100/23: To agree approval of the draft HIP as presented and submit to KCC Highways.
The Chairman handed over to Cllr. Page to present the item, thanking him for the time he had spent putting all the information together.
Cllr. Page reported that the information had been collated from the various engagements conducted with parishioners, with a total of 135 different issues raised. The five key areas identified were The Street and Common Road in Sissinghurst, A229 at Cranbrook Common, the High Street and Waterloo Road in Cranbrook. These key areas had been agreed at the Environmental Management meeting last month. A draft submission had been circulated to all Members prior to the meeting tonight. Cllr. Pethurst suggested that when submitting the HIP to KCC, that reference should be made to the Access and Movement section in our NDP, specifically referring to the policy on safer road conditions. Members also agreed to add a sixth hotspot to include Stone Street and all the remaining areas. The next step will be to present to KCC at which point funding will be a part of the discussions. Cllr. Page proposed the draft submission be approved as presented with the addition of the comments agreed this evening. This was seconded by Cllr. Hatcher and agreed.
101/23: To discuss options for football pitches on the Ball Filed in relation to PROW WC100 and WC102
The Chairman referred to the supporting document the Clerk had circulated prior to the meeting. The document included pitch locations without taking the Public Right of Way (PROW) into account, explanation of wilful obstruction of a PROW, suggested repositioning of pitches by KCC PROW officer.
The Chairman was keen to look at all the options and consider a holistic approach to all sports pitches available in the Parish. However, as Cllr. Tomlinson was the lead on the project and had been unable to attend this evening, Members agreed to defer this item to the next meeting.
102/23: Update Community/Medical Centre:
The Chairman advised on the possibility of applying for a One Public Estate (OPE) grant to build a community centre on Wilkes Field, which had stalled due to the increase cost of finance and actual build costs. He had circulated information on the grant process to all Members. The grant has to be applied for by KCC or TWBC and can be up to £150K to kick start a project. An opening bid was submitted on our behalf at lunchtime today. It would allow us to move to RIBA Stage 4 of a project to build a community centre. The grant is from central government and only one project from Kent would be allocated funding through this process. A project from Folkstone has also been submitted for consideration. A full application would need to be submitted by 24th January 2024.
He advised we are also still trying to get the sixth form centre at Snowfields registered as an Asset of Community Value which would open the door to other grant opportunities and is supported by the GP’s. An architect experienced in these areas had looked at the site specifications and had calculated the amount of treatment rooms that could be available. It is hoped, this would add weight to the request for it to be registered. In response to Cllr. Bunyan, the Chairman confirmed there would also be sufficient space for a pre-school if we can secure the building. We should hear by early January, if our request to register has been successful.
103/23: Chairman’s Report:
The Chairman reported he had attended two Chairman’s meetings recently. At one, KCC announced they were cutting youth services next year and also asked us to help educate our parishioners on numerous health aspects.
At the TWBC Parish Chairman’s meeting, he was advised that we need to ensure that when we submit our comments on planning applications, that we refer to the particular policy in our NDP. The Local Plan is going out for consultation shortly. As it is likely the garden village at Tudeley will be removed from the plan, other areas will need to take more development. The village of Hawkhurst will be targeted to take more, the trade off being the developer will build a new medical centre as part of the enabling project. Assuming Tudeley is cut from the plan, there will be no new secondary school built at that location, therefore KCC will either expand Mascalls further, or build a second school in Paddock Wood. Cllr. Pethurst could not see the rationale in building another school in Paddock Wood when there is already a huge gap in this area.
The Chairman was also advised by the Borough, that following their purchase of the leasehold of the R.V.P, they have appointed RivingtonHark Ltd as they specialise in town centre regeneration.
The Borough also asked what, as a parish, we were doing about carbon efficiency?
Cllr. Pethurst asked the Chairman to comment on the negative postings on the Cranbrook Remembered Appreciation Page following a ‘demand’ from the Parish to remove the acronym CRAP from the Facebook page.
The Chairman explained that the ‘demand’ was in fact a misconstrued request. What had started as a tongue in cheek acronym by locals, was thought to be having a detrimental effect on marketing the Town as a tourist destination.
Cllr. Bunyan asked the Chairman to update Members on the Fernham Homes planning application to relocate the external door of Sissinghurst Public Toilets. The Chairman explained that a planning application had been submitted to accommodate a new ROW that is acceptable to the Whiteways Estate. Buss Murton is still awaiting contact from the Tennis Club solicitors.
104/23: Approval of Committee Reports as detailed below:
a) Policy & Resources:
Cllr. Pethurst referred to the minutes of the meeting held on the 12th December 2023. He highlighted the detailed discussions surrounding the budget which will lead to a proposal to set the precept demand at next month’s Full Council meeting. He believed we have worked hard to set realistic numbers and applied a sensible use of earmarked funds and general reserves, resulting in a one penny increase, annually for a Band D property.
He also highlighted the recent transfer of funds to maximise interest revenue which had brought to light a concern with our internal controls for online banking. New procedures had been put in place and the issue resolved. He invited questions.
Cllr, Bunyan referred to the item on grant applications and asked if the Grant Awarding Policy could be reviewed to allow the Parish Council to award donations as well as grants, in certain circumstances. The Clerk advised that as the Council has the ability to spend under the General Power of Competence, there is no legal reason why the policy can not be expanded to include donations.
Cllr. Pethurst proposed the minutes of the meeting held on 12th December be adopted; this was seconded by Cllr. Bunyan and agreed.
b) Planning & Preservation:
Cllr. Bunyan presented the minutes of the meetings held on the 21st November 2023.
She highlighted the application on the White Horse which the committee had previously recommended for refusal, due to insufficient parking being allocated for the dwellings. She had since received an email from the developer, who has managed to find a further two spaces.
Our response to all new applications recently had included comments regarding the lack of a non selective secondary school in the area, however, in this instance it was not felt relevant as it is unlikely that one-bedroom flats will attract residents with children.
Cllr. Pethurst referred to an email that Cllr. Bunyan had circulated of correspondence she had sent to the Head of Planning at TWBC, detailing the reasons why we were refusing the majority of all new applications. He commended her on the email and suggested it should be published as an open letter, as the lack of a non selective secondary school and the lack of a reliable water supply infrastructure, affects all the surrounding parishes. The Chairman advised that he has requested that solidarity between parishes, is added to the agenda for the next Parish Chairman’s meeting, scheduled for 20th March.
c) Properties and Burials:
Cllr. Gilbert advised that the next meeting is scheduled for 23rd January 2024.
d) Community Development:
Cllr. Hatcher referred to the minutes of the meeting held on 28th November. He highlighted the presentation given by Members of the Cranbrook Windmill Association and urged everyone to respond to the consultation on KCC’s plans to divest windmills. It was noted that the Town meeting being held in the Vestry Hall in January to raise awareness of the issue, coincided with the next Full Council Meeting. Members agreed unanimously to delay the start of the council meeting until 8pm to allow Members to also attend the Town meeting.
He also highlighted the decision of Citizen’s Advice to extend their availability in the library to a further appointment only session on a Monday, due to the increasing demand on their services.
Cllr. Hatcher proposed the minutes of the meeting held on 28th November be adopted; this was seconded by Cllr. Gilbert and agreed.
e) Environmental Management:
Cllr. Fairweather referred to the minutes held on 21st November and highlighted the Committee’s decision to purchase a new slide for the Ball Field play area, the design of which had been changed after taking into account parishioners views. He also highlighted the budget discussions and the submission of the HIP which had been agreed this evening.
In response to the Chairman, a decision as to where to site the commemorative benches on the Ball Field will be taken in the new year, following discussion with all the relevant parties.
Cllr. Fairweather proposed adoption of the minutes of the meeting held on 21st November; this was seconded by Cllr. Page and agreed.
105/23: Delegate Reports:
a) Cranbrook Museum and Local History C.I.O:
Cllr. Pethurst advised he had recently attended the last meeting of this year, which included a fascinating talk on the High Weald.
Cllr. Bunyan advised the next meeting would be held be tomorrow, at 9am in the Council Chamber. The only agenda item is to discuss the Committee’s Terms of Reference.
c) Tourism Group:
The next meeting is due to be held on the 16th January 2024. In the meantime, the situation regarding The Windmill will be monitored.
d) St. George’s Institute:
Cllr. Fairweather reported that he had attended a meeting on the 16th November at which the hall development and final fit out was discussed. The level of finish expected still requires some clarification from Fernham Homes and is now being sought.
e) Hop Pickers Line Heritage Group:
The next meeting of the Group will be held in Goudhurst on the 19th December.
106/23: Clerks Report:
The Clerk advised that following the resignation of Cllr. Kings, a vacancy had been advertised. We had not received notification from TWBC that an election had been requested therefore the process of co-option could commence.
As per our Co-Option Procedure we will now advertise that the vacant position can be filled by co-option over the next four weeks. It is expected the position will be filled at the February Full Council meeting. The Chairman asked everyone if they know of any likely candidates, to encourage them to submit their expression of interest.
a) To note the receipt of email from KCC regarding the outcome of the Family Hub and Commissioned Youth Services decision.
b) To note receipt of email regarding KALC Community Award Scheme 2024. The Clerk asked all members to submit the names of suitable candidates for consideration to the Clerks before the Policy & Resources meeting in January.
108/23: County and Borough Councillor Reports:
a) Borough Cllr. Warne:
Cllr. Warne advised of the existence of Rural Support Grants. There is approximately £330K available to be allocated to small businesses and community groups in the rural area. She encouraged Members to spread the word. Anyone interested in applying can contact either herself or James Read at TWBC for further information.
She also reported that she had recently completed a ‘night walk’ from Rusthall to the Pantiles to encourage residents to think about how women in particular, feel safe in public spaces in the Borough. There is a public consultation on the subject open until 7th January, she asked that members encourage all residents to take part.
b) Borough Cllr. Dawlings:
Cllr. Dawlings expressed a need for the Borough Council to get closer to Parish Councils, The Tunbridge Wells Agreement that was supposed to facilitate this, appears to have fallen by the wayside recently.
He reported on a recent meeting with the C.E.O of South East Water; at which the company’s resilience had been challenged. He was encouraged by their response, they are spending £500m to improve resilience in their systems and understand their recent poor performance is unacceptable. They also appear to have taken on board the need to improve their channels of communication.
He had attended the Christmas Lunch at the Rugby Club and delighted in the support the club receives.
c) Borough Cllr. Fairweather:
Cllr. Fairweather echoed Cllr. Dawlings feelings on the Christmas Lunch, over 170 local people had attended.
He reported on the Borough’s Full Council meeting last night, the main agenda item being the Local Plan, which was voted through and will now go out for public consultation in January.
109/23: Items for Information:
The Chairman advised that Storm Windows had been in the hall yesterday and today taking the final measurements for the double glazing.
Cllr. Gilbert advised the Christmas Lunch in the Vestry Hall was going ahead again this year, organised by the Men’s Shed. They had also submitted an application for lottery funding to provide workshops for the group.
Cllr. Hatcher advised there would be two showings of the pantomime Treasure Island in the Queen’s Hall theatre on 30th December. This year’s production was being provided by an outside company.
Cllr. Fairweather advised that Carols by Candlelight was taking place in Trinity Church at 5pm on Sunday 17th December.
The Chairman advised the Choral Society Christmas Concert was taking place in St. Dunstan’s Church on Saturday 16th December at 6pm. The Weald of Kent Young Farmer’s Tractor Run was taking place on Sunday 17th December, parading through Cranbrook at approximately 5.30pm. St. Dunstan’s Service of Nine Lessons and Carols would be taking place at 6pm on the same evening.
The Sissinghurst Members all advised they had not received their winter edition of The Cake, the Chairman stated he would take the issue up with Coffee Shop Media.