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MINUTES OF A MEETING OF THE PARISH COUNCIL HELD IN VESTRY HALL, CRANBROOK ON THURSDAY 12th JANUARY 2023

PRESENT: Cllrs. Fletcher (Chair), Dyke, Hatcher, Kings, Mills, Pethurst, Rampling, Somers and Stone. Borough Cllr. Warne and County & Borough Cllr. Holden (in part)

APOLOGIES: Cllrs. Bunyan, Fairweather, Gilbert, Simpson and Tomlinson

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.

124/22: Minutes of the Previous Meeting to be confirmed:

The Chairman presented Minutes of the meeting held on the 8th of December 2022. Cllr. Pethurst felt that the Chairman’s report was being recorded in a less formal style. He also asked that his comments from the December meeting be recorded regarding the political nature of the Cake article written by Helen Grant MP in the Winter edition. His understanding is that the magazine is non-political. However, if that isn’t the case then other parties should also be offered a platform in the magazine.

Cllr. Fletcher noted Cllr. Pethurst’s comments and confirmed that the magazine is non-political and will be writing to Mrs Grant regarding content of future articles.

The Chairman proposed the Minutes of the meeting held on the 8th of December 2022 be adopted as a true record. This was seconded by Cllr. Rampling and agreed.

125/22: County and Bourgh Councillor Reports: Cllr. Holden

Cllr. Holden reported on a number of items:

  • The £65M gap in the County budget has been closed. This has been achieved by using reserves and by reducing expenditure, such as cuts to grants (e.g. Members grants to voluntary organisations) and bus subsidies. Also, the council tax will be raised by the 5% maximum allowed by Central Government. 2% will be used for general funds, and 3% for adult social care. The council is also considering selling assets valued at £7.5M. This would also result in maintenance related cost savings of the divested buildings.
  • He is considering a contribution to CCTV in relation to a recent spate of antisocial behaviour at a location in Cranbrook.
  • Pushing for changes to the road layout at the Frittenden Road – Bell Lane junction on the A274 where there has been 3 serious accidents and one fatality.
  • Disappointed that the move to All Out Elections at the Borough had been stymied, as a majority of the cabinet had ignored the results of the consultation and the wishes of many parish councils.

Cllr. Fletcher thanked Cllr. Warne for voting in favour of All Out Elections, in line with the results of the consultation and the rural parish council’s preference.

Cllr. Kings enquired as to when the parking machines at Royal Victoria Place would be fixed. People are unable to pay for parking, but are being issued with fines. It was suggested that Cllr. Kings email Cllrs. Dawlings, Holden and Warne who would look into the problem.

126/22: Precept Demand:

Cllr. Pethurst referred to the attachment summarising the proposed 23/24 precept demand that had been circulated prior to the meeting. As the Borough and County Council tax bill will rise, the parish finance committee have maintained the parish precept demand at 22/23 levels. Although costs have increased, the tax base has also increased and some expenditure, if necessary, will be taken from reserves. Cllr. Pethurst invited questions, of which there were none. He then proposed that the motion for the precept to be set at £378,153 for 2023/24 be accepted. This was seconded by Cllr. Fletcher and agreed.

127/22: Preparation for Kings Coronation:

The Chairman advised that confirmed activities for April/May include Choral Society Coronation Concert, Wealden Games and Nuts in May. The article in the last edition of Cake had not generated any response for local coronation events. In addition, there is nothing organised for the weekend in between the Games and Nuts in May, any suggestions would be welcomed

Cllr. Mills suggested revival of a Cranbrook May Queen. This was well received and Cllr. Mills offered to speak to the local primary schools. Two suggestions have been received, one for more benches along footpaths, and one for a seating area / garden by the Ball Field playing area.

Following a discussion of how to reach residents, the use of social media and the various platforms used by surrounding communities and parish councils, Cllr. Hatcher offered to look into setting up a parish council Instagram and Twitter account that can be linked to Be in the Know.

128/22: Community and Medical Centre:

Cllr. Fletcher reported that he had recently spoken to the lead GP and explained to him that the next step in the process was for the GPs to provide room size requirements so that an architect can then be instructed. The GPs will be meeting next week where they will discuss the matter and liaise with the CCG.

Cllr Fletcher advised that although TWBC Planning Department had not answered our questions regarding retaining the footprint of the building, the decision has been made to demolish the old dental surgery building for health and safety reasons.

129/22: Chairman’s Report

Cllr. Fletcher reported on a number of items:

  • Borough Elections – The proposal to move to All Out Elections had not reached the 66% approval as the majority of the cabinet voted against, without entering in to the debate, with the honourable exception of Cllr. Warne. He referred to his letter that had been printed in The Times of Tunbridge Wells where he had expressed the arguments deploring the hypocrisy of the ‘listening cabinet’ who decried the 62% who wrote asking for All Out Elections as ‘the wrong people voting’.
  • The Cake – thanks go to Cllr. Somers and team for the work that went in to producing a great edition. Stories are needed for the next edition and should be sent to Cllrs. Fletcher and Somers.
  • Community Kitchen – thank you to Cllr. Simpson who has spent a huge amount of time working with Wellbeing in the Weald and Age Concern. The Tuesday morning coffee is regularly hosting around 30 people and soup at lunchtime around 25-35 people. The afterschool meal at 3.30pm had started this week and had gone well. They are looking to extend into Wednesdays to support the warm space in St Dunstan’s Church with Wellbeing in the Weald. The Chairman also thanked Fridays for the donation of eggs, Cranbrook Bakery for the bread and Hartley Dyke Farm Shop for pastries/cakes.
  • The application for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund had been successful and a grant in excess of £17,000 has been awarded. This will be used to pay for the new thermal lined curtains in Vestry Hall, as well as Community kitchen running costs.
  • Christmas – the Market had been successful, although not as well attended as the previous year. There had been lots of services in the parish churches. The trees in Cranbrook town and in the church had been remarkable. The Christmas Day lunch in Vestry Hall organised by Mens Shed had been a great success with wonderful support from volunteers and retailers of the town.
  • Jubilee Field – the transfer of land to enable access to the new St Georges Institute and for wildlife mitigation is in progress with the Charity Commission. Thanks go to all the Sissinghurst Councillors who have been active in the project.
  • Planning Applications – The appeal for the development on Longfield has been rejected, Jaegers is yet to be heard.
  • Playground equipment consultation – instigated by a group of local parents, a survey has been made active for the month of January for input on playground equipment ideas.
  • Antisocial Behaviour – thanks go to the Clerk who raised awareness in December of a case of antisocial behaviour affecting a local family. The matter was raised with parish, borough and county Councillors, Helen Grant MP and Kent Police. The Police are now updating the Chairman on a weekly basis.
  • Future Vision – referring to the Future Vision Document that had been distributed to all Councillors prior to the meeting, the Chairman will be sending invitations to Zoom meetings for Councillors to spend time discussing and improving the document with a view to including an article in The Cake summarising the issues that are facing the inhabitants of the parish, including a new non-selective school, continued provision of doctors. Cllr. Pethurst suggested the invitation could extend to borough and county Councillors.

Approval of Committee Reports as detailed below:

130/22: Policy & Resources:

Cllr. Pethurst referred to the minutes of the meeting held on the 10th January and highlighted the update clarifying the Jubilee Field land transfer. He also drew attention to the energy supply contracts that he and the RFO will continue to explore. Contracts had been received from EDF that had been brokered by Utility Aid. However, upon examination of the proposed contracts it was felt that for a variety of reasons they were not acceptable. Cllr Pethurst moved to propose that the minutes be adopted, this was seconded by Cllr. Fletcher and agreed.

131/22: Planning & Preservation:

Cllr. Hatcher referred to the minutes of the meetings held on 3rd January. There was nothing to highlight and no questions.

132/22: Community Development:

Cllr. Hatcher advised that he will be asking Uprise to go live with the new website on 1st February.

133/22: Environmental Management:

Cllr. Kings referred to the play equipment survey, to date around 90 responses have been received. He had been sent a request from the Children’s Centre who wish to hold an event on the Ball Field in the summer which will be approved subject to receiving the necessary paperwork, risk assessments etc. In addition, he advised that quotes are being obtained for the potholes on the exit from the Regal Carpark.

134/22: Neighbourhood Plan:

Cllr. Pethurst reported that the independent examiner had completed his visit to the parish in December and produced clarification notes. These have been sent to the consultant who responded positively to the notes. Some of the actions are for Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. The deadline to respond to the examiner has been set as the 6th February 2023.

Following a question from Cllr. Rampling, Cllr Pethurst replied that the NDP has not been affected by the recent changes to planning brought in by the Government.

The examiner had praised the comprehensive design guide that had been created and identified the amount of work the community had put in to developing the NDP.

135/22: Delegate Reports:

a) Citizens Advice:

Cllr. Hatcher reported that CA will be returning to the library as of 1st February 2023. Walk-ins and appointments will be available. Times to be confirmed. In addition, Paddock Wood Advice Centre may extend their phone service to in-person, subject to finding a suitable location.

b) Museum and Local History Society:

Cllr. Pethurst reported on the meeting that had taken place the previous evening. The museum had a successful year in 2022 with overall visitor numbers up, smashing the targets related to funding set by TWBC. 2023 sees the 50-year anniversary of the museum in its current location. Plans for celebrations are in progress. Date to be confirmed, but likely to coincide with the Garden Safari.

A previous exhibition of the Booth family, a local family that emigrated to America, has resulted in an American TV crew planning to visit Cranbrook this year.

c) Hop Pickers Line Heritage Group: Cllr. Fletcher read out a report from Graham Holmes:

Next meeting will take place at Goudhurst Village Hall on the 25th January 2023.

d) Cranbrook Tourism Group: Fletcher read out a report from Graham Holmes:

Next meeting will take place at Cranbrook Museum on the 23rd January 2023.

136/22: Elect 2 representative to the King George V Playing Field Trust:

Cllrs. Stone and Somers agreed to take on the roles. The Clerk will notify the Trust.

137/22: Clerks Report:

Nothing to report.

138/22: Correspondence:

A thank you letter has been received from Mens Shed for the help received by the Parish Council towards the Christmas Day Lunch that was held in Vestry Hall. The event was a great success, with lots of positive feedback from the guests, who all left with a gift bag. Those who were housebound received a card and gift bag.

An email has been received asking for stories or event information for inclusion in the next edition of the TWBC magazine, Local. There will be a special section on Commemoration events. Cllrs. Fletcher and Somers took an action to provide content.

139/22: Borough Councillor Reports:

Cllr. Warne reported on a number of items:

  • Congratulations to Ant Tomlinson and the Cranbrook Juniors Football Club who won a Love Where You Live Award.
  • Well done to Cllr. Fletcher for his success in bidding for UKSPF monies. The Community Kitchen application had stood out as an inspirational project.
  • There will be more opportunities for community organisations to apply for funding. Details will be shared in due course.
  • TWBC have a live consultation regarding budget. The survey can be completed online until 20th January.
  • A scan of the local Facebook pages in December had highlighted the water disruption some Hartely residents were experiencing and prompted Cllr. Warne to liaise with Fusion to allow residents to use the sports centre showers.
  • The main issues for the dismissal of the Longfield planning application had been the impact of the development on the character and appearance of the area, having regard to the location within the High Weald AONB and the effect on the nearby listed buildings and conservation areas.  Also, the effect on biodiversity and character of the area from tree loss.

140/22: Items for Information:

Cllr. Pethurst enquired as to the deadline for the next edition of The Cake? Cllr. Somers responded deadline is the end of January.

Cllr. Mills suggested a summary of the local children’s clubs in the parish would be a useful article for The Cake.

Rainbows Preschool has been able to extend the date to July when they are required to vacate their current facilities.

Cllr. Dyke reported that the tourist information board in the Tanyard car park needs replacing as it has faded. The Clerk advised that the parish office have emailed TWBC regarding the matter and are awaiting a response. Cllr. Pethurst advised that SE in Bloom had recommended signage to the Ball Field.

The issues with BP Pulse are ongoing. It is unclear from the contract with EDF what would happen if we disconnected the charger units, if we would still need to pay electricity bill.

The Wellbeing Fair is taking place on Saturday 21st January from 12-3pm. There will be various local organisations with stalls highlighting sports, volunteering, culture, singing etc

The Meeting was closed.

A member of the public reiterated that new and improved signage for tourism, Ball Field etc. would be welcomed.

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