PRESENT: Cllr. Fletcher (Chairman), Cllrs. Beck, Bunyan, Dyke, Gilbert, Hartley, Kings and Rampling.
APOLOGIES: Cllrs. Fairweather, Fermor, Hatcher, Pethurst, Smith, Warne and Waters.
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.
114/21: Minutes of the Previous Meeting to be confirmed:
The Chairman proposed the Minutes of the Meeting held on the 11th November be adopted as a true record, this was seconded by Cllr. Gilbert and agreed.
115/21: Community Centres/Medical Centre:
Cllr. Gilbert advised there had been some progress. Jonathan White had been in discussion with the GP’s Project Manager regarding the specification. It is expected to be received sometime after Christmas; at which time we will be in a position to update the costings. In response to Cllr. Rampling, Cllr. Gilbert was unable to say if, in his opinion, the recent escalation in the cost of materials, due to supply and demand issues, would eventually come down to the level used previously to prepare costings.
116/21: High Weald Academy Closure:
The Chairman reported that the ‘letter before action’ had been rebuffed by the government. Counsel acting for Helen Grant’s Action Group is considering the response letter and what, if anything can be done to get it moved to a Judicial Review.
The Chairman reported that he had been speaking with a number of well-placed individuals who work with the local school commissioner at the Department of Education. They have experience of starting and running schools and considering what needs to be done to reopen the buildings as a new school.
He advocated the need to put together a data driven argument to the Department of Education to show that there is not only a need for a local school, but that bussing six to seven hundred pupils for all their school life is not sustainable, does nothing for ‘Levelling Up’, and is the antithesis of COP26 carbon reduction.
The data required is the number of pupils at the 12 primary and pre-primary schools that fed High Weald Academy. Also needed are the number of houses being built in each parish, broken down by size (the number of bedrooms) and when they will be completed.
Enabling the creation of a new demand curve, showing that the planned 2000 new houses in the 200 square mile catchment area will create a large demand for secondary school places.
The buildings will still be there for a new school to start. A new school with 150 students each year, with a new ethos, new staff and a new curriculum that has vocational and academic streams, to ensure all students find a niche for their education.
It may be that Leigh Academy Trust could run this, or another trust could take over, perhaps with involvement of Cranbrook School
As KCC own the Long Field beside the Primary School, perhaps a new, purpose-built Special School could be built to transfer the new students at the new Snowfields extension. Bearing in mind High Weald Academy was built for 1050 students, this asset is grossly underused. A new school for 100 pupils must be cheaper than extending Mascalls or Homewood, particularly if the cost to KCC of transporting of 600 pupils per year is taken into account.
He believes a separate working group needs to be created using the expertise around us and in the community. He has written to the Leigh Academy Trust requesting a further meeting with their Head of Estates and their Academic lead. He had been assured in the past, that they did not intend to sell off any of the site, contrary to local rumours that are circulating.
117/21: Chairman’s Report:
The Chairman reported he had attended the TW Parish Chairmen’s meeting by Zoom on Tuesday. Lee Collyer – Director of Finance for TWBC had given a presentation on the budget. It is looking that there will be an increase of £5 or 3%, whichever is the highest, on the Borough’s portion of Council Tax. Inflation on some of the services they provide, such as the waste contract, is up as much as 9%.
They were also given a presentation on ‘accessible documents’ to ensure disability legislation is met, which has been passed on to the Clerks. We have to meet the ‘Public Sector Equality Duty’.
He went on to report the mobile breast screening unit has been removed prematurely, following several incidents of catapulting, damage to the doors and power supply. The Chairman stated that people have said to him, the youth of Cranbrook have nothing to keep them occupied.
He has attended a meeting in the Church about the future activity within the building, and how long it will take to get another vicar – This time next year if we are lucky.
From the discussions, he took away the importance of volunteering – we are all volunteers, and many give their time to other things. Volunteering is the glue that sticks a community together, but it has to be targeted, and both sides need to get something out of it.
To this end, a number of Councillors know that he has been working on a vision for the Parish Council to give the community ‘Big Goals’. He will circulate the latest version and put it on the agenda for the next council meeting.
Initially it will be about finding the people in the community with high power experience in specific areas, who can help us make deliverable plans. We will tap them for a few hours of their time and hope they can use their contacts to open doors for us.
Reports from Committees:
118/21: Policy & Resources:
Cllr. Beck referred to the minutes of the meeting held on 7th December, highlighting the proposal to set the Policy & Resources budget at £276,906.
This coupled with the other budgets agreed, would see an increase of just over £21K overall. He invited questions, as none were raised, he proposed adoption of the minutes, this was seconded by Cllr. Gilbert and agreed.
119/21: Planning & Preservation:
Cllr. Bunyan referred to the meetings of the meetings held on 16th November and 7th December and invited questions. None were raised.
The Chairman reported that he had written to Stephen Baughen – Head of Planning at TWBC regarding the Tunbridge Wells Agreement. He referred specifically to the application for two new dwellings behind the White Horse, expressing his disappointment that TWBC had failed to advise us they would be granting approval, opposing our recommendation of refusal. Stephen Baughen had advised the officer involved in the case, had now left the Council. Several Members voiced concern that it was not the only application, where this has happened. The Clerk agreed to ask the Planning Clerk to revisit any applications recently where it was suspected this had happened, but we had not been advised.
120/21: Properties & Burial Grounds:
Cllr. Gilbert advised the next meeting was scheduled for the 25th January 2022.
121/21: Economic & Community:
In the absence of Cllrs. Hatcher, the Chairman gave a precis of the meeting held 23rd November, highlighting the proposal to set the Committee budget at £10k. He proposed adoption of the minutes, this was seconded by Cllr. Beck and agreed.
122/21: Environmental Management:
Cllr. Kings referred to the minutes of the meeting held on 30th November. He outlined the details of the complaint that had been considered at the meeting and how it had been dealt with.
He proposed adoption of the minutes, this was seconded by Cllr. Rampling and agreed. The Clerk advised that in adopting the minutes, Members were also ratifying the budget proposals presented at the meeting.
123/21: Neighbourhood Development Plan:
In the absence of Cllr. Warne, the Chairman advised there had not been any recent meetings. As far as he was aware, we were waiting for Richard Eastham to comment on the changes TWBC have suggested.
124/21: Delegate Reports:
a) Tourism Group:
Cllr. Dyke reported she had attended a recent meeting, at which concerns were raised again at the lack of public conveniences in the town. Cllr. Gilbert advised he had met with a surveyor recently and had received some costings this evening for refurbishing the Crane Lane facilities.
This needs to be looked at closely and discussed fully, before any decisions are made.
Stuart Cleary had written to several coach companies to gauge support for having local guides available for visitors to the town.
There had also been discussions around the reprinting of the ‘Walk Through Time’ maps and it had been suggested that Wellbeing in the Weald, who had recently been in receipt of a £10k lottery grant and Cranbrook in Bloom may wish to take over the project and make a small charge for the maps.
b) Transport Accessibility Group:
The Chairman advised that there will be no further reports on this group until such a time it is decided to restart the meetings.
c) Hop Picker’s Line Heritage Group:
The Annual General Meeting was held on the 16th November in Goudhurst. The Chairman, Yolanda Laybourne and Vice Chairman, Susan Newsome were both re-elected. The Group now comprises nine members representing Paddock Wood, Horsmonden, Goudhurst and Cranbrook.
It was decided to investigate the creation of a website and opening of a social media page and this project will form the agenda for the next meeting on the 25th January 2022.
Cllr. Bunyan advised she had only received the minutes of the last meeting yesterday and would report on the content at the next council meeting.
125/21: Clerk’s Report:
Nothing to report.
There was no correspondence to report.
127/21: Borough & County Councillor Reports:
a) The Chairman advised he had received the following report from Cllr. Dawlings:
Five tenders had been received to turn 20,000sq ftof space in the Town Hall into co-working offices, to generate cash.
From 25th November to 10th December, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council would be lighting the arched window over the entrance to the Town Hall orange in support of the United Nation’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence campaign 2021.
Both Benenden and Goudhurst NDP’s have been approved to move forward to the referendum stage.
The Amelia Scott project have been awarded £1.4m by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) in recognition of the pressures the project has faced as a result of Brexit, Covid and supply chain issues. The funding is a huge boost for the project which is on track to open in spring 2022.
b) The Chairman read out the following report from Cllr. Holden:
KCC are making progress with the campaign to get a Kent version of the London Lorry Control Scheme. They are in the process of pushing through an application to get the county council powers over moving traffic offences – including weight limit breaches. It is a significant breakthrough because no other council outside the London boroughs has such powers, except Cardiff City Council. It will be bound with some conditions but is a big step forward for the campaign to get lorries out of lives which he began, on his own, four years ago.
Another campaign he began on his own, eight years ago, Kent’s Plan Bee has had another triumph with about 200 people joining in their second online summit at the end of November. This was about helping pollinators habitat and foraging in the enormous amounts of land alongside roads rail and waterways. Last year’s summit was the most successful online KCC event of the pandemic. He intends to write an article about it for the parish magazine
He advised that now the Conservatives have lost the majority at TWBC, the opposition will have their first opportunity to seize control at the council meeting next week, if they want to.
128/21: Items for Information:
a) The Chairman reminded everyone the Christmas Market is taking place tomorrow evening in Jockey Lane Car Park with around 45 stalls taking part.
b) He also advised a new company has been selected to deliver the Winter edition of The Cake, following the failure by Royal Mail to deliver around half of the Autumn’s copies. If anyone does not receive their copy by 12th December, please let him know.
Cllr. Dyke advised she would be putting notices on all the vehicles parked in the bays reserved for charging electric vehicles, if they were not using the facilities as intended.
The Meeting was closed.