MINUTES OF A MEETING OF THE PARISH COUNCIL HELD IN VESTRY HALL, CRANBROOK ON THURSDAY 9th FEBRUARY 2023
PRESENT: Cllrs. Fletcher (Chair), Bunyan, Fairweather, Gilbert, Hatcher, Kings, Mills, Pethurst, Rampling, Simpson Somers Stone and Tomlinson & Borough Cllr. Holden (in part)
APOLOGIES: Cllrs. Dyke and Rampling & Borough Cllr. Warne
Public Participation – there were no questions from the public.
141/22: 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.
142/22: Minutes of the Previous Meeting to be confirmed:
The Chairman referred to the minutes of the Parish Council Meeting held on 12 January 2023 that had been circulated beforehand by the Clerk. They were agreed for accuracy and proposed for acceptance by Cllr. Fletcher, seconded by Cllr. Tomlinson and voted for unanimously by those present at that meeting and signed by the Chair.
143/22: Preparation for Kings Coronation
The Chairman reported that the upcoming edition of the Cake magazine would feature plans for the Kings Coronation.
In addition to the already planned events (including Choral Society, Weald Games and Nuts in May), Cranbrook in Bloom and Wellbeing in the Weald are organising an event based on The Big Help Out to take place on May 8th. The Chairman will be suggesting that the entrance signs to Cranbrook and Sissinghurst be cleaned. He encouraged everyone to think of suggestions for volunteering tasks.
Cllr. Hatcher advised that the deadline to apply to KCC for a road closure on the Coronation weekend, is the 3rd March. He offered to send the details to the Clerk to share with potential event organisers.
There are thoughts to install a bench on the footpath to Sissinghurst and a seating area by the playground in The Ball Field. Responders to the Ball Field play equipment survey have also requested seating near the play area. The Chairman has not seen any funding opportunities linked to the coronation; he requested that any funding opportunities/ideas be sent to him.
144/22: Community and Medical Centre:
Cllr. Gilbert reported that a meeting is taking place on the 16th February 2023 with the GPs, Cllr. Fletcher and Jonathan White (Project Manager) in attendance. It has been impressed upon the GPs that their specifications are required to move the project forward. Cllr. Bunyan asked if there was a deadline for the GPs to provide their requirements. Cllr. Gilbert replied there was not. However, the land was gifted four years ago with the provision it must be built on within 10 years, therefore the Community Centre committee are keen to move forward. It was discussed and agreed by all present that if the GPs cannot provide specifications of their requirements by the 1st April 2023, then the Parish Council will make plans alone.
The preparation for demolition of the old dental surgery building is under way. Three quotes had been received, and a contractor has been selected by Policy and Resources Committee. The demolition notice form can now be completed. It is unsure if there is asbestos in the building, however the contractor that has been selected is licenced to handle asbestos.
145/22: Chairman’s Report
The Chairman reported on several items; the latest edition of The Cake was almost complete, he thanked everyone who had written an article. Planning Permission for the new clubhouse at Cranbrook Sports Club has been approved. The club wishes to work in tandem with the Parish Council to ensure there is no overlap when looking for funding. A grant application for £3000 from the levelling up fund has been submitted this week by the Parish Council, for new planters for Cranbrook in Bloom.
Approval of Committee Reports as detailed below:
146/22: Policy & Resources:
Cllr. Pethurst referred to the minutes of the meeting held on the 7th February 2023.
Referring to the old dentist surgery, Cllr. Simpson enquired if once demolished, would the space be used for much needed additional parking space? Cllr. Gilbert responded that the contractor has been asked to take the building down to slab level, a decision will be made following demolition if it is suitable for parking.
Cllr. Fletcher added that parking is going to be an increasing issue following completion of the housing developments, particularly as Berkeley Homes are promoting the closeness of the town centre by car. Some blue-sky thinking will be required to address the problem. An important topic for the April Annual Parish Meeting.
Cllr. Pethurst highlighted the copyright infringement fee that had been received following unapproved use of a licenced image in a Parish Cake article, which was subsequently published on the NDP website. A lesson that needs to be remembered going forwards. Cllr Pethurst moved to propose that the minutes be adopted, this was seconded by Cllr. Bunyan and agreed.
Cllr. Fletcher asked Cllr. Pethurst to summarise the situation with the EV charge points. Cllr. Pethurst recognised the hard work by Cllr. Dyke, Fletcher and the Clerks. He advised that BP Pulse had agreed to reimburse c£4000 due to historical errors by BP. Further analysis of the data will be undertaken, and details of the reimbursement value is required from BP. Together, this will enable the Council to decide the best way forward with the EV post as the price per kW/h of electricity that E.On charge is rising in April from £0.16/kW/h, to £0.59/kW/h. If BP Pulse are not going to change the way in which they reimburse the Council, then the only option will be to switch off the EV units.
Cllr. Pethurst also reported on a Kent County Council grant opportunity for EV infrastructure. KCC have evidence of the scheme working successfully. More research is required.
147/22: Planning & Preservation:
Cllr. Bunyan referred to the minutes of the meetings held on 17th January and 7th February 2023. There were no questions, just a request for the Clerk to amend the date on the February minutes which was incorrect.
148/22: Properties & Burials
Cllr. Gilbert referred to the minutes of the meetings held on 24th January. He invited questions and comments.
Cllr. Fletcher drew attention to the newly installed barrier on the Ball Field, and complimented Cranbrook Iron on a job well done.
Cllr Hatcher referred to the item relating to the Penny Farthing. Cllr. Gilbert explained that following the advice of Cranbrook Iron, the Committee had chosen to have the structure galvanised and treated with mordant as this should prevent the need for any further maintenance for around 30 years. The Committee had also been advised that the initial grey colour would dull and darken. Since the Penny Farthings refurbishment there have been requests from parishioners to restore it to black. The current cold weather is not suitable for painting therefore the Properties and Burials Committee had taken the decision to reassess the situation at the annual site meeting, thus allowing time to see if the finish would dull and darken.
With no further questions, Cllr Gilbert proposed that the minutes be adopted, this was seconded by Cllr. Bunyan and agreed.
149/22: Environmental Management
Cllr. Kings reported that the s106 money toward play equipment has now been released from TWBC. It is hoped that the results of the play equipment survey will be available for the next EM meeting to be held in March. The survey is currently still open.
150/22: Neighbourhood Plan:
Cllr. Pethurst reported that working with TWBC, the Consultant and the Steering group, a reply has been submitted in response to the NDP examiners clarification note. Once the examiner has reviewed the response and is satisfied, the next step will be to proceed to referendum with the Plan. A 51% in favour is required to adopt the Plan, irrespective of voter turnout numbers.
151/22: Delegate Reports:
a) Citizens Advice:
Cllr. Hatcher reported that CA had their first in-person session in the library on 1st February 2023. They had four drop-in clients. They will be printing some leaflets for handing out to visitors to the parish office and Nourish food bank will be putting a copy of the leaflet into the food bags that they deliver to the area.
Cllr. Hatcher referred to the minutes of the recent meeting that had been circulated to Members by the Clerk prior to the meeting and invited questions. Cllr. Pethurst highlighted the item from the minutes ‘Tunbridge Wells Local Plan Update and Timescale’, particularly the section referring to the Inspectors ‘dislike’ of the proposed 3000 home Tudely Garden Village. This could risk the Cranbrook and Sissinghurst area, it particularly could risk education provision for our area. Part of the plan for Tudely was to build a new secondary school. Paddock Wood is still on course for 3000 more homes swelling the intake number at Mascalls. There are currently no plans to expand Mascalls, this could negatively impact the children from Cranbrook & Sissinghurst.
Cllr. Fletcher thanked Cllr. Pethurst for highlighting the issues and followed this by describing an article that will be printed in the Cake, drawing parishioners’ attention to the various local education challenges. Cranbrook School are trying to expand to increase their intake numbers, but need to sell Jaegers Field to do so. The primary school has land to expand, but there are no plans currently to expand it. Rainbow pre-school has not been successful in locating a new venue. Leigh Academy Trust are planning to knock down the buildings at the old High Weald Academy site that they are not using. There is a proposal to shut the Sure Start children’s centre. Without help from a politician right at the top our local children are at risk educationally. He also thanked Cllr. Mills for writing a piece for the cake highlighting the local playgroups in the area, which highlights there is very little to do in the Cranbrook area especially if you don’t have a car.
Members supported Cllr. Fletcher taking an action to write to County Cllr. Sean Holden highlighting the Parish Councils extreme concern regarding the educational matters, and the need for these concerns to be shared more widely including Paul Carter of Leigh Academy, Helen Grant MP, and various media outlets.
c) Tourism Group: Hatcher reported that Cllr. Sean holden had agreed to fully fund the updating and reprinting of Walk-Through Time maps. None of the organisations involved in the Tourism group were prepared to accept the money so the Parish Council has agreed to receive the completed form ready for submission to KCC, and be the recipient of the grant.
d) Hop Pickers Line Heritage Group: Fletcher read out a report from Graham Holmes:
The most recent meeting took place on the 25th January, in Goudhurst.
In Paddock Wood, further work is being done to determine the location of a second interpretation panel, for which funding has already been secured via TWBC.
Work is also continuing to develop a website to explain the Group’s activities.
On the subject of Planning Applications close to the old route, the Group were surprised to note that although Application No. 22/02466 (a site close to the cutting between Cranbrook Station and Badgers Oak) was declined by Cranbrook & Sissinghurst Parish Council, it was permitted by TWBC.
A diary of forthcoming activities will appear soon covering a walk around Goudhurst featuring parts of the old route, Nostalgia Day in Horsmonden and the Heritage Open Days 2023.
152/22: Clerks Report:
£17,000 has been received from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. The funds will be used towards Community Kitchen, Vestry Hall double glazing and curtains. It has to be spent by the 5th April, unless it’s agreed by TWBC unspent monies can be used to deliver the project at a later date.
County Councillor Sean Holden joined the meeting.
Nothing to report.
154/22: County and Borough Councillor Reports:
- County & Borough Cllr. Holden: Fletcher reiterated to Cllr. Holden the educational challenges that are looming on the horizon for Cranbrook and Sissinghurst, that he’d spoken about under item 151/22b prior to Cllr. Holden arriving:
- Cranbrook School want to expand but can’t get any money leaving them with the only option to sell a sports field for housing development
- Leigh Academy are knocking down buildings, and aren’t prepared to engage with the community at all regards use of buildings
- The Primary school needs more rooms, but there are no plans to expand
- KCC are planning to close the children’s centre
- Woodpeckers pre-school cannot find a home, and parents are struggling to find alternative spaces
Cllr. Fletcher expressed that the community feel that the education needs in the area are not being addressed. We need our MP and County Councillors involved. But also Borough Councillors, as the impact of the proposed Tudely development in the Local Plan not going ahead, has ramifications for Cranbrook and Sissinghurst. We are currently bussing 600-700 school children out of the parish daily, and soon there will be 200 children individually taxied into the town daily to the special schools at Snowfields (the old High Weald Academy,150 pupils) and Bellevue, (60). This also results in parking problems in the car parks and environmental issues. The requirements of the special needs children of the county are now being met, but at the detriment to the needs of our local children. This needs ramping up the political agenda to halt the depletion of education in the area and meet the local needs. Cllr. Holden recognised the issues and agreed to work with the Parish Council; he asked that Cllr. Fletcher summarise the issues in an email to him.
Cllr. Holden advised that he had just come from the KCC budget meeting. He explained that the cost of transport for special needs children is a large portion of the budget. The number of children with an education plan is Kent is 70% higher than the national average. A lot of pupil’s individual transport costs are £80/day. The government removed the County Council responsibility from delivering education in favour of Academies, run from London, however the County Council is responsible for transport costs.
The KCC budget was agreed with a 5% increase; 3% for general funds and 2% adult social care. Members Grants have been reduced to £3600/year. Adult social care is threating to overwhelm the whole budget. Reductions will be seen to bus service funds and grants to voluntary organisations. Regarding the closure of the children centre, Cllr. Holden had been assured that although the building was closing all the services would continue, by relocating to the library. He was unsure of what would happen to the space when the children centre services move out and was unsure how the services that are currently held in confidential rooms at the children’s centre would be held in the library. Cllr. Mills offered to send Cllr. Holden a summary of the potential issues with providing the services in the library. He offered to get further clarification on the matter.
As Chairman of the KCC Environment and Transport Cabinet Committee, Cllr. Holden reported he had requested a report on the number of road closures across the county with a view to trying to reduce the number. In 2019 KCC approved 4000 road closure permits, in 2022 16,000 permits were issued. Its thought contractors may be closing the road as its cheaper and convenient for them. Utility companies have emergency powers to close roads without KCC permission. The power is being abused as a road was closed locally for a whole month due to a gas leak. Cllr. Holden is working with Highways officers to get the number of closures reduced, but also to encourage weekend working and late evening working.
- Borough Councillor Fairweather reported:
He had worked with Cllr. Holden to facilitate the filling of salt bins in Sissinghurst.
TWBC Housing has reported that Central Government has announced a local authority housing fund nationally of £500 million, specifically to advance the resettlement of Ukrainian and Afghan refugees. Tunbridge Wells borough is allocated £1.96 million which will deliver fourteen 2–4-bedroom affordable, low cost houses. The target date for completion is 30th November 2023. It is undecided as yet, but options include purchasing empty properties that have been identified or buying new builds.
155/22: Items for Information:
Cllr. Gilbert updated on Men’s Shed. It is going from strength to strength, and they are making inroads to getting the shed pegged out at the rugby club. The group currently meet on a Monday at Cranbrook School. Once the shed is in situ, they plan to expand the days they offer. They have repaired items that people bring along, completed repairs in the community, and some of the chaps cook once a month for Community Kitchen.
Cllr. Tomlinson reported that the Weald Sports Centre have undergone a restructure that has brought in a new Business Manager who oversees all 4 Fusion sites. They have a new Manager who was previously the Putlands Manager, he had done good things there. They also have a new Assistant Manager. They seem to have taken on a lot of feedback.
Cllr. Tomlinson shared that Cranbrook Football Club have discussed moving their family fun day from September to the 8th July. They are trying to ensure that this doesn’t clash with any other events taking place on the same date. If anyone is aware of other activities planned for the same date, please could they advise him.
Cllr. Simpson briefed on the continued success of Community Kitchen. The most recent Toasty Tuesday served 100 people throughout the course of the day, this included 31 at the after-school meal. She reported that Age Concern had taken Trinity Café in Sissinghurst under its wing. This was done for administrative and governance reasons. It is still run by the same volunteers. Age Concern are organising a subsidised lunch at The Milkhouse.