PRESENT: Cllr. Fletcher (Chairman), Cllrs. Beck, Bunyan, Fairweather, Gilbert, Hartley, Hatcher, Kings, Pethurst, Smith, Warne and Waters.

APOLOGIES: Cllrs. Fermor and Meewezen. Borough Cllr. Dawlings

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.

Cllr. Hartley requested his dispensation be noted should any discussion on the Community Centre/Medical Centre arise during the meeting.

1/21: Election of Chairman

Cllr. K. Fletcher – Proposed by Cllr. Beck, seconded by Cllr. Gilbert. There were no further nominations, eleven councillors voted in favour of the proposal. Cllr. Pethurst abstained from voting. As the motion was carried, Cllr. Fletcher was elected Chairman and signed the Declaration of Acceptance of Office Register.

2/21: Election of Vice Chairman:

Cllr. C. Gilbert – Proposed by Cllr. Fletcher, seconded by Cllr. Fairweather and agreed.

3/21: Election of Chairman of Policy & Resources:

Cllr. R. Beck – Proposed by Cllr. Fletcher, seconded by Cllr. Smith and agreed.

4/21: Appointment of members to committees and election of each Chairman:

It was agreed that Cllr. Fermor would advise the office by email which committees she wished to join.

Planning and Preservation Committee:
Committee:     Cllrs. Bunyan, Gilbert, Hartley, Hatcher, Kings and Smith.
Chairman:     Cllr. Smith – Proposed by Cllr. Fairweather, seconded by Cllr. Gilbert and agreed.

Burials and Properties Committee:
Committee:     Cllrs. Bunyan, Gilbert, Kings and Waters.
Chairman:     Cllr. Gilbert – Proposed by Cllr. Bunyan, seconded by Cllr. Kings and agreed.

Economic & Community Committee:
Committee:     Cllrs. Beck, Gilbert, Hatcher, Kings, Pethurst and Waters.
Chairman:     Cllr. Hatcher – Proposed by Cllr. Fletcher, seconded by Cllr. Pethurst and agreed.

Environmental Management Committee:
Committee:     Cllrs. Fairweather, Fletcher, Kings, Pethurst, Smith and Warne.
Chairman:     Cllr. Fairweather – Proposed by Cllr. Smith, seconded by Cllr. Fletcher and agreed.

Neighbourhood Development Plan Committee:
Members:        Cllrs. Hatcher, Hartley, Pethurst, Smith, and Warne.
Chairman:     Cllr. Warne – Proposed by Cllr. Bunyan seconded by Cllr. Pethurst and agreed.

The Chairman and Vice-Chairman are ex-officio members of all committees. The Vice-Chairman of each committee will be elected at the first meeting of the said committee.

5/21: Appointment of Delegates and Charity Representatives to other bodies:

Delegates to the Kent Association of Local Councils:
Cllr. Fletcher – Reserve Cllr. Gilbert.      

Delegates to the Cranbrook Conservation Area Advisory Committee:
Cllrs. Bunyan and Hatcher.

Delegate to the Cranbrook Tourism Group:
Cllr. Hatcher.

Delegates to Cranbrook Museum:
Cllr. Pethurst.

Delegate to the Transport Accessibility Group:
As no councillors volunteered, Graham Holmes had previously indicated that he would be happy to continue as our representative and to report the group’s activities to the Parish Council.

Delegate to the Citizens Advice:
Cllr. Smith.

Delegate to Age Concern:
Cllr. Warne.               

Delegate to The Hop Pickers Line:
As no councillors volunteered, Graham Holmes had previously indicated that he would be happy to continue as our representative and to report the group’s activities to the Parish Council.

Tree Warden:
Cllr. Fermor would be asked to continue as the Parish Tree Warden.

Councillors were asked to confirm their representation on the following Charities:

Katherine Elizabeth Wood Charity – Cllr. Hatcher.

King George V Playing Field – Cllrs. Beck and Smith. Cllr. Fermor would be asked to confirm she is also happy to continue.

John Spicer’s Apprenticing Trust – Cllr. Fermor would be asked to confirm she is happy to continue.

Thomas Adrian Veitch Memorial Fund – Cllr. Fletcher.

St. George’s Institute – Cllr. Smith.

6/21: Confirmation of next year’s Parish Council Meetings.

Parish Council meetings will continue to be held on the second Thursday of each month at 7.30pm.  This was proposed by Cllr. Fletcher, seconded by Cllr. Bunyan and agreed. Meeting cards will be provided for Members as soon as possible.

7/21: Minutes of the Previous Meeting to be confirmed:

Cllr. Pethurst referred to the item on Turnden 2 and voiced his disquiet at the mention of the unattributed emails received in support of the application. The Chairman advised the senders had requested anonymity because there had been some trolling online of those not supporting the ‘call in’. Cllr. Warne felt this was an unfair accusation to be levied at the action group.

Cllr. Smith believed that if information is presented as part of the decision making process, it should not be allowed to be anonymous, unless it can legally be considered exempt. Cllr. Bunyan suggested that names could be revealed confidentially to Members, as we did not want to do anything that would deter residents from giving their opinion.

Cllr. Warne also referred to the same item in the minutes and to the paragraph where she had wanted to make Members aware that if Turnden 2 did not go ahead, the Borough would not meet its five-year land supply, which would impact other applications being considered. As it is currently written it implies that the Borough meeting its five-year land supply is totally reliant on the approval of Turnden 2, which is not necessarily the case, as there will be other applications coming forward. Although she acknowledged it may have been what she had said, it is not a true representation of the facts. She wanted to take this opportunity to clarify her statement to read, if Turnden 2 is rejected, it will impact the Borough meeting its five-year land supply.

The Chairman proposed the minutes of the meeting held on the 8th April 2021 be adopted as a true record. This was seconded by Cllr. Fairweather and agreed.

8/21: Review of Standing Orders/Financial Regs/Procedures/Policies/Risk Management Arrangements:

The Chairman referred to the documents circulated by the Clerk and to the link provided to the relevant page on the website. He advised we have a duty to review them annually. The Clerks had suggested several amendments to the Standing Orders, the Financial Regulations and the Grievance Policy.  He proposed these amendments be accepted as presented and that all the remaining policies, procedures, risk management arrangements and internal finance controls are still relevant and acceptable. This was seconded by Cllr. Beck and agreed. Cllr. Fletcher thanked Cllr. Pethurst for his thoroughness in examining the documents for consideration.

9/21:  Confirmation that HSBC, Lloyds and Unity Trust will continue to hold the Parish Council bank accounts:

All Parish Council Bank accounts will continue to be held by HSBC, Lloyds and Unity Trust. Variable direct debits would continue to be the payment method for items such as the business rates. BACS would continue for the payment of salaries and their associated costs.  This was proposed by Cllr. Beck, seconded by Cllr. Fairweather and agreed.

10/21: Approval of Insurance Renewal:

The Chairman reminded Members that they had all received the renewal documentation. He proposed that the Long-Term Agreement Option from Hiscox, as recommended by the broker Came & Company be accepted at the annual cost of £9,822. This was seconded by Cllr. Gilbert and agreed.

11/21: Approval of the Annual Governance Statement 2020/2021:

The document had been circulated to all Members prior to the meeting so they would understand what they are approving. The Chairman reiterated the importance of the document which forms part of our Annual Return and is sent to the external auditor. Cllr. Fletcher proposed that the Annual Governance Statement be approved. This was seconded by Cllr. Beck and agreed.

Section 1 of the Annual Governance and Accountability Return 2020/21 Part 3 was signed by the Chairman.

12/21:  Approval of the Accounting Statements 2020/2021

The Chairman explained this document also formed part of our Annual Return; copies had been circulated to all Members prior to the meeting. The Chairman proposed that the Accounting Statement as presented to Members be approved, this was seconded by Cllr. Beck and agreed.

Section 2 of the Annual Governance and Accountability Return 2020/21 Part 3 was signed by the Chairman.

Report from the Chair and Committees:

13/21: Chairman’s Report:

The Chairman reported it had been a fairly quiet time, he thought everyone was waiting for the lockdown restrictions to be eased.

Many had attended Brian Clifford’s funeral to pay their respects, an obituary will appear in the next edition of The Cake.

He encouraged people to apply for the casual vacancy that exists following the resignation of Cllr. Hall.

The Annual Parish Meeting was a success, especially at getting local organisations to talk to each other. Posters advertising the future plans of these organisations, what they are offering and their need for volunteers are displayed around the Town.

14/21: Policy & Resources:

Cllr. Beck advised that as no Policy & Resources had been held this month, he would be seeking approval of the Draft Payment List from Members this evening. All Members had received a copy of the payments for approval. He highlighted several items of expenditure which included the purchase of a new boiler for the Parish Office at a cost of £1,820 + VAT and the costs associated to the new website and app developed by the Tourism Group, totalling £3,000. He proposed the list be approved as presented, this was seconded by Cllr. Fletcher and agreed.

Cllr. Beck also proposed a transfer of £125,000 from the Lloyds account to Unity Trust to facilitate the online payment process we were now using. Following a question from Cllr. Pethurst, the Clerk confirmed there was no paperwork to support the transfer of monies as it is not expenditure, it is merely moving money from one account to another, to allow for payments to be made online. The proposal was seconded by Cllr. Fletcher and agreed.

15/21: Planning & Preservation:

Cllr. Smith referred to the minutes of the meetings held on 20th April and 4th May and invited questions. None were raised.

16/21: Properties & Burial Grounds:

Cllr. Gilbert referred to the minutes of the meeting held on 20th April. He highlighted that KCC had decided that the Vestry Hall was no longer required as an Covid-19 Asymptomatic Testing Centre and had terminated their agreement with us. He proposed adoption of the minutes, this was seconded by Cllr. Fairweather and agreed.

17/21: Environmental Management:

Cllr. Fairweather advised there had been no recent meetings. He reported that he had written to the local schools in regard to littering following a request at the Annual Parish Meeting. He had received replies from The High Weald Academy who advised they were running a programme of littering education during assemblies next week. Cranbrook Primary School had also responded and advised that education on littering forms part of the national curriculum on Citizenship Focus and they would be conducting a litter pick in the very near future.  They are also going to produce some posters which they hope to display around the Town.

18/21: Neighbourhood Development Plan:

Cllr. Warne referred to the meeting held on 26th April at which it was agreed to put together a response to the consultation on the Pre-submission version of the Tunbridge Wells Borough Local Plan, which runs until 4th June.

TWBC have requested an indication of the NDP’s timeline, which is in the process of being revised. The main reason it has taken longer than originally anticipated is largely due to everything having to be done remotely, which has made progress slower.

There has been a stakeholder engagement meeting with the owners of Shotcrete in Swattenden Lane. The Steering Group and working groups continue to meet, to work through the necessary stages of the process.

Cllr. Warne proposed adoption of the minutes from the 26th April, this was seconded by Cllr. Hatcher and agreed.

19/21: Clerk’s Report:

The Clerk advised that the closing date for receiving written expressions of interest for anyone wishing to be considered for co-option onto the Parish Council is 9th June.

20/21: Correspondence:

The Clerk reported that we had received a letter of thanks from the Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance for the grant of £250 that we had recently awarded them.

21/21: Reports from Borough Councillors:

Both Cllrs. Fairweather and Warne advised they did not have any information that required reporting.

Cllr. Dawlings was unable to attend but sent the following report on the Tourism Group and Borough activities:

Tourism Group – A version of the Tourism WebApp for circulation to Councillors was provided as follows: There were a few spellings (like Bodiam) in need of correction which he thought had now been done. They hope people will be in touch wanting to be added to the site. Through TWBC they would like other tourist sites to publish a link to their WebApp. e.g. Visit Kent and Tourism South East.  Invoices totalling £3,000 have been presented to the Parish Council for payment, he is working on recovering perhaps half from TWBC.  The Business Association also intends to make a contribution. 

TWBC Elections – The 6th May election produced the following result:

Conservatives                        24 Councillors 
Lib Dem                                 13 Councillors
Labour                                     5 Councillors
Tunbridge Wells Alliance        5 Councillors
Independent                              1 Councillor

Sean Holden held the Benenden & Cranbrook ward for TWBC (he also held the Cranbrook Division for KCC).  With TWBC no longer Conservative controlled, discussions are underway on how to address the potential stalemate position of 24 Conservative Councillors and 24 Opposition Councillors.

Grants – The huge exercise to distribute Government grants to businesses continues, now with restart grants for businesses that have not been permitted to open during the lockdown.  To date TWBC has paid 9,016 grants worth £49.4m over the Covid period.

Wealden Sports Centre – He is aware of a number of complaints about the management of the Centre which are being addressed with the management company Fusion Leisure.  For 14 months, leisure centre providers income has been massively affected by the Covid lockdown, so many providers are not in a sound financial position.  Much as TWBC would like to look at alternative providers, now is not a good time to go to the market to seek a new contractor.  The plan is to stick with Fusion whilst both looking at the option to bring the service in house and preparing to seek a new contractor in perhaps a year’s time when the market may be in a better shape.  Inevitably an in-house service will be significantly more costly for TWBC.

Cranbrook Community Centre- Carol Mackonochie, TWBC’s portfolio holder for Communities, lost her seat at the election.  This was not a surprise; she represented the Capel ward which includes the land for the planned rural settlement at Tudeley for 2,100 homes in the Local Plan and she suffered the backlash of those opposing this development.  TWBC will remain committed to supporting the Parish Council with the Community Centre project, not least through providing Johnathan White to help with the planning of the project.     

22/21: Items for Information:

Cllr. Bunyan although pleased to see everyone, wished to record her objection at having to meet in person. Disappointment at the government’s decision not to extend the period permitting remote meetings, was shared by everyone present at the meeting. It was felt they at relying upon legislation that was brought in more than fifty years ago and which is no longer fit for purpose, especially in the current challenging circumstances.

Cllr. Hatcher advised the Katharine Elizabeth Wood Charity AGM was scheduled for 14th May and would be held remotely via zoom.

Cllr. Hartley wished to apologise to members for his unexplained absence from the last few Full Council meetings. He intended to give council business his full attention going forward.

Cllr. Smith advised that St. George’s Institute had received an £8K Restart Grant and would be opening from next week.

The meeting was closed.

The following question had been received from a resident in writing prior, to the meeting:

Mr. Chairman, when we will have public toilet provision in Cranbrook? It is not feasible to wait five years.

The Chairman advised that public toilet provision in Cranbrook was under consideration. We had looked to have some temporary toilets installed in one of the Carriers Road parking bays. As we have not yet signed the lease on the spaces, enquiries as to whether they could be connected to the main sewage system have not yet been completed. The Clerk has chased a response from TWBC as to whether the financial incentive previously offered to businesses, to allow the general public to use their facilities still exists? The Chairman advised that both he and Cllr. Gilbert would be happy to receive any alternative suggestions that could be considered along with those previously discussed.

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