PRESENT: Cllr. Fletcher (Chairman), Cllrs. Bunyan, Fairweather, Gilbert, Hartley, Hatcher, Pethurst and Rampling. Borough Cllr. Warne, Borough Cllr. Dawlings (in part)
APOLOGIES: Cllrs. Dyke, Fermor, Beck, Kings 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.
164/21: Minutes of the Previous Meeting to be confirmed:
The Chairman proposed the Minutes of the Meeting held on the 10th February 2022 be adopted as a true record, this was seconded by Cllr. Gilbert and agreed.
165/21: The Local Government Boundary Commission Review of Tunbridge Wells Wards and Parishes:
The chairman informed members that comments on the proposed changes were required by 21st March. The Boundary Commission is proposing to cut the number of Borough Councillors from 48 to 39, with a voting regime of one third changing every year. Tunbridge Wells Borough Council would be split into 13 very large wards of 7,250 constituents each. A 2/3rds majority is needed to agree to change from voting by thirds to holding all out elections. The Boundary Commission are keen on 3 Councillors per ward with annual elections for one of them.
Cllr. Fairweather was not in favour of these changes as Borough Councillors would be expected to represent the views of over 2250 constituents which would not be in the interest of rural areas and the local community. He informed the meeting that a second consultation period by the Boundary Commission would take place from 5th July – 5th September. If you currently add up Frittenden & Sissinghurst Ward and Benenden & Cranbrook Ward the numbers do not add up 7,250 in each, so it would mean pinching voters from other rural area i.e. Sandhurst.
Cllr. Bunyan explained that she had looked at the Boundary Commission Review proposals and, in her view, not enough information was given to make a decision. It also states that 1 or 2 Councillors Wards was possible if a good enough case put forward.
The Chairman introduced Anthony Harris, Chairman of Goudhurst Parish Council who had been invited to attend the meeting to give his parishes views. He explained that the proposed new Wards were too large and it would be extremely difficult for Borough Councillors to know their parishioners, for this reason Goudhurst Parish council were trying to get it changed. If Parish Councils are not happy with this decision, they need to let their Borough Councillors know and complete the online consultation. Goudhurst P.C. were of the opinion that if parishioners were asked to vote yearly the turn out would get poorer. He commented that further implications could be that after the Borough Council Review there will then follow a Parish Council Review. The smaller the Parish the more impact these changes would have and any proposed changes needed further investigation. The Chairman thanked him for attending the meeting.
Cllr. Hatcher pointed out that election by thirds does not include a 1 or 2 Councillor Ward.
Cllr. Fairweather commented that yearly elections would have a cost implication such as hiring of staff and polling venues.
The Chairman stated that it is very important to complete the online consultation and everyone had been forwarded the link.
166/21: High Weald Academy Closure:
The Chairman reported that he had a good meeting with Nick Abrahams – the Area Education Officer for Kent County Council and the figures of where the local primary school children moved on to for secondary education data will be available. This data indicated that there was a strong argument for a new school in this vicinity.
167/21: Issues arising from the situation in Ukraine:
Gas prices – With immediate effect we have seen the price rise in gas prices and at the recent Policy and Resources Committee it had been agreed to accept a 3 year offer which would still see our expenditure for heating the Vestry Hall and Parish Office increase from £2,934 (April 21-February 22) to approximately £8,597 for the period April 22-23 based on estimated annual consumption.
Humanitarian Aid – The Chairman reported that Northiam Primary School were collecting aid and requested that the Parish Office should be notified of any other collection points so that these can be advertised. Cllr. Fairweather said that over a tonne of aid including medical supplies, bedding and clothes had been sent by Trinity Church Sissinghurst. This aid had already been delivered to the Polish border. Cllr. Pethurst pointed out that the Parish Council should be a facilitator and we need to prepare support when the Ukraine refugees arrive locally. It was noted that monetary donations could be made through the DEC Campaign (Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal) details available on the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council web site.
168/21: Community Centre/Medical Centre:
Cllr. Gilbert reported that the specification had now been received from the CCG regarding space and room numbers required. Quotes from Companies regarding geotechnical surveys had been received.
169/21: Chairman’s Report:
There was nothing further to report other than that he had already mentioned regarding boundary changes.
Reports from Committees:
170/21: Policy & Resources:
The Chairman referred to the minutes of the meeting held on 8th March and invited questions. As none were raised, he proposed adoption of the minutes, this was seconded by Cllr. Gilbert and agreed.
171/21: Planning & Preservation:
Cllr Bunyan referred to the minutes of the meetings held 15th February and 1st March and invited questions; none were raised.
Cllr. Bunyan was very pleased to inform the meeting that the Dandara appeal had been dismissed regarding land to the west of Mill Lane and north of Sissinghurst Road, Sissinghurst for 42 new dwellings. Borough Cllr. Warne noted that the Planning Inspectorate had highlighted the same reasons for refusal which were put forward by the Parish Council.
172/21: Properties & Burial Grounds:
Cllr. Gilbert reported that the contractors were currently on site at the Public Toilets and it is hoped to get these back in use as soon as possible. Belle Vue School had kindly made some murals to brighten up the walls.
173/21: Economic & Community:
Cllr. Hatcher advised the next meeting was scheduled for 29th March.
174/21: Environmental Management:
Cllr. Pethurst advised the next meeting was scheduled for 22nd March. He had met up with Cranbrook in Bloom representatives at the Ball Field who were going to plant wild flower seeds in the Spinney in the coming week and several hundreds of bulbs had already been planted. This work had been financed mainly by Cranbrook in Bloom with a contribution from the Parish Council. Cllr. Pethurst said that the Ball Field would be entered into the South East in Bloom Competition this year.
175/21: Neighbourhood Development Plan:
Cllr. Pethurst reported that he was still waiting for the plans to be received back from Richard Eastham our consultant.
176/21: Delegate Reports:
a) Representative for Age Concern:
Cllr. Hatcher had contacted Juliet Mellor and he planned to attend one of their coffee mornings in the near future.
b) Tourism Group:
A meeting had taken place on 22nd February which Cllrs. Hatcher and Dyke had attended. Items discussed had included the Walking Through Time Maps and the retirement of
c) Hop Picker’s Line Heritage Group:
The Group will be carrying out investigations into Planning Application 22/00134. The application relates to the demolition and subsequent construction of industrial units adjacent to the former Cranbrook Station site. The Group wish to ensure that the section of the adopted TWBC Local Plan in relation to protection of the former track bed, is unaffected by proposed development. The Parish Council has already approved the application.
Cllr. Bunyan advised the next meeting was scheduled for 23rd March. It was noted that minutes of the previous meetings had not yet been received.
177/21: Clerk’s Report:
Nothing to report.
The Clerk reported that no correspondence had been received.
179/21: Borough & County Councillor Reports:
a) Cllr. Dawlings reported that the TWBC Budget had been approved. He had recently met with Lord Devan regarding climate change which was very interesting. TWBC were investing heavily to insulate buildings, but it was made more difficult as they were all very old inefficient buildings. The Community Advice Centre in Paddock Wood may also approach Cranbrook and Sissinghurst Parish Council for funding. Regarding the Ukraine crisis how the public can help is fully detailed on the TWBC website. The Benenden NDP referendum was approved by 82% voting in favour. The Amelia Scott building is opening at the end of April and he had attended a tour of the new facility which was very impressive.
Cllr. Rampling stated that the Conservation Architects should make allowances so that Listed Buildings could be insulated/double glazed easier.
b) Cllr. Warne commented that Tunbridge Wells Borough Council Local Plan is trying to push for higher building control measures to improve the quality of future dwellings. The result of the Turnden Enquiry had not yet been decided and she hoped to be able to report something next month.
c) Cllr. Fairweather stated that he would write to Peter Mellor thanking him for spearheading the local opposition to the proposed development of 42 new dwellings to the west of Mill Lane. The residents of Sissinghurst were happy to hear that the appeal had been dismissed.
He also reported that the Borough Garden Waste collection would restart on 21st March.
180/21: Items for Information:
a) Cllr. Bunyan informed the meeting that Sissinghurst Flower Show was taking place on 26th March starting at 2.30p.m.
b) Cllr. Gilbert reported that the new Men’s Shed Group would start on 21st March from 11am meeting at Cranbrook School Coach House weekly on a Monday.
c) Cllr. Hatcher had attended a zoom meeting entitled Crowd Fund Kent which work with KCC to help provide funding for community projects. KCC will match fund up to £20,000 which could be used to finance the new Walk Through Time Maps.
d) Cllr. Pethurst reported that Cranbrook Museum would be opening its doors on 2nd April 2022 and he encouraged everyone to visit this little gem.
e) Cllr. Rampling reported that funding from KCC and Openreach had been received so that broadband facilities in the Three Chimneys/Frittenden area are improved, which is great news for the rural area.
f) Cllr. Fairweather announced that the Queens Hall Theatre at Cranbrook School were putting on many events starting in May, which have been advertised locally. He encouraged everyone to support these events
The Meeting was closed.