The meeting was held remotely using Zoom software.

The Chairman welcomed everyone to the meeting. He also welcomed the newly appointed additional Deputy Clerk, Clare Bezuidenhout (pronounced Bis say den hote) who would be joining the team from 1st September.

PRESENT: Cllr. Fletcher (Chairman), Cllrs. Beck, Gilbert, Hall (in part), Hartley, Hatcher, Kings, Pethurst, Warne and Waters.

Declaration of Interests, Dispensations, Predetermination or Lobbying:

Members are required to declare any interests, dispensations, predetermination or lobbying on items on this agenda. Members are reminded that changes to the Register of Interests should be notified to the Clerk. He notified those present that the meeting was being recorded as a Clerk’s aid.

APOLOGIES:  Cllrs. Bunyan, Fairweather, Fermor, Meewezen and Smith.

49/20:  Minutes of the Previous Meeting:

The Chairman, Cllr. Fletcher proposed that the Minutes of the Meeting held on the 9th July be adopted as a true record.  This was seconded by Cllr. Gilbert and agreed.

50/20: Community Centre:

In the absence of Cllr. Meewezen, Cllr Gilbert gave an update. Work on the Outline Business Case is ongoing and it was hoped that it would be ready to present to Members at the September meeting. No input from other Councillors had been received at all, however it was not too late, any comments should be sent to Cllr. Meewezen.  The options remain as before: either a development on Wilkes Field or a refurbishment of the Vestry Hall, although the latter is looking economically to represent less value for money than a new build. This arises because of the residual asset value and relative high costs of a refurbishment given the listed status of Vestry Hall.

51/20: LGA Model Member Code of Conduct Consultation:

Cllr. Fletcher reiterated the importance of the Code of Conduct which is based on the Nolan Report ‘The Seven Principles of Public Life’. He asked for a show of hands from those that had read the information circulated by the Clerk. He was planning to respond to the consultation on behalf of the Council and encouraged all Members to respond as individual councillors. He would be commenting on the fact there was insufficient reference to Social Media in the draft, however he felt it should be covered in a separate code to allow for frequent changes to ensure it can remain relevant with constant ongoing changing technology.  He will also comment that in his opinion, there should be more culpability; the current sanctions against any breaches appear to be non-existent or negligible. 

52/20: S106 Requests:

Cllr. Fletcher referred to a recent email he had circulated containing several ideas for projects that could be requested from S106 monies. Currently the majority of any monies received goes to either KCC or TWBC, however to make matters worse the government has suggested that all CIL or S106 money should go directly to Whitehall.

The Clerks are happy to undertake the costings but to be considered they must be projects that are in the control of and deliverable by the Parish Council. Cllr. Warne advised that a list had been drawn up as part of the Draft Neighbourhood Plan which she would send to the Deputy Clerk for circulation to all councillors.

In response to Cllr. Pethurst, the Chairman advised that any quotes submitted for S106 had to be very detailed and the size of the development dictates how far afield the project can be considered.

In response to Cllr. Beck, Cllr. Dawlings suggested that if projects involving the entire area such as faster broadband speeds or free WiFi, then the Parish should be looking at working with TWBC or KCC to utilise their expertise in delivering such ambitious projects. Historically TWBC officers would have undertaken the detailed costings for projects, however they no longer have the time, so it is down to individual parishes.

Reports from Chair and Committees:

53/20: Chairman’s Report:

The Chairman referred to the Mill Lane planning application which was refused at the TWBC Planning Committee meeting yesterday. Cllr. Fairweather had spoken to object to the application. Peter Mellor had also written a very eloquent submission supporting the officer’s recommendation to refuse the application.

He advised that we are now using the new Unity Trust Bank Account to make all our payments electronically. The Clerk had remarked how refreshing it was to speak to a physical person when calling the customer helpline.

He reported that we were now in receipt of a £1,000 Members Grant from Cllr. Sean Holden, to be spent on the development of the spinney on the Ball Field. It will be transferred to Cranbrook in Bloom to facilitate the purchase of the trees.

54/20: Policy & Resources:

Cllr. Beck referred to the minutes of the meeting held on the 11th August and highlighted the item on Website Accessibility. Cllr. Pethurst gave a very clear explanation of what ‘website accessibility’ actually meant. He described how the website content needed to be accessible to everyone including those with sight issues. Most operating systems have the ability to activate a screen reader facility, however the documents being read should be in html format as opposed to most of ours, which are PDF’s. He went on to explain that to change all the documents on our website would be extremely costly and could be seen as a ‘disproportionate burden’. Our website provider had suggested that as long as we explain this in our Accessibility Statement it should be acceptable for the documents to stay as PDF’s as long as all future documents put on the website are in a html format.With this in mind Cllr. Fletcher proposed that the quote of £1,300 from our current provider to make the necessary changes and create an Accessibility Statement should be accepted. This was seconded by Cllr. Pethurst and agreed. Cllr. Beck referred back to the minutes and proposed adoption, this was seconded by Cllr. Fletcher and agreed.

The Clerk reminded the Policy and Resources Committee members that as the minutes had been ratified, she would need two of the authorised signatories to log on to Unity Trust Bank and approve the payments submitted.

55/20: Planning & Preservation Management:

In the absence of Cllrs. Smith and Bunyan, Cllr. Hatcher give a precis of the two meetings held on the 21st July and 4th August. He highlighted the appeal on the Land Adjacent to Hartley Gate Farmhouse and reported that a few more comments had been added to the original recommendation for refusal. The appeal would be decided by a Public Enquiry.

56/20: Properties and Burial Grounds:

Cllr. Gilbert reported that we intended to reopen the Vestry Hall from 1st September as the necessary additional risk assessments had now been completed.

In response to Cllr. Pethurst’s enquiry regarding item 3/20, Cllr. Fletcher advised that the Congregational Church had shown interest in converting the public toilets in Crane Lane, now in our ownership, into a youth club, accessible from the garden of the Church.  We were expecting more details on the possible proposal, to be submitted in writing.

Cllr. Gilbert also reported that it had been necessary to lock the Cemetery gates again as the unacceptable practice of driving on the paths had started again, as soon as the gates had been unlocked.

He referred to the minutes of the meeting held on 21st July and proposed adoption; this was seconded by Cllr. Kings and agreed.

57/20: Environmental Management:

Cllr. Warne referred to a Facebook post from a resident in Spring Cottages complaining about how the beech hedge had been cut in the Tanyard Car Park last year and asked if they had been in touch with the Parish Office. The Clerk confirmed she had not received any such enquiry, although she had been told that Cllr. Fairweather was aware and would be dealing with the issue.

58/20: Neighbourhood Development Plan:

Cllr. Warne gave a report of the meeting held on the 20th July. Cllr. Smith had stood down as Vice Chairman for Sissinghurst, so Cllr. Pethurst had agreed to represent both Cranbrook and Sissinghurst as Vice Chair. Cllr. Smith would continue to represent Sissinghurst as a committee member.

Since the meeting Cllr. Warne had been in touch with Katie McFloyd who is in charge of sorting out sustainability issues and sending off the Draft Plan to the statutory consultees, for a screening opinion as to whether a Strategic Environmental Assessment is needed. Cllr. Warne reported she has also sent a revised Sustainability Assessment, which goes alongside the Draft Plan. Regarding liaison with TWBC, a meeting was scheduled with Deborah Dixon for next Thursday, Cllr Pethurst and Liz Daley would also be attending.

She and other members of the team had written articles for the next edition of Parish Cake which would carry multiple features on the Draft Neighbourhood Plan. She still hoped to be able to hold public consultations in October/November in the Vestry Hall and St. George’s Institute, assuming they can be confirmed as Covid Secure and government guidelines continue to allow for such events. She proposed the minutes be adopted; this was seconded by Cllr. Pethurst and agreed.  

59/20: Delegated Reports:

The Chairman read out the following reports from our representative Graham Holmes:

Transport Accessibility Group.

The organisation was still trying to regroup following the sudden and very sad death of the secretary, Margaret Skeet.

Hop Pickers Line Heritage Group:

There have been no further developments regarding the proposed landfill at Hall Wood Farm road bridge and cutting

Cranbrook Tourism Group:

Cllr. Dawlings reported that plans for the Apple Fayre to go ahead on Saturday 3rd October continue. The theme this year is Smugglers and Mods, for which he suggested face masks were essential! An article on the Fayre has also been sent to TWBC to be included in the September issue of Local Magazine.

The Group is also working on a map of the area, with Cranbrook at the centre.  The map will show everything a visitor to the area would want to know from National Trust and English Heritage properties, to places to stay, walks and cycle routes, pubs and restaurants.  Users will be able to click on the places mentioned to link to their websites. 

They also envisage encouraging visitors to take trips to, for example, the Churches in the area or a wine tour to local wineries. The intention is to encourage visitors to base themselves in and around Cranbrook and use the Capital of the Weald as their platform to see and enjoy the wonderful part of the world we live in.  He is exploring what support TWBC will give to this project.

60/20: Clerk’s Report:

The Clerk reported that a challenge had been submitted to the Valuation Office in respect of the business rates for the Information Centre. It is currently rated at over £13,000 a year, of which nearly £11,000 is attributed to sales. As no sales take place in the building, she is confident we will be successful in obtaining a substantial reduction.

61/20: Correspondence:

No correspondence which required reporting.

62/20: Reports from Borough Councillors:

a) Cllr. Dawlings referred to the Carriers Road parking spaces and advised he had emailed David Candlin today to request a meeting to discuss the issues.

He also reported on the progress of the Benenden NDP.  It was with some relief that this week they had their last Benenden NDP Group Steering Committee meeting.  He knew from reports we receive on the Cranbrook & Sissinghurst NDP, that this is a huge exercise.  To put the sites the Group planned to allocate in the public domain, which was 4 of the 22 sites submitted under the ‘call for sites’ and to stop rumours circulating, they issued a pre-consultation version of the NDP.  They then incorporated all comments received, with the Group’s responses in the Regulation 14 version.  Various changes were made to the plan following the consultation. Intelligent Plans and Examinations offered a ‘Health Check’ of the Regulation 15 Draft Plan and gave them useful feedback, some of which involved simple text changes, other points they discussed with TWBC.  The plan is now being passed to Benenden Parish Council to submit the Regulation 15 version to TWBC. 

Following the opening of the car parks in Tunbridge Wells they were now at 65% of the pre lockdown level. Apparently, the government’s Monday – Wednesday dining out voucher was being well received.

b) Cllr. Warne reported that she had attended a meeting to discuss the reforms to the planning system. There was a lot of concern expressed amongst Members about both the planning reforms and the radical changes in the Planning for the Future white paper. All Borough Councillors will be given a full briefing. She would be writing an article for Parish Cake on the subject.

63/20: Items for Information:

a) Cllr Waters reported the first Town Market since lockdown had gone very well.

b) Cllr. Pethurst reported that the Wellbeing Walks organised by Mark Lawrence had been reinstated. The High Weald’s Walking Festival will go ahead as self-guided, with online maps.

c) Cllr. Fletcher reported that the High Weald Project had rebuilt the bridge in the Crane Valley and you could now walk the entire way round.

The meeting was closed.

There were no questions from members of the public attending. 

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