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Minutes of the meeting held in the Old Village Hall on Tuesday February 11th 2003
Cllr T Richards – Chairman Cllr D Harrison
Cllr Mrs E Cansdale – Vice Chairman Cllr G Raffe
Cllr M Conway Cllr Mrs G Scott
Cllr E Farris Cllr H Stokes
Cllr B Wingham
Also present Cllr N Bell, Ashford Borough Council, and eight parishioners.
Apologies for absence from Cllrs Mrs E Griffiths and Mrs B Swain.
1. Comments from parishioners in respect of non agenda items.
Mr Rymer Jones told the council that he was one of a number of lay "Custody Visitors" who attended the police station at Ashford to ensure anybody taken into police custody was correctly treated. He felt this was a valuable role in protecting both the arrested person and the police from unfounded criticism and as he was looking to stand down from the role he would like any person interested in taking on the job to contact him on 01580 291253.
Mr Carr said as the Design Statement (see below) was nearing completion the next step was to compile a "Parish Plan" as part of the governments preferred planning process. The Chairman agreed with this and said he had attended a recent KAPC conference on the subject and we had registered our interest with the Countryside Agency for a potential £5,000 grant towards the work. The new council after the May elections would take the matter forward.
2. There were no alterations to the members Register of Interests.
3. The minutes of the meeting held on January 14th were approved and signed by the Chairman.
4. Matters arising. Update on Post Office.
Cllr Mrs Scott, a member of the Post Office Liaison Group, explained the current position.
Ashford Borough Council had granted Lorne International (landlords of 24 High Street including the Post Office) planning permission for office use of the ground floor on condition the Post Office remained. This condition would apply to any new owner of the premises until any variation of planning permission was sought – if indeed it was. If the premises fell empty between current and new owners then the Post Office may not be able to stay in situ unless Lorne International were in agreement to extend the 3 month notice they have given the current Postmistress with effect from February 15th 2003.
The Council agreed to allow up to £250 on legal fees to extend the current notice period by agreement with Lorne International. Cllr Mrs Scott would put this work in hand.
Discussion then turned to the long term location of the Post Office as both Mrs Scott and Cllr Bell felt that ultimately the new owners of 24 High Street would not want the Post Office there, it being a hindrance to the potential of the premises. They felt that the only suitable location for a new Post Office was in a portion of the Village Hall and outline design work had been completed with the help of Post Office HQ.
The Chairman said this proposition raised problems for the Trustees of the Hall as a Post Office was outwith the current "charity conditions" and there was no certainty the Trustees would support the Post Office relocated in the Hall. In any event the Village Hall Management Committee wanted to be certain that all other options had been considered and that outline comparative costs were available. Cllr Bell felt there was not time for this and that the Village Hall option should be pushed forward with speed.
Mrs Scott explained that Post Office HQ would pay only once for all the new security and administrative links required by a relocation and if a move to a temporary Post Office was made prior to a more permanent location then a body other than the Post Office would have to pay the second batch of costs.
Cllr Wingham considered that the Village Hall was not the best location and that a new purpose built Post Office could be provided on council land near the bus stop at the end of the Weavers estate. With Post Office HQ paying the security costs he guessed that a suitable building could be provided for something in the region of £25,000 - a sum within reach of the council with the help of various grants and donations.
The following proposal was then unanimously agreed by the council.
" That the Village Hall Trustees be requested to initially consider making part of the hall available for use as a Post Office and if they agree to this proposal approach the Charity Commission for their formal approval AND that the Post Office Liaison Group consider the proposal for a purpose built Post Office on the Weavers or any other suitable site.
Both parties were requested to undertake this work as a matter of urgency."
Cllr Bell wished to record his disappointment at this as he felt it was an unnecessary delay.
Planting of Jubilee trees.
At the request of the Chairman, Mr Daly reported that both trees had been planted (one in the churchyard and one on the Village Green) on February 6th by children from the village school. The event had been well supported and the tea provided in the school afterwards was greatly appreciated. It was a fitting conclusion to the Jubilee.
Meeting with Ashford BC concerning pavements, speed signs etc.
A meeting took place on January 28th and the following was agreed,
ABC would examine the timescale involved in carrying out pavement works on the south side of the High Street to match those completed on the north side.
In view of the revised rules concerning the location of flashing speed signs ABC would consider again signs on all three approach roads to the village.
The Parish Council would investigate further the possibility of a footpath/cycleway "inside" the field between Dashmonden and Woolpack Corner.
The courses were going extremely well and one "free" computer was now installed in Mr Heaths house (available to course members) and a second would be installed in the doctors surgery in the Village Hall on February 12th – again available to course members.
5. Ashford Borough Council report.
Cllr Bell said he had nothing to add to his Post Office report above.
6. Planning. –
7. Finance. –
The government proposals which would allow Parish Councillors to claim allowances for attending parish council meetings were noted but Biddenden councillors agreed they did not wish to claim allowances apart from (as now) any travel costs associated with council business. The new council, post the May election, may wish to revisit this subject.
The three estimates for the repair to the childrens play area were noted and councillors agreed to award the contract to KCC Landscape Services.
The following main items were discussed.
The full report on "Ashfords Future" was passed to Cllr Conway for consideration.
The report on SE England Regional Transport Strategy was passed to Cllr Raffe for consideration.
A draft ABC model agreement on low cost housing schemes was passed to the Chairman for consideration.
The Chairman undertook to discuss the "Draft Community Strategy for Ashford Borough" with Cllr Bell.
A request from the Village Halls Committee for the council to undertake the proposed water/electricity connection to the tennis courts to allow VAT to be reclaimed was declined as this would be contrary to VAT regulations.
It was noted that Mr Stanford had sent a final letter to the Council on his regular concerns about traffic and lorry movements just prior to his move from the village!
The clerk had circulated the diary of key dates surrounding the May council elections.
9. Village Design Statement.
Mr Carr reported that no comments had been received since he presented the draft at the January meeting. He presented a further draft incorporating the cover and photographs and subject to comments from ABC he hoped the finished product would be available in May.
10. Millennium Field and Jubilee Meadow report.
A report of the meeting held on February 4th was circulated to all councillors. In going through it the Chairman sought to specifically thank Mr Wheadon for the excellent hedge laying work.
11. Reports of other meetings.
Cllr Conway has attended a recent KAPC meeting where the main topic was the proposed growth of Ashford. He would report at the March meeting.
The Police meeting he would have attended had been postponed.
The Chairman had attended a meeting on Lottery funding which had explained all the various grants available. Whilst grants were still available for appropriate projects it should be noted that the totality of grant money was less, largely due to central government directing the allocation of funds.
12. Matters for future consideration.
In view of its importance the Chairman asked that the Post Office be a specific agenda item rather than a "matter arising".
The May election procedure would be reported.
The Annual Parish Meeting would be held on April 22nd. This is the opportunity for the Council to report to the parishioners and for the parishioners to question the Council.
13. Next meeting.
March 11th and if required a planning meeting on February 25th.
Graham Smith, Parish Clerk, February 12th 2003