Parish Council - Official Website
Minutes of the Annual Parish Meeting held in the
Old Village Hall at 7.30pm on April 22nd 2003
(Draft subject to formal approval.)
Cllr T Richards – Chairman Cllr G Raffe
Cllr Mrs E Cansdale – Vice Chairman Cllr Mrs G Scott
Cllr M Conway Cllr H Stokes
Cllr E Farris Cllr Mrs B Swain
Cllr Mrs E Griffiths Cllr B Wingham
Also present Cllr M Hill, KCC and Cllr N Bell, Ashford Borough Council.
16 parishioners were present.
Apologies for absence, Cllr D Harrison, P Jones and Mrs Raffe.
1 The minutes of the Annual Meeting held on April 23rd 2002 were approved and signed by the Chairman.
2 Cllr Hill, KCC, addressed the meeting.
He explained his specific responsibilities on KCC covered Youth Issues, Sport, Community Safety and recently as a member of the Police Authority.
He was pleased to report that KCC was one of only 22 authorities in the whole country to be graded as “excellent” by the government. He wished to cover four major topics,
A parishioner raised the problem of excessive speed through the village and wondered why “flashing speed signs” were not installed. The Chairman replied on behalf of Cllr Hill that the parish had pressed for these but until a recent change in “the rules” governing their location they were not allowed on our curved road approaches. Following this change in criteria the council was asking Ashford to look again at the matter along with a possible 20mph limit by the school.
3 Chairman’s report. Cllr Richards covered the following main topics,
· The new clerk, Graham Smith, had settled in well to the job since his appointment a year ago.
· The council considered many planning applications throughout the year and now usually met fortnightly to deal with them as they had to meet tight response times set by Ashford Borough Council. 90% of applications were now decided by the ABC planning officers, rather than the elected councillors, in line with government policy.
· The Jubilee Meadow now attracts an annual grant (for 10 years) from DEFRA so long as the council maintains it in an environmentally friendly way. Hedging, ditching and cattle grazing all has to be to DEFRA standards. Village school children have helped in planting schemes and are encouraged to appreciate this unique village asset.
· Cllr Richards wished to specifically thank Mr Wheadon for the superb hedge laying.
· Thanks were due to Cllr Mrs Scott and her team who managed the Golden Jubilee event. The profits had enabled the John Mayne village school children to receive commemorative mugs and for three trees to be planted, one in the churchyard, one on the green and one by the Millennium Field.
· Repairs had been carried out to the children’s play area and new bark chippings laid.
· Water and electricity had been connected to the tennis courts (this was not a parish council project)
· Excellent computer classes had been run by “Training Highway” for 30 “over 50s” at the home of Mr Norman Heath – he was to be warmly thanked for this generous facility. A further class for 30 new trainees would be held in the village hall.
· Design Statement. Mr Carr would report in full but this work was a precursor to a Village Plan which is something the new council must take forward. Close contact with Ashford Borough Council would be essential as the Plan would be seen as a supplementary planning document for the parish.
· Cllr Conway was to be thanked for his work at the various committees he attended on behalf of the parish at Ashford and for his work with KAPC. Cllr Conway was also the main fund raiser for attracting outside monies to appropriate council activities.
· Finally the Chairman wished to thank Cllr Farris for his many years of council work as clerk, Chairman and member. Cllr Farris would not be standing for re election at the May poll. A gift was presented and all present showed their appreciation.
4 Cllr Bell reported that in the drive to cut costs Ashford Borough had done well and has the lowest Council Tax in Kent. The council was now debt free and this meant that council funds could be used to benefit the Borough rather than pay interest. One possible financial problem for the future was that the employees pension fund had a shortfall, like many in the country, due to the depressed stock market. In response to questions Cllr Bell advised that he did not know whether any of the Ashford expansion homes would be built in Biddenden – no decisions had been taken yet. He would follow up any local road problems (and indeed any other local problems) brought to his notice.
5 Design Statement. Mr Carr outlined the background work that had led to an initial draft being shown to a village meeting last October. This was a 2800 word document that following further work and detailed discussions with Ashford Borough Council was now a 5800 word document! The (almost) final draft was on display this evening and the finished product should be available in July. Both Mr Carr and the Chairman emphasised the importance of this document in influencing future design in the parish whether for one or two small developments or perhaps something bigger. The document would have official support for design influence in any future plans
The Chairman thanked Mr Carr and his team for the excellent work they had done on behalf of all the village.
6 Biddenden Consolidated Charity. Mr Deering tabled and explained the accounts. Roundly income was £6000 pa and expenditure £2600 but in the past year about £7000 had been spent on essential building repairs. He reported that 67 people had received Charity Distributions yesterday. Rents would be going up this year by about 10% as the Charity sought to bring rents in line with similar council property rents. He wished to record his thanks to Mr Witherden who has retired from the Charity after very many years.
From the floor Mr Brown felt that rents were too low and should be raised quickly. Mr Deering agreed the rents were low and that is why they are being raised as improvements take place. The Charity did not wish to raise them any faster.
Adoption of the accounts was proposed by Cllr Conway and seconded by Cllr Mrs Griffiths.
7 Post Office. Cllr Mrs Scott summarised the background to the issue and said that on leaving 24 High Street in late June the Post Office would move straight into the temporary Portacabin located in the car park, for which 3 year planning permission had been granted by Ashford Borough Council. Once this temporary facility was operational attention could turn to finding a permanent site either in an existing building or in a purpose built location. By popular request a Biddenden Post Office relocation fund had been set up – this was independently managed.
Mrs Scott wished to thank all members of the Post Office Liaison Group for their hard work in securing the future of this essential village facility.
In answer to a question it was confirmed that the Portacabin had been donated and would be available rent free to the Postmistress. It was hoped it could be sold when a permanent Post Office was set up.
8 Buchy. Cllr Stokes explained that the council had received a letter from Buchy, near Rouen in France, last May asking if our council was interested in a twinning project. We replied asking for more details of their town and when we thought the matter was forgotten we received an invitation in February suggesting up to six councillors visit them! Over the weekend of April 11th to 13th Cllr Stokes and Mrs Stokes, Cllr Mrs Cansdale and the clerk visited the town and were made most welcome. The town is bigger than Biddenden in terms of shops (more Cranbrook size) but smaller in terms of population. They made it clear they did not wish to rush into any formal twinning arrangements but would welcome more contacts with groups of similar interest. Cllr Stokes said he would be happy to help organise any future contacts but would like other interested villagers to contact him to see how exchange visits etc. might be organised. It was not just for the Parish Council but rather for the village as a whole to progress.
9 Cllr Conway spoke briefly of his role as our Parish KAPC representative but dwelt in more detail on his presence at local Police meetings. He explained there was a Police “Policy and Best Value Plan” for 2003/4 which covered such matters as,
· A target of 10% reduction in crime in the Weald area
· The appointment of more Community Wardens
· An increase in the number of Parish Constables
· A target of 5% reduction in road deaths
· Pressure to reduce the incidence of domestic violence which is more widespread than often thought
· A target for 90% of 999 calls to be answered at the control centre within 10 seconds
· There would be pressure to ensure a police presence was seen more often in villages
· It was a fact that most crime was carried out by a small number of known individuals but proof was always the problem
10 Questions/Comments from the floor.
· Mr Rymer Jones queried why the parish precept was not an agenda item. The clerk explained that the precept was now suggested by the Parish Council Finance Sub Committee (in previous years the clerk proposed the precept) and then approved by the full council and would be covered by the Chairman’s report if necessary. . He read out the major items in the current precept to the satisfaction of the questioner.
· Mrs Scales said she was distressed at the amount of roadside litter on the approaches to the village and would be happy to be the organiser of a clearance campaign. She would raise this again at the first meeting of the new council. (If anyone wished to help, Mrs Scales can be contacted on 01580 292525)
· Mr Kingston wished to record thanks to the Chairman for keeping the village centre tidy when Mr Beeken, the Lengthsman, was off sick in November/December last.
· Mr Whitstone wished to thank the whole Council for the hard work they put in on behalf of the village. He wished those who were standing down well and hoped the new council would carry on the good work.
11 In closing the meeting the Chairman thanked the councillors who were not seeking re election for their support. He was pleased to see that some of the prospective new councillors were present and was sorry that others were not there to be introduced to the parishioners.
The meeting closed at 9.35pm.
Graham Smith, Parish Clerk, April 24th 2003