Parish Council - Official Website
Cllr P Whapham – Chairman Cllr C Friend
Cllr Mrs E Cansdale – Vice Chairman Cllr H Richards
Cllr Mrs J Ashcroft Cllr J Rymer Jones
Cllr M Conway Cllr Mrs G Scott
Also present Cllr N Bell, Ashford Borough Council and 14 parishioners
Apologies for absence Cllrs Mrs Ashton, R Brown and Mrs Swain
Cllr Richards reported that Mrs Swain was making progress after her major operation and he had written, wishing her a full recovery, on behalf of the whole council.
2 Items raised by parishioners present.
(The Chairman closed the formal meeting for this item.) The Chairman said he would allow discussion of any Post Office comments under 4 below.
Mrs Stokes queried the costs to the parish funds of Cllr Richards complaint to the Audit Commission about the agreement (already in place) to drain Mill Corner storm water under the Millennium Field car park. The Clerk said he had been advised that costs were likely to be at least £2000. Cllr Richards was asked as to why he was making this complaint and he said he felt it was essential to establish that the Council had acted correctly in its financial agreement over the matter.
(The Chairman reopened the formal council meeting)
3 Approval of the minutes of the meeting held on March 14th.
These were approved and signed by the Chairman with the following amendments,
· Item 4. It should be noted that councillors voted to seek legal advice re Mr Greensted’s proposed Judicial Review if he was unwilling to accept NALC advice. (This advice is currently being sought from the council’s solicitors)
Item 5. Cllr Friend said the road
sign survey was “initial” and not the completed version.
(The Chairman closed the meeting to allow parishioners to speak)
Mrs Stokes suggested a newsletter be circulated to all households explaining the current Post Office position and the potential delays and costs associated with Mr Greensteds proposed Judicial Review. Cllr Mrs Scott said that the financial situation was still changing as more grants were forthcoming and no formal notification of the Judicial Review had yet been received by the council, however the newsletter idea was very worthwhile when the situation became clear.
Mr Wingham considered that the Judicial Review could take at least six months to complete by which time the Post Office scheme would probably fail as grants would be withdrawn. He felt this would be a sad outcome.
(The Chairman reopened the formal Council meeting)
Cllr Mrs Scott gave an update on the current position,
· Final planning permission has been received
· Building Control has been approved
· Another £10,000 grant has been received making a total of £93,000 external investment available.
· Ashford BC has approved the 999 year lease of the car park and toilets to Biddenden PC subject to clarification on the Judicial Review.
· The builder is ready to start.
We are now ready to go ahead but
the tragedy for the parish is that all these grants and planning work are in
jeopardy due to Mr Greensted’s proposed Judicial Review which is delaying a
start and costing the parish £ thousands to respond to his allegations.
Cllr Bell also tabled his current update on the Post Office scheme, a copy of which is attached
The Chairman closed the formal meeting to express his views that he was trying his best to secure the Post Office for the village but he was acutely aware that some councillors and a few members of the public were strongly opposed to the present plans. He had met with Cllr Richards to try and establish an acceptable way forward and in turn Cllr Richards had met with Mr Greensted. The Chairman asked Mr Greensted just what was his objective in going for Judicial Review with all its attendant costs to the parish and potential delays (or even cancellation) to the scheme. Mr Greensted justified his actions by claiming his only objective was to be sure the council had acted legally in reaching its current decisions. He did not accept the National Association of Local Councils legal advice the council had obtained to date.
5 Traffic and Pedestrians Committee
The Committee minutes of March 16th had been circulated to all councillors. The following points were noted,
· Any expansion of parking on the grass area outside the Weavers would be discussed with residents and Cllr Bell as it is Ashford BC land
· A suggestion that the new MF car park/school footpath be open to the public would be discussed with the school governors
· A suggestion that the footpath leading from the end of Mansion House Close be surfaced would be considered and reported back to a later council meeting
· Brian Wingham (a Committee member) had met the Ashford BC Conservation Officer, Miss Cummins, and Mr Barnes from KCC Highways about improvements to the High Street south side pavement.
It was explained that the Bethersden marble must remain and not be altered like the north side pavement but that it could be relaid to offer a much smoother surface. The curb could be granite sets or possibly steeledging. Brian agreed to progress (and report back) and prepare specification of the work we would like as and when funding became available.6 Millennium Field and Jubilee Meadow Committee
Cllr Richards reported that the MF/school footpath was complete and he hoped the school would now make full use of it.
A new dipping platform was proposed and shrubs would be planted over the recently completed Mill Corner drainage outfall weir.7 Possible all weather path around the Gordon Jones Field.
Cllr Mrs Cansdale had prepared a sketch and it was agreed that she and Cllr Richards would meet Mr Sowery (who built the recent school path) to get an idea of what was possible and likely costs. They would report back in due course
Cllr Rymer Jones said he would be approaching Ashford BC again to see whether Biddenden could be included in a “blue box” scheme.
He would also check the use of the Salvation Army textile bin. He hoped it was well used and asked parishioners to “use it or lose it”.
The Clerk had attended a KAPC meeting at Ashford (in the absence of an available councillor) where the Borough’s “planning protocol” was discussed. It was agreed that the protocol did not apply to parish councils.
(Cllr Mrs G Scott
declared an interest in the next item and left the meeting)
It was agreed that Cllr Rymer Jones paper to Ashford BC re the Local Development Framework could be sent from the Chairman with minor amendments.10 Finance – See below
12 Annual Parish Meeting April 18th.
The proposed agenda was approved.
Cllr Mrs Cansdale agreed to organise refreshments.
13 Next Council meeting. May 16th – note the third Tuesday
The meeting closed at 9.45pm
Graham Smith, Parish Clerk. 01622 890596
1) The Post Office project is an incredibly good deal for the village which will secure the post office, provided much, needed new modern toilets and give the village control over the neglected village car park. It could be finished within a matter of months if not weeks, if the Post Office group were allowed to proceed.
2) It is currently 80% funded by grants and contributions. A total of £83,000 has been raised.
3) The parish council has spent £9,000 and now needs to spend less than £20,000 more of taxpayer’s money to complete the project.
4) Further grant applications
could mean the taxpayer would contribute even less.
7) The judicial review is the latest of a number of obstacles which a small group of objectors have used to block progress on the project, which include:
· Instigating Standards Board investigations of Post Office supporters
· Instigating Audit Commission investigations into funds given for the Post Office Project.
· Persistent and onerous questioning of the Parish Council and the Post Office Group over procedures, minutes and decisions to an unreasonable degree.
· Calling a Parish Meeting and attempting to call a Parish Poll.
· Requesting information under the Freedom of Information Act.
· And now starting a Judicial Review.The cost to the taxpayer of these actions undoubtedly runs into thousands of pounds and may yet run into tens of thousands.
8) For those members of the public who are unaware of the names of the objectors. I can confirm that Richard Greensted, Digby Linnett, Hugh Richards and Michael Conway have each gone on record as being behind these obstacles to one degree or another.
Decisions received from Ashford Borough Council
06/00096 The Oak House, Tenterden Rd. Demolish old and build new conservatory.
06/00217 Car Park, Biddenden. Conversion of toilets to PO and new toilets.
TC06/00021 John Mayne School. Fell a willow. No objections
TC06/00024 Mill Field, Tenterden Rd. Various tree works.No objections
04/00958 Medhurst Barn, Cranbrook Rd. Appeal for stationing of one touring and one mobile home caravan withdrawn.
05/01632 Jungalow, Bell Lane. Demolition of existing bungalow and replacement with an “Eco Barn” dwelling. Appeal lodged against ABC’s refusal.
05/00856 Townland Farm, Townland Close. Appeal against ABC’s refusal for a detached house and garage. Appeal dismissed.
The following decisions were made by the Council’s Planning Group:
06/00351 Randolphs Farm, Sissinghurst Rd. New vehicular access. No objections
06/00406 Midwood, Benenden Rd. New conservatory. No objections
06/00417 Pedlars Farm, Mockbeggar Lane. New annex and 3 bay garage, garden store and log store. No objections
06/00424 Cranbrook Rd/Fosten Lane. Reconductor overhead power line. No objections
06/00457 Spill Land Caravan Park, Benenden Rd. Variation of planning consent to extend occupancy to 10.25 months. No objections
06/00491 Flagstones, High Halden Rd. Two storey rear extension. No objections
06/00513 6 Old Mill Court. Oak framed home office in rear garden. No objections
The full Council is asked to consider the following:
06/00427 New House Farm, Sissinghurst Rd. Removal of internal stud wall to reopen original inner hall passage and re-hang internal door
£368.00 S Keen, Lengthsman, Wages 1665
£444.67 G Smith, Clerk, Salary 1666
£44.00 M Conway. Plants for Millennium Field 0170
£1308.28 Allianz Cornhill. Annual insurance premium 1667
£750.00 Martin Pearce. Repairs to Weavers bus shelter 1668
£40.00 Biddenden Club House. Parish Council meetings 1669
£68.00 Biddenden Club House. Youth Club meetings 1670
£254.19 G Smith, Clerk. This sum represents 40 hours at the NALC rate of £8.147
(less tax) for additional Post Office related work for the first three months of this year. Should the Judicial Review and other Standards Board work continue then similar claims will be likely 1673
£2000.00 Biddenden Tennis Club. Donation towards courts resurfacing 1672
£100.00 Honorarium to J Betts for Council work re Parish Magazine. 1674
(Last paid July 2004)
The following has been received,
£150 Biddenden Club House. Second half 2005 payment for use of
Millennium Field car park
1 Ashford BC. Design Awards Scheme. Any ideas for entries?
2 Ashford BC. Housing News. March 2006 edition.
3 Oast to Coast. Spring 2006 edition.
4 Ashford Rural Trust. March 2006 newsletter & mins.of 23.02.06 meeting.
5 Defra. Clean Neighbourhoods & Environment Act 2005. PC guide to enforcement.
6 Kent Wildlife Trust. Bigbury Woods Appeal for donation.
7 ODPM. Standards of Conduct. Proposed changes.
8 SERA. South East Plan. Draft submission. 5 lbs in weight!!