Parish Council - Official Website
Cllr Mrs J Ashcroft Cllr H Richards
Cllr Mrs E Cansdale (Vice Chairman) Cllr J Rymer Jones
Cllr M Conway Cllr Mrs G Scott
Cllr C Friend Cllr P Whapham (Chairman)
Also present Cllr N Bell, Ashford BC, Cllr M Hill KCC and 24 parishioners
Apologies received from Cllrs Mrs R Ashton, R Brown, Mrs B Swain and Mr T Lupton.
The Chairman welcomed those present and apologised that PC Sharp, who was
coming to talk about (and demonstrate) speed monitoring equipment, was unwell
and now hoped to come in May.
The Clerk read the minutes of the Annual Parish Meeting held on 29th
April 2005 and these were signed by the Chairman after M Conway proposed and N
Bell seconded their approval. All present agreed.
The Clerk read the minutes of the Special Parish Meeting held on February
13th 2006 and these were signed by the Chairman after Mr P Whitestone
proposed and Mrs S Whitestone seconded their approval. All present agreed.
Mr T Lupton, the new Treasurer of the Biddenden Consolidated Charity, had
apologised for his absence and so the Clerk read his report and advised copies
of the report and accounts were available on request. There were no comments
from the meeting.
5 Chairman's report from Cllr P Whapham. (A copy is available from the Clerk)
Before presenting his report the Chairman expressed his thanks for the contribution to village affairs of all parish councillors, our Borough and County Councillors, the Clerk, the village Lengthsman and our new “Odd Job” man. All had worked hard for the benefit of the village. He particularly mentioned Cllr Mrs Ainscough who resigned on leaving the village and her replacement Cllr C Friend
His report covered the following council achievements over the past year,
· Drainage of one of the football pitches
· Restoration of the village sign on the Green
· The new footpath from the Millennium Field car park to the school
· Re roofing The Weavers bus shelter
· New fencing around the childrens play area
· New parish notice board at the west end of the High Street
· £2000 donation towards resurfacing the tennis courts
· Flower display on the village green
· Consideration of over 100 planning applications
· and, of course, all the work for relocation of the Post Office
As regards the Post Office project he said it
had been very time consuming for all those involved in, at last,
getting to the current position where we were ready to start construction with
a view to completion in a matter of a few weeks, but we are now held up by the
proposed Judicial Review brought by Mr Richard Greensted. He asked Mr
Greensted to reconsider the matter and let history be the judge of
whether the Parish Council has made the right decision – not the Courts
at considerable expense to the parish.
6 Ashford Borough Council report – Cllr N Bell
Cllr Bell said he felt the matter of greatest interest was Council Tax and he was pleased to report Ashford BC has the lowest rate in Kent, for example, our rates are half those of Shepway. Our rise this year is equivalent to £5 on a Band D property.
Cllr Bell said he was pleased with progress on the new “low cost” housing at Cheeselands and the properties should be ready for occupation in early 2007. This was an excellent scheme for local people.
He warned that central government was again
thinking of reorganising local government!
7 Kent County Council report – Cllr M Hill
Cllr Hill referred to the fact that Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart had stood down as Leader of KCC after 8 years and his legacy is of a very well run council with a very high public satisfaction rating. Sir Sandy is to be ennobled to the House of Lords. The new Chairman is Paul Carter.
Cllr Hill said KCC had formed a new “Communities” portfolio and he is the responsible cabinet member.
On Council Tax he said the increased input from central government is only 0.3% to meet all additional costs and the County had managed to contain its rise to 4.75% by rigorous “good housekeeping”.
He was pleased to report that under the governments Police reorganisation Kent would remain a “stand alone” county force and would not be amalgamated with other forces.
Now that KCC had full responsibility for the county roads he felt improvements to maintenance and local liaison were coming through.
Cllr Hill said he had a
personal budget of £10,000 for worthwhile local schemes.
Cllr Mrs Scott said everything was in place to start work and so far we had received, or are promised, £83,000 in grants (just today we have been advised of another possible £10,000 from Ashford BC). However we are at a standstill because of Mr Greensted’s proposed Judicial Review mentioned in 5 above and she asked him to reconsider his action on behalf of the village.
9 Millennium Field and Jubilee Meadow
Cllr H Richards again mentioned the completion of the “private” footpath from the Millennium Field car park to the school and he hoped the school would make good use of this facility to avoid parking in the High Street.
A new “scrape” had been made and improvements to the wild flower population were planned. We have the potential to increase our valuable Stewardship Grants from DeFRA and he would be pursuing this.
10 Traffic and Pedestrians
Cllr Friend said he was leading this new council committee and they were just getting underway. They were already examining car parking and speeding issues. They hoped to rationalise the quantity of road signage around the village and they had met Ashford BC and KCC to see how it would be possible to improve the High Street south side pavement.
Cllr Mrs Ashcroft said she was keeping pressure on KCC to mend pot holes and if parishioners knew of any that were dangerous let he know on 01580 291453.
11 Gordon Jones play area
Cllr Mrs Cansdale reported that replacement swings would be installed shortly and the “Sputnik” would be moved to a more suitable location. As mentioned previously the new fence around the play equipment is in place.
12 Local Development Framework
Cllr Rymer Jones explained this was part of Ashford BC’s response to the governments planning and housing growth strategy for the South East. As part of this the Tenterden area may have to take about 800 new homes and some of these could be in Biddenden as we were seen as a “sustainable village” with good facilities. He made the point that with the Cheeselands and Old Mill Corner developments we have already taken 31 new homes and although more could not be ruled out we have to maintain our village status.
Cllr Rymer Jones also mentioned the importance of recycling on a local and national basis and he had not given up trying to get “blue bins” for Biddenden, but he understood the financial problems for Ashford BC in supplying this service. He drew attention to the new textile bin in the recycling area and urged villagers to use it.
13 Police matters
Cllr Conway said he and/or Cllr Mrs Cansdale attended local police meetings. He said that basically Biddenden was a very safe area with little reported crime, although he accepted that if crime was not reported then it would not feature in statistics. He was aware of some local “youth problems” but again with no proof it was difficult to apprehend the culprits, however our local Police Constable (Annie Williams) was alert to the problem and was always happy to meet parishioners to offer any possible help.
On speeding it was of interest to note that on arriving at the 30 mph signs the average speeds were 45.9mph on the Sissinghurst Road, 40.5mph from Headcorn and 39.1mph from Tenterden.
14 Parishioners questions
Mr Gaertner asked if there was any news on the various proposals for phone masts. Cllr Bell confirmed that there was not and explained it was difficult for Ashford to object to what was basically government policy and the appeal procedure was expensive with a poor chance of success save in exceptional cases.
Mr Charlton said he would keep pressure on the parish council for a Community Warden and on a separate issue could the Cheeselands garages be removed to allow more (and visible) parking space. Cllr Bell said he would check on the latter as he was unsure as to whether the garages still belonged to Ashford BC.
As regards the Community Warden Cllr Hill said the 100 Kent has funded could not be increased at this time but there was no reason why Biddenden could not “bid” for a post (or a shared post) as and when circumstances changed.
Mr Edwards said he considered PC Annie Williams to be excellent and she knew who the local trouble makers were but without evidence little could be done .He felt something of interest for “bored teenagers” was necessary. Cllr Mrs Cansdale said the Youth Club had temporarily closed because of lack of interest and she felt the youth themselves do not really know what they want. Also there was a complete lack of interest by parents in helping with the Youth Club. It was the job of the parish council to help organise and fund the Club but not to run it.
Mr Whitestone said he, like the majority of the village, was saddened by the hold up to the Post Office scheme and asked if Mr Greensted could explain just what the purpose of his proposed Judicial Review was. Mr Greensted said his reasons were to ensure the council’s proposals were legal, democratic and transparent as he felt they had never been properly explained. Mr Whitestone said he was still not clear as to his real reasons as the council had taken all reasonable steps to develop a “legal” scheme and it seemed to him Mr Greensted’s only objective was to delay the project. He asked that Mr Greensted think again as he was damaging the village.
Cllr Mrs Scott said legal advice had been obtained from the National Association of Local Councils and latterly Mr Greensted’s further queries had been put to our solicitor – however the Judicial Review now took precedence.
Cllr Bell commented on various aspects of the proposed Judicial Review and he too hoped Mr Greensted would reconsider the matter.
The Chairman thanked the refreshment team and the meeting closed at 9.35pm.
Graham Smith, Parish Clerk. April 20th 2006