Ordinary Meeting Minutes 1/12/2014


Minutes of the Ordinary Meeting of Penshurst Parish Council held on Monday 1 December 2014 at 7.45 pm in Penshurst Village Hall

1.            PRESENT:   Cllrs J Cass (Chairman), Mrs D Broad, J Broadhead, A Campbell, S Frederick, J Horsford, J O’Shea, B Townsend.

In Attendance:  SDCllr P Cooke,  Mr R Sellings (Speedwatch and Swaylands)

APOLOGIES:    KCCllr C Pearman, Cllr I Carson

2.         MINUTES OF MEETING HELD ON 3 November 2014, having been circulated, were approved and signed by the Chairman.

Declarations of interests in agenda items

If a Member has a disclosable pecuniary interest in an item of business this must be declared at the start of the meeting, unless dispensation has been granted.  The member may not participate in any discussion, vote or discharge any function related to that business.

Non-pecuniary interests may be declared at this point if not already registered.  Members with a non-pecuniary interest may speak on the subject if members of the public can do so but may not vote.      NONE


Prior to the open session the Chairman reported that Ted Cox – who had been the Parish Clerk during the 70/80s – had sadly died recently.    Mr Cox had been an excellent clerk during his term with the Parish Council, his contribution being much appreciated.


3.         OPEN SESSION

Issues regarding a planning application in the parish were raised by a resident, the Chairman confirmed councillors had visited the site and submitted a positive response to SDC subject to the 50% rule, further comments were added regarding the AONB and visibility from the road.  Chairman confirmed the PC judged applications against planning regulations in broad terms.  The resident registered his disappointment with the council’s support for the application.

A separate issue of a complaint made regarding fencing erected at the same property had resulted in enforcement action being taken by SDC.

Another resident provided planning history on the property advising the positioning of the building, when previously extended, together with the fencing had been incorrectly erected too close to the right of way.   It was also reported that access to empty cesspools for residents could be curtailed.  Concerns had also been raised regarding the lower land being waterlogged if extra water run off was not dealt with adequately.   Chairman advised that if neighbouring properties and/or Rights of Way were affected as a result of activities at neighbouring properties these must be reported to the local authority, Cllr Cooke advised he had reserved the right to ask that the application go to committee.

Resident provided information he considered was proof of the contribution made by GON in relation to the Gatwick campaign to warrant £15K donation requested from PC towards their funding.   It was pointed out that although GON’s recent activities had raised further awareness, the High Weald Councils Aviation Action Group – supported by local MPs and other pressure groups – had been working for over a year to fight the airport expansion and the major response had been received during the first six months of 2014, prior to the start of GON’s existence.   Clerk advised the PC were unable to pay the amount requested as there would be insufficient funds available under the S137 rule and it had not been proved that work undertaken by GON, in addition to the work carried out by the PC, had benefitted the parish to the extent claimed.


4.        PLANNING


SE/14/03222:  3 The Green, Spring Hill, Fordcombe:  Demolition of sun room and replace with single storey rear extension.  PC Support

SE/14/03351:  The Old Laundry, The Lane, Fordcombe:  Demolition of rear extension, erection of replacement extension, and provision of new roof windows.   PC Support

3SE/14/03418:  The Sheiling, Coopers Lane, Penshurst:   Erection single storey extension with chimney to south east elevation (side) and erection of single storey conservatory to north west elevation (side).  Conversion of existing roof space into bedroom, bathroom and study.  Addition of two dormer windows and alterations to fenestration.   PC Support as long as the 50% rule has not been exceeded.   (Emails etc received from parties involved.)

SE/14/03063:  Birling Cottages, Coldharbour Road, Penshurst:  Erection of two storey rear extension and detached garage.

Se.14/03629:  1 Moat Cottages, Doubleton Lane, Penshurst:  Internal re-arrangements, new linking roof in valley between the two existing pitched roofs with addition of roof light.


SDC/Affordable Housing Enabler:  2nd Stage Survey:

Preliminary information circulated to councillors for comment in order that analysis of responses can be finalized for publishing, no comments forwarded to Tessa O’Sullivan.

Analysis indicated that a total of 28 adults and 7 children have a housing need, 3 households were older people requiring housing suitable for their needs.  13 respondents with a need currently live in Penshurst with 2 living outside; all have indicated at least one of the local connection criteria.

A need for 15 affordable homes had been identified for:  1 single person, 8 couples with children; 5 families, 2 brothers. Clerk had been advised a meeting to discuss site options/procedures was being organized for PC to meet with SDC on 8 December.  (Meeting for SDC and Penshurst PC members arranged for Wednesday 10 December at 9.30 am)

A further meeting of all interested parties ie West Kent Housing, Sevenoaks District Council, Penshurst Parish Council, Beckets Trust, Penshurst Place Estate, would be held on 14 January 2015.   Time and venue to be advised.   5.         MATTERS ARISING:


a.         Long Bridge Project:   KCCllr Pearman advised Donna Rixon was chasing the project, Cllr Pearman was arranging a meeting with Ben Hilden who had taken over from Donna Rixon for the processing of grant applications.   Cllr Pearman had submitted his response to a questionnaire on Highway’s performance which had been circulated to all councillors!  Initial clearance of vegetation undertaken with some new fencing having been erected.  Current work completed by South East Water whilst water pipes were being installed.


b.         Litter Bins – Rectory/Leicester Square:  As a result of Cllr Carson’s request clerk had received a small stock of paint from SDC to help with refurbishing the litter bins, clerk to contact Cllr Carson regarding completion of work.


c.         Hever Triathlon:   Cllr Mrs Broad advised that the organizer would be happy to make a donation to Penshurst School if this was acceptable to members, this was unanimously agreed.   It had been agreed that a mini triathlon would be organized for some of the children at the school, it was hoped celebrities might be able to attend, only requirement was for the school to provide transport for the children taking part.


d.         Dalcour Maclaren:  Proposed installation of small bypass on two existing mains at Fordcombe.   Plan of proposal circulated to members for their information.   Meeting scheduled for noon on 3 December for Cllrs Cass, Horsford and Townsend to meet with John Cattermole to discuss the proposed work.   (Meeting attended on 3 December with John Cattermole of SE Water plus Dalcour personnel and Cllrs Cass, Horsford and Townsend to discuss planned work.   Confirmation of specification will be forwarded to clerk for the PC)


6.         REPORTS:


a.   Sevenoaks District Councillor Paddy Cooke:


Cllr Cooke confirmed that Randalls had been suggested as a possible affordable housing site, if two sites were put forward the one causing least harm would be favoured.   Chairman confirmed he had been approached by Mr Harley of Becket Trust regarding possible sites.   There were effectively still two planning applications on the table with SDC for Forge Field.

Cllr Broadhead asked for information on the current housing stock held by WKHA, clerk to check, Cllr Broadhead to provide publication containing the information.

The Gatwick meeting at Crawley had been very successful supported by many local people.  MPs and local organisation in the area were pushing hard to ensure a successful outcome for the local parishes.

The meeting at Hever with the AC and KCC had been interesting in view of the apparent ‘U’ turn by KCC over the support of the second runway.  The viability of GAL must now be in doubt as a result of the information made available with regard to financing.

Changes to the MPPF were planned regarding the provision of 10 and under and 5 and under affordable housing units.

Information relating to empty housing had been circulated during the month.

b.   KALC:      The AGM had recently been held but the regular meeting had been partially cancelled due to the lack of speaker.    Minutes awaited for circulation to members.

c.   Kent County Councillor Clive Pearman:


Dull, damp and dreary – the annual work to create KCC’s budget for the forthcoming financial year has commenced in earnest!  Unattractive though this work might be regarded, and virtually all of it going on behind closed doors for obvious reasons of integrity and security it is, of course, the most crucial and mammoth piece of work upon which virtually everything undertaken by KCC depends.


The savings, both expected and required, are of a similar magnitude as those of the past few years, so the ever-reducing size of the cake exerts real challenges in trying to strike the balance between the nature, type and extent of services to be provided, and the costs of so doing.  What eventually emerges for the consideration of the elected Members does not capture or express all of the hard work of the finance team that has gone on during the forgoing weeks and months.  Perhaps that is just as well and given that so few members have had little real experience of being responsible for their own sets of budgets in a business context; naivety might be a blessing in this case.  It is estimated that KCC will have to find further savings of £83m this coming financial year – a combination of the reduced grant from Central Government and increased spending requirements – most of which is to meet new legal requirements imposed on all County Councils.  Similar savings are also expected for the next two, possibly three, years ahead.


On this more ‘global’ perspective, the National Audit Office (NAO) has found that local authority grants have been cut by 28% since 2010 and will be cut by a further 9% this coming year.  The NAO identifies those cuts as being in the region of 43% for traffic management issues, while youth services and housing for vulnerable people have been cut by 45% and 34% respectively; spending on culture and leisure services was found to have been cut by 29%.  KCC is ‘in this mix’, given the difference of the odd percentage point or two, but given the integrity and authority of the NAO, this is, indeed, objective validation of the scale of the cuts which local authorities have been required to meet, and a sobering reflection on the impact which now underpins all County Council decisions concerning the spending of Council tax-payers money.


Whilst the budget will eventually come before the full County Council meeting for ratification on the 12th February next, there has been an opportunity for anyone and everyone to make a valuable contribution to helping shape the budget through the on-line consultation.  Last year, the input was crucial in helping to balance the views from within the County Council with those of the members of the public in terms of priorities.  In the event, there was real consistency between the two sets of views which, in turn, reinforced the validity of the work that had gone on beforehand.


Closely related to the work on the budget is that of the Transformation Project which has now reached the stage where virtually all of the proposed bigger changes to the structure and workings of KCC have been laid out, and it is now time to get on with the implementation.  Key to this, and linking this with the savings required in this coming year’s budget, will be the role of the recently convened Commissioning Advisory Board (CAB) which, itself, is the product of one of the recommendations of the Commissioning Select Committee, a spin-off from the Transformation Project.  The key role of the CAB is two-fold – firstly, to bring a much closer Member involvement to all aspects of the service and contractual commissioning undertaken by KCC, and to apply a more business-focused approach to these key financial areas;  secondly and lastly, the CAB will also embrace the implementation of the Transformation Project’s proposals as the entire piece of work is so closely inter-twined with commissioned services.  The CAB will be meeting, on average, twice each month and it is expected that there will be a considerable amount of work for its members to undertake between meetings as well.  This is a new venture into the world of ‘strategic commissioning’ where requirements, rather than expectations, have been clearly defined in advance, leaving no room for misunderstanding, let alone mistakes!


That concludes my report for this last month and follows on from those press releases which I have forwarded to the Parish and Town Councils on the basis of their relevance to those Councils – the press release on clearing away snow from public areas, and that of reporting Paul Carter’s announcement on his rejection of the proposed second runway at Gatwick.  Based upon my experience of the Christmas and New Year period last year when little of relevance or interest for parishes occurred from mid-December through to mid-January, save for the flooding in other parts of Kent, I will combine my monthly reports for December and January into one single report and send it out at the end of January.  If, however, matters of interest or relevance do arise, I will send these out separately and immediately.


In the meantime, many thanks for your continuing support.


d.    Alms Houses:  Mr Johnson reported that the Trustees had held a meeting on 7 October to allocate No 6 to a new tenant who had subsequently moved in, there were now no vacancies.   Work was still required to deal with the damp problem experienced due to the out of date construction of the property.


e.    Neighbourhood Watch:   Mr Johnson advised there were no crime reports for October in either Penshurst or Fordcombe.   The only current problems Mr Johnson had heard about was Flytipping which was both time consuming and expensive to clear.    Two items had been the subject of recalls: Flymo Lawnmowers No. 34600001 to 41900001 with an identified fault which might result in the motor overheating and, in extreme cases, a fire (contact Freephone 0800 0237232);

Unsafe Childrens’ Hats – usually sold at discount shops, market stalls and internet sites.  KCC Trading Standards advise they could cause strangulation.  The two schools have been advised by KCC and Mr Johnson had advised the two nurseries at Well Place and the Village Hall.   Scams involving Government Advice service options on websites were also a problem, charging for their service when the public could obtain the same service free from the bona fide Government website.


f.     Speedwatch:     Mr Loring advised the team had carried out a check on 19 November, accompanied by the police as part of a campaign to support Speedwatch work, checks were carried out between 1 and 3.30 pm with police ticketing nearly ten drivers during that time.   A further check was scheduled to be carried out in the near future.


g.    Gatwick:    Chairman attended meeting with KCC at Hever Castle on 27 November to discuss Gatwick expansion in relation to the Airports Commission’s Consultation.    Paul Carter – Kent County Council – officially reported that KCC had withdrawn its support for a second runway at Gatwick in view of the impact on those living under the proposed flight paths.    The High Weald Councils Aviation Action Group new website is now available – www.hwcaag.org


Report from Richard Streatfield – Chairman of HWCAAG

‘Many thanks to those who turned out for the meeting at Hever Castle last night.  For those who were not there we heard from the Airports Commission on the consultation and a KCC officer on the current situation as Kent saw it. Most interestingly there was an indication that Gatwick will acknowledge the concentration of westerly arrivals. We await to see what they actually say.


As for the remainder of the meeting KCC are in no doubt that the issue is twofold.  The current concentration is unacceptable and the second runway is to be opposed.  Sir John was on good form, still chiding KCC for their 2012 support and asking/demanding that it be rescinded in writing. He gave the airports commission director a hard time about the lack of financial information available to analyse the GAL scheme and like many of his colleagues at the GACC protest he encouraged everyone to respond to the consultation in support of Heathrow.


As for the remainder of the debate both KCC and the Airports commission are left in no doubt why we have formed the group and why so many of our residents are so angry.  I would welcome the thoughts of others who were there but I was struck by the fact the Airports Commission was set up so that we could trust the process of selecting where to expand capacity. One of the areas that I think we can push hard on is how GAL has behaved during the process. Trust is a precious commodity and Gatwick have undermined themselves.  Of course we need to do some technical work on the detail alongside that, but we will now be helped considerably by KCC officers who will do much of the leg work on the bulk of the consultation issues.  I have a call booked in with the planner who gave the KCC talk for next Tuesday happy to take points for him from you all.


I have also been invited by the AC to be a local witness for their event on 16 December at Gatwick.  I get 8 minutes to save the High Weald!  I want to be very clear with the commission so I think I can make a maximum of 4/5 points with the necessary detail.  Please have a think about what you want me to say on behalf of the group’


Chairman John Cass confirmed his attendance at the Hever meeting and recorded that the westerly arrivals operated by the airport had eventually been acknowledged.   Cllr Cass also advised that Sir John Stanley had stated that we should all vote for the extra runway capacity to be sited at Heathrow.


In view of the fact that Michael Knowles had now stood down from his position with the PC as representative on the HWCAAG, Cllr Cass asked for another councillor to consider volunteering for this position.


Report from KCCllr Clive Pearman regarding Gatwick:

Finally, I will mention the meeting which took place at Hever Castle on the 28th and was convened to bring a representative of the Airports Commission (AC) face-to-face with an invited audience of elected representatives and officers from the Parish, Town, District and Borough Councils, and County Councillors, from within that part of West Kent most affected by the noise created by aircraft using Gatwick Airport.  The meeting had been arranged by the County Council, with support from the AC, as part of that organisation’s nation-wide consultation programme on the expansion of Heathrow and Gatwick Airports to meet increased aviation needs in the years ahead.  Representatives of the Parish and Town Councils in the Sevenoaks South Division will, no doubt, provide their own feedback to colleague councillors.


Whilst Paul Carter’s foray into the field of aviation this week by way of his rejection of the proposed second runway at Gatwick Airport, that did not go far enough for Sir John Stanley MP, who was also present at the meeting and who wanted a more forceful response sent to the AC by the Leader of KCC, giving clear directions as to what he expected to be the outcome of the KCC Cabinet meeting this coming Monday, the 1st December, which will look to ratify Paul Carter’s public statements on this issue.  We will wait and see but, for my part, this ‘change of tack’ by the Leader of KCC is but a small matter, albeit important, when the ultimate goal of the public rejection of the proposed second runway by the AC will not be formally announced and published until after the General Election next May.  And the responses and replies to questions posed from the floor of the meeting to the AC representative left me with the clear impression that, for him, this meeting had been that of ‘merely going through the motions’ of consultation, and we’ve all been down that road with Gatwick Airport for the past 3 years!  I hope that I am wrong, but we still have a number of issues to address between now and next May, so the resolve of everyone and, in particular, that of the membership of the HWCAAG, will remain crucial in the months ahead.


7.         HIGHWAYS:

Reported Faults Update:

83586:  Entrance to The Lane, Fordcombe:  Damaged grating cover reported for repair/replacement. Work authorized for contractor, information awaited regarding date of work, traffic signal control required.   Works completed 14 November.

127732: Drains:   Issue originally reported under 93436 –  Drains blocked on New Road past Burzes Cottages, reported again with request to ensure drains/gullies cleared prior to onset of icy weather, this in view of the number of accidents historically occurring on this stretch of road.   Team visited site, checking orders provided to introduce bung to underground drainage pipe.

127729: Path/Kerb Damage:       Clerk requested painting of corner stone outside Penshurst Village Hall be considered in view of number of vehicles already hitting stone on entrance to road to Leigh, area being checked for most suitable option.   Highways will carry out work when possible.

119592:  Hedge – Sandfield Road to Colliersland Bridge:   Request made to clear vegetation from bridge/corner area to aid visibility, further work required, now programmed.    Sufficient clearance work carried out by local resident to aid safety, balance of work left for Highways to complete.

Bidborough/Penshurst Road Boundary & Glebelands to School:  Officers for Sevenoaks/Tunbridge Wells contacted with regard to site meeting.    Originally reported under Ref: 91196

355360:  Flytipping between Swaylands and Poundsbridge Lane reported.

Broad Lane:   Clerk to report poor condition of Broad Lane


Highways Seminar:   Clerk attended meeting with KCC Highways Officers & Managers, funding discussed.   Drainage reduced to clearance of minor drains once every two years, ‘A’ Road drainage annually, lanes/areas with little traffic only when essential.

Complaint registered that requests for clearance of drains reported as having been carried out had not been attended, clerk asked how it was ensured contractors could not claim payment for work not carried out, Drainage Manager unaware of situation but now checking.

Clerk had requested information for circulation to members: mapping system of drains requested plus costs involved in drain clearance.

No in house work team now employed, all work subcontracted to Amey as considered to be much cheaper.   Clerk requested information on ratio of management to working teams, figures awaited.

Potholes will continue to be repaired, criteria more difficult to meet for work to be carried out.


8.                     FINANCE:

The following accounts were presented and approved for payment:

Mr I Streeter                                                                  Lengthsman                                           £178.00

RIP Cleaning Services                                                                 Dog Waste Removal                               £63.36

Underwoodsman Ltd                                                                  Willow Maintenance (Fordcombe

Playground)                                           £90.00


a.   Precept 2015/16 – Bulk Refuse Service and Fun Day included in figures.  Precept to remain at current level to maintain reserves.     Allowances made for financial help for both Fordcombe and Penshurst Village Halls.   Suggested precept after above included £27,206 subject to following considerations.


Decision on request for £3K PC funding towards land survey relating to affordable housing sites:  The Becket Trust and a number of local individuals had now agreed to fund an independent assessment of potential sites in the parish and had appointed their architects to carry out the survey, the land search would identify sites suitable for one or more homes and would not be restricted to current sustainable sites as indicated by the affordable housing rules.   In view of the sum of money involved, the trust was asked to provide a copy of their brief in order that clerk could approach two further land agents to obtain quotations for surveys prior to decision on contributing to procedure.   Contingency fund to be increased by £2,500 to provide funding for project if subsequently found eligible.


Decision on request for £15K PC funding towards Gatwick plane noise campaign.     Cllr O’Shea to report on availability of business plan regarding GON plans, not available at date of meeting. (see also note under Open Session).

Clerk had researched the legal aspect of the funding issue and provided councillors with a statement indicating the input made to the campaign by the PC and GON.  In view of possible accusations of bias the statement had been submitted to  KALC legal officer to provide opinion, his response stated the statement was impartial and could be submitted in order for an informed decision to be made, the comparative material provided also helped to place it in a wider context.  In view of the possible high legal fees assessed as being required by GON clerk asked under what circumstances GON would take legal action; members were advised that a judicial review may be required; clerk suggested if the process relating to the airport expansion decision was found to be flawed in view of the government involvement, any such problem would presumably be dealt with by a public enquiry or similar thereby negating the need for legal action to be taken by individual parishes.


After discussion a request for an increase in the amount currently being offered of £250 was made, clerk requested information on current financial position of GON (members advised approximately £7K expenditure and £11K donations to date ie £4K in hand).    It was proposed by Cllr Frederick that amount precepted be increased from £250 to £1K for future payment when further funding was required, accounts to be provided for PC together with bank account details, ie name etc.


The original figure of £27,206 was adjusted to include the sum for GON of £750 if required and the increase in the contingency figure of £2500 resulting in a precept of £30,456.   Members agreed unanimously with this precept allocation, clerk to advise SDC.

Gang Mowing Costs for 2015:  Quotation received from Landscape Services for approval, increase on previous year 2.5%.  Councillors were unhappy with the standard of work carried out during the 2014 season, alternative quotes to be obtained prior to decision being taken.

CAB – Sevenoaks and Swanley:  Request for donation towards running costs, PC advised that seven residents of Penshurst and Fordcombe had been assisted via the telephone and personally during the year on a wide variety of issues.   Cllr Cooke spoke on behalf of the CAB and their work.  Cllr Mrs Broad suggested £100 donation be made, this was unanimously agreed.


9.                   CORRESPONDENCE:

a.         SDC:  Gypsy and Traveller supplementary site options.  Swanley neighbourhood area and Otford village design statement.

10.                   ANY OTHER BUSINESS:

a.         Penshurst Vintage Fair:   Parking problems encountered by this event previously were being addressed this year, it was hoped the parking area (ground condition permitting) would be available to alleviate the problems.   Chairman asked Cllr O’Shea in his position as Village Hall representative to work with Cllr Carson and report back on their thoughts on parking in Penshurst Village generally.

b.         Penshurst Christmas Market:  This was to be held on the following Friday 5th and Saturday 6th December.   Jill Davidson (SDC Chairman) would be attending as would Tom Tugendhat, prospective MP for Tonbridge to replace Sir John on his retirement.

c.         Broadband:   Problems reported with lack of complete cover in the parish had been reported, clerk had contacted SDC and was awaiting a response from the officer.


Dates for 2015 Meetings:  Penshurst:  2 February, 6 April, 1 June, 3 August, 5 October, 7 December.      Fordcombe:  2 March, 13 April (Annual Parish Assembly), 11 May, 6 July, 7 September, 2 November.  (Fordcombe dates confirmed)

Meeting Concluded 9.55 pm                                                               Next Meeting 2 February 2015