PENSHURST PARISH COUNCIL
Minutes of the Ordinary Parish Council Meeting held on Monday 7 June 2010 at 7.30 pm in Penshurst Village Hall
Prior to the Chairman opening the meeting, Clerk read a statement on behalf of the Councillors, prepared as a result of the discussions at the May meeting with regard to the Forge Field project. (Appendix A)
Clerk had received a letter from the spokesman for the Keep Penshurst Green group requesting amendments to the minutes of the May meeting. Clerk advised that the purpose of PC minutes was to record actions and decisions made by Councillors. She considered that the resume provided of the Open Session had been a fairly accurate record in its representation of the issues raised.
1. PRESENT: Cllrs R Sellings (Chairman), A Campbell, S Frederick, D Geal, M Gilbert, Mrs A Hill, R Horsford, C Viccars
APOLOGIES: Cllrs Mrs D Broad This was approved. SDCllr P Cooke
2. MINUTES OF MEETING HELD ON 4 May, having been circulated were approved and signed by the Chairman.
Declarations of Interest in Agenda Items
If a Member has a prejudicial interest, this should be declared at the start of the meeting.
Personal interests may be declared at this point or alternatively can be declared at the time when the specific item is being discussed, if a Member wishes to speak on an item in which s/he has a personal interest. NONE
In view of the number of parishioners attending the meeting and the inadequate space available it was proposed and agreed that the Open Session be brought forward.
Approximately thirty parishioners were in attendance at the meeting, the following concerns were raised by a spokesman for Keep Penshurst Green together with a number of individual parishioners:
a. Affordable Housing: The PC had for many years investigated the possibility of an affordable housing scheme in the parish. During the last eight years three surveys had been undertaken in the parish, two having been completed and indicating a need in excess of ten affordable homes. Clerk confirmed that the Councillors had originally requested the area of land opposite Penshurst Place be offered for a project to provide affordable housing and a parking area to enable children to take a safer route to the school. The PC had felt this area would be sufficient in size to accommodate the number of affordable houses required together with the parking spaces. It was general practice to build half the number of houses identified as being required, this should ensure that the homes were allocated in line with local need. This request had been refused by Penshurst Place.
The question was asked of those present if they were opposed to the provision of affordable housing in the parish, no one opposed this option but a number of parishioners at the meeting were unhappy with the current proposed site. It was noted that there were also a number of supporters of the housing proposal, including three young couples who might hope to benefit from further local housing should the project come to fruition.
b. Current Proposal: The PC had some time later been approached to take part in discussions with other interested parties with regard to the current project which now included a medical centre and public toilets. The PC had not requested either of the additional facilities although they had sought financial assistance by way of a donation from Penshurst Place in order to maintain the existing public toilets which had been refused. Councillors also felt that new medical facilities would be beneficial for the parish and secure its long term survival which was important for the elderly and vulnerable members of the parish.
c. Steering Group: Parishioners were advised that the Parish Council was classified as the Sponsors of the project, this however gave an unrealistic allusion to the actual part played by the PC. The PC was part of the Steering Group which was convention when such projects were proposed in villages. Members of the PC kept a watching brief at meetings, raising concerns as they arose. As an example one of the objections made by the PC was with regard to the West Kent Housing Association allocation criteria. This, under a final clause, would have permitted housing to be awarded to anyone on the Sevenoaks housing list, members had stated categorically this clause was unacceptable and must be removed. Members had been advised that the Section 106 agreement covering this site would be a unique document in view of the special circumstances of the provision of the land and, therefore, members were of the opinion that no existing criteria need be imposed.
Cllr Viccars raised the possibility of objectivity being compromised with regard to the PC’s involvement in the Steering Group in the process, but noted however that if the PC did not take part in the discussions it would be totally unaware of the progress of the project.
The Steering Group now consisted of numerous representatives from organisations connected with the parish, local authority departments and the housing association but it was felt by the PC that the main contributors to the business of the group came from Penshurst Place and its representatives. Parishioners indicated that the PC seemed cynical about the project, clerk acknowledged this might be the case for some members.
d. Site: Clerk confirmed that the Forge Field was the only site Penshurst Place appeared willing to provide for the project, others inspected had various limitations, ie size, access, non compliance with affordable housing site criteria. The reason for the current site provided by Penshurst Place was that it provided sufficient space for all the component parts of their project.
e. Surgery: The PC had been unaware of the fact that Penshurst Place wished to provide improved medical facilities for the parish until it was raised by them. Members had experienced problems twice in very recent years when it was suggested the village may lose the facility altogether. The PC had been advised by Warders’ representative on the Steering Group that the main problems with the existing facilities was that it was not DDA compliant and that the amount and type of medical service it was possible to offer was severely limited due to lack of size and quality of accommodation. A parishioner advised there were over twenty doctor surgeries within a five mile radius of the parish, this was disputed by councillors. It was also noted that not all parishioners had access to cars and public transport was very poor.
f. Housing Association: Cllr Lake pointed out that there appeared to be a link between SDC and WKHA and asked why the PC had not approached the Rural Housing Trust or Beckett Trust to proceed with the project. Clerk confirmed that the PC had previously tried to work with the Rural Housing Trust to provide affordable housing, no land had been found to further the project at that time. The PC had asked that Penshurst Place reconsider their decision to appoint West Kent Housing Association who was the preferred partner of SDC, to work on the project. The PC had spoken with the Beckett Trust with a view to their undertaking the project but when Penshurst Place were approached by the PC with this proposition the suggestion was refused and the PC were told the matter was closed.
g. Village Hall: The question of the future viability of the village hall was raised by a parishioner, not only in view of the possible move of the surgery and its consequential loss of rental income but also because the church had plans to increase its facilities. It was felt that alterations could be carried out to accommodate the extra requirements of the surgery although PC members were not convinced that alterations would improve access for the disabled to the property.
h. Flooding: Cllr Lake stated that the field had flooded nearly to the top in 1968 and asked what impact this would have on the project. Clerk confirmed members had raised this issue at a steering group meeting and been advised that the Environment Agency information indicated that flood water should reach no further than just below the proposed parking area line. Members were however, sceptical of this.
i. Project Information: Parishioners were unhappy that they had not been involved in the project until the exhibition was held. Cllr Lake pointed out that usually they would not have been made aware of anything until the planning application was received for consideration. Clerk advised that the PC had wanted to provide as much accurate information as possible when it became available and it was due to this that the exhibition was arranged in April in order that parishioners could now become involved and voice opinions and concerns with regard to the plans.
j. Public Toilets: A parishioner asked why the village needed two public toilets. Clerk advised that the toilets included in the project site would replace the existing ones. SDC had withdrawn funding for the public toilets and as a one off gesture the PC had provided a contribution in order that the toilets could remain open for the current year, it was unlikely however councillors would agree to this financial expenditure again. It was noted therefore that if the toilets were not maintained as part of the project the village would no longer have this facility when SDC withdrew funding for the existing ones and they were closed.
k. Publications: In view of the PC’s title as Sponsor of the project, parishioners had assumed that all information, questionnaires and the newsletter circulated had been produced solely by the PC. Clerk advised this was not the case. The PC had contributed to the main information document with regard to the section on the public toilets, the other information had been provided by many of the other representatives of the various groups involved. The final collation, printing and postage of the short Newsletter and questionnaire had been carried out by SDC.
l. Questionnaires: The questions asked on the yellow questionnaire were criticised as it was considered they automatically led the parishioner to provide positive answers and the results collected would therefore not be relevant. There was also no option to vote against the proposed site and it was felt that any comments made would not be taken into account. Clerk confirmed that the questionnaires provided at the exhibition had been analysed together with all the comments made on the forms being listed individually indicating either a positive or negative comment. The KPG had produced its own questionnaire based on the yellow one but had expanded the questions to obtain further information. It was their intention to deliver this to everyone in the parish with a return date of the 13 June.
In view of the concerns raised at the meeting it was suggested:
Mr Ivan Carson (KPG) liaise with the clerk to provide an analysis of the responses received to their questionnaire. (It would be necessary to confirm the number delivered and the number returned)
PC to appraise the steering group of the information obtained from the second questionnaire circulated at the next meeting
PC to provide copy of section of minutes indicating the areas of concern raised at the meeting for the steering group
Mr Carson to provide clerk with any other items they wished reported at the steering group meeting.
Mr Carson to provide all available information by 8am 16 June 2010.
PC to raise the possibility of splitting the project between sites ie affordable housing in Forge Field or other smaller site, the surgery on the old BT site or possibly other alternatives.
3. MATTERS ARISING:
a. Fordcombe Hospital Bus Stop: No further response received from Speldhurst PC, it was hoped a member of the PC could discuss this issue directly with one of their councillors.
b. Saltbins: List of sites at which salt bins are considered necessary were at the bottom of Glebelands, the top of Smarts Hill and Nashes Lane. A further bin would be required at the top of Chafford Lane and a replacement one would be needed for a damaged one opposite Hedge Barton. Clerk to approach highways.
a. Swaylands: Three apartments in Woodgate had been sold, there were four left in the main house. It was anticipated the main work would be completed by July.
b. Kent County Councillor: No report
c. Sevenoaks District Councillor: Matters arising from council meeting on 4 May, information provided by Cllr Cooke as appended below:
Affordable Housing – Chiddingstone/Charcott
Councillor Cooke has investigated the status of the residents who are occupying the Social Housing at Chiddingstone Causeway and Charcott and he has been advised by the Parish Clerk and West Kent Housing that the occupants were all from within the Parish Boundaries of Chiddingstone and Leigh. One of the parishioners was sceptical that this was in fact the case.
Forge Field Development/Swaylands Planning Approval
Councillor Cooke also undertook to establish why Social Housing was not incorporated into the final planning approval for Swaylands. He spoke to D Rivers who was one of the Directors at the time involved in negotiations with both Sevenoaks District Council and Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. The following is a brief resume on the events leading up to the final planning permission.
· Planning consent was obtained by using the “Enabling Development Argument”.
· This establishes special circumstances in respect of the refurbishment of a Nationally Important or Listed Building which requires major maintenance and repair works.
· Within the negotiations the developer can insist on there being a permitted level of new build that will make the overall scheme profitable.
· The two Councils discussed the inclusion of Social Housing within the scheme but this would have entailed further new build to be permitted in order that a reasonable return was established.
· There is no fixed rule as to the sums involved in such an argument but the negotiations were/are required to be open book and the Councils appointed a Chartered Surveyor and Chartered Accountant to scrutinize the figures.
· As a result part of the S106 Agreement Honeygrove, or their successor, was bound as part of the agreement to provide £75,000.00 to the school on the sale of the first property.
· It was also considered that the provision of Social Housing on the Swaylands site was not suitable as it did not meet the strict criteria of the Housing Association, e.g. the proximity of the site to the village and its facilities.
· The final agreement was achieved after lengthy debate and compromise which spanned over a period in excess of three years.
This outlines the reasoning behind the final planning permission at Swaylands which was not finalised without a good deal of structured discussion and negotiation.
POLYTUNNELS: Councillor Cooke confirms that A Shorter has modified his application by email to agree to an eight year period for the planning permission to run.
d. KALC: Members were advised the next scheduled meeting would be on 11 June 2010.
e. Community Officer : No report
f. Alms Houses: The Quinquennial report had been completed. Two apartments would need to be vacated to refurbish them due to the damp problems, it was anticipated the cost would be high.
g. Proposed Affordable Housing/Medical Centre Project: Main report at beginning of meeting.
Clerk had attended a meeting at Oak Hill in Maidstone regarding current highways services. Mr Roger Manning, Chairman of the Joint Transport Board had been in attendance. The clerk had listed a number of complaints including poor performance in relation to swathe cutting and alteration of policies to make it more difficult for parishes to comply with requirements for services to be provided. Clerk was asked to contact highways to ascertain what, if any, funding could be transferred to the parish to help with costs involved, should the PC decide to appoint their own contractor to carry out verge works.
Longbridge: Work continuing.
River Medway Bridleway Bridge: Completion anticipated by August.
Road Surface – Fordcombe: Reported to Sue Ireland, no further information available.
Interactive Road Signs: Sue Ireland advised 21 May further information awaited on interactive signs regarding siting and criteria for installation.
Penshurst Churchyard: Nicky Biddall inspecting work completed in Penshurst churchyard, response awaited after return from holiday. Clerk to contact regarding slippery surface and check who was responsible for any remedial works, Cllr Gilbert would meet with the officer if required.
Potholes: 4494 Poundsbridge Lane, Speldhurst: Sent to utility/ Third Party for action on 10 February, Sue Ireland advised this had been forwarded to East Sussex County Council to deal with on 11 February. Clerk to report further potholes at the end of The Lane where the tree had recently been removed together with one outside Cleave House in Fordcombe. (Ref. No. 17703417)
Drainage: Drain cover surrounds had recently been repaired between the bridges on Rogues Hill, these now collected water during heavy rain. Clerk to report. (Ref. 12593)
Footpath Signs: Information on date of repairs awaited after tendering process for missing footpath sign from Spring Hill/Manor Drive area and damaged footpath sign adjacent to Daneby Hall, The Lane.
Doubleton Lane: Cats eyes appeared to be proud of the road after recent installation when resurfacing had finished. Clerk to report. (Ref. No. 12594)
Footpath Provision to Doubleton Lane: Clerk to check position with regard to the possibility of path being provided from Doubleton Lane.
Road Signage: Clerk to report ‘Bend’ sign still missing from pole on Coldharbour Lane. (Ref. No. 12595)
SE/10/01135: 4 The Glebe, Penshurst: Loft conversion with velux windows and gable window. No Comment
SE/10/00743: 3 Smarts Hill, Penshurst: Hardstanding for vehicles in front garden. GRANTED
SE/10/00438: Chafford Rise, Chafford Lane, Fordcombe: Demolition of garage and erection of replacement: GRANTED
SE/10/00524: Godfrey House, Coldharbour Road, Penshurst: Formation of swimming pool within the domestic curtilage of property. GRANTED
SE/10/00427: The Old Rectory, High Street, Penshurst: Installation of reclaimed gate. GRANTED
SE/09/02937: Beech Glade, Doubleton Lane, Penshurst: Single storey extension. APPEAL ALLOWED
a. KCC: Statement of Community Involvement: Draft for Consultation
b. KCC: Kent Minerals and Waste Development Framework – Publication of Scoping Report for Sustainability Appraisal/Strategic Environmental Assessment
The following accounts were presented and approved for payment.
Mr I Streeter Lengthsman 78.00
RIP Cleaning Services Dog Waste Removal 38.07
Penshurst Place Allotment Rental 7.50
9. ANY OTHER BUSINESS
a. Parish Council: A parishioner thanked the members of the parish council on their work for the parish in relation to the housing project and congratulated them on their teamwork in this respect. Members appreciated the sentiment of the compliment.
Meeting concluded at 10.15 pm Next Meeting 5 July 2010 – Fordcombe