PARISH HEADLINES 44

This is my recollection of the parish council meeting last week:

  • The new parish clerk, Vinny McLean, was officially welcomed to the Council. She is going to be working from the new parish council office on Bramble Lane (Briar Close). The council passed a vote of thanks to the Baptist Church in Brook for accommodating the office for the past 4 years.
  • Councillor Shoults reported that the meeting with Telereal Trillium and Ashford Borough Council which had been set for March 24 had been postponed due to illness. It is likely to take place towards the end of April.
  • Councillor Ovenden has been discussing the date of the referendum on the Wye Neighbourhood Plan with Ashford Borough Council. It is still unclear as to when this will be. The parish council feel that it would be good if it could happen as soon as possible while the Neighbourhood Plan process and consultation is still fresh in people’s minds.
  • John Mansfield has obtained details from the Land Registry which seem to suggest that Telereal Trillium paid £11.15 million for the WYE3 site. However, the documentation is unclear whether this was for ‘everything’ so we are endeavouring to obtain clarification.
  • A parishioner has complained to the parish council about the closure of the footpath alongside the Old Vicarage on the Green. This has been a ‘permissive path’ and I told the council that it was my understanding that the path had been closed in order that the new owners can restore the garden to the rear of the house. It was agreed that the council should contact Kent County Council footpaths department to obtain an explanation as to the rights and wrongs of the situation.
  • There was discussion about the plaque for the Centenary Green and about a tree for the Recreation Ground. Both matters are in hand.
  • The community warden reported that there have been several incidences of petty crime: theft of a motor vehicle, theft of solar lights, and the ADAS site has been broken into and vandalised. In addition there have been issues with teenagers using the communal areas of Martin House, sometimes in the middle of the night.
  • The first subsidised community lunch, organised by Our Place, was held at the Corner Cafe. 7 people attended.
  • A gas-fired beacon is to be lit on the Crown on April 21 as part of  the Queen’s 90th-birthday celebrations.
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PARISH HEADLINES 43

This is my recollection of last week’s parish council meeting:

  • It was agreed to accept the revisions to the Neighbourhood Plan as recommended by examiner Richard High. (These revisions had been previously accepted by the community at a public meeting on February 22nd.) Councillor Shoults explained that the procedure was now to request Ashford Borough Council (ABC) for a referendum. And that thanks should be expressed to officers at Ashford for helping us get this far.
  • Councillor Bartley suggested changes to the picture on the front cover of the plan – and also that a dedication to the late Ian Coulson, previous chair of the Neighbourhood Plan group, should be included on the index page.
  • Councillor Shoults reported that he has been writing to various MPs and ministers of the government to object to the extension of permitted development rights beyond May 2016 – which would allow Telereal Trillium to build 52 flats on the ADAS site. Unfortunately it seems likely that the extension will go ahead nonetheless.
  • Councillor Shoults also reported that ABC, Telereal Trillium and the parish council were now agreed that there should be a collaborative masterplan for WYE3, conducted within the guidelines of the Neighbourhood Plan. The first meeting to address how this might come about will take place in Ashford on March 24.
  • At the public meeting on February 22nd there were concerns raised about the treatment of commercial tenants by both Imperial College and Telereal Trillium, and, at this parish council meeting, it was noted that one of the village’s largest employers BCP Certis was leaving the village with the loss of 30-40 jobs. Councillors resolved to find out more about reasons for the company’s departure.
  • There was much discussion about projects which could be in receipt of Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) payments. It was decided that this subject merited a meeting of its own.
  • It was noted that there was a new lease agreed between the tennis club and the Village Hall and Recreation Ground charity.
  • It was agreed to light a beacon on the Crown to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday in April.
  • The community warden, Richard Sinden, talked about numerous incidents of petty crime in the village:  petrol stealing, milk bottle stealing, fly-tipping, and quite substantial trees being felled to make fires in the woods.
  • The community warden said that he’d also accompanied Dave Martin on a tour of eating outlets in Wye to find out about affordable meals for the elderly. This information is to be published as part of the Our Place project.
  • The borough councillor, Noel Ovenden, said that there was nothing of significance to report from Ashford Borough Council.

 

 

 

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PARISH HEADLINES 42

This is my recollection of the parish council meeting last week:

  • The Neighbourhood Plan has now been amended to take account of recommendations made by the examiner Richard High. A public meeting is being planned for February 22nd where these changes will be explained to the community. A decision on whether to proceed to referendum will be made at the next council meeting in early March. (The decision has to be made both by the Parish Council and Ashford Borough Council.) See here for Councillor Shoults’ full report: 160113NP Council report on examination and beyond
  • Councillors discussed the budget for 2016-17 at some length. It was agreed that there needed to be a substantial increase to the precept in order to cover costs of the parish office moving to Wye, improvements to the village hall, and the recruitment of a responsible financial officer to help with parish accounts.
  • It was noted that Telereal Trillium intend to upgrade the offices to 52 small accommodation units on the ADAS site, using law on permitted development. Councillor Shoults has made representation to the local MP (and others) suggesting that such permitted development rights should not be permitted in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
  • Councillors discussed Section 106 agreements. It was noted that the three new houses on Oxenturn Road would deliver £2071 each for the outside space connected to the village hall project (see here for agreement). Councillor Ovenden explained that Section 106 money could only be allocated by the borough to an existing project (and budget). There was a need therefore to draw up further projects in Wye, and also to log where Section 106 monies were being allocated.
  • Councillor Bartley reported that Locality had given a verbal assurance that the final £21,000 of the Our Place grant would be paid.
  • A grant application was going to be made for £3000 to the Children’s Playing Field Charity to help pay for play equipment costs and maintenance.
  • The borough councillor Noel Ovenden reported that it had been a quiet month with few meetings. The boundaries commission had made recommendation that wards in Ashford should be made more equal, and that this would probably mean that Wye will expand. Councillor Ovenden is on the group responding to the recommendations and is therefore well-placed to define the nature of such expansion.
  • The community warden was absent/otherwise engaged
  • It was noted that the Queen was going to be 90 this year. Councillors discussed whether we should mark the occasion in some way.
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PARISH HEADLINES 41

I did not attend the parish council meeting on January 7. The following is therefore a summary of the draft minutes:

  • The examiner’s response to the Neighbourhood Plan was anticipated (it has subsequently been delivered: Wye Examination Report And Councillor Shoults has written a summary: 160112NP Council report on examination  )
  • The council discussed the Telereal Trillium properties on Upper Bridge Street (Wolfson House) and the High Street (Wolfson lecture theatre and the listed properties adjacent and the carpark). This is taken from the draft minutes:
    Councillors discussed a range of issues with the proposed plans including
    a serious lack of parking,
    lack of storage and outside space for waste/recycling bins and bicycles and amenity
    the height of the Upper Bridge Street properties when compared to adjacent properties
    the small size of some rooms.
    This largely arises from trying to put too many properties on the site at too high a density.
    The Chairman agreed to send a more detailed report to TT and Hobbs Parker, including the items discussed and those set out in his report.
  • The possible development of the DEFRA site through “permitted development” was discussed at length. In particular councillors noted that the buildings were no longer structurally safe, the distance of the site outside the walkable settlement and the likelihood of light pollution from the area being visible from the Crown. The Chair is to write to Ashford Borough Council (and others) on the issue.
  • The Ashford branch of the Kent Association of Local Councils (KALC) is to write a response to Ashford Borough Council’s draft local plan. Ashford KALC should be made aware of our draft Neighbourhood Plan so that their response takes our issues into account.
  • Councillors noted the comment deadline of 8th January for 157,616 square metre storage and distribution shed at Highfield Lane, Sevington. Councillors authorised a response.
  • Consultation on junction 10A was due to start in mid-January for two months. Councillors Ovenden and Dodd were delegated to consider implications for Wye.
  • A public meeting about the proposed lorry park adjacent to junction 11 on the M20 is to be held at Westenhanger Castle on January 22nd. Damian Collins MP will be attending.
  • A resident has written requesting a reduction in speed limit on Harville Road. The council agreed to support her argument and will write to KCC Highways.
  • James Ingleton, Kent Fire and Rescue Services, reported that the Wye fire station is down to four volunteer firefighters. He is hoping to recruit others. He also reported that they now attend some medical emergencies in addition to fighting fires.
  • It was agreed to install the defibrillator at the fire station rather than at the public WCs as had been previously agreed.
  • The community warden Richard Sinden reported on continuing thefts of fuel and of tools from outbuildings on Scotton Street.
  • He also said that he’d be talking to food outlets in Wye about the possibility of providing a low cost meal to older residents once a week.
  • Councillor Bartley reported that the Millennium Stone at the Crown had been irreparably broken. Councillor Shoults was going to write to Imperial College (the landowner) to find out if there were funds for its replacement. (Subsequent to the meeting a reply has been received saying that Imperial believe that responsibility lies with the parish council and that a fund was set up to cater for this.)
  • Lucy Gillespie-Tomasevic has resigned from the council.
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INSPECTOR CALLS

image

Some quick notes about today’s public hearing called by examiner Richard High about the Wye Neighbourhood Plan. As usual this is my recollection rather than any official record:

  • The mistake whereby some of the Olantigh estate land had been included in WYE3 in one of the maps was quickly dealt with. Mr High said that it would be changed for the final version of the plan.
  • The procedure regarding the strategic environmental assessment (SEA) took rather longer. Mr High explained that regulations dictated that there should have been three distinct steps to setting up the SEA: first a screening assessment and consultation; then a determination and subsequent information provided to the three environmental bodies involved (Kent AONB, Natural England and the Environment Agency); and then finally you carry out an SEA. John Mansfield (representing Wye Parish Council) and Simon Cole (Ashford Borough Council) explained that they felt that the considerable consultation on possible development sites was an equally thorough procedure.
  • Finally the issue of the concentric village. The inspector was curious as to how the idea of 400 metres or five minute walk had been arrived at. Telereal Trillium said that they wondered why it had been decided that the centre point should be near the Methodist Church (thereby excluding much of WYE3); that the ADAS site was entirely inappropriate as a site for a solar farm (as suggested in Neighbourhood Plan) because it was too small and shaded; and that while they could accept that concentricity was important, they felt that brownfield land should be developed first of all. They also said that the development of the school (soon to sign a lease for 9 acres along Olantigh Road) would mean that the village is developing towards ADAS anyway. And they explained that they were in process of applying for permitted development on the ADAS site. John Mansfield explained that the Neighbourhood Plan did allow for the siting of business or office use on the ADAS site. This was something that both the inspector and Telereal Trillium had not been aware of.

The inspector said that he would process this information as soon as he could, initially sending a version for fact checking to the borough council, before publishing recommendations. He said that this was likely to be after Christmas.

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PARISH HEADLINES 40

This is my recollection of last week’s parish council meeting:
  • The public hearing for the Neighbourhood Plan will now be held at the Julie Rose Centre (not at St Anselm’s Church as previously advised). The time however is the same: 8th December at 10 am. While it is open to the public it is not expected that members of the community will have an opportunity to speak.
  • Telereal Trillium have called a meeting at the primary school for 7pm on December 15th to discuss possible developments of Wolfson Hall and Wolfson House. (This meeting is not open to the whole village – just neighbours of these developments.)
  • Telereal Trillium have notified the parish council (and the village as a whole in their newsletter) that they intend to go for ‘permitted development’ on the ADAS site. This government regulation enables developers to upgrade commercial property into residential, and TT say they intend to put 52 one-bed and two-bed flats on the site. The parish council, aware that such a plan flies in the face of the Neighbourhood Plan, discussed the motivations and appropriate response.
  • Taylor Wimpey, the company developing WYE1, were invited to attend the meeting to explain progress, and to answer questions regarding the felling of a tree and the muck on the road at the bottom of Churchfield Way. They didn’t attend.
  • The village hall extension and refurbishment was discussed. In particular Councillor Reece explained that he was going to apply to the parish council for a grant of £15,000 in order to top up existing funds (£40,000) so that a grant application can be made to Kent County Council for matching funds (up to £50,000) before the end of the year. The parish council approved such a grant in principle – subject to a grant application being submitted and agreed.
  • The parish council agreed to make a grant of £1000 to the PCC for purchase of a new pew for the church modernisation.
  • Councillor Ovenden explained that the brickworks site in Naccolt had changed hands – and that it was therefore necessary to keep an eye on how the approved designs were being amended. Plot 1 for example, closest to the road, needed to face in two directions – Naccolt Road and the cul de sac around which the 8 houses are to be built.
  • There was some discussion about the community benefits (Section 106) to be had from the construction of the 3 houses on Oxenturn Road near the surgery. Councillors wondered if this money might be applied to the village hall improvements. If not, then the thinking was that it should be applied to improvement of the allotments, the riverside walk or a green gym. (In accordance with a list drawn up for the Neighbourhood Plan.)
  • In the absence of the community warden (scheduled), the borough councillor reported that there had been a recent increase in petty crime in the area: thefts from cars (including petrol), sheds and garages.
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PUBLIC INQUIRY INTO CYCLEPATH

The inquiry in progress at Chilham Village Hall

Sometimes procedure in this country is as quaint as it is baffling.

The inquiry concerning the Byway Open to All Traffic AE249 at Chilham (commonly known as Cycle Route 18) has just taken place at Chilham Village Hall.

The inspector, Mr Alan Beckett, arrived to listen to entreaties by the Trail Riders Fellowship that the route should be open to all traffic (but in particular noisy motorbikes and landrovers), and objections from the rest of society defending the collective right to a bit of peace and quiet.

To me this has always appeared a very straightforward case. There are very few people locally who would welcome the trail riders. At the inquiry Mr Beckett asked the assembled throng of 30 or 40 members of the public if anyone supported them. No-one put up their hand.

But then, because this is the law and therefore slightly detached from reality, Mr Beckett explained that the case would be decided on historical evidence as to whether AE249 was actually the old Canterbury to Wye road, and whether it had always been open to motor vehicles. Any current concerns about the environment, peace and quiet, litter etc would therefore be ignored.

In one stroke, the assembled throng was therefore disempowered – apart from two retired lawyers who, thankfully, were familiar with the sort of rigmarole that we were then subjected to.

The trail riders provided a late submission. There was then the question of how people were going to respond or even see this late submission. There was no photocopier in the hall. So two members of the public trooped off to the church to use the copier there.

The inspector (one of the better ones I was told by people who know these things) kept remarkably cool while lawyers and an officer from Kent County Council then discussed the documents that were available to the inspection – and some that were missing. The lawyers cross-examined on the missing documents. Just how did they come to be missing?

That, it became apparent, is not a very easy question to answer. They were just missing.

The public looked on bewildered. Much of the discussion focused on old maps but there was no projector in the hall. The lawyers gathered round a table at the front of the room, discussing things quietly. This wasn’t really a very public inquiry. They might have been discussing their next round of golf or the menu at the Woolpack for all we knew.

At lunchtime I and many others in the audience gave up, heading home thinking about how odd it is that, in this age of austerity, the legal profession can get away with such time-wasting, such ancient practices, and such excess. Four whole days were set aside for the inquiry. I shudder to think about the legal fees incurred.

For the record, it was actually concluded in one and a half days. All the submissions took place on the first day (please see submission from Wye, Godmersham and Chilham parish councils here: 150913 AE429 Appeal Statement  – together with the map below) and the second morning was taken up with a site visit.

The result? At the time of writing, we are still waiting. And according to Chris Wade, the officer attending from Kent County Council, we are unlikely to hear the result before Christmas.

But it might not end there. The trail riders could go to appeal. And even if the trail riders win, Kent County Council say that they have other legal means to prevent anyone driving on the path.

It could go on for years and years. And all this about a footpath.

Only in Britain.

A not very public public inquiry: lawyers gathered round the maps

1840s railway map

The 1840s railway map on which the submission of Wye, Godmersham and Chilham was based. The purple shaded area shows how the railway obliterated the old Canterbury to Wye road – which was not rebuilt. (Courtesy Caroline Spencer)

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