PENSHURST PARISH COUNCIL
Report of Annual Parish Assembly held Tuesday 10 April 2012 at 7. 30 pm in Penshurst Village Hall
1. Apologies: Cllr A Campbell
In attendance: Cllrs J Cass (Chairman) Mrs D Broad, S Frederick, J Horsford, B Townsend
2. Minutes of the Meeting held on 11 April 2011 were approved and signed by the Chairman.
3. Chairman’s Report: Cllr John Cass – I have to say this has not been a normal year!!
As usual the work of the Parish Council has mainly involved planning applications – and of course there are no prizes for guessing which of these has taken up most of our time. Leaving the affordable housing project until later I would like to thank Dianne Broad and Andy Campbell who have born the brunt of arranging and attending site meetings for all the other applications, which of course are very important to the individuals making them. Thanks also go to Jonathan Horsford for supporting us on site meeting.
Traffic speeding through our villages continues to cause concern and Jeremy Broadhead is working towards returning the Speedwatch system to a higher plane, we are still looking for more volunteers to help with this most important issue.
Drains and potholes still cause concern but may be because of a largely friendly winter things have improved.
As you are all aware we receive less and less monetary support from district and county for services we have taken for granted over the years. We are now having to fund the public toilets in Penshurst, this is a considerable expense and we will have to shortly decide whether or not it is right for residents, who rarely need to use them, to continue this funding.
We arrange periodic bulk refuse collections and this of course helps cut down on fly tipping. We continue to fund the Family Fund Day on Fordcombe Cricket Ground which is very popular with children of all ages from all over the parish. In a similar vein the childrens’ play area has now been officially opened and is proving most welcome. As a matter of interest keeping our two villages clean, including swathe and verge cutting, now costs very nearly £10,000 per annum.
The major involvement of the year has of course been the application to build six affordable dwellings on Forge Field. All of we parish councillors profess to support affordable housing as does the vast majority of parishioners. There is however an extremely well organised anti Forge Field movement which has, during the course of the year, delayed the hearing of this application by SDC. Currently the intended date for this consideration is as their May meeting. Hopefully after that meeting we can all move on and decide how we can help the children, who have grown up in our villages, be able to afford to stay in them.
One example of the acrimony that has been raised is the use of the Governance Review to try and change the constitution of our parish council. Three proposals were put forward; the first to declare UDI and to split us into separate parishes of Penshurst and Fordcombe, this was turned down. Secondly, keep the parish as is but only allow each ward to vote on issues that are directly related to it, also turned down – seemed unworkable. Thirdly, combine wards so that, for example, someone with a post code of TN11 does not have to vote in Fordcombe. This has been adopted. Everyone now has until early July to pass on their comments, please do so. I personally would like to say that the current system has worked for both villages over all these years and to change that tradition now, almost on a whim, may not be sensible.
It is of course Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee this year, as is custom the parish council is marking the occasion to suite each villages’ requests. The school children at Penshurst School are to receive commemorative mugs and at Fordcombe a picnic bench and table is to be erected in the play area.
Finally my thanks to our clerk, Evelyn, for all her work in what for her has been a difficult year.
4. Retreat Charity: A written report was received from Mrs Janie Hill:
Minor repairs and general maintenance of the two properties has continued as usual; the iron gates have been welded and repaired, the drains have been cleared and quite a lot of work has been done on the two boilers to ensure maximum efficiency. A walk-in shower has been installed in 2, The Retreat and the old bath removed. This was done at the request of the tenants and will improve their quality of life.
There has been a small rent increase and these are now being paid monthly rather than four weekly. A Statement of Accounts for 2011/12 has been provided for the council.
5. Penshurst School Governor’s Report: Patricia A Middleton, Chair of Governors:
The school roll is currently 105. A new TA was the only major staff change during the year. Two new Governors have joined, Sophie Curra and Liz Woolman.
The academic achievement of pupils at the school is excellent. The National Curriculum test results are well above the national average and the school is amongst the top twenty in the National Schools League tables and in the top four primary schools in Kent – a remarkable achievement for a school of its size. The Headteacher has been congratulated by the Minister of State. Ofsted’s classification of the school remains ‘Outstanding’.
The school continue to offer coaching in tri-golf, kwicksticks, rugby, football, netball, basketball and cross country running and is at present competing in the county netball and tri-golf tournaments. The football team did well and the Year 5 & 6 girls came first in a recent cross country running competition. Extra curricular clubs are run by staff and parents on a voluntary basis including music, craft, speech and drama and dance. The Singing Club performed again at the Young Voices at the 02 in London, some also took part in the Tunbridge Wells Speech and Drama Festival, coming away with prizes. The pupils have benefited from various outings and workshops to museums and theatres to enhance studies. Before Easter Years 5 & 6 went to the PGL centre at Marchant’s Hill as part of ‘School Journey’ and Years3 & 4 went to the Armada Event at Penshurst Place.
Some internal changes were made, extending the library area and updating the toilet blocks together with some small additions to the playground area. General maintenance work is planned for the current year and funding is being sought for some major changes to the reception and kitchen areas.
The Governors remain concerned about road safety, in particular: the speed of traffic through the village and insufficient policing of the 30MPH; inadequate parking facilities leading to unsafe parking; insufficient footpaths through the village to enable safe walking to school. The concerns have been raised with the Parish Council and the Police and the school continues to promote road safety with parents and children.
The winning entry in the road safety poster competition will shortly be displayed outside the school prompting drivers to drive and park safely around the school; fluorescent vests were donation by the Friends of the school so pupils can be easily seen around the village. The Council’s consideration in trying to find other ways to improve road safety were welcomed, Cllr Carson would attend the next Governors’ meeting in this connection.
The school links with the church in Penshurst remains strong, pupils attending special services to mark Harvest, Christmas and Mothering Sunday to support the services with prayers, poetry, drama and singing. The school was grateful to Rev. Holme for his continuing support with RE, Worship and his work as Governor. The school is fortunate to have a very active Friends group, regular events being arranged for the older children to attend which help them build their confidence and practice social skills. The Friends Family Fishing Day was a huge success with over 40 children learning about angling. The Friends donated a nest box last year with camera so the children could watch a bluetit family.
The PTA is very active and so far have organised very successful events for bonfire night and a Christmas Fayre raising important funding for the school. The school is grateful for their support and everyone was welcome to the Summer Fete on 7 May.
The Governors would like to thank the Headteacher, Miss Armstrong, all the teaching staff, parents, the PTA and the Friends for their help and support of the school throughout the year. Appreciation also goes to the organisers of the Penshurst Spring Fair who have donated money from the proceeds of the Fair, this was used to purchase a new music centre of the school. Tribute was also paid to the pupils for their hard work and achievements during the year.
The Chairman of the Parish Council asked if the pupils at the school were those of local families, it was confirmed that most of the children were from the local village with others from surrounding areas including a small number of siblings from Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells.
Cllr Cass offered to arrange to put the school’s road safety poster on the PC website if it would be made available.
6. Fordcombe School Governor’s Report: Nick Weaver – Chairman of Governors –
The school has had an extremely busy and testing time over the last twelve months. Mr Dungate’s resignation last year, after eleven years in charge was inevitably the start of a period change and development. Mr Dungate was given a fond send off by the children and everyone connected with the school. His contribution to the school during his time at Fordcombe was enormous and his legacy will be long lasting. We are very fortunate and grateful to have had such an excellent Head.
We went through the process of advertising and interviewing for a new Head twice in order to find the right person for the job. Miss Bowers took over in September; she has twenty years previous experience as the Head of a church primary school. She is settling in well, although an Ofsted inspection shortly after her arrival has increased the pressure on her and all the staff. Ofsted gave us an overall grading of satisfactory because although there are good and outstanding elements to the school they want to see an improvement in the children’s attainment. Miss Bowers, the staff and governors are all working on a strategy to deliver this. Following the Ofsted visit we had the statutory inspection from the Diocese; we were delighted to be judged by them to be outstanding.
The other staff change which occurred at the end of the summer term was the retirement of Mrs Brill. She was a hugely popular, experienced teacher who taught part time in the reception class. Mrs Brill’s departure enabled Mrs Tindal to move from year 3/4 teaching to the reception class, which in turn left a vacancy for a part time 3/4 teacher. We appointed Miss Miles to this position and she is now well established in that class.
Whilst all these changes have been going on around them, the rest of school life has followed its normal pattern for the children. The year 6 children took the SAT exams, and achieved some excellent results last summer. They spent a week on an outdoor adventure course at Carroty Wood at the end of the term and then moved on to secondary school. Seven of the cohort of fifteen passed the eleven plus and went to grammar schools.
Our links with the church are strong with dedicated whole school services for the main festivals, monthly family services to which the children contribute and the church garden party which is held on the school field. We are very grateful to Rev Holme for the increased amount of time he spends in the school and his support as a governor.
The school has been re-awarded Eco School status for its environmental work, we are grateful to Mrs Brill for coming back into school following her retirement to assist with this.
There is a wide and expanding range of extra curricular clubs. A group of children recently joined other schools at the O2 for Young Voices 2012. The children have benefited from a variety of visits and trips. These have included trips to Bedgebury Pinetum, Singleton Weald and Downland Museum, the Science Museum and the Trinity Theatre to name but a few.
We are currently preparing a planning application to add a small toilet extension to one of the buildings. This will enable us increase the size of the reception classroom and address the problem of a lack of toilet facilities. I have the plans with me and would be happy to show anyone who is interested after the meeting.
The number of pupils on role is currently 104 and we anticipate a full intake of 15 children in September. There is one place on the governing body which should be filled in the next couple of weeks and we are about to advertise for an additional part time teacher.
In summary the school continues to adapt to the changing requirements placed upon it. It remains popular and successful thanks to the hard work and dedication of the staff, the support of the parents and the enthusiasm of the children.
Mr Weaver confirmed that generally the pupils came from the village with a small number again coming from surrounding areas.
7. District Councillor’s Report: Cllr Cooke:
Rather than dwelling on the negatives of political life, I thought that I would explain the recent introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework 2012 which will have a huge impact on our community and the residents of Sevenoaks District of which is 93% is classified as Greenbelt.
The ‘default answer is ‘yes’ to development’ has gone, reducing the risk that the planning system will be used to implement unsustainable development.
The challenge is to change the unsustainable pattern and to create a more evenly balanced relationship between the user and our natural environment!
Final NPPF published on 27 March 2012, following consultation during 2011. Available at http://www/communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/nppf
Local authorities must work together to address larger than local issues (as established through Localism Act’s Duty to Co-operate
Local Plans should:
- Proactively support sustainable economic development and be well linked to local employment plans/priorities
- Identify and annually update a supply of deliverable sites to provide a 5 year supply of housing, plus a 5% ‘buffer’ for choice/competition (20% if persistent under-delivery), longer term supply of sites should also be identified. Allowance can be made for windfalls. Strategic Housing Market Assessments and Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessments should underpin analysis.
- Encourage effective use of land by re-using previously developed (brownfield) land
- Ensure vitality of urban and rural areas, secure high quality design and amenity and take account of different roles and character of areas; the sequential ‘town centre first’ approach is maintained.
- Contribute to conserving and enhancing the natural environment; NPPF maintains strong protection for the natural and historic environment, including Green Belt, National Parks, AONBS and Sites of Special Scientific Interest
- Promote sustainable transport and high quality communications infrastructure, with planning and transport authorities working together where appropriate. Community infrastructure Levy charges should be worked up and tested alongside the Local Plan
- Support transition to a low carbon future, taking full account of flood risk and coastal change
- Support health, social and cultural wellbeing
- NPPF comes into force with immediate affect for plan making and planning decisions
- After a 12 month period, or if no valid Local Plan is currently in place, the weight given to local policy in decision-making depends on the degree of consistency with the NPPF
- A helpline for local authorities has been set up by the LGA, Planning Inspectorate and CLG to provide advice regarding planning and decision making – 0303 44 45500
2011 – 2012 has been an eventful year and I sincerely hope that the future will witness a return to the harmonious community that I have been so proud to represent over the past five years.
It might be worth reflecting on some words of wisdom spoken by Desmond Tutu when he stated:
‘Differences are not intended to separate or to alienate; we are different, precisely in order to realise our need of one another!’ Something we all should bear in mind over the next few days and weeks.
It has been a pleasure working with the members of the Parish Council, both past and present and it is my ardent belief that all members, regardless, are committed to deliver the very best to the Parishioners of Penshurst and Fordcombe. Maybe how they get there sometimes differs !!
My sincere thanks goes to Evelyn, who, despite her illness last year, continues to be our constant support.
None of us should forget that we are all here at the behest of our Parishioners, and I believe that it our duty to represent each individual, not each ideology; the task is immense but so are the rewards!
8. County Councillor’s Report: Cllr Peter Lake advised that county were required to achieve savings of £95m in the last financial year; whilst frontline services had not been cut, working practices had been reorganised. Approximately 1500 people had either left or were about to leave, many being loyal long service local government officers devoted to the needs of the community which made the task most difficult. The KCC share of the council tax will be frozen for the coming financial year as will the Police and Fire and Rescue services.
Kent Highway Services have made real progress during the year although there is still much work to do, particularly around the lanes. Jet patching will be undertaken to fill potholes. It is disturbing to see water continues to run down Springhill particularly after the disruption last year to facilitate a resolution and the also in view of the current hosepipe ban imposed by South East Water. Cllr Lake will fund the interactive sign at an agreed point to the west of Penshurst Village from his county members’ fund and further work will be carried out on the Penshurst road opposite The Old Laundry and Lilac Cottage.
Concern was raised regarding the increase in the numbers of children trying to obtain the school of their choice. In Sevenoaks South, which includes Edenbridge and surrounding villages, there had been a 37% increase in demand for reception class places (5 year olds), Penshurst and Fordcombe were not in a position to take in further children, both schools continuing to produce excellent results. 550 extra secondary school places would be required in West Kent per academic year by 2018, two new primary schools were planned for Tunbridge Wells.
KCC had been promoting better broadband across the county for the last ten years and the new KCC project is to deliver super fast broadband under the auspices of the government’s latest programme for Kent and Medway. Individuals and businesses are asked to register an interest at www.makekentquicker.com in order the assist in reaching the aim to start work early in 2013 to cover more than 90% of properties in the county, including Penshurst and Fordcombe.
With regard to low cost housing Cllr Lake’s concerns are for supply of water, drainage, public transport and the problem with over subscribed schools across Sevenoaks South.
Cllr Lake thanked the chairman, the councillors and the clerk for their patience in helping to deal with the various issues over the past year.
9. Community Police Officer: Sgt. Bal Singh and PC Duncan attended the meeting:
Sgt Singh had over 20 years experience and had moved to the Swanley/Sevenoaks/Edenbridge area from Thanet. He was pleased to see the community spirit in the area. Although there had been financial cutbacks there had been an increase in neighbourhood officers and the area boasted one of the best crime detection rates. The police were aware of problems related to parking at schools and he felt there was a need to educate the parents on this issue, he noted ‘Walking Bus’ systems had been successful in some villages as had leaflets placed on dangerously parked cars.
PC Duncan also have 20 years experience, mainly with a traffic background, PC Neil Ingram had previously been involved in speed checks. The officers were advised that Cllr Broadhead had been tasked with the PC Speed Watch campaign. The Farm Watch project used in Surrey was mentioned by councillors Townsend and Horsford, this proving successful in that area. Thefts from farms were prevalent in the area and the clerk would contact PCSO King Scott to obtain information on Country Eye, the Kent equivalent.
The siting of the speed indicator sign was discussed.
The security camera system at PORC was mentioned, councillors to discuss with landowner during visit.
Meeting concluded at 8.30 pm