PENSHURST PARISH COUNCIL
Report of the Annual Parish Assembly held Monday 11 April 2010 at 7. 30 pm in Fordcombe Village Hall
1. Apologies: Cllr Mrs A Hills
2. Minutes of the Meeting held on 12 April 2010 were approved and signed by the Chairman.
3. Chairman’s Report: Cllr Robin Sellings –
The Parish Council has again been fully committed to working on behalf of all of us in the parish, much of this being every day mundane work carried out in an attempt to improve the area generally. Planning again has taken up much of our time with nearly sixty applications having passed through the system for consideration, it is to be hoped that comments made by the team are seen as constructive, this always being our aim.
The team of councillors have, as always, been supportive and generous in the time they give to their various areas of responsibility and interest, it is sad to see a number of dedicated people stepping down this year, their input will be greatly missed by the parish and we owe them a great deal for the time and effort they have made. I would like to thank them personally for their support during a particularly difficult year.
Highways continues to cause problems for all of us although we had success in obtaining a permanent speed indicator sign at the entrance to Fordcombe and were provided with a temporary unit in Penshurst. This was placed in an area where a young child had been injured during the morning walk to school, many positive comments were received by parishioners regarding the impact this had on the speed of traffic using the road and the improvement in safety it provided.
We continue to fight for our potholes to be filled and our drains to be cleared, the upgrading of the drainage system on Spring Hill caused havoc for the traffic but the PC fought continually to make the best of the situation and, eventually, the contract was completed in record time. Unfortunately parishioners still suffered due to the diversion but at least the time involved was minimised.
The new play area is nearly finished in Fordcombe, a project in which not only the PC have been involved but also many, many members of the parish and they must feel justifiably proud of the hours and effort they have put in to see this project come to a successful end.
The PC decided to part fund the public toilets in Penshurst for a year but unfortunately SDC have now closed the facility due to the cut backs in funding. The PC are monitoring the situation prior to a final decision being taken on its future, if this is a facility you value then let us know so that we can do something about it.
The loss of the minibus service in the villages previously funded by SDC is a concern to a small but vulnerable number of residents, we are hoping to continue with this service by working with other local parish councils to bring costs to a reasonable level to make it a feasible venture.
SDC again withdrew funding for the Fun Day regularly held on the ground at Fordcombe, again the council is working with other local PCs in order to ensure the children do not lose out and it is hoped this will again be held during the school holidays.
I cannot finish my report without mentioning the most important agenda item dealt without throughout this year, affordable housing. It is a subject which becomes a bone of contention in parishes and this has been no exception. The initial proposal to provide housing, a medical centre, toilets and car parking in Forge Field proved to be unpopular with some members of the community, this was reduced to the provision of affordable housing only. The members of the PC have worked hard to produce an option that would be of benefit to the parish and in particular the young people of the parish who are most in need. We can only say we have done our best which is what I genuinely feel we have always tried to do.
4. Retreat Charity: A written report had been provided by Mrs Janie Hill advising that both properties were currently occupied with no change of tenants during the previous twelve months. Both tenants appeared to be very happy at The Retreat and were taking good care of their homes with the gardens now being well maintained. The trustees continued to undertake general maintenance and running repairs as needed and were currently investigating the possibility of adjusting the bathroom in one property to make it more suitable for the elderly and infirm. Work would probably commence on this in the next few weeks.
A statement of accounts showing the income and expenditure account for the year ended 31 December 2010 had been provided for the PC.
5. Penshurst School Governor’s Report: The number of pupils on roll was currently 96, three new pupils would join after Easter. There had been some staff changes last year and the school was delighted to welcome back Miss Fenton and Mrs Duncan from maternity leave in September. No staff changes were expected during the current year.
The academic achievement of pupils at the school was very good, the last Ofsted report was ‘Outstanding’ and the 2010 Key Stages 1 and 2 SATs results were good and well above the national average. The school has attended services in the church to mark Harvest, Christmas and Mothering Sunday with the children supporting the service with prayers, poetry, drama and singing. The school is grateful to Rev. Holme for his continuing support with RE and Worship and his work as a Governor of the school.
There are extra curricular clubs run by staff and parents on a voluntary basis including music, netball, football, cross country running, karate, craft, speech and drama and dance. The school have been able to provide coaching on a wide range of sports including football, Tag Rugby, golf, cricket, tennis and volleyball and have used funding from the Sports Partnership to get involved in the Skipping for Schools Workshop and Freddie Fit classes. The school was using Sainsbury’s vouchers for funding dance classes. The new Singing Club had proved extremely popular and in January the club joined other schools to sing at the O2 in London which was a wonderful experience for pupils and staff alike.
The pupils have benefited from outings to various castles and museums as part of their history studies and have attended theatre workshops and visits. Seven children recently took part in the Speech Festival and came away with a first place, a second place and three third places. The school was fortunate to have a very active Friends group which arranges regular teas which the older children attend. These provide a wonderful opportunity for the children to converse with the Friends and help them build confidence and practice social skills. The Friends Family Fishing Day in September at Penshurst Place was a huge success with everyone enjoying the picnic and opportunity to learn angling skills. The school appreciated all that the Friends do for the school.
The PTA is also active and had so far successfully run the bonfire night and a Christmas Fayre, both proving very popular in the village and raising important funds for the school. The Summer Fete is scheduled for 21 May.
The school building is cramped and needs some updating and improvement. The school submitted and obtained outline planning permission late last year for some improvements. An information session was held for the village to keep people informed about the plans and there had been no objections to the proposals. Unfortunately not all the funding had been obtained for the changes and it had subsequently been decided to proceed with improvements in stages with the most pressing issues being addressed first. Specifications were being drawn up at the moment to put work on the boys’ toilets out to tender and it was hoped to progress the first stage of the works this year.
The school was looking forward to the next term with the children playing a key part in village activities including the Penshurst Duck Race in May. A full intake of fifteen new children into Reception was expected in September.
6. Fordcombe School Governor’s Report: Robin Dungate, Headteacher reported that the number of pupils on roll was currently 106, the school being oversubscribed by one. The academic achievement of pupils at the school was very good, the Value Added Score remaining in the positive zone. The end of Key Stage 2 results next month promise to be one of the best on record. Fifteen children in Year 6 have accepted places in a secondary school of their choice.
The whole school had attended services in the church to mark Harvest, Christmas, St Peter’s Day, Ash Wednesday and Easter. The monthly family services had been well attended, with children contributing prayers, readings and songs which they really looked forward to. The school was extremely grateful to Rev. Holme for his support with RE and Worship and looked forward to his regular Friday visits.
The school had thirteen extra curricular clubs and activities run by volunteer staff and parents. Provision for music remains outstanding and children have the opportunity to learn flute, drums, piano, violin, recorder and singing. Parents are able to access financial support for this if needed. Children perform their pieces at a Musical Tea each term.
The netball and football teams have played very well and have both completed the season in third place and second place in their respective leagues. The school is delighted that their football team won the Edenbridge and District Primary School Sports Association Knock-out Tournament. They look forward to this season’s cricket, rounders, tag rugby, cross country tournaments and swimming gala.
All the children have benefited from a variety of visits and trips, including amongst others trips to Tunbridge Wells Toy Museum, Newhaven Fort, The Natural History Museum, Preston Manor and a number of theatre trips. Year 6 pupils came top in their group in the Multi Agency Safety in Action Competition at Dorton House and the Dance Club performed at the STAG theatre in ‘A Chance to Dance’.
At the end of the summer term the year five and six children attended a residential course at Carroty Wood for a week where they took part in activities like climbing, orienteering and an assault course. They also had instructor led sessions to develop their sense of social awareness and responsibility.
At Christmas everyone enjoyed the Key Stage 1 nativity play ‘The Grumpy Sheep’ and Key Stage 2 performed a spring musical entitled ‘Ocean Commotion’ based on an environmental theme. The Pupil Council and Eco-Committee continue to play an important role in leading and supporting school improvement. The children also generate enthusiasm and ideas to support various charities such as Cancer Research, Supporting Emmanuel (a child in Rwanda), the Royal British Legion, St. Peter’s Church and Oxfam Unwrapped.
The school also followed the story of the Chilean Miners and prayed for their safety. After their release Mr Dungate had the honour of taking a group of children to have a private audience with Mr Pinera, the Chilean Prime Minister during this visit to London which was filmed by the BBC. He was presented with thirty four newly printed Fordcombe School T-Towels and he gave the school many gifts in return including a framed replica of the first message from the miners.
All children continue to receive ‘outstanding’ provision in PSHE and SMSC and pastoral care which includes visits and talks from the police, school nurse, Children’s Workshop and other agencies. The school was looking forward to the final two terms of the year with fifteen new children expected to join the school in September.
The continued success of the school is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the staff and governors and the support of the parents – and the enthusiasm of the children!
7. District Councillor’s Report: Cllr Cooke confirmed that during February 2011 SDC had approved the Core Strategy Planning Policy, developed after consultation with residents and other interested organisations and after the holding of a public enquiry. This provided a planning framework up to 2026, 3300 new home being required to be built in the district between 2006 and 2026. 2257 had already been built or had been given planning permission. The strategy also supported the local economy by taking into account business needs and those of the rural economy together with regard for conservation and climate change. The policy was in use with immediate effect.
Unfortunately the mini bus service had been withdrawn by SDC but discussions had taken place with main service providers in the area with SDC making a fund available for voluntary grants up to £170K for the future for good causes in the area. The mini bus service would be given top priority and it was envisaged that services would still be available for parishioners to Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells and Edenbridge, the town of Crawley was also a possible destination. It was hoped Kent and Sussex, Pembury and Edenbridge hospitals would also be included in the routes.
8. County Councillor’s Report: KCCllr Peter Lake reported on behalf of KCC during difficult fiscal circumstances with the current national budget deficit being reduced by 149 billion during the current parliament, £340m in Kent alone during the next four years. It was expected 1500 posts would be lost and council tax had been frozen during the current year. Cllr Lake advised that public health would be under the wing of KCC which would include responsibility for the staff involved in this area. He felt the blitz on potholes undertaken earlier in the year had begun to improve the situation until the drainage work on Spring Hill had caused considerable damage along diversion routes used. Both he and the PC had argued that routes chosen were inappropriate but to not avail. It had been hoped that the work would be carried out by methods used elsewhere locally to complete similar projects but this was not the case, he also hoped he would be able to provide funding the assist with repairs to the damaged roads.
Cllr Lake was delighted to hear about the success in both the local schools and confirmed he had been contacted regarding appeals for children applying to schools of their choice. He advised that forty houses were being built in Edenbridge, twenty of these being affordable houses. He felt SDC and the PC should have insisted on affordable housing at Swaylands although he stated the site was now nearing completion and looked great. Cllr Lake was making funds available to the play area at Fordcombe to finance fencing, he wished he had received more support for the speed indicator device at Penshurst and hoped that it would still be possible to install a permanent unit to slow down the traffic, the temporary unit having proved so successful.
He felt the provision of toilets in Penshurst were very important and trusted the new council would consider this issue again. The withdrawal of the minibus service would prove difficult for some parishioners, criteria for use of the service included proximity to a bus stop, level of physical disability and a small charge made.
He thanked the Chairman, councillors and clerk for their work on behalf of the village and would ask the village and the PC to look for affordable housing in the village. This had been difficult to deal with the issue and to challenge in that way was very difficult, those challenging the PC should also be careful. Cllr Lake had access to maps at County Hall dating to the 1850s showing housing on scattered farms in the area eg Elliotts Farm, which might be suitable for housing. It was confirmed that this had been suggested but eliminated; a builders yard in Walters Green Road was suggested but Cllr Lake appreciated this would probably be considered too far out although he said it was accessible by car.
He thanked the PC once again for looking after the parishioners for the previous four years.
9. Community Police Officer: Sergeant Richard O’Toole of West Kent Police, Edenbridge attended the meeting and advised members that his responsibilities included the review of current crime levels including patterns and solutions. Crime was very much down locally although with summer just starting it was advisable to secure garden tools, lawn mowers, etc. as opportunities for shed break ins were very high, although there had been only four during the previous financial year.
Vehicle crime throughout the summer months at beauty spot car parks was a problem, cameras, wallets, handbags etc left in cars were a target and parishioners were advised to secure their personal belongings before arrival at their destination in order that any possible thieves did not witness this.
There had been a spike in the theft of heating oil with several arrests being made, delivery lorries were followed and customers’ oil tanks identified with flat bed lorries arriving at a later time to drain the newly delivered oil. It was advisable to make the oil tank as secure as possible, perhaps with a sturdy fence to prevent access or the addition of audible alarm equipment which sounded when the oil was being siphoned. Parishioners were encouraged to report anything suspicious in connection with this type of crime and were welcome to contact the police with regard to crime reduction measures available.
Litter picking was raised by a parishioner, Sgt. O’Toole confirmed police would action reports of vehicle registration numbers if litter was thrown from moving vehicles, he also confirmed dropping litter on the streets was an offence punishable by a fixed penalty notice, on the spot fine or warning. Police were attempting to reduce anti social behaviour and considered restorative justice, instead of going to court, was a worthwhile option ie offenders were required to pick up litter in designated areas agreed with those affected by this type of behaviour.
10. Play Area/Finance:
a. Play Area: Cllr Gilbert brought everyone up to date on the progress with the project. This had been a joint project undertaken by a committee formed of councillors, parents/parishioners and other volunteers which had enabled a lottery grant to be obtained to meet the balance of the costs above that paid by the parish, the grant being just under £50K. The amount of paperwork involved in securing the grant had been enormous, so far the 25% deposit had been paid with a further 25% now being required on delivery of the equipment. The balance would be paid as installation progressed. Final work in relation to fencing and planting would be necessary to soften the area, a grant had been offered by Cllr Lake to help towards these costs with a further contribution having been approved by the PC to complete the contract. A great many people from the parish had been involved in the fundraising for the project including parents and the council. Both village schools as well as the parents had provided input with regard to the design of equipment and it was stressed that although the equipment was based at Fordcombe it was a parish project available to all. It was further hoped that the financial burden of the old equipment, now removed, would be reduced to nil for the Parish Council for the ensuing three years. It was anticipated the area would be officially open at the end of May.
Clerk confirmed that two accounts required payment for Playdale Playgrounds Ltd, one for delivery of materials for £14,683.39 and one for site inspection costs of £354.00. It was unanimously agreed that these be paid, clerk to action as necessary.
b. Annual Accounts: Clerk advised that the external audit papers including accounting statement, annual governance statement and internal audit report had been received, possibly early due to the forthcoming elections. The annual accounts had been completed and inspected by the independent internal auditor. The internal audit report had been provided for the councillors together with the final quarter’s accounts and the final year end accounts, no areas of concern or for action had been noted during the internal audit. Clerk requested approval for the signing of the returns for the external audit by the Chairman on behalf of the council, members unanimously agreed that all requirements had been complied with as requested by the Audit Commission, Chairman authorised to sign.
In response to a question as to why the PC had voted in favour of the affordable housing in Penshurst when 72% of the village were against it the Chairman stated he had taken advice from Sevenoaks into account when voting.
Cllr Gilbert left the meeting at this point, the point was made that this was the second time the councillor had left a meeting, the Chairman pointed out that on the previous occasion the meeting had been adjourned.
Cllr Campbell stated that whilst he appreciated what members of KPG were saying, he could see nothing else on offer, all previous sites put forward by KPG, the PC and others had been inspected and discounted, Forge Field was the only site on the table for consideration. It had been Cllr Campbell who had requested the breakdown of areas in the survey and when he had checked the results it was obvious those that lived closest had provided the most objections which would naturally be the same in relation to any site offered. The actual split was 58/42% across the parish, had it been 80/20% for example it would have been a different story. Cllr Campbell considered on a 58/42% split his decision was fair. The survey result was not a material planning consideration, the application would be checked against all policies and Cllr Campbell supported the formulation of a planning application to see a sensible reasoned argument.
KPG recorded they had taken exception to the PC statement at the previous meeting which stated that misleading statements they had made had affected the survey results, they provided a written statement in connection with this and would welcome a response from the PC. The statement was left on the table for the PC to read or else ignore.
A parishioner stated the PC had dealt with two contentious issues during the previous year, polytunnels and affordable housing. Written votes had been taken on both issues, he requested this not be done in future as he considered it did not do a lot for the reputation of the council.
Meeting concluded at 8.35 pm