PENSHURST PARISH COUNCIL
Minutes of the Ordinary Meeting of Penshurst Parish Council held on Monday 4 April at 7.30 pm in Penshurst Village Hall
1. PRESENT: Cllr R Sellings (Chairman), Mrs D Broad, A Campbell, S Frederick, D Geal, M Gilbert, Mrs A Hill, R Horsford, C Viccars
2. MINUTES OF MEETING HELD ON 7 March 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.
Cllr R Horsford recorded a prejudicial interest in Item 4 (f) relating to sale of land in connection with the project.
Cllr S Frederick recorded a prejudicial interest in Item 4 (f) relating to loss of use of land in connection with the project.
Cllrs Frederick and Horsford withdrew from the meeting.
It was agreed Item 4 (f) be moved on the Agenda.
4f. Proposed Affordable Housing Project: Results of survey circulated to councillors for consideration, response rate had been very good with 431 returns from 753 despatched. 179 (42%) had been in favour of the project with 246 (58%) voting against.
A statement was read on behalf of the Parish Council by Cllr Mrs Hill, this provided responses to statements and information provided by KPG during recent months in relation to the affordable housing project:
Forge Field could be turned from green to grey, forever, thanks to a proposed affordable housing development.
This is a misleading statement, as Forge Field covers almost 3 acres, and the area required for the housing is expected to be approx 15%, as the average house build density is between 12 and 20 per acre. meaning 85% of the area can remain as it is.
But is the provision of up to six households (four if you exclude the two that are currently housed on the estate) sufficient justification for destroying such a large and vital part of our landscape?
The Penshurst Estate do have the right to nominate someone for consideration for a property. The estate cannot allocate houses to their staff or anyone else. Anyone nominated would in turn be required to comply with the same stringent criteria everyone would need to meet, to enable them to be awarded a home. If they did not meet the criteria, they would not be awarded accommodation.
Exceptional and historic villages cannot be newly created and it is a heavy responsibility to irreversibly alter one.
It has already been said that only a fraction of the forge field would be used to accommodate the homes, I would like to say this Mr Chairman that to try to prevent the village from adapting to its needs, is a recipe for its decline. Upon checking through records you might be interested to know that since the war there have been nearly 90 properties built in the central area of Penshurst village from Leicester Square to Long Bridge ie Latymers, Keymer Court, Glebelands, The Glebe plus individual buildings along the way. Undoubtedly they all caused as much trouble as this proposal but have presumably become ‘enshrined in legislation and … been consigned to …. the annals of architecture.’
There are, in the wider scheme of things, many places houses can be built and with less impact on the historic environment.
An open invitation has been made for the nomination of sites for consideration, all those put forward have been inspected and checked with SDC planning and the land owners to ascertain their suitability and availability. Forge Field remains the only site which complies with the criteria and is available.
The open space of Forge Field is a vital element of Devey’s concept for the western edge of Penshurst village.
This is true and why it has always been the intent of the PC, supported by the estate, to ensure that the design of the buildings would take account of the Devey design, and the recent listing of the Forge Garage has helped to strengthen this requirement ensuring the buildings are of a quality and design to be in keeping with their surroundings.
having established a ‘need’ through a housing survey in 2009, and on a return of only 143 respondents from the entire Parish of Penshurst & Fordcombe, it was proposed that approximately 5 new one/two bed homes were required.
Two full surveys were undertaken, one in 2004 and one in 2009. The first survey identified a need at that time for 10 units with the current result indicating a need of slightly more than this, so the need for affordable housing has remained steady at 5/6 units over the seven year period. The procedure undertaken to assess the need was in accordance with national guidelines which have successfully provided housing for parishioners in Leigh and Chiddingstone Causeway during this period.
There is deliberation to raise the Leigh barrier and there are the implications of global warming, the risk of flooding will only rise with time….. flooding concerns will also add to cost as will the necessity to reroute the main road into Penshurst.
The PC arranged a further meeting at the request of KPG to discuss this issue with the Environment Agency officer and were advised that, even in the 1000 year assessment area, Forge Field would not be affected in relation to the proposed housing, so nothing will be added to the cost of the project.
The Estate is not selling the land freehold …….but is granting a lease. PP3 adds that rural exception sites should only be used for affordable housing in perpetuity. This apparent contradiction in planning law has not been explained.
In perpetuity has a defined length of time in law, this being 125 years as laid down in the Perpetuity and Accumulations Act of 2009, Chapter 8, Clause 5 so actually there is no contradiction in planning law and it does not conflict with the site as an exception site.
The area being AONB, GB, Conservation Area and flanked by listed buildings the PC have had to take into consideration the impact such a project would have on the area and whether it meets the criteria for an exception site.
The hand delivered survey distributed by KPG to selected areas of Penshurst elicited 157 votes against the development of Forge Field, the latest survey approved by KPG elicited 118 votes against in the same area of the parish, this constitutes a drop of 40% in objectors.
On a personal note Mr Chairman, I have said little, but have been deeply saddened by displays of aggression and disrespect, we have all witnessed on occasion. The PC has I believe, acted in good faith, believing that preserving the young in our village, preserves its future. Some residents may have been fearful and others swayed by arguments that are mistaken. Many of our young were unable to vote as they are forced to live elsewhere. The PC has had to face a campaign with hands tied behind its back.
Cllr Mrs Broad continued: The Parish Council are of the opinion that the combination of inaccurate and misleading statements on the KPG website, propaganda and newsletters distributed in the parish contributed to the result of the survey. The PC are mindful also that the support for KPG was reduced in the Penshurst area when compared with the results of the earlier survey covering the same area.
WKHA provided a statement for the meeting: West Kent Housing Association recognise that over the past seven years evidence of consistent need for affordable housing has been shown. There is no alternative site available and subject to no irresolvable flood issues WKHA will put a planning application to SDC in accordance with both the district council and WKHA’s policy to provide affordable housing for decision by the elected members.
Cllr Mrs Broad proposed the following motion: That Penshurst Parish Council support the development of Forge Field for up to six houses with WKHA as the developer on condition that:
a. The design of the houses is sympathetic to the surrounding area which includes listed buildings.
b. The houses are only made available to people with a proven local connection supported by a Section 106 document which will form part of the planning submission. This was seconded by Cllr Geal
Cllr Viccars requested a written vote be undertaken, this was agreed by the Chairman and those present. The result of the vote was motion carried.
Cllr Frederick and Horsford were invited to return to the meeting.
OPEN SESSION: The following issues were raised:
A resident stated that many were in favour of the project but had felt threatened by the KPG and were unsure whether they actually wanted affordable housing at all.
KPG had stated they were in favour of affordable housing but not in Forge Field.
Affordable housing was needed to enable families to remain in the village and no other suitable site had been found.
KPG stated other sites were being ignored, if Forge Field was discounted other sites would become available.
The motion had been carried to take the project to planning, there would be an opportunity to object at that time.
KPG stated that if the PC refused Forge Field, someone would come up with another plot of land.
KPG stated that SDC Planning Officer and MP would not support the project without the support of the village in the survey, Cllr Cooke advised further information had been forwarded in connection with the original statement which clarified the position, KPG confirmed this.
KPG consider if Forge Field was removed from the project, WKHA and Beckett Trust would work together.
KPG stated S.106 Agreements were not guaranteed to work, Cllr Cooke advised they formed part of the planning application with the properties to be available for local people to be set in stone for 125 years, there would be various other aspects to the document including the suitability of Forge Field for the project, objections could be raised at this time.
WKHA had provided the PC with a statement confirming their willingness to take the project to planning, KPG reiterated the need for local support.
PC’s decision to go forward with the project not considered democratic.
Cllr Mrs Broad stated the local MP was not against the project and had expressed a willingness to see the houses if built.
Surveys, highways, flood checks, environmental studies would all form part of the planning process.
WKHA had provided their statement to enable the PC to vote on the project.
Cllr Gilbert had always stated he would vote on seeing a planning application for the project.
KPG did not agree with the wording of the motion and wanted it changed.
Some PC members were accused of being intent on going ahead with the project against the vote of the village.
KPG wanted the village preserved for future generations and protected, not have Forge Field taken away.
All other sites put forward had been considered and/or inspected and discounted due to non compliance with criteria.
Nobody had a God given right to live in the parish.
Approximately 90 houses had been built between Leicester Square and Long Bridge since the war.
Statistics provided by clerk were incorrect.
If people wanted to live in the village they should work harder, it was difficult for some young couples to be able to buy homes in the parish due to lack of sufficient funding, sometimes due to redundancy.
KCCllr Lake advised that all sides should draw back and await any planning application submitted before re-assessing the situation. The PC should reconsider having a written vote in future.
A parishioner requested consideration be given to providing a footpath from The Glebe to the village to enable the children/parents to walk in safety to school. Cllr Cooke advised Lesley Bowles was dealing with funding that might be available for this type of project.
Swaylands traffic calming had caused numerous near misses for motorists. Parishioners were advised that the current configuration of paving and surfacing was on a six month trial, anyone experiencing problems whilst driving in the area was encouraged to contact the clerk so that this information could be forwarded to highways.
3. MATTERS ARISING:
a. The Bottle House & b. Relocation of Pathway – Bottle House Allotments: After discussion it was proposed that the request for path to be moved be refused but the provision of a gate to facilitate emergency exit only in the corner of the rear fence of The Bottle House be agreed. Clerk to check cost of legal advice/documentation required in this connection, costs to be borne by applicant. This was unanimously agreed. Members did not wish to impose any unnecessary condition on any area of land owned by the parish council which might cause conflict or restriction at any time in the future.
c. Diversion Route Damage: Cllr Lake had left the meeting so no report was available of his meeting with highways member on 8 March. Cllr Gilbert had spoken to Cllr Lake but there had been no further action as a result. Minor repairs had been undertaken but no inspection by a highways officer.
d. Environment Agency: Neil Gunn attended an open informal meeting held in Penshurst Village Hall to provide up to date information on the options under discussion relating to flood control in the area over the coming years. The investigative process was explained and how maps are produced taking historical floods into account and how negative effects are minimised and benefits to nature, social and economical aspects were maximised. Maps and information provided showed which areas would be affected under different scenarios of flood over 10 year cycles, once in a lifetime and twice in a lifetime together with annual damage. Funding has to be maximised at all times, for example a 1000 year flood would be given little or no priority with funding for projects severely cut back in coming years.
a. Swaylands: Swaylands representative checking external lighting systems at back of block. Cllr Sellings had no further information, Cllr Mrs Broad confirmed the light was still on throughout the night.
b. Kent County Councillor: Left meeting after Open Session.
c. Sevenoaks District Councillor: Cllr Cooke invited members to a meeting at Chiddingstone Village Hall on Wednesday at 7.30 to hear information about the provision of minibus service for parishioners in the parishes. Cllr Sellings would be attending, Cllr Mrs Hill also hoped to attend. SDC Planning Department had undertaken a survey of the polytunnel area, this had been reduced in accordance with the planning application, the sound proofing to the generator had been carried out, the access road work completed. Trees were on order for the planting and the pipework for the drainage had been installed but the pit was not as yet completed. Cllr Cooke to check if any complaints had been made with regard to the polythene being erected too early.
d. KALC: No Report
e. Alms Houses: Cllr Mrs Hill reported that most of the work identified as a result of the quinquennial inspection had been completed, work to rectify the damp problem had been carried out but a spell of wet weather was awaited to see if this had been successfully dealt with.
g. Neighbourhood Watch: No report
Blocked Drain- Manor Drive: Reported under reference 25640, website indicates issue resolved on 15 March.
Potholes: Clerk submitted request for specification used by highways for filling potholes, following statement received from highways officer:
Permanent repairs should be saw cut, tack coated and filled using either 6mm Aggregate Asphalt Concrete (Dense bitumen macadam) Wearing course or 10mm Aggregate AC. Wearing Course material. When temporarily filling potholes varying specifications are used depending on the materials which are available.
In Grove Road the holes were seen as needing filling urgently and as the road is not wide enough to be able to use temporary traffic control to do permanent repairs we chose to temporary fill using hot rolled asphalt which we had available at the time. Members assumed that as the work was not generally carried out to the higher standard the current repairs must be temporary and clerk was to ask when permanent repairs were scheduled.
Verge/Swathe Mowing Funding: Other local parishes continue to use county contractors but standard considered poor by some so extra work was carried out by local contractors. It was agreed that clerk request notification of dates of verge/swathe cutting and standard be monitored, if unacceptable contractors to be asked to return.
Interactive Road Signs: Cllr Lake to initiate project for further permanent unit, no further information available. Laura Squires advised that the Fordcombe unit now has a data collection facility, further information awaited on the provision of the temporary unit in Penshurst which had been delayed due to a complaint from a parishioner. Cllr Gilbert asked clerk to arrange for officer to contact him and advise how data could be downloaded.
Penshurst Churchyard: Estimate for replacement of bricks being sought, this would be provided during the week.
Drainage: Work carried out between the two bridges on Rogues Hill.
Footpath Signs: Broken footpath sign on Fordcombe cricket ground reported, Cllr Gilbert advised this had not been repaired.
Cllr Mrs Broad advised the bridle path bridge at Poundsbridge required the reinstatement of the non slip surface as it was very slippery, this needed dry weather to complete. Hand railing on SR459 needed reinstatement (not done). The surface along SR441 had previously washed away during rainy weather but was now acceptable, clerk to chase issues with Nicky Biddall, footpaths officer.
White Lining: Better weather awaited for further work to white lines on Colliers Land Bridge (10004831) and Rogues Hill (10004832), Cllr Gilbert to raise issue of introduction of white line at Long Bridge if county officer visits for tour of parish. Clerk chasing answer regarding update.
Southern Water: Problems reported to Environment Office under reference 227178. Cllr Sellings had met with Malcolm Webb of SDC Environmental Health who was arranging to have the system opened to check in an attempt to find a resolution.
SE/1100436: Chafford Rise, Chafford Lane, Fordcombe: Demolition of outbuildings and erection of rear extension. The PC understand that this property has already been the subject of an increase in size to in excess of 50% and consequently feel that the current application to further extend the property is unacceptable. The PC also objects to the design of the extension.
SE/11/00489: Barnfold Cottage, Saints Hill, Penshurst: Installation of log burning stove, to kitchen with flue outside. The PC have no objections to the application but would ask that thought be given to the colour of the outside flue, if material is stainless steel this should be painted black to lessen its visual impact.
SE/11/00071: 6 Chafford Cottages, Chafford Lane, Fordcombe: Replacement of felt flat roof with tiled pitched roof. Widening existing roof dormer window. GRANTED
SE/11/00043LBC: Abbotsmerry Barn, Salmans Lane, Penshurst: Erection of stables tack room and feed store building together with change of use of the land for family horses. WITHDRAWN
SE/11/00042: Abbotsmerry Barn, Salmans Lane, Penshurst: Erection of stables tack room and feed store building together with change of use of the land for family horses, as amended by the additional plan received on 17.3.11. GRANTED
SE/10/02101: Rosebank Cottage, Chafford Lane, Fordcombe: Erection of 3 bed bungalow to rear of Rosebank Cottage, access from existing track and through existing gates. Two existing buildings to be moved.
SE/10/02134: Swaylands, Penshurst Road, Penshurst: Retrospective application for works to replace asphalt/felt/lead roof coverings to existing flat roof areas with ‘Rhepanol’ single ply membrane.
The following accounts were presented and approved for payment:
Mr I Streeter Lengthsman 86.00
KALC Annual Subscription 614.35
South East Water Warren Lane Allotments Water Supply 13.12
RIP Cleaning Services Dog Waste Removal 43.20
a. Public Conveniences: Richard Wilson advised of PC plan with regard to closure of public toilets. Clerk to provide laminated signs to enable PC to gauge need for facility. Cllr Sellings advised that there was a problem currently with people using the outside area as the unit was closed. Matter to be monitored. It was anticipated that costs to continue with the service would be high and clerk explained that in view of the current situation with the PC in relation to elections it was necessary to wait until after the election before committing parish funds to a long term high cost project.
b. Mini Bus: Advice received from Simon Davies, Partnership & Project Officer, SDC that Voluntary Action
Within Kent had been awarded two minibuses to operate a service in the southern part of the District. Voluntary Action Without Kent would be contacting the parish to discuss how they could help parishioners. Further information received from Email received from Peter Nicholls, Director of Operations for the charity Voluntary Action Within Kent (VAWK) confirming consultation would be carried out to assess the views and needs of the various parishes. Cllr Gilbert advised about ten or twelve people were involved in the scheme and although the number was small the service was a lifeline to them. Further discussion to be held after meeting scheduled for 6 April at Chiddingstone.
c. Childrens’ Play Provision: Clerk had attended a meeting to discuss option available to parishes to continue with the provision of Fun Days for children during the summer holiday in view of SDC’s withdrawal of funding for the project. Four local parishes expressed a wish to continue, option on offer by professional organisers appended:
Penshurst, Chiddingstone, Hever and Leigh.
This budget is per Parish Council for each day and based on a 4 hour delivery session. In our experience 4 hours is usually a long enough period for these type of events.
Weekly Visit One off visit at 4 hours
(Per site / per visit)
Total Delivery Cost
Members discussed the provision of this facility for the children which had proved very popular when run by SDC with approximately 100 children attending. This would be held on the cricket ground in Fordcombe as previously, access to the village hall for toilets as usual would be necessary. It was unanimously agreed that the sum estimated be approved and that the clerk action this project and finalise arrangements.
Cllr Gilbert raised the issue of the play area project nearing completion at the Fordcombe ground. The council had set aside funds for this project some time previously and the majority of the balance had been obtained via public donation and grant monies. The project had gone slightly over budget due to the high cost of removal of some of the old wet pour surfacing which was classed as hazardous waste. Cllr Gilbert asked members to consider increasing their original donation of £7500 by a further £2500 to meet the final costs of the project, Cllr Geal seconded the request. It was pointed out that there would be little or no cost to the PC for the play area for the ensuing 2/3 years on maintenance and repair. After discussion and advice from the clerk that this was acceptable as the funding was a ‘one off’ payment from current contingency funds it was unanimously agreed that the PC meet the extra costs involved.
9. ANY OTHER BUSINESS:
a. Bottle Bank: Cllr Mrs Broad reported that there was no longer a bottle bank in the parish, Cllr Campbell to contact the Spotted Dog regarding their offer to provide for this.
b. Village Hall Paving to Layby: Cllr Mrs Broad reported that the committee had asked the PC to investigate the provision of a pavement from the hall to the layby to aid a safer access for pedestrians. Clerk confirmed this matter had been reaised previously and highways would not entertain the possibility of providing a pavement due to the cost involved.
c. Church Step Ramp: Cllr Gilbert confirmed he had the blocks provided by the clerk which had worked when used but needed a slight modification to add a strip to join them, he would undertake this and they could then be kept at the church.