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ANNUAL STATUTORY MEETING - 21 MAY 2018

STATEMENT FROM THE CHAIRMAN

I would like to thank fellow councillors for placing their faith in me for another term of office.

This last year has been a varied and busy one for Withyham Parish Council, with so many councillors taking on additional activities and initiatives as well as engaging in the day to day functions of the Council. The clerks have, as usual, worked hard to support and help drive through the projects and activities we have identified in our 5 Year Parish Plan and more. 

Voluntary work such as this is becoming increasingly important within the community, but at the same time extremely demanding on time and energy. I am delighted that despite increasing demands on our lives, thirteen of us have made a commitment to invest time as councillors. We welcomed our newest councillor, Linsey, last year and she is already drawing on her knowledge of voluntary working and other particular skills in support of the parish. You will have already noted the team work that is the foundation of all our activities, and this runs through the various committees headed up by Nick Anderson re. Air Traffic; Marcus Tarling re. Planning; Anne Jenkins re. Finance and Administration; and the members of the public who chair Road Safety and Rights of Way.  Voluntary work is becoming increasingly important within the community and councillors have all set a very good example of how this can benefit residents. Thank you all of you.

It is important that we review the outcome of the hard work over the year to enable us to take stock of what we have achieved, and check that we are making a difference. This should help us sustain our enthusiasm and energy for this year and into 2019!

ACHIEVEMENTS 2017/2018

We have:     

  • Secured the lease of the Groombridge Recreation Ground to incorporate the Guide hut and Cricket Club lease, for which they will now only be required to provide a single peppercorn each to cover the rent
  • Provided a grant to enable the Scouts to purchase a shipping container for storage on Groombridge Cricket Ground
  • Earmarked reserves to support the refurbishment of Groombridge Playground and provided councillor support at meetings
  • Invested money and a significant amount of volunteer and councillor time in developing the Balls Green Community Area which had its inauguration on Saturday in celebration of the Royal wedding
  • Supported the activities of the Road Safety Committee in identifying priorities for this year in particular 1)  a speed reduction on the A 264 2) a Road safety Campaign in conjunction with the Fire service and Crowborough Town Council 3) the establishment of a Speedwatch team and 4) exploring the role of a Highways Co-ordinator
  • Invested in a Community Warden, shared with Forest Row to undertake neighbourhood patrolling and engage in neighbourhood issues such as parking, speeding through villages and neighbourhood disputes.
  • Appointed a new Parish Maintenance person, who is already making a difference to the appearance of our roads and pavements.
  • Supported the Amblers who meet up once a month to walk the paths in the parish
  • Worked with members of the ROW Committee to plan and carry out a Boundary Walk covering 26 miles
  • Found a very successful formula for running the Annual Parish Assembly in conjunction with the Community Café
  • Established a link with Gatwick, responded to consultations and now awaiting the possibility of having an aircraft Monitor in the parish 
  • Streamlined the way in which the Planning Committee works in terms of studying all applications on line, enabling residents to contribute before meetings and getting Minutes and recommendations into WDC on time
  • Worked up a dossier on Streetlights regarding number, location and condition to enable a rota of maintenance and costings to be identified
  • Produced our 12th Issue of the WPC Newsletter
  • Produced a directory of local groups, organisations and associations
  • Supported the building of a Neighbourhood Watch network
  • Expanded the routes of communication for the pubic to use to contact WPC – improved website, social media and newsletters
  • Developed a Youth Initiative in Groombridge.

TARGETS FOR 2018/2019

  • Support the Assistant Clerk to achieve a CiLCA qualification
  • Support Groombridge Playground Refurbishment
  • Achieve and celebrate measures to reduce speed limits and installation of signage and road markings along the A 264
  • Carry out a review of the Clerks’ workload and respond to findings
  • Produce a Welcome pack for new and existing residents
  • Appoint a Tree Warden
  • Deal with the Damp in the Parish Office
  • Review what WPC currently purchases from County and District Council and consider if there are more economical and effective ways of doing this eg grass cutting
  • Consider and identify the most appropriate way of supporting the clerks during lone working eg a What’s App; panic button etc
  • Support ward chairs working with the resident who leads in Community Resilience
  • Consider the future of Groombridge Youth Project in conjunction with St Thomas church
  • Produce WPC Newsletter Issues 13 and 14
  • Continue supporting community initiatives through WPC’s grant procedure.

WPC cannot work in isolation to achieve these targets, which is why we strive to touch base regularly with the churches, schools, organisation and associations in the parish and with ESCC and WDC through their councillors –  my thanks to County Cllr Whetstone and to District Councillors William Rutherford and Johanna Howell for their advice and support.

I mentioned team work amongst councillors at the beginning of this acceptance. None of this could take place without the dedication and commitment of the team who cover the office between them every day of the week.  I would like to thank both clerks for all their hard work in dealing with not only the day to day running of the council but with all of our projects which we generate, but I know they love.  I couldn’t operate without them, and I know you have all had cause to be thankful to them for their willingness to help. We are the envy of many parish councils with whom they network through their clerks. Every penny spent on their training is so worthwhile .... we now have our Assistant Clerk undertaking her CiLCA under the guidance of our Clerk, who achieved hers last year.  

On a personal note I would like to thank Anne in her capacity as Vice Chair, for her cheerful and consistent support to me. It has been so rewarding working with her and knowing that she shares my enthusiasm for the projects WPC undertakes and for getting the processes right, so we can pride ourselves on being fair and democratic in our approach. Her move will be our loss but we wish her every happiness in her new venture.

Now I need to draw your attention to the Code of Conduct adopted by Withyham Parish Council and assure you that I will abide by it.

I would like to say that I am fully committed to continue to undertake the duties of Chairman of WPC to the very best of my ability and in accordance with the guidance given by the National Association of Local Councils on a non-political basis.

Diana Kelly

NOTES FROM THE PARISH COUNCIL – APRIL 2018.

Withyham Parish Council (WPC) met on Monday 9th April  2018 at The Old Station, Groombridge

Action from the last meeting is on our website www.withyhamparishcouncil.org.uk and Facebook on www.facebook.com/WithyhamParishCouncil.  Minutes can also be obtained.

COMMUNITY CAFÉ AND ANNUAL PARISH ASSEMBLY (APA)  This was a great success. Feedback from clubs and societies who participated and those who joined us for coffee and cake and to wander around the stalls buying honey, discussing events put on by RSPB, chatting over the enjoyment of playing cricket and bowls and investing in books about the history of our parish was very positive. It has has led us to agree that this should be the format for our APA in 2019. So, we have secured the slot for the Community café and the APA next year. It gave everyone the opportunity to talk to us about issues in the parish and for us to celebrate the successes we have had with managing the parish on your behalf. Thank you to all those who provided such delicious cakes and savouries – the bacon rolls were extremely popular!  

WARD REPORTS

GROOMBRIDGE WARD: The compost bins on the Recreation ground are overflowing. The Parish Maintenance man is to be asked to review the situation and make recommendations.

Speedwatch is up and running, with an initial 6 sessions having been run in March, which resulted in 10 letters being sent to drivers who were exceeding the speed limit. Further sessions have been booked (and no we’re not telling you where these will be!) Thank you to the volunteers who manned Speedwatch in Groombridge. It is intended to roll this out across the parish, but we need more residents to undertake this very important role. Training will be provided. It was agreed that Speedwatch should be a standing item on the Council agenda.       

ST JOHN’S WARD: Water continues to run from the car park at Forest Fold Baptist church onto the Highway which could cause a hazard to drivers. Clerk will advise Highways. A request was made for Ward Chairs to store some litter picking equipment at home to tackle the litter as and when required, rather than wait for the WPC annual Litterpick event!  

WITHYHAM/BLACKHAM WARD: WPC is very pleased that its efforts to secure some traffic calming along the A 264 in Blackham may be coming to fruition. We have been working closely with the Senior Road Safety officer at ESCC, and, as a result of many meetings, site meetings and discussion, we are now facilitating a meeting on April 18th 7pm in Blackham Village Hall to enable ESCC to present to residents its proposals for a speed limit reduction on the Blackham section of the A 264. A period of public consultation will follow.

A fingerpost that had been damaged in Blackham is now in the parish office occupying the large meeting room!

BALLS GREEN COMMUNITY SPACE: The picnic tables have been delivered but now require fixings to secure them to the BBQ area. Possible shelters for activities such as Bushcraft are being investigated. It was agreed to aim for the second Bank Holiday in May to complete and open the Community area. Thank you again to the few volunteers who have given up so much of their time on this project.

ESCC PROPOSAL FOR HOUSEHOLD WASTE RECYCLING SITES:

A draft response had been circulated prior to the meeting and, following some slight amendments with headings, it was agreed that this would be sent to ESCC. It will be available on WPC’s website.

NOISE MONITOR PROPOSAL: WPC’s Air Traffic Committee has identified two possible sites for a noise monitor and requested one from Gatwick at no cost to the community.  

OUR WATCH (COMMUNITY WARDEN) The Community Warden, Chris Harrison, is making progress working with Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinators to expand the scheme in the community. He attended the Blackham market and the Annual Parish Assembly/Community Café where he took questions from residents and offered advice. Residents can contact him on the Clerk’s email address, or on Chris’ dedicated mobile 07734 392141.  

GRANTS FROM WPC: The Council has been running a Grant scheme for some years to enable organisations in the parish to contribute to the welfare of the community. Grants do not exceed £2000 and applicants must complete a grant application and provide relevant financial information to the Finance and Administration (F and A) Committee which meets 4 times a year. Recommendations from the F and A were considered and agreed as follows:

Samaritans   £175 for Service provision

Ashdown Conservators  £1,000  towards maintenance of the East Chase

Blackham Village Hall  £1,508  - 50% of costs of replacement windows

Blackham Village Hall  £0  WPC does not support retrospective payments, and, regrettably was unable to fund £355 for a replacement fridge larder that had already been purchased and installed.

Ashurst and Blackham Sportsground Association £0 WPC was unable to support £2,500 towards play equipment

Groombridge Village Hall £ 900 towards the creation of a library

Groombridge Sportsground Association  £1,000 towards the relaying and repair of the car park at the Tanyard subject to a condition that the car park remains free to users and payment is made once partnership funding is received.

Further grants will be considered by the F and A Committee on 28 May 2018

GROOMBRIDGE PLAYGROUND RENEWAL (GPR): At the March meeting, a 3 year plan was agreed with target completion 2020 subject to fundraising and the leaseholders approval. Fund raising events to be decided at the next meeting so bring your ideas along – none too small or unusual to be considered! Anyone wishing to volunteer to help is welcome. Details of contacts are in our WPC newsletter and on the WPC website. 

GENERAL DATA PROTECTION REGULATIONS (GDPR) : The Clerk had purchased councillor email addresses. Once a policy is in place, these along with instructions will be issued to avoid councillors using their own personal email addresses. Information can be found at ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-the-general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr/, particularly the guide ‘12 Steps To Take Now’.

WEALDLINK: Volunteer drivers needed - if you are interested, please contact them on 4weald.co.uk/ or 01892 771332.

Next Parish Council Meeting: Monday 21st May 2018 at 7.30pm 

Diana Kelly: Chair         Anne Jenkins: Vice Chair

Clerks at 01892 864557/ clerk@withyhamparishcouncil.org.uk

NOTES FROM THE PARISH COUNCIL – MARCH 2018.

Withyham Parish Council (WPC) met on Monday 12th  March  2018 at The Old Station, Groombridge

Action from the last meeting is on our website www.withyhamparishcouncil.org.uk and Facebook on www.facebook.com/WithyhamParishCouncil.  Minutes can also be obtained

COMMUNITY WARDEN: Chris Harrison, the Community Warden, provided a written report for Council to consider. He has responded to a wide variety of issues that have been concerning residents across the parish from attempted scams to parking outside schools.  He will also be working with Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinators to expand the scheme in the community. Chris’ report will be available to the public upon request. He will also be attending the Blackham market and the Annual Parish Assembly/Community Cafe. Residents can contact him on the Clerk’s email address, or on Chris’ dedicated mobile 07734 392141.

WARD REPORTS

GROOMBRIDGE WARD: The street light on the Victoria roundabout has been replaced following a meeting between ESCC and WPC.  Reports were received of accidents on Hendal Hill due to frozen water on the road during the very cold weather. The Clerks had reported this issue a number of times. The Community Warden has been asked to look at the overhanging hedge and the cars parked on the pavement near the Victoria Roundabout and to refer them to Operation Crackdown. This issue had frequently been raised at Road Safety Committee, and discussed with ESCC representatives, without any satisfactory action.   

ST JOHN’S WARD: Another tree had fallen across wires in St John’s Road but had been cut, presumably by the Conservators.  School Lane had been impassable in the snow, but residents had helped vulnerable neighbours.

WITHYHAM/BLACKHAM WARD: There had been another road traffic incident accident at the junction of the A264/Ironchurch Lane. The Assistant Clerk had reported it to ES Highways and requested an update on proposals for road safety measures, but the process is likely to take time. Once agreed there will be a period of consultation, and the Road Safety Committee would meet with residents to assist them in this.

It was noted that a fingerpost had been damaged which the Clerk has reported to insurers

BALLS GREEN COMMUNITY SPACE:   The picnic tables have been ordered and will be installed when the weather allows! The final phase will include the erection of a shelter for activities such as Bushcraft.  We would welcome some help from residents in Balls Green to complete this project, so that we may join with you all for a celebration of the development of this community space. It is a real tribute to the few volunteers who have given up so much of their time on this project.

ESCC PROPOSAL FOR HOUSEHOLD WASTE RECYCLING SITES:

The Parish Council has agreed to respond as a body to the consultation on the future of Household Waste Recycling Sites by ESCC. The County Council is proposing

-       The introduction of charging for certain waste types that are not ‘household waste’ such as rubble, soil, tyres and asbestos  

-       The possible closure of the part-time recycling sites at Forest Row and Wadhurst

-       A review of recycling opening hours

NOISE MONITOR PROPOSAL: An opportunity has been made available by Gatwick for parish councils to request a noise monitor of overhead aircraft at no cost, within certain guidelines. WPC’s Air Traffic Committee has identified two possible sites for this monitor which have been put forward by private landowners, and could be proposed to Gatwick for their consideration. 

PARISH LITTERPICKS UPDATE: The Groombridge litterpick had to be cancelled due to snow, but it was noted that Sam, the Parish Maintenance Person had been so diligent in collecting litter that it might be more appropriate to consider that future litterpicks   expanded into ‘Village cleans‘, or planting bulbs. At Blackham, four volunteers had collected 16 bags of litter (a photograph of which had been sent to BBC South East Facebook page). Four volunteers in St Johns had collected 7 half bags. You are not too late to join us on 17th  March in Withyham for the final litterpick!   

ANNUAL PARISH ASSEMBLY: This year the Annual Parish Assembly will be combined with the Community Café and hosted by WPC on Saturday 24th March at Groombridge Village Hall. Please do come along for tea and cake and to find out more about what is happening in our great parish. Stall holders from local clubs and societies will be proudly showing their achievements and you will have an opportunity to talk to us about any issues in the parish and offer us your constructive thoughts whilst sipping coffee/tea and sampling  delicious cakes and savouries! No speakers – just a chat with us.    

URBAN GRASS CUTTING: Councillors were very concerned that, having already set our budget and precept request, ESCC had informed towns and parishes that they intend to reduce the number of cuts previously agreed from six to two from April 2018 to save £400,000 per year. However, they would be offering the cuts that have been lost, at an additional price. ESCC will only cut verges which have become a safety issue. Councillors considered whether to pay for additional urban cuts in 2018/19 and agreed that as funds are not available in the budget or precept, WPC would not be able to do so. There will, therefore, only be two urban cuts during 2018/19.  

GROOMBRIDGE PLAYAREA UPDATE: A meeting was held on 8th March at 8pm at The Junction Inn, of enthusiastic volunteers raring to get started on developing the current Groombridge Play Area. Anyone wishing to volunteer to help is welcome. Details of contacts are in our WPC newsletter and on the WPC website. 

WITHYHAM CHARITY: Canon James Campbell had written to the Clerk to confirm that they were now in a position to invite the Parish Council to appoint two Trustees to work alongside the two Churchwardens and Rector of St Michaels and All Angels for the Withyham Charity. Two councillors will be following up on this.

GENERAL DATA PROTECTION REGULATIONS (GDPR) : A paper outlining actions required for the Parish Council to comply with the new GDPR, had been circulated prior to the Council meeting. Council agreed that this would be a priority for the Clerks as the regulations are to come into effect from 25th May. The clerks and lead councillor will be undertaking training, followed by Councillors. Any local businesses, clubs and societies which hold individuals’ personal data such as contact details should also do so. Useful information can be found at ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-the-general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr/, particularly the guide ‘12 Steps To Take Now’.

WEALDLINK: Volunteer drivers needed - if you are interested, please contact them on 4weald.co.uk/ or 01892 771332.

Next Parish Council Meeting: Monday 9th April 2018 at 7.30pm 

Diana Kelly: Chair         Anne Jenkins: Vice Chair

Clerks at 01892 864557/ clerk@withyhamparishcouncil.org.uk