Chair’s Report April 2017

BOUGHTON ALUPH AND EASTWELL ANNUAL PARISH MEETING

15th May 2017, The Iron Room, Boughton Lees, 7.30pm

 

THE CHAIR’S REPORT

Dear Councillors and Residents,

My report offers a useful moment to look back over the Parish Council’s past year, and forward to our future plans. 2016-17 has been challenging in bringing many changes, but also productive in the breadth of work we have undertaken.

Coming to the challenges first, these were related to changes to those holding either the role of the Chair or the Clerk. This time last year Jason Matthews signalled that he was standing aside after 4 years as chairman, Ray Burroughs then took up the role briefly but an unexpected house move resulted in his moving on, and I took up the position in October 2016. So I speak as a very new chair. Similarly, those taking the role of clerk have moved from Martin Hopkins, to Graham Jordan, to Michelle Rumble, and now to Tina Cobourn. All had good reason for their moves and all contributed significantly to the work of the Parish Council, and we thank everyone.

I’d also like to say, as a `newbie`, that over the past months I have been very grateful for the reliability and steadiness of all Councillors who have adapted to change admirably – my especial thanks to you all. Your capacity to continue to focus on the work in hand is a measure of the strength and resilience of all on the Council.

I am dividing the remainder of my report into 2 sections: the Parish Council (PC), and the Neighbourhood Plan (NP).

THE PARISH COUNCIL

This is a minor item but the work described below has been conducted against a background of on-going administrative housekeeping. This has included reviewing the agenda and minutes formats and looking closely at the presentation of financial information so that budget statements can be easily understood and regularly checked. We are gradually moving all PC material to our new WordPress website boughtonaluphandeastwellpc.kentparishes.gov.uk but are looking to create our own, to be organised on the same basis as that for the Neighbourhood Plan, www.parishplan.uk. We are also in the process of commissioning a PC logo for use on stationery and any items purchased for the community by the PC.

Work undertaken in response to community requests or initiatives in 2016-17

  • New BT Cabinet

The PC supported the Boughton Aluph and Eastwell Residents Association in lobbying for a new cabinet on the Green at Boughton Lees.  Permission for placement of the cabinet from Fields in Trust was gained in December 2016, and a completion date of end of March 2017 received from BT Openreach. Disappointingly this date has now slipped, the PC continue to chase Openreach and KCC`s Making Kent Quicker on this matter.

The Residents` Association also recommended siting an easily accessible defibrillator in Boughton Lees. Attaching an external cabinet to the cricket pavilion is currently being costed.

  • Listing local heritage features

Following requests from 2 residents work was undertaken through Historic England to list the War Memorial on Boughton Lees Green. The Memorial has recently been added to the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest and listed at Grade 11.  Work is also on-going to explore the possibility of listing a fingerpost at the juncture of Pilgrims Way and Church Lane.

  • Water leak on Sandyhurst Lane

Sandyhurst Lane Residents’ Association asked the PC to track the source of a long standing water leak outside Pondfields. The responsibility was traced to South East Water who are now working to resolve the matter.

  • St Mary’s, Eastwell, churchyard maintenance

The Parochial Church Council invited our help to clear the churchyard of heavy fallen branches. The process clarified that Friends of Friendless Churches hold the freehold over both masonry and grounds. The PC therefore have no responsibility over maintenance but voluntarily fund regular grass cutting and tidying from Alan Burton, and Jim Saunders and his son provide valuable assistance in cutting and removing branches. Martin Goodman of Eastwell Estate also offered help.

  • Commemorative Bench Policy for Green

Following a request for a memorial bench to be placed on the Green Cllr Nigel Bunker, in conjunction with the Cricket Club, developed a bench policy, now available on our website.

  • Electoral Ward Boundaries

The PC put forward a submission to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England which has recently suggested changes to ward boundaries. This recommended a small alteration to the ward boundary line as proposed by LGBCE. Our revision comprises two parts. The first would bring Eastwell Towers and the Eastwell wall into Downs West (Eastwell and Boughton Aluph parish wards), the second preferred option would also include the housing on Lenacre Street. In addition the submission recommended a revision to the proposed electoral arrangements for the PC, requesting equal representation of 4 parish councillors for each of the Goat Lees and Downs West borough wards. A copy of our submission is on our website.

Projects for the financial year 2017-18

  • Goat Lees Primary School outdoor space

This is the only school within the parish and Cllr Tingey has been working with the Headteacher to support development of their newly created outdoor area. This is likely to take the form of a new specially extended bench and to be actioned by this summer.

  • Traffic/Road Safety

We hold a budgeted sum initially with the intention of supporting a Zebra crossing on Trinity Road, Goat Lees, this has been costed by KCC at £15,000 plus. We are also looking at a joint project with the Primary School of part funding a school patrol officer for Trinity Road. At present numbers of children from the north of Trinity Road are too small, but this is likely to change when development takes place on Eureka Park. I’ll say more about traffic management under the Neighbourhood Plan section.

  • Parkrun at Sandyacres Community and Sports Ground

The PC has linked with the nationwide Parkrun organisation. This helps to support regular outdoor activity for all in the form of a once-weekly 5 km walk/jog/run. Work will be on-going with Sandyacres to establish this local opportunity.

  • Protection of the Village Green at Boughton Lees

Following damaging incursions onto the cricket pitch the PC has been holding a sum to support the Cricket Club in providing protection against further vandalism. A generous resident, through a company Challenge Security, liaised with the PC and Cricket Club to install a CCTV system on the Green. It now seems likely that the larger sum for protection will not be needed.

This will enable the PC to bring forward two other projects which had been deferred: installing a bus shelter in Boughton Lees and providing a grant to All Saints Church to support fund-raising for the new church toilets. These projects will be brought forward in the budget once it is clear the Cricket club will no longer be needing the funds.

  • Community Grants Scheme

The PC believes that small community grants can have a big impact. We will make 5 grants of £100 available in 2017-18.  Grants are open to community groups. The receiving group must show how their use of the grant has benefitted the community. Projects will be posted on the PC website.

See parish noticeboards or our website for more details and an application form.

  • Cricket Club Licence

Cllr Nigel Bunker has undertaken extensive work in liaising with the Cricket Club to enable the licence for the ground to be transferred to the Club for a period of 30 years. This is likely to be signed off in the near future. Work on the transfer of the lease of the cricket pavilion will follow. In conjunction with the PC the Club recently held a useful consultation for local residents, chaired by the PC, to discuss the position of the new cricket pavilion.

 

THE NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN

Volunteer Steering Group

We have a strong and capable group of volunteers with a complementary range of skills and experience who lead the NP project day to day. The project would not be possible without their ongoing commitment. With the exception of one member who has moved away from the parish, all of the members of our volunteer Steering Group have stayed with us. Our thanks go to them.

The Group held 7 meetings over the past year plus undertook a series of visits to potential development sites in our parish.

  • Survey

Evidence gathering for the NP continued with a NP Survey. We received 482 completed survey forms in April 2016, representing close to half of the households in our parish and well above the average response rate for surveys of this type.

The Steering Group collated the data from the paper and online surveys. The responses were then independently analysed during May and presented back to the community at events in June and July.

The survey provided important evidence to underpin the NP but also a wealth of material for the work of the PC generally. For example, traffic and road safety was a major issue arising from the NP survey. We held a follow up consultation event on traffic towards the end of last year and aim to develop a traffic plan to lobby KCC Highways. We will also consider whether there are road safety/improvement projects which might be included in the NP as candidates for some of the Community Interest Levy (CIL) funds that may come from new development in our parish.

  • Site assessments

There are 7 potential development sites in our parish which must be considered as part of the NP process. Steering Group members have visited each of the sites and discussed plans with the landowner/developer. The sites have been assessed in accordance with Ashford Borough Council’s standard sustainability criteria plus supplementary “local criteria” developed from the results of the NP survey. A detailed assessment pro forma was written up for each of the 7 sites. These were put to the PC together with a recommendation from the Steering Group. All sites have been considered in light of feedback from residents to the NP survey and, in particular, local housing need.

The overwhelming feedback from residents was the importance of protecting and preserving our countryside. For that reason we are not minded to consider sites within the boundary of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or landscape character area for land allocation in the NP. These sites included land adjacent to Gardener’s House, Rook Toll, land adjacent to Aluph House on Pilgrims Way, Boughton Aluph and land on Wye Road approaching Kempes Corner. One site (Lenacre Hall Farm) proved unpopular with residents with 75% of survey respondents objecting to development on this site. While the site was problematic for other reasons we consider that we have no mandate no consider site for land allocation in the NP.

We took the view that some of the sites could not accommodate local housing needs identified by the survey for smaller homes for downsizing or starter homes and some affordable housing (Braehead).

  • The year ahead

Work continues. One potential development site is still under consideration (the former Sandpit on Sandyhurst Lane).

Having completed the evidence gathering and assessment of local housing needs, we will now start to write our draft Plan over the summer. We expect a draft Plan will be put out for consultation in the autumn. We would hope to go to independent examination in the coming year but our timetable is impacted by the delay in ABC Local Plan.

While it is a strategic site, we will aim to influence the new housing development at Eureka Park which falls partially within our parish to preserve the parkland setting etc.

  • Communications

We will continue to keep residents informed of our progress on the Neighbourhood Plan every step of the way through the website, newsletters and social media.

Our NP website has had 30,546 visitors making 100,613 visits.

We have 274 subscribers to our NP newsletter. We sent out 4 newsletters in the past year and 10 in total.

We have 184 followers on Twitter. We have sent out 1,535 tweets.

We also have a Facebook Page.

 

As can be seen we have had a busy year. The Parish Council looks forward to continuing its work for the community in 2017-18.

Yours sincerely,

Carol Bunker

Chair – for and on behalf of Boughton Aluph and Eastwell Parish Council