2023-11 Parish Council meeting 2nd November 2023

Held in Gittisham Parish Room

Present:

Village ward: Cllr C Hall (Chair), Cllr D Valentine, Cllr A Rowe, Cllr M Walker

Vale ward: Cllr J Twist (Vice Chair), Cllr P Orchard

In attendance: one member of the public, Fiona Clampin (clerk)

Apologies for absence: Cllr Alasdair Bruce (EDDC), Cllr Phil Twiss (DCC), PCSO Darren England

Before the start of the meeting, councillors discussed the flooding in the parish which had occurred in the early hours of Thursday morning, 2nd November. The member of the public, who works for a flood risk organisation, advised the parish council that when serious flooding occurs, getting involved in mitigating its effects during the event can be dangerous and it is often best to wait until the worst has passed. For example inspection covers often lift in floods and can’t be seen under water or in the dark. Flood risk is best dealt with proactively, he said, and the parish council is not in a position to advise individuals. All agreed that with climate change bringing about more extreme weather events, people would have to adapt their behaviour and take further precautions to try to minimise flood damage.

96/23 To accept and approve apologies

Apologies were received and accepted.

97/23        To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 3rd October 2023

The minutes of the meeting held on 3rd October 2023 were confirmed and signed by the Chair. 

98/23        To receive the Beat Manager’s Report

Due to an error on the Police UK website, it was not possible to report crime statistics for August & September 2023.

99/23        To receive declarations of interest

Cllr Valentine declared an interest in agenda item 7j) (minute ref. 102/23j), as he owns an electric vehicle.

100/23        To consider actions from the last meeting not otherwise on the agenda

Cllr Twist reported that the waste bin has been installed at the end of Old Elm Road.

101/23 To receive reports from County Council and District Council representatives

Budgeting and living with the means available

In his absence, Cllr Twiss sent the following report: Devon County Council is going through a major restructure currently of how the ‘business’ operates, so that it can best serve the needs of the residents of Devon with the physical and financial resources available to it. There is a lot of publicity currently about the financial health of local government and a number of them issuing what is called a section 114 notice. In effect, this is a declaration that they cannot meet their obligations in producing a legally required budget.  They are therefore ‘handing back the keys’ to central Government to send in commissioners to run services at the minimum legal level. There is often no one single reason for this but certainly growing demand for services, children’s in particular, combined with inflation, are major factors in many instances.

Devon County Council took early steps to address this, reorganised and as part of this are currently in advanced negotiations with the Department for Education for a very significant financial settlement (called the ’safety valve’) and DCC is not currently at risk of having to issue a section 114 notice.  Setting a balanced budget early next year is going to be very difficult, resulting in some very difficult choices having to be made where core spending power has reduced in real terms by 27 per cent since 2010/11 as councils remain firmly in the eye of the inflationary storm and finances are under pressure like never before.

Levelling Up

The Levelling up & Regeneration Bill recently received Royal Assent.  A raft of new measures came into force which the government says will “put local people at the heart of development”eg county and district councils will be expected to work with a faster and less bureaucratic planning system with developers held to account; more beautiful homes (whatever that means in Devonshire English!), built alongside GP surgeries, schools and transport links, and environmental enhancement; communities taking back control of their future with new powers to shape their local area.  This all sounds very good, but of course the proof of the pudding is in the eating and it will be interesting to see how councils interpret the Bill where clearly it’s critical in protecting our rural green spaces, but much of it seemingly has a more urban than rural focus and must not just be a tick box exercise.

The Act says it will:

  • Boost local services – requiring developers to deliver vital infrastructure. This will put an end to lifeless edge-of-town developments with no community assets and ensure developers deliver the schools, doctors surgeries and public services communities need and expect. Further details on these measures will be set out shortly.
  • Rebalance the housing and land markets, giving local councils the power to increase council tax on empty homes and reforming compensation for compulsory purchase orders by removing ‘hope value’ where justified.
  • Encourage developers to get building; giving communities updates on the progress of development and giving councils the chance to consider slow ‘build out’ rates when approving planning.
  • Bring high streets back to life, giving councils the powers to work directly with landlords to bring empty buildings back in to use by local businesses and community groups through high street rental auctions. It will also make it faster for local authorities to give hospitality businesses permission to use outdoor seating.

Station ticket offices proposals and other railway news

Although not a primary function of DCC, many concerns have been raised with colleagues and me by residents about proposals to close all railway station ticket offices, with much reduced staff and hours of operation for larger or busier ones where staff would be on hand to help.  Following a lengthy nationwide consultation and much lobbying, the government has determined that they must be scrapped; not reaching the threshold of an acceptable replacement that was fair on all users of the railways. I think we all recognise that times are changing with most people buying tickets online from machines at railway stations but these proposed major changes were too extreme at this time

The Friends of Honiton Station recently won the gold award for the second year running, for the community planters on the station. They are now working on a project with the Thelma Hulbert Gallery, Honiton Primary school, Honiton Town Council, South West Trains and Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership to install children’s artwork relating to Honiton Lace, and the ‘Honiton Hippos’ on the inside of the footbridge at the station.

Highways 

DCC Highways teams have taken an absolute battering this year where climate change, and flooding events in particular have decimated planned maintenance.  But despite that, Highways are pressing on with as much of the programme as possible when not dealing with ’risk to life’ events or clearing up after flooding, fallen trees and damaged buildings.  They are doing their best to keep all of the plates spinning and I would ask that you understand that they must prioritise workload those ‘risk to life’ events while not diminishing the priority of things you have reason to contact them for.

Cllr Bruce explained that a large housing development to the north of Honiton had recently been approved. There were many objections raised against this application, not least the limited access onto narrow lanes. However, it appears the main factor that saw it through was the lack of a five year land supply, which the committee were told would make it difficult to defend were it to be rejected and an appeal raised. Whether this approval will take the pressures off other areas in the ward remains to be seen. Cllr Bruce also voiced his concern over the timing and duration of full council meetings, which do not make it easy for those with working

In his absence, Cllr Bruce sent the following report:

I have to report, with some regret, that East Devon District Council saw the retirement of one of the longest serving Chief Executives in the country. Without delving into the array of conspiracy theories flying about, it is suffice to say he leaves a big pair of shoes to fill.

I took some encouragement from the definitive statements that have come out of last Strategic Planning Committee meeting. If implemented in full they could offer us an element of protection from the scourge of never ending developer-led mass housing applications.  The Government will be issuing a new NPPF in the near future. At its core is the following statement:

“The Levelling-Up and Regeneration Act is at the heart of this long-term plan and will ensure new development is built more beautifully, produces more local infrastructure, like GP surgeries, schools and transport links, is shaped by local people’s democratic wishes, enhances the environment, and creates neighbourhoods where people want to live and work.”  This should help empower our planning committee to make a stand against inappropriate development.  A case in point was last week’s refusal of the application for 63 houses to the south of Ottery St Mary. Despite officer recommendation, the committee decided to refuse. It remains to be seen if the council lawyers come back with reasons why these grounds will fail (an unfortunately familiar scenario).

With the ongoing spell of unpredictable weather, all our minds turn to the issue of flooding. As of 27th October I understand that, although some roads have been affected,  no houses in the ward have suffered. I hope this remains the case by the time this report appears. In the meantime I can only hope that the incoming Storm Ciarán does not cause too much damage.

Finally, I’d like to express my very grateful thanks to all those that have written to me recently. Your fine words and support at this difficult time have been of great help to me. Thank you.

ACTION: Clerk to advise Cllr Twiss that Jurassic Fibre has not responded either way to the invitation to attend a parish council meeting.

102/23     To receive reports from councillors on areas of responsibility and actions since the last meeting:

  • To note the latest planning decision notices

22/1206/FUL The Lodge Gittisham EX14 3AD – Demolition of internal wall, removal of roof to existing extension, construction of new extension with parapet and roof lanterns.  Approval with conditions.

  • To receive an update on Highways

Cllr Orchard reported that the internal channel of the balancing pond has filled with rubble, so it needs to be cleared out. Cllr Rowe said the broken grit bin on the road heading west out of the village had been reported.

  • To consider plans for expenditure in the parish under the Community Infrastructure Levy & S106

The clerk said she had approached EDDC for an update, but had not received a reply.

  • To receive an update on public transport

Cllr Orchard said the 44a service through the village had been rather unreliable over the past few weeks. The clerk said she had written to Stagecoach.

  • To consider climate change measures within the parish, including proposals for rewilding land in the parish

Cllr Rowe said he and Cllr Orchard would be meeting EDDC officer Paul Feely in December.   

  • To consider parish council support for scam awareness and security

Cllr Twist said a lot of information about scams had been circulating.  In the first half of 2023, 1.4 million cases of fraud through scams were recorded.  Cllr Twist said the online safety bill soon to come before parliament should help to bring down cold calling about finance.

ACTION: Cllr Twist to order some Take 5 stickers which people put on their ‘phones.

  • To consider limited residential development in the parish

Cllr Valentine said the GCLT board had decided to press ahead with the planning application, in spite of the lack of housing association involvement. The decision is subject to the availability of funds.                 

  • To consider updating the parish emergency plan

Given the recent weather, members were reminded that there are various locations marked on the emergency plan where sandbags are stored. Councillors resolved to purchase additional sand for the sandbags. In the event of a flood, those affected should call the emergency services. The Chair thanked Cllr Rowe for clearing the drain under the railway bridge by the Forge.

ACTION: The Chair & Cllr Rowe to check how many sandbags are currently filled and to feed back to the clerk. 

  • To consider the creation of a footpath linking Hayne Farm with Gittisham village

ACTION: To be discussed at the next meeting.

Cllr Valentine left the meeting.

  • To consider the purchase of an electric vehicle charger.

Members discussed the likelihood of finding a suitable location and getting approval from the landowner, as well as the high cost of a charger fast enough to be suitable for visitors to the village. It was agreed to put this ambition to one side for now, but to continue investigating grants for the project.

Cllr Valentine returned to the meeting.

    • To consider the refurbishment and maintenance of the village play area

    The Chair confirmed the memorial plaque had been moved.

    • To consider work to be carried out by the lengthsman to maintain ditches and drains in the parish

    The Chair thanked Len Abbott and the bridge contractors working at Church Mead for removing the fallen tree.

    103/23     To receive a report from the Chair

    The Chair said there was no report this month. 

    104/23     To consider the casual vacancy in Gittisham Vale

    The clerk said that no applications had been received. Members agreed to re-advertise the vacancy, with a deadline of 23.59 on Sunday 3rd December 2023 for applications.

    105/23 To consider updating the financial regulations

    The clerk circulated the current financial regulations and an internet banking policy to reflect the changes in the parish council’s banking methods.  Members discussed at length the best way to retain the system for two councillors to authorise payments, as NatWest’s Bankline for Communities does not allow those who are not authorised signatories to process payments.  Members resolved to allow the clerk to become an authorised signatory and payment controller, which will give her the ability to generate payments to be approved online.  (Cllr Twist is currently doing this.)  Once the clerk has raised the payments, they will be checked and authorised by one of the authorised signatories on the account (Cllrs Hall, Twist & Valentine).  A second councillor will check each invoice against the bank statement, sign and report back at the following meeting.

    106/23     To approve the November payments and to note the current bank balance

    F Clampin             £235.83 Clerk’s salary

    Michael Poll        £65 Grass cutting (inv. ref. 10264)   

    Leonard Abbott       £123.25 (8.5 hours lengthsman work, Sept 2023)

    Leonard Abbott       £101.50 (7 hours lengthsman work, Oct 2023)

    DD          NEST                     £24.82   Clerk’s pension

    Members were informed that the current bank balance stands at £20,233.60 (which includes approximately £7,000 in the business reserve account).  The clerk said that a payment to Leonard Abbott for £53.48 in September had not gone through, as Bankline will reject additional payments when one is pending for the same payee. Cllr Twist agreed to add £53.48 to the amount owing to Len Abbott as outlined in November’s payments. 

    107/23     Clerk’s Report

    None.  

    108/23     For information only; items for the forward agenda

    None.

    109/23     To consider any late entry correspondence

    The clerk agreed to alert Cllr Twiss about the inadequate ditch clearance reported by a village resident near Truances Cottage. The ditch overflows and the road requires more than patching. 

    110/23     Date of next two meetings  

    Thursday th December 2023 and Thursday 4th January 2024 at 7.30pm. 

    There being no further business, the meeting closed at 2105 hrs.

    Chair…………………………………….

    7th December 2023