Higham Parish Council

Minutes of the February 2008 Parish Council Meeting

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Minutes of the Parish Council Meeting, held at the Memorial Hall, School Lane, on Monday, 25th February 2008 at 7.30 p.m.

Present: Cllr.Mrs J.M.Papadopulos (Chairman)
Borough Councillor:- Cllr. B. Sweetland.
Councillors:- J.A.Grey, A.L.Howard, M.L.James, Mrs P.Oakeshott (also Borough), L.M. Pearton, Mrs M. Scott, B.Sutherland, S.N.Walton, and S. Wright.
In attendance: Sgt. Andy Lewis – Rural Sergeant, PCSO Darren Fielding, Community Warden Steve Gray
8 Parishioners.
Apologies for absence: Cllr. M. Snelling, P.C. Steve Cole.

As Sgt. Andy Lewis was in attendance at the Meeting the Chairman altered the order of the agenda accordingly.

The Chairman drew Sgt. Lewis’ attention to a letter from a Parishioner who was concerned at the increased crime rate in the village. It was noted that although there had been a 21% decrease in the crime rate in the Gravesham area as a whole, burglary figures for Higham had remained static. Sgt. Lewis reported that following recent burglaries, the police had arrested one person and were looking for others known to have been involved. These burglaries were being committed by a hard core of criminals and not the youth of the village. Concern was expressed that vehicles were being parked around the Gardeners Arms junction. Sgt Lewis confirmed that the Gravesham Parking Services department enforced double yellow lines but if there were no lines and a vehicle was causing an obstruction it would be a matter for the police. Deliveries to the village shops tended to cause temporary obstructions which were unavoidable. It was also felt that the directional signs at the Gardeners Arms junction were often ignored and Sgt. Lewis suggested that a police presence could be available if the situation worsened. Illegal and irresponsible use of quad bikes was discussed. Sgt. Lewis reiterated that incidences should be reported promptly as there was a special police unit available if there were reports of a persisting nuisance. Properly registered and insured bikes could use byways legally. It was noted that a Parishioner living in Dickens Court had suffered criminal damage to his property and Cllr. Sutherland agreed to ask the Church to become involved again in this matter. Parishioners present highlighted the lack of police presence in the village at night and the slow response time from the police when responding to an incident. Sgt. Lewis asked for Parishioners to report all crime promptly and to pass any other non-emergency information to him via either Steve or Darren or by phoning 01622 690690. It was noted that the next police surgery would take place at Higham Library on 18/3 from 11.00 to 13.00 hours.
The Chairman thanked Sgt. Lewis for attending the Meeting and he left.

The Chairman accepted apologies for absence.
There were no alterations to the Register of Members Interests.

The Minutes of the Parish Council Meeting, held on Monday, 7th January 2008, were confirmed and signed.

Matters arising from the Minutes.
Following an update of actions from the last Minutes, the Clerk reported that:-
a. P. 860. Removal of right hand turn lane – Gads Hill. It was hoped that a compromise could be reached whereby the extended cycle lane and a reduced turning lane into Forge Lane could both be accommodated on the highway.
b P. 861. Matters Arising – Scout Tree Planting. The Scouts would be discussing a proposal that the tree planting should take place at the same time as their AGM in June.
c. P. 862. Reactive road signs. Martin Wybraniec had confirmed by e-mail that it would not be possible to have either an interactive road sign or a temporary speed indication device in Higham, even if it was funded by the Parish Council, as their use was restricted to roads where there was a poor crash record or which had a safety problem which was causing concern to Kent Highway Services. Following discussion amongst Members the Clerk was asked to again press for the use of such a sign in the village and for an  indication of the ongoing maintenance costs of the same.
d. P. 863. Recreation Ground. The visit to view the play equipment had not taken place as Allan Chapman was uncontactable.
e. An e-mail had been received from a KCC Public Transport Planner confirming that the feasibility of a commuter coach service from Cliffe/Cliffe Woods to Higham Station  could be considered when contracts were renewed in early 2009. Cllr. James suggested that the Parish Council should conduct its own survey of rail users at Higham Station to gauge their interest and obtain information regarding their travelling habits.
f. Robert Shove had confirmed that he was taking over the tenancy of Whitehouse Farm but only until the Summer. Provided the tenancy was confirmed after that date he would like to retain the use of the allotments. Members agreed to wait and hear from Mr Shove before a final decision was reached. It was agreed that until that time the rent would be charged pro-rata.
g Web Site report. There had been a total of 3,070 hits to the website in January and this had brought the rolling total for the year to 33,257.

Parishioners’ Matters.
Mr Taylor, of Martins Close, felt it would be useful to know the content of the Parish Council Meeting agenda as well as the date of the Meeting when notices were posted.
Mr Hariharan, proprietor of Meadows Stores, Forge Lane, asked if the alleyway between numbers 16 and 18 Forge Lane could be cleared and a gate erected. Cllr. Oakeshott confirmed that the land in question did not belong to the Borough but to the local residents. Cllr. Sweetland proposed that the local residents should be asked if they wished this land to be cleared or incorporated into their back gardens. Cllr. James suggested that it would be sensible to check with Parishioners living at either end of the alleyway before proceeding further with this consultation. Mr Hariharan asked if he would be able to apply for a marked allocated space outside his shop for elderly or disabled customers to park. Cllr. Oakeshott agreed to investigate this matter but felt that these were specifically reserved for outside residences.
Mrs Howes reported uneven pavements needing repair to St. John’s Road.

Provision of play equipment to Recreation Ground.
Members were disappointed to learn that the proposed visit to view the Hip Hop Unit had not been able to take place as Allan Chapman had not been contactable. Cllr. Oakeshott urged Members to contact Cheryl Russell to enlist the help and expertise of Borough Council Officers. Members decided to investigate the suitability of Astroturf surfacing underneath the swing unit.

To discuss the future of the Villa Road walkways.
This item had been placed on the agenda at the request of Cllr. Sutherland following a site meeting at the garages at Villa Road which was attended by both Borough and Parish Councillors. Discussion had already taken place under Parishioners, Matters.

Annual Parish Newsletter 2008.
The Clerk reported that copy material for the 2008 newsletter was now awaiting editing. Two quotations had been received for printing costs namely AZOgraphics Ltd. at £1675 and Spectra Press Ltd. at £1083 (both prices plus VAT). Members recommended the cheaper quotation as the company had been used in previous years and the Clerk was instructed to notify them accordingly. The Higham Essay competition had now been judged and the first prize had been awarded to Madelene Hart, with Rose Abbott and William Harwood coming second and third respectively. Under sections 137 and 139 of the Local Government Act 1972 Members unanimously agreed that book vouchers should be presented to the winners (£10.00/£7.50/£5.00). The Chairman agreed to present these prizes at an assembly at the school. The prizewinning essay would be printed in the newsletter and all three would be featured on the Parish Council website. The Clerk reported that the Scouts had agreed to deliver the Newsletter to the village on 11/4. Additional Parishioners attending the Meeting volunteered to also help with the delivery.

As Cllr. Snelling was unable to attend the Meeting he had submitted a written report which had been circulated amongst Members. The increase in Council Tax had been set at 3.9 % for the new financial year. The A2 widening scheme was ahead of schedule although recent planned closures of the road had caused severe disruption. The feasibility of a linear/activity park and park and ride facility on the “sandwich” land left with the A2 widening was being investigated. The Pepper Hill Waste Disposal site was now closed for a six month period whilst it was transformed into a major recycling unit. Cllr. Snelling had voiced his support for an investigation into the need for a Lower Thames Crossing.

Cllr. Sweetland reported that the Council Tax increase had been set at 4.9 %. He had attended a recent High Speed Rail Link Meeting and two of the services to Higham would not stop there in future for off-peak trains.
Cllr. Oakeshott reported that tickets were now being issued for motorists who persisted in parking on the newly installed double yellow lines to the top of Villa Road. The planning application for The Chequers site had been turned down and the light industrial application for the “brownfield” site beside the station car park had been sent to the Secretary of State, as had the Gads Hill application. All properties at Jupp Court had now been allocated following a recent Open Day to which the Parish Council had not been invited, and landscaping works were currently being undertaken on site. The Working Mens Club was to meet with the Borough Council to discuss the future of its allotment land. Low wooden posts were to be installed to the grass verge to School Lane to discourage parking
Cllr. James asked Cllr. Sweetland if he had heard further regarding the request to reroute the 136 bus.
Steve Gray reported that the end garage to Villa Road was currently being used for fly tipping as its door had been smashed in and Cllr. Sutherland reported that engine oil had been tipped down the drain beside the garages.

Cllr. Pearton expressed concern that the church wall to St. Marys still required repair and that fly tipping had taken place to the middle of Taylors Lane.
Cllr. Sutherland sought advice regarding a planning matter on Telegraph Hill and Cllr. Oakeshott agreed to make further enquiries.
Cllr. Grey reported that the double yellow lines had now been reinstated to the bottom of School Lane. As the parking wardens did not have enough time to check all the vehicles in the CPZ in the time allocated he suggested that the time for the restrictions should be increased.
Cllr. James reported three potholes to Crutches Lane.
Cllr. Scott reported that a vehicle had been parked on the corner of Steadman Close.
Cllr. Wright reported that the street lamps and drains to the top end of Bull Lane still required attention.
Cllr. Walton reported that two parents helping at the school had been ticketed whilst parked outside.
Steve Gray reported that both he and Darren Fielding had been challenged by parents parking outside the school. The registration numbers of vehicles involved had been taken and tickets would be issued by PC Steve Cole.

a. Planning.
Plans were available for the following planning applications which had been received
and reviewed by the Planning Committee:-

Appln No. 20080004 2, Taylors Lane.
Erection of a conservatory at the rear.
Appln. No. 20080033 8, St. John’s Close.
Erection of single storey rear extension to form a kitchen and dining area.
Appln. No. 20080040 Rear of 13, 15 and 17 Forge Lane.
Erection of three detached, two storey, four bedroom dwellings, two with integral garages, associated parking and with vehicular access on to The Braes.
Appln. No. 20080042 Land To The Rear Of 13, 15 and 17, Forge Lane.
Erection of two pairs of two storey, semi-detached, three bedroom dwellings with associated parking and with vehicular access on The Braes.
Appln. No. 20080073 “Fir Trees”, 6, Hermitage Road.
Erection of single storey rear extension to form kitchen, living room and entrance lobby and alterations to existing dwelling.

e. Recreation Ground
The Clerk reported that Mr Racine of Waterhouse had advised the Parish Council that the conifers to the Recreation Ground needed trimming back. The Clerk agreed to liaise with the Recreation Ground Committee to identify a suitable contractor.

h. Governors of Higham Primary School.
Cllr. James reported that the southern route for the walking bus was now operational It was agreed to ask Kent Highways to liaise with the school via Cllr. Walton to resolve the problems which prevented the launch of the northern route at this time. Cllr. James explained that the walking bus was currently looking for sponsors to allow it to continue and Members unanimously agreed to grant £500 under Sections 137 and 139 of the Local Government Act 1972 for the purchase of high visibility tabards printed to show their sponsorship of this initiative.

i. Merston Court.
The Chairman reported that one new hostess was required at the present time.

j. Youth Club.
The Clerk reported that Joanne Raff had ultimately decided to become self employed and contract her services to the Parish Council with Kent Youth continuing to provide advice and help. She had felt that she would not have the flexibility to run the Youth Club as she wanted if she was contracted to KCC.

The Clerk asked for approval for the items of expenditure shown on the agenda this being proposed by Cllr. Oakeshott, seconded by Cllr. James and agreed by all Members.

Higham with Merston PCC (S137/139 grant – church Christmas leaflet – lost cheque) 70.00
PDW Contracting Services Ltd. (Christmas lighting – take down) 314.43
B.T. Payment Services Ltd. (broadband) 112.46
Kent Youth (Youth Leader contract and advice) 425.00
Action with Communities in Rural Kent (2008 subscription) 35.00
Mrs J.M.Papadopulos (transfer from contingency to Chairman’s Allowance) 75.00
Mrs J. Raff (Youth Leader – Sept.’07 to Feb.’08) 1053.00
Mr R.Slater (talk at APA – Sect. 150(2) L.G.Act 1972) 50.00

The correspondence folder had been available for perusal by Members from 7.00 p.m. on that evening, but the Clerk drew Members’ attention to the following items:-
1. Members noted that the Medipharmacy was now open at 4, School Lane.
2. Members asked for items on rural policing, potholes, vandalism at the station car park and Metrotidal Ltd. to be placed on the agenda for the forthcoming Meeting of Parish Chairmen.

Members noted details of a tunnel to be built under the estuary by Metrotidal Ltd. which involved both road and rail links. No consultation documents had as yet been received.

To note the date of the next Parish Council Meeting.
This was given as being Monday, 7th April 2008 at 7.30 p.m.

Any Other Business.
The Chairman reported that two events were being staged by the Parish Council to support the Charities of the Mayor of Gravesham. The first on 4/4 was a concert by the Young People of the Village at the Memorial Hall and the second the following evening was a performance of The Armed Man by Straight Eight and Friends at St. John’s Church.

There being no other business, the Meeting closed at 10.30 p.m.


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