Higham Parish Council

Minutes of the January 2008 Parish Council Meeting

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Minutes of the Parish Council Meeting, held at the Memorial Hall, School Lane, on Monday, 7th January 2008 at 7.30 p.m.

Present: Cllr.Mrs J.M.Papadopulos (Chairman)
County Councillor:- Cllr. M. Snelling.
Borough Councillor:- Cllr. B. Sweetland.
Councillors:- J.A.Grey, M.L.James, Mrs P.Oakeshott, L.M. Pearton, B.Sutherland, S.N.Walton, and S. Wright.
In attendance: Mr M. Wybraniec, Kent Highway Services.
68 Parishioners.
Community Warden Steve Gray.
Apologies for absence: Cllrs Howard and Scott. P.C. Steve Cole.
PCSO Darren Fielding.

In view of the large numbers of Parishioners present the Chairman moved the Meeting into the main hall and altered the order of the agenda.

She wished all those present a Happy New Year before welcoming Nicky, Licensee of the Three Crutches Public House who presented Joanne Raff, Youth Leader, with a giant cheque for £203, being funds raised in aid of the Higham Youth Club at their recent Halloween Party.

Parishioners’ Matters.
Mr Halls spoke on behalf of many of the Parishioners present. Some had received letters regarding the planning application for The Chequers Public House, but many had not. The proposal was for the pub to be demolished and flats to be built on this part of the site. In addition, the Church Street curtilage would also be developed with houses giving a total of 22 homes. Mr Hall expressed concern that there would be insufficient parking for the additional traffic generated and added that most local residents did not wish to see the building demolished but would prefer to see it redeveloped instead. He had contacted the Victorian Society, the Ancient Monument Society and Save Britain’s Heritage and all of these had expressed interest in the building. It was a question of establishing the historical facts about the property, some old photographs and possibly a connection with Dickens.

In response Cllr. James reminded those present that outline permission had already been granted for a pair of semi-detached dwellings on part of the car park of the pub. The part of the application relating to the land in Church Street was Green Belt land and as such the Parish Council would object to any development. With regards to the demolition of the building and the development of this part of the site, the land was inside the village envelope and so local residents would need to make sure that they all wrote individually to register their objections. The Parish Council was only a consultee as indeed they all were. Cllr. Mike Snelling reassured those present that their Gravesham Borough Councillors would ensure that this application went before the Planning Committee and was not dealt with under delegated powers. Once the application had been heard it would be possible to request a site meeting at a later date.

Mr Parr, of Canal Road, reported that the land at Church Street had already been the subject of an unsuccessful appeal against the refusal of planning permission in 1976 and suggested that the Parish Council should look into the listing of the building as a form of protection. Cllr. Oakeshott reported that unfortunately the property was not quite old enough to be listed but that she had asked the Conservation Officer to look to see if it could be added to a list of preservation properties within the village. Mr Ives, of Bull Lane, thought that the land to Church Street should be turned into a village green with a pond. Marilyn Peters, of Chalk Road, felt that it would be better to build homes with gardens as she felt that building flats was an invitation to vandalism. Mr Mead, of Taylors Lane, reminded those present of the criteria laid down in the Local Development Framework regarding rural settlements and stressed the need for the village to embrace the concept of a Parish Plan so that it could have some say as to what the village would be like in the future.

The Chairman welcomed Mr Wybraniec, Senior Engineer for the Transportation Team of Kent Highway Services to discuss speed management on the village roads. Mr Wybraniec reported the results of the speed survey to Villa Road which had been carried out in September to October 2007. The data obtained gave an “85th percentile speed” which was the speed below which 85% of drivers travelled on this section of road and was therefore perceived to be correct for the road and its environs. In the case of Villa Road, in each direction, this figure was in the high 20’s which confirmed that the 30mph speed limit was correct. The survey revealed that approximately 1000 vehicles travelled in each direction per day. The police would stop and prosecute any driver driving at speeds of 35mph and above and on the worst day recorded a total of 23 vehicles out of 1224 exceeded this limit. The highest speed band logged on the equipment for a vehicle travelling on Villa Road was 50 – 55 mph at 23.00 hours, and generally the data showed a trend that most of the highest speeds recorded were during the night. It was a known fact that drivers speed nearer to their homes as they “switch off”. Kent Highways monitors all the roads in Kent and targets those with the worst crash records. Villa Road does not have a poor crash record.

Mr Handley, of School Lane, felt that the number of vehicles exceeding 35mph for Villa Road was very high and was not acceptable. Mrs Witchell, of Canal Road, reported that when she had driven in the 30 mph speed limit in School Lane she had been regularly tailgated by vehicles obviously wishing to exceed it. Mr Pexton suggested the introduction of signs showing “smiley faces” to indicate vehicle speeds. Mr Wybraniec agreed that these do tend to alert drivers to their speed but that it was impossible to install these due to financial restraints. Any interactive road signs installed were due to the number of fatalities or serious injuries on a stretch of road. Cllr. Pearton asked why one had not been installed to the Chalk Road following the fatality there and Mr Wybraniec pointed out that it had occurred outside the village speed limit and could therefore only warn of the legal speed for that stretch of road which achieved nothing. Kent had recently started some temporary interactive road signs which were moved around the County but the incentive of local residents and a police officer standing to the side of the road with a speed gun had attracted bad publicity and faded. In answer to a question from a Parishioner regarding making Villa Road and Forge Lane part of a one-way system Mr Wybraniec reported that the present system of on-street parking tended to have the effect of slowing down traffic speeds within the village and other options were limited. Mr Handley, of School Lane, asked if the traffic speeds to School Lane had been monitored and this was confirmed. He asked if it would be possible to extend the speed bumps further. Mr Wybraniec explained that the cost of this was to have been met by the Borough Council but now that the responsibility for the Highway had passed back to the County Council unfortunately this liability had not been passed on and was now unlikely to be met. Mr Booth, of Hermitage Road, reported that the right hand lane for turning into Forge Lane opposite Gads Hill School had not been reinstated following the recent surfacing works to the carriageway and “was an accident waiting to happen”. Mrs Forbes, of Bull Lane, reported that a badly overgrown hedge to the road meant some lorry drivers were now unwilling to deliver. Mr Parr, of Canal Road, reported that the white lines to the Canal Road/Chequers Street junction needed repainting.
The Chairman thanked Mr Wybraniec for attending the Meeting and he left.

Cllr. Oakeshott thanked Mr and Mrs Marsh of Buckland Farm on behalf of the village for arranging the visit of Father Christmas. She praised this community spirit which had seen a total of 150 children visit his grotto this year.


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, 26th November 2007, were confirmed and signed.

Matters arising from the Minutes.
Following an update of actions from the last Minutes, the Clerk reported that:-

a. P. 854. Parishioners’ Matters – Allotments. Mr Batchelor would now keep on his allotment plots until the end of March. There was still no news as to whether or not the plots would be required by the new tenant farmer.

b. P. 855. M/A Christmas Lighting.. This had been installed as agreed. Parishioners had made complimentary comments. Members were pleased that there had been no problems with vandalism this year. The local shopkeepers had not wished to install Christmas lighting to their front windows because of the expense.

c. P. 855 M/A the bus shelter to Lower Higham had now been cleared and the tyre removed.

d. P. 855. Highways Liaison. The new drain had now been installed to School Lane and measurements taken for the chicane by-passing deterrent.

e. P. 858. AOB Permission had now been granted for the planting by the Scouts of the centenary tree to the grass alongside Dickens Court. As this was to be a specific tree the Scouts would investigate through the Woodland Trust and write to the local residents. Planting would probably not take place until the Autumn.

f. Web Site report. There had been a total of 2,351 hits to the website during December and this had brought the rolling total for the year to 30,649.

Cllr. Wright reported that he had visited Alexander Cottages to investigate if the trees to the bank opposite were removed whether the light levels would improve. He commented that he felt that to make any real difference the whole bank would need to be removed as well as the trees.

New Code of Conduct – Higham Youth Club.
Cllr. Sutherland reported on the new Code of Conduct for the Youth Club which had been drawn up following suggestions from Members and helpers alike and which was to be signed by all parties. A copy of the code was in the correspondence folder. Sadly no mention of graffiti had been made in this agreement and this had appeared to various outside walls of the Memorial Hall following the last Youth Club Meeting. Police representatives present at the Meeting intended to visit the homes of the 6 youngsters believed to be involved and they had been banned from the club pending such investigations, and the cleaning up of the graffiti.

Steve Gray confirmed that he would be available to visit the club for two Meetings a month. Cllr. Sutherland reported that the new Treasurer had now received all the documents. The agreement for a Broadband connection to the Memorial Hall had been cancelled and it seemed that payment was still awaited for damage to a door at the Memorial Hall by a youngster over a year ago.

To arrange to fill the current vacancy on the Parish Council by Co-option.
The Clerk reported that as no requests had been received to hold a By-Election, the current vacancy on the Parish Council was able to be filled by Co-option. It was agreed that this would be advertised from 11/1 with a closing date of 15/2. It would be placed on the website and posters would be displayed throughout the village.

Councillors’ Matters.
Cllr. Snelling had to leave the Meeting before he could give his report.

Cllr. Sweetland reported that the Gravesham Refuse Dump was closing for a six month period from 20/1 as it was being rebuilt. Alternative sites to be used would be either Dartford or Cuxton. There was to be a car parking charging review for the Town Centre which would include free parking at weekends around Christmas. Budget discussions were continuing following the 1.6% increase from the Government Spending Review, which effectively meant that more was having to be done with less funding. Cllr. Sweetland agreed to ask the Police if a mobile speed camera could be installed to Villa Road. Following the clear up of the area around the garages to Villa Road the future of the alleyways now needed to be resolved. The local Probation Service would be able to supply a workforce under the Community Payback scheme should it be needed. Cllr. Sutherland reported that part of the old asbestos garage roofs had been left on site and Cllr. Oakeshott confirmed that she had already spoken to Cheryl Russell about these.

Cllr. Oakeshott reported that she had reported a complaint regarding an eneven flagstone to the alleyway between Dombey Close and Villa Road which had caused a Parishioner to fall. Quad bikes and motor bikes were being ridden up Taylors Lane and Steve Gray agreed to investigate further. Members were not in favour of the owner of Meadows Store parking his van at the start of the alleyway next to his property as the land belonged to the properties in Forge Lane.
Cllr. James asked if the Parish Council could write a letter of thanks to the Three Crutches P.H. to congratulate them on their fundraising efforts. Having spoken to Mr Wybraniec he understood that it would cost in the region of £2500 to purchase a reactive road sign which could be used in the village. Mr Wybraniec would contact the Clerk with further details. Cllr. James suggested placing a heading in the forthcoming Parish Newsletter which read “Do you want to know what is going on in your village?” and then to let Parishioners know that information was available on the website, in the folder to the Library and in The Bridge magazine.
Cllr. Pearton reported that a safety barrier used during work at St. Mary’s Church required removal.
Cllr. Grey asked if there was any news regarding the posts to the verge at School Lane and Cllr. Oakeshott agreed to chase this item. He reported that the footpath to Jupp Court was unable to be adopted and the verge was like a mud bath. Cllr. Oakeshott agreed to investigate this matter.

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

Appln. no. 20070984 3, Forge Lane.
Construction of dormer extension in rear roof slope and conversion of roof space into a bedroom and shower room/wc.

Appln. no. 20071034 1, The Paddock, Gravesend Road.
Construction of three dormer windows in front roof slope; dormer extension in rear roof slope and conversion of roof space into a bedroom and bathroom/wc.

Appln. no. 20071049 35, Walmers Avenue.
Erection of second floor extension to form an office and construction of new pitched roof over dwelling.

Appln. no. 20071024 59, Bull Lane.
Erection of single storey side extension to form enlarged dining room and study/bedroom.

Appln. no. 20071059 Braybrooke Manor, Old Watling Street.
Demolition of existing single storey side extension ; erection of part two storey and part first floor rear and side extension to form enlarged lounge at ground floor level with bedroom, bathroom/wc and two ensuite bathroom/wc’s at first floor level and construction of new pitched roof on dwelling.

Appln. no. 20071065 Stables Rear of Hilary Cottage, Hermitage Road.
Application for the variation of condition 4 of planning permission ref. no. GR/2005/483 relating to the installation of a mezzanine floor level to provide a rest room for overnight horse husbandry accommodation, to allow the continued use of the mezzanine rest room for no more than two consecutive nights up to a maximum of four nights a week.

Appln. no. 20071076 Chequers Inn, Church Street.
Demolition of public house and erection of two/three storey building to provide 10 one and two bedroom self contained flats; a pair of two storey semi-detached three bedroom dwellings; a two storey terrace of seven dwellings comprising three, two bedroom and four, three bedroom houses; a two storey terrace of three dwellings comprising two, four bedroom and one, three bedroom houses, making a total of 12 houses and laying out of a total of 18 car parking spaces.

Appln. no. 20070188 Gads Hill School Association, Gads Hill School, Gravesend Road.
Demolition of existing school hall and outbuildings and erection of a part one and part two storey junior school and a three storey senior school; conversion of the mansion house (old school building) into a Dicken’s Visitor’s Centre on lower ground and ground floor and four self contained one bedroom flats on first and second floors involving erection of new glazed entrance link; erection of maintenance shed and laying out of service yard; formation of car and coach park; improvements to Crutches Lane/Gravesend Road junction and improvements to existing vehicular access to the school along Crutches Lane. *** AMENDED APPLICATION ***

e. Recreation Ground.
The Clerk reported that Allan Chapman of Playground Installations Ltd. had suggested removing the multi-swing unit and replacing it with a smaller two swing unit which would require less surfacing. Members were not in agreement with this suggestion. He also had a unit currently installed at Swale (HIP HOP UNIT) which was going to be shortly removed and would be available at minimal cost to the Parish Council but they would need to pay for installation and surfacing. It was agreed that Cllrs Pearton and Walton would view the unit and report back at the next Meeting.

h. Governors of Higham School.
The Clerk reported that the 11+ was now in two sections. The Medway Tests took place in November and the Kent tests in January. A total of 8 pupils had been given selective status (i.e. passed) but this did not guarantee a place at the school. A further 4 students would sit the Kent tests. These figures were out of a total of 32 pupils and were above  the national average.

The Clerk presented the quarterly financial statement for the period 1/10/07 to 31/12/07.
She asked for approval for the items shown on the agenda plus an amount of £685.11 for administration expenses for the period 1/10/07 to 31/12/07, this being proposed by Cllr. James, seconded by Cllr. Oakeshott and agreed by all Members.

PDW Contracting Services Ltd. (Christmas lighting – checking) 385.78
PDW Contracting Services Ltd. (Christmas lighting – installation) 764.51
Clive Stanley Associates (webmaster services 28/9 to 31/12) 210.00
Clerk’s salary (1/10/07 – 31/12/07 – net amount) 1513.84
Clerk’s salary (1/10/07 – 31/12/07 – tax element) 426.98
Expenses for use of room as office (1/10/07 – 31/12/07) 227.50
Clerk’s salary (back pay from April ’07 – new hourly rate – net amount) 73.06
Clerk’s salary (back pay from April ’07 – new hourly rate – tax element) 20.60

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. A letter from Charlton Athletic F.C. re. Community Scheme Solutions was to be passed to Pat Jeal.
2. Members noted the proposed date of 11/4/08 for the opening of Jupp Court.
3. Members noted that the next Kent Police and Community Warden surgery would take place on 22/1/08 from 11.00 until 13.00 hours.

To note the date of the next Parish Council Meeting.
This was given as being Monday, 25th February 2008 at 7.30 p.m.

Any Other Business.
Cllrs Snelling and Sweetland would attend the next two Parish Council Meetings after they had attended the GBC Cabinet Meetings on those dates.

There being no other business, the Meeting closed at 10.04 p.m.



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