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Langham Annual Parish Meeting

 

Draft Minutes of the meeting held on 29th April 2008

 

1          Attendance and Apologies for Absence

 

Cllr. E. Schofield         Chairman

Cllr. W. Durlacher      

Cllr. A. Clover             County Councillor

Cllr. C. Garnett            Borough Councillor

Cllr. A. Stacey

Cllr. A. Ellis

Cllr. R. Watson

Cllr. S. Gallup

 

Also present were Mr. Paul Hinsley, the Environmental Project Officer from Essex County Council and Mr D. Winter, Clerk to the Council.

 

20 members of the public were in attendance.

 

Apologies for absence were received from Mr. and Mrs. Davies of Birchwood Road, and Mr. Kimberley.

 

2          Chairman’s Welcoming Speech

 

The Chairman welcomed everyone with the following speech:

 

“Good evening ladies and gentlemen, including our County councillor Tony Clover, our Borough Councillor Christopher Garnett and our guest speaker.  Thank you so much for attending this meeting and Thank you so much for attending this meeting and thereby supporting your Parish Council by taking an interest in the happenings of the past year.

 

This last year has been very very busy.  To begin: - You see next to me David Winter who was given the post of Clerk to the Parish Council after the sad death of Clive Seal.  The death of Clive, so suddenly, left us completely bewildered, because everything Clive had done was on computers and please bear in mind that he was also Clerk to another 2 parishes therefore it was extremely difficult to bring back to Langham all the information without disturbing Mrs. Seal too much. However, once again my friend Jill Jones stepped into the breach and as before stood solidly next to me, and helped the Parish Council get on their feet once again. Without her help I do not know how I would have managed. Simon and Jill with the help of the other Parish Councillors brought back as much information as they could find and we moved on. 

 

David Winter, who has lived for well over 20 years in this parish, then applied for the position of Clerk – along with two others.  David was the obvious choice of the selection panel and in January 2008 took on the position. He had worked alongside Jill for three months prior to taking up the position in January. He has thrown himself into the job with enthusiasm and good humour, and I thoroughly enjoy working with him and I thank him for all that he does. Jill is still going to be in the background helping with grants etc. for our next projects and I am very grateful to her for that.

 

During the last year you will have been aware that we have rebuilt the War Memorial at the school and once again the children can pass through the arched gateway. This was rededicated on November 11th 2007 and on April 19th we unveiled the ceremonial wall and rededicate the plinth and landscaped the surrounding area of the American Monument in Park Lane.

 

These are items that will be brought up under the relevant councillors’ reports and they will give all the details and answer any of your questions.

 

During the year Ernie Schofield has taken on the roll of village maintenance and has painted and restored all the seats in the village plus washing down over 40 signs in the village and continues to maintain the rose bed etc. on the Shepherd & Dog Corner.  The Parish Council thank him wholeheartedly for the dedication he has shown to this work. Today he is in hospital recovering from a major operation and I am sure you all will join me in wishing him a speedy recovery.

 

We have entered the best kept village again this year. We never know when the judges are coming and they start to visit in May, and we never know who they are. Please make sure your rubbish only goes out on the night before collection and is not left in the road for several days and if you see out of date posters or notices on posts or in notice boards, take them off or give me or David a ring, so that we can remove them.

 

As for litter, in this village we have the most wonderful army of volunteers who nearly daily go out and pick up litter from our roads. There are so many now who police the roads and take a pride in keeping the village clean and tidy. I would like to thank each and every one of them.  If there are any others who wish to join that band, I have litter pickers, gloves & black bags, so ring me and I will bring you anything you need.

 

A word of thanks about two other people  who spend endless hours filling rabbit holes and marking the football pitch, enabling both the Parish Council and Community Council to earn money from outside football teams. Charles and Elsie Hewitt work tirelessly for the village, and help us whenever we ask. We are indebted to them and thank them very much.

 

The Village Design Statement is nearly completed and you will hear more about that later.

 

I wish to thank all of my councillors for the work they have done and the roles that they have undertaken. The village is a much richer place because of their constant hard work.

 

During this meeting I expect all to treat each other and the councillors with respect.  When wishing to ask a question, please raise your hand and when it is your turn please give your name.  All questions are to be addressed to me and then I will ask the relevant councillor to answer. And please, only one at a time! This way we will have a good and interesting meeting.

 

The next item should be the minutes of the last APM, but because of circumstances beyond our control, we do not have those minutes. Our Clerk has spoken to those persons who know about these things, and because of what happened, it is, on this occasion quite acceptable, though regrettable.  And therefore there will be no matters arising either.”


 

3          Minutes of the last Annual Parish Meeting

 

As the Chairman explained, because of the sad and premature death of the former Clerk, Clive Seal, there were no minutes available from the last Annual Parish Meeting. The position had been checked with the Essex Association of Local Councils which had stated that this was unfortunate but perfectly acceptable in these exceptional circumstances. There were therefore no matters arising.

 

4          Environmental Matters

 

Paul Hinsley the Environmental Project Officer from Essex County Council very kindly spoke on environmental matters.  Included in the topics he covered were

 

  • Essex County Council agreed an environmental action plan in 2004. A task group has been set up comprising amongst other organisations CBC, the Government, RCCE, Essex CC and the Essex Wildlife trust.

  • Carbon footprints can be calculated through the calculator on actonco2.direct.gov.uk

  • National Indicator 197 which aims to improve local biodiversity has been adopted by Essex CC. This indicator measures the proportion of local sites where positive conservation management has been or is being implemented.

  • Sustainable schools – consider using Langham School as a pilot site

  • Funding for schemes is available. Sources include Community Action for Energy, and the Big Lottery Fund. The power companies have to give 5% of their profits to enable environmental schemes

  • Solar water heating and photo-voltaic trickle charging for electricity generation were considered. Mr. Hinsley advised residents to beware of the “sales pitch”. Use the previous Clear Skies accreditation scheme, or wait for the proposed “Buy with Confidence” scheme to be managed by Trading Standards with the support of Essex CC.

 

Questions included what suggestions for energy savings would he recommend at Langham? He felt perhaps the most important savings would come through education of the building’s users to make sure they did not waste energy. Practical matters such as educating users to turn off lights and heating when not needed are probably most useful. The Community Centre is unlikely to be suitable for major energy generation projects.

 

The Chairman thanked Mr. Hinsley for his talk, for answering questions and leaving a wealth of information on the topics mentioned above.

 

5          Finance Report

 

The Clerk reported that the financial year to 31st March 2008 had been a turbulent period, with three clerks responsible at different times for the finances. Firstly, Clive Seal who died suddenly last year. Then Mrs. Jill Jones stepped into the breach as a temporary clerk for six months. The current Clerk worked alongside her for three of those months, and took on the role officially from 1st January 2008. The Clerk thanked the Parish Councillors for all their help, and also thanked Mrs. Jill Jones for the patience, forbearance and support she provided. Without all their help, the Clerk reported that it would have been a much more difficult and a lot less enjoyable job.

 

The budgeted expenditure for the year was £33,497. The plan was for this to be funded by

 

  • The precept                             -           £17,403

  • Council reserves                     -             £5,000

  • Bonfire night proceeds            -             £4,500

  • Rate support grant                  -             £4,326

  • Repayment of VAT                 -             £1,493

  • Other income                          -                £775

 

In fact, the expenditure for the year has risen to £44,041 (including some accruals where the Council has only just had the bills), an increase of over £10,500 (31%). The main costs have been

 

Recreation ground, open spaces maintenance          -          £5,517

Bonfire night expenses                                               -           £6,406

Staff and administrative costs                                                £6,574

Insurance                                                                    -           £1,320

War memorial project                                                 -           £2,008

USAAF monument project                                         -          £14,020

 

However, income in turn rose to £46,272, an increase of £12,775 (38%). The extra income came primarily from three sources

 

  • Langham Garden Club           -           £3,521 (held in trust)

  • Bonfire night proceeds            -           £7,168

  • Grants                                     -           £7,000

 

The Langham Garden Club funds are ring fenced for a period of five years so that they may be returned to the Garden Club if it is re-constituted. After that time, they have to be used in a way that benefits the whole village.

 

The extra bonfire night proceeds owe an enormous debt of thanks to Mr. Bob Schofield and his team. Without their efforts there would be no bonfire night. Apart from the pleasure this occasion gives to so many people, the proceeds are used to improve the village amenities, such as the children’s play area. The Clerk hoped this occasion would continue for many years. The last full time clerk, Clive Seal, was always concerned that if the team no longer decided to put on this marvellous show, or if the night was wiped out by very bad weather, the Council’s financial position would be much weaker. It is therefore important to ensure the revenue for our “normal” level of expenditure is covered by the income we raise from other sources.

 

And finally, the costs of the USAAF monument project were covered to a large extent by grants received (or receivable). In this area, special thanks should go to Mrs. Jill Jones, the temporary clerk who stepped in on Clive’s death. Her ability and the very hard work she has put in to raise grant money is very much appreciated.

 

In summary, the Council’s income exceeded its expenditure by approximately £2,200, a reasonably well balanced position.

 

At present, the unaudited figures show bank balances of 

 

  • Current account                      -           £33,378

  • Deposit account                      -           £19,621

  • Tennis court maintenance      -             £5,109

 

The total is £58,108. Of this, approximately £18,000 is ring fenced for such things as tennis court maintenance, the Garden Club, and USAAF monument expenditure.

 

Looking ahead, the Council has reduced the precept to £16,304. However, the Council expects a VAT reclaim of £10,700, plus an additional £4,000 grant towards the USAAF Monument.

 

When the audited accounts have been prepared a suitable notice will be displayed in the Parish Council notice board and the accounts may be inspected by arrangement at that time.

 

There was a question from the public about the two charities for which the Council is a trustee. These are Lettice Dykes, which exists to provide assistance with books for advanced university or college education. This has a balance of £37. The Thomas Love charity is to help older people. This has a balance of £313. Cllr. Clover suggested that the Council contacted Nick Shuttleworth of Essex County Council to see if any further money is available to boost these charities.                                                    Action – David Winter

 

There was also a question from the public about money held for the Community Centre, the interest from which can be used to fund small capital projects.  The Clerk confirmed there is £26,000 held in Government Bonds. In the last financial year, this generated interest of about £140.

 

6          Reports from the Council.

 

6.1 Planning                                    

 

Cllr. Gallup reported that this time last year Langham had more planning applications than any other similar village in the borough. That has continued this year and he thinks that this year there have been a record number of applications. However most of them are householder applications and so we will continue to see extensions and other building works.

 

The main change this year has been the production of the Local Development Framework, in which the Borough says how they see development in the period to 2021. It is in three parts and the first part, the Core Strategy, will be subject to a public enquiry by a Government Inspector in a couple of month’s time. If the Inspector approves of what the Borough are suggesting he thinks that we have not got too much to fear. To back up that statement here are three quotes from the Core Strategy:

 

1, villages should not experience substantial growth during the plan period,

2, village envelopes will remain as in the previous period,

3, the only building that will be allowed outside the envelope will be for low cost housing, where there is a proven need.

 

It was as part of the Core Strategy that the Borough offered landowners the chance to suggest alternative sites for consideration. There were seven suggestions in Langham, the most contentious being the Park and Ride. The Parish Council objected to all the suggestions on the grounds that they contravened the whole principle of the Core Strategy as well as a number of its specific policies and some Central Government policies. A copy of our response is on the village website. The Borough now says that there were 108 letters of objection to the Park and Ride and so thank you to everyone who wrote. To place this figure in context there were a large number of suggested sites all over the Borough and the next highest number of objections was 20 odd. So 108 is a very large number of objections but, more importantly, 8 of them were from statutory consultees, like the Environment Agency and County, whose views carry a lot of weight.

 

He is sure that Cllr Garnett will have more to say about the LDF and so as a final thought he would like to point out that as well as the Park and Ride there are 6 suggested sites for housing, any of which would have a considerable impact on the village and so we must not just concentrate on the Park and Ride and forget the other sites.

 

6.2 Roads and transport

 

Cllr. Watson reported that he has held two meetings with Essex County Council Area Highways staff, at which the following subjects have been discussed.

 

  1. There is a general concern about volume of traffic using Langham roads which will increase with the operation of the Cuckoo Farm stadium. As a result of our representations, the county conducted a survey of the volume of traffic which will be repeated after the stadium is in full operation to see whether situation has changed.

  2. There is also a concern about speed on Langham’s roads. The county will be refreshing the road markings reminding drivers of the 30mph limit later this year and will consider our request for a vehicle activated speed indicating sign, but we need evidence of significant speeding on Park Lane and Wick Road. Some of this is being collected by Speed Watch volunteers, which still represent the best way of reducing speed from regular users.

  3. We have also suggested an extension to the 30mph area at the top of Langham Lane and on the slip road from the A12 onto Park Lane. Neither was met with approval from the county, who seem to have a very negative view of the effectiveness of speed limits.

  4. The county have recognised the need for an extension to the west of the footway outside the primary school. This will give better visibility for pupils and others to cross the road to the west of the bend in School Rd. We are hopeful that the work will be in this year’s budget and can be completed in the summer holidays.

  5. Potholes continue to appear, are repaired and reappear. This is a result of the county’s policy of temporary repair and inadequate permanent repair. Some of our roads need reconstruction if this process is not to continue. Write to Councillor Norman Hume, the Cabinet Member for Highways if you think more money should be spent on our roads.

 

We have also prepared a bus timetable for Langham which shows the three services which serve the village and is available in the village shop.

 

The subject of roads and transport raised many questions and comments, including:

 

  1. There was concern that open ditches could be dangerous if children fell into them. Could they be covered with grating?

  2. Cllr. Clover hoped that pothole repairs should improve through the use of bitumen macadam rather than tarmac.

  3. Cllr. Clover agreed to try to find the priorities for road repairs in Langham. He pointed out that it took 35 years to get the major upkeep of the roads in Dedham.

  4. Although not in Langham, the state of the road at Runkins Corner was criticised.

 

6.3 Recreation Ground:                           

 

Cllr. Durlacher reported that it had been a quiet year for the recreation ground committee.

 

  1. Bonfire night was very successful and the committee through the use of matched funding and an award for the play area was able to acquire an additional piece of playground equipment. He pointed out that we need young people to help with this event and asked residents to try to find suitable candidates!

  2. Rabbits are a problem. Rabbit proofing the recreation ground would be very expensive and they generally find their way through the fencing. We have had some trapping done.

  3. Moles are also a problem in the play area. They cannot be poisoned so he will investigate trapping.

  4. Future projects, especially those designed with young people in mind are important. Some suggestions have been

 

  • An extra tennis court

  • A room for use of the tennis club

  • An extra football pitch for young players

  • Extensions to the football pavilion

  • The installation of outdoor exercise equipment suitable for both young and older people.

 

Finally, Cllr. Durlacher thanked all the members of his committee and others for their help, especially Mr. Bob Schofield and Mr. and Mrs. Hewitt.

 

6.4 General Purposes                  

 

Cllr. Ellis reported that firstly, he should like to express his appreciation for the work of Mr. Ernie Schofield in maintaining benches, signs and other village items and hope he makes a speedy recovery from his stay in hospital. He should also like to thank “Langham Litter Pickers and Planters Anonymous” for all their efforts in keeping the village tidy and floriferous. This is even more important this year as the PC have entered Langham once again into the “Village of the Year” competition.

 

It has been a busy year for General Purposes, starting with the Speed Watch programme which has reached its first anniversary and has been successful in raising awareness of the 30 mph limit, especially in Park Lane and Wick Road, which are used as “rat runs” through the village. As from 1st May, Simon Gallup will be taking over as CSW co-ordinator and he is already seeking volunteers for a second short training course as observers.

 

After the final consultation at the Community Centre, the Langham VDS is now at the “print ready” stage and each household in the village will soon be receiving a copy. This document will be of value both to householders and the planning authority in considering future development in the village. There is now a need to prepare a Parish Plan which will examine village facilities now and in the future and the Parish Council would welcome volunteers to take this forward. Please contact David Winter.

 

After 12 years of discussion and consultation with the PC, ECC finally undertook to rebuild the War Memorial in School Road in its original form and the PC contributed to the new black granite plaques. It was re-dedicated at the Remembrance Day service last November and he is sure you consider that it is now a fitting memorial to those who died in both World Wars.

 

Also, the Unveiling and Re-Dedication of the USAAF Monument at Boxted Airfield took place on 19 April. Thanks to the sterling efforts of very many people from Langham and elsewhere, this project has come to a fruitful conclusion and the Monument is now a very impressive and appropriate location for residents and visitors to commemorate those USAAF personnel who flew from the Airfield in World War II.

 

Finally, he should like to express his appreciation and thanks to all the PC members and others who contributed to these projects which have proved remarkably successful, some of which will become permanent features of the Langham landscape.

 

6.5 Community Council

 

Cllr. Ellis stated that this will be a brief report, as the Community Council AGM took place only last Tuesday evening, and will be, rather like the curate’s egg, “excellent in parts”.

 

It has been a difficult year for the CC, both financially and due to illness and bereavement. Energy costs continue to rise and revenue from traditional sources e.g. weddings, continues to decline. However, the financial report for this year shows the CC to be holding its own, although increased attention needs to be paid to additional lettings and fund raising activities in the coming year, if the balance sheet is to remain healthy. Sadly the Chairman’s father passed away two months into his term of office and we are all acutely aware of the need for Gill Salt to stand down as Minutes Secretary because of her husband Pat’s serious illness. He is sure all our thoughts are with her for the cremation which takes place tomorrow at Colchester Crematorium.

 

On a lighter note, proposals are in hand for the refurbishment of parts of the Centre and funding is being sought for these necessary tasks. Extra revenue will be generated from bookings for the Recreation Ground and it was suggested at the AGM that the very successful and profitable concert, which took place two years ago, could be repeated.

 

However, the viability of all Community Centre activities is dependent upon the commitment and willingness, not only of the CC officers and representatives, but also members of the clubs and all others who make use of the Community Centre facilities. It is a responsibility shared by, with and for the local community as a whole.

 

We were sorry to hear that Peter Herbert is standing down as Treasurer this year and Alan Cadman will be pleased to hear from any who wish to put their names forward for this position.

 

6.6 Footpaths

 

Cllr. Stacey reported that the general condition of the footpaths, especially to the north of the village, is very good. He continues to be impressed by the diligence of the landowners in maintaining our footpath network.

 

Where problems exist, these have generally been solved or progress made towards a solution. For example, footpath 49 was blocked by undergrowth, but despite difficulties in contacting the landowner, the land user resolved the problem completely amicably. However, Essex County Council are looking at providing a hand rail for the foot bridge on this path.

 

Some footpaths need better signage, such as footpath 22 and footpath 33, and County have been contacted. During the year he has been notified of two diversions

 

  • Footpath 26 around the new pond by the Black Brook.

  • Footpath 25 around the Fens’ garden.

 

Tools for the upkeep of the footpaths were housed in the Homestead School, but have been rehoused since the closure of the school was announced. He thanked the school for all its efforts over the years.

 

He has had problems which have stopped him walking properly for a number of months, but now has plans for the footpath network.

 

He thanked Mr. Ian Sutherland and his walk leaders for keeping up the monthly Parish walk.

 

The Village Design Statement will be out shortly and will include an A4 footpath map. He has added a “monograph” on footpath 33 and would like to add more. When County have updated the definitive map, he will endeavour to get a large-scale footpath map for our notice boards.

 

6.7 County Councillor

 

Cllr. Clover reported on various topics as follows

 

  1. Potholes are to be repaired by a small team of rangers funded by Essex County Council. Members of the Parish will have to inform this team as to the problem areas.

  2. 200 park and ride spaces will be available at the new stadium as a temporary measure until Cuckoo Farm’s facilities come on stream.

  3. Decongestion measures are under way in Colchester.

  4. The Dedham Vale is designated as an Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB). The planning authorities have power in an AONB second only to the National Park planning authorities. £925,000 has been made available from the National Lottery for work on historic sites. Overhead cables in the AONB will also soon be put underground. This will affect the northern part of Langham.

 

Various questions were asked:

 

  1. Cllr. Garnett requested that the letter on Rangers be made available at the next parish Council meeting.                                 Action – David Winter

  2. The appalling state of Langham Lane was reported. The road is collapsing into the ditches, forcing drivers into the middle of the road and making the road unsafe for cyclists. Considering this is part of National Cycle Route 1, this was considered to be very ironic.

  3. Although just outside the Parish, it was remarked that Runkins Corner on Langham Lane was especially bad. It was felt that the camber was incorrect, and that chevrons indicating the very sharp bend would be useful.

  4. It was commented that there will be at least a three year gap between the stadium opening and the A12 interchange being built. This was felt to be bad planning to say the least.

 

Cllr. Garnett wondered whether it would be a good idea to invite Mr. Geoff Harris from County to attend a meeting to speak on the state of the roads and the plans for their improvement. Cllr. Clover was happy with this provided that there was a set agenda agreed in advance so that the meeting could be constructive and not destructive. This will be on the May Parish Council meeting agenda.                                                                                 Action – David Winter

 

6.8 Ward Councillor                                  

 

Cllr. Garnett reported on various topics as follows

 

  1. CBC is becoming a sub-regional centre

  2. CBC will be working much more closely with Braintree with the aim of saving money.

  3. Examination of the Core Strategy document will be held in public from 24th to 26th June, 1st to 3rd and 9th July. Interested parties will be welcome to attend.

  4. The Gypsy site progresses. Currently the County Council do not own enough land to construct 2 metre wide paths as required.

  5. The Local Highways Panel will be coming into force soon and if Langham can have a representative on it, this may be beneficial.

  6. Parish Plans are very important to help determine planning policy, and he recommended that we make progress on this.

  7. A new planning form has come into use.

  8. Section 106 money for recreational uses is coming available. 65% of this money should be spent in the village. He thought we might have about £2,000 currently available.

  9. The Decent Homes project is progressing and eventually council houses in Langham should be refurbished.

  10. Post Office Closure – he hopes something will come of the Rural Community Council of Essex initiative to keep post offices open.

  11. The current planning application for a 99 bed hotel at Birchwood, in Dedham he feels is an attempt to renew existing planning approval,

 

The Ward Councillor’s report raised many questions and comments, including:

 

  1. What benefit did he feel the Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) had been to Dedham? He felt she was a definite asset and worth the £13,000 the Parish had to raise to fund this position. However, he was not sure it would work in Langham because of the more dispersed nature of the village.

  2. There were thanks that we had not moved to wheelie bins.

  3. The generally helpful service from CBC staff was praised.

 

7          Residents Questions

 

There were no other questions that the public wished to bring to the Council’s attention.

 

8          Any Other Business

 

8.1         Essex County and Colchester Borough Councillors

 

The Chairman thanked Cllrs. Clover and Garnett for their time and work and asked the Clerk to write to them.                                      Action – David Winter

 

8.2       Cllr. Gallup

 

The Chairman thanked Cllr Gallup, who will not be standing for re-election to the Council, for all the work he has done on the Parish Council for the last 10 years. However, she did not want the Council to lose totally his experience and hoped he would be available especially for planning advice.


 

8.3       Cllr. Schofield

 

Cllr. Durlacher, on behalf of the Parish Council and the residents proposed a vote of thanks to Cllr. Schofield for all the tireless work she has done in various roles on behalf of Langham. This was agreed by acclamation!

 

9          Next Meeting

 

The date for the next annual parish meeting was to be Thursday 30th April 2009. This was to be booked with the Community Centre’s manager.

Action – David Winter

 

The meeting closed at 10.05 pm.

 

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