Annual Report 2005-2006

Buxted Parish Council – Chairman’s Report 2005/2006

This report marks my fourth year as Chairman of Buxted Parish Council – although a role I did not seek I hope for the sake of the Council and the communities that it serves that I do a half-way reasonable job.

As with previous years the time has flown by. Without the help of Colin Reed as our proper officer and the Parish Council’s lynch pin it would not be possible to prepare and provide this annual report. It is Colin who tracks and logs the events and is able to remind me of the highs – the lows are rather easier to recall!

Sadly this year we lost one of our Parish Councillors – Mike Turton who served the Council and community well by representing the interests on Five Ash Down (FAD). We are sorry that work pressures led to his resignation. We are now looking to replace him – and are very keen that his replacement lives in or at least agrees to focus their interests on FAD to help Francis Harding and Mike Kettel ensure the best interests of FAD continue to be met. This is of most importance as we enter a time when FAD are particularly going to need it with major new housing developments proposed. We also wish to identify an active person in Buxted to join the PC to bring the Council and the Buxted Ward up to full strength. So I am using this report as a ‘call for interested parties’.

The role of a Parish Councillor is as big or small as people wish to make it – it is not necessarily onerous. Granted it doesn’t necessarily bring you friends and it’s not a role that earns any monies. As a Parish Council none of us take any expenses for the time we give to Parish business – although the Government allows, indeed encourages Parish Councils to do this. The Parish Council is the grass root tier of ‘government’ and it would appear that the current central government wishes to see the role of PCs enhanced – albeit in so doing it is also thinks it might disband some of the other tiers. Unlike other tiers of government PCs (and Buxted for sure) are largely apolitical.

The reason most people join (and the key reason why they stay on PCs) is that occasionally it can be rewarding knowing you are bringing something to and doing something positive to both protect and enhance the community you live in. As I have said before and have no qualms about saying again – if we care about our countryside and villages as a way of life in an age of what seems largely unstoppable urbanization, it is vital for village communities to care and to be involved. Each of us giving in our own ways – with what time we have to share. This Parish Council is getting older – and not everyone will continue once this elected period is over in 2007. If people living in the Parish want to ensure that Buxted and FAD in particular along with HH have a ‘hen’s teeth’ chance of controlling the destiny of the communities then it is vital that there is new blood coming onto the PC. At the end of the day while many may bellyache about the Parish Council and what it does or does not do – the plain fact is that the PC is the key conduit for consultations by the various ‘higher authorities’.

I do hope that people come forward to be considered for co-option to the PC. While people in High Hurstwood seem to show interest in the PC there is a largely silence from Buxted and FAD when in reality it is those two communities that face most issues. I sincerely hope this is not because Buxted and FAD have lost their sustainability as village communities and simply become commuter dormitories.

And so on to what is the Council, who is the Council – how does it work and what has it done.

The Parish Plan

Before anything else the most important thing the Parish Council has done for all the communities in the Parish is finish and publish the Parish Plan. Copies of this will be distributed to every house in the Parish over the next couple of weeks.

This has been a mammoth undertaking and would not have been possible without the enthusiasm and sheer downright doggedness of Peter Coxon the Council’s Vice Chair. His role in getting this project off the ground and seeing it through to the end has been tremendous and I wish this report to publicly record this for posterity. Moreover the Plan would not have been possible without the input of all the volunteers who contributed to it through all its stages – and the community as a whole who gave their feedback.

The published Plan is but the beginning – it will now guide the future actions of the PC, informing policy and direction; providing the necessary evidence to support local initiatives; applications for grants and how we consider planning issues – and much more.

Copies of the Plan will be distributed to every property in the Parish over the coming weeks and will be made available to all the ‘higher authorities’ including WDC, ESCC and Sussex Police. We hope everyone in the Parish will take some time to read the Plan – and we welcome your feedback on it. It is not static – it is a living Plan that will be audited and developed on. Thanks to the contributions of many people we also have a photographic capture of the Parish as it is today. Copies of the three cover montages are being made available as prints for people to order at cost through the clerk.  

One key step for the PC for the future will be facilitating the creation of a Youth Council – something the younger members of the Parish indicated a wish to see. We hope this will ensure that the needs of the younger members are best met through their own guidance and efforts. So any younger villagers out there who think this might be a good idea – please call one of us fogies! Additionally, recognising the need for a new Parish Hall in Buxted, a Working Group has been established to look at actively progressing this as a priority. In future developments in the Parish the PC will be looking for what is called ‘planning gain’ which will include contributions to this project as well as fulfilling other community needs. One thing we will have to ensure is that WDC actually consult us on the community’s needs when negotiating such planning gain with developers – thus far they do not. This confuses us as we do not understand how Planning Officers can know what might be wanted at such a local level.

Parish Council members – who does what

The roles the Councillors hold on the PC have remained largely the same. Peter Coxon continues as Vice Chair, Chairman of Footpaths Committee, Chairman of the Parish Plan & Communications Committee – a Committee which was established ahead of the Parish Plan. With publication of the Parish Plan this Committee will now be responsible for getting a full Parish News Sheet off the ground – something the Parish has requested through the Plan and that government wants to see for each Parish community. So ‘watch this space’. Peter has also remained a School Governor at Buxted School during a year which has seen positive uplift for the school.

James Chalmers remains our wise owl and ‘my counsel’ when I need it. In his so-called back bench position he continues to chair the Recreation Grounds and Properties Committee, represents the Council on the Ionides Memorial Centre Management Committee and chairs that group, he represents the PC on the Wealden Association of Local Councils along with Peter Bowdery, is a member of Wealden District Council’s Standards Committee – monitoring the doings of Parish Councillors ensuring we don’t behave like our national politicians – and he is also shadowing Peter Bowdery in the work we are collaborating with Wealden District Council (WDC) on in the development of the WDC Local Development Framework (LDF) Statement of Community Involvement. That is him taking it easier!

With his international banker’s experience Henry Wilkes chairs the Finance Committee supported by the considerable business acumen of Mike Kettel (the previous chair). Henry is also responsible for championing the Speed Watch initiative that Buxted PC has committed to.

Peter Bowdery as Chair of the Planning Committee has ensured that the way Buxted PC responds to Planning applications has got smarter – that we know the national and local policies and we judge applications against them. Ensuring we know our stuff in the face of staffing issues, targets and other pressures at Wealden District Council at a time when developers are pressurising from all side is important. With completion of the Parish Plan Peter Bowdery is now heading up the development of what is known as a Village Design Statement (VDS). There will be three VDSs in fact – one for each village. When completed they will be adopted by WDC as supplementary planning guidance that they will consider whenever a development comes forward. The VDS will form part of the work this PC will be embarking on in developing what is known as a Local Development Framework (LDF) which will guide developments in the Parish as part of the South East Plan up to 2026 and will include housing numbers, types, location and spatial planning.

Jean McQuillen has continued to chair the HH Ward and has taken the role as Vice Chair of Planning, and is a member of the Communications Committee and Footpaths Committee. Jackie Downing has continued to chair the Buxted (and FAD) ward and to represent the Council on the Ionides Management Committee, the ESCC Transport Liaison Committee and with Geoffrey Sheard sits on the Uckfield Rail Line Parishes Committee. Vi Treacher has remained the Parish Council Representative on the High Hurstwood School Governors Board as well as the Council’s representative on the High Hurstwood Village Hall Management Committee – she plays an active role on both. Francis Harding has been a member of the Planning Committee ensuring good representation for ‘FADonians’ and sits on the FAD Village Hall Management Committee. Along with Martin Rodgers he has also been helping me with the base development of a ‘Local List of Important Buildings’. This list will be taken forward to provide an official list within WDC in relation to future developments in the Parish. As well as ‘so-called’ national listed buildings, the Local List will identify other buildings of note that the Parish wishes to see retained and which will also give a guide to the important socio-economic and vernacular nature of buildings in the Parish – and as such will link closely with the Village Design Statements.

John Rose sits on the Finance and Policy Committee, the Recreation Ground and Properties Committee and the Ionides Management Committee. He also represents the Council on the Buxted Pavilion Charity Management Committee and remains our Councillor Community Safety Contact representing the PC at Police liaison meetings and interaction with WDALC and Safer Wealden Partnership.

As well as their roles on various Committees and working groups each Councillor has important locality responsibilities – providing a key point of contact for people in different areas of the Parish. The Councillors take their local area and other responsibilities seriously – I know from personal experience if they feel I have ever crossed into their domains without involving them!

The contact details and areas of responsibility for each Councillor are posted on the Parish web site (ww.buxtedparish.org.uk) and on the Parish notice boards – and are freely available from the Clerk at any time. With the new Committee Standing Orders and Terms of Reference adopted in 2004/5, the work of the PC is now much better spread across the Council – making it more manageable for the Chairman – which I hope for the future will help whoever succeeds me.

As in previous years this Parish Council has continued to retain good working relations with our ESCC Cllr Tony Reid and both our WDC Cllr’s Norman Buck and Pat Kennedy. These relationships are vital in ensuring the PC has a positive conduit in its dealings with ESCC and WDC – and all three of them have actively championed local issues to the benefit of the Buxted Parish communities. As well as enjoying good relations with our District Councillors and County Councillor, the Parish Council works to best support the Officers at WDC and County. Where we have concerns we voice them as we do regularly with both the planning and enforcement teams at WDC and Highways at County. Our aim by doing this is to ensure they structure and work to ensure they are appropriately resourced to deliver an optimal service to the local communities they serve.

As Chairman what then do I do? With Peter Coxon we are both ex-officio members of each and every Committee and play an active role on most. I also still act as the local Parish Tree Warden. A key role for Chairman is keeping awareness of all PC matters and involvement in many – and particularly driving the work of the PC through. Whether I succeed I often question but I try to do my best. In the last year I have an active involvement with a new informal grouping of local rural Parish chairmen where collectively we are looking and acting to ensure that the rural parishes are actively involved in and taken seriously by the various ‘higher authorities’ in controlling the destinies of our village communities in Wealden. A key concern amongst the rural parishes is that the best interests of the village communities may not be met with future developments. There is a risk that the pressures of government targets and avaricious developers on an overstretched local planning authority and County Council risk over-riding considerations for the environment and sustainability of developments in the villages – and conversely that other villages and particularly those in the AONB do not get much needed development.

All of the work of the PC is held together and progressed through Colin Reed – our Clerk and Responsible Financial Officer. Working full time I have to deal with PC business when I can. Colin keeps me fully abreast and I have to say that he also keeps me in daily check – not always an easy task I know – and some people probably feel not in enough check! I get rather exasperated by much of the sheer nonsense the PC has to deal with/comment on – and by the sheer selfish disregard some people seem to have to our rural heritage, environment and village communities.  The role of the Clerk is pivotal and Colin’s contribution to this Parish and to this Council is of the highest order. Without the Clerk and particularly in our case, Colin, the PC could not function. He is patient, diplomatic, efficient and approachable. If members of the community have a query Colin is the best bet to address it.

Planning matters

Peter Bowdery as Chairman of Planning will report on the work of the Planning Committee but while we now have a Planning Committee which is becoming very well versed in planning policy and developer practices, all Councillors remain involved to ensure local resident interests are best served.

What is clear is that planning applications are set to rise if not in number but in sheer complexity and potential adverse impact. Peter Bowdery will discuss this but I will comment on some of the PC and community aspects of key developments.

The notorious Barn at Newnham Park in High Hurstwood continues to ‘dog’ the Parish and WDC – the developers have gone to appeal yet again. We can but hope that this time the Planning Inspector not only rejects the appeal but requires the never finished construction to be removed and that we can close the book on this sorry saga. But we don’t yet know.

Another growing horny chestnut is Grove Farm in Howbourne Lane – it too came back again – and was again rejected by WDC. We wait to see what the developer there will do now – none of us expects this to be the last of this particular issue.

We’ve had the usual rash of applications for changing use of land/buildings or building new houses in the AONB or outside the village development boundaries. We always wonder why. Development boundaries are there for a purpose. We cannot support any application however laudable the applicant may feel it is. We could only ever consider an application if it was an exception site – ie a landowner offering land for affordable homes that make a positive contribution to the community.

Sadly this year we have seen the Planning Inspector give approval on appeal for a house adjacent to Hazelhurst in Buxted, outside the development boundary in Buxted despite the fact that the PC objected and WDC rejected the application the Planning Inspector thought it was better to have a house there than the business that the owners had for many years.

We have seen the first WDC approval for a ‘live-work’ unit – the conversion of the farm buildings at Mascalls Farm in Buxted – where after refusals for conversion to a house outside the development boundary and the owners of Mascalls seemingly unable or perhaps unwilling to convert for the approved business use they came forward with a live-work scheme. Will it really be our first local conversion to a live-work unit – a unit where there is a small living accommodation adjacent to an area for working?

Outside the development boundary in Etchingwood we objected to two applications for demolition of a temporary wooden open storage barn housing agricultural odds and ends to be rebuilt as a breeze block timber clad building for use as builder’s workshop and storage unit. WDC rejected both applications and the PC’s applied for listing of the adjacent historic barns was accepted. As such we hope the concept of a builders yard outside the development boundary, on a narrow lane yards from the AONB and adjacent to a listed farmhouse and listed historic agricultural barns gets put aside for good. The listing of the barns we hope will also ensure that their historic heritage is preserved for the future.

This is the second successful listing by the PC – we have others in discussion. The listing process is a sad necessity in some instances to ensure the maintenance of the historic integrity and vernacular and in some instances the safety of some buildings from demolition.

The Littleham scheme to demolish yet another house on the High Street in Buxted resolved finally with approval to create a new house in the garden where the garage had been. Another infill, but a better outcome than the loss of the original house to be replaced with three monstrous four-storey ‘mansionettes’. Thus far no signs of building though.

The dreaded telecommunications issues at Popeswood Reservoir continue. There has been so-called consultation for yet another mast-sharing scheme. Despite what the PC and WDC say, O2 seem hell bent on forcing through a mast share on the grounds that in general terms sharing is preferable to creating new masts – without any consideration that the actual siting is wrong in the first place and that in this instance a new mast at an alternate less visible site would be the better option. It would however be less profitable – by mast sharing O2 can charge rent – in a new mast there would be costs for creation of the infrastructure – footings, access and electrics! But O2 care nothing for the locality and environmental impact, that is clear – 2½  years later the fly tipping in their access road remains!!

In Five Ash Down the thorny issue of houses behind the Garage finally resolved with WDC giving approval for what the PC and neighbours in FAD feel is unfortunate back-land development. Two houses have been approved – but perhaps that is the least of the issues with the Garage site as it now is!

This last year saw the completion of much needed new classrooms at High Hurstwood School but then an issue with the funding allocated by ESCC to complete the car park and progress further new works pulled. This has left the School in a very sad quandary – neither able to finish the works in progress or able to go forward with any new work. We are sure that with the strong resolve of the School, the Governors, Parents and community of High Hurstwood will ensure that works left uncompleted will be completed soonest – County cannot leave the school with the building site that it has currently left them with. As for the planned future developments the School’s will and ability to lobby is very strong. The issue is one that County knows all too well that it has to resolve.

With the publication of the new, albeit non-statutory, local plan the PC received applications for the allocated 15 houses in the walled garden on land west of Oakleigh in FAD. It is an outline application only but there is some unfortunate siting of houses within the site and WDC have decided – without local consultation – that the developers have to provide a play area on the site. While no doubt FAD children ought to have a play area the issue is whether this is a good site or not. The PC does not feel so – yet we will probably have to take it over. As the current Plan is non-statutory, the application has been ‘called-in’ to the Planning Inspectorate which will allow the PC to voice local concerns to another authority – which we hope will listen to what Planning Gain the community might wish!

With the land behind Buxted Inn which is also part of the non-statutory local plan the PC has met with the owners and their agent and commented on their outline proposals. We wait to see what they may come back with for further discussion – the owners claim to want to work to meet the community’s needs.

The most significant application the PC has dealt with has been the site at Temple Grove School – Peter Bowdery will comment on this. The PC has objections not to the concept of redevelopment to protect and enhance the site but to some of the detail and pending a surety of viability to avoid any scenario of approvals granted for one thing then metamorphosing to another on the basis of any planning precedent. The PC is also concerned that any development provides planning gain to the Parish and contributes to much need speed reduction and road improvements on that stretch of the A26. That such a major redevelopment came forward with a full planning application without any local consultation or forewarning by WDC we find highly regrettable.

At least with the proposed development of the Grampian site we are having ongoing discussions with the agents who have also worked with us to consult the local community. It is understood a full planning application is to be expected shortly. The PC will have the opportunity of final discussions with the agents before this is submitted – particularly to consider local needs in relation to planning gain. While it is clear that the Temple Grove site will be a ‘gated community’ so to speak, the PC feels that any development at the Grampian site needs to integrate into FAD to afford FAD the opportunity for positive outcome – a direct link with the existing village is therefore key.

With such major developments the issue is where will they end. While development of the land behind the Buxted Inn was to be expected within the Plan process, the Grampian site is not and falls outside the non-statutory plan allocations and is in advance of the LDF. To that end the PC will need assurances from WDC that they will not consider Grampian as an exception site but will account for it in the LDF. It is vital that development in the Parish takes heeds of Parish needs – that along with Maresfield we do not become the panacea for all rural housing allocations in north Wealden!! That is not sustainable development. The PC will continue to make representations on this basis – and working with other rural parishes we can but hope that Planning Officers at WDC listen and that the District Councillors agree.

Affordable Homes

While we were not included in the first round of the HOPE scheme for Affordable homes for people in the community. We have been asked to put forward sites again for consideration in the next scheme. This we have done – largely repeating our first views.

We have however had dialogue with WDC Housing regarding two homes in Gordon Rd on the site of garages which we understand are largely no longer used. We commented on initial designs for what we considered could be a valuable Housing Association development of small homes to rent. Housing and planning are now reviewing – but we understand Planning has concerns regarding potential over-development – something we cannot fully fathom when faced with their approval of other schemes for clearly non-affordable homes!

 

Planning Enforcement

There is a very clear planning system to ensure control of development as opposed to development anarchy. However some people fail to understand this. Sometimes its simple oversight sometimes it seems to be a deliberate ploy. The former is what we think happened when the new owners of a house in Eight Bells Close decided to fence in part of what was public Highways land adjacent to the A272. This caused some considerable angst but with the collective efforts of the Parish Council’s clerk, Wealden enforcement and arboriculture and highways – along with the cooperation of the owners the fence quickly came down and the trees are now protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO). Sadly however there are other instances which are not so straight foreword and where owners seem to choose to do as they please. In this category the PC still places Upper Lowlands where despite the building being listed and thus subject to greater protection and development control than most, the saga of problems has continued with some aspects of the development contrary to what was agreed and other things appearing without applications for necessary permissions. At the Oast in Framfield Rd stables were erected largely outside the domestic curtilage and a new access created without permissions – ostensibly as ‘permitted development’ – but without any contact with the relevant authorities who could have clarified what processes and procedures needed to be followed. In Buxted Park as well as the unfortunate barbed wire fencing there has been tree felling, dumping of earth spoil to block an entrance and the new more obtrusive signage and ‘permanent temporary’ signs at the access – all of which have been reported to the PC by concerned villagers and are now under review by WDC enforcement.

As with some concerns over WDC Planning resources, the PC has concerns over the resources available and the ability of the enforcement team at WDC to deal with the numbers of enforcement issues. There are staffing issues at WDC and the targets WDC is seeking to meet do not necessarily mean that enforcement matters are dealt with as fully as they could be. A key concern is that this situation risks sending out signals that lead to more issues – with more people thinking they can simply do things outside of the development system in the knowledge that the come back from WDC, if any, is weak. This concern is held by many other rural parishes and WDC is aware.

Parking and selling of cars on the land opposite the Garage in FAD is at last being dealt with by County Highways. For reasons many of us cannot fathom, for some years ESCC ‘kind of allowed’ limited stationing and selling of vehicles even though people living locally found it an anathema. However the numbers of cars on the land has intensified and the whole situation at the Garage has changed – something enforcement at WDC have been monitoring. ESCC are now actively dealing with and the car sellers have been formally notified to leave. Oak posts have been erected by County – the PC has agreed to contribute costs (when the cars are removed). The car sellers are disputing the eviction, it is now in the active hands of ESCC Lawyers and we ‘watch this space’ – meanwhile keeping a photographic log for County to use if needs be. It is sad that from the FAD Garage being a key member of the community with changing owners/tenants the Garage site has become a niggling thorn. Bearing in mind the applications for housing development at the rear perhaps indeed this is part of a longer term ploy – but that is my personal cynicism.

Under enforcement I will also mention fly-tipping – a nefarious, illegal and unpleasant activity – whether it be garden clippings or old fridges. The PC works closely with WDC who do their best to deal with all fly-tipping on the public highway and to effect a resolve of fly tipping on private land. Where the latter occurs  the law requires the landowner to be responsible for removal – but WDC is not unreasonable – it simply cannot deal with everything all the time – but as with the dumping of asbestos sheeting at Warren Farm on the boundary with Hadlow Down, WDC worked with the landowner to clear it quickly – in this instance thank fully at no cost to the landowner. WDC will also arrange for removal of any road kills – if they are alerted to them. Can I urge people to report fly tipping and road kills if they seem them – you can contact the PC or WDC direct.

The PC cannot be aware of every fly tip or enforcement matter– even though some people I know wished I didn’t walk my dogs or drive through the Parish!

Wealden Non-Statutory Local Plan and Local Development Framework

The non-statutory Local Plan was upheld by the High Court on WDC’s appeal and publication is due this Spring. It will guide development – alongside the current adopted plan – in the period until the Local Development Framework (LDF) is finalised and available to guide developments. We are consultees on the LDF and on the South East Plan which will guide the housing numbers allocation for the area – WDC signalling where they feel they should go. In relation to the latter through the issue is who leads this – developers with aims to develop tracts of land – or communities signalling their needs. Who will WDC listen to? Again this is something the PC is working to address – and the published Parish Plan and work planned for the future will seek to ensure the local voice.

Road Safety

Grumblings on the crossing in Buxted seem to have gone down – but perhaps by my mentioning it they will resurrect. But we hope not. Both speed indictor signs are back working – one having been subject to an attack by a car. Red cats eyes have been installed on parts of the A272 where the central lines have been erased. While Highways seem to work in slow and very mysterious ways we are advised they will shortly be surveying what impact the scheme has had. Then we will use their data as a basis for discussions on what next.

In relation to speeding or rather the effect of speed of mounting concern is the A26 through Herons Gyhll. The PC is in correspondence on this with Maresfield PC, WDC, County Highways and the Police. Speed has to be better controlled. The solar/wind powered warning sign is a complete waste of space – it does not work. The PC has always held the view it is in the wrong place and one sign is woefully inadequate. 60mph is too high a speed to drive through that stretch in dry let alone wet weather. It is not the road that is the issue it is the drivers and their vehicles. A lowering of the speed limit and speed cameras need to be actively considered. In relation to funding and achieving road improvements, no development on the A26 should be allowed without considerable financial contributions to effect improvements – the first opportunity for this is with the Temple Grove application – sadly WDC Officers are simply deferring this to County Highways – we can but hope that at the Development Control meeting on Thursday May 4th that Highways report their wish for substantive road improvements/funding and that WDC Councillors impose this as a prime requirement. The PC has made its views very clear.

On more locally controllable efforts, the PC has funded the use of the County SID on two occasions to support the concept of a safe walking route to Buxted School. With the efforts of our PCSO Karen Juniper there was a visible reduction in speed and the children took part in hands on traffic safety education with Karen and Graeme Beattie from ESCC – ‘the SID man’. The PC has provided funding to Buxted School’s PTA to provide fluorescent vests to all the children to encourage further walking where it is possible. While the PC has committed to also funding a SID or laser one issue is the need for enough volunteers as without them a locally led scheme will not work. We have a core of volunteers but need more – as more will mean less effort on any individuals. Henry Wilkes is spearheading this – the aim being to have volunteers in all three villages so that all three villages can then be surveyed by County to allow SID operation to help educate drivers about speed in each.

PCSO Karen Juniper has also been uses her skills to encourage her traffic police colleagues to visit the Parish from time to time – and it is understood that this is likely to happen/has happened/ will happen again.

Indeed Sussex Police may well start to take speeding a little more seriously following a lobby by the informal group of local rural parishes in north Wealden. This lobby was led by Maresfield PC and following an effective collective approach at a public meeting with Sussex Police, in December a meeting was held with the Police Authority, Superintendent Paul Morrison – Sussex Road Policing,

Chief Inspector Tony Blaker – Wealden District Commander and Colin Clarke from East Sussex County Council Highways.

We wait to see if their agreements to act to address specific local issues occurs as part of the locally championed Speed Watch schemes – but hearing the PCSO Juniper has got her traffic police chums to come out to Buxted is a great start.

Policing

PCSO Karen Juniper remains our key contact with the police and is a welcome addition to the Parish. Sadly Karen’s area of responsibility has been increased to now encompass the parishes of Dane Hill, Fletching, Maresfield and Buxted. The sheer size of that patch is vast. In recent months Karen has had to spend more time in Maresfield Parish dealing with some issues they have – but at least with local neighbourhood policing changes she is not also covering Uckfield. Further PCSO recruitments are in the offing and this may mean some changes to Karen’s area – we can but hope that doesn’t mean we lose her – she has got to know the Parish and people well.

Neighbourhood Watch and BPEC are important local initiatives – the community needs to work to help itself – we cannot simply rely on others.

Parking

Parking continues to be an issue particularly around Framfield Rd. The Police however have been very good in reacting to calls over badly parked vehicles – issuing fixed penalty notices. So if you see anyone badly parked call the police and pass the details – this will result in an incident log and will allow PCSO Juniper or a colleague to come out and deal with it – assuming they are not dealing with a more major incident.

The PC will be very reluctant to support and improved parking scheme at Buxted unless a scheme in Uckfield is forthcoming as increasing the car park alone is unlikely to solve the parking problems and will exacerbate the rat running through the lanes.

The white line scheme across driveways has been progressing. John Dennison has been acting as the local coordinator in Framfield Rd – but given a cost of only £20 – with the PC agreeing to pay half the costs for anyone wanting lines – we are somewhat surprised that not everyone has. But while we can lead a horse to water…..

Village Stores

The Post Office at FAD continues to provide a key community facility which the PC hopes will grow.

In Buxted Mr and Mrs John Patel retired the shop passing it on lease to Andy and Sasha Patel. Andy and Sasha ran a very successful village shop in Groombridge for many years and then got the community-led shop in Etchingham off the ground. They are keen to make changes in Buxted to improve the shop to better meet the needs of the locality. As with FAD village Post Office, a key issue in that is that the locals need to use the shop – many more are – many more need to.

Andy actively wants to make improvements to the Buxted shop to make it more welcoming and maximise its potential. At his invitation, members of the PC have met with him and Action in Rural Sussex. We have agreed the PC will facilitate a local meeting/consultation on ways this might be achieved – one thought Andy has being creation of a community-led shop. The PC however can only facilitate consultation it cannot effect any actions resulting.

Property

James Chalmers as Chairman of the Recreation Grounds and Properties Committee will report on developments. I will only comment to say that I think it great that the Women’s Institute have planted snowdrops on the triangle at the bottom of Littlewood Lane – such efforts make positive and enhancing contributions to our environment and act as living memorials to villagers who have passed away. The PC was pleased to be able to say yes to their request.

The Buxted village sign will shortly be back in enhanced glory – and perhaps for the future FAD will have one – I hope so.

Correspondence

Colin advises that we have dealt with 506 items of correspondence – 79 more than the previous year – agh! We deal with all correspondences – well Colin deals with all – I have to deal with a relative minority and my fellow councillors agree to deal with reviewing some of the reports we are consulted on – spreading the load. Consultations have included:

  • New Licensing Act & Village Halls Premises Licensing
  • Social Impacts of Agricultural Business Restructuring
  • Shaping the Future of Mental Health, Learning Disability & Substance Misuse Services in Sussex
  • High Weald AONB stakeholder survey
  • Review of Supported Bus Services
  • Local Planning – The New System  – East Sussex conference
  • Proposed changes to Payphone provision
  • Campaign for the Sustainable Communities Bill
  • Proposed changes to SE Regional Planning Guidance (RPG9) for Waste & Minerals
  • DEFRA Rural Social & Community Programme Consultation
  • SEERA / ESCC SE Plan / Consultation on New Homes for East Sussex 2006-26
  • Sussex Police North Wealden area event on speeding
  • Periodic Electoral Review – Consultation
  • WDC District/Parish Conference
  • Consultation on preparation of Municipal Waste Management Strategy for East Sussex
  • Sussex Police – future funding of Police Community Support Officers
  • SEERA Draft SE Rural Delivery Framework
  • Future of Easylink service in north Wealden
  • WDC Planning Conference for Town & Parish Councils
  • WDC 2006/07 Budget Consultation
  • Sussex Downs & Weald PCT NHS – Consultation on new NHS organisations in Surrey & Sussex
  • ODPM – Standards of Conduct in English Local Government : The Future
  • WDALC issues
  • ESCC – Ashdown Forest Slow Down Project
  • ESCC funding by central Government
  • English Heritage – assessment for Listing of War Memorial at St Mary’s Church
  • ODPM Consultation on Devolvement of Local Government
  • WDC Housing Summit
  • Open Space Strategy – Wealden District PPG17 Assessment
  • Safer Wealden Partnership -role of Neighbourhood Specialist Constable in Wealden District
  • Production of Supplementary Planning Guidance on a Local List for Wealden District
  • ESCC Statement of Community Involvement
  • SEERA The South East Plan – consultation Draft

 

We consider if we are qualified to give a response – if we are we invariably do – if we are not we advise the consulting body of this – all of it requires work – which reminds me I still have to find time to wade through the latest stuff from SEERA on ‘a clear vision for the South East’ – aka ‘where are all the houses to go’ – as well as ESCC’s Statement of Community Involvement on Minerals and Waste – deep joy.

Other matters

As Parish Tree Warden and an active correspondent with WDC on environment and conservation matters I was pleased to receive an invitation to the launch of the new Weald Ancient Woodland Survey (WAWS). This is a tremendous and positive piece of work stimulated by the Landscape and Biodiversity Officer at WDC, Chris Hannington, where a collaboration of funding organisations have allowed Wealden to lead the way in the UK in providing a most comprehensive inventory of Ancient Woodland throughout the District. Multi-agency/group funding secured, the work was progressed spearheaded by Sally Westaway at the High Weald AONB Unit with much volunteer input. The previous Ancient Woodland inventory dated from 1989 and captures 949 sites of Ancient Woodland. The new WAWS increases the number of sites of Ancient Woodland to 2323 – an additional 3123 hectares of land now mapped – much of this being small but very important areas of woodland. 14% of Wealden is designated Ancient Woodland. In other areas of the UK, Ancient Woodland is assigned as nationally designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI sites) which has afforded major protection. In Wealden and other areas of the South East – sadly because we have so much woodland they have not had SSSI status. However the new national Planning Policy Statement 9 (PPS9) published in August 2005 now requires all local Planning Authorities to identify any areas of ancient woodland in their areas that do not have statutory protection (ie are not designated SSSIs) and generally to refuse planning applications for development in, or damaging to, ancient woodlands! Good news indeed! Wealden is the first District to have such a survey and they are to be highly congratulated. The need now is to ensure all our woodlands in the Parish are on it and protected – some we note may not be and this is being assessed.

So if you have managed to read through this well done. I hope it provides you with a useful record of what this Parish Council does and has done in the last year. I am sure like me you are grateful I decided not to verbally report!

So finally – a call for anyone interested in:

–       becoming a Parish Councillor

–       getting involved with a Parish Youth Council

–       becoming a SID volunteer

–       contributing to any of the many recommendations emerging from the Parish Plan

–       becoming chairman of the PC!!

Alison Crowe

Posted in Featured Stories