Minutes of the Buxted Annual Assembly held at Buxted School on Wednesday 8th May 2013 at 7.30pm.
Cllrs Blandford (Chairman), Warner, Dopson, Rose, Treacher, Manchester, Hall and Harding, Wealden DC Cllr K Ogden, East Sussex CC Cllr R Galley, parish clerks Beccy Macklen and Malcolm Wilson and approximately 60 members of the public.
2. Apologies for absence:
Received from Cllrs Sheard and Skinner and also Mr Tricker and Mrs Downing
3. Minutes of the Annual Assembly held on 10th May 2012:
Having been available for inspection on the parish council’s web site for the last 12 months, these were approved.
4. Buxted Pavilion Management Committee Trustees:
Four trustees had to be appointed and on the proposal of Cllr Warner, seconded by Cllr Dopson, the following were duly elected – Dave Butcher, Karl Harrison, Erick Reily and Jane Brooker.
5. Chairman’s Report:
The Chairman welcomed everyone to the meeting. She explained how the evening would unfold. First she would briefly summarise the achievements of the parish council in the last 12 months; this would be followed by consideration of how a new Parish Plan might be created; then an update on progress towards getting planning permission for a new community hall would be given by Sheila Bartholomew of the Buxted Community Hall
Trust (BCHT). There would then be an opportunity to ask questions and finally everyone was invited to stay once the formal proceedings were concluded for refreshments.
Running through what had been achieved this year the Chairman highlighted continued liaison and discussion with WDC and BCHT to forward the planning application for the new hall, no mean feat; the detailed and thorough Rail Franchise survey; working with a new Allotment association to pass over day to day control to those best placed; facilitating community discussions on the parking problems experienced in Buxted and High Hurstwood; working with the community groups in High Hurstwood over more usage of the parish council owned Recreation Ground and up to date Bonfire arrangements; encouraging, successfully, Buxted residents to sigh up with ESCC for enhanced broadband speeds in the parish. She explained that while communication may not be perfect she felt that the two editions of Community Voice sent to every house in the parish were very informative and the web site was constantly being refreshed and updated with useful information for the community. She reported that three councillors had left in the year – Katie Seddon, Marjan Arabizadeah and, as of tonight, Graham Manchester. She thanked them all for their contributions. This leaves the parish council with up to 6 vacancies for volunteers to be co-opted. If anyone is interested please come forward – the more councillors there are the more the workload can be spread and the more that can be done.
Beccy Macklen then explained the purpose and mechanics of a Parish Plan
What is a Parish Plan?
The Government’s November 2000 Rural White Paper stated that Parish Plans should “identify key facilities and services, set out the problems that need to be tackled and demonstrate how distinctive character and features can be preserved”.
A Parish Plan is a community led plan that sets out a VISION of how the community wants to develop, and identifies the ACTION needed to achieve it.
It is produced by the community, and for the community. It is based on a detailed consultation involving the whole community. Based on the views and opinions of the people who actually live there, it sets out the needs and aspirations of the Parish
The Parish Plan identifies what actions the community would like to be taken, who should take each action forward, and what time scale should be set for each one.
It is also statement of how a local community sees itself developing in the future.
The Parish Plan should consult everyone and give them a chance to say what they think about the social, economic and environmental issues affecting them and how they’d like to see their community improved during the next 5, 10 or even 15 years.
The whole community has to be involved, not just those who come along to Parish Council meetings
Who Creates and Manages a Parish Plan?
A Parish Council launches the Parish Plan process and supports the establishment of a Parish Plan Steering Group, formed of leading volunteer members of the community, who manage the process from then onwards.
The Parish Plan Steering Group may or may not include Parish Councillors, but it operates independently of the Parish Council.
The Steering Group organises and conducts public meetings, raises questionnaires within the community and analyses the responses. The Steering Group consults outside bodies as appropriate before drawing up a draft Parish Plan which the Parish Council formally agrees.
How long does a Parish Plan Last?
As and when actions are completed the Parish Plan should be updated.
The Parish Plan Action Group/Parish Council will continually seek to respond to the community’s needs and aspirations as they develop, and in this way the Parish Plan becomes a living document.
Who benefits from a Parish Plan?
The Parish Plan process provides the community with a continuing opportunity to think about the future of their villages; to determine for themselves if they want to improve or change things; and to identify local solutions to local problems.
The Parish Council finds out what the community wants, and what might be missing from its villages. The Parish Plan gives them information about what facilities would be used if they were provided and by how many people.
Parish Plans stimulate local interest and a community spirit, and the community as a whole is provided with the means of helping to shape the future of their villages.
Parish Plans can also help fund those local organisations shown to have evidence of need, and also provides public service providers with an insight into how they might deliver services in a more efficient way
So how did we get to where we are now?
Back in November 2003 a parish plan committee was formed for the parish of Buxted following a well-attended public meeting right here in the school. 10 main topics were identified such as i) parish services, facilities and communications; ii) travel, transport and traffic; and a comprehensive survey was produced covering each of the 10 topics and sent to every household in the parish and businesses. Over 1200 surveys were sent out with a 35% response rate and after long lengthy analysis the Parish Plan was created.
The Chairman then explained that the idea was to build on the existing framework of the 2006 Plan rather than start completely from scratch. That Plan had highlighted three distinct sectors:
- Those things which can be directly influenced or actioned by the parish council;
- Those things under the ultimate control of a higher authority such as WDC, ESCC, the Police etc. Here the parish council can, at times, have considerable influence even if is not the ultimate arbiter.
- Those areas where the community can itself directly shape or influence events and make a difference.
Looking at the section 1 the Chairman highlighted the following areas where the aims of the Plan had been achieved:
Youth Council – set up and established, a way to help younger people get involved in their community
Traffic calming – a Speedwatch team of volunteers was set up, although it has subsequently become somewhat moribund through a lack of volunteers.
Communication – Community Voice goes out twice a year at least to every home in the parish
New community hall – financial reserves have been accumulated to kick start fund raising when and if a plans for anew hall are approved.
Illegal parking in Five Ash Down – worked successfully with ESCC to end this nuisance.
Bus service – provided financial support, along with other parishes, for Community Transport.
Those issues that had not been successfully progressed were the lack of a Village Design Statement, there was still no list of community volunteers and there had been no formal co-operation with other parishes although there was informal co-operation and communication all the time with other parish councils through the clerks.
For Section 2 the successes were:
Working with ESCC on a community led initiative to extend the 40 mph speed limit westwards past Buxted School and then make the footpath usable for those who wished to walk to school
Better policing and police liaison – we have had good Police Community Support Officers and Buxted remains a low crime area.
The parish council continues to actively consult people neighbouring all planning application and the make informed comments for consideration to WDC. Received wisdom is that Buxted is one of the few parish councils that actually bothers to do this.
Parking notices have been made available, with the approval of ESCC, for residents in Framfield Road, Gordon Road and, most recently, in Maypole Cottages.
Areas not achieved were a “quiet lanes” scheme and any progress in better off-road parking facilities.
For section 3 successes include the provision of grants towards organisations committed to helping the community, in a variety of ways, and support for locally organised events.
The Chairman then challenged people to get involved in local issues – become a parish councillor or volunteer to get involved with the new Plan. She invited anyone interested to make themselves known to a councillor or one of the clerks after the meeting. Or, she postulated, maybe everyone is completely happy with the way things are and there is no need to do any more?
6. Buxted Community Hall Trust:
Shelia Bartholomew from the Trust explained the background and current position over the plans for a new hall in Buxted. In 2009 an architect was appointed by the steering group (at that stage largely drawn from the parish council and the Ionides Trust) to draw up plans for a new hall. BCHT was formed in 2011 to take responsibility for the project. After a series of meetings with WDC a planning application was submitted in August 2011. The design was for a large building and there was always a recognition that it might need to be reduced depending on need and funds. WDC took an unacceptable length of time to process the application and it fell foul of the new EU Habitat Directive preventing development within 7km of the Ashdown Forest introduced in March 2012. Eventually, and at the request of WDC, the application was withdrawn. Since then discussions with WDC have continued with a view to designing a hall that is smaller, meets the needs of the community but will not be seen to increase traffic movements. Effectively this means it will be the size of the existing facility, the Reading Room, although the size will take account of the increased floor area of the Reading Room allowing for the theoretical implementation of Permitted Development Rights. New sketch plans have been drawn up by the architect (and were available to view on the night) and a meeting is scheduled with WDC next week to discuss these. At present fundraising activities have been put on hold until villagers have had a chance to see and support the design concepts and WDC have given approval. It is acknowledged that fundraising will be a massive task and the Trust needs to be pretty sure it will be worthwhile and achievable. It will need a great deal of support from the community in terms of both time and money.
7. Cllr Graham Manchester – a plea:
In his last meeting as a parish councillor before he moves away, he took the floor and highlighted the poor turnout in the recent elections. If people fail to engage with the democratic process then they cannot complain at the governments that come to power. At a local level he predicts an increase in “Localism” with more power and responsibility coming to communities, and the parish council will become an increasingly important organ of government. He urged people to get involved and support the parish council.
8. Public questions:
Ms Ings asked if the increased levels of nitrogen on Ashdown Forest were actually due to aircraft, not vehicles. She said she is pursuing this point with the Civil Aviation Authority. ESCC Cllr Galley said that investigations as to the level and causes of nitrogen levels were ongoing but initial views are that only 1% of nitrogen is attributable to aircraft.
Mrs Barton asked that, rather than pursue a new community hall, it might be better to use the parish councils reserves allocated for the new hall in support of an existing, thriving hall in the parish (ie, the High Hurstwood Village Hall) which it was planned to extend subject to additional funding being found. The Chairman said this had not been considered as a serious proposal as Buxted village, which is a growing community, needs a hall that is fit for purpose and to expect Buxted village residents to drive to High Hurstwood for clubs and activities would definitely not help reduce nitrogen on Ashdown Forest.
With no further questions the Chairman closed the meeting at 8.15pm.