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Hand-drawn Sidlesham signpost with lapwing bird.

Minutes of Annual Parish Meeting 22nd April 2015 (Unapproved)

Sidlesham Parish Council
Minutes of the Annual Parish Meeting
Held in the Church Hall, Sidlesham on Wednesday 22nd April 2015 at 7:00 p.m.
(Unapproved)
Councillors present: Mr Adrian Harland (Chairman), Mr Paul Bedford (Vice-chairman), Mrs P Tull, Mrs C Hall, Mrs C Ranjbar, Mr B Kennedy, Mrs Diana Pound and Mrs Elizabeth Smart.
Also present: 55 Sidlesham electors, Cllr Margaret Evans (West Sussex County Councillor) and Mrs Tessa MacIntyre (Parish Clerk)
Apologies:  Mrs V Foden, Mrs J Reeve-Foster

1.   Approve minutes of Annual Parish Meeting 28th May 2014.    No objections were raised to the minutes of the Annual Parish Meeting on 28th May 2014.  The minutes, which had been published on the web site, were therefore signed by the Chairman.

2.    Mr Adrian Harland, Chairman of Sidlesham Parish Council, opened the meeting and welcomed all present.  Mr Harland explained that this Annual Parish Meeting is being held a little earlier than the usual May date so that the outgoing council can report on its activities before it leaves office. Mr Harland stated that Mrs Smart, Mrs Foden and Mr Kennedy will not stand for re-election so he wished to put on record his thanks, and he hoped those of the parish at large, for their valuable contributions to council work.  In addition, he thanked the remaining councillors who are standing for re-election.  Lastly, Mr Harland thanked Cllr Margaret Evans our WSCC councillor, who also chairs the WSCC South Chichester Local Committee, and continues to support the council with WSCC matters, Cllr Tricia Tull, our CDC Councillor and the Clerk.

3.   CHAIRMAN’S PARISH COUNCIL ANNUAL REPORT 2013/2014

Mr Harland pointed out that the business of the parish council is covered by extensive minutes, which describe in far greater detail what is discussed than is the case in many other local parish council minutes.  These are posted on the council website. Notices re agenda items are likewise displayed on the website and the six notice boards scattered throughout the parish, and the public is welcome to attend council meetings.
Planning Applications are a regular part of council business. During the past year the planning committee again met 13 times, the same as last year. However the number of applications we considered increased from 65 to 79, which means we are receiving 1½ applications per week. It also equates to approximately 14% of the parish properties seeking a planning permission during the year. We raised no objection or supported 57, but suggesting conditions to be imposed on about half of these, of which 37 were permitted, 2 were withdrawn, 2 were refused and 16 are still outstanding. We objected to 22, of which 6 were refused, 12 permitted, 1 withdrawn, and 3 are still outstanding. The council has continued to support neighbouring councils when applications for large housing developments are tabled – clearly it is not within our remit to comment on design etc, but we do speak out as to the effect such schemes will have on road congestion, sewage and potential flooding. Interestingly the Clappers Lane scheme in Bracklesham/Earnley for 150+ houses, but latterly reduced to 120, has potentially significant implications for our local road network as it has been suggested that if agreed many of the new residents will tend to use the back roads, and so come across through our parish via Earnley/Almodington. This application has been on the table since last year, and has again been turned down very recently by the CDC Planning Committee despite officer recommendation. We also expressed concerns with the Selsey applications covering the Asda application together with large housing developments on traffic grounds. Whilst we have seen only 3 Existing Lawful Development (ELD) applications during the past 12 months, 2 of which the council objected to, 1 being refused and another much to our concern permitted – the third is still outstanding and covers a barn not built in the position shown on the original plans, but the council sees no problem and so did not object. However the council remains concerned as to how easy it is for applicants in this parish to conceal what they are doing behind high fences/hedges until it is too late for objections to be raised – a period of four years is generally allowed in such circumstances after which it becomes much more difficult to object. These are situations where the applicants are claiming that they have been living continuously in the ‘properties’ for more than 4 years, but in circumstances where it would have been difficult for members of the public to realise that the buildings were being domestically occupied ie hidden in barns, glasshouses, outbuildings etc. It is my understanding that new legislation might make it more difficult for applicants to succeed in such cases. Meantime we continue to ask all parishioners to be vigilant, and report to the council if they suspect non-standard buildings are being used for domestic purposes. The same also applies where caravans located on premises, particularly those on ex LSA holdings, are being occupied on a permanent basis – the occupants need to apply for a licence to use a caravan for such purposes, which are normally granted for a maximum of 3 years at a time. There is now a further potential problem with ‘agricultural buildings’ possibly taking advantage in a change of legislation to convert to housing.

Council Committees and Work Groups
All members of the Council can sit on the Planning Committee. The Council itself meets formally on the 3rd Wednesday monthly except in August and December & Planning matters are incorporated within these meetings. Sometimes the Planning Committee has to meet more often because of the need to make decisions within the timescales allowed, hence 13 meetings as opposed to 10 full Council meetings. The other main work group covers Assets & Amenities, looking after the parish amenities such as seats and bus shelters, the upkeep of the parish open spaces, such as the Paddock Straight, ponds, and of course the playground. The Finance Work Group draws up the annual precept for confirmation by the council. Other councillors sit on outside bodies, amongst which are the Peninsula Community Forum, Chichester District Association of Local Councils (CDALC),  the Pagham Harbour Coastal Issues Advisory Group {sea defences}, the Medmerry Stakeholders Advisory Group (MStAG) {sea defences etc},  the Sidlesham, Hunston and North Mundham Neighbourhood Panel (police & neighbourhood watch) and the Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve Community Group. Councillors may also attend the WSCC South Chichester County Local Committee when agenda items are relevant to the parish.

The Finance Work Group draws up the budget for the next financial year. The group then recommends the precept to the full council for approval. The precept for the financial year ended 31st March 2015 was £21760. The precept for the current year was calculated at £24220, an increase 11.3%. From this the council has to deduct council tax rebates of £1007, but this sum is refunded by way of a grant set at the same figure, so the parish will get the total sum it needs ie £24220. However the deduction of the recoverable rebate sum does distort the percentage increase upwards to 13.6% as you may have seen from your Council Tax bills. Clearly the actual increase of 11.3% is still a substantial sum, but this year, an election year, means we have to include the one-off election expenses of £1300. Without this expense, which has to be added on each time there is an election year, the increase would have been a more modest 5.3%.

As in past years details of the Income & Expenditure for the past financial year will be posted on the Parish Notice boards as soon as the final audit process has been completed.

Travellers.
They are back again in our neighbourhood, so all landowners need to remain vigilant, and block entrances to fields etc where possible. Unfortunately the travellers’ site at Westhampnett has still not been opened, so it remains difficult for the police to move the travellers on at this time.

Flooding and Drainage
During the year work has continued to improve the effectiveness of many ditches. The Council has also applied for and obtained more grant funding from Operation Watershed to continue work in this important aspect of the parish’s defences against flooding.  You will hear more about what has been done and what is in the pipeline from our guest speaker.

Pond Works
Likewise you will hear more about what has been done to Florence Pond and the second pond opposite Christian’s Barn later.

Sea Defences
So far as I am aware the new Medmerry scheme has now been completed, and is operating according to expectations. However the spit in front of Pagham Harbour has continued to expand eastwards along the coast, and the scouring effect that this has caused is now threatening the seaside properties on the western edge of Pagham. There have been some fairly high level meetings with government officials during the past year, and it is my understanding that proposals to cut a new exit through the spit along the axis that existed in say 2000 is being seriously considered even though it was ruled out until a short while ago.

Last year I advised you that the Environment Agency were planning to strengthen the inner harbour defences, starting at Ferry Pool right round to the Pagham Wall. The Council has heard nothing more about these plans, but it is our understanding that the EA will be completing the design stage in 2015, and then carry out the project in 2016. Certainly the works to the Pagham defences by the Pagham Lagoon have been proceeding over to the east of the harbour.

Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve
During the past year the RSPB has been drawing up and renewing agreements with neighbouring landowners. There have been a few changes to the boundaries, but in general terms the area influenced by the Nature Reserve is much as before. Once these negotiations have been completed it is my understanding that the current byelaws will be revised. Clearly the problem with the offshore spit may have some impact on the attempts to encourage the breeding of terns nesting on the expanding areas of shingle, but I guess that compensating measures will be applied as necessary. Plans to incorporate the Medmerry catchment area within the Pagham Harbour RSPB management team are also under way. Previously there were plans to build a new centre on the present site by the Ferry Pool, but the Council has not heard anything more about this for the last year or two.

Roads Matters
It is the Council’s understanding that the Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) which was previously proposed to create a single speed limit of 30mph from the northern entrance of the parish on the B2145 right through to Mill Lane has now been approved. However we still don’t have any information as to when it will be put into effect. Whilst the question of a TRO was originally proposed by the STAG pressure group, I would like to make it clear that the current proposals were pursued and negotiated mainly by the Council’s vice-chairman, Paul Bedford, with the help of our County Councillor Mrs Margaret Evans. The parish owes them a debt of gratitude for the work they have put in to obtain the TRO.

I can also report that with the aid of a grant a new bus stop shelter on the main road near Dyers Corner will shortly be installed. This will be a replacement for the flint building which has recently been reclaimed by the owners for their own use. The siting of the new unit is just to the north of the old shelter. Planning consent from the Highways Authorities has been obtained, so it should be installed any day.

Memorial Playing Field
During the year the Council entered into a new Asset Management Plan agreement with the Football Club covering numerous matters. These included formally setting out the Club’s responsibilities for looking after various parts of the Memorial Playing Field.

I can also report that following the damage caused by the circus in June 2012 to the western side of the football pitch as a result of the very unseasonal rainfall that occurred, the council applied for a grant to dig up this area and lay a junior football pitch. This area has now been ploughed, flattened and re-sown. The contractors will continue to look after this until next spring as part of the contract. I would ask everyone to keep off the reseeded ground until it has settled down. The area will be available for other sports such as rounders etc, and bookings for its use for football will be controlled by the council. However once the contractors cease to care for it during the first 12 months, the Football Club will look after it as part of the Asset Management Plan. I stress that the Football Club will not have a monopoly use of this area for junior matches etc, and will be charged a fee just the same as any other football user.

In view of the recent Parish Meeting called for by 6 members of the Sidlesham Community Association (SCA), I think I need to give you some background information concerning the Parish Council’s position regarding the question of a new parish hall. Because although the Parish Meeting was ostensibly about a lease for the Football Club, the underlying aim of the Sidlesham Community Association is to remove the Football Club’s building to enable it to build a new hall on that same site despite the fact that there is plenty of room for a village hall alongside.
The drive for a village hall has been raised before, the last time as I understand it in 1996/7 as a possible millennium project. At the time it was discussed at an Annual Parish Meeting, and after a case had been put forward by the work party which had led this scheme, it was rejected on the grounds of viability. This happened before I became involved as a parish councillor, but I have seen the minutes of that meeting. Strangely enough there was also talk of raising ‘parish’ money to help refurbish the Football Club Building, and it was also again commented that there was plenty of room available for a separate village hall on the Memorial Playing Field.
When the council formally disbanded its own work party in November 2011 due to a lack of co-operation with the council, it did suggest that a separate organisation could be set up to pursue the aim of establishing a parish hall. Whilst agreeing to grant such an organisation £100 to cover initial set up costs, the council made it clear that it had grave doubts that such a project was viable in the current financial climate, not only as to the building costs, but also as to sufficient income to cover subsequent maintenance costs. However the Council was not against the idea of building a new parish hall, and would be happy to look at such a scheme if that organisation came up with a realistic financial scenario in the future. With respect, the organisation known as the Sidlesham Community Association (SCA) has yet to produce any such scheme. Usually the cost of such projects has to be match funded, and to the best of the parish council’s knowledge the SCA to date has not even raised from within the parish any funds to cover its ongoing costs let alone major sums of money for the building itself.
The Football Club operate on the Memorial Playing Field under a Heads of Agreement which was first drawn up in 1982, and revised in 2001. That agreement allows the Football Club to occupy its building and the football pitch together with its stand, dugouts and lighting pylons – all of these features have been in existence for many years. There is no time limit built into this agreement, and it is one that has been inherited by each set of councillors since 1982, nor is any rent built into this agreement, but the Football Club are responsible for mowing and keeping tidy, including some of the hedges and ditches, the Memorial Playing Field in addition to the football pitch itself.  Since 2010 the council has been attempting to negotiate with the Football Club to create a lease in substitution of the Heads of Agreement. Those negotiations have been very protracted! However in more recent times matters moved along as the Football Club needs a long term Lease of 25 years to enable them to apply for substantial grant funding of at least £100k from the Football Association and Sport England to put their building into a fit state of repair. The council believed that it had negotiated a set of documents to enable this to go ahead with the assistance of its solicitor, Thomas Eggar, only for the solicitor to come up with a further potential legal problem 24 hours before the Parish Meeting.
I would ask you to remember that councillors are elected to deal with parish business, and that the council is a democratic organisation. So when seven out of nine councillors vote to support such a scheme, in a democracy the two who are outvoted should accept the majority view. Hence the feeling that you and other parishioners have gained that all is not well within the council. Those two councillors are also prominent members of the SCA.
The Parish Council is well aware that the Football Club building is not very ‘pretty’, but as it is today it meets Health and Safety rules etc. So when the Football Club came up with a scheme to reduce the size of its existing building and at the same time refurbish it so that it will take on a far better appearance, the majority of the Council believed that would be an acceptable way to improve a current ‘eyesore’, and would be welcomed by all who visit the Memorial Playing Field. The council is of course aware that the SCA would like to build a parish hall on the Memorial Playing Field, but the majority of the present council believes that it will take a long time for this to come to fruition, if at all. As has been mentioned before, there is plenty of room for such a building as well as the Football Club building. But the Football Club cannot wait an indefinite time for such a possibility to happen, as it needs to take action now bearing in mind the current condition of the clubhouse.
I should also explain that the document that the Parish Council was proposing to enter into, an Agreement for a Lease, would be conditional. Whilst the proposed Lease is attached to this agreement, it would only come into existence once conditions have been met. Firstly the Club needs to obtain planning permission from the Chichester District Council, and also that of Sidlesham Parish Council too, and secondly obtain the substantial grant funds it requires to cover the costs of its building programme. Whilst it may not be evident to all and sundry, the Parish Council would also be examining the feasibility of the building works being covered by the grant funds before it would give assent to progress. Clearly costs and other financial aspects cannot be fully drawn up at this stage. The last condition is that the planning permission and the grant funding would have to be in place within two years of executing the document, failing which the scheme would fall by the wayside, and no lease would have been signed.
Perhaps it is also pertinent to mention the Community Hall which was built on the school site several years ago, at a time when I was chairman of the School Governors. It was designed to give the school an additional facility whilst at the same time providing a venue for the parish to use in out of school hours. Sadly that has not proved to have occurred, as to the best of my knowledge it is currently only used once a week by a short mat bowls club. A great facility, but where are the parishioners who could use it? Perhaps a new hall would suffer a similar lack of activity, as we know is the case with other parish halls in the locality. To be successful the new hall would need to generate regular income to pay its maintenance costs which will increase as the years go by. By this I mean costs today which will increase once the effect of the newness of the building wears off, ignoring the inevitable inflation aspect.
Thanks
During the interval members of the WI will, as usual, be serving tea & coffee with biscuits, and once again I thank them for agreeing to undertake this task.

I would like to pass on my thanks to all of your councillors for the time and effort they have put in over the last 4 years. A lot of hard work goes on behind the scenes, and it is certainly not just the case of turning up once a month for the formal Council meetings. May I remind you that your councillors do not receive any payment for the duties they perform on behalf of the parish, unlike some other parishes. Whereas it is in the Council’s power to vote councillors an allowance, this council has consistently declined to take advantage of that possibility. I ask that you bear in mind that, although they put themselves forward for election to the council they are, just like you, members of the parish who give of their time to try and ensure parish matters are looked after.

Finally it is my very pleasant duty on behalf of all of you to pass on our thanks to our very hard-working and conscientious clerk, Tessa MacIntyre. Hers is not an easy job, and she will be dealing with council matters most days well in excess of the nominal 10 hours per week for which she is paid. She could claim overtime, but she has never done so. My role dealing with parish matters is certainly made much easier because of the support she gives me, so I add my personal thanks too.

This may well be the last time I address this annual meeting as chairman, so I thank all who have assisted and supported me during the nine years that I have held this post. At times it has been an onerous job, but I have been honoured to have served the community to the best of my ability over the 16 years I have been a councillor.

During the interval members of the WI will, as usual, be serving tea & coffee with biscuits, and once again Mr Harland thanked them for agreeing to undertake this task.

4.    GUEST SPEAKER:
1.   Mrs Veronica Wilkes (Manhood Wildlife & Heritage Group)
Mrs Wilkes had very kindly agreed to speak when Ms Jane Reeve-Foster was, unexpectedly, unable to attend the meeting.  Mrs Wilkes spoke highly of Ms Reeve-Foster’s work for the MW&HG, not just on the water vole project but also on ditch and pond maintenance.  Ms Reeve-Foster has played a large part in organising the clearance of ditches between Church Lane and Rookery Lane.  This had included contacting the Electricity Board who sent volunteers to help clear the ditch behind the redundant electricity station, the ditch by the Church Hall entrance and install a new culvert between that ditch and Florence Pond.  As a result, for the first time in years the water now flows and it is hoped that this will alleviate the flooding experienced along the B2145.

Mrs Wilkes thanked Sidlesham Parish Council for its donation of £1000 towards work on Florence Pond.  Several of the trees which were coppiced and cut back carried preservation orders so the work had to be carried out by an accredited tree surgeon.  A floral survey has been carried out round the pond and 70 difference species of wild flower found.  In addition, volunteers have carried out pond dipping to identify fauna in the pond.  All species identified have been recorded in a file.  The water voles have disappeared, probably as a result of tree work being carried out, but it is expected that they will return.  Unfortunately, Japanese knot weed has been found at the top of Church Farm Lane.  This has been reported to the Environment Agency who have sprayed it.  It is an invasive plant and will require further treatment.

Clearance work was carried out at Church Farm Pond.  The machines went in when the ground was wet; it has since been very dry so the wild flowers planted after the work was completed have not had a chance to grow.  Mrs Pound asked if she could sow the wild flower seeds which she has on the damaged ground and Mrs Wilkes replied she could.

2.  Mr Paul Bedford
Mr Bedford then spoke of work on Florence Pond as a three way partnership between the Parish Council, the Manhood Wildlife & Heritage Group and the Flood and Land Drainage Group.  This forms part of a concept to develop ‘green’ and ‘blue’ corridors (vegetation and water) to provide continuous routes and habitats for wildlife and routes for walkers and riders.  In conjunction with GLAM (Green Links Around Medmerry) it is hoped to provide links between the main routes round Medmerry and those in Sidlesham.  One example is from Florence and Church Farm Ponds right through to Pagham wall.  The Flood and Land Drainage Group has been working with the MW&HG to employ ‘soft green engineering’ methods; ditch clearance can destroy habitats and therefore, respect for the habitat is always considered, for example only doing one bank of a ditch at a time.  Mr Bedford thanked Mr George Torrance for his work on Kitchen and Home Fields.

Under Operation Watershed (WSCC) Sidlesham Parish Council received £23,050 in 2013. This has been used to clear ditches on Kitchen and Home Fields, replace the culvert under the road at Littleton Barn and numerous other projects, including work on Keynor Lane which has significantly improved the flooding on the Lane.   Other schemes have been identified and a second bid submitted.  The parish has now been informed that the PC has been awarded a further grant of £16,770.  This is for three schemes:
1.    To provide a relief route for Highleigh Rife in which water would be diverted into another ditch and so take the pressure off the rife in heavy rainfall.
2.    Rotten Row to look at drainage to the north and south of Rotten Row and particularly Watery Lane.
3.    Further work on Keynor Lane and the southern boundary of the Memorial Playing Field.
A fourth bid has been submitted to replace the culvert at Greentrees under the B2145.

All this work has looked at 3 corridors of drainage:  the Highleigh area, the B2145 and Church Farm Lane.  The Group plans to look into drainage to the north of the village, particularly round Jury Lane.

Mr Bedford mentioned LEADER which provides funding to create employment in agriculture.  Mr Bedford explained a possible scheme across the Manhood Peninsula to plant trees and particularly replace species which have been lost, such as elms.  The planting of trees can reduce the water table and would improve the environment.  The South Downs National Park authority are looking into strategic tree planting to reduce the level of water and, it is hoped, prevent it finding its way to the coastal plains.  Lastly, Mr Bedford mentioned the possibility (through LEADER) of creating a small local enterprise for hedging and ditching. Larger contractors are reluctant to take on small projects, where a small local enterprise might be successful.  All this is in the future:  as Mr George Torrance stated, the LEADER project is not yet in operation and all the projects will have to be assessed by the Local Action Group.

Mrs Aylwin asked whether the Environment Agency still has responsibility for main drains.  Mr Bedford replied that it has responsibility for main rivers, including Keynor Rife.

Mr Harland informed the parish of the proposed new cycle commuter route between Selsey and Chichester.

4.   ANY OTHER BUSINESS – questions from parishioners.

4.1    Mr Albrecht made a statement regarding the recent Parish Meeting called by 6 parishioners and the question that parishioners were asked to vote on.  He stated that the question ‘Should the Parish Council grant the Football Club a 25 year lease at a peppercorn rent’ was untrue, in that the PC has no intention of granting the lease at a ‘peppercorn rent’.  He stated that the impression given that the Football Club would take over the whole field was untrue and that the assertion that no-one else would be able to use the Memorial Playing Field was also untrue.  Mr Albrecht felt saddened by the conduct of the meeting.

4.2    Mr Allisstone stated that, in his opinion, it aired a subject which needed to be discussed.

4.3    Mr Field suggested that, as Mr Rob Carver will be leaving the Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve after many years’ service, the PC should write to thank him for all he has done.  Mr Harland replied that he thought this a good idea and it would be done.

4.4     Mr Guest raised the cycle route at Medmerry; it has a gate which is permanently locked.  He asked when the gate might be opened.  Mrs Tull stated that there may be a difficulty with the landowner but the Easton Farm Barns gate should remain open and she will investigate.  Mr Martin stated that he understood that that particular part of the cycle route is closed and that some land is still in private ownership.   Mrs Aylwin informed parishioners that the Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Sussex RSPB have a new leaflet out on the Medmerry scheme and this can be obtained at the Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve office.

4.5    Mrs Martin informed those at the meeting that the new car park near Earnley with a lane directly on to the Medmerry wall is now open. The Easton Lane car park, specifically for disabled use, is not yet open.

4.6    Dame Jenny Trimble thanked all parishioners who have given so generously towards the fund for the new church building.  Dame Jenny reported that planning consent has now been granted with the support of the Parish Council and the project is going ahead well.

4.7    Mrs Cook reported that the verges on Rotten Row are becoming narrower and the road is becoming wider.  In addition, a new layby has been created by cars parking at a particular point.  The Clerk will write to Highways to draw their attention to this and Cllr Evans will back up the PC’s concern.  Mrs Cook also reported fly tipping in Rotten Row.  The Clerk will report this to CDC.  Mrs Tull stated that CDC has a new number for the public to report fly tipping.  This will be put on the web site.

Mr Harland reported that Mr and Mrs Hall had been litter picking along the B2145 and Highleigh Road.

4.8    Mr Williams asked why some roads are not maintained by the council.  Mr Harland replied that unadopted roads, such as LSA roads, must be maintained by those living on the road.  It is unlikely that WSCC will take on the maintenance of these roads.

Lastly, Cllr Margaret Evans thanked the parish councillors of Sidlesham for all their hard work.  Some have been members of the council for many years. The position demands a great deal of councillors’ time, often constrained by rules and regulations.  Mr Harland thanked Cllr Evans for her comments and, in turn, thanked Cllr Evans for her support for the parish.

Mr Harland closed the Sidlesham Annual Parish Meeting, 2015 at 8.45 pm.