WEXHAM COURT PARISH COUNCIL
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE:
Councillors Evelyn Aldridge (unwell), Dalip Rajput (working).
Borough Councillor Latif Khan.
Community Warden Dave Lee.
97. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
Councillor MacIsaac declared an interest in relation to his role as a Governor at Wexham School.
98. MINUTES OF THE MEETING HELD ON 8TH DECEMBER 2009
The Minutes of the Meeting of 8th December 2009 were approved as a correct record.
99. CO-OPTION OF NEW MEMBERS – CANDIDATES’ ADDRESS
The recent vacancies had been duly advertised and Electoral Services had confirmed that the Parish Council was free to co-opt. The Chairman clarified what is expected of a Wexham Court Parish Councillor and stressed that WCPC is non-political.
The two candidates were each invited to address the Council to introduce themselves, and to clarify their reasons for wishing to become Councillors. Following these discussions the Chairman proposed that voting take place by a show of hands and this was agreed unanimously. It was subsequently agreed by a unanimous show of hands that both Peter Gerstmann and Keith Nunn be co-opted. The new Members duly signed their Declarations of Acceptance of Office and were welcomed.
RESOLVED: That Peter Gerstmann and Keith Nunn be co-opted to serve as Members of Wexham Court Parish Council.
100. POLICE AND COMMUNITY WARDEN LIAISON
No members of the Police or Community Warden Team were in attendance. The Chairman explained that yet another re-shuffle had taken place at SBC and our new Warden, Dave Lee, had sent his apologies. He had been in contact with the Clerk and hoped to introduce himself at the next meeting.
101. VISIT BY ASHLEY JOHNSON, SCHOOL & COMMUNITY SPORTS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER, TO DISCUSS ACTIVITIES AT THE NEW SPORTS HALL FACILITY
The Chairman introduced Ashley Johnson and he was invited to address the Council. Mr Johnson explained that he had arranged various activities at the new Sports Hall facility with a view to engaging the local community, but attendance had been poor despite events having been advertised in the local press. The sum of £650 per term was allocated to him for this purpose and he requested the assistance of the Parish Council in suggesting new ideas.
Councillor Egan suggested that activities such as archery, boxing and martial arts may attract the public, and the Chairman stated that he had previously been approached by Senior Citizens wishing to take part in more gentle sporting activities. It was agreed that various avenues could be explored, and that the Council would assist the school in approaching local groups of people such as residents of Armstrong House, the new Care Home, and St Mary’s Church. It was also suggested that the Parish Council could sponsor an event.
Members were asked to let the Clerk know if they came up with any further ideas. The Clerk had also offered to include an article from Mr Johnson in the next Annual Report/Newsletter, which would be distributed to every household in Wexham Court.
102. APPROVAL TO SPONSOR REPLACEMENT TREES ADJACENT TO KHALSA SCHOOL
Councillor Vyas had arranged for the new SBC Tree Officer, Chris Smith, to attend this meeting and he was introduced and invited to address the Council. He clarified that he dealt with tree planting, maintenance, and enquiries. He was not directly involved with Tree Preservation Orders but could offer advice in this regard. One of his key interests was to care for young trees to ensure that they had a chance to grow into mature specimens.
A mature tree alongside the footpath adjoining Khalsa School had recently fallen down and damaged the fencing. Work had therefore been taking place, following a roosting bat survey, to remove or prune other trees that posed a risk. Replacement established trees were now being considered at an estimated cost of £50 each. Smaller trees were cheaper but were not as effective since they only had a 25% survival rate.
Various questions were raised by the Members and it was pointed out that the area under discussion was just outside of the Parish/Borough boundary in South Bucks. Mr Smith commented that nobody wanted to claim responsibility for this strip of land. This came as no surprise considering South Bucks’ reluctance to care for other areas of land and footpaths situated on the border with Slough. The Chairman noted that there generally appeared to be a substantial amount of animosity between the South Bucks and Berkshire Councils.
A total of 20-30 trees had been removed or pruned and the amount to be replaced would depend on the available budget. A financial contribution from the Parish Council was therefore requested since SBC didn’t have sufficient funds to take on the entire project, which was estimated to be in the region of £6K.
The Clerk questioned whether the spending of funds on a project outside of the Parish could be justified. It was confirmed that this was acceptable if the end result would be seen to be of benefit to the Parish and our residents.
It was also suggested by Councillor Donachy that it was unacceptable for the Parish Council to be expected to supplement the budget that SBC had been wasting.
Councillor Aldridge pointed out that the Khalsa School had previously promised to replace two large oaks that were felled during the building of the development, but this had not been done. Councillor MacIsaac supported this complaint by adding that the Planning Condition relating to these oak trees should be enforced (Chris Smith would follow this up), and that Khalsa School should take responsibility for the other trees.
Councillor Keith Nunn suggested that Wexham School could also be approached with a view to offering some financial assistance since many of their students used the said footpath as a route to and from home. It was also used by other pedestrians as a shortcut to Stoke Road.
Councillor Gerstmann suggested that SBC could try to attract corporate sponsorship for the project, and Councillor Haines also suggested approaching Groundwork Thames Valley.
In summarising, the Chairman commented that we were still waiting for new trees to be planted on our estate so it would be difficult for us to justify funding trees outside of the Parish. However, he added that he had noted Councillor Nunn’s indication that the path is well used by Wexham School and our residents.
It was agreed that the Parish Council would be prepared to reconsider support of this project if evidence was provided that the Khalsa School also agreed to offer funding.
Various other matters relating to the Parish were raised with the Tree Officer including the care of vandalised and young trees, pruning of established trees, planting schemes on verges to deter parking, and the necessary removal/pruning of some trees at The Cherries to improve CCTV coverage of the area.
Chris Smith was thanked for attending and was invited to come along to future meetings at his convenience.
103. INFORMATION REPORTS - MEMBERS & BOROUGH COUNCILLORS
Councillor Haines had attended the SBC Budget Consultation Meeting at which capping of the Council Tax had been discussed. He reported that the new Administration had cut the Social Services budget and the mobile library service was to be axed. The percentage of overall cuts had yet to be announced, but it was thought to be between 14-20%. Councillor Haines commented that the situation appeared to be quite grim.
It was noted that Councillor Haines had attended the above meeting alone since some of the Members had previous commitments and others had not come forward to offer support. The Chairman stressed that the Parish Council must be represented at such meetings in order to ask the necessary questions and speak on behalf of our residents.
Councillor MacIsaac reported the following:
· SBC’s Council Tax for the next fiscal year would rise by 2% (capped); the total increase including Police services would therefore be 2.4%.
· He had been speaking to Khalsa School reference the ongoing parking issues and they were planning to increase the available parking spaces on-site. The extent of the problems appeared to vary depending on who was on the gate.
· Despite having been repaired previously, the pedestrian crossing lights near the Khalsa School were continuing to operate automatically outside of school run times. Further repairs would be taking place soon to resolve this.
· He had now attended three meetings, arranged by Wexham Parish, in connection with hospital parking issues. South Bucks were continuing to refuse the use of the field opposite due to their green belt policy, and Slough Planning would not permit a multi-storey car park until it was demonstrated that other measures had been tried. The hospital would try to stagger outpatient times, and encourage staff to park in the town by providing a dedicated bus service, but Councillor MacIsaac did not feel that this would be sufficient to resolve the problems. It appeared that the key people who were able to effect a solution were putting their heads in the sand and sticking to their rules, despite all attempts to convince them otherwise.
· Head of Wexham School, Jeff Richardson, would be retiring in April and an interim Head would be covering the position until a permanent replacement could be found.
· He was pushing for action in regard to houses in multiple occupancy. One such property in Norway Drive had been found to be a cannabis factory, along with others around the estate and town.
· The owner of 35 Hillersdon was due in Court for failing to comply with the Enforcement Order re unapproved conversion of the property to flats. The Court could potentially issue a ruling enabling SBC to go in and demolish the unlawful development.
· Borough Councillor Latif Khan was now back from Pakistan having recently attended the funeral of his last brother.
Councillor Evelyn Aldridge had raised her concerns regarding drug abuse and used condoms at the Dawes Moor garage site. In addition, a resident had recently been accosted at the site whilst getting into his car.
Councillor Robert Aldridge had again been in contact with the Highways Department regarding the ongoing abuse of badly damaged grass verges.
Councillor Nunn deferred his report to the agenda item relating to The Cherries Play Area.
Councillor Egan had visited the allotment managers, Stan and Jean Gale, to check on them during the recent snowfalls and see if they needed anything. He reported that they were managing OK through the bad weather and that Jean was still out and about walking their dog, but that Stan was sadly not in the best of health and was now losing his sight due to his advanced years. It was noted that the work they do on behalf of the Parish Council in respect of the allotment site is very much appreciated, and they would be sorely missed when they are no longer able to do this.
Councillor Vyas had been investigating ways of dealing with the damage to grass verges around the estate. He felt that a long-term strategic plan would need to be considered with a view to protecting the verges, and he would continue to explore the possibilities.
It was noted that neither SBC nor the Police would enforce the bylaw re parking/driving on verges, and despite the fact that the Chairman had provided many photographs of offenders there was still no action taken. Many householders had concreted or block-paved their gardens but had no dropped kerb access to them and were driving across the verges instead. This was often due to the high costs charged by SBC for installing dropped kerbs. Councillor Haines advised that it was difficult to obtain vehicle insurance in the Slough area unless owners could declare that their vehicles were parked off the public highway.
Councillor Donachy reported that the gritting of local roads during the recent snowfalls had been inadequate. A resident had notified him that the gritting vehicle servicing the Knolton Way/Frithe areas had driven around but had not actually been spreading any grit! This was presumably because the vehicle had run out due to the publicised shortages.
The Chairman had taken some time off from the bulk of his Council duties over the festive period, but had still been in contact with the Police over various matters. He had also continued to monitor school-run parking problems, and had received a complaint regarding blocking of the entrance gates to the Parish Hall by a vehicle. He stressed that the access road to the hall was a right of way for customers and the neighbouring Bowls Club and must be kept clear.
Two of the political parties involved in the forthcoming elections had claimed achievements that were actually undertaken by the Parish Council and the Chairman would therefore be challenging these false claims.
104. APPROVAL OF QUOTATION RECEIVED FOR THE CHERRIES PLAY AREA
Councillor Keith Nunn presented the quotation and plan received for improvements to the play area, since he had been involved in preparations for this in his previous role as Youth Representative. The Clerk distributed hard copies of the details. The quote in the sum of £29,787.30 was within the allocated budget and included installation of some new equipment, moving of some existing equipment to allow space for a major new item, and laying of an area of tarmac at one of the entrances which had sunk and become muddy since it did not adjoin the footpath.
The Chairman confirmed that there was a need for further improvement and other Members supported his recommendation to proceed with this project.
The Clerk warned that a close member of the public had objected to the spending of further funds on the play area and threatened to complain to the Press. However, it was agreed that a project which would be of benefit to all the children on the estate could not be shelved for the satisfaction of one person.
The cost of the project and the items to be included were discussed at length and some questions were raised. Councillor Nunn explained that the equipment provided by Kompan is superior to the standard swings, etc, that are often included in a play area. He stated that the children enjoy the variety of something unusual and our play facility was therefore considered one of the best in the wider area.
It was suggested that there may be some room for negotiation in the given quote, although it was pointed out that a discount had already been applied. Councillor Vyas offered to seek informal advice on the quote from SBC’s Gerald Pleace, who had previously given us valued assistance in such matters. The Members were satisfied that this would be of great benefit in ensuring that we achieved Best Value for our residents and the project was unanimously approved pending the aforementioned negotiation and advice.
Thanks were recorded to Councillor Nunn for all his work in helping to progress this project.
RESOLVED: That the quotation from Kompan in the maximum sum of £29,787.30 be approved, and that acceptance be confirmed with this company following the negotiations and seeking of advice as discussed.
105. FINANCIAL REPORT
The Finance Clerk submitted the Financial Statements for the 1st to 30th November and 1st to 31st December and invited questions from Members.
RESOLVED: That the Finance Statements for November and December 2009 be approved, and authority be given for twenty-five cheques to be signed.
106. REPORT OF THE CLERK AND PLANNING MATTERS
The Clerk had previously circulated updates to Members regarding recent planning applications and various items were discussed. Planning had been quiet since before Christmas and no objections had been raised. However, the Clerk did comment that she was surprised to see the approved development at the Wexham House site included a 7-bedroomed house. She enquired whether there was any explanation as to why a ‘mansion’ was being built in the heart of our estate! Councillor MacIsaac explained that objections to this had been raised but the ruling majority had nevertheless approved it.
A letter of thanks had been received from the Booking Clerk, Lynne, stating that she had enjoyed the fundraising evening, and thanking the Council for her Christmas gift. Cheques had been sent to the chosen charities following the fundraising event and a letter of thanks had been received from the Air Ambulance Trust, but no response as yet from Help for Heroes.
The Clerk raised her concerns regarding the hazardous state of the roads following the recent snow. In particular, Norway Drive had been virtually impassable and local youngsters had literally been using it as a skating rink. She suggested that perhaps the Parish Council could pay for additional gritting of the estate roads as the future need arose. The Chairman responded that this would most likely be impossible to achieve since there was already a national shortage of grit and the gritting vehicles had been working flat out to keep up with the existing demand. Councillor Haines offered to assist the Clerk in enquiring what additional steps could be taken to improve icy roads in future.
107. APPROVAL TO RE-SCHEDULE THE JULY 2010 MEETING DATE DUE TO ABSENCE OF THE OFFICERS
The Clerk advised that neither she nor the Finance Clerk would be able to attend the 13th July meeting, and the Chairman would also be working on this day. It was suggested that the meeting could be moved to the 14th July. This was agreed and Councillors Haines and MacIsaac would check their diaries to confirm their availability.
108. APPROVAL OF QUOTATION RECEIVED FOR PARISH HALL HEATING CONTROLLER
The Clerk handed copies of the existing quote received to all Members, in the sum of £3,687. This had been discussed previously but no further quotes had been forthcoming. Money was still being wasted with the current inefficient timer system and the latest gas bill totalled £1,423. Installation of a better controller was therefore considered to be a priority.
Councillor Donachy suggested that Peter Strachan of PS Projects could be approached with a view to recommending a heating engineer for a second quote. The Clerk would explore this possibility, and would also try to negotiate a discount on the original quote. Pending these investigations the Members approved the sum already quoted to enable the necessary work to progress as soon as possible.
RESOLVED: That a maximum sum of £3,687 be approved for installation of the new heating system controller, following enquiries to obtain a more favourable quote.
109. PUBLIC QUESTION TIME
In relation to Councillor Vyas’ report in Item 103 above, a resident stated that she had installed her own access road to her property some years ago and that this was approved by the Highways Department who carried out regular checks whilst the work was taking place. The resident was advised that the rules had changed and this was no longer possible. All dropped kerbs and access roads had to be installed by the Borough Council’s contractors under strict guidelines.
The meeting closed at 9.25pm
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