PADDOCK WOOD TOWN COUNCIL
The Podmore Building, St Andrews Road, Paddock Wood,
Tonbridge, Kent, TN12 6HT
Telephone: 01892 837373
MINUTES OF THE ANNUAL TOWN MEETING held on Wednesday 7th April 2021 via Zoom at 7 pm
PRESENT: Cllr M Flashman, in the Chair,
Cllrs R. Atkins (TWBC) D. Boyle, S. Hamilton, (TWBC & KCC) D. Kent, R Moon, D Sargison, R. Turk, C Williams
IN ATTENDANCE: Mrs N Reay, Town Clerk
Borough Cllr Bailey
APOLOGY: Cllr E Thomas
- CHAIRMAN’S WELCOME
I should like to welcome you to the 2021 annual town meeting. This is a meeting which must be held by law between 1st March and 1st June and is not a town council meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to allow the Town Council to explain what it has been doing over the last year and to provide an opportunity for electors to have their say on anything they consider is important to the people of Paddock Wood. All local government electors are entitled to attend and participate in this meeting. Where possible questions will be answered this evening, or a written response will be sent afterwards if an answer cannot be given immediately. Councillors are electors themselves and can raise questions and make comments if they wish. The meeting will be recorded for the purpose of taking the minutes but once they have been written up the recording will be deleted.
- APPROVAL OF PREVIOUS MINUTES
The minutes of the meeting held on 3rd April 2019 were agreed. There was no Annual Town Meeting held in 2020.
- TOWN COUNCIL REPORT
Cllr Meryl Flashman – Chairman of the Council
Due to the COVID pandemic it has been two years since we have held an annual Town Meeting. Who would have thought when we were forced to cancel last year’s Town meeting that a year later, we would be holding this year’s meeting on Zoom? In fact, how many of us had even heard of Zoom this time last year let alone learnt how to use it.
The Town Council Offices have been closed to the public for the past year, our office staff have been working from home for part of the year and sometimes had to change their working hours to enable social distancing within the Office itself. Though our Estates staff primarily work outdoors we have been forced at times to only allow them to work part time. It has been a very challenging time for everyone and hopefully we have better things to look forward to in 2021 with increased freedom even though COVID 19 looks like being here to stay.
We remain extremely fortunate with both our staff and our Estates team. Our thanks go to them all but to our Town Clerk Nichola Reay and her Deputy Claire Reilly for the way in which they have continued to deal with new challenges and experiences this year. Teresa Maxwell, our administrative assistant is also an invaluable part of the office team and her IT skills are invaluable and during the first lockdown she was responsible for setting up and developing our new website.
Last year, when I wrote my annual report which was never delivered, I mentioned the challenge of examining the draft Tunbridge Wells Local Plan which went out for consultation in Autumn 2019 and that PWTC had employed a consultant to help respond to the consultation. Things have now come full circle and we are in the process of examining the pre submission version of the local plan and once again being forced to spend money on employing a consultant to help us submit our response. A master planning exercise for Paddock Wood and Capel has been carried out by consultants on behalf of TWBC but the results not yet released. I have been informed today that the master planning process is not part of the local plan consultation as it does not form part of the evidence base for the local plan.
The Council will do all it can to ensure current and future development within the parish is carried out sympathetically and in keeping with the existing community. Flooding, surface water drainage and sewage disposal also feature high on our agenda. We have been assured by CC Hamilton that Paddock Wood library will not be closing and will be reopening at some point during the Summer.
Over the past year grants have been given to the Lions, Paddock Wood Football Club, Paddock Wood rangers, 11th Tonbridge scouts, Hi Kent and the Community Storehouse. In addition to this PWTC budgeted to give the Community Advice Centre £10000 to help with their running costs. Money has also been donated to help organisations with their Covid expenses.
The Neighbourhood Plan and Community Centre project continue to take up a lot of our time and there is detailed information to be found about both projects on the PWTC website. The planning application for the Community Centre has been submitted to TWBC for consideration but no date has yet been set for the planning committee to examine the plans.
The Neighbourhood Plan Steering group employed a new consultant to work with them to take the Neighbourhood Plan forward to completion. The NP is again being delayed by the TWBC draft local plan and by the lack of information about the master planning of Paddock Wood Town Centre and the surrounding area.
We continuously monitor our expenditure and examine very closely how and where we spend the money. Every project must be considered and evaluated in terms of cost-effectiveness, and benefit to the community at large. Our internal and external auditors have once again approved our accounts and governance arrangements. Due to prudent housekeeping Paddock Wood Town Council is delighted that this year it has been able to set a precept less than last year’s without reducing any services to the town.
I would like to thank all Councillors for their contributions over the past two years. We are all unpaid volunteers who give up our own time to represent our Community. We do a lot behind the scenes as well as attending formal Council meetings. Our powers are limited but we aim to work with, and influence Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and Kent County Council whenever we can.
Since my last report Councillors Steven Barrett and Bill Hills have both stood down. Their departure left two casual vacancies and we hope that they will both be filled at the election due to be held in May 2021.
If you require any further information regarding matters affecting Paddock Wood, please do get in touch with us via the Town Council offices, the Town Council website, Twitter, or Facebook.
Cllr Derek Boyle, Chairman of Estates and Personnel Committees
I would like to first give me thanks to my fellow committee members for their hard work and diligence in discharging their duties this year, the clerk team and to our Estates Team. Without this partnership we would not have been able to undertake all the work that has been completed this year.
Here are some highlights of the key work that has been carried out this year:
We have replaced the bench in Badsell Road opposite Foal Hurst Wood, (owned by PWTC)
The one on the Maidstone Road outside Memorial Field. (ownership unknown)
We will also be replacing bench on corner of Ringden Ave (ownership unknown)
New bin in Memorial Park, replacement bin Green Lane
In the cemetery we have been completing the next phase of work on the children’s area, draw8ing up and commencing the drainage work, installing parking spaces for visitors, and undertaking tree work.
The Memorial pavilion which is just used by the Insulators football team, is due to have uplift and improvement works carried out in the coming year and PWTC has allocated £15k for the work, we are just waiting on further tenders for the work.
We have been working on further improvements to the security of our sites and this included the new fencing along Green Lane and the access restricting barriers. Unfortunately, the recent illegal entry and damage to the Elm Tree football pitches shows that this needs to be constantly under review.
I would like to pass on my thanks to the Police, Community Safety Unit, TWBC and the Clerk for the speedy resolution of this matter. Work is being commissioned to rectify the damage to the pitches so the Football Club can play again on them asap.
Issues around fly-tipping have been proactively worked on by PWTC in partnership with the Community Safety Unit as well.
The hanging baskets and planters will be returning to Commercial Rd very soon and we all look forward to the wonderful display at the heart of our town.
The work by UK Power Networks in Green Lane Spinney have been put back again, but they could start at some point between June and August.
Finally, we are planning to commence our tree planting project that was suggested by Cllr Sargison last year using the ring-fenced budget that will be dedicated to this excellent initiative. While we cannot replace the mature trees that have been recently removed in connection with the developments, we can do our little bit to increase the number of trees in the town.
This year we have worked in partnership with all the employees of the council to ensure that we have adapted their working patterns enable us to continue to offer the wide range of services that we offer, while remaining a safe working environment for them. I would like to particularly thank Nichola for advising the committee on what we must put into place and suggesting what we could put in place to keep our staff and the public safe over the last year.
Cllr C Williams, Chairman of the Planning & Environment Committee.
An overview of the work of the P & E Committee was given and a copy of the presentation is appended to the minutes.
- Questions/statements from electors on any other matters.
The following questions and points were raised:
(Responses are in italics)
Had the Town Council considered extending the community centre in the future?
One of the criteria for the centre was for it to be flexible with the potential to extend in the future. However, there had been no discussions at present. Neither were there any plans to taking further space for parking.
In March 2020, the Council stated that they would no longer engage with Paddock Wood Cricket regarding the use of the Memorial Field for hard ball cricket until the plans for the CC were finalised. The plans allowed for the cricket square, but it did not meet league standards. Why would the council not engage with PW Cricket?
There is currently no defined club to have discussions with. It was shown by the contractors that it is feasible to have a cricket square on the site. It was made clear to the reps from PW Cricket that the Council would be happy to engage with Paddock Wood Cricket once RiBA4 stage for the community centre was completed. The plans are currently with TWBC for determination.
The Council had not been approached by other cricket clubs asking to use the cricket square.
PW Cricket had also been invited to attend the Sports and Recreation group for the Neighbourhood Plan.
The Town, Borough & County Councillors were thanked for the work since the last Annual Town Meeting and asked if, in view of the opposition to the Community Centre would the council consider withdrawing the application and looking for a more appropriate site?
The Town Council has approved £50 k to move the tennis courts on the site and has the council received any requests for tennis.
It is currently the policy of the town council to go ahead with the project to build the community centre on the Memorial Field and there is no proposal at present to change that.
The reason for moving the tennis courts is so that the footprint of the community centre can be moved back. The courts are currently out of use due to poor condition. Once they are back in good order then the coaches who ran the previous community tennis lessons would be contacted. A local coach has also approached the council.
Would like to congratulate the chairman on her hard work during a difficult year.
Would the Council consider a voluntary poll to see if residents were happy for the council to take out a loan to pay for the community centre?
This could be passed onto the town council members, but it had passed a resolution to seek the permission to take out a loan from the PWLB.
The Chairman was asked if she personally would consider the request.
The Chairman advised that she did not have the power to do so as chairman but personally would not do so. The Council was acting within the law, and the application was compliant.
The following Estates Matters were raised.
£78,000/pa was spent on Estates staff what does Paddock Wood have that other parishes in TW borough do not?
80% of precept is spent on maintaining the assets. Enable the council to ensure litter picked/ planters/ green spaces and verges/cemetery & old cemetery/Green Lane spinney/Foal Hurst Wood. A lot more open space to maintain – a lot of other parishes the pitch maintenance fall to the local clubs.
There was a lot of rubbish blowing along the hedge line of the cemetery – would it be possible to stop the rubbish collecting in this area as it is affecting the wildlife..
There was some obscene graffiti in the Skateboard Park.
The back of the Memorial Pavilion had a lot of graffiti could it be removed more regularly.
There is a problem at the Memorial as it is wooden, and the council was having difficulties on how to remove.
Pictures of the graffiti on town council land would be emailed to the Clerk.
There were dead leaves and hedge cuttings left under the hedge at Whites Corner.
Would it be possible to re-paint the benches in the Town Centre?
The damaged bench at Foal Hurst Wood had not been replaced.
Damaged bench on the Memorial Field.
Could seasonal flowers be planted in the town centre – rather than just in the summer.
It was hoped to take on a new member of staff to look after flowers and planting, and for minor maintenance.
Would it be possible to have the Estates Works schedule published on the Town Council website?
The Clerk would discuss the above issues with the Estates Manager and Estates Committee as appropriate.
The police houses were up for auction – could the land be used for the community centre?
They were not available when the project started.
The current valuation of the site was £750,000 which would have needed to be found to purchase the site. There would have been additional costs for demolition and clearing the site.
Conversations had been had with the Police and Crime Commissioner early in the project.
It would be a good thing if this could be looked at again.
Is the Town Council moving the tennis courts so that it only uses 11% of the field?
If so is the Memorial Site big enough for the Community centre – if the planning application fails will the council consider another site?
It would also appear that tennis and cricket are not being treated equally.
The cost of moving the courts is £50k and can be done as part of the community centre project.
The revised location is not as appealing as the proposed new one.
Some areas in Paddock Wood are difficult to walk around due to overgrown hedges.
The Kent County Council website had an area for reporting overhanging vegetation.
Several areas have farmers markets, could the council consider encouraging one for Paddock Wood?
This could be looked at as part of Neighbourhood Plan.
Could local business sponsor planters?
This has been tried in the past but can be tried again,
Borough Councillor Bailey added his thanks to the councillors for work they had done over the last few years. He advised the following:
The master plan for the town centre was looking promising and would be of benefit for the residents.
Putlands will be reopening shortly.
An EV charging point will be installed in the east car park shortly.
Some 20mph zones had been introduced in TWBC – and had proved popular with residents and Cllr Bailey would be supportive. It is on the issue to be considered for the HIP.
Had the town council considered a local magazine – had started a quarterly newsletter but had stopped due to pandemic.
A query was raised about the costs of the tennis courts – they could be cleaned for £1500.
It was advised that it was a different job. The current tennis courts sizes are not compliant and need to be completely rebuilt to make them compliant.
The meeting closed at 8.25 pm.
Cllr Meryl Flashman
Chairman of the Town Council