Annual Parish Meeting Minutes
Sticklepath Annual Parish Meeting
Wednesday 4th May 2016
Present: 13 members of the Parish, Mrs P Matthews in the Chair and Clerk Mrs L Rowlands. Also present, Mr Ian Brooker (Dartmoor National Park Ranger)
Ben Shapcott (National Trust), Cllr William Cann (WDBC), PCSO K Drake (Devon Constabulary)
02/16 Approval of the minutes from the meeting held on 13th May 2015
The minutes were approved and signed
03/16 Chair’s Report
I am starting my report with a few thanks-yous. I would like to begin with Alison Cruse, who stepped down as Chair last year, for all her work and commitment in that role and for her assistance when I took over. Also thank you to Phil Davies, who resigned as a Councillor this year. He did a great job in assisting with the Emergency Plan and co-ordinating a community maintenance plan for the Leat. Thanks also to Sam Hood, who was our Clerk for two years. During her time with us she served us with great efficiency and expertise. Our new Clerk is Lois Rowland who has had a steep learning curve taking over at what is the busiest time of year for a Clerk but has done so with enthusiasm and is proving to be a worthy successor to Sam.
We are also grateful to Dora Cowling and Kath Matthews who have continued their voluntary task of weeding and tidying the area around Oak Tree Green. We were especially delighted that WDBC agreed with us and presented them with the ‘Green’ Mayoral award to thank them for their many years of unpaid, but very appreciated, work.
It was also good to see all the volunteers on our Village Work Day. As it was not possible to get onto Sticklepath Moor this year, work was concentrated on the village and there was plenty to do.
StOC should also be mentioned for their work around the village and also a special thank you to Ian Brooker for his continuing care and management of Sticklepath Moor and for looking after our environs including hauling out fallen trees from the river.
Malcolm Brewer has continued to assist with maintenance of the bus shelters, seats etc even though he is no longer on the Council and again it is very much appreciated.
But change is inevitable and the year 2015/16 has certainly been no exception. Sadly we have lost some stalwarts of the community, not least both Ann and Roger Bowden who began the now famous Hosta Nursery. Ann we must especially mention as she was the first Chair to Sticklepath PC when it was formed back in the mid 1980’s. She skilfully guided it for many years thereafter and then continued as a Councillor until 2008. She was ably assisted by the first parish Clerk, Robin Brindley, who coincidentally also passed away this year. I imagine they are above us now discussing how things have changed since their day of pen and paper to the present day of internet and websites.
And the new technology has presented the Council with another change too. This year has seen the introduction of the Transparency Code whereby smaller parishes are now required to publish key information on governance and finance online. Fortunately we already had the Sticklepath website on which we were publishing some information but the code requires a good deal more to be available. For example minutes, albeit in draft, now have to be published within two weeks of a meeting and also payments over £100. This has put a greater demand on the Clerk and, along with one of the Councillors, she has had to undergo extra training on website administration. Of course this all has to be paid for along with the necessary increase to the Clerk’s hours and, as we may still need further equipment or specialist assistance with the web site, it has had to be reflected in our precept. But please do look at the web site, Sticklepath.org.uk, as it will keep you up to date on the Council’s activities and those of other organisations in the village.
The continuing budget cuts to the County and Borough councils is still having a knock on effect to Parish Councils and their precepts. More and more we are being urged to take care of ourselves. Our Parish Council had already taken on the spraying of the weeds along our pavements and road sides as well as supplementing the cutting of the grass verges. And this year we were asked to consider appointing a voluntary Road Warden who, amongst other tasks, would be responsible for filling the smaller pot holes in our roads. We did consider this long and hard but decided the amount of training and safety issues involved would probably deter anyone volunteering from our small parish. In any case we felt we had already used up our willing volunteer corps on the Snow Warden and Emergency Team schemes. We were therefore somewhat relieved to find out that this scheme was not obligatory. However we have felt it necessary to increase our precept again this year to cover any maintenance issues which would have once been sorted by the Lengthsman and any other unexpected demand for services no longer being covered by the Borough.
It has also been emphasised to us that in the initial stages, parishes should also be prepared to look after themselves in the event of an emergency such as flooding. Our village already had in place an excellent Emergency Plan and hopefully you will have received a card with the names and numbers of the emergency team members. However in addition, thanks to Tania Murrell who is skilled at finding and acquiring available pots of money, we managed to secure a grant which enabled us to offer those households designated to be in the areas of the highest flood risk, a supply of Hydrosacks or Hydrosnakes, which are a quick and easy alternative to sand bags and which they can deploy themselves. These are about to be ordered and we hope to deliver them in the near future.
The Council has also been investigating the possibility of installing a defibrillator in the red phone box opposite the Devonshire. There are grants available which can help towards the cost but we will be looking to raise the shortfall by fund raising events but I will let Alison Cruse give you more detail on this later in the meeting.
Dog fouling and speeding are still two of our perennial problems. We have had a real problem with dog waste along the Skaigh Lane, that’s the track leading from Surgery Cottage. Notices warning of a potential fine have been put up and then ripped down by persons unknown. We are now going to trial a dog waste bin at the beginning of the track by the bridge. This is being kindly been donated by the Finch Foundry who are replacing their bin by the Billy Green gate with a larger model. They have a problem with it overflowing although it is not helped by drink cans being disposed in it.
As for speeding, we keep coming up against a blank wall. I had a long chat with a police lady at the Devon County show last May who was promoting speed reduction. She promised to investigate the problem in Sticklepath and get back to me. I never heard any more. We did get an occasional flashing 30 mph sign at the entrance to the village at the west end, although I believe it was once put up facing the wrong way. I gather that they are not now widely used as miscreants like to make it flash. We have also been told that, for various reasons, the village isn’t suitable for chicanes or a reduction to 20mph. It also appears that a lot of the speeding is by locals who have become complacent about whatever sign is put up. So again, we are looking to do it ourselves and will be considering other ways of slowing traffic – from new signs designed by the children to making more of a gateway feature at the entrances to the village. We would welcome any further suggestions.
On a more positive note, we had a visit from Ross Fisher to one of our meetings and he told us of the investigative work he had been carrying out on the Standing Stone at the bottom of the Stickle Path. This prompted the Council to consider the lack of recording and preservation of the history of Sticklepath and a Heritage group was suggested. This was taken up with gusto by Derek Moore and the Sticklepath Heritage Group was formed. We were pleasantly surprised at the number and enthusiasm of those attending the first meetings and we have to thank Derek for the incredible amount of work he has put into this in getting it off the ground. Thank you to the Finch Foundry for the use of their upstairs room for one of the meetings. It is hoped that the group and the Foundry will liaise from time to time which could be of mutual benefit and also bring the Foundry back into contact with the village. However the Council is now looking for the group to become a separate entity from, although still reporting to, the Parish Council and their first AGM later this month when it is hoped a small committee will be formed to take over the reins.
Also on a historical note, we had a couple of requests to get Ladywell running again. This is proving to be quite tricky and probably very expensive as the problem looks to lie under the road. On top of that, even though you are invited to drink and be refreshed, the water is not considered to be safe and therefore another notice would have to go up saying actually please don’t which defeats the object a bit. However we been given some money to re-landscape the area now that the chestnut tree has unfortunately met its demise and are currently awaiting a planting suggestion.
With regard to the Playing Field pavilion. It was hoped that work would commence this summer but there is still a shortfall in funds and the Playing Field Committee are also awaiting a grant from DNP. Unfortunately the Council hasn’t got the budget to be able to subsidize the work in the meantime. So regrettably it is being postponed for a while. But another thank you must go to Emma Bell who has almost single-handedly developed and carried this project. Please support her in any way you can especially when she comes calling for help at this year’s Summer Fete on 31st July.
Another future event to look forward to will be our celebration of the Queens 90th Birthday on June 12th when we will be holding a tea party in the village hall. Plans are underway so please look out for further details later.
And finally, can you help us solve a mystery? A new Union Jack flag for the white rock was recently purchased and subsequently raised for the Queen’s official birthday. However it was taken down and replaced with the English flag. We would like our flag back so if anyone has any information, please let us know.
04/16 Statement of Accounts
The Clerk presented the accounts for 2015/16, a copy of which was available to attendees at the start of the meeting. She offered the meeting the opportunity to raise questions related to the financial statement. Mr Flick asked why there was not audit fee paid and the Clerk advised that the parish’s income/expenditure band was below £10,000 for the previous financial year so there was no fee payable.
05/16 Sticklepath 2025
Why Sticklepath 2025? Well we thought it would grab your attention better than “Future Planning”.
As I said previously, inevitably the village is constantly on the change and even now we have a swathe of For Sale signs through the village. Recently the Council has been prompted to consider the future of Sticklepath and where we should be heading. There are only six of us, hopefully seven soon, representing over 400 parishioners and despite the odd debate over a pint in the pub or a chat in the street, it’s difficult to know the views of the majority. A housing needs survey was carried out about 9 years ago which resulted in the Affordable Homes being built on the Playing Field but we would now like to build up a more general picture of the needs of the village.
With this in mind we started to look at various options including Parish Plans and Neighbourhood plans and, to help us decide on the best route, we invited a representative from DNP to come along to one of our meetings, to give us some advice. She was very helpful and explained as long as we followed certain procedures, DNP would take a Plan into consideration when determining future planning. However she advised us that Planning Laws are likely to change this summer and it was not therefore advisable to complete a plan until the autumn in case the scenario changed.
However we are not solely interested in planning but all aspects of village life like the green spaces, the pubs, tourism, parking, social events and so on, so tonight we are launching Sticklepath 2015, the first step in obtaining your views. We had considered sending out a tick box questionnaire but they can be a bit tedious and unconsidered so in the first instance we are going to be asking some questions designed to be a bit of fun but with a serious intent and which hopefully will set you thinking about what you really want or don’t want for that matter for the future. We have given out some sheets tonight and will be putting it on our web site, in the shop and other appropriate venues. We would like your replies by 31st July.
Your answers will then aid the Council to see what aspects matter to you most and what we should be concentrating on. They will help to give us an idea of which route we should take to formulate a plan which hopefully will help to steer the future of Sticklepath in the direction that is most acceptable to the majority of the parishioners.
06/16 Appeal for Defibrillator
Councillor Cruse outlined the Appeal, explaining the cost of the defibrillator and that it will be housed in the telephone box. British Telecom will allow the Parish to adopt the box for £1. BT had reported that the phone has been used only 6 times in the last year, all calls being to Freephone numbers. The defibrillator has a life of 14-16 years.
The community had needed to fundraise £2,000. However, we already have secured a grant of £500 from Community Heartbeat Trust and a further £500 has just come in from Den Brook Community Fund.
Councillor Cruse asked those present to bear this fundraising in mind and had started by putting a collection box at the back of the room.
Ian Brooker – Dartmoor National Park Ranger
In case you are not already aware, Central Government announced a four year National Park Grant settlement in January with no further cuts to our finances during this period. This was totally unexpected news and although we are not returning to our previous levels of funding, at least we will have some stability and now, the ability to plan for the future.
In late March we received the 8- point Plan for England’s National Parks which includes: connecting young people with nature; delivering new apprenticeships; driving growth in international tourism; promotion of the best of British food from NPs; encouraging greater diversity in the visitors coming to NPs; enhancing peoples involvement in the interpretation of the historic and natural beauty in NP’s; the promotion of health and well-being schemes and creating thriving natural environments. Full details at www.gov.uk
On a more local level, I reported last year about how the management of our rights of way network had to change including the use of more volunteers to achieve the ongoing maintenance schedules. I am pleased to announce that a staggering 84% of all of the rights of way in my area are now annually cleared by volunteers showing the commitment to this change in a very short space of time. I cannot thank enough the people who have risen to this challenge but especially to my Voluntary Warden for this area, Mike Watson who has co-ordinated the StOC group to take on this new role.
Sticklepath Moor has taken up some of my time this year and included the appointment of a new grazier. Despite contacting all those believed to have registered rights on the common, no one was prepared to or had stock to carry on the much needed grazing regime. However, Tony Francis came forward as a result of a contact with one of the Parish Councillors claiming that he had the necessary rights and used his stock to graze the common for a couple of months last summer. Hopefully this will continue from July 1st this year.
Unfortunately, the somewhat wet winter months denied the opportunity for a contractor to cut the soft rush and gorse regrowth and therefore reluctantly the planned community event was cancelled on two occasions. However, the contract is still in place for this year and scheduled for late August/ September with a community task to hopefully follow shortly afterwards!
Sticklepath was somewhat blessed this year when miraculously a large tree lodged itself in the river on the downstream side of the wooden footbridge without causing any damage to the structure, as it floated underneath it!
Yet again local volunteers sprang forward to remove the tree from the river to prevent any potential problems further downstream.
Councillor William Cann OBE – read by Chair, Mrs P Matthews
I would like to give my apologies for the meeting tonight – over a number of years I have not missed many APMs at Sticklepath, but I have a long standing family commitment.
WDBC has had another difficult year financially because of more and more cuts from Central Government. Therefore the Community Charge has had to be raised once again so that at least West Devon can give the statutory services that have to be provided. This leaves very little for community grants which are so important to Parish Councils, as very often these grants can help toward village halls etc.
WDBC Planning has not been up to the standard I would expect. The IT Porthole has been provided by a company called CIVICA and West Devon are meeting them to improve the situation.
West Devon has also had temporary planning officers, some of whom have left within 6 months, so there has been little continuity within the planning system. It is also very disappointing that the provision of a Planning Officer at the Okehampton Office is by appointment only. To me, this is not providing a service for face to face consultation on a regular basis.
On a more positive note, over the last 2 months WDBC have now employed 3 new Planning Officers on a full-time contract shared with South Hams DC.
WDBC have been working on their Local Plan and Business Plan to help local businesses. A great deal of time has been spent improving the IT department in all aspects of their work.
I would like to finish by congratulating Dora Cowland and Kathy Matthews on winning the Mayoral Award for 2016 for their community work in keeping Sticklepath tidy. Our communities are fortunate to have many volunteers who give many hours of their time to improve our surroundings.
Thank you for listening to this report. I am always available by email or telephone and will visit you if necessary.
Ben Shapcott – National Trust – read by Chair, Mrs P Matthews
Ben initially wanted to mention some events at Finch Foundry this year:
Motorcycle Day – Saturday 21 May, 11am- 4pm; Finch Foundry Vintage Fair – Sunday 19 June, 11am- 4pm; Rag Rug Exhibition – Friday 29 July to Friday 19 August, 11am- 4.30pm; Rural Skills and Crafts Fair – Sunday 18 September, 11am- 4pm; St Clement’s Day – Saturday 19 November, 11am- 4pm
Our conservation management plan is due to be complete by the end of May, preliminary drafts are looking excellent and are opening up a wealth of information about the past of Finch Foundry and the surrounding village. A final copy should be available to anyone who would like one within the next couple of months. On the back of this we will be planning improvements and applying for the relevant funding as well as going for Museums Accreditation which will make access to grants easier.
I would like to say thank you to the history society who used our gallery for a recent meeting. They left it in excellent shape and I would be happy to host them again.
I am aware that a member of our volunteering team recently raised the sluice gate without asking permission sending a torrent of water down the leat, this was quickly stopped by my assistant. As a response to this a padlock has been placed on the sluice gate handle to stop it happening again. Keys are available for key people if deemed necessary. Most Finch staff currently carry a key for the sluice in the mean-time.
Apologies for a recent alarm problem, it went into fault on Wednesday 27th at around 19:00, and it has been reported that it sounded intermittently. Hopefully it won’t happen again, however I am nominating key staff who can react to this in the future.
There is going to be a re-planning of the National Trust Dartmoor portfolio which may see a new Operations Manager come in for the area. This is currently under consultation and we will know the outcome in late June, please advise Ben if you want to know more.
PCSO Kayleigh Drake, Devon and Cornwall Constabulary – read by Clerk, Mrs L Rowlands
Moor Watch is a joint services initiative whereby high profile patrols are mounted in and around Dartmoor to deter and detect vehicle crime at remote parking venues. People visiting these beauty spots sometimes assume that the remoteness of these areas make them unattractive to criminals. However every year items such as satnavs, handbags, cameras, laptops, rucksacks, passports and other valuables are taken. We advise people to remove all valuables from their cars and place other items away from view. Police also used capture cars that aim to catch the offenders. From Easter until the autumn is usually the time when we receive the most visitors and when criminals are most active. Please assist our patrols by reporting any suspicious behaviour immediately.
Shed burglaries increased significantly in rural areas to the north and east of the moor during last summer to winter period. High value garden machinery such as chain saws were taken. High profile work was conducted by PCSOs and Police Officers to gain intelligence and do crime prevention work in the affected areas. Also our Crime Prevention Officer supplied shed alarms to ‘target harden’ against criminals re-attending specific addresses.
Police work actively with partner agencies. The issues are varied but include child protection work in conjunction with Social Services and schools. Neighbour disputes and neighbourhood nuisance feature prominently in our work, and we work closely with our Anti-Social Behaviour Officer, Housing Association and Devon Mediation Service to try to help solve the problems.
Sticklepath Parish remains one of the safest places to live in the county. I would like to take the opportunity to thank Councillors and residents for their continued support.
Cllr James McInnes – read by Clerk, Mrs L Rowlands
BUDGET – Devon County Councils budget for the year 2016/17 is £443 million. The budget includes a £16.1 million boost for under pressure Care Services. The budget is based on a 3.99% increase. This includes a 2% increase that will go to Adult Social Care. Between 2011/12 and 2015/16 Devon’s spending has reduced by £174 million.
The Government announced very late in the budget round some additional funding of £8.4 million. This is not money in the base budget and has been allocated as a one off payment:
Adult Services £5 million
Severe weather reserve £1.5 million which will include £1 million towards Highway drainage and safety defects.
Public Health £1 million
The Citizens Advice Bureau £40,000, which will now be in the base budget
We have been given the projected funding figures for the next four years. Which is further reductions, but at least we know what’s coming. The way Local Government is funded is changing. By 2020 Local Government funding will come from Business Rates. Details are not yet available how this is going to work for Devon.
HIGHWAYS – This has been a very wet winter and as a result we are seeing a large number of potholes. This is causing concern and I urge you to register/ report the pothole as soon as possible. Recently the government has announced addition funding of nearly £2 million to help with the over 30.000 potholes we have in Devon. Steve Dawe is my main contact.
CHILDREN SCHOOLS & SKILLS – I continue to be busy in my role as Cabinet Member for Children Schools & Skills. Last year we had an Ofsted inspection of our Childrens Services. I’m pleased to report that we have made progress and have moved from being inadequate to requires improvement moving to good. We are now working to move to Good. This is going to be a challenge, as the bar is being raised all the time.
The Schools dedicated Grant is similar to last year, this goes straight to schools. The government is currently consulting on Fair Funding for schools, which I support. Currently schools in Devon are about £270 a child below the national average and we continue to campaign for fairer funding. The devil will be in the detail and I encourage schools and parents to make representation through the consultation.
In the Chancellors Budget in March 2016 the government announced that all schools will become Academies by 2022 with a plan in place by 2020. I support schools that want to become an Academy, but I’m against this central dick tat, that all schools should be acadamized. This has big implication for a large County like Devon and its small rural schools. Currently 88% of children in Devon attend a Good or Outstanding school. Well above the National average. We are also above the National average at all key stages of a child’s education.
DNPA – As a Member of Dartmoor National Park Authority, appointed by Devon County Council I’m very pleased with the government’s announcement that funding will remain flat and not be further reduced. The publication of the new purposes is also encouraging and shows a long term commitment to National Parks.
West Devon HATOC and County Committee, as County Councillors we have a small budget for community projects. Not thousands of pounds but a few hundred that could help a project happen. This year 2016/17, I will also have access to some capital funding. Again not a large amount, but useful.
The meeting was opened to the floor for questions.
Mr Peter Flick asked about the DNP change to their Local Plan and whether residents will have a chance to comment on this. Mrs Matthews said that she hoped that would be the case and this was mentioned to the DNP representative who attended the recent PC meeting to talk about Neighbourhood Plans.
Mr Peter Flick asked the Council to reconsider the start time for the Parish Meeting as he felt it could preclude some people from attending. Councillor Matthews said that consideration would be given to the start time for next year but legislation provides that the meeting can start any time from 6pm.
There were no further questions and the meeting closed at 18.50