MINUTES OF THE ANNUAL PARISH MEETING HELD AT 7.45 PM ON WEDNESDAY 16TH MARCH 2022 IN THE DAY CENTRE, 72 CHAPEL HILL, STANSTED MOUNTFITCHET, ESSEX
PRESENT Cllr M Caton (Chairman of the Parish Council) and 13 other Councillors
Ruth Clifford – Parish Clerk
Emma Philbrick – Trainee Deputy Clerk
Dan Schlanker – Communications Officer
District Cllr Melvin Caton and Cty Cllr Ray Gooding
Peter Holt – Chief Executive at Uttlesford District Council
Sgt Sharma, PCSO Stewart and Special Constable Steve Dale, Essex Police
Paul Chambers – Touchpoint
1 Member of the press
1 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies for absence were received for Cllr Jessup, Dist. Cllr Dean, Mr & Mrs Hollis and Mr Shervington.
The minutes of the meeting held on 13th March 2019 were approved
Having been proposed by Cllr O’Brien and seconded by Cllr Guney, the Parish Council’s audited accounts to 31 March 2021 were accepted.
4 FINANCIAL REPORT
5 CHAIRMAN’S REPORT – attached
Cllr Caton stated that she was not intending to read her full report which had been circulated in The Link magazine and was available at this meeting. Instead, she updated on a few points and then invited questions.
One member of the public asked a question regarding the Neighbourhood Development Plan. It states an increase in population of 52% and with the increased traffic, the local roads cannot cope and the local services are stretched. Is it not time to say no to any new development?
Cllr Jones responded that without a Local Plan we do not know how many houses we will be asked to accept. The Parish Council cannot influence the numbers, but we can influence the location. It would be best to support the least bad sites and the Parish Council would push for community benefits for any new developments.
One parishioner advised that he had been involved in the village highways for a number of years. Fairly recently, working with Cty Cllr Gooding and Cllr Lee Scott – Cabinet member for Highways at Essex County Council, traffic counting bands had been installed for 3 weeks and once the data is received, he is sure a rise in vehicles on our roads will be seen. He is worried about development plans outside of the boundary and they will still be using the roads in the village, affect our air quality and cause chaos.
[Since the meeting it has come to light that the traffic counting bands were not installed by Essex Highways.]
Dist Cllr Caton advised that the timeline for the first draft version of the Local Plan going toCouncil is at the beginning of May, so it won’t be too long to wait for good or bad news in terms of proposed housing strategy.
6 TO WELCOME PETER HOLT, CHIEF EXECUTIVE AT UTTLESFORD DISTRICT COUNCIL
Peter Holt introduced himself and responded to the questions raised by Cllr Caton during her Chair’s report. He then spoke on the following:
Staff – When staff are back working in offices, he will be looking at some of them doing hub working in the South of the district and having a community hub. This is so that parishioners do not have to travel so far afield for services such as housing, planning and benefits.
Budget – Over the next 5 years they need to save 25% of their budget following governmental changes regulating the use of rent income, but they will not be cost shunting. They will have to make some tough decisions but will spend the next year working out how to do this sensibly. A review will be undertaken on staffing levels and how they deliver services.
2nd Stansted Dispensing Pharmacy – The Essex Health and Wellbeing board are running the consultation on behalf of NHS England and it is them who make the decisions.
Ukraine – A reception centre has opened inside Stansted Airport and they will be writing to all Parish Councils in the near future asking for support.
In response to a question from a parishioner, Peter Holt stated that the barn office building at Walpole Meadows was unsuitable to accommodate anyone arriving from any disaster zone due to lack of hygiene and catering facilities. Instead, they would look to use Leisure centres that have kitchen and shower facilities. In the long term they are also looking at using former sheltered housing units but will continue to work on solutions.
Planning – Yes, it’s true that developers can now go straight to Government for a decision and it shameful that UDC has been given this special designation for which he apologises. They are the only principal authority in the country in these measures. It is not a proud moment and will take approx. 2 years to get out of it. This is linked to the absence of a Local Plan.
With regard to the Local Plan, UDC have been told by the Government to provide for 14,000 new homes over the next 20 years but they are in fact planning for 17,000. When complete this will increase the population of Uttlesford by 50%. The number of houses is not negotiable, we must get the infrastructure right and avoid piecemeal development.
Cty Cllr Gooding advised that infrastructure is an important part. In the absence of a Local Plan, Essex Highways are duty bound to respond with a legal and sustainable reason for any objections. If there is not one, it has no choice but to recommend approval. If there was a Local Plan, then they could look at the overall strategic impact of these developments. A Local Plan needs to be in place as soon as possible.
Cllr Hogg referred to the recent Pennington Lane planning appeal by Bloor Homes and questioned how developers could offer “sweeteners” to the Highways department to the point where they are no longer able to reject to an application.
In response to a question regarding the ability of GP surgeries to cope and manage the demand resulting from development, Peter Holt stated that he was aware of the struggles being faced by them and he is discussions with partners about provision at two surgeries in the district.
Peter Holt also commented that development has an impact on other services such as water provision and sewage. In response to Cllr Hogg, he confirmed that new settlements are still being considered in the draft Local Plan.
Cllr O’Brien recorded his criticism of the Uttlesford Planning department for seeking insufficient community gains under section 106 agreements.
Cllr Guney asked when the UDC accounts are likely to be signed off. Peter Holt stated that the auditor cannot complete the sign off until the Annual Governance Statement can be signed. This cannot happen until the current police/CPS investigation is completed and the results are known.
The Chair thanked Peter Holt for his clear and open responses and his time here this evening.
7 TO WELCOME REPRESENTATIVES FROM ESSEX POLICE
Sargent Sharma introduced himself and also PCSO Alex Stewart who is replacing PCSO Nikki Morris and Special Constable Steve Dale who are both funded by the Parish Council.
Special Constable Dale advised that he had been a resident in Stansted for over 30 years and after retiring wanted to put something back into the community. The Parish Council pays his expenses only. He started on 1st March 2022 and will work a minimum of 16 hours per month. Since he started, he has visited every business on Lower Street and Cambridge Road.
Sgt Sharma advised that he had a report of the crime figures which he will give the Clerk to put out in the public domain.
Cllr Smith asked regarding the increasing crime relating to vehicles such as damage and theft of catalytic converters and number plates. What are the police doing to tackle this? Sgt Sharma advised that they were increasing the number of PCSO’s and Special Constables and that vigilance is key.
In response to a suggestion from Cllr Prior the Police team reiterated how valuable ring doorbell footage is in helping them solve crimes and catch criminals. PCSO Stewart commented that if anyone sees anything and not sure what it is then speak to the Police and let them decide. Keep them informed and report anything no matter how small.
One resident asked regarding the shoplifting at the Co-oP which is a regular occurrence but one she was recently witness to. The Police confirmed that they were dealing with this and had spoken to staff and gained CCTV footage. PCSO Stewart has been visiting on every shift. They also confirmed that the suspects in this incident were known to them, and they were looking to prosecute.
Cllr Prior commented on a recent drugs raid in Stansted and Bishop’s Stortford and asked why the address in Bishops Stortford was made public and not the address in Stansted. Sgt Sharma confirmed he would have to find out from the press office why the address was kept secret before he could advise.
Cllr Sell asked what the distinction was between a Special Constable and PCSO. Sgt Sharma advised that a Special Constable has all the same powers as a police officer except they are voluntary and are only paid their expenses. A PCSO has limited powers but is fully employed. He added that the Chief Constable is currently reviewing the powers of PCSO with a view to broadening the range.
Dist. Cllr Khan invited the Police team to join them at their surgeries in the village which take place on the first Saturday of every month. He then asked if County Lines were still and issue and were they doing any work with the schools.
Sgt Sharma advised that County Lines are rife in the area and that they are concentrating on the trains. They have been carrying out a lot of plain clothes work and making arrests and prosecuting. This work will be ongoing. With regards to schools, drugs are an issue and hey will continue to carry out knife arches and drug awareness.
Cllr Hogg thanked them for the work they do for the community and asked if there were any initiatives planned to educate the community regarding car crime? It was confirmed that they were looking at advertising through Parishes and will pass on some information to the Clerk with can be publicised.
Cllr Jones asked if Stansted would see any non-Parish funded PCSO’s in the village as it had been a good few years since we had. Sgt Sharma confirmed that he had a new recruit working alongside himself who would also be covering this area.
The Chair thanked the Essex Police representatives for their time and they left the meeting.
8 TO WELCOME A REPRESENTATIVE FROM TOUCHPOINT
Paul Chambers introduced himself and gave an insight into why Touchpoint started and why they decided to set up in Crafton Green House and the Day Centre. He gave a brief outline into the following services which were being introduced:
Touchpoint Café – Now open two days a week and the first drink for everyone is free. If someone cannot afford a meal then they don’t get charged.
Bereavement Café – This has been running once a month but is being increased to twice due to the demand and requests from residents.
A Dementia Café – Forget Me Not – is starting on Friday mornings
Interested in launching a Youth Café for age groups 11 to 15.
Agreed with MIND West Essex that they will run a weekly session every Friday from 6pm until midnight. This will be a crisis sanctuary offering one-on-one support.
Community Fridge – This is about to be launched and is being funded by CO-OP and they also received some unexpected money from Amazon. This is not a foodbank but a way of eliminating food waste. If allotment holders are growing too much, then they would welcome any supplies.
Paul expressed that it was important that services offered are relevant to everyone and not just those struggling.
One member of the public gave special thanks to Touchpoint as everyone is made welcome and it’s great for the community. They also wanted to give thanks to the Environmental Ranger Lucy who is wonderful and does a great job for the community.
Cllr Sell commented that he had his reservations regarding Touchpoint at the beginning but thathe recognises Paul and his team for their huge amount of work and we owe them gratitude.
9 PROPOSED RESOLUTIONS – None
10 OPEN FORUM
The following questions were raised:
It has taken a while to obtain the funding from UDC towards Crafton Green, do you have a programme of improvements?
The Clerk confirmed that they money had not been received into the Parisrh Council bank account yet, but the programme of works planned are as follows:
Extraction system being fitted into Day Ctr Kitchen – Starting 5th April
The kitchen will be refitted
New hard-wearing flooring
Knocking through from Crafton Green House to the Day Centre
Work on Crafton Green House
2 Cllr Jones
Why would Essex Highways officers not engage with the Rule 6 Party at a recent planning appeal but they were happy to speak in detail with the developers? It seems that Uttlesford Officers do not discuss Highways comments with Essex and, as a result, the community is ill-served.
3 Cty Cllr Gooding commented on the below
– In response to the Highways question – yes there could be more transparency even if we don’t like the answer. In terms of the planning function, UDC could ignore Highways responses but it would be at their risk as they are not highways experts.
– The Essex part of the Council Tax has increased by 4.5%. 2% of this is a rise in Council Tax and the rest is for Adult Social Care. Of the £834 million raised in revenue, £670 million is for Adult Social Care. Out of a population of 1.4 million, 17,000 people are funded by Adult Social Care and 43% of those receive life-long support due to learning difficulties.
4 A Parishioner addressed the meeting on several issues:
The campaign for a 2nd dispensing pharmacy in the south of the village.
Speed Watch – The urgent need for more volunteers as this is likely to fold without more volunteers due to a lack of numbers.
Special thanks to Andrew McDonnell for all his work in pressing ECC Highways to implement changes which will make safer Grove Hill and most of our other main roads.
5 Cllr Khan
Speedwatch – Would encourage people to get behind them
Responded direct to the consultation on the dispensing licence
Gave thanks to the office team at the Parish Council who have faced at times unnecessary criticism and mischief making.
Praised the Council’s communication which has been greatly improved since the Comms Officer first joined the Council.
6 Representative from Air Training Corps
Based at Stansted Airport he highlighted their concerns of being evicted from their premises if the Columbia Threadneedle planning application is approved.
The Chairman outlined the issues the Parish Council had experienced in their communication with Columbia Threadneedle and as a result of comments made recently, she and the Clerk have now been invited to meet again with them and other parties.
Pointed out that there were many outdated signs around the village such as new road layout which is no longer new. The Chair stated that the Council is well aware of this and will lobby Essex Highways again to have them removed.
The Chair thanked everyone for attending and gave thanks to the three speakers, Peter Holt, Essex Police and Paul representing Touchpoint.
Meeting closed at 9.52pm
CHAIR REPORT: Maureen Caton
TOUCHPOINT: We have agreed a Licence to Occupy the Day Centre with TouchPoint for a period of six months initially, with a review at that point which will also consider a lease agreement for both Crafton Green House and the Day Centre.
We have also joined forces to agree work to be undertaken to make both buildings health and safety compliant and upgrade the kitchen and ventilation system in the Day Centre, with both parties continuing to apply for grant funding for the capital sums for the required work on the buildings.
The services and activities provided by Touchpoint to date have proved an invaluable asset to our community and promoting it’ s health and wellbeing.
NEIGHBOURHOOD DEVELOPMENT PLAN: Our draft plan has been publicised to households in the community and consultation on each chapter took place on village social media pages. Comments received, as appropriate, have been incorporated into the document. We have also considered the sites located in, and significant to, the position of Stansted as outlined in the Uttlesford Call for Sites. We await the decision by Uttlesford District Council (UDC) on how many sites will be required to be delivered in our Parish as a result of an agreed Local Plan. Our Neighbourhood Plan will be ready for consideration by UDC in the Spring- possibly early April. UDC may then decide to pause the adoption or not of the NDP until their own Local Plan has been adopted – as the two plans are expected to be aligned.
We should also note at this juncture that the Bentfield/Pennington Lane appeal application by Bloor Homes was refused as a result of community pressure and we congratulate all who worked to secure this area of open countryside.
PLAY EQUIPMENT: The Reeve Road play equipment has been reinstalled to the specifications agreed with Uttlesford District Council.
The installation of a Zip-Wire is the first phase of installation agreed for Mountfitchet Green. An accessible swing and picnic benches are agreed for the next phase of implementation.
A Trim Trail is also planned for Wilkins Crescent on Foresthall Park.
Our Projects Officer has secured Community Initiative Funding to enable the provision of the Mountfitchet equipment and monies from the Foresthall Park Community Fund are contributing to the expenditure on their equipment, along with the Parish Council budgeted funding.
CEMETERY: We continue our search for land for future burial use.
REFORESTATION: Newman’s Plantation is the first phase of tree planting/reforestation in the village. We hope to continue this initiative once Elms Farm Public Open Space is handed over to the Parish Council.
LAND NORTH OF STANSTED AIRPORT: We have had discussions in respect of the impact of this development on our community and discussed how this could be mitigated if the application is approved. We have also promoted various community benefits – one of which is the provision of youth football pitches, that are accessible and managed via a Community Interest Group. This continues to require ongoing discussion with Columbia Threadneedle – the applicants – and community stakeholder groups.
LAND AT FORESTHALL: We have also discussed with UDC and Columbia Threadneedle the possibility of support to purchase the land adjacent to St Mary’s School to provide a nursey/pre-school provision. There has been no further feedback on this to date. We have endeavoured to engage with Taylor Wimpey to secure this land for community use and will continue to attempt to progress this.
PHARMACY: We continue to promote the need for a second licensed dispensing pharmacy in the south of Stansted.
The Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment public consultation was successfully extended for a week by the Parish Council’s intervention. We have also lobbied our MP, Kemi Badenoch, who is fully prepared to support our stance and will submit her written support at the statutory consultation stage.
We are also actively working with the Uttlesford Health and Wellbeing Board to promote this need and are progressing discussions on our behalf.
REPLACEMENT OF FULLER’S ALMSHOUSES: We continue to work with Legacy East Almshouse Partnership to promote the re-provision of the Almshouses for the benefit of our Stansted community. There may be some opportunities for co-operation from the Uttlesford Call for Sites responses and LEAP are aware of these.
FLOODING: The Flood Working Group is preparing to present a plan to ease the stalemate between the Environment Agency and local landowners and to provide an agreement to enable Natural Flood Management Measures to be installed that will prevent/minimise our future flood risk.
GROVE HILL/ CHURCH ROAD: The plan to remove HGV’s access to the village via a weight limit restriction – unless they are specifically delivering – will have a positive impact on both these highways and others. This scheme is subject to further consultation with residents. Surveillance equipment will track vehicles at each entry point to the village. This is the first step to possible further consideration of pedestrian access only on Lower Street.
YOUTH COUNCIL: The current group is small, but very positive and actively seeking further membership to promote ideas and outcomes for our younger residents. We are hoping to meet up with our MP this year for a trip around the House of Commons, and now that meetings of the Full Council are reinstated as face-to-face meetings the group will be able to attend and observe the deliberations, and latterly contribute and promote their agenda items.
A special thank you to our staff, Ruth, Emma , Laila, Dan, Lucy, Lee and Levi for their continued support for members and our community, as well as their conscientious and stoic approach during the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. Report Ends.
FINANCE REPORT: F&GP chair John O’Brien
B y October this year it was evident the combined consequences of Brexit and the continued Covid pandemic were having an inflationary effect on the UK economy.
Inflation in December hit 5.4%. It’s since been forecast to rise to 6% by April. Against this background, the Parish Council has kept to its budget but, looking ahead, it has wrested with how best to maintain community services without a significant Precept rise.
In particular, the Finance and General Purposes Committee was faced when setting the budget with taking note of warnings of sky-high rises in energy costs and how that will impact on people’s pocket, while striving to preserve community services
One such service is the Cemetery, which is fast reaching capacity. The Parish Council is seeking extra land to expand this facility. But once found, a costly certification process of that land’s suitability is required, in addition to its purchase price. Expanding capacity could cost up to £40,000. The committee recommended raising £10,000 for the next 4 years to cover this amount.
The arrival of TouchPoint Stansted, has been welcomed by the Parish Council, especially after Uttlesford’s withdrawal from supporting day centres in the district. We see the charity as a great opportunity in ‘adding value’ to community services, as well as continuing a low-cost meal offering to all residents. That’s why we are investing in improvements to our buildings to support their service provision
In line with the Council’s policy, members were asked to consider a 2% increase in the Precept. It was agreed a 0% increase was unsustainable as it could result in service cuts or deplete our Free Reserves, now deemed at an acceptable level by auditors. The Parish Council was asked to consider a Precept rise of between 2% and 4.2%, plus £10,000 for cemetery expansion.
After discussion, the Parish Council opted for a 2% increase plus the additional charge for cemetery expansion. That took the total increase to 4.48% for 2022/23. Our precept will rise from £414,932 to £433,231. For a Band-D Council Tax household the annual precept will cost £127.88, or a rise of £5.48 for the year, or 11p/week.
Unspent funds in the current year, eg. for the Firework display and for the Christmas lights, will be transferred into earmarked reserves and spent on the same projects in 2022/23. Other funds raised for 2021- 2022, namely for work associated with last year’s Tree Survey and funding play equipment for the over-11s, have progressed well. Unsafe and diseased trees have been felled, and new trees planted within Newman’s Plantation. Grants have been obtained by our Projects Officer to pay for play equipment at Mountfitchet Green. This is scheduled for a March installation.
Annual Parish Council Grants: Applications were received from five organisations and dispersed as follows: Uttlesford CAB £1,000; Uttlesford Community Travel – £1,000; Let’s Talk Stansted – £950; Stansted Hall & Elsenham CC – £250; Stansted CC – £250. Report Ends.
1 To receive apologies for absence
2 To receive the minutes of the meeting to be held on 13 March 2019
3 To receive the Parish Council’s audited accounts to 31 March 2021
4 Financial Report
5 Chairman’s Report
6 To welcome Peter Holt, Chief Executive at Uttlesford District Council
7 To welcome representatives from Essex Police (subject to availability)
8 To welcome representatives from TouchPoint
9 Proposed resolutions
10 Open Forum
Ruth A Clifford .Clerk to the Council