Minutes of a meeting of the OPEN SPACES COMMITTEE held on Wednesday 12th July 2023 at 7.30pm in The Mountfitchet Exchange, Crafton Green, 72 Chapel Hill, Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex
PRESENT Cllr J Kavanagh (Chair), Cllrs A Barnes, G Braeckman, A Guney, A Khan, A Love, L Prior and T van de Bilt
ATTENDING Mrs Ruth Clifford – Parish Clerk, Mrs Emma Philbrick – Deputy Clerk, Cllr J O’Brien, Cllr P Jones – via Zoom, 3 members of the public (1 via Zoom)
111 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies for absence were received from Cllr Caton – holiday.
This was unanimously approved
112 TO RECEIVE DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST – None
113 TO APPROVE THE MINUTES OF THE MEETING HELD ON 7TH JUNE 2023
RESOLVED To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 7th June 2023 as a true and accurate account
114 TO RECEIVE AN UPDATE ON ACTION POINTS FROM THE LAST MEETING
52 – Office to seek advice on a water supply to the Fountain – Done and in the Projects Officer report
55b – Make an application to sow wildflowers on corners of Rainsford Road – Information for application being gathered. It’s in progress but not quite ready to be submitted yet.
Life span of metal and timber swing for Walson Way to be investigated – Life span of metal swing was double that of a timber one so has been ordered with an 8 week lead time.
59 – Office to do a final push for donations towards the Coronation Shelter plaque and take to Full Council to consider underwriting the costs – Done and update in Project Officers report. Since the report was sent out, we have had one further donation.
60 – Put on future agenda for Spring litter pick – Scheduled to go on the agenda in November 2023
115 TO RECEIVE A REPORT FROM THE CHAIR, CLLR JO KAVANAGH
Attached. Cllr Guney reported that she has had a number of conversations with the sub-contractor working at the Elms Farm public open space and he has given her some relevant advice. The Clerk will pass this to the Uttlesford S.106 officer.
The Chair advised that due to a member of the public attending for agenda item 13, she would be bringing this item forward to be discussed next.
116 TO CONSIDER MAINTENANCE ISSUES RELATING TO ST MARY’S CHURCHYARD
Lynda Dale from The Friends of St Mary’s introduced herself and gave members some background to the church and the work of her voluntary group. She highlighted the issues which have arisen due to the way the grass cutting contract has been written, such as the grass not being collected and not cut often enough during the growing season.
Discussions took place between members and Cllr Prior voiced her view that the contract for the Churchyard and Cemetery should be reviewed and should encompass more than just grass cutting. Members agreed to establish a working group to identify the issues and consider how best these could be dealt with going forward and come up with a longterm plan to be considered by the Committee. Cllrs Braeckman, Jones and Prior all agreed to be on this group and to seek input from others, including Lynda Dale, to inform their discussions. Thanks were given to Lynda Dale and her fellow volunteers for all their hard work.
117 TO RECEIVE A REPORT FROM THE PROJECTS OFFICER
Attached and circulated to members ahead of the meeting.
Discussion took place regarding the Fountain and why it was suggested at looking at having a water supply installed. Members agreed not to pursue this. Cllr O’Brien outlined a proposal which the F&GP committee would be asked to consider with regard to lighting the fountain.
118 TO RECEIVE INTERMENTS REPORT FROM THE CLERK
A report was circulated to members ahead of the meeting.
119 TO RECEIVE A REPORT FROM SUSTAINABLE STANSTED
Kate Allen from Sustainable Stansted attended the meeting and read out the attached report.
Cllr Prior asked for advice on achieving No Mow May without it affecting areas such as the Churchyard and Cemetery where this was not practicable. Kate confirmed that No Mow May would not be suitable for all areas. Cllr van de Bilt asked regarding cycle ways and whether any contact had been made with the Manchester Airport Group as a lot of workers commute from the Foresthall Park Estate to work at the airport and some of the companies have a Corporate Social Responsibility budget.
120 TO RECEIVE A REPORT ON PLAY EQUIPMENT MAINTENANCE
A report and the monitoring sheets were circulated to members ahead of the meeting.
Cllr O’Brien was given permission to speak and suggested that the Committee take a resolution to Full Council that when commenting on future planning applications, the Parish Council should be consulted with regard to any play equipment to be provided by the developer. It was generally agreed that longer lasting, sustainable materials should be used and correctly installed following our experience of timbers rotting and the cost to the council in replacement/repair.
Having been proposed by Cllr Khan and seconded by Cllr Guney, it was unanimously
RECOMMENDED that the Full Council pass a resolution to request that we are consulted by developers or UDC with regard to play equipment when considering future planning applications. If the equipment does not subsequently meet this Council’s standards, we may decide not to accept on-going ownership and maintenance.
121 TO CONSIDER FORMING A WORKING GROUP TO REVIEW THE PROS AND CONS ON REWILDING
It was suggested by Cllr van de Bilt that a Biodiversity Working Group be set up to look at rewilding, No Mow May and the use of pesticides and herbicides. This was agreed and Cllrs Barnes, Jones and van de Bilt will be on this group.
122 TO CONSIDER FORMING A WORKING GROUP TO REVIEW NO MOW MAY FOR CONTRACTS
Will be looked at by the new Biodiversity Working Group set up as above.
123 TO CONSIDER A POLICY ON THE USE OF PESTICIDES AND HERBICIDES IN CONTRACTS
Will be looked at by the new Biodiversity Working Group set up as above and they will draft a policy to bring back to the Committee for discussion and approval. The Clerk gave some background on a complaint from a resident who had stated that weeds from Parish Council land seed into his garden. She advised that Cllr Barnes had looked into this and carried out site visits when he was Chair and his decision at the time was that the issue was not severe enough to warrant any treatment and as seeds are airborne there was no guarantee that all of the weeds in the resident’s garden had come from Parish Council land. Members agreed that the Clerk should maintain our current position of not treating the weeds but that the resident was welcome to spot treat any weeds he was concerned about.
124 TO CONSIDER A QUOTE FOR WORK TO HEDGES ON REEVE ROAD
The quote which had been circulated to members ahead of the meeting gave details of why the work should be carried out. Having been proposed by Cllr Khan and seconded by Cllr Guney, it was unanimously
RESOLVED To accept the quote for work to the hedges on Reeve Road to be funded by the FHP S.106 maintenance budget.
125 TO RECEIVE AN UPDATE REPORT ON FOOTPATHS
The report was circulated to members ahead of the meeting.
The Deputy Clerk gave updates on the suggested action points.
Meeting closed at 9.15pm
120 Take a recommendation to Full Council regarding any new play areas installed by developers.
121/122/123 Biodiversity Working Group to meet to start discussions on the items listed.
123 Clerk to contact the resident and confirm the Parish Council’s stance on the weeds by their property.
Chairman’s Report – 12 July 2023, Jo Kavanagh
Cemetery Following comments on social media regarding grass cutting, I visited both cemetery and churchyard on Sunday 18 June, taking photos. I spoke to Ruth and Emma the following morning. They also did a site visit on Monday 19 June and were unhappy with some areas; the contractor was informed. I met with Ruth and Emma on Wednesday morning and various issues were discussed, some of which are on the agenda. Ruth met the team on site at 1pm on Wednesday 21 June.
An update on the cemetery was sent to all Open Spaces members. This issue will be discussed further at the metrics meeting in August. Contractors stated that they actually receive more support from members of the public than complaints. I would request that members of the public raise any concerns with Open Spaces matters by contacting the office by email, through our website or our Facebook page, rather than Stansted Matters.
Walson Way Playground We have ordered the metal framed swing as this has a longer lifespan – double that of the timber one. There is an approx. 8-week lead-time.
Allotment inspections Thank you to Allan Love, who has agreed to inspect allotments with Laila, replacing Alan Barnes.
S106 AGREEMENTS RE ELMS FARM AND WALPOLE MEADOWS
Updates on these two areas will be included for every meeting.
Emma Blazeby, S106 officer is receiving little, if any, communication from Crest regarding Elms Farm but she is in communication with Bloor regarding Walpole Meadows.
Walpole Meadows Allotments – our solicitor is still waiting to hear from Bloor’s legal team regarding the transfer of ownership. Ruth has been invited to a meeting between S106 officer and Bloor representative.
Emma Blazeby is not happy with the fencing at the play area. Bloor’s RoSPA inspection came back that this is safe, but this is being challenged and Emma has asked for a separate RoSPA inspection to be commissioned.
The S106 officer has sent through photographs showing the condition of some areas as of 23 June 2023. It is for her to decide if the condition meets the UDC requirements.
Elms Farm Ruth had seen evidence that Emma Blazeby has been chasing monthly. We have asked Dist Cllr Gooding to involve us in any meetings relating to this site. The contractor has reported that he is struggling with residual weeds but work is progressing. REPORT ENDS
Project Officer Report – 12 July 2o23, By Laila Azure-Marxen
UDC Community Project grant application As I did not receive any suggestions for Open Spaces related projects to apply for, we have only applied for the loft insulation of Grafton Green House.
Chapel Hill Fountain After contacting Highways License office on advice on reconnecting water to the fountain. They responded with the following:
- We will need to discuss any reconnection with the local water supplier (this is Affinity Water). They will be able to advise us on the feasibility of the project.
- If the water company does not agree to do the work on our behalf we will need a road opening permit, traffic management and a £10 million public liability insurance and an accredited contractor.
- We will possibly need a section 50 licence for any water pipe from the mains to the fountain if the pipe is not adopted by the water company.
Costs to expect:
- We have to expect to pay for the reconnection as this is not a needed water supply. This will probably involve extensive contractor work, like underground plumbing work and partial removal and rebuild of the concrete base of the fountain.
- Costs of the use of water. This will be agreed with the water supplier.
- If the water is for residents to fill up water bottles, then the water will need regular legionella testing. This will need to be done monthly by a certified company and weekly by PC staff.
- Possible costs of any needed licensing
- Costs of maintenance and repair
- Possible costs from closing the water supply in winter time to avoid burst pipes.
We also discovered that the fountain needs a retrospective licence as an ornamental town feature, which will need support from our County Councillor. This will have no added costs.
Rewilding – Item 10 The rewilding and wildflower project is currently at a stand still as I am waiting for quotes and visuals, and a funding opportunity to open op. The rewilding of the SUDS area in FHP has been discussed with both our contractors and there are some considerations to be made:
- The SUDS area is already rewilded most of the year, as it is only cut back once a year per contract.
- Rewilding the grassy bits around the SUDS is not considered feasible for the grass cutting contractor, as this will make it difficult to get in there with machinery when the grass and wildflowers are long.
- The contractors have also experienced that many residents let their dogs foul in the long grass/flowers or throw garbage in there. This causes issues for the grass cutters later on.
- There might not be any money to be saved as the cutting end of season will take longer and disposal of cuttings will be added costs.
If we take these points into consideration, there will be very few areas suitable for rewilding around the SUDs. We suggest that the committee consider forming a working group to consider all the aspects of doing a rewilding trial, including the practicalities of the grass cutting. The group will need to decide where and how to proceed with a trial area.
I will produce a more comprehensive report with pros and cons on rewilding for the working group to consider, but there will also be a need to research further.
No Mow May – item 11 This is not included in the current grass cutting contracts. The Members should consider forming a working group to discuss the options including this in the future grass cutting contracts.
Chemical use in contracts – Item 12 As part of the climate change and biodiversity actions of this Council, it would be beneficial for the members to decide on a policy on chemical use in grounds maintenance. This will be essential to incorporate in contract renewals.
Herbicides and pesticides can have a major impact on biodiversity, unfortunately contributing to the decline of vital pollinators. Glyphosate in particular have a negative impact. Forming a policy outlining which pesticides and herbicides are or are not permitted can have a big impact on local biodiversity.
Coronation plaque It was agreed to fund any shortfall on the Coronation plaque at the last Full Council Meeting. The office has not had any further success in raising more money for the project. Next step is to order the work from the stone mason and decide how it is best placed next to the existing stone plaque. REPORT ENDS
Sustainable Stansted Report – Wednesday 12th July 2023, Katie Allen
The group had a successful day at Coronation event in early May that brought a lot of interest and facilitated some new links within the community.
Good response to the survey though we are working on getting more responses.
Please complete here if you’ve not done so already – https:// forms.gle/A79ML6omPCJcZXTM7
The Business Engagement Team, a sub-group of Sustainable Stansted, has developed an approach to working with local businesses, outlined below
• Offering to meet with local businesses to help them think how to reduce their carbon footprint.
• Sign posting to other sources of support (eg we have done some research on Environmental Standards schemes)
• We want to produce a badge (eg for shop windows) to allow customers to see those businesses that have committed to working towards a more sustainable Stansted • produced content for a business resources page for the website
• next steps are to approach the Stansted Business Forum to ask to ask if Sustainable Stansted can attend to talk about what we can offer. We have produced a slide deck for this / similar meetings.
Cycle Routes The group have recently connected with Cycle Stortford on campaigning for a safe, accessible cycle route between Stansted and Bishops Stortford. Providing safe infrastructure is key to encouraging people into active transport and a route between the towns has the potential to impact the number of short journeys made by car by offering a genuine alternative for the local community.
Sustainable Stansted hope to work with and build on the planning already done by John O’Brien on potential routes. Cycle Stortford have undertaken a similar planning process and have three priority routes they are campaigning for. A section of one of these is being built in the Sworders Field development. We have collectively made contact with Vicky Reed at Uttlesford specifically on this to try and influence Uttlesford Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) and the East Herts LCWIP, which has just opened to a public consultation.
The public consultation for the Uttlesford LCWIP has already passed but we are aware that Vicky Reed is participating in the East Herts consultation and part of discussions at Uttlesford on this. She has sent our letter on to Uttlesford Planning and has added the connecting route to the agenda of a meeting with Uttlesford LCWIP consultants taking place this month. Can we make a request for more cycle parking in Stansted – on Cambridge Road, by the surgery and the recreation ground?
Future Commitments At the group’s last meeting earlier this month we were joined by Paul from TouchPoint who joined us to discuss how TouchPoint started and how they are developing, particularly as a volunteer and community led organisation. The talk came at a good time as the group are currently reassessing their position, time commitments and focus. At our next meeting on 1st August we will be defining our next steps and will course share the outcome of that with you.
On No Mow May, the use of pesticides and herbicides on the local environment and rewilding, because they are all connected, the group would encourage a joined up approach to these concepts in the local area.
Sustainable Stansted promoted No Mow May with an article in the The Link/ Flyer and with posters in the local area. The initiative is a great way to engage people on a variety of issues around biodiversity loss, the impact of industrialised agriculture as well as gardening and managing green spaces for a changing climate. It’s also a gateway into the issues of pesticide and herbicide use and rewilding because one month of not mowing/ weeding/ spraying, while beneficial is not enough to protect many species of insects that require certain plants at certain times of the year to complete their lifecycle.
A bold step would be for the Parish Council to go pesticide/ herbicide free and to look at alternatives to chemical control as well as case studies of towns and cities that have already done this – case studies, as well as advice and guidance are available from the Pesticide Action Network.
We should aim as a community to understand the state of nature in our local area. A member of our group, Fiona Neathy, has made contact with an ecologist who works with a consultancy that has carried out biodiversity study/ audit for the village of Reach in Cambridgeshire. This provided a summary of the features (e.g. notable and protected species and habitats) of the area as well as recommendations for biodiversity enhancement for residents, local businesses and in terms of planning and development. We propose that this would be an important step and something we can work together on in funding such a study. REPORT ENDS
Members of the Council you are hereby summoned, and members of the public and press are hereby invited, to attend a meeting of the OPEN SPACES COMMITTEE which will be held at 7.30pm on Wednesday 12th July 2023 in The Mountfitchet Exchange, Crafton Green, 72 Chapel Hill, Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex where the following business will be transacted:
1 To receive apologies for absence
2 To receive declarations of interest
3 To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 7th June 2023
4 To receive an update on action points from the last meeting
5 To receive a report from the Chair, Cllr J Kavanagh
6 To receive a report from the Projects Officer – To follow
7 To receive Interments report from the Clerk
8 To receive report from Sustainable Stansted – to follow
9 To receive a report on play equipment maintenance – to follow
10 To consider forming a working group to review the pros and cons on rewilding
11 To consider forming a working group to review No Mow May for contracts
12 To consider a policy on the use of pesticides and herbicides in contracts
13 To consider maintenance issues relating to St Mary’s Churchyard – report to follow
14 To consider a quote for work to hedges on Reeve Road – attached
15 To receive an update report on footpaths – to follow
Parish Clerk 6th July 2023