Minutes of a meeting of the OPEN SPACES COMMITTEE held at 7.30pm on Wednesday 23rd November 2022 in The Mountfitchet Exchange, Crafton Green, 72 Chapel Hill, Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex
PRESENT Cllrs A Barnes (Chair), Cllrs G Braeckman, J Hudson, J Kavanagh and L Prior
Mrs Ruth Clifford – Parish Clerk, Mrs Emma Philbrick – Deputy Clerk (via Zoom), Cllr P Jones, 2 members of the public (1 via Zoom)
250 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies for absence were received from Cllr Caton (working, Cllr Guney (personal reasons), Cllr Khan (working) and Cllr Richards (child-minding). Having been proposed by Cllr Kavanagh and seconded by Cllr Braeckman, it was unanimously:
RESOLVED to accept the apologies from Cllrs Caton, Guney, Khan and Richards
251 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
Cllr Braeckman declared an interest regarding the planters as his family lease some of the land to Uttlesford District Council.
252 TO APPROVE THE MINUTES OF THE OPEN SPACES MEETING HELD ON 12th OCTOBER 2022
RESOLVED To approve the minutes of the Open Spaces meeting held on 12th October 2022 as a true and accurate account.
253 UPDATE ON ACTION POINTS FROM THE LAST MEETING
152 – Still awaiting quotes. The Clerk advised that she had, just tonight, received a ballpark figure for the re-seeding of the goal area and it will be on the next agenda to discuss the quotes received and decide what, if anything, the Full Council would be asked to find funding for.
168 – Work in progress – Cllr Jones commented that as part of the Rewilding Working Group looking at sites, they need to speak to the gardening and grass-cutting contractors for advice before going forward.
170 – Have requested but not heard anything yet
170 – Emma has done a lot of research into Allotment Associations and all tenants have been contacted with regards to joining the Committee.
176 – The Clerk has spoken to the landowner, and she has confirmed that way-markers have been replaced and all those that should be there are in place.
254 TO RECEIVE A REPORT FROM THE CHAIR
With regards to point 1, Walpole Meadows, the Chair advised that he had received a response just before the meeting, but it didn’t say much. Bloor Homes are undertaking repairs to the fencing around the play area in response to a RoSPA report which they initiated. It was re-stated that our preference is metal playground fencing. UDC is to commission its own safety report.
Point 4 – Cllr Jones asked if the identified sites should go to Open Spaces or straight to Full Council – It was agreed that it would go back to Open Spaces so they could discuss and make a recommendation to Full Council.
255 TO RECEIVE A REPORT FROM THE PROJECTS OFFICER
With regards to the tree planting, Cllr Kavanagh voiced concerns about the location of the ones in Windmill Fields and doesn’t believe that all residents who would be affected were consulted. She had received comments from those in Brook Road whose properties back onto the green and they are unhappy about the decision as there are enough trees already.
Cllr Barnes explained that a new consultation letter was being prepared that would give more background information on the reasons for the choices and the size and species of trees. Cllr Braeckman commented that none of the trees were huge and Cllr Prior added that it is succession planning for the future as a lot of the trees there now will not be when the others have grown. Cllr Prior commented on the proposals for Wilkins Crescent – it appeared from the image on the map that there was an area of “scrubland” which might be more appropriate than the grass area close to the play equipment. She would try to visit over the weekend to see if the area still looked the same.
Cllr Barnes advised that they had taken on board any comments received so far and are working with GWB Horticulture for their opinions also. Cllr Jones asked if he could take the plans to the next Climate Change Working Group on 6th December to see if they had any objections, but it was advised that there is a deadline for the decision to be made and it would be before that date. It was agreed that members would visit some of the sites and give feedback to Laila by Monday 28th November 2022 so that they could consult with residents further.
256 TO RECEIVE A REPORT OF INTERMENTS FROM THE CLERK
257 TO APPROVE RENEWAL OF THE BOWLS CLUB LEASE
The Clerk explained to the Committee exactly what area of land this was and it was unanimously agreed to approve the renewal of the Bowls Club Lease for another 21 years.
258 TO CONSIDER THE COUNCIL’S INVOLVEMENT IN:
- STANSTED IN BLOOM
Trevor Lloyd addressed the meeting and advised that rather than have the annual competition, it has been suggested that every other year they hold an open garden event instead. Cllr Prior commented that this is a good idea and suggested the group speak to St Clare’s Hospice fundraising team as they hold a very successful open garden event which has raised a lot of money.
- ANGLIA IN BLOOM
Trevor advised that last year they won the Silver Award but very little of the community were aware of this and they need to be. The report received from the judges had some very positive feedback and they have decided to enter again this year. One of the areas in the report which was suggested requires improvement was for more colour in the Memorial Gardens. Cllr Barnes has spoken to GWB Horticulture who have suggested some ideas to make it look brighter and more attractive. He would also be speaking to them about other areas around the village once the route the judges will be taking has been advised. The AIB group meets next in January 2023.
Trevor commented that another area highlighted in the report was the lack of involvement by young people. They had planned to visit a school that had been working on a garden area within it but the teacher then left and this wasn’t continued by the school. They will be looking at other ways to engage with the younger community. Cllr Barnes confirmed that they would look at when things like the grass cutting was done so that maybe it could be cut the day before judging day and work with the group towards any other additional efforts that would help.
Cllr Prior asked what is being asked of the Parish Council? Trevor asked if councillors could be present on the day to meet the judges and discuss the village. He was also aware that when the previous Stansted in Bloom group was in place, the Parish Council put money into the budget for it. The Clerk advised that this was only done when they first started and that it was always agreed once they were an established group who were able to apply for funding themselves. There is still just over £800 ear-marked from the money left when the group ceased. Cllr Prior stated that it had been proven that they could obtain sponsors from local businesses and in the current climate, the parish council should not be funding.
259 TO DISCUSS THE SITUATION RELATING TO THE PICNIC TABLE ON MOUNTFITCHET GREEN
The Clerk advised that the decision needed to be made whether to replace the burnt picnic bench and, if so, in what timescale and what materials due to the high toxicity of the previous one.
Cllr Prior advised that the comments she had received from residents is that they do not want another bench as it has encouraged youngsters to sit there until 1am in the mornings. Cllr Braeckman advised that in his opinion it shouldn’t be replaced and if it is, then it shouldn’t be any time soon. The Clerk advised that they would still receive the insurance pay out for it so what would members like to do with the money going forward?
After further discussions and having received 4 votes in favour and 1 vote against, it was:
RESOLVED To not replace the bench but this would be reconsidered if there was a community call for it. The insurance money for the bench would be ear-marked for the Mountfitchet Green and used towards Phase 2 improvements.
They also agreed not to rule out other benches which would be part of Phase 2.
260 TO AUTHORISE PURCHASE OF THE JUBILEE OAK TREE ON MOUNTFITCHET GREEN
After discussions, it was unanimously agreed to purchase the Jubilee Oak Tree on Mountfitchet Green as this is what the residents had previously voted for. It was agreed that costs of purchasing a tree guard to protect it from vandalism would be brought to the next meeting in January for a decision to be made.
261 TO CONSIDER LOCATIONS OF PLANTERS FROM THE WELCOME BACK FUND
Possible locations, based on feedback received so far, was circulated in the Clerk’s report attached.
These options were discussed as well as alternative options and it was agreed to consider the following:
Walson Way – Agreed as per the report
By the Knight Sign
Mountfitchet Green – By the triangle where the noticeboard is and one at the end of the road
Lower Street – these are agreed subject to the licence from Essex County Council
Windmill Fields – on the top corner to prevent car parking
Crafton Green – By the tree near the shed and a second one possibly there too.
262 TO RECEIVE THE QUARTERLY REPORT ON THE GARDENING AND GRASS CUTTING CONTRACTS.
This was circulated to members ahead of the meeting
The Clerk reminded members that Cllr Prior had raised points by email before the meeting and explained that compliments and complaints were those by members of the community and not members of the Council. These could be added if the Committee wanted to. It was agreed that these would be added going forward as members who are not on the Committee may comment direct to the office without the Committee being aware.
263 TO RECEIVE AN UPDATE ON FOOTPATHS
The report from Bill Stiles was circulated ahead of the meeting. It was confirmed by the Clerk that as part of her discussions with the Environmental Rangers, they were always made aware of any areas which had been reported as having a build up of litter. It was also agreed to speak to the school.
264 MATTERS TO BE CONSIDERED FOR THE NEXT AGENDA
Cllr Jones asked if it could be made a standing item on the agenda to receive a report from the Climate Change Working Group. This was agreed.
Meeting Closed at 9.12pm
253 Quotes to be taken to the next Open Spaces meeting in January for a decision to be made
254 Point 4 – Climate Change group to make recommendation to be discussed at next Open Spaces meeting in January
255 Members to give feedback by Monday 28th November 2022
260 Obtain quotes for a tree guard and take to the next meeting in January
262 Complaints and compliments by members to be added going forward
263 Speak to the school
264 Standing item to be added to all future agendas– To receive a report from the Climate Change Working Group
Chair Report: Alan Barnes
I only have a few points to report on that are not on the agenda or covered in Laila’s project update;
- We still continue with our efforts to resolve the issues around the Public Open Spaces at Elms Farm and Walpole Meadows. On Walpole Meadows, I met with Emma Blazeby and Nigel Brown from UDC along with representatives of Bloor Homes on 21 Oct to discuss the playground, land drainage, allotments and landscaping issues. At our and UDC’s request Bloor installed a kids in-dogs out fence around the playground, unfortunately, the ranch style three bar fence they installed is unsatisfactory in all respects. It is dangerous and does not meet ROSPA guidelines for gate closing, MoC and the use of large diameter and unsecured wire mesh. UDC actioned to get an independent ROSPA inspection undertaken before going further. The allotments have been scrapped and topsoil added and now look satisfactory. An action to explore an early transfer of the allotments to UDC is being explored. New French drains are going in and the installer of the various paths is being requested to put plans in place to improve path drainage. Landscaping issues including dead tree replacement has been actioned. I await a response by the S-106 officer to my latest communication requesting a progress report. I have nothing new to report on Elms Farm.
- We have had another successful year at the Elms Farm Allotments. All allotments are occupied with plot turnover being low at 9 new tenant in 2022. Currently there is a waiting list of 28 prospective tenants. Compliance over the site is good resulting in only four warning notices having been issued following the last of my five formal plot inspections during 2022. Only one formal complaint was made and resolved. We are currently looking for new blood to fulfil the committee positions within the Elms Farm Allotment Association. The EFAA provides both social and practical help to holders and is an important interface between the tenants and SMPC. Responses to date have been less than over whelming..
- Ruth, Laila and I met with Gareth Broard of GWB, our landscaping and part grass cutting contractor, to review their work during 2022. All contract commitments have been met and no complaints received. Looking forward, the new welcome back planters, addition of colour to the Memorial Garden, new bulb planting sites and re-wilding/wild flower planting opportunities were discussed.
- A number of O/S councillors spent a rainy Saturday morning trying to identify areas within the village for rewilding or wild flower planting. Under the guidance of Peter Jones several sites were identified with other possible sites to follow. Once identified under the Climate Change group, operational aspects of this initiative will revert to O/S.
- I met with Mark Gerber ( he did the knight sign repairs plus other works) to discuss a program of improvement work concerning the Coronation Shelter on Chapel Street. A replacement roof, repainting and various ideas concerning the Coronation of King Charles III were discussed. The tree to the right of the shelter needs cutting back prior to any repair work starting. Quotes are in preparation.
- This Friday sees the start of the end of phase 1 of the Mountfitchet Green improvement project. Provided by the Essex Forest Initiative, hedging whips will be planted in the gaps in the hedge, specimen trees will be planted in January. and the football post installed imminently. I would like to thank Laila for her considerable efforts to get this phase completed on time and within budget.
- Finally, as this is our last formal meeting in 2022 I would like to thank all Councillors Officers and residents for their work during 2022. In particular, Laila has been pivotal on the projects side, Emma has work tirelessly in supporting the administration of our allotments, Dan, with his pictures and scripts, has greatly improved our public profile and Bill Stiles has kept us all informed about the condition of our footpaths. Thanks to then and to Ruth for keeping everything on track. We are progressing many projects as well as taking care of routine business all of which could not have been done without you all. Report Ends
Clerk’s Report: Ruth Clifford
ITEM 7 – CEMETERY Additional inscription on the memorial for Bridget Gott.
ITEM 8 – BOWLS CLUB LEASE The Parish Council has, since 1976, leased a very narrow strip of land on the southern boundary of the Recreation Ground to the Bowls Club – this enables them to have a regular shaped bowling green. The land has always been leased at a peppercorn rent of £1 per annum for periods of 21 years. Your confirmation that the lease can be renewed for a further 21 years is sought.
PLANTERS As part of the post-Covid-19 Welcome Back Fund, we were allocated a grant for the purchase of some seats and planters. The seats are all in situ at various locations around the village, but the 12 planters arrived in the late summer, too late to be planted up for this year. The funding included an allowance for some herbaceous plants and bulbs in each planter. Annual plants to add colour
Under the terms of the funding, some of the planters are earmarked for Lower Street, subject to the necessary licence being granted by Essex County Council.
The OS committee is being asked to decide upon the locations for the other 6 planters. We have plotted some suggestions on the map already circulated, but all are up for discussion. The Council has, previously, indicated that it would like to do something on the corner of Crafton Green Road and Chapel Hill. Nothing much will grow in the ground due to the root spread of the maple tree, so a planter or two there may look more attractive.
The planters are 1.5m long, 50cm wide and 60cm deep. Report Ends
Project Report: Committee & Project Report Officer Laila Azure-Marxen
The table fire on the Green is a very unfortunate event. The incident has been reported to the police and we are investigating replacement options.
We were lucky to be able to invest in good quality benches for the site, as we received one picnic bench and two seats through the post Covid-19 Welcome Back fund. The bench burned was paid separately with other funding raised for the playground project. The picnic bench was the only one with wheelchair access and was £899 and another £200 for installation. We have an excess of £250 on the insurance, so it up will be up to the Committee to decide how to proceed further:
We have the funds available in the play equipment project to replace it – replacing the bench will leave us with £750 for other unforeseen costs.
Should we wait on replacing the bench? Are we risking a new bench to have the same fate? Are there any preventative measures the Parish Council can take to avoid similar vandalism in the future?
Recycled plastic street furniture is considered a vandal resistant material, but unfortunately proved not true. Sadly, if someone wants to destroy property, they will find a way. As the bench was made of plastic the fumes were highly toxic – is this something we want to risk again? We also need to consider the aesthetics of the site: matching the bench to the existing one will look nicer and deliver the project as described.
The hedge planting to fill in the gaps in the existing hedge is scheduled for the 25th November. The football goals have been ordered, and Mortimer Contracts Ltd. have been scheduled to install them and complete the fence for Phase 1. The trees will be planted in January (date still to be confirmed). The trees ordered for the site are: Hazel, White Birch, Rowan, Oriental Plane, and Gingko biloba. The Jubilee Oak will also be planted as soon as possible.
The Rec – Re-matting of football goals
The office has requested quotes and advice from our grass cutting contractor MD Landscapes and play equipment contractor Mortimer Contracts Ltd. We are still waiting on the quotes on the re-matting work.
MD Landscapes advised us that reseeding will require the goal area to be fences off. Both contractors advice new socketed goals so they can be removed/moved around. Mortimer Contracts have quoted £675 for matting and seeding of goals for Mountfitchet Green, so it might be a similar price for the Rec.
Urban tree planting
The first consultation of the urban tree planting finished on 31st October 2022.
We delivered letters to immediate neighbours on the following sites:
Upper and Lower Benfield Greens: 25
The Rec/Windmill Fields: 50
Mountfitchet Green: 37
Wilkin’s Crescent Green: 14
Urban Square: 18
Walson Way Green: 15
We also put letters up on the nearby noticeboards, the Council website, and social media. We had responses via all channels. Some residents responded multiple times via different channels – only one of these comments has been counted.
Response 49 Percentage %
For 18 36.7%
Against 26 53.1%
Other 5 10.2%
Email 30 61.2%
Facebook 14 28.6%
Phone/verbal 3 6.1%
Letter 2 4.1%
The majority the feedback of the total response is aimed at the Bentfield sites
Site Responses For Against Other
Bentfield Greens 22 18% 82%
The Rec/ Windmill Fields 7 42.9% 57.1%
Wilkin’s Crescent 4 50% 50%
Mountfitchet Green 3 100%
Walson Way 2* 50% 50%
Urban Square 0
Not specified/something else 11 45.4% 18.2% 36.4%
Due to overwhelming negative feedback on the Benfield sites, these have been excluded from the project. The trees have been cancelled as we didn’t have any other sites which could take the 18 specimens. The vast majority did not support the planting layout, or the number of trees proposed. Most importantly it was highlighted that Bentfield is a conservation area protected by the Village Green Act. The Benfield area is also owned by the Battlement Trust, and the Parish Council will need additional permission to plant trees. Unfortunately, we were not aware of this in the early stages of the project.
On the Rec and Windmill site we received only 7 responses out of approx. 50 delivered letters. This site can be deemed controversial, but we have amended the layout to address most of the concerns raised. A major concern was disrupting any sightlines to the Windmill or blocking light for homeowners. Several responders suggested more trees around the play area. We are also consulting the Windmill Fete Committee on the revised layout, and they seemingly have no objections, but will discuss in depth at a meeting on the 22nd November.
On Wilkin’s Crescent the feedback was 50/50 for and against. In the revised plans we addressed concerns about blocking sightlines to the playground. We have moved more trees to the back and made a more natural layout around the playground. The tree species grow low and will not disrupt the views of the village when fully grown.
Mountfitchet Green had little response but was supported in full. We previously raised tree planting and hedge planting when we consulted on the play equipment project on Mountfitchet, and the resident feedback was in favour. Walson Way had one supporter of the project and one general enquiry. We had no response on the Urban Square.
If the members would like further insight on the consultation results, please let me know.
The funding from Essex Forest Initiative comes with some conditions. Each application site needs to have a minimum of 10 trees, but we are also limited to the number of trees EFI have suggested/applied for. We can move trees between sites but will need to have a minimum of 10. If we cannot come to a sensible solution based on the feedback, then the site will be excluded from the project.
We have consulted our gardening Contractor GWB Horticulture on the tree species and layout. He was very impressed with the tree species selected by Essex Forest Initiative and says they are very nice. As he is familiar with all sites, he has agreed to suggest which species would look best, where.
Communications Officer Dan Schlanker has written a Link article on the project and the benefits of tree planting. This will be for the December/January edition.
Planters on Lower Street
We were granted twelve planters through the EU Welcome Back fund, six of which are earmarked for Lower Street (pending licence). We applied for the licence several months ago and we are finally in communication with Highways on the applications submitted. We are working on amendments to the layout to get them approved.
The remaining six planters will need to be placed in areas around the Village, preferably on land owned by the Parish Council, so we avoid another licencing process. Maps on suggested locations have been provided for members.
The rewilding working group walked half the Village on 5th November and identified some sites suitable for rewilding. Further sites have also been suggested by residents. The sites noted so far:
Triangle by Knight sign
Longcroft by Pennington Lane (resident suggestion).
Foresthall by drainage culverts
Foresthall Road-large grassed area (suggested by some residents).
Some of these sites are not yet handed over to the Parish Council and might not be eligible for rewilding or wildflower planting for some time. When the group has identified all the appropriate sites for the scheme, they will need to consult further with our grasscutter and gardener. The shortlisted sites will be presented to the Committee and public consultation might be needed.
Cllr Barnes and the Clerk discussed rewilding/wildflower planting on the Knight sign area with our gardening contractor GWB: He suggests doing a modified rewilding scheme, a prairie style planting, which will look wild but with more colour. It would be a statement when driving into Stansted. GWB will provide a quote on this.Report Ends
NOTICE OF MEETING You are summoned to attend a meeting of the OPEN SPACES COMMITTEE which will be held on Wednesday 23rd November 2022 at 7.30pm in The Mountfitchet Exchange, Crafton Green, 72 Chapel Hill, Stansted, Essex where the following business will be transacted:
1 To receive and approve apologies for absence
2 To receive declarations of interest
3 To approve the minutes of the Open Spaces meeting held on 12th October 2022
4 To receive an update on action points from the last meeting
5 To receive a report from the Chair
6 To receive a report from the Project Officer – to follow
7 To receive Interments report from the Clerk
8 To approve the renewal of the Bowls Club lease
9 To consider the Council’s involvement in the following
a) Stansted In Bloom
b) Anglia In Bloom
10 To discuss the situation relating to the picnic table on Mountfitchet Green
11 To authorise the purchase of the Jubilee Oak tree on Mountfitchet Green
12 To consider locations of planters from the Welcome Back fund – circulated to members
13 To receive the quarterly report on the gardening and grass cutting contracts – circulated to members
14 To receive an update on footpaths – to follow
15 Matters to be considered for next agenda
Ruth Clifford, Parish Clerk – 17 November 2022