Minutes of a meeting of the OPEN SPACES COMMITTEE held at 7.30pm on Wednesday 26th January 2022 in The Mountfitchet Exchange, Crafton Green, 72 Chapel Hill, Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex
PRESENT Cllrs A Barnes (Chair), M Caton, A Guney, J Kavanagh, A Khan, L Prior, F Richards
Mrs Ruth Clifford – Clerk to the Council
Mrs L Azure-Marxen – Committee & Project Support Officer
1 member of the public
313 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Cllr Braeckman gave his apologies for not attending the meeting due to an injured foot.
RESOLVED: Proposed by Cllr Richards and seconded by Cllr Guney it was unanimously resolved to approve apologies for absence from Cllr Braeckman
314 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
315 TO RECEIVE THE MINUTES OF THE MEETING HELD ON 24th November 2021
Amendments suggested at the Full Council meeting on the 19th January have been added.
RESOLVED to accept the minutes of the meeting held on 24th November 2021 as a true and accurate account.
316 TO RECEIVE AN UPDATE ON ACTIONS POINT FROM PREVIOUS MEETING
258d The office contacted the person who deals with licences at Essex County Council and they are investigating with Essex Highways how to obtain this for the proposed planter opposite the Dog and Duck, as well as the potential fir tree. The office has also obtained more quotes for the planter. Four quotes have been received will be presented when/if the Council have the necessary licence in place. The office will coordinate with the Christmas tree group if a tree is possible.
260b The removal of the dead tree in the memorial garden was included in the quote. The dead tree has now been replaced by a new cherry tree.
261 The Councillors discussed the issues associated with installing a telescopic bollard at the proposed location on Elms Farm. It was again questioned as to if it was a good idea to install a publicly funded bollard on private land not yet in the Parish Council possession. The landowners have already placed a large tree trunk and have sunk wooden posts in order to block access to their private road and so the Council has time to consider the matter further. When the telescopic bollard is up for discussion again the committee needs a plan of the site so they can visualise the placement of the bollard and understand the routes of entry. It was agreed to invite the landowners in for a meeting to discuss alternative solutions. The Committee was reminded that if there is no resolution to this matter, access to the Elms Farm POS off of the private access road cannot be guaranteed in future.
317 CHAIRMAN’S REPORT See attached
Cllr Barnes read out his Chairman’s Report.
In reference to the Queen’s Jubilee mentioned in the Chairman’s report, the Clerk asked the Committee members to consider the tree suggestion, sooner rather than later, as it needs to be planted during the current planting season. If chosen it would be dedicated in June. The current gardening contractor and the Parish Council Tree Warden have suggested an English Oak, however, as this will eventually grow into a big tree, it needs a proper location. The Memorial Garden is not suitable as it is designed a certain way and another large tree would ruin the symmetry. It was discussed to plant the tree in the South of Stansted on Mountfitchet Green, Watson Green (by Walson Way) and the Urban Square in Foresthall Park. Cllr Prior suggested to let the residents decide on the location and do a poll on social media. It was agreed that the Communications Officer and Project Officer would try to execute this.
In reference to Cllr Barnes thanking the volunteer efforts of the Mountpickers, Cllr Caton raised that there are other individuals who litter pick every week on their own initiatives who also deserve the Committee’s thanks.
318 GROUNDS MAINTENANCE
The minute does not reflect a chronological discussion of the tenders.
Cllr Barnes started the discussion explaining that because of the sensitive commercial nature of the tenders no details will be made public. The Committee members have received a confidential report with the contractors given fictitious names (Sam, Bob, Chris, and Jim). The selection of contractors will be based on the recommendations by Cllrs Barnes and Kavanagh, the report, and the following discussion. Cllrs Barnes and Kavanagh have evaluated the received tender bids, anonymously. Some contractors submitted bids for all contracts, and the Councillors felt that it was not right to award all contracts to one company, so subsequently the identity of the bidders was revealed later in the exercise. Cllr Prior pointed out that the tender bidders could have remained anonymous throughout the whole process if they had been given fictious names from the beginning. The point was acknowledged.
Before discussing the tenders Cllr Khan raised that the Council needed to be more transparent about the use of public money and asks about the metrics to evaluate contractor’s performance. It was explained that the office meets with the contractors quarterly and they are evaluated against the metrics used. Cllr Prior pointed out that the gardening contract was more complicated than grass cutting so any metrics for evaluation should reflect this. The office will formalise individual metric sheets to use at the quarterly evaluation. Cllr Khan suggested that the Council had received numerous complaints on grass cutting. The Clerk explained that the office received more compliments than complaints, and that complaints usually originate from by unforeseen events e.g. weather and are solved as soon as possible. Cllr Khan points out that the positives should be communicated as well. It was agreed that a quarterly report on grounds maintenance was going to be added to the agenda.
a TO DISCUSS TENDERS RECEIVED FOR GRASS CUTTING 1 CONTRACT 2022-23 AND TO SELECT THE SUCCESSFUL CONTRACTOR
The Council received three tender bids for Grass Cutting 1. Cllr Barnes and Cllr Kavanagh detailed the process they had used when considering all of the contracts and how they had reached their recommendations. All contracts will be in place for one year and can continue for a further two years with agreement from both parties.
Having been proposed by Cllr Richards and seconded by Cllr Kavanagh, it was unanimously
RESOLVED to accept the quote from MD Landscapes at a maximum cost of £25,458.
It was noted that this price would be held for the full three years.
b TO DISCUSS TENDERS RECEIVED FOR GRASS CUTTING 2 CONTRACT 2022-23 AND TO SELECT THE SUCCESFUL CONTRACTOR
The Council received three tender bids for Grass Cutting 2 contract. Cllr Barnes explained that one of the contractors had stated that they would not take on this contract unless they were awarded one of the other two. He and Cllr Kavanagh were therefore recommending the next lowest bidder.
Having been proposed by Cllr Richards and seconded by Cllr Caton, it was unanimously
RESOLVED to accept the quote from GWB Horticulture Ltd at a maximum cost of £6,536 for the year.
c TO DISCUSS TENDERS RECEIVED FOR GARDENING 1 CONTRACT 2022-23 AND TO SELECT SUCCESFUL CONTRACTOR
The Council received two tenders for the Gardening 1 contract. The two bids were very similar, and it had been a difficult decision. Cllr Barnes and Cllr Kavanagh recommended to accept the bid from one particular contractor. Cllr Prior commented that she did not find enough reason in the report to why they recommended one over another. Cllr Khan said that he trusted the recommendation presented but pointed out that the lack of information in the report was a good example of how the Council needs more structure in these exercises, so the decision-making process is clearly documented. Cllr Barnes explained that they had used scoring sheets to evaluate the different criteria and that many emails between committee members and officers documenting the decision making process. These would form part of the record. Cllr Prior pointed out that detailed scoring sheet should be available if one company asks for it.
Following this discussion, and having been proposed by Cllr Khan and seconded by Cllr Richards, it was unanimously
RESOLVED to accept the quote from GWB Horticulture Ltd in the sum of £41,050 for the year.
a INTERMENTS AND MEMORIALS
Freda Powter Interred on the 22nd December
Memorial approved for the graves for:
b TO DISCUSS THE FIRST DRAFT OF THE CEMETERY RULES AND REGULATIONS
It was noted that there are a few changes to the rules that should be included. Cllr Prior asked for the councillors to discuss the draft sent out before sending it back to the working group. After a brief discussion on the contents, it was decided that the document would go back to the working group, so they could include the discussed revisions. The new draft will be presented at the next Open Spaces meeting in March. Cllr Prior volunteered to help the working group with softening of the language.
a TO RECEIVE AN UPDATE ON THE MOUNTFITCHET GREEN PROJECT AND DISCUSS THE NEXT ITEMS TO BE INSTALLED
The committee members had received a written update on the project. With all of the funds raised, the Council can now decide on which items to order next. The zip-wire has already been ordered and will be installed in the next couple of months. The Councillors discussed the
option to reduce the number of picnic benches, seats, and trees, and exclude the notice board as there was already one in the area. Cllr Caton pointed out that hedges should be prioritised, as it was a matter of safety to fill out the hedge. The Project Officer explained that the trees and hedges could not be planted until next planting season, and it was also being investigated if the trees and hedges could be funded through the UDC Tree Planting Scheme. It was suggested to earmark some of the funds for the hedges just in case. The Councillors agreed to reduce the number of benches and trees, prioritise the installation of the disabled swing, the fence, and the football goals. It was agreed that the Project Officer should make a “shopping list” based on the discussion and Cllr Barnes will approve the recommendations.
b TO RECEIVE UPDATE ON PLAYGROUND INSPECTIONS AND MAINTENANCE
Cllr Barnes explained that he felt it was important to include this on the agenda as it showed the Council prioritising the safety of play equipment. The Clerk explained that one of our Environmental Rangers, who recently received her Playground Inspection certificate, is doing weekly inspections on all the playgrounds in town. The Committee were sent the most recent inspection sheets as an example. Any major issues with the playground that exceed the earmarked reserves for repair will come back to the committee. The weekly inspections are voluntary but have proven to be needed based on past incidents of broken equipment. Other than weekly inspections the play equipment also has a yearly RoSPA inspection.
C TO CONSIDER THE INSTALLATION OF SKATEPARK TOILET FACILITIES
The agenda item was suggested by Cllr Kavanagh: She had observed a need for this service as there are a lot of families and young children spending all day at the Skatepark and she asked where they would go if they needed a toilet. The Clerk explained that in the daytime the skatepark users can use Yeoman’s Café, which is part of the community toilet scheme, and some use the Social Club in the evening. The suggestion of a toilet facility had been presented to the contact person from the Skatepark and the police, and both advised against the idea. It would be logistically difficult to manage when it comes to inspections, and cleaning, and there would be a high risk of vandalism and potential safeguarding issues. UDC have previously provided the Lower Street car park with a facility, but it was quickly deemed too expensive to run. A porta-loo is very expensive to run so this is not an option either. Based on the advice received and the discussion, it was agreed to not pursue Council funded facilities at the skatepark.
a TO DECIDE ON A DATE FOR THE ANNUAL LITTER PICK AND IF AGREEED TO LIAISE WITH THE MOUNTPICKERS
Before Covid the Council organised annual litter pick events and intend to start it up again this year. The national litter pick dates are 25th March to 10 April 2022. It is agreed to include the Mountpickers in the planning. The Councillors discussed which weekend is the most suitable, and 2nd-3rd or the 9th-10th April are deemed the best options depending on which of the dates suits The Mountpickers. It was pointed out that both weekends are in the Easter Holiday, and this could affect the resident turnout both positively or negatively. Previously Churchill’s has been sponsoring “Fish and Chips” vouchers for the litter pickers, and they would need to be approached again. Cllr Prior volunteered herself and Cllr Braeckman to organise the event.
322 TO RECIVE AN UPDATE ON FOOTPATHS
The Clerk raised that the closure of the short section of FP23, on the footpath from Church Road to Dairy Lane is being dealt with by Essex Highways. Cllr Barnes was personally contacted by a resident regarding Path 24, that runs from Forest Hall Road to Stoney Common, on the issue of an overhanging tree coming from a private estate. The office has previously contacted the owner of the tree but will do it again. Cllr Barnes thanks Mr. Stiles for his contribution of the footpath report.
323 MATTERS TO BE CONSIDERED FOR NEXT AGENDA
Cllr Khan asks to have an update on Walpole Meadows s106 on the next agenda. The Clerk advised that the agenda should consist of items that need a decision. The Committee will be updated about the progress of Walpole Meadows outside of the meeting.
Meeting closed 21.20
261 Potential telescopic bollard on Elms Farm land:
Invite landowner to the office for a meeting and discuss alternative solutions
Provide the committee with a map of the land for better visualisation of the bollard location
317 Communications officer to create a poll on social media for the residents to select the location for the Jubilee tree
318 The office to produce metrics to evaluate the performance of the grass cutting and gardening contractors
To include report on quarterly meetings with contractors on the O/S agenda
318c Cllr Barnes and Kavanagh to produce supplement documentation for their decision-making process for the recommendation of Gardening 1 contract
319b Cemetery Working Group to produce a new draft with discussed changes for the next O/S meeting on the 9th March 2022
320a Project Officer to give recommendations on the play equipment to buy with the remaining raised funds – Send to Cllr Barnes for approval
321a Cllrs Prior and Braeckman to organise the annual litter pick
322 Office to write owners regarding the overhanging tree by Path 24
Chairman’s 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;
- I would like to thank all those involved directly or indirectly with the Newman’s plantation reforestation exercise. The hard work undertaken by volunteers over two Saturdays resulted in large areas of brambles and other woodland debris being cleared and replanted with 2-3 meter established trees or with 60cm whips. In total over 110 trees were planted. This exercise represents our first significant reforestation efforts and contributes in a small way to the Essex initiative of planting 1 million new trees by 2024. Congratulations to all involved and in particular to Daniel Brett and Tom Moat whose guidance was invaluable.
- I would like to thank Trevor Lloyd for volunteering to manage Stansted’s Anglia in Bloom entry into the 2022 competition. Having done so well in last year competition, I am looking for the same or better result in the upcoming competition. I can also confirm that the Stansted in Bloom organisational title will be retained by SMPC in order to secure and future proof the name in the event that the competition should ever again be a Council initiative.
- As mentioned at the last full council meeting, the Queens Platinum Jubilee in July will be marked by SMPC. The Council chair has asked for ideas from all councillors and in particular from O/S. Ideas such as an anniversary tree, time capsule and a fire beacon have been suggested. Other ideas are welcome. In particular we are looking for good locations for those ideas already put forward . If you have suggestions please send them to Ruth so they can be discussed at Full Council. Thinking caps on.
- Unfortunately I cannot report any further known progress towards the handover preparation of the POS on Elms Farm or on the more important deficiencies on Walpole Meadows. We continue to make representations to the S-106 Officer concerning these maters but no response has been provided since the last meeting. We will continue with our efforts.
- I would like to thank both George Brackman and District councillor Ayub Khan for their efforts to get the over spilling dog waste bins on Walpole Meadow emptied. This sort of problem is an inevitable consequence of the delay in handover from developer to UDC where responsibilities like these often fall between two stools and adds further impetus to our efforts to resolve this matter
- Because our CIT grant application for new play equipment on Foresthall Park was lost by ECC, we risk losing other grant funding as we cannot now complete the purchase and installation by 31st Representation have been made to UDC directly and via our District Councillors to get this deadline extended. No extension probably means reduced or no new play equipment for FHP.
- Litter pickers. It was disappointing to read that the Stansted Litter Pickers may fold due to a lack of pickers following the epidemic, however, it was comforting that the post seemed to have motivated people to volunteer and so I would like to thank all the existing and new volunteers who involve themselves this in this important activity. SMPC has supported this group for many years and the annual village litter pick is one further way of showing this. I encourage all councillors to get involved if possible.
- I am glad to report that a new tree has been planted in the Memorial Garden to replace the dead tree planted in 1985 to commemorate 40 years of peace. We chose a flowering Cherry this time and this was recently planted to act as both a continuing memorial and a pleasant sight for those using Chapel Hill. Report Ends
SUMMONS You are summoned to attend a meeting of the OPEN SPACES COMMITTEE which will be held on Wednesday 26th January 2022 at 7.30pm in The Mountfitchet Exchange, Crafton Green, 72 Chapel Hill, Stansted, Essex
1 To approve apologies for absence
2 To receive declarations of interest
3 To receive the minutes of the Open Spaces meeting held on 24th November 2021
4 To receive an update on action points from previous meeting
5 To receive the Chairman’s Report
6 Ground maintenance
a) To consider tenders received for the Grass Cutting 1 contract 2022-23 and to select the successful contractor – report to follow
- ) To consider tenders received for the Grass Cutting 2 contract 2022-23 and to select the successful contractor – report to follow
- To consider tenders received for the Gardening 1 contract 2022-23 and to select the successful contractor – report to follow
7 Cemetery a) Interments and memorials – to receive a report from the Clerk
- b) To discuss the first draft of the Cemetery Rules and Regulations – attached for members
8 Playgrounds a) To receive update on the Mountfitchet Green project and discuss the next items to be installed
- b) To receive update on playground inspections and maintenance – report to follow
- c) To consider the installation of skatepark facilities – proposed by Cllr Kavanagh
9 Litter a) To decide on a date for the annual litter pick and if agreed to liaise with the Mountpickers
10 To receive an update on footpaths – report to follow
11 Matters to be considered for next agenda
Ruth Clifford, Clerk to the Council – 20 January 2022