Minutes of a meeting of the OPEN SPACES COMMITTEE held at 7.30pm on Wednesday 7th September 2022 in The Mountfitchet Exchange, Crafton Green, 72 Chapel Hill, Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex
PRESENT Cllrs A Barnes (Chair), G Braeckman, M Caton, A Guney, P Jones, J Kavanagh, A Khan, J O’Brien, L Prior, F Richards
ATTENDING Mrs Ruth Clifford – Clerk (on Zoom) Mrs Laila Azure-Marxen – Committee & Project Support Officer, 1 member of the public
142 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Cllr Prior gave her apologies that she would be late for the meeting
143 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
144 TO RECEIVE THE MINUTES OF THE MEETING HELD ON 13th JULY 2022
RESOLVED to accept the minutes of the meeting held on 13th July 2022 as a true and accurate account.
145 TO RECEIVE AN UPDATE ON ACTION POINTS FROM PREVIOUS MEETING
108 The office has reported the blocked drain on Five Acres footpath. No updates.
Cllr Caton has written to ECC to retrieve a highway maintenance management plan. Highways will send one.
109 The dead trees had been raised in the communications between Emma Blazeby and Crest, so the office has not written a letter. Cllr Barnes feels it’s important to put additional pressure on the management company, so the office will write a letter as agreed in the last meeting.
113 The projects officer has amended the grass cutting metrics.
146 TO RECEIVE A REPORT FROM THE CHAIR – see attached
Cllr Barnes read out his Chair’s Report.
Cllr Barnes raised that, due to the ongoing economic insecurity of the energy crisis, the Committee must lower their expectation on project budgets for the next financial year.
Cllr Guney raised that there have been complaints on the green growth on Elm’s Farms POS. This has already been raised with Crest and they have cut it down, but it is now regrowing. The state of the trees was also discussed. Cllr Barnes pointed out that the handover of Elm’s Farms is proving to be more difficult than at Walpole Meadows, and that meaningful communication seems to get lost between involved parties.
147 TO RECEIVE A REPORT FROM THE PROJECT OFFICER – see attached
County Councillors will chase the draft lease with legal in Uttlesford.
Cllr O’Brien explained that the triangle by the Dog & Dog will not get any Christmas lights this year, even if the planter licence is approved. The planning of electrical supply is proving difficult with a short deadline, but hopefully this will be sorted by Christmas 2023.
148 TO RECEIVE INTERMENTS AND MEMORIALS REPORT FROM THE CLERK
Hazel May Smith, 16 August 2022
Neville Hart, 5 September 2022
Hazel May Smith
149 TO RECEIVE VERBAL PLAYGROUND INSPECTION REPORT FROM THE CLERK
The zip-wire on the Rec has been taped off and is out of action as Lucy has raised some concerns that the support timbers may be splitting. As all play equipment on the Rec was installed at the same time, other timber play equipment might also be splitting, consequently, the manufacturer, Wicksteed, have been contacted concerning the undertaking of a general inspection. These issues were not flagged in the RoSPA report in May. The timber might still be under warranty, so it is important to get Wicksteed to inspect but they are proving difficult to get in contact with.
The seat for the pendulum swing on the Rec is on order. The office will chase Chris Mortimer on an update.
The office will have the draft metrics sheet on playground inspections ready before the next OS meeting in October.
150 TO CONSIDER AMENDMENTS TO THE CURRENT GRASS CUTTING SCHEDULE
The grass cutting contracts are up for renewal, so the committee needs to consider possible changes to the grass cutting schedule. The committee discussed different options for grass cutting. If this is something the committee decides on it will have environmental benefits and potential cost savings. Cllr O’Brien raised the concern that a mixed cutting schedule might be more costly as this would be more logistically challenging for the contractor.
It was agreed that any changes to the grass cutting schedule and the reasoning behind must be communicated to the public. It might also need some public consultation. The committee agreed on forming a working group to evaluate all grass cutting areas and discuss the pros and cons in detail. Cllr Jones suggested that the office or working group look to other Councils and investigate how they have changed their schedule.
The new working group consists of: Cllrs Barnes, Kavanagh, Jones, Guney and Richards.
This summer there was fewer cuttings due to the warm and dry weather. This has resulted in some savings, but these might balance out if there is a need for extra cuttings now the rain has set in again.
- REWILDING TO CONSIDER THE PRINCIPLE OF REWILDING
- TO CONSIDER SUITABLE AREAS FOR A TRIAL REWILDING SCHEME
Note: Items a and b was discussed simultaneously, and the minutes reflect the overall discussion points.
The committee discussed the different options for rewilding vs sowing wildflowers. It was acknowledged that this project would be a long-term one, as it might take years to get a desired result. It’s also essential to communicate the why and how to the public, and the Council should expect some complaints, although most other Councils have had good positive feedback on rewilding initiatives. Public consultation will also be needed.
It was agreed that the working group for the grass cutting schedule would also evaluate rewilding/wildflower sites.
Cllr Braeckman shared his experience with wildflower sowing and offered the working group a visit his family’s wildflower meadow. It was also pointed out that, though similar, rewilding and wildflower sowing are two different approaches with different timelines and results. For a trial of either rewilding, wildflower sowing or both, it was agreed to find three suitable sites in the Village.
152 TO CONSIDER COMPLAINTS RECEIVED RELATING TO THE CONDITION OF THE GRASS ON THE RECREATION GROUND
A resident, who is part of an amateur football team, has complained about the state of the grass and goal mouth safety matting saying that its condition makes it almost impossible to play. The matting was recently vandalised and was put back in but has proved difficult to recover to its former state. The Committee agreed that this activity has a positive mental health benefit on the football team members, so it is essential to find a solution. It is important to sort out the condition of the matting as it is a safety issue, and the Parish Council is liable for anything on the Recreation Ground.
The Councillors discussed the different options for the placement of the goals, types of grass and matting. A more flexible solution of movable goals and more hardy grass was highlighted. It is essential not to turn the Rec into a formal football pitch, and the Councillors agreed on finding short-term and long-term sustainable solutions that considers safety and the multi-use of the grounds.
It was agreed that the office will get an estimate on moving the cemented in goal posts. The office will also seek advice from the Council’s grounds maintenance contractors, Chris Mortimer, and football contacts.
153 TO RECEIVE AN UPDATE ON FOOTPATHS
The Chair thanked Mr. Stiles for his recent footpath report.
On the comments on the state of the newly planted trees on Newman’s Plantation, Cllr Barnes explained that several trees look dead or damaged. The birch trees never got off to a good start and are presumed dead, while other trees looked good up until the recent hot weather, however, some of the flowering Cherries have survived. It is advisable not to take the trees out as they might come back in the Spring. Cllr Barnes highlighted that it will be essential to have a maintenance plan and budget for future tree planting. Luckily the urban tree planting planned for this Autumn has watering and maintenance included in the funding.
In the footpath report it was highlighted that it would be nice to have public access to the plantation on the North side of FP19. It was agreed that it may be difficult to convince the landowners. By the plantation on High Lane there are two planning applications for development, to which the Council is currently opposed. Cllr Kavanagh pointed out that, on the Council website, it says that SMPC are supporting development on those two sites. This should be corrected.
FP23 – Essex have been chased by Denise Gemmill on closing off the path access. She cannot close it off until she gets the correct order from Essex allowing her to do it. The steps are dangerous to use so hopefully it will progress soon. The office will chase as well to support Denise Gemmill.
The hogweed is still an issue on FP23. The more people who report it, the more likely it will be that Essex removed the weeds. On the website it says the issue has already reported, but anyone can email them directly. It is suggested to use social media to inform the public on this.
154 MATTERS TO BE CONSIDERED FOR THE NEXT AGENDA
Meeting closed 8.59pm
109 The office to write the responsible management company on the dead trees on Elm’s Farms.
149 The office to chase Chris Mortimer on an update on the pendulum swing order.
152 The office to get an estimate on moving the cemented in goals posts on the Rec
The office to seek advice from grounds maintenance team, Chris Mortimer, and football contacts on the best options for goals and resurfacing of the Rec.
153 The office to change our comments for the two planning applications on High Lane to not supported by the Council.
The office to chase Highways on the closure of FP23
Chairman’s Report: Alan Barnes
I only have a couple of points to report on that are not on the agenda or covered in Laila’s project update;
- Work towards completing phase I of the Mountfitchet Green regeneration project is ongoing and, as reported by Laila, the remaining items of seats, fencing and football posts have been delivered or ordered. Phase II to enlarge and update the children’s playground is now under planning. Unfortunately the National Lottery have recently changed their requirements for grant application and now require more extensive design and Health and Safety assessments, experience and expertise of which we do not have in-house. It has been agreed during an Action Plan review, that the cost of these assessments will be funded internally from the Professional Fees budget so that the phase II project can go forward as funding is almost entirely lottery funded.
- We still continue with our efforts to resolve the issues around the Public Open Spaces at Elms Farm and Walpole Meadows. On Walpole Meadows, an update received today from the S-106 officer reports positive moves by Bloor in that the erection of the safety fence around the play area will commence next week and that groundworks to help prevent the flooding issues are being addressed and work will be started by the end of September. On a similar timeline the condition of the allotments is also being addressed. Deficiencies with the play equipment identified by ROSPA will be rectified, although no timeline is given, and the appalling general condition of the play area and access paths were to be assessed by Bloor at a site visit today. I will circulate the e-mail received from Emma Blaseby to committee member. Overall, I do think we have UDC on our side on this one.
- Hopefully members have seen that the knight sign has been restored and is back in residence. I would like to that Mark Gerber for his over and above efforts on this project.
- The results of the Anglia in Bloom competition will be announced today. Stansted did amazingly well last year and I hope for a better result this year despite a challenging summer. I would like to thank Trevor Lloyd and his team for their efforts with AIB and SIB during 2022. During the AIB assessment an offer to mentor the AIB team was made and an assessor will be presenting at the next O/S meeting on how Stansted can further develop their entry submission. Report Ends
Committee & Project Report Officer’s Report: Laila Azure-Marxen
- Mountfitchet Green
We are still waiting for the lease from Legal in Uttlesford. This have been chased again on the 31st August.
I have not been able to apply for the Football Foundation Fence grant because of the missing lease, and we are now etching closer to the March 2023 deadline for completion of phase 1. This deadline is part of the conditions we must meet for the CIF grant we received in Dec 2021 (£6,500). Also, due to rising steel prices the fence costs kept increasing (£350 since June) and we are now at a limit for what the total budget can handle. So, Cllrs Barnes, Caton and O’Brien have given the greenlight to order the fence. This means we cannot apply for the Football Foundation fence grant, but as it was not a guaranteed grant it was more of a risk to wait and risk losing the £6,500 from CIF. The fence will be delivered and installed before winter. I am also investigating cheaper options for goal posts.
The wheelchair friendly picnic bench has been delivered and we are waiting for Chris Mortimer to install.
We have had reports that the new zip-wire is slack again, and Chris Mortimer will tighten it as soon as possible.
We are still waiting for the outcome on the application for trees from Essex Forest Initiative, but the tree officer is hopeful it will go through. As this is part of a larger application for trees for public open spaces in Stansted, we have prioritised Mountfitchet Green if we only receive some of the trees applied for.
2. Foresthall Park
The trim trail on Wilkin’s Crescent have been installed, and we have had reports of it being well used by kids. The installation of the Trim Trail marks the completion of the Foresthall Park playground project.
The licence application for the planters on Lower Street and the corner across from the Dog & Duck have been submitted. It has taken some time to submit it as we had to wait for written support from our County Councillor.
Urban tree planting project (POS tree planting)
As mentioned above the applications for the trees is still being processed. We expect answer sometime in September. We have consulted with Luke, our grass cutter, for his input on the location of the trees. The next step is to meet with Tom Moat from EFI again to access the best planting locations. After this we will consult with the public with letter drops, noticeboards and social media. Report Ends
NOTICE OF MEETING You are summoned to attend a meeting of the OPEN SPACES COMMITTEE which will be held on Wednesday 7th September 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 13th July 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 – report circulated to members
7 To receive Interments report from the Clerk
8 To receive verbal playground inspection report from the Clerk
9 To consider amendments to the current grass cutting schedule
a) To consider the principle of rewilding – report circulated to members
b) To consider suitable areas for a trial rewilding scheme
11 To consider complaints received relating to the condition of the grass on the Recreation Ground
12 To receive an update on footpaths – circulated to members
13 Matters to be considered for next agenda
Ruth Clifford, Parish Clerk – 1st September 2022