The minutes will be published by the Parish Council in due course and after approval. In the meantime here is...
The regular monthly meeting in Cocking Village Hall was chaired by Richard Marks, assisted by the Clerk, Mel Kirkby and attended by councillors Christian Budd, David Imlach and Gwen Miles. Several members of the public attended the meeting, and for part of it so did District Councillor John Cherry and two guests invited to speak about the new development at The Croft - Rees Daniel, Head of Development Delivery for Hyde Martlett and Lloyd Exley, Contracts Manager for Drew Smith Ltd, the construction company.
After initial formalities Mr Daniel briefly described the scope of the project at The Croft and presented an update on the progress of the project to date. He said that there were to be 18 highly energy efficient homes comprising 11 houses, 1 bungalow and 6 flats on two floors. He continued by saying that there would also be community gardens and 35-40 parking spaces and reported progress to date as follows:
- the old flats had been demolished
- the site had been cleared
- a site cabin had been set up
- some initial work on boundaries and services had been undertaken
For construction company Drew Smith Ltd., Lloyd Exley explained that the project should be complete in 52 weeks time, the next phases being:
- 10-12 weeks of ground works including construction of the foundations
- Erection of timber frames, which would be brought onto site in sections
- Addition of brickwork, roofs, windows, doors etc.
- Internal finishing
There was discussion about the parking bays and construction traffic. It was disclosed that the parking would be provided early in the project and that the busiest period for traffic movements would be the groundwork phase with 6-7 lorries per day removing and delivering material. Mr Exley, for the builders, said that the Site Manager or another person would act as banksman at the entrance to the site and that lorries would be able to turn round within the site itself, removing the need to reverse on the approach road.
Communicating with local residents was a topic raised by members of the public in questions to Hyde Martlett and Drew Smith Ltd. who mentioned that initial letters had already been sent out and promised that updates would be issued. The companies also seemed receptive to direct contact with Croft residents as well as keeping in touch with the Parish Council throughout the life of the project.
Before the two guests left, they answered some concerns from Croft residents in the audience about boundary changes affecting their two homes. There was also discussion about aspects of the planning application including the children's playgound and allotments. The Parish Council position was that equipping and maintaining a second playground in the village was unaffordable, that extra allotments were not needed and that better parking and a weatherproof path to the Village Hall were more important. It was suggested that the Council should formally contact Hyde stating what their requirements were and it was confirmed that residents would have to pay a 'small' service for the unadopted roads and upkeep of the communal areas.
Further items from the public followed. First there was a short address to the Council by villager David Earley on the subject of the commemoration of World War I. David told the Council that he was trying to organise a 2014 local commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of war. He was suggesting an informative plaque in the Village Hall and various other elements and was seeking support. Through the Chair, the Council said that it supported the idea, but it could not promise to fund it completely.
Next, former Chair of the Parish Council, Frances Russell, thanked both Gwen Miles for her enormous efforts in clarifying the Cocking Village Hall finances and Chair, Richard Marks for his approach to steering the Council over the last few months. Both Richard and Gwen thanked Frances and Richard added that the Council had done what it had to do.
In the District Councillor's report, John Cherry had three main points to raise:
- The £175,000 reduction in District Council capital budgets due to current financial climate.
- Plans were now in place for fibre broadband that should reach 98% of residents with a much faster service within 3 years. Cllr. Cherry was not specific about plans for Cocking and suggested that the Council should make representations.
- Possible changes in the planning process were proposed. These could give decision-making powers to planning officers, reducing the need to consult parish councils. Cllr. Cherry urged the Council to form a view on this and communicate it to the District Council as soon as possible as if the new proposals are agreed they could fundamentally alter the role of Parish Councils and was something he saw as a threat to local democracy.
David Imlach raised the question of speeding and the difficulty of finding anyone who would respond over the matter. Cllr. Cherry agreed to raise the issue with the new Police Commissioner before leaving the meeting. As there were no new planning applications to be discussed, the agenda moved on to Council finances.
Mel Kirkby reported a Bank balance over £7,000 and looking ahead could see that the Council should be substantially on target for a small surplus at the end of the year despite the inevitable pressures. Finances are always complicated and various issues were then raised and debated including:
- Renewal of the insurance policy for Cocking Village Hall. The Council decided to stay with the current insurance company.
- The internal audit report. This was entirely satisfactory with some small issues such as a few missing receipts and initials on vouchers to be attended to.
- Retrospective approval of previous audits and re-appointment of auditors.
- VAT relating the Cocking Village Hall project. It was agreed to finally sort out the detail in time to incorporate any adjustments in the next VAT return.
- Lack of clarity about the significant increase in fixed assets over last year.
- Approval of the overdue Annual Return. It was agreed that the Council would approve it subject to the various adjustments already discussed.
Under the heading of Parish Matters, Gwen Miles raised the new village allotments. She reported that there were now only 3 applicants and that it was urgent to show progress. It was agreed that Richard Marks would help to prepare the ground, but that it would be necessary to get quotes for a contractor to spray the ground. The Secretary was asked to write to the remaining applicants with a progress report.
The overdue Parish Newsletter, previously discussed at the Parish Meeting was raised again and it was agreed to work with Gill Buchanan to revise the out of date version and issue it shortly.
Vacancies on the Council were then discussed and it was announced that Cllr. Sue Redshaw had resigned since the last meeting although no explanation was given. This now meant that there were three vacancies and it was resolved to issue co-opting letters next week. The Council recorded it thanks to Mrs Redshaw for her council work.
Unusually, this village website was discussed next as Gwen Miles, while acknowledging its independence, wanted it made clearer that reports of Council proceedings were not official in any way. For cocking.org, Mr. Birch pointed out that the status of the site had always been made clear on the front page* and that in the last 8 years this had only been raised once, by one person. He also offered to regularly publish the official minutes, suitably labelled, if the Council could arrange for a regular supply of the copy.
David Imlach gave his Asset Manager Report. He said that the Green was looking good following mowing, that the bus shelter shad been pressure washed, shortly to be followed by the playground equipment. He thanked Mr and Mrs Budd in advance for the electricity and water supplies for the latter task. David stated that the bank at the bottom of the Village Hall entrance was now dangerous as it was overgrown and traffic leaving the site could not see traffic approaching. He said he intended to tackle the problem within the £150 budget.
David also raised the forthcoming Northern Forum which would take place on 18th June and bring representatives of 15 parishes to Cocking Village Hall. He informed the Council that it was customary for the host village to chair the meeting and Richard Marks agreed that he would do so.
The meeting closed at 8.11 p.m.
* Note: The 'Welcome' statement on the website at top left has been slightly amplified and readers should also note that articles are published in accordance with that statement and the full site policies that can be seen by clicking on this link.
In case anyone is confused, the Summary of the Council Meeting above is editorial matter and not the minutes of the meeting. It does not claim to be a verbatim account and although the intention of the author is to present a reasonably complete and balanced account, inevitably there are omissions and no other author would have created precisely the same article.
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