Minutes of Parish Council 23rd February 2022

Minutes of meeting

A brief summary of key elements of the PC Meeting on 23rd February 2022.  As well as receiving the regular reports, they:

  • discussed the latest government guidance on Covid and implications on Orpen Hall,
  • addressed questions from registered electors including concerns about presentation facilities in Orpen Hall & the future of the Methodist Chapel,
  • welcomed Revd Heather Wilcox and looked forward to a future working relationship,
  • co-opted two new Parish Councillors, James Owers and Manya Barrow,
  • discussed the Queen’s Jubilee, in particular Beacon lighting and replacement of the Orpen Hall Cherry Trees as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy,
  • reviewed the options available for the council to acquire the Methodist Chapel.

Full details are in the official minutes below.

Minutes of Parish Council Meeting

Held on Wed 23rd February 2022 at 7.30 pm in the Orpen Memorial Hall

Chairman:Cllr Chris Stevenson
Parish Councillors Present:Cllrs Brian Butcher, Bob Tyrrell, Joel Fayers, Jenny Church, David Short, Harry Stone and Andrew Savage
Parish ClerkLaura Walkingshaw
Borough & County Councillors:None
Present:13 members of the public
Via Zoom:Cllr John Gili-Ross

22/18           Receive/accept apologies and welcome to the public

RESOLVED – apologies accepted from Councillor Gili-Ross for non-attendance in person.

Cllr Gili-Ross joined the meeting via Zoom in order to take part in discussions but took no part in voting.

Apologies were also received from Borough Councillors Barber, Willetts & Leatherdale. All had a clash with a Colchester Full Council meeting.

22/19           West Bergholt Covid-19 Response

To receive an update on the latest West Bergholt COVID-19 developments:

Following the Government’s announcement of its “Living with Covid” plan, restrictions at Trust venues is to be reviewed. A Trust meeting was due to be held after this meeting when this item and its implications on the Hall will be discussed. There have been no further booster clinics held at the Church Hall and it is unsure if any more will be held there. The Council would like to express how grateful it is to St Mary’s for the use of the Church Hall and reiterate its thanks to all of the volunteers, including the work in preventing any traffic chaos along New Church Road as a result of the clinics. It was a very successful undertaking.

22/20           Questions from registered electors

Questions 1 & 2: Both the Flower Club and the Women’s Institute (WI) had recently written to the Chairman, in his role as chairman of the Orpen Memorial Hall Trust, regarding concerns over the equipment on the stage at the Hall.

The President of the WI wished to know if the Council had read the letter and when she could expect a reply, following issues with the stage lighting & microphone causing embarrassment during recent WI events. A representative of the Flower Club also expressed concern over this matter, finding equipment not working when paid speakers arrived and the stage unable to be lit.

Cllr Stevenson, chairman of WBPC, responded that they had now received three letters in regard to this matter, including one from the Orpen Players and would be responding with a view to resolving the operational difficulties experienced with the operation of the equipment. Letters of response would be sent after the Trust meeting which was to follow the PC meeting. This is because it is a Trust matter.

Clarifying some of the background to the Orpen Memorial Hall, Cllr Stevenson explained the way the 5 charities (Orpen Memorial Hall, Allotments, Poor’s Land, Heath/Village Green, Lorkin Daniell Field) had been given to the community in the past and the that Councillors automatically become members of the Parish Council’s Sole Trusteeship of each charity. However, the two roles are distinct and separate meetings have to be held for finance, governance and decisions, which can make it difficult for the public to understand and manage at times. An Orpen Hall Trust meeting was due to be held after the Parish Council meeting.

Cllr Stevenson went on to explain that due to the historic way the stage lighting was installed the Council would agree that there have been issues recently, as with the microphone and on occasion the projector. However, there is a proposal to make matters better and Trust members wish to sort out the technical issues as soon as possible.

The Flower Club reported that they have a paid demonstrator coming in three weeks, by which time they hope the issues will be rectified. The Chairman explained that the plan is for:

  • Additional lights will be installed to illuminate the stage
  • A simple switch will be mounted to the stage area for the lighting
  • Clear written instructions (an “idiots” guide) will be created
  • Microphone and projector operation will be examined

The Trust will discuss after this meeting and ensure that a solution will be found ready for the demonstrator arriving and the Chairman will reply to the letters as soon as possible.

Question 3: A resident asked a question in regard to item 22/33 (Methodist Chapel & Hall sale) on the agenda. He wished to know that a specific mandate is made to residents before any offer on the Chapel is made. Cllr Stevenson, although wishing to keep full discussions until the item was reached on the agenda, reassured the resident that as capital financing would be necessary through a Public Works Loan, there is requirement that meaningful consultation with residents is undertaken as it would mean an increase in the precept (WBPC’s proportion of the council tax).

A Church representative then wished to clarify that during a previous consultation on the use of the Methodist Chapel a village coffee shop had been proposed and that since then St Mary’s have put plans in place to add a coffee bar to their replacement Church Hall which is due to be built in the near future. The Church therefore wouldn’t like to duplicate the same idea and ask to be kept informed if there is any likelihood of the Methodist Chapel being used for that purpose. In response Cllr Stevenson said that it was too soon to say how the Methodist Church and Hall building would be used but that he understood the point being made.

22/21           Declarations of Interest

There were no declarations of interest.

22/22           Previous Minutes

RESOLVED – the Minutes of the Parish Council meeting held on Wednesday 26th January 2022 were approved and signed by the Chairman, with no amendments. (See link to PC Minutes P10 Jan 22)

22/23           Introduction to new Priest in Charge of St Mary’s Church

To meet and introduce members of the Council to Reverend Heather Wilcox of the 6 Parishes.

The Council welcomed Reverend Heather, who became the new Priest in Charge at St Mary’s in November 2021 and now oversees West Bergholt, Great Horkesley, Langham & Boxted, Little Horkesley, Mount Bures and Wormingford parishes. Although covering a lot of parishes, she previously came from Long Stratton in Norfolk where she had 8 parishes so is well used to that structure.

Cllr Stevenson reiterated the welcome from the Council and expressed his hope for the continuation of the periodic Parish Council/Church meetings which have previously been held, possibly making them twice a year? There is a known issue with the churchyard, which will be for a future discussion, but would like to carry on the good co-operation between the two organisations of which the booster vaccinations clinics were a good example.

22/24           Report from Colchester Borough and Essex County Councillors

No Borough or County Councillors were able to attend the meeting, however the Chairman wished to report that the pavement in front of the Scout Hut on Lexden Road had been resurfaced today thanks to the efforts of Cllr Barber, the support of the Cabinet member Cllr Lee Scott and the overseeing officer Mr Terry Knights. Also, in response to discussions that a section of the footway to the side of the B1508 from the White Hart to Hall Road is also due to be repaired soon, however the existence of many cables running under that pavement appear to be delaying the work. This would be chased up.

22/25           Co Option for Councillor vacancy 1

To approve a new member of West Bergholt Parish Council.

Mr James Owers had previously submitted a letter of introduction to the Council, which members had an opportunity to read in advance of the meeting and had no further questions for him. James read out a summary of his letter and the reasons he would like to join the PC. A secret ballot was then undertaken following the Council’s Co-option policy.

RESOLVED – The votes were counted and having achieved an absolute majority; James Owers was co-opted onto West Bergholt Parish Council.

James Owers then took his place with the rest of the Council and signed the Declaration of Acceptance of Office.

ACTION Clerk will inform the CBC Monitoring Officer and add him to all the necessary documents over the coming days.

22/26           Co Option for Councillor vacancy 2

To approve a new member of West Bergholt Parish Council.

Mrs Manya Barrow had previously submitted a letter of introduction to the Council, which members had an opportunity to read in advance of the meeting and had no further questions for her. Manya read out her letter of introduction and explained why she would like to join the PC. A secret ballot was then undertaken following the Council’s Co-option policy.

RESOLVED – The votes were counted and having achieved an absolute majority; Manya Barrow was co-opted onto West Bergholt Parish Council.

Manya Barrow then took her place with the rest of the Council and signed the Declaration of Acceptance of Office.

ACTION Clerk will inform the CBC Monitoring Officer and add her to all the necessary documents over the coming days.

22/27           Finance

a)       Statement of accounts for Jan 22

The final accounts for Jan 22 (83% through financial year) were presented as follows: (See link to PC Accounts P10 Jan 22)

Receipts at 99%, General Expenditure 54%, Environment Expenditure 43%, Overall Expenditure 52%. Project expenditure still only at 3% this year due to Covid delays, however any money left outstanding at the end of the financial year will remain in reserves for use in its original intended purpose.

Bank Rec at £ 111,464.19 on 31st January 2022.

b) Payments

RESOLVED – To approve the February payments list in accordance with 2021-22 budget.

Proposed by Cllr Savage, seconded by Cllr Stevenson. All in favour.

PC Payments List – February 2022
DDBarclaysBank charges (11.50 – 0.60)10.90
PC21157Lynda RobinsonAllotments – replacement compost bin72.98
SOJ & M Payroll ServicesFeb – wages, tax & NI4500.00
PC21167J & M Payroll ServicesFeb – wages tax & NI256.28
PC21158J & M Payroll ServicesPayroll services27.00
PC21159WBFCGrass cutting Jan – LD Field50.00
PC21160CountrywideGrass cutting Jan – Poor’s Land178.50
PC21161Grasshopper LtdService & repairs to Robyn lawnmower184.34
PC21162EALCClimate Conference 27th Jan – BT60.00
PC21163EALCRoles & responsibilities 8th Feb – CS84.00
PC21164Kent BlaxillGeneral materials: screws, tape, washers etc.64.37
RefundKent BlaxillInner tubes x 2-24.31
PC21165Ernest DoeInner tubes – wheelbarrow16.01
PC21166Petty Cash – LWDiesel x 2, box and padlocks87.99
PC21167EALCIntro. to Planning 23rd Feb – JF84.00
PC21168Colchester Borough CouncilLitter/Dog bin emptying for 2021-221148.13
PC21169EALCCouncil Finance 31st Mar – AS84.00
PC21170J Kibby @ Scorpius BooksVillage Bulletin Editor remuneration180.00
PC21171Atlas SignsPrinting of Village Bulletin – Winter782.50
PC21172Nigel WeallDiesel35.02
PC21173Victoria Beckwith-ColeFloodlight tokens – bag of 5033.00
PC21174Friends of the Old ChurchGrant from PC for headstone work1460.00

1 if approved by the Council in item c) below

c)       To agree to the Finance Committee’s recommendation of a grant of £460 to the Friends of the Old Church.

The Friends of the Old Church have applied for a £460 grant to reset headstones and for metalwork maintenance in the grounds of the Old Church, details of which had previously been sent to Councillors.

RESOLVED – Cllr Savage proposed to agree the Finance Committee’s recommendation of a grant of £460 to the Friends of the Old Church, seconded by Cllr Butcher. All in favour.

ACTION – Clerk to inform the Friends of the Old Church.

d)       To approve a quote for up to £ 2,500 + VAT for replacement Orpen Hall fire escape doors, to be paid from the PC Projects 2021-22 specifically Orpen Hall Projects, as recommended by the Finance Committee and requested by the Orpen Memorial Hall Trust.

The current fire escape doors, to the left of the servery in the Orpen Hall, have been repaired so many times now that the fixings have become loose, and they are at a point where they cannot be patched up anymore.

The £2,500 approval cost, as recommended by the Finance Committee, will cover both the purchase and fitting of them. It is proposed that this project would come under the “various small improvement projects” in the Orpen Hall Projects already listed in the 2021-22 PC Projects list on the Three-Year Plan.

RESOLVED – Cllr Savage proposed to agree the recommendation by the Finance Committee to approve a quote for up to £2,500 + VAT, seconded by Cllr Stone. All in favour.

e)       To approve a quote for £836.00 + VAT for a new electric operation roller shutter to the Orpen Hall servery, to be paid from the PC Projects 2021-22, specifically Orpen Hall Projects as requested by the Orpen Memorial Hall Trust.

As in item d) above, the shutters to the Orpen Hall servery are regularly broken by overenthusiastic hirers of the hall and can no longer be re-fixed. The Orpen Memorial Hall Trust recommended an electric roller solution which will hopefully avoid the previous damage by hirers. Cllr Barrow, as new to this proposal, questioned what would happen if there was no electricity or the shutters were still broken in some way, however they do come with a manual crank in case of emergencies, so the Councillor was reassured. The Council were informed that the price had increased by £48 to £836 since the Trust’s agreement and the order being placed. 

RESOLVED – Cllr Savage proposed to approve the £836.00 + VAT quote for a new roller shutter to the Orpen Hall servery. Cllr Butcher seconded. All in favour.

f)       To remind Councillors to submit their end of year expenses forms (signed)

Councillors were reminded to submit their expenses forms for 2021-22.

22/28           Planning

a)       To note the following decisions made by the West Bergholt Parish Council Planning Committee at their meeting of 16th February 2022 (see link to Planning P11 Feb 22):

  • 220115 – 99 Chapel Road – The Parish Council has no comment – Support.
  • 220164 – 20 Bradbrook Cottages – The Parish Council has no comment – Support.
  • 220165 – annexe to, 20 Bradbrook Cottages, Armoury Road – The Planning Committee is disappointed at the loss of a granny annexe, as there are not many dwellings available in the parish of that type. It also fears that this change of use may encourage more people to apply for annexes on their property just so that they can be sold as separate dwelling houses in the near future – Observation.
  • 220358 – The Glen, Spring Lane – The Parish Council has no comment – Support.

22/29           Environment & Highways

a)       To note the minutes of the Environment Committee from their meeting of the 10th February 2022 (see link to Environment P11 Feb 22)

Cllr Gili-Ross just wished to express the Council’s thanks to the village handymen, who went above and beyond the call of duty last weekend clearing the debris, rubbish & flooding from the recent storms. Also, their prompt work removing a trip hazard in School Lane, on a Sunday.

Thanks were also offered to new Councillor, James Owers, who followed up an action from the Environment Committee meeting to contact Cllr Barber in regard to the resurfacing of the pavement outside the Scout Hut. Also, thanks to Cllr Short for arranging the replacement trees due to be planted in front of the Orpen Hall and to former village warden, David Hewitt, for organising the swift repair of Bluebells garage roof following Storm Eunice.

  • Beacon Lighting for the Queen’s Jubilee – Cllr Short will be dealing with the beacon lighting ceremony, security on the night, publicity and arranging for someone from the village to have the honour of lighting it.

ACTION – Clerk to register the beacon lighting with the Pageant Master

ACTION – Cllr Short asked for anyone with spare pallets to contact him for use on the night.

  • Village Sign – Storm damage has snapped the village sign post where the post was secured in the ground. Have made enquiries about getting a post made in steel, to avoid the issues of wood rot which had clearly hastened the failure of the current post. When replaced the sign will be mounted slightly differently, although the Council will want it up before the Jubilee celebrations in June. The Council has approached the Borough Councillors for a donation towards the repairs from their locality budget.

ACTION – The Environment Committee will look at various options and take this forward.

b)       To agree the planting of 4 ornamental pear trees (Pyrus calleryana chanticleer) to the front of the Orpen Memorial Hall to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy.

The previous trees to the front of the Orpen Memorial Hall, ornamental cherries, had to be removed due to disease and damage. The Environment Committee discussed several different replacement tree options and consulted on these with the Gardner’s Club amongst others, and ultimately recommended 4 ornamental pear trees as the preferred choice. The trees will be planted in readiness for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with plaques indicating the various sponsors:

  • West Bergholt Gardener’s Association
  • West Bergholt Allotment Committee
  • Oak View Landscapes Ltd
  • Orpen Memorial Hall Trust

Cllr Short is liaising with Oak View, which is sourcing the trees and planting them. Their tree will also bear a dedication to Mrs Jakki Jenner, a longstanding member of Oak View staff who first approached the Council will the offer of a tree, but sadly passed away recently. Jakki also assisted the Neighbourhood Planning Steering Group in recent years.

RESOLVED – Cllr Short proposed to agree the planting of 4 ornamental pear trees to the front of the Orpen Memorial Hall. Cllr Stone seconded. All in favour.

22/30           Council Documents

To review and ratify West Bergholt Parish Council’s:

  • Health & Safety Policy
  • Lone Workers Policy
  • Risk Management Scheme
  • Publication Scheme
  • Tree Removal & Replacement Policy

Proposed minor amendments had already been circulated to members, these were briefly discussed and agreed by members.

RESOLVED – Cllr Stevenson proposed to ratify the policies, seconded by Cllr Butcher. All in favour.

ACTION – Clerk to make minor amendments and then send to webmaster.

22/31           Training/Networking Events

To note & receive feedback from the training/networking undertaken during the last month by Councillors or the Clerk.

  • Roles & Responsibilities – CS – 8th Feb
    Good course on the roles (Clerk, Chairman, RFO) and statutory responsibilities of a council.
  • Introduction to Planning Briefing – JF – 23rd Feb
    Cllr already aware of much of this course anyway due to his day job, however it did help refresh Planning to him from a PC level.

22/32           Items to Note

  1. Crime statistics – 17th Jan – 2022, 2 crimes reported. (theft of lead and damage to telephone pole)
  2. Meeting with Heathlands School – 8th Feb 2022 – Have already established a good relationship with the new headteacher, would like to continue the periodic meetings, on a quarterly basis hopefully. The head has shown an interest in the Neighbourhood Plan and has highlighted some of the items in the action plan where the school could get involved with. There is due to be a meeting on the 16th March with the County and Borough Councillors, Nick Hill (ECC School Travel Plan Co-ordinator) and local residents to discuss to the issues around travel to school and parking. There are approximately 400 children on the roll at the school, with 60% living in the village.

22/33           Methodist Chapel

To discuss and agree how the PC might respond to the opportunity to express renewed interest in the sale of the Methodist Chapel and Hall, now that the PC has been informed by Boydens that these properties are back on the market following the original purchaser dropping out of the sale.

Cllr Stevenson had previously circulated a Methodist Church and Hall Options Paper (see link) to members prior to the meeting. He informed those present that the Council had previously expressed an interest in the sale, when the price was reduced from £420,000 to £350,000, however that offer (heavily caveated and subject to contract and financing) was unsuccessful. The guide price has now reduced further to £300,000. The PC does not have funding to purchase the buildings and the Council would need a Public Works Loan. Since writing the Options paper the Chairman has heard from Boydens, who reported that there is active interest at present with the Methodists considering a number of bids, although the organisation has an extensive governance procedure before announcing a successful purchaser). Boydens are optimistic that this long running sale would shortly be coming to an end.

Cllr Stevenson then invited members to give their thoughts on the Options Paper and on the options themselves:

  1. Do nothing at all: effectively where we are at present. In time the buildings will be sold and then the PC may be able to comment on their use if a Planning Application changes their use outside of the existing use class order.
  2. Hold a stage one consultation with the public to establish the appetite for acquisition, establish the principle of the precept rising by an appreciable amount. Such a consultation could also help update the uses that were put forward by the open days held in 2020.
  3. Further research.  Carry out further research to see whether there would be a principal tenant available, which may be able to assist with running costs and maybe capital contributions to the principal sum. Also establish what can be afforded via the PWL for initial upgrades outside the purchase costs.
  4. Put forward a bid. Subject to the original caveats in previous letters.

He also sought comments from the residents present. One resident asked what was wrong with the current facilities at the Orpen Hall, but it was explained to him that there is no availability during the day as Bluebells Preschool use it throughout. Another was very worried about the proposal, expressing concern about the previous consultation, questioning if it was truly meaningful, stating that residents need the full facts and specific costs (not just general costs). Cllr Stevenson explained that this first consultation will merely be a temperature check, just giving residents the opportunity to discuss this unique site. Only when feedback showed that there was interest from the community would any bid be made and this would be subject to a Public Works Loan application which would necessitate a further consultation with details of the likely precept rise for residents. Such a bid and loan application would take a lot of work so it was important to establish the appetite for this venture by consulting on the principle first.

Cllr Tyrrell wanted to include the Hopkins development land in the scope of the consultation and wished for an amendment to the proposal to include “consideration of other developments”

Voting took place on the amendment but was defeated by 9 votes to 1. The amendment having failed, the meeting then reverted to voting on the original options proposed above. It was decided that options b) & c) be considered as one option.

RESOLVED – Options b) & c) were proposed by Cllr Stevenson, seconded by Cllr Fayers. The proposal was then carried by 7 votes to 3.

ACTION –The Council will carry out a stage one consultation and further research

ACTION – Council will go back to the QS for up-to-date costs, but also seek a range of quotes including incremental improvements to the building.

22/34           Items for the next agenda – 23rd March 2022

No items at present.

22/35           In Committee

Matters taken in the absence of Press and Public (Public (Admissions to Meetings) Act 1960) as the item contains exempt information as defined by the Local Government Act 1972 Sch. 12a Pt (1).

Nothing for discussion in committee this month

22/36           Date of Next Meeting

The next meeting of the Parish Council will be held on Wednesday 23rd March 2022 at 7.30pm in the John Lampon Hall.

Meeting closed at 9.55 pm

Signed:                            Date:                     Position on Council:

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