WIDMER END RESIDENTS’ ASSOCIATION UNCONFIRMED MINUTES
of the WERA AGM held on Wednesday July 4 2018 in the Meeting Room of the Church of the Good Shepherd Present: Linda Derrick (Chairman), Ian Guy (Secretary), Beryl Guy, John Hatt, Barry Hughes, David Lisi, Glenda Lisi, Ann McCarthy, Hugh McCarthy, Alastair Nicholson, Carole Odell, Shona Tucker, Catherine Wetherell and David Winterburn.
1. INTRODUCTION AND WELCOMEACTION
The Chairman welcomed all those present to the 2018 AGM of the Widmer End Residents’ Association.
2. APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies had been received from David Carroll, Daniel Fairless, Peter Gieler, Jasia Hatt, Hugh McCarthy (who arrived later), John Marchant, Paul Nicholls and Pauline Smith.
3. GUEST SPEAKER: ALASTAIR NICHOLSON
The Chairman welcomed Alastair Nicholson to the meeting. Alastair is Development Manager at Wycombe District Council's Planning Department, and as such is in overall charge of planning applications from their initial reception to final acceptance or rejection.
AN explained how the Council's treatment of applications was subject to a huge number of considerations which had to be balanced in order to steer a path to an appropriate conclusion. The planning approval system is based on the postwar Town and Country Planning Act, last revised in 1990. In recent years the planning process has been subject to an overwhelming number of guidelines, regulations and principles, some stemming from government directives while others are of more local origin. Views of Parish Councils, statutory authorities, neighbours and the general public have also to be taken into account.
The National Planning Policy Framework outlines the general principles to be followed and states that there should be a presumption in favour of development. A growing number of development types, such as converting offices to housing, are now classed as permitted development, which means they can be actioned without needing planning permission from the council. However, the council will still need to be informed of such a development.
There are over 50 types of planning permission, ranging from 'outline' – a general description of overall intent – to 'full' – detailed plans of every alteration to the esisting setup. Retrospective planning permission is granted – or refused – to developments that have already been undertaken. Applications may also refer to non-material minor amendments, or to variations in planning conditions that were imposed in an earlier application – for example, a shopkeeper may want to extend his opening hours.
WDC's Planning Committee is there to provide a scrutinising role. Applications that are obvious approvals or refusals are dealt with by officers. Those in the grey area in the middle go to the Planning Committee simply because the balancing of the issues is never easy.
Planning decisions have to take into account the National Planning Policy Guidance (NPPG), which states that any decision should be reasonable, unbiased, in harmony with any precedents and based on evidence. Full reasons must be given for refusal. Applications, together with associated documents such as consultee comments and public objections, can be seen online via Public Access.
Any decision is open to appeal. There are three main types of appeal: written, hearing before an inspector, or a full Public Inquiry. A government inquiry into inquiries is scheduled!
In reply to a question about traffic congestion caused by inadequate parking facilities at new developments, AN said that it is very difficult to set standards in a commercial development. Public transport was in decline, so private cars were increasing in number and use and were also getting bigger. A balance has to be struck, but where?
LD thanked Alastair for a most informative, candid and thought-provoking description of the WDC planning process.
4. MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS AGM (5th July 2017)
The minutes had been provisionally approved at the WERA meeting of 6th September 2017. Copies had been circulated and the minutes were now confirmed as a true record and were signed by the Chairman.
5. MATTERS ARISING
War memorial – AM spoke on a question that had been raised at a previous residents' meeting: should there be a memorial in Widmer End to those who had died serving their country in the two world wars? She said there used to be a tablet inside the Church of the Good Shepherd, but it had been taken down during refurbishment and no-one knew where it now was. An article had appeared on Widmer End News [ISSUE?] If there was enough enthusiasm from our residents, and if enough knowledge could be obtained about the people whose names should go on the memorial, it might be possible to reinstate it, either inside or outside the Church or at the Village Hall. HM suggested setting up a fund for this purpose.
Roadside trees (post-meeting note) – Hugh McCarthy had reported at an earlier meeting a positive response from both WDC and local residents to the idea of planting trees on verges and other green areas, provided the initial money was available and the maintenance costs low. Residents should be prepared to 'adopt' a tree, which mainly means watering it as necessary until the tree has become established. Support from HPC was being pursued.
6. CHAIRMAN’S REPORT
Linda Derrick's report is given below:
“As Chairman, I represent the views of WERA through the year. This report is my only opportunity to say publicly what I think. So I am going to use the opportunity to talk about some issues which have been apparent for some time and I think need addressing. I will talk for about 15 minutes and then I am happy to take questions or comments.
I started thinking about this report when I was walking the dog last week. And three things stood out.
First, we have rather more residents involved than previously. This is good. I think it’s much better having a lot of people doing a bit rather than a small group of people doing a lot.
Second, we aren’t getting the support we need from the statutory bodies who should support us - the county council, district council, parish council, police - with some honourable exceptions.
Third, on too many occasions there has been a total lack of response when committee members of WERA have contacted councillors and officials asking for help and comment.
So last week I e-mailed the leaders of the County Council, District Council and Parish Council telling them this. I copied my e-mail to Councillors David Carroll, who is both our county and district councillor, Steven Broadbent and Audrey Jones, our other district councilors, and Stan Jones who represents Widmer End on the Parish Council.
I said the lack of response was unprofessional and showed a lack of respect to residents who work hard through WERA and other organisations to make Widmer End a pleasant and safe place to live. I said it was not acceptable. I gave some examples of where this had happened and asked for a response. I haven’t had one yet.
Perhaps you could keep this in mind as I report on the issues WERA has addressed this year. I’m going to cover a lot quickly.
WERA commented on a revised Wycombe Local Plan, particularly about the developments at Terriers Farm and Glynswood.
I will represent WERA at the formal Public Examination of the plan in two weeks.
We copied all the correspondence widely. No response. We asked if the Parish Council would be appearing at the Examination. No response. [Post-meeting note: They will.]
We put our concerns to WDC about a retrospective planning application on Windmill Lane. We thought the out-buildings put up by a resident were completely inappropriate for AONB land. WDC’s Planning Committee agreed with us but unfortunately the Planning Inspector didn’t. .
We wrote to the Chief Executive of WDC asking if it could review the decision-making process. Two days later, we received a comprehensive reply from an official in WDC’s Planning Department. We may not have liked what he said but no-one could fault him on his promptness and thoroughness. Moreover, he volunteered to talk to us about the wider issues – an invitation which we took up. We are very grateful for his doing that and for coming tonight. He is indeed one of the honourable exceptions.
We were thanked for raising these concerns by Councillor Broadbent, the Chair of WDC’s Planning Committee and the Cabinet member for Planning.
We asked WDC about the movement of mobile homes at Field Farm. We had a rapid response; a WDC official visited the Farm and reported back to reassure us that there were still only three mobile homes there.
We have concerns about a planning application in Cryers Hill Lane. We asked our district councillors to ensure the application goes to WDC’s Planning Committee if necessary and the Parish Council has been asked for comments. No response.
Transport and Roads
We continue to consider Section 106 money. This money came to Widmer End in order to mitigate the impact of the Wellesbourne development, to be spent mainly on traffic calming improvements. Last year, some of the money was spent on bollards at the entry to Estcourt Drive to make it safer for the children attending Widmer End School.
Widmer End now has about £10k of S 106 money left and we have written to Councillor Shaw, the Cabinet member for Transport on BCC, to seek clarification about this money. Our concern is that, if we have to agree to a feasibility study for spending the money, we may have no money to actually do the work. Councillor Shaw has said he will look into this.
S106 money was previously spent on red safety markings at the junction of North Road and Cryers Hill Lane. When the road was resurfaced in October last year, the red markings were not replaced. John Marchant has been chasing TfB for months about this and has finally got confirmation that the markings will be restored. However, there is no date for this. This case too has been put to Councillor Shaw.
The police constable responsible for organising Speedwatch in our patch was moved to other duties during the year, with no replacement planned. So Speedwatch has been suspended indefinitely. I don’t think there is anything we can do about this. It is a result of cuts to the police budget.
The Mobile Vehicle Activated Signs at the side of the road continue to be maintained and moved by residents (6 of them now), supervised by John.
Residents have concerns about the bridleway leading up to Grange farm. Tenants on WDC-owned land adjacent to the bridleway are, to put it simply, destroying the bridleway and its hedgerows with heavy traffic.
In April, a WDC official visited the bridleway with John Marchant, Hugh and myself. We thought the official agreed to some remedial actions which Hugh put in writing. No response. Hugh asked for a progress report and asked our district councillors for help. No response.
On the same visit, we discussed flooding on the land. We understood WDC would consider planting trees to help reduce the flooding, but again no response, despite chasing the official and district councillors.
WERA has been keen to plant more trees in Widmer End, which needs co-operation between BCC, WDC, HPC, WERA and other organisations – and residents. So Hugh and I were delighted when we went to a meeting of HPC to find councillors were enthusiastic about what WERA wanted to do, agreed to financially support our project in principle and enthusiastically agreed that HPC would work with WERA on a collaborative basis.
HPC however apparently changed its mind. The Clerk wrote to tell us this is WERA’s project; there would be no joint working; and we would be expected to do all the work in getting an application to HPC in September. Only at that point would HPC decide whether to take up the responsibility for maintenance and insurance of the trees. I have told HPC I am not prepared to do the work on that basis. No response.
I wrote some weeks ago to a WDC official and Councillor Carroll asking for help about the repeated illegal dumping of rubbish on a field at Four Ashes owned by Beeks Ltd, a Wycombe construction company. The field borders land owned by Hughenden Parish Council and is the site of a large bonfire event organised by the Round table. I copied the email widely. No response.
We reported the pavement along North Road (from Grange Road to Widmer Farm) to BCC as uneven and dangerous. BCC has said it does not need repair.
We reported blocked drains on Primrose Hill to BCC. BCC said “the defect does not currently meet the criteria for immediate intervention”.
Finally, one good news. We have kept an eye on the garages on Georges’ Hill and reported them to WDC as the lintels looked about to collapse. A WDC official inspected the garages and the garages have been made safe.
We did a litter pick in May, the fence in the amenity field on Primrose Hill has been replaced, and the nettles in the footpath between North Road and the recreation ground have been cut.
We reported our concerns about a resident’s care provided by Chiltern Support to the Care Quality Commission and things improved.
We revised our constitution taking advice from WDC’s Head of Planning.
We tried to deal with complaints between dog walkers and the tenant of Grange Farm. However, complaints have escalated and are now with the police.
We considered a complaint about ball games on Candytuft Green and the changes in funding by HPC of the playground at the Village Hall.
We agreed to contribute to a defibrillator, high-visibility vests for the school, plants for the barrels outside the shops on Georges Hill and eggs for the Easter Hunt.
We jointly organised the Christmas event with the Church of the Good Shepherd.
We asked HPC about an Afro-Caribbean festival held on the football grounds at Four Ashes, which are owned by HPC.
We had a presentation about Street Association and about Neighbourhood Watch. We need more volunteers for both.
We sent a letter about the proposed closure of the Childrens’ Centres to Katrina Wood, the County Councillor covering the nearest children’s centre at Hazlemere. The library is co-located and may also be affected. No response.
We put in for the Best Kept Village Competition; didn’t win but are trying again.
We have agreed to support the Parish Council in celebrating its 125th birthday.
We put our views on the unification of the councils in Bucks to the relevant Minister.
And last but by no means least, we continued to publish and distribute the Widmer End newsletter. Without it, residents would not know what we have been up to.
To sum up – we have covered a vast amount. I would like to thank all the WERA committee members for staying the course, for all their hard work and for making the meetings constructive and inclusive.
Thanks also to two residents who aren’t committee members – John Marchant who has done so much work on road safety and Pauline Densham whose legal research has helped us argue for the better protection of the environment at Terriers Farm.
It would be nice if I could end there. But we need to address the lack of help we get from our county and district councillors. To put it plainly, our councillors are not pulling their weight.
The slack, to put it equally plainly, is taken up by Hugh McCarthy. Hugh does not represent Widmer End on WDC; he represents Hazlemere North. But he is providing WERA with support we should be getting from his colleagues - Councillors Jones, Broadbent and Carroll.
Enormous thanks from me for the support that Hugh gives us. However, my message is that his colleagues should give him a rest and take over the work which they should be doing.
Oddly enough, we have a similar position on HPC. We should have four councillors living in and representing Widmer End on HPC. We have one councillor living in Widmer End who has declined to attend WERA meetings or communicate with us.
The slack here has been taken up by Councillor Stan Jones. I have already thanked Stan at HPC’s AGM. I would like to repeat my thanks to Stan for his stepping into the breach and being our lifeline to HPC. My message to your colleagues is similar to that for Hugh. We need your parish colleagues to actively engage with WERA.
The Conservative Leader of the Local Authority Association said yesterday that “After eight years of austerity, during which £16bn had been stripped from municipal budgets in England, councils risked being damaged beyond recognition and communities depleted of vital services”.
Things are going to get worse. So we need our councillors to step up.”
7. TREASURER’S REPORT
Copies of the income and expenditure account summarising the 12 months to March 2018 in comparison with the figures for March 2017 were available to attendees. Total funds available at 31 March 2018 were £7468.81, as against £6890.73 for 31 March 2017.
Also available were copies of the I&E statements for April, May and June 2018. Figures for 30th June were:
Current account £4896.88 Deposit account £3131.71 Total £8028.59
A vote of thanks to our treasurer, Jasia Hatt, was expressed.
8. REPORTS FROM COUNTY, DISTRICT AND PARISH COUNCILLORS
David Carroll was unable to be present, but had added the following to his note of apology, which IG read to the meeting:
“Firstly, I would like to make some comments on resurfacing the roads, e.g. Primrose Hill and Brimmers Hill. I have been informed that the red resurfacing for speed calming in North road will be done later in the year by Transport for Bucks and has been prioritised.
On the planning side, the White House Farm application is still pending awaiting amended plans. Going on to changes in Local Government in Bucks, the Minister will make a decision in due course that will then be a major change.
It gives me an opportunity to look back on when I became a Councillor 25 years ago in this area. I always remember the advice my mother gave me many years ago to not be negative and critical because people will walk away from you. I have worked with many residents on challenges in our area, which has been very positive. In the last District elections I got the biggest majority in Wycombe and at the last County elections I got one of the biggest in May last year. The biggest test for anyone is to stand for office and I take those results as a massive indication that the residents have confidence in me. So can I thank all the residents for their support over the years. I think the new change in the Council structures will be a game changer for a lot of councillors.”
9. ELECTION OF NEW COMMITTEE
A note attached to the agenda for the meeting listed the fourteen elected and co-opted members of the 2017-18 committee, nine of whom were entitled to continue their committee membership while the other five were standing down but were eligible for reelection. There had been no change in committee membership since the 2017 AGM.
A proposal was made, and carried, to re-elect the latter five en bloc. The committee for 2018-19 therefore comprises the following members:
Gavin Blundell, Linda Derrick*. Daniel Fairless, Beryl Guy*, Ian Guy*, Jasia Hatt, John Hatt, Ann McCarthy*, Hugh McCarthy*, Carole Odell, Pauline Smith, Shona Tucker, Marianne Tyler and Catherine Wetherell.
The asterisked names are those who are entitled to continue in office at next year’s AGM, although some adjustment will need to be made before then (preferably at the June 2019 meeting and involving a IG lot-drawing process) to conform with the constitutional requirement that half the committee membership have this entitlement.
Positions on the new committee would be decided at a meeting to follow the AGM.
10. ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Local Plan examination – LD confirmed she would be representing WERA at the forthcoming inquiry. Her emphasis would be on building new communities rather than faceless and dreary housing estates.
Concluding the meeting, Linda thanked everyone for attending and for their support over the past year.
APPENDIX:ASSIGNMENT OF POSITIONS ON THE COMMITTEE
The re-elected committee met immediately after the AGM and agreed on the following positions:
Chairman Linda Derrick Vice Chairman Catherine Wetherell Secretary Ian Guy Treasurer Jasia Hatt Newsletter Editor Catherine Wetherell Other members Gavin Blundell Daniel Fairless Beryl Guy John Hatt Ann McCarthy Hugh McCarthy Carole Odell Pauline Smith Shona Tucker Marianne Tyler