Draft minutes of the meeting of Withiel Parish Council

Wednesday, 7th December 2013 at 7.15 pm

 

140-13 Attendance: Cllr Coy (Honorary Clerk), Cllr Harper, Cllr Kirkby, Cllr Malone, Cllr Nott-Bower, Cllr Shearer, Cllr Thomas (Chairman). County Councillor Chris Batters, plus three members of the public.

141-13  Members declaration of interest and any requests for dispensations – none.

142-13   Apologies for absence – none

143-13    Invitation for members of the public to address the meeting – none

The Chairman invited Cllr Batters to deliver his report first.

Cllr Batters said the planning application for the second Varcoe wind turbine had been withdrawn for reasons to do with noise issues. They had been unable to supply the necessary noise details to Cornwall Council. They may well be coming back, possibly looking to resite it, or with a different size of wind turbine.

Cllr Malone asked whether it was true that if a landowner had two turbines, that constituted a wind farm for which a benefit was due to the community.

Cllr Batters asked how close it was to the first turbine?

Cllr Kirkby said it was very close and produced a map showing their proximity.

Cllr Batters said that could be a reason why they wanted to resite it and asked for an email of the map.

Cllr Harper said they had changed firms, which could have caused the delay.

Cllr Thomas said that incidentally, work was to begin on laying the cables to support the Kerriers solar farm.

Cllr Coy said this was an issue of great concern because they proposed to close the road for three months.

Cllr Malone asked how they intended to cool the cable if it was laid underground? The hotter the cable, the greater the resistance and the less electricity was delivered; this would not concern the solar park owners because they were paid for what they generated, not what they delivered. It was agreed that the road closure issue would be discussed separately.

Cllr Batters has emphasised Withiel Parish Council’s concern over Varcoe II, which has been reinforced with an expression of concern from the parish council via the Honorary Clerk Cllr Coy.

Philip and Ann Cardew had attended the last meeting of Withiel Parish Council to speak about ‘white noise’ in their house. He had spoken to Councillor Mark Casmarek (?) who as well as being a Councillor was a leading authority on mining. He had known similar ‘drumming’ noises in Camborne and Redruth where it was thought to be from mining but had been found to be coming from the South West Water pipes, which are pressurised by powerful pumps. If these pumps run roughly, the vibration and noise can carry for miles not just through the pipes but through the granite. It was known that there was a SW Water main going through Withiel. Philip and Ann Cardew had been informed of this, and Mrs Cardew had been on to SW Water to begin the process of tracing the problem. Cllr Batters said he would assist the Cardews if they ran into further problems.

In response to a question from Cllr Thomas as to whether he would be moving into Cornwall Council’s new £15 million building in Bodmin, Cllr Batters said it would eventually be a true saving because the maintenance costs of the old offices were excessive and there were other problems such as asbestos.

Cllr Harper asked whether the Wadebridge offices would be closed down. Cllr Batters said they would not be.

 

144-13     To approve the minutes of the meeting of 6 November 2013

Cllr Thomas read through the minutes, which were approved and signed.

The figures for possible income to the Parish from the St Breock Downs wind farms were discussed. Cllr Malone said that while high estimates had been mooted, there were variables which governed how much of our money we got back, not least of which was how hard the wind blew. Cllr Thomas said the lead organisation WREN – Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network – would get its money before anyone else. Cllr Nott-Bower said WREN was already £17,000 in debt. The last WREN meeting had been somewhat fractious, with people asking where the money was going and asking for more transparency in the accounts.

 

145-13      Matters arising from the minutes of 6 November 2013.

Cllr Malone said some good may ensue if the new road being driven across the downs from the Halfway Inn to the wind farm in order to get the turbines in was left passable after the event in order to allow large agricultural machines into the valley. Currently combines and other big plant could not get to certain farms because of choke points on the roads all around. It was agreed to raise this matter with REG Windpower. Action: Cllr Malone.

 

146-13      Virement of funds between budget heads.

This is a financial housekeeping matter. When money is allocated to one heading, such as the clerk’s salary payments, it cannot simply be moved to another heading if there is an underspend without formal process. The precept is based on the amount of money required for certain tasks and purposes, and money cannot be switched from one heading to another without there being a physical record in the minutes to show where and why it had been moved.

Cllr Coy said as an example, there was more money under the clerk’s salary and expenses heading than we were likely to use this year for that purpose. If it was to be used this year, it would have to be formally vired into another budget heading. He said the budget heading 137 Donations, the ‘free resource’, could benefit from underspend elsewhere. Other possible places were advertising and possibly footpaths.

Cllr Kirkby suggested the repair of the notice board could be funded if the underspend was vired to ‘repairs and renewals’.

Cllr Coy proposed that the Treasurer, Cllr Kirkby, look at how much the underspend was likely to be, with discretion to move it into 137 Donations, advertising, and repairs & renewals.

Cllr Shearer said there as a problem with the identifier disks for the footpaths. Cornwall Council has informed her that while the disks are available free of charge and anyone can put them up, the posts to which some of them are nailed can only be installed by persons who are trained in the use of an underground services detector.

Cllr Thomas said he was not aware of any missing posts. He thought we only had one post, which he believed was in place.

Cllr Malone suggested the disks be nailed to anything but a newly-installed post, such as a gatepost, a tree or whatever was available.

Reverting to the original premise of the minute, Cllr Thomas said that while the council had budgeted £400 for the election, the actual cost had been £950. Where did the £550 come from? We had to say formally we’d take the £550 from one head into another.

Cllr Thomas said it looked like the council would have £800 to £1,000 left over at the end of the financial year. In his view, he said, it was politically unsound to carry that money forward. In the January meeting a decision would have to be made on what to spend that money on.

Cllr Malone asked why it could not be used to reduce taxes.

Cllr Thomas said the council had already set the precept.

Cllr Coy said the risk assessment would reveal that our current reserve of £1,600 was inadequate, because we ought to have 50 percent of the precept in reserve. Therefore when the risk assessment had to be considered, there would be a funding implication. This would absorb the projected surplus.

He said we were here to put the council on a proper financial footing, which meant a proper reserve was required.

Cllr Nott Bower suggested the surplus be used to buy a pallet of road salt. Cllr Kirkby said she would be able to get such a thing at short notice.

Cllr Thomas said the first job was to decide on the virement in order to tidy up the budget headings. He suggested that moving to the next heading, Finance, might improve focus.

 

147-13    Finance

Cllr Coy said the precept documents had been settled and would be posted before the deadline of December 31st. He said the Parish Council had received a letter from Cornwall County Council giving us £347.50 out of a national government fund.

Cllr Malone asked what strings were attached.

Cllr Coy said he thought there were none; government had released money to relieve hardship. More details to come.

Cllr Thomas asked whether the invoice to the County Council for footpaths had been settled. Cllr Coy said settlement was awaited.

Cllr Malone asked whether if money was vired into the ‘free resource’ head it would be possible to use it in a more flexible manner.

Cllr Thomas said free resource was a limited sum of money which could be used for something that was not a budget head.

Cllr Malone said the free resource limit was fixed at £6.15 per elector in 2009 with an RPI consideration. Withiel currently has 288 electors, meaning about £1800 could be allocated to free resource.

Cllr Thomas suggested expenditure could be discussed when we looked at what came out of the Public Forum on November 12th. Returning to the 2014 precept, he suggested minor changes to the figures to reflect his recollection of the debate at the last meeting; in total the sum of £45 was reallocated to make the precept figure £4,991.

Cll Thomas said that if we get £35,000 from the Kerriers solar park it may move us into a more expensive audit regime.

Cllr Coy said he had established that this was not the case. Next year, he said, the cost of audit would be £75.

Cllr Thomas said there was a consultation on the external audit because of the demise of the Audit Commission. It had not yet been decided how it would be done, and there may be a cost implication for Withiel.

 

148-13     Renewable Energy Landscape Planning

Cllr Coy had attended a workshop on landscape guidance as it pertained it development issues, and there were many interesting and positive aspects to it, he said. There were 36 separate points of assessment of the landscape character of Cornwall. We are just in the Camel Valley one. Cllr Coy said those present had worked on a sample document which gave the key landscape characteristics, posed a lot of questions and arrived at a landscape sensitivity value. At the end, a matrix helps you decide whether the area is more or less sensitive than the surrounding area. Using the landscape sensitivity assessment, a rating was arrived at using a key.

One question was whether a proposed development fit the landscape strategy. The landscape strategy describes wind turbines as very small, small, medium and large. The Drake turbine overlooking Withiel, for instance, is described as ‘small’ whereas many might think a 60-metre tower with a turbine on top of it could not accurately be described as small. Using the example of six 100-metre turbines, they demonstrated during the exercise how the assessed sensitivity of the area would affect the acceptability of that development. The value of this system, said Cllr Coy, was to allow you to quantify what was otherwise an subjective assessment. It allows us to read the piece written by the landscape officer on the development application and comment on it in accordance with the rules.

The rules are out for consultation and have to be commented upon by December 20th. Cllr Coy said one of his comments would be that the height of the turbines is out of kilter, and the definition ‘small’ was questionable.

Cllr Kirkby asked whether it took into account the fact that it was on top of a hill and therefore more intrusive. Cllr Coy said all relevant factors were included.

All councillors are to receive the CD containing all the documents.

Some 50 people had attended the workshop, Cllr Coy said, all of them fed up with turbines, and this was seen as another way to fight the problem.

At the end of the process you are allowed to assess the ‘cumulative impact’ of multiple turbines. There was a process for quantifying this.

Cllr Malone said that when the issue of cumulative impact had been brought up during the fight against the Drake and Piper turbines, Cornwall Council’s lean man on this issue had said that as long as turbines were not within 500 metres of each other there was no issue of cumulative impact. This man had left soon afterwards to join a wind turbine company.

Cllr Coy said we could argue that the rules on cumulative impact were inadequate and ought to be changed. He suggested that after looking at the CD we have an email conference and decide on a Parish Council response at a meeting before the 20th.

 

149-13     Planning  –PA13/10289.  Proposed extension to provide a new Utility Room with shower room on ground floor and additional bedroom with en-suite at first floor level and construction of a conservatory to south elevation. Churchtown Farm, Withiel, Mr and Mrs J Rundle.

Cllr Harper said the area was designated for housing in the original parish plan.

Cllr Thomas said it was it was in keeping with the area.

Cllr Kirkby said it didn’t overlook anyone and she had no concerns over it.

Cllr Coy said Churchtown Farm was not a listed building.

Councillors agreed to support the application.

 

150-13     PlanningPA13/10049 Partial change of use to include A3 restaurant, Bamber House, Victoria. Mrs Sharon Hughes.

Cllr Coy said this was the old Bambers tile shop, and the application was for a partial change of use to a sit-in restaurant and café.

Council agreed to support the application.

 

151-13     Lawellen Lane Bridge

Cllr Shearer said Cornwall Council officers had visited the site to finalise details of the structure for the new foundations for the bridge. The new location for the bridge is some 50 metres further downstream. A meeting had been arranged with Mr Skelding in the hope of agreeing details, and within a few weeks an order would be placed with the bridge supplier. There was a six to eight week delivery period. The footpath would go a little further through the De Rougement’s field at Tregawne, and Cllr Shearer said the change posed no problem either to them or to the Skeldings.

Regarding the waymarker disks, councillors agreed to nail up the disks in their own areas.

Cllr Shearer asked whether we could have a footpath map for the public.

Cllr Thomas said we could probably get an up-to-date map from the County Council.

Cllr Shearer said it she would be happy to dress up the map to make it more attractive and informative.

Cllr Kirkby suggested it be put in the back of the bus shelter to brighten it up.

Cllr Thomas suggested Cllr Shearer start by obtaining footpath maps from the county council and sketch an outline for the next meeting.

Cllr Thomas said the post at the Saints Way kissing gate on Clarence Rundle’s land was broken and requested that Cllr Shearer ask the County Council to replace the post. (The Saints Way is a County Council concern).

 

152/153-13     Road Conditions

Cllr Thomas suggested this item be rolled up with item 153-13, Feedback from the Public Forum, because a lot of people at the Forum commented on the poor condition of the road, the lack of passing places, and the absence of salt and grit bins.

Cllr Harper said the practical provision of passing places was often a quite simple matter of taking hedges back, but Cllr Kirkby said it was complicated by issues of ownership and liability.

Cllr Thomas said that County Councillor Batters had told him that if we approach Cormac and they were unable to do the work, we might be able to do it ourselves, to their specification. The main complaint is Whitehay Hill, and Withiel Hill – where there is a passing place on the latter, the surface is gone and people are going onto soft ground.

He added that when the new service station on the A30 opened, people attracted to the facilities there would mean an increase in traffic on Whitehay Hill.

Cllr Coy said there had been specific complaints about the condition of the road from Butterfly Cottage towards Withiel. Damage was caused by surface water, and major drainage work would be required.

Cllr Shearer agreed to take photographs of the damage on that section for passing via Cllr Batters to Cormac.

Cllr Coy said diversions proposed for the solar park at Kerriers would put more pressure on roads that were in bad condition, and emphasise further the lack of passing places.

Cllr Thomas said some people had suggested we needed salt bins on the hills. We could buy bins, and salt from Cormac. Possibly we could start with three – one at the top of Withiel Hill, one on Whitehay Hill, and one on the short steep hill going up from the river towards Bosneives.

Cllr Kirkby said it cost about £300 for relatively small bins. The salt had to be kept dry.

Cllr Thomas said he would talk to Cormac and find out what the cost would be. We would also need to have somewhere to store salt and grit. He would also talk about the practicalities of providing passing places.

 

154-13     Correspondence

Cllr Coy said we were being consulted over the relaxation of entertainment licensing, which would reduce requirements for everything other than alcohol. Withiel Parish Council has no comment.

A letter had been received from Lady Mary Holborow as patron of Cornwall Air Ambulance inviting us to make a contribution to the charity. Cllr Malone undertook to examine the accounts.

PCSO Lloyd Paynter had written to say there had been no recorded crime in the last month. Fly tipping remains an issue. PC Paynter requests that if anyone sees an offender, take a registration number and let him know.

The Parish has received notification of intention to issue a temporary road closure order, running from December 16th to March 7th, shutting road from Kerriers to Tremore crossroads and all the way down to the old A30. This was in order to put in the power cable for the solar park at Kerriers. Cllr Coy had asked why they needed three months, but was told they had to get a closure order for the whole period of the work, even though they may temporarily unclose it during that time.

A number of people would be seriously inconvenienced by this. Cllr Coy had suggested to the company that they make the opening and closing information available on a website.

Cllr Harper asked what other parishes thought about it, as most of it lay outside Withiel. He thought it better to be shut piecemeal to minimise inconvenience.

The closure map is to be placed on the noticeboard and the Withiel website. Cllr Coy was asked to write to the company seeking more details and to contact the County Council ensuring that they were aware of the problems.

 

A letter had been received from Cornwall Council saying that government cuts had led them to cease general weed treatment, although they would continue to treat injurious weeds such as ragwort and Japanese knotweed. The Parish Council was invited to do the work at its own expense. Cllr Coy was asked to request information from the County Council on what work had been done in Withiel Parish in previous years.

 

155-13    Invitation to members of the public to address the meeting… none

 

Cllr Thomas raised the issue of motorcycles in Ruthernbridge. The previous council debated long and hard and did a good job on this issue. There are two sites, one in the field owned by Henry Harper, the other in the woods where ownership cannot be established. Motorcycles come from all over Cornwall to Cork Farm Woods and there have been numerous complaints about the noise. The Environment Agency, the police, Mr Harper and the Parish Council laid down a policy and it was agreed that Henry could run the motorcycles 14 days a year and if there were further complaints they should be directed to the Environment Agency. Cork Farm Woods are in Lanivet Parish and although there is a nuisance towards Withiel.

Cllr Thomas said that as far as he was concerned the Council had done everything it could do and there was a procedure in place for people to complain to the Environment Agency. Coming back to the Council and complaining would do no good as the Council had done everything it could. The Environment Agency had been down there on Sundays and had tested the sound levels and they don’t breach legal levels. Police have looked at the site and have said they can take no action.

Cllr Thomas said that if people wanted to complain they should stand up and do so openly. It was down to the complainants to get in touch with the Environment Agency.

Cllr Kirkby asked whether Lanivet Council had adopted the same position of telling people to contact the Environment Agency.

Cllr Coy expressed his annoyance at the continuing nuisance which he said was very irritating, particularly as the people who create the nuisance were careless of the law, driving their motorbikes in an unroadworthy condition now only in the woods but up and down the road without number plates. The majority arrived in white vans which block the road but many do not, and some came and went via the Camel Trail, where no motor vehicles were allowed.

Cllr Kirkby asked whether Lanivet Parish Council had a view.

Cllr Coy said we should write an article in the parish magazine inviting people to telephone the Environment Agency number. We express the fact that the council has no power in this matter. People had been forced out of their homes by this and all in the area were severely disadvantaged by it. The Environment Agency had offered householders decibel monitors but in some cases they had been refused because people feared intimidation.

It was agreed that the Honorary Clerk would write to Lanivet Council to ask whether they have taken any action.

At the same time we should write an article in the parish magazine to explain that we could not take action but the Environment Agency should be contacted. The difficult nature of the ownership of the woods should not prevent alleviation from nuisance. Action: Cllr Malone.

 

156-13    Date of next meeting: January 15th

 

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