The main topic of discussion at Withiel Parish Council’s April meeting was motorcycle noise at Ruthernbridge. PCSO Linda Thomas and County Council Environmental Protection Officer Jason Drew, who have been working on the issue, attended the meeting.

The Chairman, Cllr Sue Kirkby, reported that she and the Honorary Clerk, Cllr Simon Coy, had attended a meeting at Bodmin Police Station with PCSO Thomas, Jason Drew, the neighbourhood beat manager PC Laurie O’Toole, Sgt Jared Connor, and David Tapwell, the Planning Officer. The initial focus was on Cork Woods, the ownership of which was unknown. Efforts were being made to identify the owners. PCSO Thomas and Cllr Kirkby are undertaking a survey to establish the extent of the nuisance. Another meeting of this group is to be hosted by Withiel Parish Council.

Jason Drew told the Parish Council that Cornwall Council had had a number of complaints over the years about motorcycle scrambling in the area. A significant issue is the ownership of Cork Woods, which Mr Drew is working to establish. He said he hoped to have good news “in the next few weeks”.

PCSO Thomas asked Cllr Harper whether he owned part of the woods. Henry Harper, who was present, said he owned part of the lane, but not the woods. They also owned ‘the garden’, a small field in the area. Cllr Harper said there was a dispute over ownership of some of this land. David Cubitt said Cllr Harper could have helped matters had he clarified issues of ownership earlier. Cllr Harper said nobody had ever asked. Cllr Kirkby asked whom Cllr Harper was in dispute with. Cllr Harper said “the owner”. Cllr Kirkby asked who that was. Cllr Harper said he did not know. Cllr Harper said he had got the land from Mr Wilkes, whom he believed owned it. It had turned out, however, that he did not. Cllr Harper said “a hippy woman” had bought it. “That’s why you can’t find her,” he said. “I don’t think she’s ever in the same country for five minutes.”

PCSO Thomas asked whether, given that the bikers cross Harper land to reach Cork Woods, was it possible that they install a gate to prevent access. Cllr Harper said it was not possible because other farmers used the lane and needed access. Henry Harper said that if a gate was installed, the bikers would find another way into the woods.

Cllr Coy said some people had experienced difficulty in dialling 101 to report motorcycle nuisance, having been put on hold for a considerable time. Therefore Philip Cardew has offered to be the conduit for such calls on 01208 883127. PCSO Thomas will also accept reports on her work email: linda.thomas2@devonandcornwall.pnn.police.uk Jason Drew can also be contacted at Jason.drew@cornwall.gov.uk

The Council adopted the following resolution:

“Withiel Parish Council resolves that the motorcycle noise coming from Cork Woods and the surrounding area may constitute a public nuisance. It further resolves to:

*Do whatever is necessary to eliminate this nuisance

*Gather the necessary evidence to prove the nuisance

*Establish the ownership of Cork Woods, and thereby seek to eliminate the use of motorcycles in Cork Woods and the surrounding area

*Work closely with Cornwall Council’s Environmental Protection Officer, the police and other agencies to eliminate the nuisance.

The Council also made a formal request of Henry Harper to provide records of use of Harper land for motorcycling, as per the minutes of Withiel Council in December 2012. Henry Harper agreed to provide the records.

Other matters: We still don’t have a clerk. Cllr Coy said the vacancy should be advertised in the Cornish Guardian. We hope to run selection interviews in May.

Vacancy for a Parish Councillor: Cllr Coy informed the meeting there had been no applications for the seat on Withiel Parish Council which had fallen vacant upon the resignation of Cllr Thomas. The Parish Council has been instructed by Cornwall Council to fill the vacancy by co-option. The closing date for co-option applications is May 1.

Two tenders were received for the maintenance work on the footpaths; the lower tender will be accepted following the statutory checks on insurance and other issues.

We’ve accepted a new version of the Financial Regulations, written in 2014 by the National Association of Local Councils.

The National Association of Local Councils has produced a new version of Financial Regulations, which the council went through and accepted subject to small amendments to make them wholly relevant to Withiel Parish Council.

We need a parish Emergency Plan. Cllr Malone said it was a big job which more than one person should do, and possibly all councillors could be involved. We would need an inventory of what’s available in the area for emergency use, and to establish who among us has first aid or other useful knowledge. Cllr Kirkby said a record would have to be compiled of volunteers who would take on certain roles in an emergency, such as flood watch. The possible emergencies envisaged include major accidents, sustained power or water failures, and exceptionally bad weather. Cllr Coy said the most likely emergency was snow and ice, and an inventory of 4×4 and other suitable vehicles and a register of older persons at risk was required. Our own supply of gravel and salt might be considered, although our insurers have reservations.

Cllr Malone asked whether those using chainsaws under an emergency plan had to be licensed in the same way as council contractors do, and have the requisite £5 million insurance. This was thought likely; Cllr Coy pointed out that people going around rescuing the elderly in 4x4s might be invalidating their insurance. These issues need to be ironed out before we go much further.

PCSO Thomas said we should establish robust systems of communication, within the parish and with the emergency services outside, work out where rendezvous points would be for the emergency services, establish where the air ambulance would land and so forth. The village hall could be earmarked for emergency accommodation. PCSO agreed to source copies of other parishes’ emergency plans, after which Withiel Parish Council will form a sub-committee to work on our own plan. It was also agreed to synchronise our emergency plan with those of surrounding parishes.

 

Wind turbines

Cllrs Shearer and Kirkby had attended an REG Windpower meeting; the company is replacing the turbines on St Breock Down with five more massive turbines. Cllr Shearer reported that a community fund, called Section 106 Funding, would provide money to the council “to reduce the impact of the development”. As examples, Section 106 money is used to improve highways, parks, public transport and schools. REG Windpower say that Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network, WREN, would manage the fund.

At the meeting there was significant dissent because WREN is dominated by REG Windpower and is already in serious debt. Several people at the meeting were worried that WREN, a company, would go bankrupt and the money would disappear. Cllr Kirkby said WREN was effectively REG Windpower.

A community benefit fund panel decides on the allocation of the money. It comprises a representative of REG Windpower, a joint representative of the landowners and the developer, and some elected members of the affected councils. REG were apologetic for the fact that there had been no communication between WREN and the affected councils. No money will be available until the turbines have been turning for a year. Councils will have to bid for local projects and will be “given guidance” as to what they can be. Income from the turbines could be up to £6,000 a year. This would be for parish organisations to bid for, not for the Parish Council to get involved with. Cllr Malone said the sum was paltry set against the estimated £3 million a year REG would be making, mostly from subsidies, at St Breock Downs. Cllr Kirkby said that it was claimed that WREN’s debts did not affect the community fund, which was held in escrow and would not be lost if WREN went bankrupt. It was unclear what projects would be eligible for funding.

 

Neighbourhood plan

This is a strategy document setting out how we wish the parish to progress. It must be evidence-based, and a great deal of work must go into it. Often these plans are based on surveys. It is proposed that we begin with a neighbourhood planning questionnaire.

200 houses in the six areas around Bodmin, some 20 or 30 in Withiel over a 15 year period. 43 have already been built, so that’s 157 over six parishes. For Withiel, that’s 12 houses in 15 years. Cllr Coy said the plan would be predicated on practical issues such as the state of the roads in the parish and the non-availability of mains sewerage. There is one place in the parish where a development would be possible, and that’s along the A30.

Cllr Coy proposed that without committing ourselves to producing a neighbourhood plan, we carry out an initial survey, and liaise with other parishes to see what they’re up to.

An initial questionnaire will be compiled to go in News & Views.

 

Finance

The financial year ended only two days before the meeting and the final figures had not been collated. But Cllr Coy said he was confident the Parish Council has ended the year in good financial health. This was despite the fact that this year’s accounts contain a number of payments that had not been flagged up that were authorised in the previous financial year, but paid in this financial year when there was no provision for them. Full figures will be available at the next meeting.

Pat Malone

 

 

 

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