Minutes of Annual Parish Meeting 2016




Present:           7 Parish Councillors and the Parish Clerk, Charlie Simkins – Kent County Council, Geraldine Dyer – Ashford Borough Council, 41 Parishioners. The Chairman of the Parish Council, Mr John Lowings, was in the Chair.


Apologies were received from Cliff Ridley, Jim Carr and Carol Barkway

Rev. Alex Bienfait read the names of those who had died in the past year.  A few moments was taken to remember them.

He also reminded those present of the Dying Matters event which is due to held in September.

The minutes of the meeting held on 7th May 2015 and the Parish Meeting 11th January 2016 were available to all present and had been published on the parish website. The minutes of the meeting were agreed.

It was also agreed that in future copies of the Minutes would not be printed but available on the Parish Council website.
CHAIRMAN’S REPORT   John Lowings reported on quite a varied year:

John reported that there has been much activity in relation to planning and highways this year, there will be reports from Sarah and Brian.

The Parish Council continues to oversee the maintenance of The Minnis and Cornes Meadow. Peter Watts is the Councillor who keeps an eye on these for the Council. The New pavilion is being built on the Council’s land and there is a separate report. A decision was made to keep the skate park going and thanks must be given to Gary Mitchell for his help in respect of the work needed.

Mark Wilson is the Councillor who oversees the Burial Ground which is of course an important responsibility.

The Parish Council are fortunate to have a very conscientious street cleanser in Vivienne Bromley and John gave thanks to her. She makes sure dog bins are emptied and dog litter collected by ABC.

John also gave thanks to all who voluntarily pick litter. Jo Morton leads and organises the Tidy Week which is now via Facebook and more have become involved.

Thanks were also given to Paul Brooker for the use of the Zion Chapel in January so that a Special Parish Meeting could be held.

The Emergency Plan has been a big item and separate report will follow.

Zion Chapel and the Parish Church and Gill have been busy planning a celebration for the Queen’s Birthday on 12th June. This is being and will be publicised widely

The Parish Council has welcomed four new Councillors following the Election a year ago. Peter, John, Jocelyn and Gill are already busy. John Atkins has taken over responsibility for Ashenden which is the Parish Council controlled local needs housing scheme. Marion used to do this and John acknowledged all her hard work especially when properties came up for sale. Jocelyn is assisting highways with Brian also the Emergency Plan with Gill. Gill is also Chairman of GNS and is the Parish Council’s contact there.

John emphasised his thanks to those who help Council such Vivienne our street cleanser, Jo Morton and Catherine who is the Clerk.

SMARDEN PRIMARY SCHOOL Stephanie Atkins and Mel Smith gave the following report:

Stephanie explained that she is Chair of the Governors of the Primary School. The School is flourishing and have been described as ‘outstanding’ by a Director who recently visited it.

The parents are reporting positive things and families with children have recently moved to the village now want their children to join the School.

There is a new Executive Headteacher – Jill Thewlis for Smarden and Pluckley Schools.

Mel Smith reported that Smarden is a success story. Spring 2015 had been a low point and is now turning children away. There are 24 pupils starting school in September.

The staff are hardworking and dedicated.

The school uses the Zion Chapel for Grandparents tea party and the School is involved in village events.

The School supports national charities with cake sales. The School has encouraged new sports with multi skills tennis, tag rugby and a running club.

It was reported that behaviour has improved at the school. The senior registrar at The Kemnal Academies Trust was very impressed with the school.

The school has hosted day trips which will enrich their learning. Thanks were given to the volunteers.

John thanked her.
PLANNING Sarah Ellison gave the following report

This has been a challenging year within the Parish on two fronts.  The first being the siting of traveller mobile homes in the Omenden/Kelsham area of the Parish and secondly by the application from Gladman for 50 homes adjacent to the Village Hall.

Firstly in regards to the Traveller sites.  The first site which was south of Gilham Farm, which was won on Appeal, but this was in part due to the fact we prevented habitation of the mobile home in the first place by alerting the Borough Council before the home was inhabited and they issued a stop notice through the Courts.  The mobile home was in fact seen approaching from the Headcorn area and as such had early warning and it was luck that the Parish Council could telephone the Ashford Borough Council before it was occupied.   The second site south of Omenden Lane is the appeal which was lost and whilst it only has permission for one mobile home and one touring caravan on the site, the Parish Council are concerned due to the number of parcels of land available in the area and has seen what has happened in the Headcorn and Staplehurst area.  Unfortunately these sites are generally bought by the travellers/gypsies prior to moving onto site and this is one of the reasons that make it very difficult to stop the mobile moving on site.  The other major issue is that Ashford Borough Council do not have a supply of gypsy/traveller sites and it seems likely they will still not have a supply when the local plan is released.  This therefore makes it very difficult to win appeals at Inspectorate level.

This will be a serious ongoing concern in the Parish.

Conditions are attached to these sites but again it appears very difficult to get the conditions enforced, for example on the Gilham Farm Site there was an original condition preventing more than 4 horses being kept on site, but clearly there have been more than that recently.    If these fields over populated through the winter then Parishioners have to cope with the consequences of starving animals in parts of the village.

Whilst the Parish Council are assured that each site is treated on its merits, it is very disheartening that Ashford Borough Council cannot resolve this issue after so many years.

The second challenge is the Gladman application for 50 houses adjacent to the village hall.  Currently, and in the absence of Borough Councils Local Plans, Gladman appear to be targeting villages.  They have just succeeded in winning an appeal in Sissinghurst purely on the fact that the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s lack of housing supply. The Inspector’s report states that ‘it is clear that policies for the supply of housing set out in the existing local plan and core strategy are out of date and that housing needs are not currently being met in the borough’.

The Parish Council anticipate publication of the Local Plan on 9th June when it will be available to Councillors and then starting the following week  there will be an 8 week consultation period where the general public are able to make comments.   This emerging plan will be the document that Ashford Borough Council will rely on and they are confident this will be the mechanism to oppose the Gladman application.  The Application by Gladman in Sissinghurst was first refused in December 2014 so it has taken well over a year to go to Appeal.

Ashford Borough Council are confident that once the Local Plan is in the public domain it will be sufficient to fight the Gladman applications in the borough as ABC are confident that they have met their housing targets .  It will be on this element that the Gladman application will be fought at Appeal.  The fact that ABC have a deliverable supply of housing in the Borough and a democratic process has been undertaken within the villages to identify the sites and housing numbers.  Prior to the appeal, the application will go before the ABC Planning Committee on 15th June, and it is thought that it will be refused. At this stage it will be refused on the grounds that it is a green field site, and would not be considered for development at this moment in time.   Gladman have already been told it will be refused.  They will then lodge an appeal if they follow their usual route and the Parish Council will then fight the appeal as will ABC based on the Local Plan which has been developed over a period a time through a democratic process.

Sarah added that the Parish Council in conjunction with the Village Hall Committee have negotiated a local green space within the Local Plan which gives a substantial area around the Village Hall as protection.  This will appear in the Local Plan when it comes out for consultation.  Of course the Local Plan is a consultative document and everyone will have the right to support or object to its contents, but the Parish Council and Borough Council will use the document as it emerges to fight Gladman at Appeal should needs be.  The Borough Council is confident that this Emerging Plan will enable them and the Parish Council to fight the application for 50 homes effectively.

Sarah also reported that the Parish Council are also pleased to see a comprehensive objection from the Kent branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England. They make good planning policy points, and specific points regarding the impact on the landscape character, the impacts on biodiversity, the loss of best and most versatile agricultural land, the impact on the significant setting of listed buildings and the conservation area and access and safety.    They conclude:

CPRE has not seen evidence from the Council to challenge its most recent 5 year supply statement.  In any case, the claim of the Appellant that the council cannot demonstrate the five year supply of land for housing would not outweigh the adverse impacts of developing the site.  The proposal would introduce an unsustainable pattern of development into a sensitive, valued and historic landscape.  It is inappropriate in the case of this sensitive site, where village character, heritage, environmental and landscape character are critical issues, for so much essential details to be reserved matters.

The application should be refused planning permission.  It is in the public interest, in view of the imminent publication of the Regulation 19 plan, that sites are identified through the local plan, against a clear strategy to direct development to the most sustainable locations.

The Parish Council have also discussed the possibility of a further local needs housing scheme, as there has been a need demonstrated for a small development of older persons housing , young families, or people who can demonstrate a local connection and want to live in the village near families etc.  This is built on exception sites which would not normally be considered for housing.  However due to the current open market application from Gladman, ABC, the Rural Housing Association who develop these projects and the Parish Council do not feel we can pursue this project until the outcome of the Gladman application is known.

There was then a general discussion on planning matters and thanks were given to Sarah for all her efforts.
ENVIRONMENT Eric Spear gave the following report
Eric reported that they are a group with a small membership. His contact details are at the back of the Parish Magazine.

There was a site visit to Dungeness Power Station last year. The Group had met to consider the Gladman proposal. The Group is trying to add articles in the Parish Magazine and on environmental issues.

Eric paid tribute to the Ashford Borough Council cleansing and environmental services as 75% of what we throw away is recycled.

Eric added that dry cell batteries (placed in a plastic bag) can be recycled in placed on top of the landfill wheelie bin and they will be collected.

John thanked Eric.

YOUTH  David King gave the following report
David reported that at the meeting last year the Smarden Youth Organisation were despondent regarding the survival of the Organisation. However, David was pleased to report that since last year the SYO have been successful in recruiting a number of local residents with young children to the committee. This has given a massive boost to instigating new ideas and projects, which is always easier when you have a larger number of people to share and promote ideas.

Although they have a current team of active supervisors for the evening sessions, there is always a need to increase the numbers available to share the workload.

The committee now includes the following new members in addition to Sam Thompson, Treasure and Caren Gardner. Secretary, who have been stalwarts throughout our down times; Jodie Davis, Kelly Thomas, Marie Otterwill, Angela Sorrell, Luke Sorrell, Jo Underdown and Jo Windibank

The SYO are now in a position to operate on two evenings per week, Tuesdays and Thursdays, the latter being for children over 11 years. As in previous years the winter months have proven to be the period of lowest attendance, but this has always picked up strongly in the spring and summer. The work on the new Sports Pavilion has created a rather muddy route to the building, but this has been accepted as a necessity to create the erection of a marvellous facility for the village.

The SYO have now installed three commercial standard heaters in the main hall which has improved comfort and warmth, not least for the adults, as the children do not seem to suffer from the cold. This will be enhanced by new heaters in the foyer and other rooms in throughout this year. This work has been made possible by a most generous donation from Councillor Geraldine Dyer, and the effort of Sara Pierce in seeking the grant on behalf of the SYO.

The summer months will hopefully see a major effort towards decoration and maintenance of the building which is long overdue.

Financially the SYO is sound but there is always a need to be in position to meet the cost of emergency repairs etc. that have not been planned for.  The SYO have been thankful for donations from the Bonfire Committee and monies raised through other fund raising events such as the Quiz Night, New Year’s Eve Party, and Halloween Party. Some of our ladies are planning a rather exciting Pamper Evening for the latter part of this year which is hoped will be well supported.

Caren Gardner will be working with Gill Bromley who has kindly offered to assist the SYO in seeking new grants in order that refurbishment of the building and the purchase of new equipment can be progressed.

It is also appropriate to mention the support we have received from Young Kent, a county based organisation supporting youth projects throughout Kent. The SYO are now fully affiliated to this organisation.

David thanked his colleagues on the committee for their hard work and commitment, and to the support received from the Parish Council.

Gill Bromley and Jocelyn Craig gave an update on progress.  They:

outlined the aims of the Emergency Plan which is near completion
thanked everyone who had responded to the survey offering skills and other resources to enable us to cope until Emergency Services arrive
thanked the community businesses and organisations which may be asked to  play a role in an emergency
introduced fellow members of the Emergency Response Team:  Mike Barkway, Paul Brooker, David Keith de la Plain and John Atkins
explained that the Plan will be held in confidence by members of the Emergency Response Team and the Parish Clerk.  The plan will only be used in a real emergency
advised that the focus will be on prevention;  24 people have been trained in First Aid and the team is seeking a Community First Responder
appealed for assistance in delivering the Kent Resilience Forum’s What to do in an Emergency booklet to every household
They advised that the plan will:

  • Link Smarden to the wider  response to an emergency with links to local authorities and emergency services and ultimately to the Kent Police Force Control Room
  • Identify the most likely risks from flooding to high winds and fire and actions which can be taken to deal with such situations.

The plan will include:

  • A Communications Plan to ensure we contact people quickly
  • Various checklists  to prompt us to take swift and appropriate action
  • Various contact details including key holders for our community buildings, which may act as centres, or shelters as well as contact details for external organisations such as utility companies,  local authorities, NHS etc
  • A detailed flood plan given this is the highest risk
  • A list of people who have identified themselves as vulnerable and may require extra assistance in an emergency

John thanked both Gill and Jocelyn for their hard work as they have undertaken a tremendous amount of work.


Gill reported that there are plans to celebrate the Queen’s birthday and in conjunction with the Zion Chapel there will be a service at 11am followed by a picnic. There will be details in the Parish Magazine. A flyer will be proceeded and thanks were given to Charlie Simkins for his donation from his KCC Councillor fund.

BONFIRE NIGHT COMMITTEE Gary Mitchell gave the following report

Gary reported that the Bonfire Night was financially very successful. It ran for the benefit of three organisations, the Church, the Smarden Youth Organisation and the Sports Association.

The 2015 turnout was the best ever.

Over £3000 profit was achieved.

The date for the 2016 Bonfire Night is 5th November. Volunteers are welcome and the planning starts in August.

John thanked Gary for this efforts.
SPORTS ASSOCIATION Gary Mitchell gave the following report

Gary advised that building work commenced at the beginning of September. The pavilion is being built in two parts in order to save money. The foundations were installed before the weather deteriorated. They were very deep and difficult.

The project has been plagued by wet winter weather but has progressed well.

The rear section is being first fixed for wiring and plumbing and a state of the art ventilation system which is now virtually installed.

There was a momentous moment in Smarden’s history will be reached this Sunday when the last ever game of cricket will be hosted from the existing pavilion against Stowting before the demolition begins on 12th May.

The project is due to be completed in November.

The project needs to raise a further £12,000-15,000 to comply with the additional regulations required to satisfy Building Regulations etc.

The fund raising will continue with the Beer Festival and the Bonfire Night.

Gary thanked everyone who has supported the project.

John thanked Gary.

HIGHWAYS Brian Bristow gave the following report

Brian reported that lorrywatch has been a real asset.

Brian advised that the Wildlife Heritage weekend is due to be held on 21-24July and the traffic is likely to be heavy in Headcorn.

There will be a display of the Red Arrows on 13/14 August.

Jocelyn gave a report on lorrywatch. This has continued since the gateways were installed. Overall there has been a reduction.

Jocelyn gave thanks to her team.

John thanked Jocelyn and Brian.

Gary Mitchell proposed thanks for Brian and Jocelyn for their time.
ASHFORD BOROUGH COUNCIL John Lowings read a report on behalf of Geraldine Dyer

Geraldine reported that gypsy accommodation has been an issue. She has had meetings with the Planning Policy officer at Ashford Borough Council and they have considered a number of sites. Members have turned down these sites.

Geraldine explained that her Councillor’s grant fund has enabled her to make donations to the Youth Club to provide heating. She hopes to have the same grant available this year so urged people to get in contact if they think that she can help.

Geraldine holds a monthly meeting where she urges people to come and discuss any issues which they think she / Ashford Borough Council can assist with.

It was reported that the Council Tax for Ashford is the lowest in Kent at £4.55 per annum for an average band D property.

Ashford Borough Council is not responsible for the pot holes in roads. Of £1 of Council Tax only 10 pence to given to ABC spent. The bulk of this is spent by KCC whereby 10p goes to the Police Commissioner and 2p to the Parish Council.

The Mayoral year ends on 19th May. Geraldine said that her role had been primarily fundraising and she had raised £12000 which had enabled her to support charities such as the Pilgrims Hospice and Find A Voice.

Geraldine thanked the Parish Council for their support.

John added his thanks to Geraldine and commented that it is a real support to have Geraldine as a liaison with Ashford Borough Council.


Charlie reported that there have been large reductions in the KCC budget. Council Tax was increased by 3.99% specifically to fund adult social care which traditionally came from Central Government but now is to come from Local Government.

There have been changes at KCC as there is an increase in the older population and attempts made to try to reduce the number of people going to hospital, better cooperation with GPs and Local Authorities and a trend to keeping people in their own homes.

The Government wants all KCC Schools to be academies by 2022. There is tremendous pressure on school places and KCC has done a lot to try to improve standards and facilities.

Charlie reported that the Boundary Commission had originally suggested that Smarden and Egerton would move to Tenterden but it is to stay within Ashford Rural West and the Boundary Commission have accepted this.

Charlie advised that he has been listening to the matters being discussed and was keen to help if he could.

John thanked Charlie.

The unaudited accounts of the Parish Council for the year ending 31 March 2016 were available for inspection.


Jim Hardy thanked the Parish Council for their work.

John thanked everyone for their attendance.

There being no further business the meeting closed at 9.40pm.