Recent meetings

Although you can always find MINUTES of previous meetings here, below are less formal summaries of the latest meetings from Andrew Battarbee:

 

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Grindleford Parish Council meeting, with Environment Agency and Derbyshire County Council. 10th February 2022

 

A different kind of GPC meeting for February. Different time; different place – we were grateful to the church for their hospitality; and a meeting for the whole community to discuss our concerns about flooding with officers from the Environment Agency (EA) and the County Council (DCC)[1].

To be honest, I doubted beforehand that we’d get very far. Clearly the scale of intervention that would altogether eliminate flood risks in Grindleford isn’t on the table. Previous discussions haven’t been wholly successful in agreeing specific actions that will help, and it has sometimes felt like the community is being left to manage in its own way while the authorities focus on bigger places.

But in fact we made some progress in a session where I really think everyone got a chance to put their point of view, and we were able to make good use of the accumulated expertise of the Grindleford Flood Group. This list isn’t exhaustive, but for me highlights included:

  • The EA will carry out a simple topographical survey of the river area, so we can have a fact based rather than a more speculative assessment of the high and low points, and a better understanding of the way water flows. This is pretty well essential to planning future flood management; it is easy to do things which make things worse overall, or have unfair consequences for particular properties;
  • Commitment from DCC to prioritising culverts in Grindleford for leaf clearance; they’d now expect to do this every six months
  • A better understanding of how to report trees at risk of falling into the river upstream of the village
  • More for the long term, supporting the EA’s intention for management of the Derwent that makes better use of the undeveloped land upstream of us as a flood plain.

For the future, there was agreement that the Grindleford Flood Group has taken matters as far as it can, and in future GPC will lead on flooding, although the invaluable work of the flood wardens will continue. We’re going to have flooding as a standing item on the agenda for future meetings.

After flooding, we discussed a few bits and bobs. The most significant was to agree how to mark HMQ’s platinum jubilee. A signposted walk around the village, hopefully of interest to visitor and local, old and young, alike. Alan Jacques has kindly offered to organise this, and the really good news is that the walk can showcase new signs showing the traditional names of different lanes, fields etc, which are in danger of becoming lost, and which largely aren’t known to me and I suspect many others. A nod to tradition, but perhaps also a practical step as more and more delivery drivers find themselves baffled by Grindleford’s geography.

 

 

[1] Ok, technically, this wasn’t actually a GPC meeting; it was an event facilitated by GPC, followed by a briefer-than-usual “real” GPC meeting. It’s worth emphasising that while this was a special open forum, all GPC meetings are open to the public, and we encourage Grindleford residents to come along if there is a point they want us to consider.

 

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Grindleford Parish Council meeting, 13 January 2022

First, my apologies for the dearth of these informal readouts of late. I have missed a couple of meetings for work reasons; gone on holiday the day after one, so not had the opportunity to sit down with the laptop; and, well, Christmas; y’know how it is.

Anyway, new year, new determination. A reminder that these are indeed informal readouts; they are not minutes; they reflect my own thoughts; other councillors might see things differently.

As it happens, this was one of our more uneventful meetings, and a short one. The temporary statutory permission for councils to meet remotely lapsed last year, and was not reintroduced with the Government’s “Plan B” as omicron cases surged. So, reluctantly, we were obliged to meet in person. We wanted to keep it brief – and with the pavilion windows open for ventilation, we were strongly incentivised to do so. On the plus side, GPC is like the US Supreme Court, a baseball team, and the Nazgul in having nine members, and all nine of us were there, which isn’t bad for a cold January.

We discussed a couple of minor highways matters and planning applications, as we usually do. And we were also able to celebrate a few successes:

  • Peter O’Brien in his District Councillor’s report briefed us on the new improved bus service to Bakewell, something for which he has been campaigning for some time. My experience of living here for twenty years is that while, grudgingly, I would admit the train service has got a bit better, buses have generally been a disgrace. So this is definite progress
  • We noted with satisfaction that the grit bins for which the PC is responsible have been refilled – huge thanks to Ray Whitely for spearheading this, both on the purchasing and the acquisition front. Partly as a result of the UK’s exciting decision to take the predictability out of supply chain functioning, grit has been harder to get through the usual sources. And sorry to have to say this but please remember that the grit in the yellow bins is publicly funded for use on the public highway. I’m afraid there have been credible reports of people appropriating grit for their own use. Don’t do it. If you see someone do it, please grass on them.
  • The new PC noticeboard has arrived – and may well be up and in use by the time you read this!

We also looked forward to our next meeting on 10 February, which will start at the unusually early time of 4.30pm so that we can include discussions with the Environment Agency about options for flood management.

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Grindleford Parish Council – 12th August 2021

 As ever, this is a personal account; may not reflect other councillors’ views; not an official minute

 We don’t have a stellar gender balance on the council at the best of times. 7M, 2F is not ideal. For our meeting on 12 August, we had apologies from two councillors – both female. So a far from ideal set up for the meeting, and the gender imbalance is accompanied by a very bad skew towards the village’s older demographic. A sobering reflection: we are not a microcosm of the village as a whole.

 I think this matters when, for example, we discuss parking concerns. Are we doing enough to think about the concerns of families who are stretched budgets won’t run to property with its own parking, and who are balancing the phase of peak professional challenges and childcare that for some of us has faded into memory? Food for thought, and perhaps an ongoing challenge to all of us on the council as individuals and as a group.

The next GPC elections are due in May 2023, and it would be good to see new faces coming forward. In the meantime, we are back to meetings not just face to face and not just in the pavilion, but around the large table in the pavilion. There’s room both for those who want to come and watch meetings, and for those who want (with notice, please) to raise a point of concern.

On 12 August, we had two external visitors. Alasdair Sutton, our new(ish) county councillor had a prior engagement, but he called by to introduce himself, and promised we’d be seeing more of him at future meetings. It was good of him to take the trouble.

We also had a presentation from Network Rail and their main contractor about the Hope Valley upgrade. The things I took away from this were: (i) that the main body of work on the project is concentrated in a short period in the first half of 2023; (ii) there is a commitment to openness and communication – let’s see; (iii) in addition to mitigation work, the contractors want to deliver something of value to the community, which they want to discuss with GPC and residents. One promising example would be to do some stuff with the school, getting the kids interested in the project – and therefore developing an early interest in technical and engineering careers.

On other business, we took note of the analysis of responses to the Traffic Survey, which can be seen on the GPC website. We’ll be having a fuller discussion in due course when the Traffic Group has considered some recommendations. A personal view is that on the parking front there may not actually be much by way of a solution. On speed, it’s disappointing and frustrating that DCC won’t readily agree to use of 20mph limits and tougher limits on the approaches to the village. But we can keep plugging away on this, and the good news is that the kit for the community speedwatch is about to arrive.

Finally, we discussed the Peak Park’s recent decision to grant planning permission for the further development of Brunts Barn. We were unanimous in being unhappy about this. There was no sign that our comments as GPC and similar comments by local residents had been taken into account; and residents who had submitted comments were not informed that the planning committee has the application on the agenda for 6 August. In a case where the National Park is both the developer and the planning authority, we’d have expected to see greater emphasis on transparency and the need to take into account community views. In fact, it’s not wholly clear that the application has been conducted in line with statutory requirements. How far we’ll get remains to be seen, but we will be writing with our concerns.

And that’s it. Next meeting is on Thursday 9 September.

 

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Grindleford Parish Council, 15 July 2021

A meeting held a week later than planned, on account of our illustrious clerk being required to self-isolate.

We kicked off with our District Councillor’s report. This majored on the dispiriting news about refuse collections, which most people will now be aware of. It does appear that Serco as DDDC’s contractor are declining to take on full responsibility for managing the risks around staff retention. It’s hard to judge whether their contract allows for that because the contract is being kept under wraps. Very unsatisfactory; it means that we can’t make an informed assessment of what the council is doing, which erodes accountability and in the end democracy. We’re grateful to Peter as our District Councillor for the challenge he’s injecting.

In other not-so-great District Council news, the council has, foolishly, voted by nine to seven against a ban on the sale of disposable barbeques. Peter mentioned that there is the prospect of this being looked at again because there is now on on-the-record statement from the Fire Brigade expressing concern, although how it could be that councillors have failed to grass the risk is beyond me.

Other news from a light agenda:

  • We’ve got representatives from Network Rail attending (remotely) the next meeting to talk about the works programme – do let us know if there are specifics you want us to raise
  • There was trial run of the community speedwatch programme earlier this month which found three vehicles “speeding” (defined as ten per cent over the limit plus two, so 35mph or more in a 30 zone). One of them was doing 53. All will get warning letters from the police
  • We agreed to express support for the new arts hubs project in Hathersage – doing this should help with fund raising.
  • We said yes to working with a DDDC project to plant wildflowers on suitable verges.

Next meeting is Thursday August 12.

 

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Grindleford Parish Council, 17 June 2021

Our first in person meeting since March 2020. Not quite back to the old days, as we sat distanced on separate tables, but a welcome waymark on the path to normality.

PC Anthony Boswell gave us a helpful update on parking and speeding issues. There are a number of outstanding concerns, including unhelpful parking, and speeding on the southern approaches. All the same, a good deal of progress has been made. Unlawfully parked vehicles are frequently being ticketed near the station and at Padley Gorge; we have seen official police speed checks in the village; and our own volunteers are being trained for community speedwatch. Anthony made the point that the police and the council deploy their scarce enforcement resources in response to well-evidenced complaints. So keep on shouting where there are problems.

Staying with traffic/transport:

  • we’re still unpacking the results of the recent traffic survey. There’s a lot of material to get through – thanks to all who responded. More on this in due course.
  • As a result of pressure from individuals and local parish councils, the highway authority has made further changes to phasing to the traffic lights at Calver crossroads. There’s definitely improvement. Whether it’s better than what we had originally is debatable, although I suppose any safety improvements are not immediately visible, and there’s a tendency to overlook them. I suspect what we have now is what we’ll have for the foreseeable future

No County Councillor report.

Our District Councillor is self-isolating, but sent a report in. He continues to fight DDDC’s refusal to ban the local sale of disposable BBQs. As a PC, we have protested about this already; we agree with Peter that the District’s position is absurd. There literally have been serious fires in the district caused by disposable BBQs. Peter also reported on the unsatisfactory position regarding rubbish collection. Hopefully everyone is now up to date, but it’s hard to be confident going forward that Serco as the District’s contractor will consistently meet standards.

We had a slightly dispiriting discussion about Network Rail’s operations in the village. Communications have been poor; and assurances given in the past at meetings have subsequently been disowned by NR representatives, which is scarcely a basis for doing business. Sarah Dines MP hadn’t yet responded to correspondence sent since her visit, but we know that after she came to see the site she did raise matters with NR, so that’s positive. NR’s contractor is coming to our next meeting in July, and that’s also positive.

We discussed Jubilee Gardens. It needs a bit of a tidy up, and we agreed to hire someone in to do that; and to advise on options for its future landscaping. In broad terms we could keep things as they are, with tightly mown grass, or consider more wild flowering – which is attractive in terms both of biodiversity and (in my view though not necessarily of others) aesthetics, but may be difficult to manage.

We’d agreed at a previous meeting to ask for more dog waste bins.  DDDC have come back. No, we can’t have more dog waste bins; they don’t do specialised dog waste bins any more. No, we can’t have more public litter bins; or rather we can, but in their view the village is adequately supplied, so we’d have to buy any new bins, and then pay an annual subscription of around £200 per bin for them to be emptied. We didn’t particularly fancy doing that. If anyone feels strongly that we ought to bite the bullet on this one, let us know…

 

….and as ever the invitation stands: if there is something you want the PC to look at, let us know. grindleparish@gmail.com is the best way; or speak to Sarah as clerk, or any of the members.

 

Andrew

21 June 2021

 

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Grindleford Parish Council meeting, 5 May 2021

The regulations permitting council meetings to be conducted remotely expired on 7 May. To avoid being caught by this, we met by Zoom a week earlier than planned.  From next month, we are  – we hope – back to face to face. The return of in-person PC meetings may not be the most exciting landmark of this summer of recovery; all the same, a landmark it is.

Quite a productive farewell to Zoom, I felt.

Network Rail  Welcome news that Sarah Dines, our MP, has come out to see what was happening at the station. She said she would raise concerns with senior management at Network Rail, and with Ministers. So hopefully we will see less nuisance to residents, and contractors complying with the code of conduct.

Traffic  We joined a number of other parish councils in passing a resolution by eight to nil in support of 20mph speed limits in villages. The “Twenty’s Plenty” campaign is gaining increasing support across the County, and as a Council we strongly support it. We believe that the County Council should be more open to local opinion on this issue, and that its criteria for assessing proposals for 20mph zones are outdated and inflexible. Communities coming together in support have more prospect of success than if they work alone.

We noted that 125 people had completed the Traffic Survey, which is a pretty decent return (and there may be a few last minute entries). We’ll be looking at what it tells us at a future meeting.

Further progress on the village’s own speed watch. We’re about to buy the equipment so that operations can start. It also looks like we might be able to operate in a 40mph zone: there’s a real problem about drivers coming from the south not slowing down at the 40 sign at Stoke.

Calver crossroads  “What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare?” asked the poet, and quite right too. So we resolved to write to the County to congratulate them on the recent alterations to the Calver traffic lights, which have done so much to reduce the frenetic pace of modern life. It’s a stunning achievement not only to add a good five minutes to our journey times to Bakewell, but also to slow down east-west flows. We’re hoping other parish councils will also be writing.

Litter pick  We agreed funding in support of the regular litter pick – a couple of signs to alert motorists, and more pickers.

Electric vehicles  As part of the church/community shop project, there’s a proposal to provide a couple of EV charging points; we agreed to a request from the Church for a funding contribution. We were pleased about this. It’s getting on for two years since we first discussed possible placement and financing for EV sites, and it’s an issue a lot of local villages have been struggling with.

Funding   We then took overall stock of the funding position. With the above decisions (traffic watch kit, litter pick kit, EV) and earlier decisions (notably to set aside funding for the playground refurb) we have the ability to meet forecast costs, with a little headroom. People may recall that we looked at the possibility of a significant increase in the precept for this year which would allow us to support rather more projects and activities across the village – noting that, say, a 50pc increase in precept would cost even high council tax band households less than £10 over the year; but on the other hand 50pc is 50pc. The real question is perhaps what we might do with the greater firepower. We’re intending to come to this debate earlier in the cycle this time, so look out for that, because we’ll want to get views from across the village.

Finally, we also held, as required by Schedule 11 to the Local Government Act 1972, our AGM. The AGM has always been very short and formal in my time; I suspect that’s always the case unless you have real divisions among councillors. No coup d’etat was attempted, and Bob Wilson and Elizabeth Coe were unanimously voted back into their chair and vice-chair roles.

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Parish Council Meeting, 8 April 2021

As ever, these aren’t the official minutes; nor a complete record; and they are my own perspective, not necessarily reflective of all councillors’ views

This could have been an historic occasion. The last GPC meeting held over Zoom. It’s all a bit complicated. Councils are able to hold their meetings on line under emergency legislation introduced for the pandemic era. The current legislation expires on 7 May. So our next planned meeting on 13 May wouldn’t be covered; we’d need to convene in meatspace (yuk). But we can’t really do that, at least indoors, even if the roadmap out of Covid is still valid. It’s all a bit of a pickle. Anyway, we went with the obvious solution, and have brought the meeting forward to 6 May. (A reminder that whether meetings are virtual or face-to-face, they are open to the public.)

In another sense, it was a historic occasion. Judith Twigg, our local county councillor, was reporting to us for the last time, as she has decided not to seek re-election.  Whatever our individual politics, we all agree she has been a good ally for us: diligently relaying our concerns to council officers; genuinely trying to make progress on parking and speeding issues; and helping us access the county council funds she has been able to influence.

History was also made after the meeting. We were a little frustrated that our MP, Sarah Dines, had not yet responded to correspondence about Network Rail’s operations in the village. Leaving political preferences aside, her predecessor Patrick McLoughlin was always speedy and helpful when GPC raised matters with him. The current incumbent is still working her way up to those standards. But, fair play: Ms Dines did commit to coming out to Grindleford weekend of 17 April to be briefed on the issues and hopefully to see what she can do to help.

Then a couple of bits of things-going-the-right-way news. Various formalities have been cleared, and work will begin on tarting up the village phone box, now in GPC’s possession. One thing it will be used for is as a book exchange, but that doesn’t preclude other uses (alas, not my sadly-overlooked proposal to convert it to an aquarium), and we are very much open to ideas.

We were then briefed by Ray Whiteley on the excellent work of his speeding group. Seven people have now completed online training which allows them to operate as a community action group, using a speed gun to measure vehicle speeds. This isn’t the same as official police action. Identified speedsters don’t get a fine; but they doget a letter, and possible follow up visits; and of course the real point is to raise awareness of appropriate vehicle use in a middle of a residential community. There are a few hoops still to be jumped through, but we agreed in principle to fund the purchase of relevant equipment (the speed gun itself, labelled hi-vis jackets, warning signs).

Lastly, we agreed to fund the purchase of new plans for Jubilee Gardens. Or less prosaically: we decided what we wanted was… A SHRUBBERY. Ni. Ni. Ni.

On planning matters, we took note that, unfortunately, there seems to have been non-compliance with a recent Planning Authority decision that work undertaken without proper planning permission should be unpicked. We agreed to come back to this properly next time: we’d expect to encourage vigorous action.

We also discussed the National Park’s plans to extend the use of Brunts Barn. In principle, this could be a good way of extending access to the National Park especially for people who wouldn’t normally do so. But we do want solid assurances both about traffic generation for a private road which was built only to serve local residents, not for wider access; and about how the plans won’t lead to greater pressure on parking in the station area. We’re opposed to the development unless we can get these assurances (which personally I reckon won’t be easy to provide).

Finally, look out for GPC’s exciting offer in the Auction of Promises to raise funds for the playground refurb in June!

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Parish Council Meeting, 11 March 2021

Nb this is not the official minutes and it is a personal reflection, not necessarily one with which all councillors would agree.

This was a shorter meeting than recent ones, perhaps partly in consideration for our parish clerk who is recovering from knee replacement surgery. One consequence of this was that our zoom link was to the room with the comfy chairs, with a ban on dogs, so that Ivor’s plans to disrupt proceeding were thwarted.

More than anything, this was a stocktake on progress.

On floods, the EA had sent out an official to meet on site with a few parish councillors and others. He left with a better understanding of the issues, and undertook to come back to us with  – well, I was going to say “proposals”, and we hope it will be as firm as that. But let’s see. We don’t have a timescale for this, and we may be waiting for a few weeks.

Then on transport, we remain dissatisfied as a council with the county council’s refusal to engage with us about the use of 20mph speed limits in the village. This frustration is shared by other parish councils in the area, and we are talking to each other about a concerted approach. Meanwhile, look out for a transport and traffic survey which will be distributed in hard copy with the next Grindleford News; there’ll be information also, here and on the village FB page, about how to complete online.

Sticking broadly with cars, a county council survey has suggested there are too few kids crossing the main road to justify funding of a school crossing patrol. This doesn’t seem all that plausible: it certainly doesn’t seem to be the case that there are now fewer kids than when we did have patrols in the past. It looks like we have got a recount, and parish councillors who are school governors are going to explore how best to manage this.

We talked last time about charging points for electric vehicles. The exciting project to provide new facilities at the church, including some upgrading for the shop, will include provision of non-commercial charging points; so it does look like we have facilities on the way.

We welcomed a survey of street signs being conducted by Alan Jacques. This should lead to specific proposals for which need replacing, or simply where new ones are needed.

We discussed our response to proposals for a redrawing of district council boundaries, which would bring Stoney Middleton into our ward, but which would have split off Abney. We decided to support the former, but oppose the latter on the basis that Abney is more naturally linked to this area than it is to Bradwell and other places to the west.

And that was pretty well it, really. We touched briefly on the future of these meetings. As the law currently stands, the April meeting is the last one that we are allowed to hold remotely. But that means the law is out of step with the Government’s approach to re-normalising, and it seems clear we have a little bit of zoom to go. What happens come the summer is less clear, but whether we are online or in person, PC meetings will always be public events, which all are welcome to watch.

Andrew Battarbee
March 2021

••••

Parish Council Meeting, 11 February 2021

Nb this is not the official minutes and it is a personal reflection, not necessarily one with which all councillors would agree.

Our eleventh meeting over Zoom. If you’d told me a year ago we’d be able to operate as a Parish Council by video, I’d have thought you were mad. That we’ve been able to do so is no small achievement. On the other hand, the endless days of Zoom and Teams meetings are supplemented by….a monthly Zoom. And the usual problems are there: the staccato conversations; the random tech glitches; the inability to pursue points in detail; the lack of body language to signal unease, or that we really can move on. 

On the bright side, no one was excluded, no one yelled at the clerk, and no one transmogrified into a talking kitten. And as in all crises, there are winners. Our dog Ivor has learned that if he barks and grumbles during PC meetings, he will be paid off with treats.

As to substance, we found ourselves treading familiar and frustrating paths. As a PC we have few powers of action, and our main role is to represent what we judge to be the community’s needs to higher authorities. Last night, those authorities were largely in computer-says-no mode:

  • We learned that the County Council has rejected a petition asking for speed limits of 20mph within the core of the village and 40mph at Stoke. The arguments seemed to be that there was no evidence of need, and that the current speed limits are “appropriate”.  None of us were terribly impressed by this. Nor, to her credit, was our county councillor Judith Twigg, who has unsuccessfully asked her majority group colleagues to rethink. We’ll keep plugging away
  • No response yet to a letter to Network Rail about the management of the works on the railway line, where contractors have repeatedly stepped out of line with promises given about how the works’ impact on residents will be softened
  • To my mind, outrageous news that the District Council has refused to impose a ban on the sale of portable barbecues, on the basis that there is no evidence that they cause problems. We agreed to send a strongly worded protest, as our peers in ShelbyvilleHathersage have done. Our local district councillor Peter O’Brian is very much in fighting mode on this. Individuals might like to write to the DC leader expressing their concerns (or indeed support for the council’s courage in prioritising the needs of good honest silent majority barbecue sellers over woke obsessions with fire and environmental protection)

We also discussed floods, where the village had another near miss last month. We’re seeking a meeting with the Environment Agency to discuss possible local works to manage down risks. The reality is that funding for flood protection has not kept pace with need, and we would be well down the list for an EA funding. It’s possible we may need to consider significant funding from PC budgets if we want anything done.

We had a presentation from Tom Ricketts from the Hope Valley Climate Action Group about charging points for electric vehicles. We’re only a couple of years away from the tipping point where petrol-only vehicles begin to vanish from manufacturers’ new fleets. In time, the holy grail of light, affordable self-charing batteries will be achieved, but short-run, starting yesterday, charging points are important. We’re going to look at a couple of options for publicly-accessible charging points in the village. Potentially, there are public funds available to support this, if we can crystallise a proposal. Any thoughts from Grindlefordians on this would be welcome.

We discussed the current crop of planning applications: we are not a planning authority, but we are able to make representations over and above those which individuals submit. I won’t comment on specifics, but it might be worth saying a little about our approach. I would say that in general we like to be supportive of proposals that our fellow residents bring forward. We’ll raise issues if there are adverse implications for neighbours or other third parties; or if proposals seem to be out of keeping with the immediate neighbourhood or the village as a whole. This obviously involves some subjectivity, but such judgments do need to be made. 

Happily, there were no such cases last night, but what really winds us up as a council is work done without planning permission, or even in defiance of conditions. In those cases, we will argue very hard for requirements that work be undone.

We also discussed this website. In the manner of such websites, we had a fit of enthusiasm about it last year, and subsequently have failed to follow up. Not good enough. We’ll try to do better.

And also, on the subject of communicating with the village, the current PC noticeboard is on its last legs. We agreed on the purchase of an new one: we eschewed wooden versions with higher purchase and maintenance costs, but we think the one we went for looks nice, and will fit in well.

Our next meeting is on 11 March. Our meetings are, of course, open to the public, at the moment by Zoom. 

And get in touch if you would like to babysit Ivor for the duration.

You can get in touch with us about any of this at grindleparish@gmail.com

Andrew Battarbee

12 February 2021

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