Recent meetings

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

 

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should be more open to local opinion on this issue, and that its criteria for assessing proposals for 20mph zones are outdated and inflexible.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.

 

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!

 

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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