Neighbourhood Plans, Community Wardens, Tourism, and a Footpath at the Castlefield Nature Area

3rd November 2014

Attended the Planning and Community & Environment Committees, at the Parish Office, chaired respectively by Phil Ward and Andrea Cornwell. It was particularly pleasing to see a full set of eight councillors present, as well as four non-councillor co-optees, making it a bit of a squeeze!

There were two planning applications for review, for 7 St Martin's Drive and 3 Elizabeth Cottages, and we did not object to either.

There was a discussion about the possibility of producing a Neighbourhood Plan, and it was agreed that Phil would set up a small team to consider what sites in the village might be suitable for inclusion in such a plan. The purpose of a Neighbourhood Plan is not to oppose development, rather it is to direct development in a way that meets local needs, as opposed to what a developer might want to build. A Neighbourhood Plan needs to have the backing of the local community, via a referendum, and if accepted by Sevenoaks District Council, becomes planning policy against which planning applications are then judged.

As the parish council had received a consultation, from Kent County Council, on the community warden service, this was discussed. Kent County Council wish to save over £1.2m on this service, and are proposing to cut down on the number of community wardens from 79 to 40, as well as to get these community wardens to cover villages that currently do not have one. Logically, this indicates that a community warden would have to cover at least double the number of villages that each currently covers, when they are already spread fairly thinly. In addition it is suggested in the consultation that the wardens would not have dedicated parishes. Councillors agreed that if the community wardens are both spread more thinly and not dedicated to an area then the service becomes fairly pointless. The council, therefore, objected to the proposals. We shall keep a keen eye on this, and discuss it with other local parish councils at a forthcoming consortium meeting.

Tourism was next discussed, and whether we would want to do something in the way of encouraging more tourism and supporting the local tourist attractions. It was agreed that most parishioners would not want to see any encouragement that generates more traffic in the village on sunny weekends in particular. However, it was discussed that we could perhaps do something to encourage the use of trains, perhaps by negotiating discounts with local attractions and pubs, to those that travel by train. This was just an idea. It was agreed that Andrea would set up a small team to give this some more thought.

The format of the next Annual Parish Meeting was the next topic, when it was agreed that the more informal approach of last year should be repeated, but that the event should be made to look a little more like a parish council event, and perhaps to include some short, formal business. It was also agreed that we would seek views on whether a Friday evening is a good time to hold it.

Finally, Andrea reported on a site meeting that she had attended with the North West Kent Countryside Project, at the Castlefield Nature Area, when it was agreed that a footpath, open to members of the public, would be a positive move. As a result, we will be proceeding with path clearance between the High Street access, to the boundary of the allotments, for which we had already agreed a cost of £500.

Author: Clive Stanyon

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