Mere Town Council
Town Clerk – Mrs. L. C. Wood
Minutes of a meeting of Mere Town Council held on Monday, 7 February 2022 at 7.00 pm at Duchy Manor, Springfield Road, Mere, BA12 6EW
Present: Councillors Lesley Traves (Chair), Kate Symonds (Vice-Chair), Debbie Beale, Nick Beale, Aubrey Colman, Philip Coward, Rodney Coward, Rachael Hansford, Clive Hazzard, Raymond Hill, Glen Ings, George Jeans, John Jordan & Eric Mitchell.
Also: Anne Rich, Richard Jefferies, Craig Bower, John Gammie, Geoff Sams, Rose Heesom, Logan Lewis-Proudlock, + Spence Gunn & Claire Shaddick
Meeting convened at 7:02 PM
Public Participation Session
John Gammie – here on behalf of the Jubilee committee. I joined the committee last week to help advise them on road closures etc. The group have been trying to set everything up with no budget at all. During carnival our outgoings can run into thousands of pounds. Is it possible for Mere Town Council to grant them some money to assist the committee.
Richard Jefferies – here to put a bit of flesh on the bones for that request. The Committee’s expenditure would be in excess of £3110 and that is for a minimum social get-together. We have been promised £200 from the Town Council and we have received pledges from businesses and individuals. Of the estimated £3110 expenditure we anticipate a shortfall of £860 we have applied to the area board for some funding but we are uncertain as to the amount, if any, that we are likely to receive we would therefore like to ask the Town Council to act as guarantor and to underwrite any shortfall in funding.
Anne Rich – also on the Jubilee committee. We are trying very hard with John Gammie’s help because we need to do this properly. Not skimping on risk assessment and insurance and it is not cheap to do everything by the book. We do not like to have to ask for money at this time after having had such an expensive few years.
Craig Bowers – moved here six months ago and bought property in Water Street and we also bought 4 acres of land to house rescue donkeys in Wet Lane. Here to speak in support of my planning application which is for a field access so that we can move the donkeys down from Oxfordshire. At some stage we will be applying for planning permission for stables but that is for the future.
The Chairman explained that Christine Brown and Laura Young from Wiltshire Council would be joining the meeting electronically via Teams this evening to talk about and answer questions relating to the options for sheltered housing at Lynch Close.
Mr. Geoff Sams of 38 Lynch close explained that the residents of Lynch Close had formed a committee and, as Chairman of that committee, he asked for permission to read out the following statement:
“First of all, thank you for inviting us to your meeting. I have come here today in the hope that you will be able to help the residents of Lynch Close with the threat from redevelopment of the bungalows.
Just a little history background – the residents were called to a meeting at the Community Centre on 26 September 2021 where representatives from the Council were in attendance (Christine Brown and Eamon McClelland). They said they were there to talk about the redevelopment of Lynch Close which could take the form of three options:
- they would do nothing and carry on as we are
- repair and upgrade the bungalows
- move the residents out and redevelop the site
The thing is where would we go and would we have to leave the area? Christine, at the meeting talked about the utopia build at the Council’s new place at Evergreen Court in Amesbury. There were many other things talked about but the thing with this meeting was that it threw the elderly residents into a panic with the feeling that they were going to be evicted from their homes. As this has proceeded the fear for residents has multiplied. At the end of the meeting a survey was produced just for the residents of Lynch Close that we were asked to fill in. Christine Brown later called another meeting on 9th November 2021 with the results from the survey but unfortunately it meant little as no one at the meeting could make sense of it. So now we are in a place of limbo not knowing what is going to happen to us. We formed a committee of Lynch Close residents to give Wiltshire Council officers and others a point of contact should they need to inform the residents of Lynch Close as to what is happening to us. If this redevelopment goes ahead, it will not only affect Lynch bungalows but the other residents who also live on the estate and will have a knock-on effect with the residents of Water Street. I would just like to say that the elderly residents and the people of Lynch Close are a tight community and during the last 2 ½ years due to Covid have looked after one another. The community is a close-knit family and always have been – they look out for one another only a knock on the door away from help since the warden has been removed from Lynch Close. We are a in the twilight years of our life and have no wish to be uprooted from our homes and move on just to make way for progress as some see it. We are here today to ask the Parish Council for help and some guidance as to the way ahead. I don’t want to be insulting but I feel it is part of the parish council to help their parish residents in this matter. Thank you for your time and patience. In addition, there has been another survey sent out which has caused more worry to residents and that is a survey about decanting residents which we have been asked to fill in. It is basically a survey asking people how they feel about moving out of their homes and being moved to another site.”
Christine Brown (CB)- The Council is undertaking an options appraisal at Lynch Close as part of a wider review of the Council’s sheltered housing much of which was built in the 1960s and 70s. There are issues with the stock: Access issues and the housing does not meet our commitments on sustainability. We have built some new sheltered housing in Amesbury and Devizes which are of a different standard. Due to these issues we’ve decided to undertake a review of our housing stock. CB had prepared a PowerPoint presentation (as attached) and stated that there are four standard options:
- do nothing
- minor refurbished (occupants can remain in property)
- major investment and refurbishment (occupants cannot remain in property)
We are also looking at Fives Court. Earlier thinking is that we will redevelop that site into one and two bed flats for older people.
Would like to offer assurance that we will keep residents involved all the way through
commitment to social housing in council ownership
committed to improve the standard of accommodation for older people
The options appraisal is being undertaken and no decisions have been made.
I understand the level of anxiety
With regards to the decanting survey – this has turned out to be an unfortunate coincidence. This survey has been put out on behalf of the “Challenge and Change group” which is a group of residents who would like to find out what level of disruption residents would put up with before they feel it necessary to move out of their homes and the survey is being conducted of all of our stock throughout Wiltshire.
Geoff Sams said that in one of the meetings with Christine his wife asked the question in relation to refurbishing the bungalows “if we get moved out will we be able to move back?” the answer she received was “no there was a possibility that you would not be offered your home back”.
Christine responded that her memory of that was different but pointed out that there is evidence to suggest that when people are moved out they resettle in their new home and quite often do not want to move back again but she stressed that this is one of the issues she would hopefully be able to address.
Geoff Sams – mental health is a big thing at Wiltshire Council and we now have four residents who are under the doctors with stress and two residents that are cancer patients.
Cllr. Clive Hazzard (CH) – the people of Mere and, indeed the Town Council does not have much faith with Wiltshire Council due to the situation at Fives Court when we heard about the closure of Fives Court on the morning that it closed. What commitment can you give us that this isn’t a fait accompli. We are all for improving property but at what cost? This is people’s homes we are talking about and we need more commitment to be kept more informed.
CB – We are at the very beginning of this process and you would have been one of our early consultees and we would have been in touch with you as a matter of course.
CH – at what point do we become involved. Maybe we should have been involved earlier as we now have residents asking us for our help as we are their elected representatives and we know absolutely nothing about what is going on.
CB – I can assure you that absolutely no decisions have been made. I am aware that it has caused a lot of concern and anxiety. In relation to Fives Court, I am aware that Wiltshire Council only became involved when it became vacant.
Cllr. Philip Coward – It is quite understandable that the main concern of the residents is that they are going to get pushed out of their homes. Is there an option to develop Fives Court so that people can be moved to Fives Court as temporary accommodation before being able to move back to Lynch Close?
CB – It is certainly something that we are going to come back to the residents of Lynch Close about.
Cllr. George Jeans – I am aware that not one of the residents is prepared to move out I am aware that Wiltshire Council cannot force the residents to move out without obtaining a court order. If you are going to redevelop Fives Court then I hope it will be done as a single-story development as it is in the centre of town and within the Conservation Area. Also, Wiltshire Council currently has flats at The Yews and at Lynch close and they cause nothing but problems: the communal areas are always an issue and living above or below someone causes continual problems with associated noise levels. Lynch Close is a very nice sheltered housing development the bungalows are low-density; they have an open environment and individual gardens – I don’t think any resident would want to move out of this environment into a high-density housing environment. Your picture at the beginning of your presentation showed what you described at access problems for the community centre but I want to point out that the community centre has a ramp as well as steps and so there aren’t any access problems – it is the same as the new building in Trowbridge which also has steps and a ramp.
Cllr. John Jordan – It sounded as though a decision had been made by Wiltshire Council on Fives Court – is it going to be housing and not something else because we understood there were proposals afoot for health & wellbeing facilities on the site.
Laura Young – at the moment we are only exploring the option of Residential Development but there is no definitive answer on that. We have discussed the possibility of the site being used for a surgery with planners but concerns of traffic and parking were highlighted.
The Chairman closed the open discussion on this item and thanked both Christine Brown & Laura Young for giving up their time to attend the meeting on screen.
Apologies for absence received from Cllr. Louise Bennett
- To receive any declarations of disclosable pecuniary interests and other interests from Councillors on matters to be considered at the meeting.
- To receive Declarations of Interest relating to matters contained in this agenda, in accordance with the provisions of the Local Government Act 1972 in respect of officers and the Localism Act 2011 in respect of members.
- To receive written requests for new DPI dispensations.
Members are invited to declare disclosable pecuniary interests and other interests in items on the agenda as required by the Mere Town Council Code of Conduct for Members and by the Localism Act 2011. The disclosure must include the nature of the interest. If you become aware, during the course of a meeting, of an interest that has not been disclosed under this item, you must immediately disclose it. Whether you can remain in the meeting and the extent to which you can participate depends on the type of interest you have.
- Minutes – RESOLVED that the minutes of the Town Council meeting held on Monday, 10th January 2022 be approved as a correct record. Proposal made by Cllr. John Jordan seconded by Cllr. Aubrey Colman and carried with a majority vote of those present on 10.1.22.
- Matters Arising from Public Session
*a) Concerns raised by residents relating to ‘Options’ put forward by Wiltshire Council for the future of Sheltered Housing at Lynch Close (Clerk’s report attached) – following on from the discussion during the public session and due to the concern & anxiety being experienced by residents, it was agreed that the Town Council should write to officers (Simon Hendey, Mike Dawson, Christine Brown and Laura Young) at Wiltshire Council to request that a representative from Mere Town Council is invited to all future meetings with residents and is involved fully in any consultation meetings & discussions with Wiltshire Council Officers relating to proposals & decisions for the future of Lynch Close and Fives Court in Mere. If, it should transpire that there are occasions that this might be inappropriate as the meeting would require the disclosure of confidential or exempt information; then, at the very least, our elected Wiltshire Council member should be in attendance.
Members also asked the Clerk to request that officers of Wiltshire Council refrain from using the words ‘stock’ and ‘decant’ from any future discussions with residents as these words are insensitive and offensive when talking about people’s homes.
- Matters Arising from previous Meetings
- a) Climate Change Strategy – suggestions for community survey & also Town Council strategy document – Debbie Beale asked for this matter to be deferred until next month so that a report could be distributed to members with agenda papers
- b) Update on Platinum Jubilee Celebration preparations and application for Scheduled Ancient Monument Consent for brazier – In response to the financial plight of the committee, Cllr. Rodney Coward said that he was Chairman of the Forest Charity and that he was hoping that the Charity would provide a donation of somewhere between £200 and £500 from the Forest Charity funds. However, Richard Jefferies said that this still left the committee with an £860 deficit. R. Coward said that Wood Farm Clay shooting would donate £100 towards the event, Cllr. Nick Beale said that Lavender Lane would donate £100 towards the event and John Gammie confirmed that the Carnival Committee would donate £100 towards the event. It was pointed out that there were other individuals at the Town Council meeting that had already pledged a donation towards this event.
The Chairman read out a report from the Jubilee Committee requesting that the Town Council attend to various matters:
- a) Accept responsibility for dressing the town in flags and bunting for the period 2-5 June: Hazzard said that the Town Council once had flags on broomsticks and Cllr. Jeans confirmed that these were provided for the Golden Jubilee but people were asked to decorate their own properties. It was agreed that the Town Council should decorate the Town Clock and Cllr. Jeans said that he would like the town to provide flags. Cllr. Mitchell said that he would donate £200 towards the provision of flags.
- b) Many have expressed a desire to plant or pay for a tree to be planted but do not have the space. Could the Town Council take this on? The Clerk pointed out that the Town Council does not own any land that is suitable for planting trees and members confirmed that this was the case. It was also pointed out that planting a tree is not always as straightforward as people think and is often quite costly. Hazzard confirmed that the Town Council was purchasing a specimen tree to plant in Jubilee Gardens to commemorate the platinum jubilee. Cllr. Ings asked for ‘Open Space at Kingsmere to be planted with trees’ to go on the next agenda.
- c) We were disappointed that neither the Council nor the Church felt able to take on the very modest accountancy responsibility (hopefully accepting the SW Area Board grant). Luckily, the Carnival Committee has stepped into the breach. Jordan confirmed that, as Treasurer for the Carnival Committee, they will be providing the bank account and he will do the treasury for them.
- d) In the lead up to 4th June, will the Town Council allow the staff, James, Simon & Sam to help in the preparation of the Vicarage Field and putting up of flags and bunting: The Clerk expressed concern that the amount of work involved in this was unknown and therefore how much time would need to be taken to prepare the field but asked the Town Council to bear in mind that this would be during the busy grass-cutting season. Hazzard said that it should just be a case of going in the field with the topper. Cllr. Ings said that it would be mowing the grass and making the entrance accessible. The Clerk said that she would visit the site and assess this with the staff.
- e) Allow the use of the cemetery car park for the car show: members were happy to grant permission for this use.
- f) If there is a shortfall, will the Town Council underwrite the costs? Ings said “At the very worst, the Town Council might end up having to pay £860 + the £200 it had already promised.” RESOLVED on proposal made by Cllr. Jeans, seconded by Cllr. Jordan to underwrite the Jubilee Committee for any shortfall between grants and donations and expenditure up to a limit of £860.00. Proposal carried with a unanimous vote.
*c) Mere School Expansion Project
- Planning Application – Certification of Ownership notification – the Clerk reported that as Lessees of part of the building, the Town Council had received the Certificate of Ownership notification and had also received confirmation that a Certificate of Ownership notification had been sent to the Duchy of Cornwall.
- Report on pre-start meeting held on 31st January 2022 via Teams (report attached) – members noted the contents of the report.
- d) What is the Town Council’s thoughts on taking on the freehold/leasehold of Mere Library and responsibility for running the facility?
Cllr. Hazzard said that he had an interest in this question as he was Chairman of the Museum Committee and would very much like to keep the museum. It was pointed out that the structure itself was a Listed Building and, if it came down to an ultimatum then the Town Council probably ought to keep it rather than lose it as it is a great community asset. The Clerk suggested that the Town Council might do a feasibility study on this and ask other Town & Parish Councils that have taken on the library service, what is involved and the level of resources that are needed.
- e) Cemetery Wall – the Clerk confirmed that she had received one quotation for the repair of the wall following the storm damage. The insurance company had requested two quotations and the Clerk was awaiting the second quotation before she could submit the insurance claim.
- Reports & Consultations
- a) Report from Wiltshire Councillor – no report.
- a) Applications for consultation response – (All applications can be viewed on Wiltshire Council’s Planning & Building Control Public Register – https://development.wiltshire.gov.uk/pr/s/ – type in the relevant
RESOLVED to recommend the above application for approval on proposal made by Cllr. Mitchell, seconded by Cllr. Colman and carried with a majority vote in favour. In order not to compromise his position as Wiltshire Councillor, Cllr. Jeans abstained from voting on this planning application.
- Highways, Rivers, Footpaths, Traffic & Transport
- a) To identify jobs for the Parish Steward, Sparkle Team and MyWiltshire reports
- Pothole at Manor Road/North Road junction (Cllr. R. Coward)
- Mud and debris washed down at the top end of Burton Path (Cllr. Mrs. Beale)
- Clean road signs – locations to be advised (Cllr. Mrs. Beale)
- Issues with uneven tarmac along Castle Street (Cllr. Hazzard)
- Buildings, Open Spaces, Play Areas, Sports Grounds, Car Parks, Allotments & Cemeteries
- a) Suggestion for a dog ban (Public Spaces Protection Order) for Mere Peace Memorial Sports & Recreation Ground – Cllr. Rachael Hansford said that she had asked for this to be raised as an agenda item because there was a recent incident reported on Facebook where a mother had found her toddler covered in dog faeces which provoked a lot of posts from members of the public. A lot of people were saying they couldn’t understand why dogs were allowed in the Recreation Ground at all. Mrs. Symonds said that she has found the Recreation Ground an invaluable area to walk dogs and she thought it would be impractical to ban dogs there. Cllr. Colman said he walks his dog in the Recreation Ground twice a day and most dog owners are sensible and clear up after them. Cllr. Hazzard pointed out that the suggestion of banning dogs from the Recreation Ground was raised 10 or 15 years ago at a public meeting and it caused a lot of upset for parishioners. Cllr. Hill said that there were a lot of parents who take their children to the Recreation Ground and they take their dog along with them. If we banned dogs from the Recreation Ground then the children would miss out. Cllr. Jeans said that the real issue was training dog owners to clear up after their dogs and he said that the dog warden will go and tap on the door of anyone that is reported not to have cleaned up their dog’s mess. Cllr. Mrs. Beale said she wondered if public opinion may have changed and whether it was time to do a re-consultation. The Chairman asked for members views on whether or not the Town Council should pursue this further -there were 3 in favour, 8 against and 3 abstentions.
*b) Rebuilding of Mere Youth Centre – report on meeting held at Mere Youth Centre on 18th January 2022 – with reference to the report provided to members, members agreed that the Town Council should pursue the short term solution for the toilets i.e. to operate the girls’ toilets as unisex or gender neutral and to convert the boys’ toilets into an accessible toilet (without shower, hoists etc) and the Clerk was asked to obtain quotations/estimates for this work. With regards to the longer-term goal, Cllr. Colman said that the Youth Club had obtained quotations to refurbish the existing building and the Clerk was asked to obtain a copy of those quotations.
- c) Environmental Stewardship Agreement Extension 2022 – the Clerk confirmed that Natural England had offered the Town Council the option to sign up for the Environmental Stewardship Agreement for a further year and members authorised the Clerk to sign up for a further year.
- d) Mere Electric Car Club Survey – the Clerk said that this matter had been raised to remind members that the deadline for completing the survey was 25th A reminder would be posted on Social Media a week before the deadline.
- Finance, Policy & Resources
*a) Payments – RESOLVED to authorise payments as set out in schedule of payments (attached) on proposal made by Cllr. Mitchell, seconded by Cllr. Colman and carried with a unanimous vote.
- b) To set date, membership, venue & agenda for Working Group meeting to review and assess the effectiveness of internal control measures – It was agreed that the meeting would be held on 17th March 2022 at 2.00 pm – membership of working group being Chair, Vice-Chair, Cllr. Colman & Cllr. Jeans.
*c) ‘Specification’ to form job advertisement for Project Co-Ordinator for Mere Town Council (as recommended/approved at Budget Meeting) – Cllr. Jordan said that reading all the agenda papers gives him an insight into how busy the Town Clerk is and the number of issues that the Town Council is involved in which confirms the need for a project co-ordinator to carry out all the other projects that the Town Council wishes to do which is why he had prepared this ‘specification’. Cllr. Colman said that he had looked at this and that from a professional point of view he has concerns that there are issues that the Town Council needs to address. Cllr. Hazzard said that the Town Council needed to offer the appropriate wage rate in order to get the appropriate applicants. The Clerk said that she would do some work on the advert & rates and liaise with Cllr. Colman and try and have something to present to the council at the next meeting.
- d) To consider setting a Draft Communications Policy – Cllr. Rachael Hansford said that she would like to defer discussion on this matter. She said that she had attended some training on communications for Town Councils and it was clear that the right level of communication is not just about telling people what is going on it also about listening to what they have to say. She said that at the very least, we should have an email newsletter.
- General Items
- a) To set date, venue & agenda for Annual Town Meeting – it was agreed that the Annual Town Meeting should be held on 20th April 2022 in the Grove Building
- Future meetings and events
Mere Carnival Committee AGM – Monday, 7th March 2022 at 6.15 pm
- Future agenda items
- Firework Display for Mere School – Cllr. Hazzard
- Tree planting in Kingsmere Open Space – Cllr. Ings
Note: Members are reminded that the Town Council has a general duty to consider the following matters in the exercise of any of its functions: Equal Opportunities (race, gender, sexual orientation, marital status and any disability), Crime and Disorder, Health and Safety and Human Rights.
*Further information on these items enclosed/attached
Meeting closed at 8.48 pm
MERE PEACE MEMORIAL SPORTS AND RECREATION GROUND
Registered Charity No. 1093497
For Trustees to consider the following:
- a) Suggestion for a dog ban (Public Spaces Protection Order) for Mere Peace Memorial Sports & Recreation Ground – Cllr. Rachael Hansford
Trustees of the Mere Peace Memorial Sports & Recreation Ground Charity were happy to endorse the decision made by the Town Council during the Town Council meeting of 7th February (see Minute Reference 115a)
- b) Rebuilding of Mere Youth Centre – report on meeting held at Mere Youth Centre on 18th January 2022
Trustees of the Mere Peace Memorial Sports & Recreation Ground Charity were happy to endorse the decision made by the Town Council during the Town Council meeting of 7th February (see Minute Reference 115b)