Mere Town Council
Town Clerk – Mrs. L. C. Wood
Minutes of a meeting of the Town Council held on Monday, 7th June 2021 at 7.00 p.m. at Duchy Manor, Springfield Road, Mere, BA12 6EW
Present: Councillors Lesley Traves (Chair), Kate Symonds (Vice-Chairman), Debbie Beale, Nick Beale, Louise Bennett, Aubrey Colman, Philip Coward, Rodney Coward, Rachael Hansford, Clive Hazzard, George Jeans, John Jordan, Eric Mitchell
Also Mr. Roy Sims, Mrs. M. Coward & Mrs. P. Andrews representing Mere Tennis Club + Mr. David Coward + 1 other.
Roy Sims wanted to congratulate councillors on being elected or re-elected and also to inform them that the Mere police station is no longer going to be a drop-in centre. He also wanted to inform the Town Council that Rev. Carol Green had left the Benefice of Mere after serving here for 8½ years to work in Devon. He also said that work to St. Michael’s Church had now been completed and that this was now the largest venue for events in the town. Lastly, Mr. Sims said that although he is no longer a town councillor, he would happily represent the town Council at the Gillingham and Shaftesbury transport for.
David Coward spoke in support of the planning application for an agricultural worker’s dwelling at Manor Farm. He pointed out that the farm acreage had more than doubled and they now had over 400 cattle, calving in the autumn and spring. These animals were a highly valuable asset to the farm and their long-term viability required 24-hour supervision by an experienced person and this responsibility was shared between himself and his son. Mr. Coward pointed out that the Duchy of Cornwall had approved the land for release for the farm worker’s cottage and had also approved the plans.
Mrs. Myrene Coward said that she had been approached by the tennis club’s representative, Cllr. Jeans, about coaching. She said that the tennis club was extremely busy but felt that two morning sessions per week could be allocated for tennis coaching. She said that the tennis club would like confirmation that the coach is qualified and has the required insurance & risk assessments etc. Mrs. Coward also pointed out that they felt that if he was charging for tennis coaching then he should be a member of the Mere Tennis Club.
The Chairman said that the Town Council had today received notification that a national Thank You Day is being organised for 4 July 2021. The idea is that Thank You Day will be a chance to come together to mark what has happened over the last year, to celebrate the community spirit and say a big thank you to all those who have helped us along the way. The Chairman said that she knew that Clive was keen to thank all the volunteers but she was concerned that 4th July was too soon to make adequate arrangements and also, possibly, too soon in terms of the lifting of COVID restrictions. Louise Bennet said that if we don’t do anything and the rest of the country is arranging events, then we will get criticised so she suggested that we set the date and think about what we could do in the meantime. Clive Hazzard said that whatever we did, we must make sure that we do not upset anyone by not including all. Cllrs. Louise Bennet, Aubrey Colman & John Jordan volunteered to form a working group to make suggestions on this.
Apologies from absence received and accepted from Cllrs. Raymond Hill and Glenn Ings
28. To receive Cllr. Philip Cowards, Declaration of Acceptance of Office – Cllr. Philip Coward signed his Declaration of Acceptance of Office
29. To receive any declarations of disclosable pecuniary interests and other interests from Councillors on matters to be considered at the meeting.
- Cllr. Mrs. Traves declared a personal interest in planning application PL/2021/03298
- Cllr. Rodney Coward declared a pecuniary interest in planning application PL/2021/03298
- Cllr. George Jeans declared a personal interest in planning application PL/2021/03137
30. Minutes – RESOLVED that the minutes of the Annual Council meeting held on Monday, 17th May 2021 be approved as a correct record on proposal made by Cllr. Colman, seconded by Cllr. Ms. Hansford and carried with a unanimous vote of those present on 17.5.21
31. Matters Arising from Public Session
a) Library charges – with reference to the issue raised last month by Mr. Meyer, Cllr. Jeans said that the Library charged 80p to order/reserve a book separately which he understood was to cover administration costs. Members felt that this charge was reasonable and that it was important to sustain the library service we have in Mere and therefore RESOLVED to take no further action.
b) Mere Foodbank location – with reference to the issue raised during last month’s Public Session by Mr. Meyer, the Chairman said that she had spoken to Mrs. Ann Rich who runs the Mere Foodbank. Mrs. Rich said that she was very happy with the Foodbank distribution location but pointed out that they did have some storage problems. The Chairman asked councillors to think about ways in which the Town Council could help with the Foodbank’s storage problems. In the meantime, Cllr. Mrs. Symonds said that she had asked Richard Jefferies, Editor of Mere Matters, to write an article explaining how the Foodbank works and how to use it. Cllr. Mrs. Bennett said it would be a good idea to explain the food swapping element also.
32. Matters Arising from previous Meetings
a) Dog fouling in public spaces (Minute Refs : 219a) & 19b) – Cllr. Jeans said that he had sought advice from an officer at Wiltshire Council on the idea of putting dog waste bags in 3rd party residents bins (with their permission) and whether or not this would be considered legal. The officer had advised that the contractors needed to be consulted and Cllr. Jeans said that he needed to chase this matter up. Cllr. Mrs. Beale said that if this was not possible, could we please do a costing exercise for more bins (including waste removal and labour to empty) and see whether we could get residents to sponsor new bins. Cllr. Mrs. Symonds said that one of the problems is that whatever we provided, we would not change the mindset of certain people and we cannot just put extra bins all over the countryside.
b) Update and information on communication between Mere Patient Participatory Group (PPG) and Wiltshire Council relating to Fives Court building and request for Community Asset Transfer (Minute Ref: 208c) – Cllr. Ms. Hansford said that a paper had been submitted to Wiltshire Council and the PPG were just waiting to hear and would report back as and when any news was heard.
c) Public Toilets – to consider the current opening arrangements for public toilets in car park. (Minute Ref: 191a) – The Clerk explained to new members that when the first COVID-19 lockdown was announced in March 2020, the Town Council decided to close all three toilet blocks, not least because of concerns for the health and welfare of our cleaning/maintenance staff but also because we did not think there would be much cause for the use of public toilets since everyone was in lockdown at home. As the first lockdown began to cease and trade and travel started again in June/July 2020, the Council took the decision to reopen the accessible toilet from 8 am until 4 pm. The reason for doing this, as opposed to opening all three toilet blocks was threefold:
- It was not possible to follow government guidelines on handwashing in the gents or ladies toilets because the automatic hand-washing dispensers did not facilitate 20-second hand washing
- We were able to clean this one toilet TWICE daily for the same cost as cleaning all the other toilets ONCE daily.
- It is safer for our staff who only have to sanitise one set of touch points when they go into the toilet for maintenance/cleaning
- It is safer for the public because it is easier to control social distancing – only one person can go into the toilet at one time and we can ask people to queue outside where there is more ventilation rather than people queueing inside the toilet blocks (there are narrow corridors inside the gents and ladies toilet blocks).
The Clerk said that this matter had been raised on the agenda because of issues raised by members of the public and concerns that the car park was being used as a urinal. Cllr. Rodney Coward and Cllr. Jeans felt that the accessible toilet should be open 24 hours a day as people come into Mere from the A303 expecting to find public toilets because there is a sign on the A303. Cllr. Hazzard said that he did not understand why the toilet needed to be open at midnight and explained that the public toilets had suffered vandalism and anti-social issues when they were open during the night in the past. He felt that an auto-lock system on the accessible toilet could be installed which would allow the door to be opened early in the morning and shut later in the evening. Cllr. Philip Coward suggested that CCTV cameras may help to stop vandalism but Cllr. Mrs. Symonds said that she had done some work on a draft policy for CCTV for the Council and reported that it would involve an enormous amount of work relating to the GDPR implications. However, members were in general agreement that there should be a sign on the building to say that it was covered by CCTV. Cllr. Mrs. Beale said that she felt that all the toilet blocks should be open and that having public toilets was a basic facility. Cllr. Mrs. Bennett said that if you are providing a public toilet service then you should be providing it 24 hours a day. Cllr. Mrs. Symonds said that no-one is saying that we shouldn’t open the toilets but we are asking whether we need one toilet open for part of the day or 24 hours a day or all the toilets open for part of the day or all the toilets open for 24 hours a day. Cllr. Mrs. Symonds proposed that the Town Council should keep the one accessible toilet open 24 hours a day in a good state of cleanliness. Proposal seconded by Cllr. Colman and carried with a vote of 10 for, 1 against and 1 abstention.
d) Grant Application for Wiltshire Community Foundation for Wessex Water Environment Fund (water refilling station) (Minute Ref 25c) – the Clerk reported that she and Cllr. Jordan had jointly filled out a grant application for the water refilling station and submitted this within the deadline. A submission acknowledgement has been received but there was no further news to report. The chairman thanked the clerk and Cllr. Jordan for their work in this matter.
33. Reports & Consultations
a) Wiltshire Councillor’s Report – Cllr. Jeans had nothing specific to report although he was asked about contract requirements relating to verge cutting at junctions. Cllr. Colman asked him to obtain a copy of the service level agreement which says how many times the grass should be cut per month. Cllr. Mrs Beale said that she thought some authorities may have been participating in “No Mow May” in an effort to preserve wildlife wild flowers and wildlife. Cllr. Jeans said that he did not know whether or not they were participating in this initiative but pointed out that they were legally obliged to cut back verges on junctions where visibility splays are compromised and visibility is obstructed by vegetation. Cllr. Jeans said that he would take this matter up with Wiltshire Council and the Town Council gave their support for this.
Cllr. Mrs. Kate Symonds in The Chair
|Full planning permission
|Erection of essential agricultural workers dwelling
|Manor Farm, Manor Road, Mere. BA12 6HR
Cllr. Mitchell confirmed that he had visited the site and felt that this new dwelling would tie in well with neighbouring properties and Cllr. Mrs. Symonds said that she was aware that the site had been selected specifically by the Duchy of Cornwall. Cllr. Jordan said it was heartening to hear of such a success in farming and it is good that the Duchy of Cornwall have been involved in the planning process for this application and proposed that the application should be recommended for approval. Proposal seconded by Cllr. Mitchell and carried with a vote of 9 for and 2 abstentions. Cllr. Philip Coward abstained from voting. The Chairman and Cllr. Rodney Coward, both having declared a pecuniary interest in this planning application, left the meeting room and took no part in discussion or voting. In order not to compromise his position as Wiltshire Councillor, Cllr. Jeans abstained from voting on this planning application.
Cllr. Mrs. Lesley Traves in The Chair
|Full Planning Permission
|Upgrade surgery heating system from electrical to an Air Source heating system. Heat pump to be installed underneath the surgery’s external fire exit stairs on a plinth.
|Mere Surgery, Dark Lane, Mere. BA12 6DT
RESOLVED to recommend this application for approval on proposal made by Cllr. P. Coward, seconded by Cllr. R. Coward and carried with a majority vote. Councillor Jeans declared a personal interest as a neighbour and abstained from voting.
|Full planning permission
|Construction of new three stables, one secure tack room and two open fronted storage units on land adjacent to the manege. The stables are for personal use.
|Land adjacent Longmead, Barrow Street, Mere. BA12 6AB
Cllr. Mitchell confirmed that he had been to visit the site and confirmed that, in his opinion, the application would be unobtrusive. RESOLVED to recommend this planning application for approval on proposal made by Cllr. Mitchell, seconded by Cllr. Ms. Hansford and carried with a vote of 11 for. In order not to compromise his position as Wiltshire Councillor, Cllr. Jeans abstained from voting on this planning application.
|Listed Building Consent (Alt/Ext)
|Application of lime plaster to kitchen (service room) walls
|The Chantry, Church Street, Mere. BA12 6DS
RESOLVED to recommend the above application for approval on proposal made by Cllr. Mrs. Symonds, seconded by Cllr. Jordan and carried with a unanimous vote in favour
35. Highways, Rivers, Footpaths, Traffic & Transport
*a) Request for ‘No cycling signs’ along Burton – with reference to the information in the Clerks Report, Cllr. Hazzard said that he would be against a ‘No Cycling’ sign as it was a level route, safe and away from traffic and a lovely little route for young families. Cllr. Mrs. Bennet said that she thought signs would be ignored. Cllr. Jordan said that a resident had contacted him to tell him that they had been cycling for 70+ years on that path and he would therefore be opposed to signage prohibiting this. Cllr. Jordan said that there are some good cyclists and some unpleasant cyclists and as a suggestion, he wondered if we could make the footpath wider so that it is wide enough for cyclists and pedestrians and then we could call it an activity route. He said that this footpath, as well as the one at Lordsmead, are already on the-famous red arrows route footpath. Cllr. Mrs. Beale said that, as a resident of Burton, she would not want to see Burton Footpath being made into an activity way but would prefer a gentle reminder in Mere Matters about it being a footpath. Cllr. Jeans said that we have talked about improvements being made to Burton Path and the Angel Lane path. He felt that the Angel Lane path should be a priority. There was a general feeling that members did not want to put a sign up. RESOLVED to take no further action on this matter on proposal made by Cllr. Hazzard, seconded by Cllr. Colman and carried with a unanimous vote.
36. Buildings, Open Spaces, Play Areas, Sports Grounds, Car Parks, Allotments & Cemeteries
*a) Application for tennis coaching at Mere Tennis Club – The Clerk confirmed that an application had been received from Mr. Allen who lived in Mere and was interested in providing Tennis Lessons at Mere Tennis Club. Mr. Allen had confirmed that he would coach all ages and would charge £25 an hour, depending on what type of sessions they were. He had no set days, dates or times and was willing to be flexible and liaise with the tennis club over this. Mr. Allen had confirmed that he was LTA level 3 qualified, had £10m public liability insurance, Safeguarding policies and had been DBS checked. He had also undertaken a First Aid Course. The Clerk confirmed that she had not received copies of Mr. Allen’s Certificates/Insurance but advised that this should be a conditional requirement. Members pointed out that the tennis club representatives had indicated that they would be happy with 2 morning coaching sessions per week and councillors generally felt that tennis coaching would be of benefit for the community. RESOLVED that Mr. Allen should liaise with the tennis club over timings and number of sessions per week with the tennis club having final agreement and that any fee to the tennis club for coaching should also be decided by the tennis club although anyone coaching tennis at the club should, at the very least, pay a membership subscription. If agreement is reached on coaching, then Mr. Allen should submit his certificates and papers to the Town Clerk for filing purposes.
Whilst on this subject, Cllr. Jordan pointed out that his wife had experienced difficulties in trying to join the tennis club. Cllr. Jeans said that the tennis club booking arrangement had always been very efficient and suggested that Cllr. Jordan’s wife should try again.
b) War Graves in Mere Cemetery – the Clerk informed members that she had only just received information from the War Graves Commission that it is against their policy to have roses planted in front of scattered war graves and that they should be laid to grass. Unfortunately, this is at odds with information that the Town Council had previously been given by the War Graves Commission. The War Graves Commission were asking that the roses be removed from the front of the war graves and the areas in front are laid to grass. Members agreed that the roses should be removed in the autumn, the war graves should then be laid to grass and, if possible, the roses could then be planted elsewhere by the grounds staff.
37. Finance, Policy & Resources
a) Payments – RESOLVED to approve payments set out in the payment schedule on proposal made by Cllr. Mrs. Symonds, seconded by Cllr. R. Coward and carried with a unanimous vote.
b) To review and authorise the following S.137 – RESOLVED that the Council, in accordance with its powers under section 137 of the Local Government Act 1972, should incur the following expenditure which, in the opinion of the Council, is in the interests of the area of its inhabitants and will benefit them in a manner commensurate with expenditure. Proposal made by Cllr. R. Coward, seconded by Cllr. Colman and carried with a unanimous vote. (These S.137 payments were previously recommended at the Annual Budget meeting held 14.12.20).
|To support Leisure Credit Scheme
|Mere & District Linkscheme
|St. John’s Ambulance
c) Confirmation of receipt of S.106 funding – with reference to the information in the Clerks Report, the Clerk confirmed that £134k being the S.106 payment from the first phase of the development had been received by the Town Council. The Clerk said that the Council had previously talked about setting up a working group and also about conducting a public consultation exercise and wondered how members wanted to proceed with this. Cllr. Colman felt that the Town Council should set up a committee to look at all possibilities for expenditure. Cllr. Jordan said that when he attended a recent Area Board meeting there was a funding opportunity of £15k created for footpaths under Health & Wellbeing and he pointed out that it therefore appeared that one department of Wiltshire Council has a discrepancy with the other over the purpose of footpaths. Cllr. Jeans said that he felt that the footpath should be a priority for expenditure and agreed to push this matter with officers and C. G. Fry if necessary to try and get clarification on whether or not expenditure on this footpath would be legal. RESOLVED to publicise the receipt of the money, the restrictions for its expenditure and ask for ideas from the public in both Mere Matters and Mere Mutters and then to discuss this and the ideas received at a future council meeting.
d) To review Mere Town Council Reserves Policy – RESOLVED to approve the draft policy without amendment.
e) To approve the Accounting Statements – the accounting statements which includes the end-of-year bank reconciliation, identification of variances requiring explanation, reconciliation between boxes 7 & 8, an analysis of earmarked reserves and asset summary, prepared by the RFO were distributed with the agenda papers and approved by the Council. The Clerk pointed out that there was extra information provided within these statements that needed to be published in accordance with the Transparency Code and in recognition that the Town Council had now moved into the higher band requirement (income over £200k)
f) Annual Governance & Accountability Return 2020/21
- To receive and note the Annual Internal Audit Report – the Clerk informed members that on 27th May, Mrs. Mary White had carried out an independent examination of the Town Council’s accounting records, its compliance with relevant procedures and its risk assessments and internal control procedures. Mrs. White had agreed that, in all significant respects, the control objectives were being achieved throughout the financial year to a standard adequate to meet the needs of the council and had completed section 4 of the Annual Return, answered ‘yes’ or ‘Not Covered’ to all questions and had signed the Annual Internal Audit Report in the Annual Return accordingly. Mrs. White had written a letter: “On 27th May I carried out an internal audit of the Town Council’s Financial Statements for the year ending 31st March 2021. It is my opinion that proper accounting records have been maintained by the Council, financial statements have been properly prepared and that there were at this time no issues of concern. For the purpose of this audit the Town Clerk, Lindsey Wood, ensured as always that everything necessary was to hand and in good order, and provided every assistance during our meeting.” Members expressed their gratitude to Mary White for carrying out the Internal Audit and asked for their thanks to be recorded in the Minutes.
- To approve the Annual Governance Statement (Section 1) – Points 1 – 9 of the Annual Governance statement 2020/21 (Section 1 of the Annual Governance & Accountability Return) were read out to members and members answered ‘yes’ to each of the statements. The Annual Governance Statement was signed by the Clerk and by the Chairman in the presence of the Town Council.
- To approve the Accounting Statements (Section 2) attached – The Accounting Statements 1-11 (Section 2 of the Annual Return) were approved by the Town Council. Confirmation of approval of the Account Statements was signed by the Clerk and by the Chairman in the presence of the Town Council.
- To set the commencement date for the exercise of public rights – The Clerk confirmed that, as required by The Accounts & Audit Regulations 2015 the Town Council must now publish the unaudited Annual Governance & Accountability Return and the Notice for the Commencement of the Period for the Exercise of Public Rights. Publication is on the parish website: www.merewilts.org
- To note other information to be sent to the External Auditor and required by External Auditor as part of Intermediate Review 2020/21 – the Clerk pointed out to members that because the Town Council had income exceeding £200k this year, this meant that we needed to have an Intermediate Audit Review which required providing extra information to the external auditors. This year’s requirement was:
- Copies of evidence that the authority is registered as an employer with HMRC.
- Copies of minutes and any agreed plan showing the corrective action taken to address the prior year ‘except for’ matters (ONLY for smaller authorities who received ‘except for’ matters in the 2019/20 external auditor report).
g) General Data Protection Awareness Checklist for Councillors & to consider setting up merewilts email addresses for councillors i.e. email@example.com – A copy of the General Data Protection Awareness Checklist for Councillors had been distributed to members. The following councillors requested merewilts email addresses:
38. General Items
a) Production of Mere Town Council information leaflet and approval of expenditure – Cllr. Mrs. Symonds said that recent criticism over the lack of information on councillors and the council had propelled her into thinking that we needed to be a bit more clear to the public. She had therefore compiled a leaflet using information on the Town Council’s website and on Wiltshire Council’s website and proposed that this should become a centre-page pull-out information leaflet in Mere Matters. The leaflet will identify the councillors, with agreed contact information. The second page is what we do do, third page is what we don’t do and the last page is a pie-chart on our expenditure. Cllr. Mrs. Symonds said she was hoping that the Town Council would approve the idea and wondered if there was anything else that members would like to add. It was pointed out that people did not understand the difference between George Jeans’ role as Wiltshire Councillor and Town Councillor. Members thanked Cllr. Symonds very much for the work that had gone into producing this leaflet and thought it was a marvellous idea to include it in Mere Matters.
39. Future agenda item
The Clerk informed members that PC Richard Salter was hoping to come along to the next meeting and introduce PCSO Dan Gill and talk about policing issues and priorities for Mere.
Meeting closed at 8.50 p.m.
The Clerk said that she would be doing some informal training sessions for new council members and that if anyone else was interested in attending, she would be happy for them to make contact with her about dates/times and come along.
MERE PEACE MEMORIAL SPORTS AND RECREATION GROUND
Registered Charity No. 1093497
Meeting convened at 8.51 p.m.
For Trustees to consider application for tennis coaching at Mere Tennis Club
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 June 2021 (Minute Reference: 36a – Application for Tennis Coaching at Mer Tennis Club)
The following members agreed to meet to discuss the latest plans and draft leases for proposals for new Youth Development Building in the Recreation Ground:
- Cllr. P. Coward
- Cllr. A. Colman