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WATCHET ANNUAL TOWN MEETING

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WATCHET ANNUAL TOWN MEETING Powered By Docstoc
					                       WATCHET ANNUAL TOWN MEETING
                 Held at the Methodist Church School Room, Harbour Road, Watchet
                                 on Tuesday 15 April 2008 at 7.00pm

     PRESENT:         Cllr David Banks                         Cllr Jenny Hill
                      Cllr Hazel Bowden                        Cllr Wendy Turner
                      Cllr Paul Chamberlain                    Cllr Dave Westcott
                      Cllr Sally de Renzy-Martin               Cllr Loretta Whetlor
                      Cllr Peter Murphy                        Cllr Vincent Woods
                      Cllr Doug Webber
     In attendance: Sarah Reed Town Clerk, Government Electors of Watchet and the press

1.   Chairman’s Welcome and Address
     Cllr David Banks, as Chair of the meeting, thanked everyone for attending. He continued by thanking
     the staff of Watchet Town Council, Sarah Reed, the Town Clerk and Sue Upstone, the Clerical Officer,
     for their hard work during the year and their flexible, adaptable and friendly manner. He also thanked
     Niall Watson and John Eslick the Council groundsmen for the work they do for Watchet Town Council in
     the town. Cllr Banks informed those present that the Watchet Town Councillors are a talented group of
     individuals offering a wide variety of skills, who work unpaid for the benefit of the town and he gave his
     appreciation for all their hard work.

     Cllr Banks referred to „partnership working‟ stating the need for this smaller authority to work with its
     larger partners. Close links with both West Somerset Council and Somerset County Council and, in the
     last 12 months, other partnerships have been developed. Through the Market and Coastal Towns
     Initiative, the Watchet Action Strategic Planning group (WASP) was created. This group was chaired by
     Cllr de Renzy-Martin. The Watchet Forum was also formed following a spate of vandalism and
     antisocial behaviour in the town, comprising of Watchet Town Council, Avon & Somerset Police
     Authority, Magna West Somerset Housing Association, Crime & Disorder Reduction Partnership and the
     Youth Service. This forum meets and tries to tackle the problems which exist. Recent newspaper
     reports have stated that Williton has looked enviously at the Watchet Forum which has proved so
     successful in attempting to solve such problems. Watchet Town Council is also in an active partnership
     with the Avon & Somerset Probation Service, using the unpaid workers to carry out maintenance jobs,
     ie painting the Henry Davey Changing Rooms, the Memorial Ground Pavilion and it is good to have a
     close relationship with another proactive organisation. More recently, a partnership with South
     Gloucester has been made, regarding the problems of dog fouling in the town. Cllr Westcott is heading
     a “Dogwatch” campaign and following two/three public meetings, posters have been placed in strategic
     positions in the town to highlight this particularly unpleasant problem.

     Cllr Banks informed the meeting that Watchet Town Council is again trying to motivate action regarding
     the Washford Cross road intersection. SCC Highways have been uncooperative in improving this
     dangerous junction, and Watchet Town Council has approached other local authorities/parish councils
     and liaising with other authorities such as the Avon & Somerset Police in the West Somerset area,
     Butlins and other Chambers of Trade, who are prepared to support action because the feeling in the
     entire district is that there is a traffic paralysis throughout the area when accidents occur at this junction.
     If no action is taken up by SCC Highways to improve the junction it will heap shame on that council.

     Cllr Banks concluded by thanking the friendly, happy resilient people of Watchet for attending the
     meeting who give their input and make all the council‟s efforts worthwhile.

     The Minutes were circulated to those present together with additional information regarding Watchet
     Town Council.

3.   Acceptance of the Minutes of the Annual Town Meeting held on 17 April 2007
     The minutes of the Annual Town Meeting held on 17 April 2007 were read and Mr Mike Whetlor
     proposed that the minutes are accepted as a true and correct record. Seconded by Cllr A Knight. All
     agreed. Carried.

4.   Matters Arising from the Minutes:
     There were none.



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5.    Reports from Committee Chairmen – Resume of progress 2007/8

5.1   Environment & Planning – Cllr Dave Westcott
      The Environment & Planning Committee deals with highways matters and acts as consultees to the
      Planning Department of West Somerset Council on planning issues within the town as well as looking
      after the West Street Car Park.
      West Street Car Park: During the year an upgrade of the surface area of the car park was carried out
      using a layer of stone because of the surface suffering from the heavy rain during last winter.
      The Esplanade: The enhancement has been carried out although the long awaited performance area
      was not included. It is hopeful that this will be achieved this year.
      The Washford Cross Interchange: As mentioned by Cllr Banks, the Environment & Planning
      Committee will be supporting this campaign with vigour.
      “Dogwatch” Scheme: This is progressing, and in particular, the areas of the town which the group is
      targeting are showing some signs of improvement. The current course of action is „persuasion‟ and
      „embarrassment‟. If this does not succeed then other methods will be discussed.

      Planning:
      The Watchet Town Council, Environment & Planning Committee only act in an advisory capacity and
      this is not always acted on by the WSC Planning Committee.
      With regard to the development in South Road, the Environment & Planning Committee made comment
      to the WSC Planning Committee on 3.12.07 that “the design and materials are not in keeping with
      surrounding properties or original property on the site” and “traffic generated will impact severely on the
      junction of South Road/St Decumans Road/Doniford Road and we urged SCC Highways‟ input on this
      junction as a matter of urgency”. It is appreciated that Watchet Town Council have received a lot of
      blame for the building. Many people do not like the building and how it was developed, but Watchet
      Town Council (as consultees) can only make recommendations to West Somerset Council Planning
      Committee who make the final decision.

5.2   Finance & General Purposes Committee (including the Cemetery) – Cllr Vincent Woods
      Cllr Woods explained the remit of this committee which is to monitor the overall financial situation of the
      Council by liaison with other committees, to prepare the annual budget for the council and to levy the
      council tax required to cover this. It also has responsibility for dispensing the grants budget and for
      overseeing and controlling the running of the town cemetery. Matters not specifically covered by the
      remit of other committees are also referred to this committee.

      During the past year the committee has been able to offer financial assistance to Watchet Carnival and
      the Watchet Kids Festival and these two items have accounted for the bulk of the grants budget. In
      both instances, the assistance has been in the form of sponsorship of the Carnival Parade and one
      participant act, respectively. To obtain help from the grants budget, an application form must be
      submitted to the committee, supported by certified accounts and there are policy guidelines by which
      the committee work.

      The town cemetery has been well maintained again this past year, and thanks go to Niall Watson and
      John Eslick for the excellent work they have put in. Both take pride in their work which is reflected in the
      fashion in which the cemetery is maintained. Sue Upstone as cemetery administrator has worked hard
      to ensure the smooth running of this part of the Town Council work and has referred many matters of
      policy to myself and sometimes the Committee as necessary. This has resulted in this aspect of the
      Council‟s work being carried out in a flexible but consistent manner.

      Over the last few years it has come to the committee‟s notice that Watchet is the least expensive burial
      facility in West Somerset and the committee has worked at ensuring that the costs in operating the town
      cemetery is fully covered whilst not placing any severe increase in the fee system.

      As reported last year, the committee has been operating a strict policy of financial control which has
      resulted in an out-turn for the financial year which accords with the demands of the Town Council
      auditors. Thanks go to Sarah Reed, Town Clerk and Responsible Finance Officer for her input into this
      challenge.

      In order to maintain the Council‟s service level again this coming year, the Council has had to request
      an above-inflation level of Council Tax increase. We are fully aware of the fact that we are the highest
      Band D levy in West Somerset, but there is a reason for this. Watchet has a Council Tax budget of
      about one third of Minehead Town Council, yet our Council Tax (based on Band D properties) is almost
      50% higher than theirs. This is because the bulk of Watchet properties are classed as Bands B or C
      and we do not have the quantity of higher band properties which Minehead does. As a result, they are
      able to raise more money from a much lower tax base, while we have to tax at a higher level to raise
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      much less money. No system, of taxation is perfect, but this current system based on theoretical
      property valuations has severe limitations as we find out constantly.

      The aim of the current committee is always to seek to minimise the increase in council tax for the town,
      but we have to be aware of the reality that providing the services demanded of the Council costs -
      money which can only come from one source.

      At this point in time, I have no idea of how the committee for the next Council year will be composed,
      but I would like to take this opportunity of thanking the current Committee for their hard work over the
      past year. There has been considerable scrutiny of the various tasks we have undertaken, and the new
      members have familiarised themselves with the work quickly and effectively, ensuring that the operation
      of the committee has proceeded well.

5.3   Tourism & Leisure Committee – Cllr Paul Chamberlain
      Cllr Paul Chamberlain firstly thanked the Tourism & Leisure Committee for their hard work during a
      particularly difficult year and everyone has pulled together to achieve a good outcome.

      The previous year saw the installation of the Henry Davey Playing Field Changing Rooms which took up
      a lot of the budget so it has been a quiet year and expenditure will be used to cover such things as the
      flowers in the town, and general maintenance and repair.

      One project for this year was to replace the skate equipment which has been long overdue.
      Approximately 4 years ago the skate park by the youth club in Watchet was closed down, and
      subsequently removed due to anti-social behaviour and noise issues by the youths. The youths were
      unhappy with this and we saw an increase in anti-social behaviour throughout the town. Working with
      the youth and other partners through the Watchet Forum, Watchet Town Council was able to move
      forward and find a location for new skate equipment. It was agreed that this should not be as large as
      before and smaller street furniture which would be more useful to all ages. Cllr Westcott attended a
      meeting in Dunster which was headed by four County Councillors for West Somerset, who for the last
      financial year had £60,000 to spend on the area. Cllr Westcott asked for some of this money for
      Watchet to pay for the skate equipment. Following a presentation made by Cllr Chamberlain made at a
      meeting at Dulverton, £6,000 was given to purchase skate equipment and it was installed at the Henry
      Davey Playing Field on the tarmaced re-surfaced area at the top of the field. One or two people have
      showed concern regarding noise and behaviour around the area however this has been dealt with by
      working through the Forum in particular the Youth Service and Avon & Somerset Police and these
      issues have been overcome. The youths were included in the discussions and the children who use the
      ramps are aware that if this equipment is abused or behaviour becomes anti-social then they will lose
      the facility. Since the Open Day it has become noticeable that the older youths have shown more
      responsibility and are behaving in a more adult way and have „adopted‟ the skate ramp and are in fact
      helping and teaching the younger skaters techniques. This has meant that congregations of youths in
      other problem areas are now more actively engaged and youths are not using pavements and roadways
      to skate on. £1,200 is being used for extra skate items for the Henry Davey Playing Field.

      A further matter of concern is dogs‟ mess in the town and more particularly on the Memorial Ground. It
      was originally envisaged that Watchet Town Council would enforce a dog ban on the Memorial Ground
      or ensure that dogs should be kept on leads at all times. There is now a „Dogwatch‟ scheme in place
      where concerned members of the community meet and discuss ways to alleviate the problems. Posters
      have been appearing in the town warning those who are irresponsible to clear up their dog‟s mess or
      they will be liable to a fine and both Cllr Westcott and Cllr Murphy feel that this scheme should be given
      a chance before the Town Council enforces such a ban on the Memorial Ground.

      Again on the Memorial Ground the old galvanised tennis hut and store has been removed and in place
      a new building will be erected containing a groundsman‟s store and football equipment store. This will
      be completed in the near future and the majority of this money has come from a grant which was
      applied for by the football groups with approximately £3,000 being paid out of Town Council budget.

      Apart from this update there is the maintaining of the other municipal areas and the flowers in the town.
      There is however another possibility of a new building in the town which follows ideas put to the WASP
      (Watchet Action Strategic Planning) open event where it was stated that Watchet needed a community
      building – more of a multi-use building, ie Watchet sports centre, youth club, and all other people who
      may need the use of a venue. There is hope that some plans will be drawn up in the next few weeks to
      bring this project further forward and through Watchet Town Council and the Watchet Forum there may
      be public exhibitions to allow people in the community to put their ideas forward and exactly what sort of
      building they would like and what they would like to use it for.


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     Finally thanks go to Sarah the Clerk and Sue the Clerical Officer who have teamed up with the Tourist
     Information Office to continue the great job of promoting tourism. We deal with a lot of tourist requests
     via the Council website and through telephone enquiries.

     Not only Watchet Town Council but businesses in the town and residents have promoted the town and
     thanks must be given to them for all they do.

     Cllr Whetlor left the meeting at 7.35pm.

     Cllr Banks thanks the Committee chairs for their reports and informed the meeting that it is very
     apparent from the Committee reports that the theme of „partnership‟ is prevalent and means that no
     individual group is working alone which shows the strong supportive community of Watchet.

6.   Open Session – to receive questions from members of the public
     Mr Richards What is the total cost of the Henry Davey project to the Town Council?
     Cllr Chamberlain answered that the total figure will be available from the Clerk. Watchet Town Council
     has been working in close partnership with WSC and we may be receiving some money from Section
     106 money and once we have the final figure we will be able to write a personal letter to Mr Richards
     with the information.
     Mr Richards Reference the fencing around the children‟s play area. A reasonably good fence was
     removed and replaced. I was informed in a letter from Watchet Town Council that the funding for this
     was from Section 106. My concern is that 106 money is tax payer‟s money which is the contribution
     paid by developers to the area for local facilities.
     How much money is taken in Section 106 contributions?
     Cllr Banks stated that the Section 106 scheme money does not come from residents but from
     developers for residential developments and as such is part of the social costing for community
     facilities. This is a surcharge which goes to West Somerset Council and then comes to the Town
     Council because all money received must go towards amenity areas in the close geographical locations
     to the developments.
     Mr Richards What is the total cost of the projects on the Memorial Ground?
     The Clerk replied that the costs of the demolition work and new building was only £43 over the projected
     costs of £12,500 and approximately £3,000 to finish it would be taken from the taxpayer.
     Mr Richards observed referring to the proposed bandstand on the Esplanade, that with a bandstand in
     place where would events on the Esplanade take place at the weekends?
     Mrs Crane observed that as a neighbour of the Children‟s Play Area of the Memorial Ground and her
     grandchildren actually play on it when visiting, she was pleased to inform the meeting that children
     using the play area actually use the gateways to enter and exit the area instead of climbing the fencing
     as previously. The fencing is used as a „tennis net‟ or football net and still keeps the dogs out and is so
     neat and tidy and even dog owners are now closing the gates to safeguard the area.
     Mr Whetlor informed the meeting that the concrete base was not strong enough to take the weight of
     the building and it was not square and therefore an extra piece was added on and will this be an extra
     charge to the Council.
     Cllr Chamberlain replied that the actual size was correct and the manufacturers had constructed a
     building to the base size and it was in fact their error and therefore no extra cost to the Council.
     Mr Whetlor asked whether there will be power points on the Esplanade as was originally proposed.
     Cllr Chamberlain answered stating that a meeting had been held at West Somerset Council and the
     subject of the power points had been raised but because of certain issues with the Esplanade and the
     performance area some European funding had been lost and this reduced the financial budget and in
     order for the enhancements to continue there had to be cutbacks such as the underground works and
     placements of power points.
     Mr Whetlor asked why the funding was lost?
     Cllr Banks stated that time ran out due to unforeseen delays and the High Court proceedings regarding
     the performance area.
     Mr Whetlor asked whether the Watchet Forum meetings were open to the public.
     Cllr Banks replied they were not.
     Mr Whetlor stated that during the morning of the meeting a concrete lorry had entered the Memorial
     Ground and should the Town Council follow the guidelines laid down by the Access Policy?
     Cllr Banks was not aware that a lorry had entered the ground but would look into it but that guidelines
     would be followed.
     Mr Miller asked about the proposed nursing home in the mill development area off Anchor Street and
     stated that a rehabilitation centre plan was thrown out about six years ago because of problems with
     access. A nursing home will require all types of vehicles including ambulances. He stated to the
     meeting that he felt that the proposed development was a „done deal‟ and that the artists impression
     had shown a dynamo stuck outside his wall and no plans have been passed.
     Cllr Banks stated that the plans had not even entered the democratic process of planning.
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Mr Miller insisted that the traffic problems would be horrendous and questioned what the Town Council
was going to do about it.
Cllr Banks replied that the Town Council Environment & Planning Committee will be meeting on the
following Thursday when the plans will be discussed and recommendations will be made. Mr Miller was
invited to attend the meeting with the prior consent of the Clerk where he could make representation to
the committee.
Mr Miller‟s concern was very apparent to all those attending the meeting.
Cllr Knight explained to Mr Miller that plans submitted to the Planning Authority at West Somerset
Council go through to Highways and Town Council for their input. District planning officers put
everything together and all comments, recommendations and observations will be put before the
planning committee. At the planning meeting members of the public are at liberty to speak for three
minutes if they give 48hours notice to the planning officers prior to the meeting. The planning
committee comprises 19 people and Cllr Knight stated that he had not seen the plans yet and therefore
cannot make an opinion and therefore pointed out that there is no „done deal‟ now or ever in the past
during his time in office.

Referring to the development on South Road, the original plans had been withdrawn and resubmitted
following comments and observations which had already been made and when the plans were
resubmitted there were no objections from local residents. Mr Knight visited those people who had
originally objected to the plans and was informed that there were no objections as the windows which
would have overlooked the neighbouring residences had been changed.

Mr Milton referred to the „contribution‟ made by the Memorial Ground Management Committee per
year.
The ground is maintained by the Town Council groundsmen. However, regarding the problems of dog‟s
mess in the area, once the nights close in it is impossible to see dogs and their owners therefore there
should be a ban on dogs in the Memorial Ground. The Henry Davey Playing Field has a total ban.
What is the Town Council going to do about the roadway from the top of West Street at Cleeve Hill
which is in a dangerous state? What about a relief road when the roadway slips?
Cllr Banks stated that the area is monitored and there are warning signs which will be triggered when
the roadway subsides. He stated off the record that if the roadway subsided then a possible route
would be through the mill entrance across the river and up the valley but he has not seen anything in
black and white.
Cllr Hill stated that the roadway belongs to SCC Highways and the subsidence will not come from the
beach. This area has been monitored every six months for the past 16 years at a cost of £1,000 each
time. There are streams running through the cliff areas. However the place to be concerned about is
not the cliff area but the area near the lay-by at the top of Cleeve Hill.
Mr Milton stated that there was slurry coming off the top of the cliff.
Cllr Banks stated that Town Council will express the concerns to the Highways Department.
Mr Milton referred again to the ban of heavy vehicles on the Memorial Ground and asked for
clarification whether such visitors to the ground would be able to park behind the railings on the ground
and the edge of the outfield and disabled spectators in their vehicles as they had done in the past.
Cllr Banks explained that the policy referred to construction vehicles and that anyone affected by the
policy will get a copy.
Cllr Woods stated that the policy was created to control where, and how, vehicles not exceeding 17.5
tons access the ground.
Mrs Rosemary Woods referred to the comments made about a total ban on dogs on the Memorial
Ground and made a plea on behalf of responsible dog owners who regularly walk their dogs on the field
to keep the ground open.

There being no more observations from members of the public, Cllr Banks thanked everyone for
attending the meeting.

The meeting closed at 7.58pm

Signed: ………………………………………………………….

Date: ……………………………………………




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