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May 2017 PC Meeting

On Monday of this week I attended both the AGM of the Parish Council and the PC Meeting which followed it.  In due course Gillian, the Clerk, will be publishing the minutes in the usual way.  I have the opportunity to expand on selected sections of the PC Meeting in a manner that would be impossible in normal Minutes.  This is the first item of particular interest.

A discussion was held on the proposal for a PC owned Website.  The following information was released during the discussion.

The three people pursuing the matter are Kate Manders, Jim Williams and Pat Close.  In their report to the PC they said that two domain names were available.
These domains have been registered by the team. The registration is with 1&1 Internet SE (TLDs).  1&1 also provide a do it yourself web design service and can also provide hosting.

The site would have the following format:

  • Static Pages containing village information, and can link to existing sites where applicable;
  • News Pages divided into various categories such as, Parish Council, Village Hall, Parochial Church Council and General;
  • A Documents Section holding Parish Council Agendas and Minutes and any other documents which may require to be made public;
  • The team are considering having a classified section on which trades people can advertise services for a small annual fee, this will help with the running costs if required;
  • If anyone wants to make comments then they can email to a central email address;
  • The website would be owned by, and be the responsibility of, the Parish Council. They can nominate someone to operate the site but ultimate ownership rests with the Parish Council.
  • The team propose that a limited number of people have the ability to post news and information to the site, mainly members of the Parish Council, the Village Hall Committee, the Parochial Church Council and someone to cover general news.

If approval by the Parish Council goes ahead today (Mon 15 May 2017), the site could be operational by the end of June 2017.

Static Pages:
The proposals is that the information ages include the following:   News around the village, a Classified Section, a photograph gallery and Community Events. We propose that the News pages be updated regularly and posted to display the most recent.  We will include an online calendar including when events are happening and items like Village Hall bookings.  Anyone needing to add items will need to contact the Administrator.

Hosting Costs etc:
Jim Williams has already registered the two potential Domain Names.  At a cost of £7.18, including a first years hosting.  Ongoing costs are likely to be in the region of £100 a year and a monthly hosting of £5 a month and ongoing Domain Registration £35 a year.  These costs can be repaid by the Parish Council, with a grant fund being available.  All the advertisements in the classified section would be charged at £10 a year.

My existing website and Blog:
When the PC Website is up and running I am taking the opportunity to remove all “Newsy” items, forthcoming events, Contact addresses for PC and VH members, as well as links to the PC Agendas and Minutes..  I have discussed this with Gerald and he is quite happy for me to continue receiving his “Musings” emails and publish them on both the website and Blog.  All the History, Local Walks, Sturgeon and Hodgkin pages etc. etc. will continue.

In particular the Blog will maintain its role as the “official opposition” highlighting matters that concern the community.

This will come as a great relief to me because the biggest pain is the frequent updating called for.

John Keegan

Dragons Head Support

Councillor Peter Williamson

Having reported (see the post immediately below this one) on the one objection to the Dragons Head Application it is rewarding to be able to report on the far more measured observations, in support of the application, from our highly experienced District Councillor, Peter Williamson.

Of the four comments on the application only that from Kate Mander’s opposes it. Peter’s observations, in full, are as follows:

This matter was originally before the Committee on 6 February 2017.

As suggested by the Committee at that meeting applications in respect of the Dragons Head Public House and the former public houses lower car park have been jointly submitted and are before the Committee on 31 May 2017 for further consideration.

The rural ward of Upper Lune Valley includes nine Parish Councils and in my experience, it is without precedent that a Parish Council will agree unanimously with a planning application. However, in this instance they do. This has been a consistently held view which has been provided to the Committee through their own representations on the matter in writing and in person.

I would like to highlight 5 crucial factors in respect of this application:

1. Brownfield Site: The proposed development for the three terraced houses is on a brownfield site. This site was previously used for decades as the lower car park for the public house. It should be highlighted that just 200 yards from this proposed development, permission for around 20 houses has been granted by this committee on a site formerly used as farm buildings.

2. Visual impact: Hardly any part of the proposed three houses will be visible from the road passing through the centre of the village of Whittington (the B6254). Also, the stable/barn conversion proposed
will similarly be hidden from view.

3. Access: The access on to the B6254 has been the only access to the Dragons Head for decades. To suggest that vehicles associated with any of the proposed 3 or 4 properties in this application will significantly increase usage and the risk of congestion and accidents is overstating the position in my view. There have been no accidents to my knowledge from this access recorded here. Also, a careful comparison with the proposed access here and that of the new already approved development for 20 houses close by shows that the visibility is better from the access proposed in this application.

4. Sustainability: Not many years ago, the village of Whittington boasted a shop; Post Office, Primary School and Public House. Now, it has none of these facilities. This development if approved will deliver much needed services and employment opportunities to the village. In addition to bed and breakfast lettings; a bar and eatery, it is proposed that it will include a small retail outlet serving the everyday needs of villagers which would include Post Office services – something the villagers and Parish Council on their behalf support.

5. Precedent: Should the Committee agree this small-scale application, it will not create a precedent for other applications as it will have been judged on the facts surrounding this unusual case.

Peter Williamson
11 May 2017

Dragons Head Objection

The documents related to the Dragons Head Application were  updated on the 12 of this month. One of the new documents is an objection by a Mrs. Kate Manders to the planning application. I am so astounded by the content and inaccuracies that the objection contains that I post it in full below.

I would love to hear how many people agree with Kate that “the majority of villagers (excluding one or two Parish Councillors) have no faith in the application”.  In fact the Parish Council wrote to the Planning Department saying “Parish Councillors are unanimously IN SUPPORT of this application.”

Somebody is telling pork pies. However, here are Kate’s comments:

I object in the strongest possible terms to the application for planning for the Dragon’s Head, on several counts. Whittington has a major problem with parking, and the proposal to remove the existing car park from the rear of the pub and convert it into access for housing will cause yet more problems with unsafe parking in the village. It will endanger lives, cause congestion and the access from the proposed three houses onto Main Street on a difficult and potentially blind corner will be dangerous.

In addition, I do not believe that any business plan submitted by the applicant is genuine. Whittington needs a pub. Not a tea room with a pub that may or may not open 2 or 3 evenings a week. This is not be a viable business plan but a cynical attempt to get planning permission for housing. It is my guess that, when the business fails in 2-3 years
time, the applicant will then say that it was never a viable option and seek permission to convert the pub building into residential accommodation.

The applicant has held the village to ransom since he bought the premises with a threat that he can only open a pub if he can build houses. This is nonsense. Why did he not refurbish the pub when he first bought it, and promised us it would be open by Christmas 2015? In my opinion, any reason he gives for needing to build houses in order to reopen the pub is not based on commercial reality, but greed. If he needs money to build the houses at the back, then surely opening the business as soon as possible after purchase would have been a priority.

Thirdly, the building of any housing at the back of the pub will destroy what could be a valuable asset to the pub, namely the beer garden. No customers will want to sit in a beer garden at the front of the building and breathe in traffic fumes and look at the village hall, when
they could have been sitting at the back looking at the view. It makes no sense. In addition, any seating at the front will further limit vehicle access to the back, making the entrance yet more unsafe.

I have absolutely no faith in the application, and despite the opinions or one or two members of the Parish Council, a quick vox poll of villages would tell you that neither do the majority of the residents of the village.

There are plenty of ideas locally about how the pub could be reopened and be a real asset to the community. It
does not require holding the village to ransom with demands for houses that are unnecessary – housing already for sale in the village is not selling, and the building of 18 further properties on Whittington Farm will reduce demand even further. Without the necessary
infrastructure of village amenities, the village is not as attractive to potential buyers as others in the area.

I trust you will include these comments in your decision process.

Mrs. Kate Manders.

I follow in Eric Pickles Footsteps

I attended this evenings PC AGM and complementary  June PC Meeting.

A degree of disquiet was evidenced when I requested permission to digitally record the proceedings.  In fact, the Chairman had acquiesced to this request at the Annual Parish Assembly last week, therefore I didn’t anticipate a negative response.

However at least one Councillor declared themselves to be less than enthusiastic.  Finally, it was agreed that I could record the meeting and subsequently, the Vice Chairman would look into the legality and I would delete the recording should he find that it was, or could be, proscribed.

I could have cited the relevant legislation there and then but as that would have appeared confrontational it was not a route I wanted to follow.  All should be peace and light.

In fact, this right was brought into being by Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles on the 06 August 2014.  The Press Release at the time stated:
This new law builds on Margaret Thatcher’s successful Private Members’ Bill from 1960 which allowed for the written reporting of council meetings by the press. The new rules will apply to all public meetings, including town and parish councils and fire and rescue authorities.”

The Press Release continued: “Local democracy needs local journalists and bloggers to report and scrutinise the work of their council, and increasingly, people read their news via digital media. The new ‘right to report’ goes hand in hand with our work to stop unfair state competition from municipal newspapers – together defending the independent free press.

As Administrator of the Whittington Blog I feel exonerated, nay, I feel personally empowered by both Margaret Thatcher and Eric Pickles.

John Keegan

The Village Blog