Should the village precept be increased, do we need a block of flats in the centre of our village and will pedestrians lack protection?
Hardly a surprise that Hemyock Parish Council voted a zero increase in the Parish Precept for the year 2011/212 at their recent meeting. Local District and County Councillors who were also in attendance reported the same zero increase but gave some insight into the cost cutting measures coming into force. County Councillor Ray Radford said that significant cuts were going to be made in the middle and upper management structure to reduce costs within the County Council. A range of cuts and cost increases within Mid Devon District Council were in train said Councillor Frank Rosamond but with some funds also being taken from reserves to lighten the burden of the cuts and increases.
Some robust discussion ensued over a planning application for a block of 8 flats on undeveloped land in the centre of the village. The applicant is the Parish Hall Committee and the land is the old tennis courts. The idea being put forward is that a developer would build the property and give back 2 of the flats to the Committee, which will provide it with a steady income.
Concerns were raised that this land was in essence a publicly owned open amenities space which would be lost forever. Also, that there were other ways that the Parish Hall Committee could raise funds without recourse to what appears to be a permanent and unnecessary structure.
Councillor Paul Stead asked “if the Committee had sufficient funds would they build and would the village need a block of flats?” He pointed out that the last village survey showed that people had had enough of the development of land in the village. A new housing needs survey was just about to be distributed to villagers and the outcome of this should be awaited.
Members of the public raised the speed at which this application had appeared and the lack of careful consultation. In her role as Parish Hall Committee secretary, Parish Council Chairman Heather Stallard MBE promised wider consultation including a public meeting. Asked by Councillor Lance Povah if the Committee would withdraw the application in the meantime, Councillor Stallard felt that she could offer no such undertaking.
Local resident and Parish Hall Committee member Les Bowden said that the work of the committee was nothing to do with the Parish Council. Parish Councillors felt that they had a duty to represent local residents, said Councillor Roy Brooke, to whom this development was of great interest lying as it does at the heart of the village.
Councillors declaring an interest left the room and the remainder dealt with the specific issue of the planning application. The vote was against the application on the basis of three things –
Loss of recreational open space.
Further development of open land, an idea rejected by local people in the Parish Questionnaire.
The Parish Council is about to do a Housing Needs Survey and this application pre-empts the results of such a survey.
Councillors were disappointed to hear that a request to County Highways for a protective painted road surface adjacent to the new flood plain footbridge had been rejected. The idea behind the request was to encourage traffic to drive in the centre of the road, thus avoiding pedestrians exiting the bridge at a particularly narrow spot. The Council would appeal this decision said Councillor Stallard.