Successful Parish Annual Meeting

The Linton Parish Annual Meeting took place on Tuesday 18th April in Linton Village Hall. Having a Parish Annual Meeting is a legal requirement, from the Local Government Act of 1972 but the meeting has its origins in medieval times or even before and it represents democracy at its most fundamental level. Everyone is entitled to come, everyone is entitled to speak and if necessary, to vote.

The meeting was chaired by PC Chairman Jerry Whitmarsh. Around 30 Parish residents and others attended, including five Parish Councillors. Reports were presented by the Jerry on behalf of the Parish Council, and by the Linton Village Hall Chairman, the Allotments Manager, Speedwatch Co-ordinator, Footpaths and Trees Warden, Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator and the acting Webmaster. The Parish Council report is copied below.

Following these reports an entertaining presentation was given by John Rivers, President of the Kent Association of Local Authorities (KALC). After a brief description of the role and remit of KALC he talked about defibrillators, including a demonstration of how they are operated. The Chairman thanked him for his informative presentation and said the clear mood of the meeting was that the Parish Council should proceed to acquire a defibrillator, to be sited at the village hall, and undertook to progress matters accordingly

Draft Minutes of the meeting are available here

Report of the Chairman of the Parish Council to the 2017 Parish Annual Meeting

I will now tell you what the Parish Council has been up to since the beginning of last year.  I want to look forwards rather than back so I’m going to skate though quite quickly. If you want to know more about something or have any questions, there will be a chance to do that at the end.

Since the beginning of last year the Council has held 11 meetings. I only attended the ones from May onwards, because in April there were elections held. Unopposed elections mind you, because there were more spaces than there were candidates. Debs Nicol and Ron Leagas retired as councillors and I would like to thank them for their contributions. Jane Sawyer also retired, after heaven knows how many years of committed effort, and toil on behalf of Linton. It is easy to criticise. We all do it now and then, and Jane can be pretty critical on occasions. But in her case she has three redeeming features (at least three!): first, her criticism is based on twenty years or so of experience and is often well founded; second, she is as willing to give compliments and thanks where deserved, as she is brickbats; and not least, she’s always been willing to roll up her sleeves, dive in, and lead by example.

As well as being a Parish Councillor she was until recently Speedwatch co-ordinator, she is still a Village Hall Trustee, she is Chief Yuletider, and she keeps a firm hand on the tiller of the Linton Allotments. As a result they are fully let, neat and tidy, and altogether a model of their kind. Thank you Jane very much indeed, for all of that. And a thank you also to our new recruits, Bernard Cresswell, who was co-opted last year and has settled in very well, with responsibility for local council liaison and also now Speedwatch Co-ordinator, and to Linda Potter who was co-opted onto the Council at our last meeting just a week ago. She’s replacing Richard Butters, who resigned early this year. So thank you to them and also to Richard, for his efforts as Councillor and as Chairman for a year.

Planning. We reviewed 18 planning applications during the year, some of them straightforward and some very much not, for example a proposal for 13 new houses on Vicarage Field and an application for a very large industrial facility at Wares Farm on Redwall Lane. All 18 were given careful consideration and where necessary a site visit. In the end the Council decided that a small development in Vicarage Field would bring overall benefits to Linton and we voted not to object to the application which I notice is still undetermined, 10 months after it was submitted.

The situation with Wares Farm however is very different. With no disrespect intended to the applicants, Alan Firmin Ltd and Berry Gardens Ltd, this development is in the wrong place. We are talking here about a building the size of three football pitches. It will house far more staff than the entire population of Linton, working for a company that has so far doubled in size every five years and now has a turnover approaching £300 million per year. For them that is very impressive, for us it is a disaster. The infrastructure of lanes in the area is utterly inadequate to cope with a juggernaut that size. A large area of countryside will be built over. Views will be spoiled. Traffic will vastly increase. Linton is a rural community and if this proposal goes ahead, we believe it is going to change the character of our village forever, causing more damage than the Park & Ride proposal, an idea which was discontinued specifically for environmental reasons. Both Linton and Hunton have objected strongly to the application which needless to say, is not determined and I expect won’t be for some time to come. Also note that there are now nearly 200 separate documents associated with this one application, many of them substantial. This is beyond the capacity of most of us to read and assimilate with any degree of confidence. Nevertheless I ask everyone who cares about the rural nature of Linton to make their feelings known please to the Borough Council. I see that more than 50 of us have already done so, many thanks for that. If you haven’t, I urge you to do so now. I’m told all comments made will be taken into account, whether they are within the statutory consultation period or not. The Parish Council’s own objections can be viewed on the Linton Website and also the Borough’s planning portal. If anyone has any problem accessing those I can provide paper copies on request.

Also on the planning front, as if all that wasn’t enough, the Maidstone Local Plan has been ploughing its way to finalisation, with various reviews and revisions all of which have to be monitored, if only for Linton-related content.

And then there is the Linton Conservation Plan, it’s been under review since 2008. We are told the plan changes have now again been approved by the relevant Borough Council committee, next there is a consultation exercise for which there are funds but currently no staff available. This review will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year and I’m thinking we should organise a party for it.

So that’s planning. Highways has also been a lively area with a fair amount of road repair, pothole filling, fly tipping removal taking place – big thank you to my Vice-Chairman, Ian for spending time progressing all that – as well as discussions over the problems at Linton Crossroads and along the A229, including problems crossing the road outside here. A proposal for some improvements aimed at making the crossing safer is currently with KCC for review and I will advise you of developments if and when they occur. Meantime the Parish Council are doing everything they can to get the issue of road safety hereabouts addressed, and improvements made. You will have gathered by now that not much happens overnight. We had a meeting with KCC in March to discuss the crossing following which a proposal was written up and sent to them for comment. Chasing that up today I find the KCC staff concerned have been moved elsewhere in the department, and the person the issue has been handed on to hasn’t looked at it yet. Another meeting has been scheduled and any developments will be reported.

Along with all that the Council has dealt with a range of other matters and I will mention three of them now:

First the Linton Boundary Stone project. Apart from in and around the Church Linton hasn’t any ancient monuments or statues, but it what it does have is a number of boundary stones, some quite old. In these days of GPS and digital mapping there won’t ever be more put in and so the Council is keen that we look after the ones we still have. From looking at old maps we have established the rough whereabouts of 75 or so markers and searches on the ground have so far located about half of them, 37 stones. Linton Park is a particularly rich area with 17 markers listed of which we have so far found 8. I recently arranged to tour the Park with the head gardener, Rebecca Wragg, and we found that three of them are currently uprooted and lying flat. I’m very pleased to say that she has agreed to have them put back into the ground in the right place and to look after all the stones in the Park for the future. We are hoping to have these stones added to the inventory of Linton Park assets which will give them statutory protection.

The Boundary Project is an ongoing initiative that anyone can help with, so do come and see me afterwards if you would like to. I’m keen to have a little research undertaken in the County Archives in Maidstone, as at present we know very little about why and when many of the stones were put in place.

Second, the Parish News. St Nicholas Church have published the Parish News monthly for as long as I can remember, we are up to issue 171 I see, and the Parish Council makes regular use of it to advise residents of news and events – like this meeting for example. It is the only simple means we have of writing to the whole village and I’m very grateful to the PCC for contributing towards the printing of it, to our long serving editor Harold Pounds, and to the volunteers that distribute and deliver it every month. As you may have heard Harold wants to hand the editing job on. Who can blame him, he is 87 I think or thereabouts. But if no-one can be found to take over, the magazine may have to stop, and that would be a real shame and a loss to the village. Please everyone have a think and either offer to help or suggest someone who might, because they will be making a big contribution to Linton. And if Hunton, West Farleigh and East Farleigh can do it I’m sure we can.

Finally the Great Linton Litter pick. Something we have been considering for a while now, it was mentioned at this meeting last year, to a rather laid back response I fear but now it is going to take place, on Saturday 29th April. We have enough volunteers to make it happen, I’m pleased to say, but we always need more, for that date or for future dates to be arranged. This time we are going to be doing the lanes West of the A229, next time we will try to cover those on the East side of the main road. KCC have picked litter along the main road itself and we are grateful to them for that, it is not something I fancy having to do! So, if you are able to help with litter picking and you haven’t put your name forward yet, see me afterwards or better still my wife Sue, litter-picking HR Co-ordinator-in-Chief.

One last thing I would like to say. Everything I’ve mentioned in this speech was progressed, responded to, dealt with, or achieved, here in Linton by people who have given up a little of their time to help the community. Nobody’s getting paid, (apart from the Parish Clerk) they do it because they love Linton and because they want it to prosper and hold its head up high as a community. People like Harold, like Linda, like Bernard, like Ian Wimsett who tidies the lanes and verges because he likes to see the place looking nice, like Ray Dixon, a window cleaner who just volunteered to keep the Hall windows looking clean; like all of those who help out with the Cream Teas weekend in June, with the wonderful Yuletiders event in December, with the Village Hall, with the Almshouses, with the Church, with the Friends of the church and with the Linton Walkers. We always need more people who are willing to do that. If you have some time and some skills that the community can benefit from, please will you think about devoting an hour or two  to helping Linton, and come talk to me or any parish Councillor. Write your name on the sheet on the table at the back, and we’ll get in touch. And to those of you who already do, I say thank you. You are helping Linton to punch well above its weight. Thank you.

Jerry Whitmarsh

18 April 2017