Minutes Extraordinary Meeting 9th September 2013

Minutes of the Extraordinary Meeting of Bramley Parish Council

Held in the Bramley Room at the Village Hall on Monday 9th September 2013 at 7.30pm.

 

Minutes

Parish Councillors present were:

Chris Holland (Chair), Richard Wood, Janet Grieve, Malcolm Bell, Chris Wright, Tony Durrant,Alison Jayawardena

Also present were:

Parish Clerk

Insp David Winter, Rural Sector Inspector  – Basingstoke, Northern Police Area, Hampshire Constabulary

Geoff Scrutton, Traveller Liaison Officer from BDBC

97 members of the public including Alan Ball, the Chairman of Sherfield on Loddon Parish Council.

                                                                                                                                                                 

1.0                    Apologies

Cllr. Bruce Ansell, Borough Cllrs Jayawardena and Tomblin and County Councillor Chapman

2.0                    Travellers

Cllr. Holland began by reporting that the planning application ref 13/00998/FULfor a change of use for a gypsy caravan in Cufaude Lane had been refused. It was noted that there had been 403 comments made to the Borough Council relating to this application. Cllr. Durrant explained that the application had been refused on three grounds including that the area was vulnerable to flooding.Full reasons given by BDBC for refusing the application:

1.       The proposed development would introduce a highly vulnerable use into an area where there is a high probability of flooding and it has not been demonstrated that the development and occupiers would be safe, and no other exceptional circumstances have been provided to justify the development. In the absence of information to demonstrate otherwise it is therefore considered that the development would be contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework and Planning Policy for Traveller sites.
2.       Inadequate information has been submitted to demonstrate that acceptable sightlines, provision for turning, loading, parking and access crossover can be achieved for vehicles including service vehicles and towed vehicles, without interference with the movement of road users. It has therefore not been demonstrated to the satisfaction of the Local Planning Authority that the proposal can be accommodated without resulting in harm to highway safety and the proposal would fail to accord with the National Planning Policy Framework and Saved Policy E1 of the Basingstoke and Deane Borough Local Plan 1996-2011.
3.       The proposal fails to contribute to infrastructure and community facility requirements and as such would result in an undue pressure on local infrastructure to the detriment of the amenities of the area. The proposal would therefore fail to accord with the National Planning Policy for Traveller Sites, the National Planning Policy Framework and Saved Policy C1 of the Basingstoke and Deane Borough Local Plan 1996-2011.

Cllr. Durrant went on to explain that there is a Local Plan Traveller Policy which is available for viewing on the BDBC website.

Geoff Scrutton explained that he is the only person employed by a district council to deal with unauthorised encampments, serving notices to quit etc. He explained that the Borough has no transit sites and no permanent sites. He explained that since April there have been 83 encampments and he expects this number to have reached closer to 120 by the end of the year. He highlighted that there are two main groups of travellers who are going to continue to come to the Bramley and Sherfield on Loddon areas and that they will stay on such places as verges  and fields. He explained that there is a group who have local connections and another group who come from other parts of the country and travel over the summer months. He explained that while Bramley has had a lot of unauthorised encampments, it is not unique to the village and Beggarwood has also experienced frequent traveller movements.

He explained that part of his role is to issue notices under S77 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, the details of which are copied below:

  • can only be used by a local authority;
  • can be used on any land within the local authority’s area, irrespective of ownership;
  • are used to remove identified individuals from land;
  • only require the involvement of the courts when unauthorised campers do not leave when directed to do so;
  • possession is enforced by local authority officers or private bailiffs employed by thelocal authority;
  •    the return of unauthorised campers and/or their vehicles to the location within threemonths carries criminal sanctions.

He explained that it usually takes between 10 and 14 days to remove travellers from a site and they usually leave the day before a Court date. As they often move only a short distance the process is then repeated for the new site.

Cllr. Holland remarked on the cost of this process and explained that solutions were being sought by the Parish Council which would prevent this ongoing cost, while not fortifying the village.

Geoff Scrutton explained that the Community Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee met to consider the‘Scrutiny of the council’s policies and procedures with respect to Travellers including the position on the provision of a transit site and interpretation of European Union and national legislation in comparison to other authorities’.

The decision at the time is as follows: The development of a transit site within the borough should not be progressed at this time because the evidence obtained during the scrutiny did not demonstrate that it would prevent unauthorised encampments.  If other councils in the south east establish a network of transit sites, and government funding becomes available again for the provision of transit sites, the situation should be reviewed.

David Winter explained that from a Police perspective, across Hampshire and the Isle of White, the Basingstoke region has roughly two thirds of the unauthorised encampments, due in part to the local connections of some of the community. He explained that up until around 2007 the Police did not really do anything when there was an encampment, other than to visit the site. He explained that since around 2008 they have been assisting local authorities under S61 of the Criminal Justice Act which gives them the power to direct a group to leave land they are on. This can only be used for certain locations and explained that this does not apply to highways and verges.

He also explained that Hampshire Police deal with the issue of unauthorised encampments under the title of Operation Quebec. Their role is to identify those sites, visit and assess them and identify breaches of law. They undertake a risk assessment as to the location of the site and work with local partners to try and resolve the situation. They also look to provide a re-assuring presence to the local community.

The main piece of legislation that deals with this issue is the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. There are 3 sections of legislation:

S61 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 – power for police to serve a notice on an unauthorised encampment for them to quit the land within a given time frame – this land does not include land forming part of a highway. Certain criteria have to be met in order for the police to issue this notice and it is subject to a review and risk assessment process. This does include the effect on the local community.

S62 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 – provides police with the power to direct an unauthorised encampment to leave the land and go to a relevant caravan site which is maintained by the local authority. There are currently no relevant caravan sites within Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to direct unauthorised encampments to.

S77 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 – provides the Local Authority (Basingstoke and Deane and / or Hampshire County Council) with the power to remove unauthorised encampments from land including that land which forms part of a highway.

The legislation can only be enacted if the owner of the land has already asked the encampment to leave – if the owner is happy for them to remain, then none of these powers could be exercised.

Over the last few years, the unauthorised encampments have evolved their own activities in order to prevent the issuing of an order by police to leave land. As an example, unauthorised encampments no longer use school playing fields, local community sports fields, sites of special scientific interest, shopping centres and other local community land. They tend now to use land forming part of a road belonging to private landowners or the local authority and this tends to allow them a little more time in one place before court papers are obtained and served by the local authority.

The Police have to prioritise their workload with regards to how much time they spend on dealing with individual issues, however, all unauthorised encampments are reviewed on a daily basis at their Daily Management Meeting. Each encampment is allocated to an officer to visit once on each tour of duty.

Part of their risk assessment process looks at where the unauthorised encampment could go to if they were moved and would that be worse than where they currently are?

Hampshire Police do talk to the Local Authorities at a senior level in order to identify key issues and raise issues such as the lack of a transit site – the key issue for us is to have an alternative site for us to direct unauthorised encampments to.

Cllr. Bell explained that the Neighbourhood Development Plan steering group are currently consulting with members of the community, and that this will include the traveller community. He explained that his group will meet with the travellers with the hope of engaging with them to discuss their needs. The NDP group will then be able to make an informed recommendation within the NDP. He explained that the NDP, following a successful referendum, becomes planning policy.

Judith Foyle from the public asked Geoff Scrutton to confirm that the traveller movements throughout the region increases over Spring and Summer and asked why this is the case. He replied that there are some members of the traveller community who do own permanent homes throughout the Country, which they live in during the winter months, but that they enjoy the traditional traveller lifestyle and choose to travel during the months where conditions are more favourable. He also explained that some of the local travellers have now been accommodated in permanent housing.

John Morris from the public asked about some new guidance which was published in August. Geoff Scrutton explained that in reality this document merely clarifies what powers were already available with the only change being relating to the serving of temporary stop notices. He explained that the Dale Farm site had perhaps been the catalyst for this as work on the site was carried out without planning approval.

Ian Simms from the public asked some questions relating to the Police Powers. David Winter explained that arresting those responsible for criminal offences such as arson, would not in fact solve the matter of unauthorised encampments. He also commented that there is not always sufficient evidence as residents living nearby and other witnesses to such criminal acts are often reluctant to report or make statements about them, however he felt that the fears that they may be subjected to victimisation following submitting a statement are unfounded. He went on to explain that Bramley is a safe place to live. He later forwarded the following statistics for inclusion in the meeting notes:

All Crime reported 1st April 2013 to now – 96 crimes.

Anti-Social Behaviour incidents reported 1st April 2013 to now – 119 incidents.

 

All Crime reported 1st April 2012 to 13th September 2012 – 115 crimes.

Anti-Social Behaviour reported 1st April 2012 to 13th September 2012  – 95 incidents.

 

Crime is down year on year and is also 28% below target for this current year – April 2013 to March 2014. The increase in anti-social behaviour calls is due I believe to the unauthorised encampments – when one is reported, the incident is classified as an anti-social behaviour call. Other related calls are also classified in the same way.

David Winter explained that police powers do not exist to prevent travellers from entering land. Powers available to them are more reactive. Mark Slater from the public explained that he had phoned the police to report the travellers breaking and entering at a site in Bramley and was disappointed that the Police could not prevent them from accessing the site. He asked why there is protection for the travellers and not the community in this regard.

Ray Morton from the public asked whether reopening the site at Dummer would ease the position in Bramley. Geoff Scrutton replied that there was no way to tell and would be wholly dependent on the choices of the travellers. He reiterated that many of the travellers visiting the area have local connections and this is where they want to be. He also explained that there is evidence that they are being gainfully employed within the area as they have been seen to be burning garden waste and trees as a result of landscaping work locally, and suggested that this offers them greater incentive to remain in the area.

Hannah Robson asked why Dummer was closed down, and queried that if it was because of disturbances at the site, how would we prevent that from happening at a new site. Geoff Scrutton advised that a small site for known people would offer easier management of the site and explained that any proposal should be for a contained area so that it could not extend beyond the approved boundaries.

Vince Castle asked what steps can be taken to prevent the Cufaude Lane site from filling up despite the two planning applications for change of use being refused. It was explained that there was a website selling 48 individual plots of land for around £9,000 each, most of which are now sold and those purchasers may or may not have then sold them on.

Keith Owen asked whether they could be obliged to take a stake in the society in which they live, suggesting they receive benefits of society but do not appear to contribute financially. He asked if there was a way they could be charged if they were offered somewhere to stay.

Cllr. Bell and Geoff Scrutton jointly explained that there is a local group of travellers who have requested that if a small site sufficient for 3 caravans could be developed locally, they would be prepared to pay for the running costs. The NDP group feel that if no site is available, the encampments will continue, but that the inclusion or not of a traveller site within the NDP was to be determined by the community.

Geoff Scrutton reported that of the 117 district councils surveyed, only 5 were providing accommodation to travellers, the main stumbling block being planning permission. He explained that there are funding schemes available to set up sites but effectively the Parish Council would find themselves on the other side of the fence struggling to obtain planning permission should it wish to consider developing such a site.

Pauline Walker asked whether caravans pay ‘rates’ the same as people with houses. It was felt that this was unlikely.

Christine Davies asked why, when they leave rubbish and mess when they leave, they should be invited to be part of the community.

Judith Foyle commented that there has been a small site with 2-3 caravans on the road to Monk Sherbourne and that there has been no trouble there, observing that if you did not know the site existed you would not notice it on passing. Geoff Scrutton explained that this group used to trespass frequently but they no longer do this as they have their settled site.

Cllr. Holland thanked the contributors to this discussion and explained that the parish council would continue to work with the NDP and the BDBC Local Plan team on considering possible future solutions, while continuing to work with Geoff Scrutton and his counterpart at HCC, and our PCSOs to manage unauthorised encampments as they occur.

David Winter added the final comment that at present the Police do not have any real tools to address the matter of unauthorised encampments and that the setting up of a transit site within the Borough or County would be helpful.

3.0                    Local Plan consultation

Cllr. Durrant was asked to report on the current status of the Local Plan. He explained that the Borough were proposing the development of 748 new homes each year throughout the plan period until 2029. He explained that the consultation was open until 4th October and that members of the public are able to offer their own responses to the draft Local Plan. He explained that the parish council would submit an approved response within the consultation timeframe. He reiterated that the parish council had consistently requested respite from development and asked for any allocation for Bramley to be towards the back of the plan period.

He reported that the Draft Plan includes two specific strategic sites – Cufaude Farm and Razor’s Farm with a total estimation of 810 units. In addition there has been an allocation to be met through Neighbourhood Development of a further 200 units within the settlement boundary running alongside the C32. He explained the timetable for the plan which should follow a route to adoption around July next year.

He urged people to get involved and directed the public to the website with the relevant documents and the response forms and reiterated that the more responses submitted from the community, the more influence they may have over the final decision.

Cllr. Bell reminded the public that the NDP group are assessing sites for the proposed 200 units within the draft Local Plan. The NDP will make a recommendation about the best site for such development within the village, and will also have the challenge of determining what future infrastructure developments will be needed to accommodate the increased population.

Cllr. Durrant explained that there were some pre-set objectives when considering development within the village, including the percentage of affordable homes being set at 40%, 13% of which would be social housing.

Paul Willis asked if the higher than average allocation of affordable and social housing at the German Road development could be offset against the current guidelines for new development. It was explained that previous housing would not be able to offset the current demands for affordable housing.

There was comment from the public about local people having to leave the village to be able to afford to buy their own home, and the Parish Council was asked what could be done to assist local people to be able to stay in the village. There was an observation that the recent large development was largely occupied by people from outside of Bramley.

Cllr. Durrant reported that there are currently 72 residents within the Bramley parish who require affordable housing and that the 40% allocation would meet Bramley’s local housing needs.

A gentleman from the public who had been a Bramley resident for 24 years commented that they can’t just keep putting up houses without considering the other problems such as the school which is already full, the number of cars in the village and the parking problems. Cllr. Durrant explained that the Parish Council had taken a very strong stance on infrastructure in its representations to the Borough Council throughout earlier stages of developing the Draft Local Plan and would continue to do so.

There were more comments from the public about the inadequate infrastructure and amenities and it was explained that when a development takes place, contributions are attached to them by way of Section 106, or Community Infrastructure Levy, in order to fund improvements which recently included the expansion of the primary school.

Peter Hayes from the public wondered whether residents would consider changing their lives or making compromises for the greater good of the village. He explained that while many people complain about traffic, speeding etc, there is an excellent bus service which remains largely unused for example. He suggested that if more residents considered other resources available it would make things better for everybody.

Steve Ryder commented that many residents would have no idea where to start when thinking about where 200 homes should go and asked how these decisions are made. He said it was easy to think about what people did not want. Cllr. Bell explained that it is a difficult challenge that the NDP group have to consider but that the NDPs recommendations would all be evidence-based, after a long period of fact-finding, with consideration to how Bramley should look in 15 years time.

There were some queries about business units, shops etc and it was explained that on previous occasions development plans have included proposals for commercial or business services in the village but that they have not been taken up. It appears that there is not a great commercial demand in Bramley and some units at Campbell Road business park remain empty.

4.0             Proposed new youth facility

Cllr. Holland explained that £321,000 of S106 developer contributions were available to be spent on a new youth facility in Bramley. He reported that Tadley are considering similar proposals but have had to borrow £500,000 for such a scheme, whereas the proposals for Bramley will not cost the community for the initial development. He explained that while the pot of funding is specifically intended to provide facilities within the village for Bramley’s young people, while it is not being used by such groups it will be available to hire for other uses, such as birthday parties or other community groups.

He explained that a business plan had been approved by the Borough Council who are funding the scheme. It was noted that the risks were currently being assessed and with running costs appearing to be around £7,000-£10,000 per annum there was a possibility that the facility would need some grant funding. It was explained that the parish council budget includes an annual allowance for grants and donations to support the community, and it was felt that the parish council would be able to continue to provide on-going assistance to the various community facilities without affecting the level of Precept.

He also explained that if the S106 pot of money is not spent by May 2015 it will be returned to the developer and the community would have lost the opportunity to develop a facility which will benefit the community for many years.

Cllr. Janet Grieve explained that iro £120,000 of S106 developer contributions are also available to Bramley for ‘playing fields’ and the Parish Council are working with the Borough Council and the community to get the best use of these funds. Proposals being considered include a new play area behind Bromelia Close which has been requested by the parents and children living there. Another proposal being considered is outdoor exercise equipment and a comparison was made with the exercise are in Chineham, but it was explained that the scheme there has a high maintenance cost and alternatives were being considered for Bramley. Also on the list is the refurbishment of the tennis courts, again funded by the S106 pot.

Judith Foyle from the public asked whether there would be additional parking at Clift Meadow. It was explained that while the footprint of the car park would not change, there was a plan to tarmac more of the car park to make it more usable

It was explained that the process of consultation is ongoing and that there is expected to be a further consultation day during October.

Hugh Tottenham who represents the Clift Meadow Trust reiterated the need for volunteers and explained that the future success of these facilities lies with the level of community support for them. In particular the youth club is in need of more adult supervision and people are urged to come forward to volunteer a couple of hours of their time now and then.

There being no other business the meeting closed at 9.40pm.