This report has been written by Penny Post as a result of attending (by Zoom) the most recent meeting of Lambourn Parish Council (LPC) on 5 May 2021, the agenda for which can be seen here (on Lambourn.org, not LPC’s website). Any references to “the meeting” refer to this unless specified otherwise. It does not pretend to be an official version of the meeting and may not cover all the items discussed: it has merely picked out aspects which are likely to be of immediate local interest and offered some background and context, which council minutes generally do not.
Every reasonable effort has been made to provide a clear and dispassionate summary of the points covered but the article may contain expressions of opinion which might not accord with LPC’s official view. It may also refer or have links to what Penny Post believes to be relevant matters which were not discussed at the meeting.
The minutes will in due course appear in this section of the Lambourn.org website.
LPC = Lambourn Parish Council. WBC = West Berkshire Council. LNDP = The Lambourn Neighbourhood Development Plan. DC = District Councillor.
The Chair offered his condolences to the family and friends of Councillor Tina Nims, who recently died.
Election of a new Chair
Mike Billinge-Jones had previously announced he wanted to stand down as Chair. There had been one nomination for the position, Moz Bulbeck Reynolds, who was appointed and took over the meeting.
She stressed her desire to encourage as much public participation as possible in all of LPC’s activities, including its meetings. (The Clerk confirmed that anyone could turn up at these and speak for five minutes. If the matter they raise becomes an agenda item then they may be able to speak for longer and answer questions.) The new Chair also pointed out that there were vacancies for five parish councillors: one in Upper Lambourn, one in Eastbury and three in Lambourn.
Lambourn Junction Community Interest Company
Christan Noll explained how this had recently been set up to help provide the framework and the structure to support local community groups. It already is involved in running the food hub, the Covid volunteers and Lambourn.org. It doesn’t have any intention to take over any organisation it becomes involved with but but can help with matters like insurance, health and safety advice, grants and banking. It can offer this to groups, whether new or established and to those organising events, whether one-off or regular. Full details can be found on the Lambourn.org website.
- 21/00692/HOUSE – 2 Lye Farm Cottages, Woodlands St Mary. The council offered no objection.
- 21/00897/FUL & 21/00898/LBC2 – Weathercock House, Upper Lambourn. It was pointed out by DC Woollaston that the applicant was last week told by WBC that no planning approval was needed (although for some reason LPC was not informed of this when it contacted WBC on the morning of the meeting).
Five decisions were made by WBC on previous applications (see agenda for details).
Committees and working groups
The Chair said she wanted to widen participation on committees and working groups and would talking to councillors to establish where their skills and experience can best be used. It was pointed out that non-councillors could participate in, though not vote at or be the chair of, these groups. See the agenda for details of these (omitted from the list was the Communications working party; and the Community Conversation working party, largely the area that the Lambourn Junction CIC (see above) will be covering).
Asset register and AGAR (Annual Governance & Accountability Return)
There was some discussion about these year-end documents which were agreed.
Virtual meetings and the annual meeting
There was discussion about the problems posed by the change in the regulations which will make virtual meetings after 7 May if not illegal, then certainly open to challenge. The problem is that, at least until 21 June and possibly later, most public buildings are not sufficiently large to cater in some cases for all the members of the council or committee, still less for any public participants.
DC Woollaston said that WBC was trying to resolve just this issue (as are councils up and down the country) and pointed out that WBC has 43 councillors and a council chamber than can safely hold 18 under current restrictions. He described the whole business as a “nightmare”; a view which, he said, WBC’s Conservatives and Lib Dems (and presumably the Greens, and the officers) shared.
A quick show of hands at the LPC meeting meeting suggested that all would be in favour of hybrid meetings, with none preferring either in-person or virtual ones.
The led to a discussion about the annual meeting, which must be held by the end of May with a two-week notice period. Even without any public participation (kind of the point of these things) there would already be more attendees (19) than the Memorial Hall can safely hold (15). Looking further ahead, a normal LPC meeting would, if the council were up to full strength, not allow for any public participation at all either under current regulations. DC Woollaston pointed out that, once again, this was also a problem for WBC’s planning committee meetings, which were often well attended. He added that any scheduled before 21 June would probably need to be cancelled. The Chair pointed out that all PCs can also at any time be presented with a contentious planning or other issue that excited public interest.
It was agreed that a larger venue would be needed until complete and permanent normality returns. There was some discussion about possible locations, though without identifying anywhere. It was pointed out that members of the public could participate online but this would require a venue with a good broadband, good acoustics and a good sound system.
Returning to annual meeting, DC Woollaston said that as long as no voting would take place or decisions taken then the change in regulations would not apply. It was then proposed that this be held as a hybrid, which was passed unanimously. The date of Wednesday 26 May was agreed.
The hedge at Mill Lane and related matters
There had recently been discussion about the hedge here and whether cutting it back (or down) would result in the playground being more visible, so discouraging the regular and distressing amount of littering and damage. The Chair suggested that she didn’t feel that this would solve the problems of anti-social behaviour (which had recently led to a police incident) which took place on an almost daily basis both there and at the cricket field. (The resulting rubbish was often cleared up by councillors or staff at no cost to the parish, though to the detriment of their other work). She said that “creative solutions” were needed but admitted that there would be no quick fix. She again repeated her request that views and suggestions are welcomed from all residents, even if they don’t wish to join the council.
Lambourn’s neighbourhood development plan (LNDP)
Sue Cocker, the Chair of the LNDP Steering Group, explained that matters continue to move forward and summarised the main current tasks:
- LNDP’s consultant is putting together an appraisal of the river survey, using mapping software;
- The Steering Group is gathering contact data to issue a business survey;
- The Steering Group is looking at settlement characteristics prior to framing policies.
The LNDP Steering Group hopes to hold a public exhibition showing progress some time after 21 June (that date again).
Sue Cocker also pointed out that the NDP cannot be completed (“made” is the technical term) unless the parish or town council in question has at least two-thirds of its full complement of councillors – that’s 10 in LPC’s case – elected (even nominally) rather than co-opted. LPC currently had nine such councillors (with five vacancies).
Various other matters were referred to as “for information only” but not discussed: more information can be found in the agenda (items 13, 14 and 17).