A list of ongoing issues made for a longish meeting of Horrabridge Parish Council last night (Tuesday April 11).
Chairman Paul Beard opened proceedings with a statement of support for the parish clerk, Andrea Taylor, who was complaining of problems with the council website up to the March meeting, although they have now apparently been resolved.
Cllr Beard said: “We can confirm we have had unauthorised access on this website and the IP addresses we have” (meaning computer addresses linked to the website) “have powers to infiltrate the clerk’s password and stop emails going out and emails coming in.”
He said the council had to decide: “Do we take this further?”
But there was no further discussion of the matter on the night, so it remains unclear whether the problems he referred to might have arisen by accident.
A member of the public asked about allotment allocations and was told some plots had gone wild to the point they would not be useable until after remedial work, to be discussed at a special meeting for all interested in the parish hall on the evening of Tuesday May 2. Meanwhile, there is a queue of four applicants waiting.
The annual inspection of Weir Park by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents had identified a number of repairs required to play equipment and a site meeting will be held with the contractors, for discussion next month.
Councillor Beard reported some damage by vandalism to the new soft surfacing installed under some of the equipment, with £10,000 from the Big Lottery Fund. A repair pack has been ordered and the Horrabridge Cavaliers have agreed to pay for it.
The discussion moved on to the stalled plan for a phone mast on the football fields, which would have brought in £25,000 for much-needed repairs to the pavilion. All now depends on an appeal against Dartmoor National Park Authority’s opposition, which will go to the Secretary of State for the Environment, probably meaning a delay of some months at least, with outcome uncertain..
Cllr Steve Roche, chairman of the parish council planning committee, pointed out another difficulty, raised by the Horrabridge Recreation Fields Trust, which manages the Fillace Park fields. If the plan does get the go-ahead, the council, as owner of the land, will have to sign the contract in order to get the money to give to the Trust. That puts the council in a tricky position. It would have preferred another site for the mast, because of objections from neighbours. If forced to make up its mind on the original application, it will have to weigh the advantage for the football club, and its obligations to the fields trust, against the interests of the whole village, which it is legally bound to protect. Cllr Roche said this was an example of how a village plan, endorsed by a referendum, might sometimes be useful.
The matter was left for another time. But as previously reported on The Bridge magazine’s web site – see
the council and the Trust have agreed they should work together more in future on funding for the recreation fields, which are currently costing £1,000 a year to maintain than they get in grants, earnings and donations.
Cllr Beard said there was popular demand for another Party In The Park, like the Queen’s 90th birthday celebration last year – this time to mark 65 years of her reign. But other councillors said there was a danger of overloading the events calendar. It was suggested that the parish council could work with the parish church to extend the annual Horrabridge Summer Fair into the evening, making one bigger party. Cllr Mike Godkin was deputed to discuss the matter with the church.
Nine headstones in the current village cemetery were reported broken or breaking away from their bases – all less than 20 years old. It was agreed to ask the masons who installed them to make them safe.
Rick Cheadle, a parish councillor and West Devon councillor for Buckland Monachorum, and a contender to represent the Yelverton district in the upcoming elections for Devon County Council, was a guest speaker on two matters.
He was one of the organisers of the Buckland Neighbourhood Plan and offered to advise if Horrabridge decided to draw up a similar plan. However, Cllr Roche, who has been trying to gather support for a Horrabridge plan, said he needed at least five more councillors to promise to work with him – and his call for a show of hands last night got another tepid response. The idea is not dead yet but Cllr Roche made clear that he was running out of steam on his own.
Cllr Cheadle said that Buckland Council had also got involved in the discussion over the wider local plan, for West Devon, South Hams & Plymouth, on the basis that every village which used the A386 had an interest in the traffic problems likely to be created by new housing in Tavistock at one end and Woolwell, Plymouth, at the other. Buckland had dug up a 2014 report on possible improvements to the A386 and wanted a promise that some of them would be implemented before the new housing was finished. He suggested that Horrabridge would have the same concerns.
It was agreed to endorse the Buckland letter and to remind the authorities that Horrabridge has been lobbying for some years for a pedestrian crossing and a mini-roundabout at the junction with the main road.
There were brief reports on ongoing planning matters. It was revealed that the Dartmoor National Park Authority had refused permission for changes to the approved development alongside the parish hall. Local builder John Burbage had set out to switch the position of a bathroom because of difficulties with sewer connections. But that meant repositioning a window and neighbours in Chapel Close objected. Mr Burbage and his architects now have to reconsider.
Cllr Roche said the parish planning committee had agreed to support an application by another builder, Paul Bosacki, to take down some sycamores on the river bank behind Chapel Lane, so he can extend the wall he is building to protect his properties.
It was mentioned that the Old School House had been refused permission to replace some rear windows with plastic copies.
The big decision of the night was whether to invest some of the windfall from the Walkham Meadows housing development in a new mowing machine for the village, to end the difficulties of sharing one with Bere Ferrers. Cllr Beard said the best machine for the job was a Kubota and he had what seemed like a reasonable a quote of £7,246 plus VAT, minus £300 cash-back for a quick sale. It was agreed to give Bere Ferrers notice of the end of the sharing agreement and to go it alone, but to delay the actual purchase for a few more weeks to give time for the statutory comparison of prices from at least three suppliers. Meanwhile, villagers were warned, Weir Park was likely to get a bit shaggy.
With reference to the rest of the Walkham Meadows pot, of around £100,000, Cllr Eric Hemsil proposed moving forward with a proposal for a wheelchair swing in Weir Park, previously said likely to cost £8,000 or so, but Cllr Hemsil later clarified that he thought it could be done much cheaper.
Councillors expressed concern that they had not been warned of the closure of the Davie House care home in New Park. The village representative on West Devon Council, David Cloke, said he was trying to find out if there was any chance of it being revived, but the last four residents had already been found alternative places. He had been disappointed by a lack of support from Devon county councillors.
Clive McGavin, who lives opposite Dostabrook Field, on the Whitchurch Road out of the village, asked for information about what was happening there. Cllr Roche said agents for the three sisters who own it were in “informal” talks with the Dartmoor NPA about getting outline clearance for building and had some ideas for re-routing the stream to help make the site flood-proof. But he knew no more.
There are no plans yet available for inspection.
The next meeting of the parish council will start early, at 7 pm on Tuesday May 9, for the annual general meeting, when vacancies for councillors will be discussed and chairpersons for council and committees confirmed or changed for the coming year.
Report by Chris Benfield