Several important local stories surfaced at this week’s meeting of Horrabridge Parish Council.
* A proposal to build three new houses alongside Fillace Lane, between the London Inn carpark and the youth club hut, overlooking Weir Park.
* Problems with tv reception, apparently caused by the new mobile phone mast.
* Plans for a music festival in Weir Park on August 4 – six hours of live acts and records broadcast by Radio Walkham’s new touring caravan.
* A decision to make available for public inspection the parish council’s last set of accounts, plus a critical auditor’s report.
The meeting was run by four of the five remaining parish councillors, who have another month to go before they can co-opt to fill as many as possible of their seven vacancies. Today (July 13) is last day for volunteers. The parish clerk, Andrea Taylor, is working out her resignation notice until the end of this month and is still point of contact, but did not attend the meeting this Tuesday (July 10).
The meeting opened with some exchanges about the new “public participation policy”, which limits questioning to items on the agenda. Alan Berry, who has been asking to see council records under Freedom Of Information rules, and the editor of the Horrabridge Times, both complained that they had submitted items for the agenda which were not listed.The Horrabridge Times wanted to discuss co-option but the whole co-option issue was left over to the August meeting, when the council hopes to deal with it with a new clerk in place.
Mr Berry was told his requests were complicated and also could not be discussed before the next meeting. But later it was decided that the council’s 2017-2018 accounts, and the external auditor’s report which delayed their publication, would be made available for inspection in the parish hall 6-8 next Tuesday (July 17) – partly in response to his request.
Sharon Ellis of Walkham Meadows, in the public seats, told council chairman Paul Beard: “It seems like you will only answer questions you feel comfortable with. You can say it is legally right but it is not morally right.”
Cllr Beard said her comments were noted. Former councillor Eric Hemsil, one of five who were disqualified but could be re-selected, said the new policy was nothing exceptional but he did not think the council would have bothered with it if it had not been through a difficult several years.
Another accidentally sidelined councillor, Paul Mouncher, reported on the plans for a Party In The Park on August 4 – a council initiative he was put in charge of before things were thrown into some confusion by electoral procedure officers in Tavistock. He said a number of local live music acts had been lined up to play from 1 pm to 7 pm, with the Radio Walkham outside broadcast unit hosting and filling in between performances. There would also be a martial arts demonstration and hot dogs and candy floss for sale. The only cost to the parish would be electricity from the park outlet.
Cllr Doreen Keane said she had reviewed the proposal to refurbish the war memorial and all that looked necessary was a repaint for the lettering, which would cost a few hundred pounds. Cllr Steve Roche said a lot of people could not see much wrong with it as it is. But former councillor Andrew Collins, a Navy NCO, said he wanted to press on with his plans for a full restoration, including removal of surrounding vegetation and specialist repointing and cleaning, costing several thousand. He was given cautious permission to carry on trying to raise funds.
Diana Moyse, West Devon councillor and delegate to the Dartmoor National Park Authority, said that land on the high ground behind Youldon Way had been more or less ruled out as an approved development zone in the new park housing plan. And the farm land alongside the 386, between Horrabridge and Magpie Bridge, looked like being ruled out because nobody could work out how to give road access. That meant the DNPA’s preferred next site would be the pasture across the Walkhampton Road from Walkham Meadows – despite flood worries and doubts that the owners will sell.
Cllr Roche said all five remaining councillors had attended a planning meeting to discuss a proposal by Mary Cox of Milton Abbot to build three “affordable” houses – meaning significantly cheaper than market prices – on her plot alongside Fillace Lane, as in map at following link …
The plans include flood precautions and a passing place on the lane.
But four of the five parish councillors voted to oppose it
Cllr Roche said there were various concerns, including drainage and the potential demolition of historic buildings – sheds which used to house a slaughterhouse and sausage factory, now hidden behind the back wall of the London Inn car park. But also he argued that Horrabridge had taken its share of budget building over the years and the centre of the village needed some “quality”. The new housing at Walkham Meadows seemed to be enough for social needs for now.
However, the final decision is up to Dartmoor NPA.
Cllr Beard said Japanese knotweed was flourishing alongside the Whitchurch Road, at a point where the council normally cut back to keep a footpath clear. He had ordered a stop to all cutting while he tried to find out who was responsible for knotweed control. There were other sites of concern too.
Adam Minns, another former councillor who might come back, said knotweed was a difficult problem but a lot of scares were started because people mistook Himalayan Balsam. He works in forestry and vegetation control and is available for consultation on the subject – firstname.lastname@example.org/
Finally, Paul Fisher of Station Road was allowed to speak up for people who have had poor or non-existent tv reception since the new mobile mast at the village entrance started work and were still looking for solutions and wondering who to claim from.
Eric Hemsil commented: “I cannot believe this is the first time they” (the mast operators) “have experienced such a problem and they should have warned us. We never had anything that said the village would suffer. They have not treated us properly and I think they are liable.”
The next council meeting was scheduled for Tuesday August 14.
Later, a local aerials specialist, Myles Simpson of Yeltv.co.uk, confirmed to the Horrabridge Times that he was working flat out on calls from Horrabridge and that the mast was interfering with signals to dozens of old-fashioned aerials, although not satellite dishes. There are filter boxes that can help at the plug-in end but sometimes the aerial itself needs replacing or modifying. There is a national help site recognising the problem at https://at800.tv/
The mast is run by Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Limited on behalf of Vodafone and O2.
In answer to Horrabridge Times questions, the mast company sent a copy of one of its public information leaflets, reading as follows …
All operators of radio transmitters are under a legal obligation to operate those transmitters in accordance with the condition of their licence.
Operating any transmitters in accordance with the conditions of the licence fulfils the legal obligations in respect of interference to other radio systems, other electrical equipment, instrumentation or air traffic systems. The conditions of the licence are mandated by Ofcom, an agency of national government. The remit of Ofcom also includes investigation and remedy of any reported significant interference.
Mobile phone base stations that provide 4G services have a small potential to cause interference with digital TV reception. This is because the 800 MHz part of the electromagnetic frequency (EMF) spectrum, which some mobile network operators use for 4G services, is close to the frequency used for digital terrestrial television (the UK Freeview UHF frequency range is between 470 & 854MHz).
EE, Telefónica O2, Three and Vodafone have now formed a jointly-controlled company – at800 – that is responsible for ensuring that consumers continue to receive clear Freeview TV signals following the roll out of 4G mobile services. The funding for this company has come directly from proceeds of the Government’s auction of the 4G licences. If you wish to discuss your freeview reception with at800 please find their home page here: https://at800.tv/. At800 can also be contacted by telephone on 0808 13 13 800.
If there is a complaint of interference to domestic radio and television which is not associated with 4G transmissions the BBC address this issue via the BBC Help receiving TV and radio web site at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/reception/.
For further information please contact:
The Exchange, Arlington Business Park, Theale, Berks, RG7 4SA
Tel. 01753 564306, email@example.com
Report by Chris Benfield, editor, Horrabridge Times