Several minor local disputes cropped up at a fractious meeting of Horrabridge Parish Council on Tues. Dec. 11, played out against some chaos on the road outside – a one-hour jam of traffic coming in from Whitchurch, Walkhampton and Princetown and meeting in the village.
Some people on their way to the meeting attempted to organise the traffic around a one-way system, using Pencreber Road for downhill movement and Station Road for uphill. But most of the councillors saw it as a matter for Devon Highways or the police to sort out.
In the public questions session, Sharon Ellis asked why they had not alerted somebody to the likely consequences of shutting the A386, but she was told to leave it out by Cllr Mike Huda, of the London Inn. He said he did not even know there was a road closure coming up until he crossed the road to come to the meeting. And anyway the parish council had been warned off trying to manage traffic with uncertificated personnel.
It was pointed out that the likely problems had been discussed on Horrabridge Noticeboard and in Horrabridge Times for a fortnight. But council chairman Paul Beard was absent, along with three other councillors, and Cllr Steve Roche, who took the chair, agreed with Cllr Huda that traffic was not parish council business and moved the discusssion on.
Then villager Alan Berry asked why the minutes from last month did not mention a request he made for official email addresses for all councillors, because he was fed up being told his emails had not arrived. Cllr Roche said he never read emails to his private address about council business, unless they came from the clerk, and the clerk’s address was all anyone needed.
When Mr Berry tried to press the point about having his request on the record, Cllr Roche told him: “Don’t tell us what to put in the minutes. We will minute what we want to minute and not what you say.”
Mr Berry asked if he could quote that and Cllr Roche indicated he could.
Sean Lakeman suggested letting the public know where to get a key for the new wheelchair swing in Weir Park He said it was the “village’s best-kept secret”. The answer is behind the bar at the London Inn, but the council is looking into best arrangement.
Moving onto the agenda, Cllr Roche said that he had circulated (by email) a memorandum arguing that the council was going in the wrong direction by trying to commission drawings and cost estimates for renewal of the Fillace Park pavilion They needed first to establish possible sources of match-funding for the £20,000 the council has set aside for the project in its capital projects pot. He volunteered to take the job over and this was agreed.
Cllr Roche then took on the football club over its contribution to the costs of Fillace Park. Councillors Hemsil and Huda had been appointed to negotiate a new deal and had come up with £1,000 a year rent, minus £500 back to the football club for grounds maintenance. With the council paying electricity and building insurance, it would roughly be a cost-neutral deal. But Cllr Roche thought Horrabridge Rangers should pay at least the utilities bills, which were mainly for their showers.
Allan Yeo, representing Horrabridge Rangers on the guest seats, said: “If you insist on that, we will say you cut the grass then. And that will cost you a couple of grand a year.”
Cllr Roche put the matter to a vote but lost, with two councillors against him and one abstaining. So the deal with the football club went through as proposed.
Cllr Andy Moorhead reported on flooding from Jordan Lane. He said it was mainly down to neglect of land drains on farmland up the hill, which were overflowing where they met the tarmac. The council’s budget for lengthsman work would have to be spent on a lot of digging up there but the farmers would have to agree and might have to be be asked to contribute. Discussions in progress via the highways authority. Meanwhile, he and the handyman had done what they could.
Steve Roche said the planning committee had okayed planning application 0641/18 for a double garage for Manor House, the old Manor Hotel of Horrabridge. Also they had been told that the new owners of Magpie Caravan Park had been given leave to appeal for objections to their development plans to be over-ruled.
Eric Hemsil presented financial reports and expressed displeasure at the fact he had only just seen a letter sent to the council 18 months ago, which should have stopped them from banking their Walkham Meadows money in the same bank as their council tax income, which was an insurance risk. The new clerk was deputed to sort that out, once she has finished dealing with the TSB over mistakes in existing accounts. The clerk said dealing with the bank had already taken so much time the TSB had paid the council compensation.
Cllr Hemsil said the village seemed to be heading for a council tax rise of about 3 percent next year but he needed better information from the chairman on the projected costs of open spaces, which are one of the big running costs. This led onto council agreement to more scrutiny of small spending and the establishment of a committee to take over the Christmas lights next year. But Cllr Roche closed the meeting by thanking all involved for the lights and ceremony arranged this year – and wishing everyone in the village a Merry Christmas.
Since then, the traffic situation has not been quite so bad, and the work appears to be over. Devon Highways, which ran the closure through contractors, said it was up to the public to be sensible and follow the official diversions – through Cornwall. The police said it was not their job to mop up. But some councillors are pressing for better liaison all round in future.
* The other political event of the week was a well-attended opportunity in Yelverton Memorial Hall to talk to Dartmoor planners about what they have in mind with their new draft plan for the moor – especially regarding housing. They have ignored local objections and pencilled in the riverside plot beyond New Park, in the Walkhampton direction, opposite Walkham Meadows, as a possible development site for up to a hundred people. Yelverton and Princetown also expected to take a substantial share of the targets for new housing and to arrange for half of it to be social housing. All some way off but important. More on all that in an upcoming Horrabridge Times.