Wealden District Association of Local Councils

Minutes of a Meeting of the Wealden District Association of Local Councils held via Zoom on Wednesday 14th April 2021 at 7.00 pm

The Chairman opened the meeting and a minute’s silence was held in respect of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

1. Present: Councillors Keith Stevens (Chairman, Wartling), Michael Garner (Arlington), Deveda Redman (Mayfield and Five Ashes), Douglas Murray (Polegate), Susan Cole (East Hoathly with Halland), Patrick Coffey (Heathfield and Waldron), Lucy Buck (Rotherfield), Martin Cooper (Willingdon and Jevington), Diane Ward (Uckfield), Jenny Alder (Herstmonceux), Janet Perez (Hellingly), Nikos Mikelis (Chiddingly), Tony Blake (Danehill) and Shirley McKinnon (Pevensey).

Also in attendance; Councillor Ann Newton (Wealden District Council), Councillor Roy Galley (Wealden District Council), Averil Price (Wealden District Council), Chris Bone (Wealden District Council), Inspector Kendall Wells (Sussex Police), Matthew Salt (Highways England), Carolyne Ferguson (Keir) and Alison Stevens (Honorary Secretary).

2. Apologies for Absence: Apologies for absence were received from: Beryl Smith (Berwick), Graham Knight (Horam), Martin Garrett (Crowborough), Kay Moss (Crowborough) and Robert Nathan (Hartfield).

3. Draft Minutes of the Association Meeting held on the 13th January 2021 – The minutes of the Association Meeting held on the 13th January 2021 were read, approved by all and signed by the Chairman.

Councillor Garrett sent an email in which he said the previous minutes didn’t include reference to his question to Inspector Jon Gross on missing dogs, and reports in social media of suspicious people and vans in the Crowborough area.  He said Inspector Gross commented that Uckfield Town Council had raised similar concerns and that he’d arranged a meeting to discuss action later that week. Others at the meeting couldn’t recall Councillor Garrett saying this but they agreed that Sussex Police have been very active on social media, Neighbourhood Alerts and the Police Commissioners Survey. Councillor Garrett said he would have also liked to have thanked Sussex Police at this meeting but had to be at meetings elsewhere, so he asked if the Chairman could do it on his behalf, which he did. Councillor Garrett concluded by pointing out that sadly many of the dogs retrieved in the recent raid in Surrey have still to be claimed.

4. Litter on the verges in the District – The amount of litter is a concern for many and is often raised with Parish Councils. Everyone agreed that the volunteers are doing a sterling job but by doing so they are putting themselves at risk. The WDALC is looking to find a more acceptable way forward.

Mr Bone, Waste Manager at Wealden, described the challenges Wealden face. Wealden is responsible for 1300 km of highway, some of which is fast roads without footpaths so a traffic management system has to be put in place before they can work there. He said;

  • There is a programme of litter picking verges by ‘A’ roads and fast roads. Clerks had been asked before this meeting to send in the roads their parishes were concerned about, to make sure these are included in the programme.
  • Meetings take place with Highways to co-ordinate the litter picking with grass cutting.
  • The A267 and A264 have been litter picked recently.
  • There was a major accidental paper spill on the Uckfield and Maresfield by pass recently. The firm responsible were fined but they also made a considerable donation to Brighter Uckfield who cleared up after them.
  • Wealden has considered using litter cameras but found them to be unsuitable for rural areas because they only catch a certain distance. They will be looking into using mobile cameras though.
  • Volunteers do a great job and have collected over 1500 bags of litter. He supports volunteer groups and can supply equipment to help them.
  • Wealden supports the Great British Spring Clean.
  • Wealden is to work with Highways England and look at putting up more hard hitting signs which tell people not to be a ‘tosser’ and points out they could be fined £75 if they drop litter. Councillors approved the campaign but suggested it might be more effective to ask people to take their litter home instead.

It was also suggested that;

  • Better public education is needed and it should start in schools. Inspector Wells said he will ask his officers to talk to the children when they carry out their school visits. The Fire Brigade will be asked as well.
  • Car registration numbers could be written on takeaway packaging.
  • Enforceable signage is needed and offenders should be prosecuted when caught. The numbers of people caught should be published in the media and on social media.
  • The red tape involved needs to be reduced.
  • A type of hoover is needed that could clean the areas quicker.
  • The District could be divided up in 1km stretches and then adopted by volunteers to litter pick.
  • The litter picking programme should be shared with Parish and Town Councils so volunteers could work around them. District Councillor Galley and Mr Bone said they will look into ways to keep the WDALC updated on a regular basis.

Matthew Salt (Highways England) and Carolyne Ferguson (Keir) have been tasked with the responsibility for litter and overseeing the maintenance of ‘A’ roads and motorways. They work with local authorities and are keen to reduce litter and have started sharing their work programmes so councils can send litter picking teams in whilst they have the road closed. They said they are always happy to hear from local councils and can be contacted via the Honorary Secretary.

5. Speaker – Inspector Kendall Wells from Sussex Police – Inspector Wells introduced himself and said;

  • The next Community Safety Action Group Meetings are due to continue in May.
  • Covid-19 has seen a change in criminology and the team has been working on;
  • Operation Atlanta (serious crime) – Their work has led to a serious reduction in crime.
  • Catalytic converter thefts – The amount of catalytic converter thefts is not too bad in Wealden. Toyotas seem to be most at risk. Catalytic convertors are stolen and whilst most are shipped abroad, some are sold locally.
  • Dog thefts – There are many nationwide with only a few in Sussex.

He also said;

  • This summer looks set to be busy if the number of licence applications for events and festivals is anything to go by.
  • He would like PCSOs to attend some meetings with Councillors and will be looking at ways to make that happen.

6. Update of the position at East Sussex Association of Local Councils

East Sussex, West Sussex and Surrey Association of Local Councils amalgamated in 2013 and formed the SSALC Ltd.

Board members had become increasingly concerned about the level of spending and the way fees kept increasing so they started a series of reviews. The West Sussex Association decided to look into breaking away and in the meantime the Surrey Association signed a deal to use Mark Mulberry Ltd. SSALC Ltd closed down and the East Sussex Association was faced with going it alone.

Training will continue and be more relevant and there may well be a reduction in fees. Trevor Leggo will now be working two days a week for the East Sussex Association and two days a week for West Sussex. He previously worked four days a week for all three. Retainers will no longer be paid.

7. Updates from Wealden District Council

Councillor Ann Newton, was standing in for Councillor Bob Standley and, said;

  • The number of Covid cases in the District is currently low.
  • The latest Wealden Parish Bulletin describes how the District Council is progressing with its COVID-19 Restart and Recovery Plan.
  • Sussex Weald Homes (Wealden District Council’s housing company) has completed its first project. 34 homes were built in Jarvis Brook of which 22 have been sold on the open market, 2 are shared ownership and 10 are affordable rented homes.
  • Biffa is performing well with the waste collection.
  • There were 1700 responses by 304 respondees to the Direction of Travel Consultation. The consultation has now closed, the information is being processed and disseminated via Parish Cluster Meetings. Councillors agreed the Cluster Meetings are working well.
  • Parish Cluster Meeting are to continue via Teams. Parishes were asked to make sure someone from their Parish Council attends.
  • The SHELAA Report is causing some concern but it is important to remember that not all sites included in the report will be built on.                                                                                                 

8. Reports from Outside Meetings

Councillor Stevens attends the ESALC Meetings. This was covered under minute 6.

9. Questions from Members

Councillor Moss from Crowborough Town Council sent her apologies via email and said she sits on the Crowborough Dementia Forum which comes under the Wealden Dementia Forum.  The Forum has developed a Charter which Crowborough Town Council has signed up and it would be good if other Parish and Town Councils could be encouraged to sign up too.

As part of the charter people are asked to take part in a Dementia Friends Session.  Once social distancing allows, these could be organised throughout Wealden if Councillors are interested.  She offered to ask either Zoe Sorrell or Debbie Peters to come to a future meeting if Councillors would like more information. Those present agreed it would be a good idea. The Clerk will let Councillor Moss know.

Councillor Stevens said Hertfordshire County Council has launched a court case against the Government. It is arguing that the Local Government Act 1972 should be interpreted as allowing for virtual meetings, even though the legislation was passed at a time when these could not have been envisaged. NALC is amongst others supporting Hertfordshire. If Hertfordshire is successful, virtual meetings should be allowed to continue.

10. Next Association Meeting: The next Association Meeting will be held on the on 14th July 2021 via Zoom not 7th July as stated on the agenda.

There being no further business this meeting closed at 8.30pm.

Categories: Wealden