Annual General Meeting 2014

Chairman’s Report
This last year has been an exceptionally busy one for the committee and I would like to thank them all for their time given, commitment and hard work. I would also like to thank our dedicated army of newsletter deliverers, Mark Davies for running our website, Ann for providing us with our refreshments and Ann and Rita who have been organising and leading our walks. Without your support we could not do all that we do.
We have not only dealt with our usual activities this year, such as weekly reviewing of the planning applications, our monthly meetings and handling enquiries from the public, but have also attended and been actively involved in a record number of outside meetings and events. These have included the Museum group, Harbour Board, Whitstable Improvement Trust, Canterbury Governance Group and Kent Federation of Amenity Societies, as well as those related to the boundaries review, open spaces, development control meetings, public inquiries and executive when necessary.
Planning this year has included the mammoth task of a response to the Local Plan and I know Graham will be covering this within his report; however I would like to thank Graham for all his hard work in preparing our response for the consultation. The submissions have now been collated by the council and we are waiting to hear when the next public consultation will begin.
We applied for an increase in parking along Tower Hill, as the one way system offered a good opportunity for more parking but it met with objections from nearby residents and the council decided not to agree to it, we also objected to the proposal for backland development at 47 Joy Lane as it did not satisfy the Joy lane Planning Guidance. The Council however granted approval on the basis that the new National Planning Framework outlaws restrictions like the guidance requirement for pitched roofs. We have had successes, most notably our objection to the building of an industrial estate and church on the Protected Open Space of the Paddock. More recently we have also had the West Beach Village Green Inquiry (VG 126) where we objected along with the Beach Association to the scale of the land the owner wanted to remove from the village green. The illegal hut known as The Shed was also removed and the proposed windbreaks on the tennis courts at West Beach were withdrawn.
Ongoing issues include the development of the Oval Chalet skating rink, which we have requested should include a large public open space, facing the sea which should be accessible for the elderly and disabled, reflecting the historic commitment given, but unfortunately not included as a covenant attached to the land.
Also the Electoral Boundaries review which recommends the number of our councillors reduce from 50 to 38. We will be included in the second round consultation due this year.
In November the planning committee attended a meeting with Richard Griffiths, Outdoor Leisure Manager; Canterbury City Council, and were invited with others, to identify areas of land in Whitstable to be proposed as protected open space. A new map will be made as a result of this consultation. Follow the council’s decision to reduce the hours of the Whitstable Museum, Graham and I have been part of a group currently in consultation with the council about the community taking on the running of the museum. We have so far attended one council workshop with a further one next week. An expression of interest needs to be submitted to the council by April, with a full bid to run the museum due later in the year. We have been able to secure the opening of the old tourist information shop as a pop up museum during the museums closed periods to keep a museum presence on the high street and allow us to gather volunteers and ideas for what people want out of their museum. Interestingly, I read recently, a newspaper article written in May 1985 when the museum opened, which states that many members of the Whitstable Society – which has played a major role in its support of the museum were at the opening reception, so it is good to see that we are still supporting projects that we have previously been so involved with.
We have also used this year to redesign the Society’s leaflet ready for the planned membership drive. We have now obtained printing and delivery quotes and will hopefully be in a position to send them out to Whitstable households in March, hopefully bringing in new members and raising awareness of our society.
As you can tell, 2014 looks set to be another busy year for us and so if there are any areas of expertise you have or that you are particularly interested in, we would be pleased to hear from you.
Treasurer’s report:
The income for 2012 was down, mainly due to difficulty in securing the Gift Aid refund for 2012 From HMRC, but we haven’t given up yet. Our revenue for 2013 was up on 2012, due to the increase in subscriptions: but membership was slightly down. We now have 185 members. Expenditure was also down on 2012. We saved £130 on printing and delivery of the Newsletter. And £100 on postage as more members received email copies of the newsletter. Our insurance premium increased by £100 as we found that we had been under insured. The expenditure against income was -£272. This year we are in the process of a membership drive, the first in 10 years, to raise local awareness, to encourage new members and to increase income.
Planning Committee Report:
Graham Cox said that the Local Plan was still progressing and we await the first revision. He thanked Angela for her intensive help in the holiday period. “Green spaces” introduced by the Government has given us extra protection and we have helped the council to introduce them. We continue to work with the Beach Campaign and its newly active members who stepped in to replace the workhorse that was Nick Dewhirst after his tragic death last year. We are working closely on the West beach village green application and we jointly celebrated the removal of the illegal hut and, after a stressful inquiry, prevented a section of beach being removed from the Seasalter Beach village green and the persistence of illegal extra constructions. Tankerton Slopes area is now a QE2 field. WS are hoping to have the woods at the western end rejuvenated with the help of Jon Shelton who is present tonight. About 4 years ago the council was stopped from building more huts on Tankerton Slopes and the WS continues to prevent further extension of huts at the end of the slopes via an Ombudsman complaint. Members were encouraged to apply for In Bloom grants for anything from flowers to trees from the WIT administered committee, as this year’s application window closes soon.
The following Committee Members were elected for 2014/2015:
Angela Boddy Hon. Chairman
Roger Pethers Hon. Secretary
Evelyn Smith Hon. Treasurer
Committee members: Richard Amos: Judith Ames: Graham Cox: Kath Gill: Maureen Smith
Changes to the constitution: in Sections 5 & 7 of the constitution: as proposed in the February
Newsletter were unanimously approved
Any Other Business:
We were reminded By Roger Pethers of the Treasurer’s report which stated that the WS needs more members and more funds. Consequently this year we are planning a membership drive and an open air summer concert by Camille at the The Castle on Wed 16 July 7-10pm. We hope to have a hog roast and it promises to be a great occasion.
Graham Avery spoke on the proposed extension to Joy Lane School – The main worry is the lack of parking which is already a problem. A single yellow line on one side of the lane would stop odd parking. Maureen raised the problem of permit parking in Salt Marsh Lane where a local inhabitant has an allocated parking space rather than all spaces being available on a first come first served basis to all residents. Graham asked for, and was given the authority of the meeting, to look into the problem. Jon Shelton – Countryside Manager of the Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership was introduced by Graham. He is the KCC expert on trees and flora. KCC have changed their policy and no longer replace fallen trees. John has funding available for tree planting and asked the Society if it would like to get involved in planning for more trees and where they are situated. He said KCC would have to agree to locations and they would charge up to £250 per tree for planting them. There was a unanimous agreement to set a plan in motion for planting more trees. Jon reminded the meeting that there will be a public liability involved and planting could not begin until next winter. He will attend our April meeting for further discussion.
Richard Amos asked about re-planting the trees outside the Whitstable Library?
Graham said this has been a long protracted problem over the last few years. Julian Blades on behalf of the Whitstable Society has raised the matter with CCC and KCC and eventually KCC accepted that they were responsible for the trees. More recently funding has been allocated by Mike Harrison, Kent County Councillor, to address the problem of the badly pollarded and dying trees and we are participating in discussions on a planting scheme, to make this only open space in our High Street a pleasant place for the public, and screened from the busy High Street.
Richard Johnson asked if anything was known about the lamp standards which are just cut off and taped. There seemed to be no answer to that but it is probably the same as tree stumps being left due to budget cuts.
The AGM was closed at 9.48pm.

Annual General Meeting – 19th February 2014

The 2014 AGM took place at the members meeting on the 19th February.

The details can be seen on the News page of this website, a couple of minor changes to the constitution were approved and the amended version can be accessed from the About Us page.

Subs are now due for next year – a renewal/application form can be printed from this website on the membership page.

The Canterbury Society – Campaign for Local Democracy

See below for information about a meeting on the 5th February organised by the Canterbury Society

CAMPAIGN FOR LOCAL DEMOCRACY: SHOULD WE CHANGE THE GOVERNANCE SYSTEM IN THE CANTERBURY DISTRICT?

Invitation to a meeting
This is an invitation to an important meeting which is taking place at 7.30 pm on Wednesday 5th February. It is going to all residents’ groups and parish councils in the area, and we hope you will pass the invitation on to your members.

The meeting is being organised by the Canterbury Society on behalf of the Campaign for Democracy in the Canterbury District, which is a broad coalition of local groups concerned about the current way of running the Council.

Why is the meeting taking place?
There are two main ways in which Councils can work. Canterbury City Council has what is called a ‘Strong Leader and Executive’ system. This was adopted in 2002 when the government of the day made all councils choose between this and an elected Mayor. The aim was greater efficiency, but in practice it seemed to some residents that many decisions were being made by a small group of councillors without wider consultation.

The present government, in the Localism Act of 2011, gave councils the option of changing to another way of working, the ‘Committee System’. In this the Council forms a number of committees, each responsible for a particular area of interest. The committees make recommendations to the Council and more councillors are involved in making each decision. Some councils in other parts of the UK have already chosen to adopt the committee system.

What will happen at the meeting?
The meeting on 5 February will provide an opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of the two systems and to decide on future action. Speakers will include:
Richard King, former Chair of Kent County Council, who will discuss the options
Individuals who will present the case for the Executive and the Committee systems

The public discussion at this meeting will inform the views of the committee of the Campaign for Democracy in the Canterbury District. If there is support for change, this group will lead in organising a petition and a referendum to find out what system the residents of the Canterbury area would like.

When and where?
The meeting will take place at 7.30 pm at the United Reformed Church Hall in Watling Street in Canterbury (note change of venue from earlier publicity). So do come along to express your opinions and to hear what others think. Refreshments will be provided and everyone will be very welcome.

Meet our Police Commissioner Anne Barnes – 27th November

Please note that we have an additional meeting this month which will be held on 27th November at The Community College, Belle Vue Road, starting at 7:15pm.

We have arranged for Anne Barnes, Kent Police Commissioner to speak and take questions. The meeting will be open to the public, hence the change from our normal venue of The Castle.

This meeting is open to all, the venue has a large seating capacity and is on the ground floor. It will be an opportunity to raise any relevant questions or concerns that you may have relating to policing issues.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Stream Walk Community Garden Open Day

The Stream Walk Community Garden Open Day is taking place this Saturday, the 19th October 2013, from 12-4pm.

There will be produce on sale and a woodcarver amongst other activities and it will give the public a chance to see what the garden is all about and meet those involved.

They also have a Facebook page – Stream walk community garden Whitstable. (Bear and Alan were our speakers at last nights members meeting).

Dog Control Orders

Dog Control Orders: the WS has submitted this request

‘We request that the dog control order is extended to the end of Tankerton Promenade where the promenade exits through the sea wall near the Continental Hotel; so dogs in the season are banned from the beach there and must be on a lead on the promenade.

This section is as busy if not more so that the middle section currently covered by the dog control order with large numbers of people(often picnicking), cyclists and especially children playing who are most vulnerable to being frightened by dogs’ beach activity and affected by their waste products: the deposit of which on the shingle is inevitable from some off-lead dogs . The western section also has the approaches to The Street where dogs are antithetical to the use of this famous attraction.

The dog control area ends where it currently does at the western end for no logical reason other than , we are told by officials, that this was the point at which the area ends for which the Council was seeking a beach award.

Dog walkers go from the road highway at the Continental to a non-control dog area and then into a control area with similar requirements to the road highway. Confusing.

West of the Continental, the beach becomes utilitarian with water craft landing and launching and no promenade. This is an area where dogs can be given more freedom for their swims and frolics on the beach itself without disturbing people for that beach is hardly used for the rest and recreation that typifies Tankerton Slopes promenade and beach. Dog owners can also take their dogs to the eastern end of Tankerton Slope’s promenade. Given the length of typical dog walk, a walk will likely take in one or both of such non-dog control areas.

Foreshore and CCC highways departments advise that they support extending the dog control area as proposed. In the case of highways, they consider dogs off leads are not consistent with a pedestrians/cyclist track (ie the promenade) especially when busy. Indeed the creation of an official 24/7 shared track increases the strength of argument for extension of the dog control order over the short western part not currently covered.’

Conduct of Meetings Regarding Interests

At this weeks meeting on Wednesday 19th June 2013 the topic is the Draft Local Plan.

In the light of events at recent meetings in Canterbury relating to the Plan, we draw to the attention of all members and other attendees of our meeting the following code of conduct.

Conduct of Meetings Regarding Interests

Meetings or parts of meetings on any planning matters are held to uphold the interests of Whitstable, whether development affects and/or can be seen by large or a small numbers of people (the objective). Meetings to decide policy must not be dominated by speeches from one lobbying group to the exclusion of contrary or middle-ground viewpoints; especially. On pecuniary matters, the WS is not authorised to hold court for the interests of property owners re matters which simply affect the value of that property or for landowners or developers unless they are invited to speak to aid the overall objective (eg by explaining advantage for Whitstable).

Pecuniary Interests.

  1. When a member or other person asks a question of a guest, makes a comment or otherwise contributes in discussion during a WS meeting on any matter, they will reveal any pecuniary interest. It is entirely in the discretion of the officer chairing that meeting or part of the meeting whether or not that person will be heard or continue to be heard.
  2. If members are advised in advance that a meeting will be covering a topic or area of interest, a member should seek advance permission to speak about anything in which they hold a pecuniary interest.

Other Interests.

If it becomes clear that a meeting is packed by people from one lobby group, the chair of the meeting reserves the right to halt contributions from people from one point of view so as to ensure fairness to other speakers wishing to make their views clear; just as effort is made to ensure less forward contributors get the chance to air their views.

We expect members to advise if they are personally affected by an issue (eg a development may block a view from a garden, a non-planning argument) as this may bias their views. It should be noted however that the WS does assist where development affects the interests of one or more people if there is unfair/unbalanced planning process/practice involved (eg a commercial unit threatens to take away light from a garden). This is consistent with our objectives and role as Official Planning Consultee for Whitstable.

Beach Hut Pricing

A note on the determination of beach hut prices on sites rented from the Council

It has been said that the price of beach huts is just a market outcome and nothing to do with the Council. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The cost of a new beach hut is no more than £2000: even for the fanciest. When someone buys a beach hut for £10,000, they are not buying just the hut in their perception. They are buying primarily what they think is the right to rent the site from the Council in perpetuity (and indeed to pass on that right to their heirs) and the right to sell-on this ‘right’ in perpetuity : as that is the way things are run at present.

The excess of the market price of about £8000 over the cost of building a hut is caused exclusively by the practice of permitting existing annual license holders to have the Foreshore Office transfer the annual licence to anyone who the present lessee chooses automatically (ie to the person prepared to pay £10,000). The license clearly states that any transfer is subject to the approval of the Council and therefore the Department of Community Services has every legal right to restrict transfers in any way it chooses.

It is therefore the Council that is causing the high price of huts on Council owned land for the simple reason that if transfers were banned, there would be no market for the ‘right’ to rent in perpetuity. In such a case, all surrendered leases would be allocated to people in a queue or through some other mechanism determined by Councillors and owners of the wooden huts could sell the structures to the new license holders. The Council also has an indirect effect on the value of huts on private land (such as West Beach) according to the level of rent charged for council sites.

The practice of permitting lessees to request officers to transfer the annually renewable licences to anyone automatically side steps any queuing system the Council may have in place. As the price has rocketed, the effect of present policy is to effectively steer by auction council hut sites to people from outside the District, as most local people cannot afford such high prices.

A market could still operate, but probably at much lower prices, if transfers were limited to new license holders from the District or, if a long lease system (eg 10 years) were adopted, the sale and purchase on the residual period on such leases.

A revamp of the whole system is a political decision, but whatever is done must be considered in the realisation that it is Council policy, in today’s market, that has a large influence on the price at which huts on Council sites are sold or indeed if there is market for anything other than the hut itself.

Programme of Events & Membership Card 2013-2014

All members of the Society should shortly be receiving their Membership Cards for 2013 and if we have your email address you should already have received an electronic version.

The programme of Events for 2013-2014 has been finalised and is printed on the card – it can also be seen on the Events Tab of this website.

New members always welcome – see the Membership Page for details of how to join.