Venue: Council Chamber -Farnham Town Hall
Contact: Email: Town.Clerk@farnham.gov.uk
To receive apologies for absence.
Apologies were received from Cllr Micahael Wicks.
Disclosures of Interest
To receive from members, in respect of any items included on the agenda for this meeting, disclosure of any disclosable pecuniary or other interests, or of any gifts and hospitality, in line with the Town Council’s Code of Conduct.
(i) The following councillors have made a general non-pecuniary interest declaration in relation to being councillors of Waverley Borough Council: Cllrs Beaman, Blishen, Cockburn, Dickson, Edmonds, Gray, Hesse, Macleod, Martin, Merryweather, Mirylees, Neale, and Ward.
(ii) The following councillor has made a general non-pecuniary interest declaration in relation to him being a councillor of Surrey County Council: Cllr Macleod.
(iii) Members are requested to make declarations of interest, on the form attached, to be returned to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm on the day before the meeting.
Members are reminded that if they declare a pecuniary interest they must leave before any debate starts unless dispensation has been obtained.
Disclosures of interest were received from Cllr Mark Merryweather as portfolio holder for Finance and assets at Waverley Borough Council; Cllr Kika Mirylees as Portfolio holder for culture in relation to the discussion on the Farnham Museum.
To sign as a correct record the minutes of the Farnham Town Council meeting held on October 28th 2021 at (Appendix A).
Subject to a correction to say that Cllr Beaman was Acting Secretary and Treasurer of the the Hale Recreation Ground Committee rather than a Trustee, and the amendment of ‘world’ to ‘would’ on page 13 para 3 line 2, the Minutes were agreed for signing by the Mayor.
Questions and Statements by the Public
In accordance with Standing Order 10.1, the Town Mayor will invite members of the public attending via Zoom to ask questions or make statements.
At the discretion of the Town Mayor, those members of the public, residing or working within the Council’s boundary, will be invited to make representations or ask questions in respect of the business on the agenda, or other matters not on the agenda, for a maximum of 3 minutes per person or 20 minutes overall.
Mrs Zofia Lovell, Chairman of the South Farnham Residents Association asked a question relating to the Surrey Hills review of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and referencing the Farnham Neighbourhood Plan Policy FNP10 (to Protect and Enhance the Countryside) and Policy FNP13 (to Protect and Enhance Biodiversity).
She asked if Farnham Town Council would support the area identified in the HDA Landscape Assessment Area 13, entitled “ Compton Wooded Slopes” being included in an extended AONB as the area directly abutted the existing AONB and had been identified in the report as of High Landscape Value and of High Sensitivity.
In response, Cllr Neale advised that this would be discussed later in the meeting but the response from FTC would support the inclusion of the areas set out in the Neighbourhood Plan.
Town Mayor's Announcements
To receive the Town Mayor’s announcements.
The Mayor said he was delighted to announce that the purchase of Tice’s Meadow had now been completed by Surrey County Council with financial contributions from six local authorities including Farnham Town Council. This should safeguard public access to the site for future generations and ensure that work undertaken by volunteers from the Tice’s Meadow Bird Group who created an award-winning conservation site would continue.
The Mayor recorded our thanks to the vaccinators and volunteers at Farnham Hospital who are now running vaccination clinics seven days a week until Christmas. We are truly grateful that the Farnham volunteers filled up all the available slots within hours of the additional clinics being created.
I should also like to say thank you to our volunteers and funding partners who are running the Farnham Support Fund including the Farnham Institute Charity, Farnham Lions, Rotary, the Dempster Trust and the CAB, This group continues to help those who are facing hardship and we have just received a boost with an initial extra £30,000 government grant via Waverley Borough Council to help those in greatest need in the next few months. Please signpost anyone in need to email@example.com or see the Farnham website for more details.
Finally, may I wish you and your families a safe and happy Christmas.
Questions by Members
To consider any questions from councillors in accordance with Standing Order 9.
There were no Questions by Members.
Covid Update - Quorum, hybrid meetings, leave of absence.
In March 2020, Farnham Town Council made provision for decisions to be delegated to the Town Clerk in conjunction with the Mayor and Leader in the absence of decision-making Council meetings (Resolution C166/19). This provision has been used sparingly but is still in force. In the current situation, whilst it is still uncertain whether the Government is to reintroduce the ability to hold remote or hybrid meetings it is prudent to review the situation.
i) To seek approval for a temporary amendment to Standing Order 2.8 (Quorum). FTC standing Orders have a higher quorum than required by law. The FTC quorum for Council is for ten councillors to be present whereas the legal requirement if for one third of the Council (i.e. 6). In view of the current uncertainty over the direction of the Omicron covid variant and the fact that remote meetings are not allowed for decision making, it is proposed that for the rest of the Municipal year the quorum for Full Council be a minimum of six members as set out in at the NALC Model Standing Orders.
ii) Farnham Town Council has a quorum of three members for Working Group and Task Group meetings. No decisions are made at Working Group meetings (all are recommended to full Council) but under current rules a quorum of councillors physically present (excluding ex-officio members) is required for the meeting to be able to continue even if members are present remotely. In the case of the recent Community Enhancement Working Group the information discussed has been included as an update of the meeting rather than ‘Notes’ of the meeting as the required number of councillors was not present in person. There is some uncertainty over the interpretation from NALC on whether any remote meetings can be held. For clarification, it is proposed that for the remainder of the current Municipal year, Notes of Meetings be submitted with recommendations to Council provided there is a at least a quorum of councillors present online and in person for Working Group meetings.
iii) To seek Council approval for the extended leave of absence from in-person meetings of Cllr Edmonds as a result of him shielding because of the ongoing covid pandemic.
Council noted the current position with the provisions made for decision making as a result of Covid and that Resolution 166/19 was still in operation but used sparingly. It was still unclear, with the reintroduction of restrictions as a result of the latest Covid Omicron variant, whether the Government would reintroduce the opportunity for hybrid meetings. As such, it was prudent to review the situation in case there were no enough councillors attending meetings in person given Farnham Town Council’s higher than required quorum.
In addition, Council discussed the situation regarding Working Groups again where there had been a difference of view from NALC and other advisors over whether these meetings could be held at all let alone in a hybrid manner. No decisions were made at Working Group meetings (all are recommended to full Council) but under current FTC rules a quorum of councillors physically present (excluding ex-officio members) was required for the meeting to be able to continue even if members were present remotely.
It was noted that Cllr Edmonds had not been able to attend meetings in person for health reasons although he had been taking an active part in Planning and Licensing Consultative Group meetings which met remotely to advise the Town Clerk under the Scheme of Delegation. It was proposed that, for avoidance of doubt, an extended leave of absence be formally authorised.
On a proposal by Cllr Attfield, seconded by Cllr Fraser, it was RESOLVED nem con that
1) for the rest of the Municipal year the quorum for Full Council be a minimum of six members as set out in at the NALC Model Standing Orders.
2) for the rest of the Municipal year, the quorum for Working Group meetings be made up of councillors in person or attending remotely via Zoom.
3) An extended leave of absence be authorised for Cllr Edmonds as a result of him shielding because of the ongoing covid pandemic.
1 To receive the notes and any recommendations of the following Working Groups:
i) Strategy and Finance held on 7th December 2021 at Appendix B
2 To receive a verbal update on any relevant matters covered by
ii) Community Enhancement Working Group Notes of discussion held on 25th November attached at Appendix C
iii) Cemeteries and Appeals Working Group
iv) Tourism and Events Working Group
Strategy & Finance held on 7th December
Cllr Neale introduced the notes of the Strategy & Finance Working Group meeting (at Appendix B to the agenda) held on 7th December.
a) Contracts and Assets
Council noted actions taken by the Town Clerk under the scheme of delegation. Four tenders were received for the West Street Cemetery Gates, with prices ranging from £41,323 to £118,874. After evaluation and references the contract was awarded to Lost Art of Wigan at a cost of £41,323. Additional costs would apply (to be contained within the agreed budget) relating to some resurfacing of the tarmac entrance to allow the refurbished gates to close
Council noted five tenders were received for the Central Car Park Toilet refurbishment with prices ranging from£143,085 to £221,477. After tender evaluation by the Council’s advisors Drake & Kannemeyer with arithmetical errors adjusted and references taken, the tender was awarded to Endwell Contracts at a cost of £143,085.
Council received updates on the cleaning contract, the greenhouse, and the Youth Shelter.
It was RESOLVED nem con that
1) the actions taken by the Town Clerk in issuing the two contracts be endorsed.
2) that a sum of up to £5,000 be allocated to install the hoggin path by the youth shelter to be met from the maintenance budget.
b) Task Groups
Council received updates from the Young People’s Task Groups, and the Cultural Projects Task Group. The latter had considered the report of Bonnar Keenleyside on the potential for a new Cultural attraction for Farnham.
Council discussed the findings and future opportunities to underpin World Craft Town status and move it to the next level including
· The benefit of a new structure to drive forward the focus of Farnham as a World Craft City, with more representation of makers involved;
· The need to develop the online offer and raise awareness of what Farnham offers (similar points were identified as part of the assessors feedback of the World Craft Town application)
· The need for the evolving organisation to be underpinned by the Town Council but supported by those with an entrepreneurial stake but with a clear focus.
· Brightwells did not appear to offer a primary location at this stage based on feedback received, but other buildings could be repurposed. This required further engagement with and support of both the County Council and Borough Council.
It was RESOLVED nem con
Updates from other Working Groups
a) Tourism & Events
Cllr Evans provided an update on activities being progressed by the Tourism and Events Working Group noting it had been a very busy period with the 20 years celebration of the Farmers’ Market, the Food Festival and preparations for Christmas Lights and the Christmas Market. She passed on her thanks (with applause from councillors) to all staff and volunteers for their support, with particular thanks to Oliver Cluskey, the Events Manager for his efforts.
b) Cemeteries and Appeals
Cllr Cockburn advised that the coffee morning with undertakers was being deferred until the new year. She also advised that a memorial tree for tributes to loved ones had been erected in west Street cemetery with thanks to Castle Street Flowers. She also commented that the cemeteries were looking very good with all the recent maintenance work.
Cllr Evans left the meeting at 8.45pm.
c) Community Enhancement
Cllr Dickson introduced the informal notes of the discussion held on 25th November at Appendix C. Council noted the new mechanical bulb planting had taken place outside West Street Cemetery and that Welcome Back Funding was being used to clean and refurbish bus stops throughout town. Council noted the plans for the Riverside tree avenue as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy and the financial support of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association.
In terms of the allotments, officers had proposed regularising the allotment year and charges to the growing season with each year starting on 1st October to maximise the opportunity for new plotholders to prepare their plots for the new growing year. It was also proposed that the administration fee for new plotholders be increased to £50.
On a recommendation by Cllr Dickson, seconded by Cllr Dunsmore, it was RESOLVED nem con that:
1) the invoicing year for allotments be 1st October to 30th September;
2) the administration fee for new allotment holders be £50 from April 2022.
To consider the report at Appendix D and agree the budget for 2022/23.
Cllr Neale introduced the budget report at Appendix D that followed detailed discussion at the Strategy & Finance Working Group.
The draft budget recommended by Strategy & Finance has been drawn up based on a review of expenditure in 2021/22 and on the 2020/21outturn but in a context of continuing uncertainty over Coronavirus. The prudent approach over potential sponsorship and income from activities had continued but with a return of some elements to pre-covid levels. Investment income continued at a very low rate. The draft budget included fees and charges broadly based on 2021/22 levels, given the continuing uncertainty in the economic climate but with provision for some increases. It was noted that Farnham has a provisional Band D tax base of 17654.4 up from 17,363 based on a collection rate of 98%.
Council noted the costs being absorbed by Council with inflation running at an historic high in recent decades, an increase of 1.25% in employers’ National Insurance costs. It was proposed that a new budget of £10,000 for initiatives to support Young People be agreed; that an increase in the time for the Craft Co-ordinator and the continuation of the Literary Festival co-ordinator be agreed along with an increase in the hourly rate for weekend working (although maintained within the existing budget). Cllr Neale advised that the budget was based on the discussions agreed at the Strategy Workshop, in maintaining the current level of services.
Council noted that Farnham Town Council’s precept increases had consistently been below national averages for seven years in a row underlining the prudent approach taken by the council but that the amount of the Council Tax Support Grant was again reducing in the next year as a result of agreed phasing out.
Cllr Neale advised that the overall increase in the draft budget to £1,473,800, with increased budgeted income of £1,432,607 meant that a shortfall of £41,193 would need to be addressed as part of the discussions on the precept level.
Cllr Attfield Proposed, seconded by Cllr Beaman, and agreed nem con that the grant for the Blackwater Valley Countryside Management Partnership be increased by £1,000 as it had been held statice for many years.
Cllr Edmonds asked about the impact of the shortfall on the precept. In response the Town Clerk advised he could not be certain on this since when Council considered the precept, it could agree to set higher income targets (eg from sponsorship) or use agree to use some reserves (as in 2021/22) to minimise any precept rise.
Cllr Attfield proposed, seconded by Cllr Beaman, and it was RESOLVED nem con that a budget of £1,474,800 be agreed for 2022/23.
To receive the minutes of the Planning & Licensing Consultative Group meetings held on 1st, 15th and 29th November, and 13th December 2021 at Appendices E, F, and G.
Cllr Fraser reported that there had been four meetings since the last Council meeting which were attached at Appendices E,F, G and H. AT these meetings there had been 11 key large applications, 24 large and important applications and 105 routine or uncontroversial applications including 27 tree applications.
He advised Council that the hybrid meetings were not a particularly satisfactory way of working particularly when there were an excessive number of documents with small images that do not enlarge without a loss of quality. The History and Constraints documents were frequently omitted by the Local Planning Authority and this had to be resolved as this was an important element of the Group’s considerations. The Planning Process leaves inadequate time for residents to makes comments.
Cllr Fraser further advised that there continued to be speculative planning applications outside the Built Up Area, many were of excessive size and allocated woefully inadequate parking (half a car per flat was not uncommon).
Cllr Fraser thanked councillors and officers and particularly Jenny de Quervain, for the huge amount of work that goes into reviewing all the applications.
One particular matter that had been considered was a proposal to take the Section 106 funding for a cycleway in North Farnham into the Farnham Infrastructure Programme. In discussion, councillors strongly objected to this as the monies were to mitigate a specific development and should not be added to a wider plot.
Cllr Merry weather proposed, Cllr Attfield seconded and it was Resolved nem con (with Cllr Beaman abstaining) that:
1) FTC strongly objects to any change in the Section 106 cycleway project agreed as part of Planning Application WA/2015/2283 in Badshot Lea; and
2) FTC agrees that the project should be implemented without delay.
Cllr Cockburn advised Council that the Appeal at 9 Upper South View had been dismissed which was another terrific example of the Neighbourhood Plan success in protecting the Heritage Asset of Farnham Park.
Actions taken under the Scheme of Delegation
To receive details of any actions taken under the scheme of delegation.
There were no matters reported.
Reports from Other Councils
To receive from Councillors any updates on matters affecting Farnham from Waverley Borough Council and Surrey County Council.
i) Cllr MacLeod reported that there was unhappiness among the Residents and Independent Group on Surrey CC that only three projects had so far been allocated a share of the £100m Your Surrey Fund and at least one (that had been allocated over £500,000 to develop a shop and café in Normandy) did not seem appropriate. Cllr MacLeod had asked for a complete review of the programme as there should be £247k per division per year allocated.
ii) Cllr MacLeod expressed concern that Children’s services budgets were proposed for further cuts, especially in the context of recent national tragedies.
Cllr Dickson left the meeting at 9.30pm.
iii) Cllr Cockburn reported that the Waverley Local Plan 2 was being submitted to the Independent Examiner, but she was concerned as it included a site in the middle of the AONB. The impact was that this weakened the argument for other sites with a lower landscape designation and noted that sites in Farnham at hawthorns and Monkton Lane were being resubmitted.
Reports from Outside Bodies
To receive from Members any verbal reports on Outside Bodies where they represent Farnham Town Council.
i) Cllr Beaman advised he had circulated a report to councillors on the Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership.
ii) Cllr Cockburn reported that the Sports Council AGM had been very enjoyable with the editor of the Herald making a presentation. There had also been a discussion on how sports clubs could be more sustainable.
Date of Next Meeting
To note the date of the next scheduled meeting on Thursday January 27th 2022 at 7pm.
The next meeting was agreed as January 27th at 7.00pm.