Minutes of the Town Council Meeting held via Zoom, on Thursday 21 January 2021 at 6.30 pm
Councillor P S Christie (Town Mayor)
Councillor D Bushby
Councillor J Herron
Councillor T Johns
Councillor D McGeough
Councillor Mrs S Langford
Councillor P Lawrence
Councillor Mrs K Corfe
Councillor C Hawkins
Councillor D Ratcliff
Councillor J Craigie
Councillor Mrs R Craigie
Councillor Mrs J Gubb
Councillor Mrs L Hellyer
Councillor J A McKenzie
Mrs H J Blackburn (Town Clerk)
Mr R D Coombes (Deputy Town Clerk)
Councillor A T Inch (DCC)
Sergeant E Lefort (Bideford Police Station)
14 x Members of the Public
293. APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
There were no apologies submitted by Councillor B Wootton, South Ward for his absence.
294. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST ON ITEMS ON THE AGENDA
Councillor P Christie declared a non-pecuniary interest in Item 19. (Trustee, Bridge Trust). He then requested that the office no longer sends the Declaration of Interest proforma as part of the Agenda package.
295. PUBLIC PARTICIPATION SESSION
The Chairman invited Simon Friend to speak, who in thanking him for the opportunity to address the Members expressed disappointment at the decision made by the Planning Committee on 6 January 2021 regarding the Brunswick Wharf development.
He had offered to address the Council in May / June but received no offer to engage, at the time.
Mr Friend sought to clarify two points but first explained that he is a local person, knows the Site and Bideford very well and went to school nearby. He had first made a bid to TDC in 2012 but was selected in 2017 when the preferred bid did not prove viable.
He expressed excitement about the proposal and was encouraged by the local support through the response of a public consultation in May / June when 2,800 people had made direct contact to the purpose built website. There were 266 detailed survey completed; more than 85% welcomed the development and wanted to see it come to fruition.
Mr Friend was taken aback by the Planning Committee’s recommended refusal.
Not having seen the Minutes but responding to points raised in the Press, the “No Parking,” “All gone,” he indicated that there would be parking provision for 148 - 45 for the public. There will be electric charging points, which fits in with their sustainability commitment. He explained that he was also in talks with an Exeter based firm to provide electric hire cars in the future for residents which could also include local, East-the-Water households for a day or up to a week at a time.
Referring to “Bideford Town Council should employ an architect,” comment he indicated that TDC did that in 2010, they appointed design teams and consultants that drew up the Local Plan Policy Bid7 Site Development Brief which went out in 2010/2011. It centred on mixed use: housing, retail, restaurant / café and allowed for flowers and trees in a landscaping scheme.
He believed that the proposed development matches it really well. Having gone through the process the developers have addressed the site development brief in line with the Bid7 policy document. Mr Friend remains excited and is looking forward to bringing the development to fruition on TDC approval.
In addressing Affordable Housing concerns, he explained that he has been the Chairman of the Churches Action Housing Team (mid Devon) for a number of years, the organisation established in 1995 has a budget and nine staff providing housing support including tenancy, debt and money advice and they operate a foodbank.
The Site is not suitable for social housing. The cost to bring the scheme forward including the Environment Agency’s requirements for flooding, contamination and works to the quay wall prohibit affordable housing on the Site.
The Chairman thanked Mr Friend.
The Minutes of the Zoom Meeting held on 17 December 2020 were approved as a correct record.
(Vote – For: 14, Abstention: 1)
It was proposed by Councillor Christie, seconded and
RESOLVED: That the List of Payments be approved.
(Vote – For: 15, Against: 0)
298. POLICE PRESENTATION
a. The Chairman invited Sergeant E Lefort, Neighbourhood Sergeant for Bideford to address the Members.
b. Sergeant Lefort thanked the Chairman and addressed the Members giving a brief account of her experience prior to taking post in August 2020.
She provided detail on two recent incidents in Northam, albeit that a Bideford resident had been charged with murder. It was not believed that a threat remained to elderly residents.
A further Bideford resident had been arrested in a Devon wide initiative that saw the arrest of five men involving the theft of plant machinery and tools.
Sergeant Lefort explained the impact of COVID-19 in the locality, second homeowners and members of the public reporting perceived rule breaches. She indicated that the Force were taking a more hard line approach during the current Lockdown noting that there were many flouting the rules.
TDC have taken measures to stop patrons from using the Skate park. Youths who congregate in numbers have been escorted home with consideration being given to fining the parents.
Councillor Bushby led discussion on the refusal to wear facial coverings highlighting the difficulties experienced by Co-op staff in particular. Sergeant Lefort indicated that she would speak to and work with the manager.
Sergeant Lefort spoke of the number of E Mails and reports concerning “anti-social” driving and car exhaust systems.
Discussion followed on the Exeter Specialist team that had visited Bideford and training provision for the local officers.
Registration numbers, footage and photographs can all be provided to the “101” portal. Councillor Bushby believed there should be a follow up for those who had provided detail. Sergeant Lefort intimated the size of the task but felt updates on social media could be provided. She advocated E Mailing “101,” accessed through the Devon and Cornwall Police website; there is also provision for a “live web chat.”
Sergeant Lefort made reference to the review of the Public Space Protection Order, the current one being narrow in provision, and working closely with TDC in challenging the street drinkers / drug users prevalent around the Lundy Office.
She concluded by highlighting an online reporting / shared (confidential) partnership intelligence initiative, Cyber-crime / scams and the offer of training / presentation from the Cyber Project Officer to local groups and organisations.
c. The Chairman thanked Sergeant Lefort for addressing the Meeting.
299. DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL (COUNCILLOR) REPORT
a. The Chairman invited Councillor A T Inch to address the Members.
b. Councillor Inch thanked the Chairman and spoke on:
• Speculating that the May County elections could be deferred in the face of canvassing difficulties presented by COVID-19.
• Offer of help with salt provision should there be a shortfall.
• Expected increase in Council Tax following Budget finalisation on 18 February.
• Only one complaint with free school meal provision in Devon. There will be an offer of £15.00 supermarket redeemable vouchers.
• Vaccination provision.
c. The Chairman thanked Councillor Inch for addressing the Meeting.
300. HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS PRESENTATION
a. The Chairman invited Councillor Mrs Corfe to address the Members.
b. Councillor Mrs Corfe thanked the Chairman and Members for providing her with the opportunity to address them and share her knowledge on issues that are really important to the Community but those that are close to her heart.
She has witnessed the impact that the lack of housing options has on the local Community. Having spoken to the people in Bideford and the wider area, of all walks of life, the chief desire is for decent affordable housing. People are scared, angry and fed up with rent rises against the number of available properties. “It should not happen; the position will only become worse.”
Despite the Town Council being on the first tier of Government she believed that by starting at the lower level, creation of an impetus could see the demand for change grow bigger.
She explained Homelessness can be sleeping rough, not having the rights to stay where you are and living in unsuitable housing. The definition of Homelessness is not having a home, nowhere to stay, living on the streets but you can be Homeless even if you have a roof over your head – staying with friends or family, staying in a hostel, night shelter, B&B, squatting, at risk of violence or abuse in your home. Living in poor conditions that affect your health, living apart from your family because you do not have a place to live together.
Homelessness affects a wide variety of people. Some people may be more vulnerable to homelessness. You may be at risk if you are leaving home for the first time, pregnant with nowhere to go after the birth of the child, struggling to live on benefits or on a low income, from abroad with no right to claim benefits, asylum seeker or leaving prison.
She indicated that there are a variety of reasons that lead to Homelessness that can include: being evicted, splitting from your partner, being asked to leave by friends or family, domestic violence and abuse, harassment from neighbours, or a disaster including fire or flood.
Councillor Mrs Corfe spoke of her background in care and support, describing it as a vocation. She indicated that it was difficult to end homelessness.
It is life changing.
She gave an example of how the trauma of losing his family in an accident left a gentleman unable to live within four walls.
Single adults represent the larger proportion of those homeless but the position impacts upon children and young adults; homelessness is non-discriminatory she noted. Families can be faced with over-crowding and unfit conditions. Councillor Mrs Corfe observed that Zoopla, Right Move, those houses advertised in local papers indicate that the options are slim; those most attractive opportunities can see demand outstrip supply.
Councillor Mrs Corfe indicated that when faced with the prospect of homelessness people are directed to attend the local Housing Options Team. She praised the TDC department that is caring, understanding, hardworking and person centred. They have excellent connections with the local landlords / accommodation providers. However, they cannot always help everyone immediately. Individuals can be faced with the prospect of leaving the Council with no accommodation for that night. A sofa might be a prospect, at least for a few nights with a friend or a relative. There will be other opportunities but not those that are safe and supportive.
General health and well-being will deteriorate when homeless, significantly. Loss of dignity, shame, people become desperate and scared. One night on the streets increase the risk of becoming long term homeless and then an entrenched rough sleeper (someone who has been street sleeping for at least six months).
When you become homeless your whole life is affected. It can lead to a loss of work, friendships, relationships, loss of belongings, access to family. The Home is at the centre of everyone’s life.
Councillor Mrs Corfe advised that when someone is presented to the Housing Options Team at TDC they may be offered a room in a shared house privately or one bedroom flat.
Breakdown of a relationship, poor mental health, debt or loss of job can lead to the plight of individuals who when you factor in becoming homelessness provides for a recipe for disaster.
The difficulties in looking for a new place to live when you have a poor credit rating, not looking your best see people utterly low and desperate. Homelessness puts an individual in a permanent state of “fight or flight,” with an accompanying toll on the mind and body.
Councillor Mrs Corfe reminded Members that she helps to run three supported accommodation facilities in Bideford and Barnstaple. She intimated that a roof over one’s head is not necessarily the right roof. While one is given a room the shared house opportunity will see seven, eight or nine other people also sharing the kitchen, lounge and bathroom.
To obtain an offer of supported accommodation one must be referred by a charity or agency. Through the process an individual may have to recount their “story” ten times, giving detail on how they arrived at their present circumstance; it can be traumatising.
Councillor Mrs Corfe shared the belief in the sector of the need for the building and provision of more social and council accommodation.
In summary she did not want the Homeless to be overlooked and perceived as rubbish, that they are not judged but given unconditional support and choice.
She asked Members to approach her at any time with their questions. More change is needed, the system must change but it is no small task. She invited them to engage in the hard work; passion, strength and determination was required.
Councillor Mrs Corfe concluded that she could not bring about change alone, she needed the Community to walk with her.
d. The Chairman thanked Councillor Mrs Corfe for her very powerful address to the Meeting. He noted that TDC had spent £517,000 on Homeless provision during 2020 / 2021.
301. COMMUNICATION BROUGHT FORWARD ON THE DIRECTION OF THE MAYOR / TOWN CLERK
The Mayor highlighted his desire for Notices of Motions to be specific, giving detail indicating what the Council can do and the suggestion of items. In being specific he should like Motions that are not long.
302. STAFFING, FINANCE & GENERAL PURPOSES COMMITTEE MEETING
The Minutes of the Zoom Meeting held on 7 January 2021 were approved and adopted.
(Vote – For: 15, Against: 0)
303. PLANNING COMMITTEE MEETING
Members discussed the Committee’s decision not to approve the Brunswick Wharf development. Three Members of the East Ward expressed their disappointment.
(Councillor McGeough left the Meeting.)
The Minutes of the Zoom Meeting held on 6 January 2021 were approved and adopted.
(Vote – For: 12, Against: 2)
(Councillor McGeough returned to the Meeting.)
304. EMERGENCY PLANNING WORKGROUP
The Minutes of the Zoom Meetings held on 14 December 2020 and 18 January 2021 were approved and adopted.
(Vote – For: 15, Against: 0)
305. RURAL / MARKET TOWNS GROUPING – INVITATION TO JOIN
Members had previously seen documentation inviting the Council to join the Rural / Market Town Grouping.
Councillor Herron noted that it was free for six months.
It was proposed by Councillor Bushby, seconded and
RESOLVED: That the Council accept the invitation to join the Rural and Market Towns Grouping.
(Vote – For: 15, Against: 0)
306. NOTICE OF MOTION
Submission by Councillor Mrs Langford.
“Recognising the adverse effect on the natural environment of cheap, discarded, polystyrene bodyboards, it is proposed that Bideford Town Council fully supports a campaign to persuade retailers to remove the boards from sale.”
Councillor Mrs Langford gave detail to the polystyrene bodyboards that break up very easily, are made up of small balls that damage the beaches (often abandoned) and are having an adverse effect on the marine environment. TDC are on board with a campaign.
It was proposed by Councillor Mrs Langford, seconded by Councillor Bushby and
RESOLVED: That the Motion is supported.
(Vote – For: 15, Against: 0)
307. NOTICE OF MOTION
Submission by Councillor J Herron.
“I would like this Council to recognise the terrible toll some plastics are having on the environment that we are living in. I’m hoping that we can all agree to campaign for a ban on single use plastics throughout Bideford. The project could be called “The Little Plastic free Town”, or something similar. I recognise that this will be a massive mission, but we need to try.”
Councillor Herron observed that everyone was aware of the damage caused by single use plastics noting that on entering a supermarket one is surrounded. He had spoken to a few Mill Street shopkeepers who were agreeable to finding a way to “get rid of it.” He indicated that he would like to start a working group to look into slowing down the use of single use plastics in Bideford.
The Chairman explained that the Council had signed up to be “plastic free” in 2018 and the Town is accredited as a “plastic free Town” with Surfers against Sewage.
Following discussion with the Chairman Councillor Herron amended his Notice of Motion to the setting up of a Working Group.
Councillor Bushby while not against setting up a Working Group noted the impact upon officer time and resource mindful of the recently established Emergency Working Group. He would be against unless the Working Group was councillor run. He did not think much would come of it, noting not much has changed since 2018 but, with time, gradually the message will get through.
Councillor J Craigie seconded the (amended) Motion but suggested that it is moved to the Decarbonisation and Environment Committee to flesh out.
Discussion followed with general agreement on the scourge, limitations with local enforcement, efforts that the Council had made in house, support for lead from the Decarbonisation Committee and consideration to a letter from the Mayor to the local traders.
The Chairman confirmed that the Amended Motion was to form a Working Group, under the auspices of the Decarbonisation and Environment Committee, to look into slowing down the use of single use plastics in Bideford.
It was proposed by Councillor J Herron
RESOLVED: That the Amended Motion is supported.
(Vote – For: 13, Against: 1, Abstention: 1)
308. NOTICE OF MOTION
Submission by Councillor Mrs L Hellyer.
“For Bideford Town Council to write to Meg Booth, Head of Highways at DCC to request that streetlights are installed along Mines Road and Old Barnstaple road, at the point where they cease in both streets. There is considerable pedestrian traffic in both areas and neither road has footways which makes it dangerous when it is dark. Both roads are accessed by residents from the sizeable new housing developments that are adjacent to Manteo way, and they are used access the Town centre, Health centre, Primary School, Supermarket, dog walking fields and Pollyfield. The streetlights have not been extended, in either area, past the point where the old 30mph limit ended. Devon County Council has not considered the increased footfall, even though, over the last few years, additional properties have been built in both roads. I am asking for streetlights to be installed for the safety of our residents using these roads.”
Councillor Mrs Hellyer in requesting that the Council support her in writing to Meg Booth, head of Highways at DCC explained the impact of the new estates and non-introduction of further street lighting upon pedestrians.
Councillor McKenzie seconded the Motion.
Councillor Mrs Hellyer added over a period of four years she had raised the issue with Highways, following approaches from residents, the response from DCC to her had been extending the lighting was a good idea but there was no budget.
She had learnt that an alternate line would be for the Council to have them installed, with DCC funding, using their (DCC) Contractors or local contractors. The Lampposts cost £800, three would be needed for each road, with further wiring costs.
Councillor McKenzie noted that the fallen leaves and uneven roads presented a health and safety hazard. He believed that women were scared to use the thoroughfares; the situation is restricting peoples’ movements.
Councillor J Craigie asked that it is stipulated that low energy L.E.D lighting is used in a move not to add to the climate problem.
Councillor Mrs Hellyer confirmed that all (DCC) lights are L.E.D and that she would request those that point down to avoid light pollution.
It was proposed by Councillor Mrs L Hellyer
RESOLVED: That the Motion is supported.
(Vote – For: 15, Against: 0)
Councillor Mrs Craigie advised that there had been no Meeting.
310. TORRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL – UPDATE
Councillor Christie spoke of an informal Meeting to discuss the capital budget. TDC have capital projects, “far greater than could have been afforded.” He indicated the Formal Meeting will be interesting as there will be cuts.
Councillor Mrs Langford had attended a Scrutiny Meeting with Councillor McKenzie including the CAB, Encompass and TTVS. The Housing “lead” for TDC asked that anyone in Bideford who is going to be struggling with their rent must let TDC know asap.
Councillor McKenzie added that there is a Working Group that will be looking at providing affordable housing in the Torridge area.
311. BRIDGE TRUST
Councillor Christie gave detail on income, Estate expenditure, Grants: individual, student, group.
The business of the meeting having been concluded the Mayor thanked the members for their attendance at the meeting which concluded at 8.17 pm.
Accounts for approval at Town Council Meeting 21 January 2021