The August meeting of Withiel Parish Council was enlivened and accelerated by the presence of Roche Brass Band, which had hired the Village Hall for practice and kicked off a serenade that threatened to swamp discussions in the committee room. We managed to conclude the business before they progressed beyond the tuning stage – either that or they were practising Stockhausen.
The Parish Clerk Robin Turner had managed to ferret out from the people in charge of the roll-out of broadband in Cornwall their plans for extending the service across Withiel. In answer to questions about specific PL30 postcodes, Superfast Cornwall said 5LP is already covered by superfast broadband; 5LR is partially covered and coverage will be extended in ‘Superfast 2’, a development phase scheduled for completion between 2018 and 2020; 5LT and 5LU are due to be upgraded by the end of 2017; 5NH is due to be covered in Superfast 2, but there seems to be no plan as yet for 5PB, which is Lanjew. Areas expected to be covered by the end of this year include 5NG, 5NL, 5NN, 5NW, 5NP and 5NQ. Other areas included in Superfast 2, the 2018-2020 phase, are 5NJ, 5NR, 5NS and 5PA.
Superfast Cornwall cautions that planning is down to postcode level, not address level, and local issues mean upgrade plans may change. Furthermore, postcodes do not exactly conform to network deployment areas, so there will be variations.
The Chairman, Councillor Shearer, commended the Clerk for his persistence in unearthing this information, which she characterised as good news for some, bad news for others. She asked that broadband coverage be included as an agenda item for every Parish Council meeting and that pressure be maintained on Superfast Cornwall to perform.
County Councillor Chris Batters attended, and in response to a query that has arisen over a caravan positioned south of Kerriers was advised that he will be officially requested by the Clerk to investigate its status with Cornwall Council planners. In 2014 the caravan, which provided accommodation for an equestrian business, was given temporary planning permission for three years, during which time it was expected that the viability of the business could be demonstrated. That permission had expired, and the council was concerned that permission could become permanent, and further development become possible, by default.
Cllr Batters also informed the meeting that his Community Chest was open – this is the discretionary fund allowed to Cornwall Councillors, from which Withiel has benefitted in the past and will again – sums of a few hundred pounds may be available for Parish projects.
As regards financial matters, the Clerk reported that our claim for £500 from the Devolution Grant had been submitted to Bodmin Town Council, and the grant for the Neighbourhood Development Plan, which we had to surrender at the end of the last financial year on the promise that it would be restored to us this year, has been received and banked. Annual and quarterly audit procedures were going according to plan. Payments of £260.51 and £120 had been made to Liam Lusby for the leaflet display board in the bus shelter, and for the repair of the bench. Councillors commented that the work had been nicely done. The Clerk is also pursuing the Highways Department for signs deterring HGVs from entering Withiel.
It was noted that the roof of the bus shelter requires repairs, which may be minor; the Clerk will seek quotes for the work. The Parish Council also agreed to propose to the Parochial Church Council that a bench be sited inside the gate of the new cemetery, facing north.
Cllr Malone reported that work to refurbish the fingerpost in Churchtown was in hand, although some small difficulties had arisen due to the fact that the signpost was unique and unlike any other in the Parish, so special arrangements were needed in order to do the work properly.
Cllr Coy noted that our Police Community Support Officer is departing, and pro tem we must seek help if needed from Sgt Andy Stewart, the officer in charge of PCSOs in the area, who is based in Bodmin.
In his report on the Neighbourhood Development Plan Councillor Cubitt remarked that it had been revised to take account of Cornwall Council objections; the updated version had been sent to Cornwall Council, which would now send the plan out again for consultation, after which it would go to examination, after which a referendum would be held. The Chairman commended Councillor Cubitt for his indefatigability in the face of all bureaucratic obstacles, and said that without his perseverance the plan would have foundered.
Cllr Cubitt also reported on the Local Government Boundary Commission request for comment on its proposals to reduce the number of Cornwall Councillors. There are currently 123, and the LGBC believes 87 is the right number. After discussion, the Parish Council voted 5-1 to support a resolution drafted by Cllr Cubitt proposing that Cornwall Council comprise 99 members. The resolution reads:
“In response to the LGBC questions, the Parish Council observes
- That a membership of 87 proposed by the LGBC is not sufficient to adequately cover, in an accountable way, the committee tasks and obligations of the Cornwall Council even if a reduction in these is implemented;
- That it is important that there should be an adequate number of councillors for the number and size of the electoral divisions in the county, taking into account the community leadership and representation role of councillors;
- That town and parish councils – especially smaller rural ones – may be unable or unwilling, even if combined into larger units, to take on and resource the devolved responsibilities implied by a Council of 87 members.
The Parish Council also notes the current democratic deficit where Cornwall is sixth lowest of 45 ceremonial counties in the ratio of councillors to electors.”
The next meeting of Withiel Parish Council is on Wednesday September 6th, starting at 7:17pm, hopefully without musical accompaniment. All are welcome.