Minutes of the Annual General Meeting held at Whiteleaf Golf Club on Wednesday 6th October 2021.
Present: – Kate Symons (Chairman), Andy Vere (Hon. Secretary) Simon Clark (Hon. Treasurer). Sue Robinson, Fionnuala McKibbin and 34 members.
The Chairman welcomed everyone, especially new residents, Councillors Andy Ball (AB) (Chairman and Mayor of Princes Risborough Town Council (PRTC)) and Matthew Walsh (MW) of Buckinghamshire Council. She asked that item 5 (fire-damaged cottages) was deferred until after the formal meeting so that Penelope Tollitt, former head of Planning at Wycombe District Council could join the meeting.
- Apologies: were received from George & Ann Baker, David Robinson, Angeline Vere, Mike Brain, Simon & Esther Ruck, and Dom Larose & Hannah Purcell.
- Minutes and Chairman’s Review of Activities 2020/21
Minutes: There being no comments, the minutes of the AGM held on 21st March 2019 were approved.
Review: The Chairman stated that WCRA was proud to have set up WCRA CIC on 31st March 2020. She gave a special mention for the dedication of all of the community with the lockdown support scheme, the newsletter and everything else in that arena, including the support modes that were continuing. She thanked everyone for giving their time and effort to make everything happen in the community in such difficult times. The upside effect was that that WCRA’s Facebook membership had continued to grow (as a result of Dom’s efforts) and the decimated events calendar during lockdown had been reinstated with the successful cream tea/band event and the “best ever” sausage sizzle during 2021 (a result of the efforts of Fionnuala and the events team’s hard work).
- Annual Accounts and Treasurer’s Report
a) Approval of (old style) accounts January to March 2020. The Treasurer noted that there was no income or expenditure during this period. The (residual) accounts were approved, as proposed by Peter Miles and seconded by Jenny Masterton-Smith.
b) Approval of (CIC) accounts for April 2020 to March 2021. The Treasurer stated that the overall expenditure to maintain WCRA CIC was £277 in the last accounting year, leaving an operating balance of c. £900. He said that future AGMs would need to be held in October each year to allow time to prepare the accounts and thanked John Gould for preparing the new format CIC accounts for submission to Companies House. The accounts were approved, as proposed by Phillip Masterton-Smith and seconded by Jon Sareen.
c) Presentation of long-term funding and budget of WCRA CIC. The Treasurer presented a slide with planned recurring expenditure for the current year of: –
- AGM Set Up/Eqpt Hire £50
- GDPR fee £35
- D&O + Event Insurance £96
- Website fees £55
- Email fees £52
- Companies House Filing Fees £15
- TOTAL £303
He said that the operating balance would soon be eroded as subscriptions are only currently paid by new members (a lifetime subscription of £5 per household.) The means to address this situation, was proposed as an Agenda discussion item following the break.
- Election of Officers.
Andy Vere was standing for re-election as Director/Secretary, Sue Robinson was standing for re-election as Director and Jon Sareen was standing for co-option as prospective Director. No other nominations were received. Andy Vere was re-elected, as proposed by Peter Miles and seconded by John Clegg. Sue Robinson was re-elected, as proposed by Fionnuala McKibbin and seconded by Florence Brain. Jon Sareen was elected, as proposed by Guy Young and seconded by Paul Danks.
- Update on the rebuilding of the fire damaged cottages
This item was deferred to later on in the evening’s agenda.
- Our involvement with our pubs as part of our community
The chairman reminded everyone of Asset of Community Value (ACV) status. The ACV list of pubs and other entities was now maintained by Buckinghamshire Council. If an asset owner decided to sell the ACV asset, the local community had six months in which to make a bid. The Red Lion and The Plough were both included in the original register after being nominated by CAMRA in 2014. The listings had now lapsed and PRTC had applied for the Red Lion to be relisted, but this had been turned down by Buckinghamshire Council owing to lack of evidence. Sue Robinson said that we needed to demonstrate community use over and above that of a normal pub for ACV listing to be gained. The Secretary said he had been asked to join a PRTC working group involved with the wider ACV issue across Risborough and that there had been successful applications for the Three Crowns at Askett and the Bird in Hand. Matt Walsh observed that we all needed to look carefully at the six-month ACV application process and should consider what could we do in preparation.
- Any other business.
- Christmas Tree Festival – Gwen Miles advised that this would take place in St Dunstan’s Church in the last weekend of November and she hoped that residents will support it. More information would appear int the next parish magazine.
- Golf Club Lane drainage – Paul Danks mentioned ongoing problems with the drainage channel in Golf Club Lane just below the cricket pitch becoming blocked.
- David Burns asked to note that Cadsden resident Don North had died in September. He also asked about the 40-mph speed limit in Cadsden Road, which he felt was too high given the need for pedestrians to walk on the road as verges were not always useable. The chair said this would be discussed by the committee at the next meeting. Florence Brain offered to obtain details of road accident reports to assist.
- Holloway – John Clegg mentioned that the verge of the Holloway alongside Rectory Meadow was completely overgrown, and he wondered who was responsible for clearing it. The Secretary agreed to write to PRTC to see what could be done.
The formal meeting closed at 8:30pm.
Penelope Tollitt (PT) joined the meeting and spoke about the issues surrounding the refurbishment of heritage assets and how the fire damaged cottage project could be made viable and how the planning process could facilitate this. PT said that the legal framework for enabling restoration was based around case law, and when the cost of restoration was greater than the value of the restored assets, it was established practice that limited additional development could be permitted to subsidise the restoration costs. In the case of the three cottages, this would mean that one or two additional dwellings may need to be constructed to make restoration viable, by ‘enabling development.’ PT noted that there was some land on the south of the site that could be used for additional dwelling(s). This was illustrated with a slide that had been previously published on the auction website when the cottages were marketed prior to sale. PT said that plans would need to be submitted and approved for the entire scheme before work on the site could commence, but she believed the restoration of the cottages would need to be completed before any additional dwelling(s) were constructed. She then took questions from the floor.
John Clegg asked why the Pease estate was able to sell the site, presumably for a substantial amount as the guide price on the agent’s web site was £570k. He believed that the actual value after taking restoration costs into account was very little, making the need for enabling development inevitable. The chairman commented that the nature of the buildings had not been fully understood at outset.
Fionnuala McKibbin asked if the owner might just wait for the shell of the cottages to fall down. PT said that as the cottages were highly listed the owner risked a significant fine if he allowed this to happen. PT said that the cottages were quite well protected so it was unlikely they would just fall down. PT went on to say that doing anything to the cottages without permission, was a criminal offence. PT noted that it was fortunate that the extra land was available on the site to potentially support some ‘enabling development.’
John Clegg asked if Buckinghamshire Council could force restoration. PT said the council could conduct some repairs, but could never recover the costs of a full restoration. PT said the cottages would probably need to retain a thatched roof which was likely to increase costs.
PT concluded by saying that through the listing process, Society had made a judgement that the properties were worth restoring and that we all now needed to see the developer’s proposals for the complete site.
The Chairman thanked Penelope for her very clear and incisive contribution to the discussion.
Andy Ball (AB) updated the meeting on town issues. There was a lot of change on the council with nine new councillors elected in May this year. At Wades Park, the Brushwood Suite was complete, and the café was being run locally. The Manor Coach House (old Nat West building) was due to open on 16th November. Budget priorities include moving PTRC admin to Wades Park (the lease for PRTC to use the Princes Centre was expiring) and for maintenance teams to have better equipment storage. Climate change was a priority for the new council and a climate change committee had been formed. AB emphasised the importance of WCRA working together with PRTC and mentioned the proposed junction improvement, at Peters Lane / Upper Icknield Way.
Matt Walsh (MW) said these were interesting times at Buckinghamshire Council (BC) following establishment as a unitary authority in 2020 and the delayed 2021 elections. He mentioned HGV driver shortages in the South of the County which were affecting refuse and recycling collections. He said that he would also investigate the white line issue at Peters Lane / UIW; which he thought may have been delayed by officers.
MW said that BC budgets were tough, with social care and children’s services being stretched, the latter affected by the impact of Covid-19 on children. Overspends were significant and Covid-19 had delayed savings from becoming a unitary authority.
MW said that our local councillors are Gary Hall, deputy cabinet member for planning, and Alan Turner who leads on strategic sites. The Wycombe Area local plan was agreed some time ago and the Aylesbury Vale plan had been finally agreed. A Bucks Local Plan is to be developed. He said that he believed that an application to develop in PR would come soon from Bloor Homes. He said that he felt that Bloor would try to escape from paying infrastructure costs. Planning was well advanced for the new bridge at Summerleys Road, which would be the first part of the new infrastructure.
Questions to AB and MW
Paul Danks asked AB about the primary responsibilities of PRTC and what he saw as his priorities. AB said that these were parks, verges, street-lights and the memorial gardens. His main priorities were completing current projects and getting developers to deliver infrastructure.
John Clegg thanked MW for his work as Mayor, particularly for the ground-breaking Risborough Basket initiative. He noted that there was free car parking at weekends; could this be extended to weekdays? MW said that PRTC paid around £7,500 for Sunday parking and £38,000 for Saturday parking and that subsidising weekday parking was likely to be prohibitively expensive. He noted that parking income was an important revenue stream for Buckinghamshire Council. There is still limited free parking in the High Street, and more parking might be available as part of the town centre changes in the redevelopment plans, but these would not be delivered until the end of the development process.
The chairman thanked Andy and Matt for their contributions to the meeting.
Discussion on the future of WCRA
The chairman asked members by a series of questions, what they wanted from WCRA to enable Directors to plan for the future: Should it have more of a community voice? Should it be more proactive in dealing with threats to the character of the hamlets, such as potential selling off of land for developments (we should consider having a fighting fund for such issues)? Should there be wider support for older residents? She also suggested (in light of increased activities) that we should now consider implementing an annual subscription of £5 per household (as agreed at the 2019 AGM).
There was agreement that all residents need to be consulted on these matters. The Treasurer wished it to be noted that subscriptions were currently outstanding from 57 households.
Paul Danks suggested that we needed a plan, and then residents could decide whether to fund it. Fionnuala McKibbin suggested that residents should e-mail their ideas to the Directors of WCRA. Jenny Masterson-Smith said that she favoured a £5 annual subscription and questioned whether we need a formal plan.
The chairman stated that she would welcome ideas from all residents and that Directors would produce a simple one-page plan which would be circulated to WCRA members as soon as possible. Additionally. WCRA would configure the online portal to collect subscriptions and would advise accordingly.
The Chairman thanked everyone for attending.
The meeting closed at 10:00pm.