Heartbeat of the Village – a Parish Council View
Your Parish Council monthly roundup of the key issues we have been working on.
This month, all key activities were discussed at the Annual Parish Meeting, which was held on Wednesday 3 May. About 30 people attended the APM. In future, we hope to see more of you turn out and make your voices heard. The meeting might be more fun than you think. And the buffet and drinks are great too!
Chairman Jecks commenced the meeting by introducing guest speaker Will Curtis, MD of Biggin Hill, who gave us a very interesting update on Biggin Hill Airport plans. Noise pollution certainly stirs up emotions and the meeting attendees were deeply enagaged. Mr. Curtis shared the positive work Biggin Hill Airport is doing to address community concerns and shared a fascinating video demonstrating all air traffic over London.
Did you know there were over 2 million flights over London last year and 1.2 million landings on 6 runways? There are over 3000 light aircraft in our skies as well. That’s a lot of traffic to manage. And Biggin Hill Airport has taken a pro-active approach to limiting the noise impact on local communities.
Biggin Hill Airport Noise Update
At the APM, Will Curtis, MD of Biggin Hill Airport, presented the Biggin Hill Airport update. Previous noise limit regulation allowed much more noise than today. The contours of the runway approach and related flight path were much wider and noise pollution limits were much higher. Today all of these elements are more restricted. A Noise and Aircraft Tracking System has also been installed at Biggin Hill Airport to monitor aircraft noise based on altitude, speed and aircraft direction. It is fed by London Air Traffic Control. There are two noise monitors, one at each end of the runway, positioned 1km away from each end.
The runway approach changes that Biggin Hill Airport had recently proposed posed a noise threat to Woldingham, with a path proposed right over The Ridge. Air traffic over Woldingham from Biggin Hill Airport would have increased by 30%.
Woldingham Parish Councillor Becky Rush investigated and drafted the Woldingham Council response to the Biggin Hill Airport consultation, both pointing out that the proposed flight path would create an unacceptable noise level for Woldingham residents and proposing a more southerly route that would avoid towns and villages. The full response is available on the village website.
Biggin Hill Airport took the suggestions on board and have redrawn the route. The new route ensures aircraft fly 200 feet higher and further south than The Ridge on a route far removed from The Ridge.
The new runway approach remains on course for commencement in autumn 2017. An additional benefit from the new approach is that it forces Heathrow flights to fly at 4000 feet rather than 3000 feet, further abating aircraft noise over Woldingham.
Will Curtis also informed us that no airport in the UK has more stringent noise limits than Biggin Hill Airport.
And you can track EVERY plane in our skies. The Noise Monitoring and Flight Tracking system is available for all to use from the homepage of the Biggin Hill Airport website. Or you can visit: https://lbhacommunity.co.uk/noise-track/ When you click on the Track and Report Aircraft link, you see every flight on its precise path (in 45 minute delay). Hover your cursor over the actual flight you want information about and you get all flight details including altitude, for all flights in our airspace. You can track flights that you observe over your own home. And, you can look back retrospectively at any flight and report any aircraft you think was flying too low.
Chairman Jecks noted that the majority of WPC effort in 2016 had been focussed on planning matters, with the WPC, the Woldingham Association and Tandridge District Council working closely together. He further noted that the Council would be watching developments of the Local Plan closely. Chairman Jecks, also our Tandridge District Councillor, was appointed Vice Chair of Planning Policy on TDC, which enables the WPC to have greater awareness of the Local Plan developments. The Chairman commented that mobilising volunteers in 2016 had been very successful, resulting in litter and Madeira Walk brush clearance. 2017 priorities include a focus on the Woldingham Neighbourhood Plan. Finally, Chairman Jecks updated the APM on the Woldingham Residents Community Interest Company, a social enterprise that has been set up to protect the Recreation Field and adjacent lands. (Please see the news post on the CIC for further details – to be published shortly.)
Councillors review each application with no preconceived views but examine each planning application objectively with the various tools at their disposal. The Woldingham Neighbourhood Plan, the Tandridge Local Plan Part 2 and the Village Design Statement Guide are the primary guidelines informing WPC views on planning applications.
The Councillors are divided into ‘Road Teams’ which have certain roads designated for their attention. Decisions regarding the comments made to Tandridge District Council are made as a group when we convene at a public place – namely The Village Hall or Garden Village Hall – to discuss the various applications and then we vote on the position we take on the application.
The Planning update then centred on 6 key subjects:
1 Relationships. Relationships have been forged with TDC Planning Officers together with other experts and organisations around the village. This has been essential so as to extract more information / better understand the application / and build our own personal knowledge base.
Please note when formally responding to TDC on planning applications we quote the Woldingham Neighbourhood Plan and other policy guides in our response to each application, where relevant.
2 Statistics. Figures were provided which broke down the numbers of applications and the responses by the Woldingham Parish Council together with the TDC decision. Over a ten month period from April 2016 to February 2017 there have been 75 planning applications (7.5 per month). Between April 2015 and March 2016 there were 89 applications – just over 7.4 per month
3 What makes a good Planning Application? Some are excellent others are extremely poor.
We are reliant on good quality clear drawings to make an educated consideration with the facts we have and with our knowledge of the village and its layout and topography and then apply them against the Planning Rules. A good application is one which has measurements. Sounds like a basic requirement but some plans omit this detail.
Due to the topography of Woldingham, a number of properties are built on slopes of varying degrees. Should plans be devoid of contours? Our road teams know the site but what looks like a reasonable Planning Application when fully investigated clearly overlooks another property, which an application does not demonstrate. Sadly, the topography is not usually clearly defined or accurately reflected. A good application takes into account Size / Bulk / Volume / The Green Belt / Amenity of neighbours / Openness / Character amongst other considerations.
4 The paperless office. Some months ago, the Parish Council was informed that Tandridge District Council were making strides towards a paperless office. TDC will soon be cutting out the paper plans that are circulated and are attached to the notice board in the Village Hall. For the time being the Parish Council are receiving a few plans but over the coming months these will disappear and any paper plans required will entail a cost.
Any planning comments made by the Parish Council are detailed in the respective meeting minutes, which are always available on the village website, and the information with final outcome is also detailed in the Woldingham Village Magazine. Going forward we will pin the latest page(s) from the Village magazine on the board but unfortunately the large plans will gradually dwindle and disappear.
The Tandridge Website is another valuable source of information. Check under ‘Planning’ and enter ‘Woldingham’ and the reader will find all pending applications and details pertaining to outstanding judgements and relevant associated information. You can even view historical information.
5 Vista. Due to our geography, development outside our village is effecting Woldingham. Areas of concern were discussed at the APM. Councillors do investigate concerns and follow other Planning Applications from other Parish Councils that could have a detrimental effect on our vista. Using our relationships we can express opinion and exert pressure where required. We will continue to act accordingly.
6 Enforcement. On some occasions, we are notified that construction appears to bear little resemblance to the original plans. On other occasions, the building works appear to deviate from the stated size, position or materials originally agreed for the approval of the Planning Application.
TDC do have Enforcement Officers to deal with such variations. The Parish Council has no enforcement authority but we can assist by applying pressure on TDC to ensure a visit is paid to the site where a breach of Planning appears to be happening. Woldingham residents should play their part in alerting the Parish Council where they have genuine concerns.
Summary. We have a number of challenges over the coming years. The Woldingham Neighbourhood Plan is not the only instrument at our disposal to fight the challenges but it is one we constantly refer to and believe that over the coming years will prove very valuable.
Nick G Langley
Volunteer Activity Update and a Call for Volunteers
Woldingham – let’s get the Neighbourhood Plan done together! As the organiser of the Village Litterpick and other events, I benefit hugely from the community spirit in our village. Through these events I’ve got to meet and know many people across this village and all have something in common; a love of this village. Surely there is no better evidence of how fantastic a place this is to live than the number of people who have moved here and never left or the many second generation Woldinghamers who grew up here and returned with their own young families.
The village has evolved over the past 30 years and will continue to evolve over the next 30 but we are all united on our desire for Woldingham to remain a wonderful place to live and to have facilities that meet our needs and move with the times. The Parish Council are passionate about our village. Whether it’s planning, snow contracts or flower tubs we are all doing our best for Woldingham. 9 of us volunteered for the Parish Council and despite how we may feel, sometimes we only have 2 hands and the Parish Council isn’t the day job. We have boundless enthusiasm and lots to do; but we are not going to get it done on our own.
The Neighbourhood Plan is our focus. The previous Parish Council were tireless in their desire to produce a useful and useable document that reflects our collective priorities for the village – we now need to take action together.
So we are looking for volunteers to join Parish Council Working Parties on our priority work streams. We want people with energy and ideas who can commit time to joining regular meetings and putting their hands up to take actions forwards. You would be an extension of our Parish Council; part of a team to effect change.
We’d love to harness time and spirit of people from across the village to help make a difference. We’d love to hear from you:
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could say in the future “As a village – we did it together”.
What happened to the May Litterpick?
I know this is the question on everyone’s lips! The main village Litterpick will be an Annual event in September. The next one is on Saturday 16th September 2017 and will again incorporate a social in the Village Club afterwards.
In May, there are 3 litter picks taking place in the communal areas of the village. The reason for the communal area focus is that these areas suffer the worst rubbish with the residential roads kept cleaner throughout the year by their residents picking up litter on their verges!
The 3 litter picks in May are:
– Crescent, Glebe, Green being done by the Beavers, Cubs and Brownies
– Long Hill nearby Woodlea School being done by Woodlea School
– Church Rd by the Station being done by the Parish Council
Neighbourhood Plan Update
The progress made with the implementation of the Neighbourhood plan and the action points for the next 6 months were presented. We pointed out, it is not the plan for the Parish Council but the plan owned by the whole village, the Parish Council simply facilitates its implementation. We have prioritised a set of Objectives from the Neighbourhood plan; Objective 1 – Planning, Objective 3 – Local facilities (improving and adding to facilities for the village to enjoy), Objective 4 – Rejuvenation of the Crescent and Objective 6 – Station Parking / Speeding.
We are keen to convey that the Parish Council cannot do this alone; as ever, we need passionate villagers to champion and drive the projects. There was good debate with the villagers that attended the meeting, this builds on the research and ideas the Council has put forward already. The plans really are exciting and once realised, will make a huge difference to the village, so please do volunteer if you can. If you’d like to hear more about the action plans, please contact the Parish Clerk or come along to one of our Parish Council meetings.