30 March 2016 Extra Ordinary Meeting : Minutes

Avebury Parish Council 

Minutes of an extra ordinary meeting of Avebury Parish Council held on 30th March 2016 at the Red Lion public house, High Street, Avebury SN8 1RF.

In these minutes APC stands for Avebury Parish Council, AWHS for Avebury World Heritage Site, EH for English heritage, LGA for Local Government Act, NT for National Trust, TRO for Traffic Regulation Order and WC for Wiltshire Council.

Time Start: 19:00

Welcome and introduction: the Chairman, Andrew Williamson, welcomed everyone to the meeting including Simon Rowe and Sarah Marshall from WC Highways and Legal Department respectively. Members introduced themselves to the public. The Chairman explained the meeting had been called at short notice in response to the NT’s proposal to apply for a temporary closure order on the Ridgeway at Solstice. He said Avebury was an open site, that anyone can arrive at any time and that there was no one person or organisation that could control what might happen at Solstice.

He said that the NT, Police, Wiltshire Council and others had done a very good job in managing solistice in previous years, and read a statement that: ‘Members of the Parish Council are aware of the very valuable and costly work the Trust does to manage solstice each year. We understand that Trust staff should not be exposed to some of the hazards and unpleasantness of managing a number of badly behaved people occupying the Ridgeway at solstice.  We also understand the Trust’s concern that the issue of informal occupation of the Ridgeway has been a growing problem in the past few years and that it should be tackled.’

The purpose of the meeting was to look at what APC could do to resolve the issues and minimise impacts of:

  1. the proposed closure of the Ridgeway
  2. proposed new arrangements at Stonehenge and
  3. revised policing arrangements.
  1. Public question time: there were 41 members of the public present (including two non-electors) for all or part of the meeting. No questions were asked at this stage; the Chairman said the public would be invited to speak later on in the meeting.
  2. Present: Councillors Andrew Williamson (Chairman), Dr Mike Bedford (Vice-Chairman), Dave Brotheridge, Lynzey Paradise, Zandria Service and Stephen Stacey. In attendance: Sarah Marshall and Simon Rowe from WC Highways (items 1 – 6 and 9 only) and Miss Liz Moore (Clerk).
  3. Apologies: apologies had been received from Councillor Mrs Lewis, Inspector Nick Mawson, Wiltshire Councillors Mrs Jemima Milton and Stuart Wheeler (Wiltshire Cabinet Member for Arts and Culture).  Ms Janet Tomlin had emailed to say she was not available.
  4. Declarations of interest: the Chairman declared an interest as Chairman of AWHS Steering Committee, a member of the WHS Partnership Panel and Trustee of the Social Centre.
  5. Minutes of meeting held on 1 March 2016: it was resolved that at item 10.c ‘…Jaguar Car Company…’ should be changed to ‘…Jaguar Car Club…’ Proposed by Mrs Paradise, seconded by Mr Brotheridge and carried unanimously. Further to the amendment it was unanimously agreed the minutes were an accurate record. Proposed by Dr Bedford and seconded by Ms Service.
  6. Matters arising from the minutes: the Chairman reported CATG had agreed its top five projects and that they included APC’s application to move the 30mph sign on the Swindon Road 100 metres north of Melbourne House. He also said CATG had supported APC’s request for an estimate of the consultancy fees from Atkins for design work on improvements to the A4 at West Kennett and Beckhampton.                                                                                                                      ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. The Chairman altered the order of business and proposed moving directly on to item 9.
  7. Membership: the Chairman reported that if the Parish Council did not receive notification of an election from WC by 4 April then members would be free to co-opt two people to the Parish Council from 5 April.
  8. Planning applications:
    1. Application for change of use to commercial – ground floor retail and associated office/storage space on first floor/outbuilding at 1 Green Street, Avebury. Ref: 16/02033/FUL. Plans were tabled and considered. The Chairman said the NT had emailed to confirm it was not seeking to let to tenants for any catering or other use that might compete with other local traders. It was unanimously agreed to support the application. Proposed by Mrs Paradise and seconded by Ms Service.
    2. Works to tree at Rosemead, High Street, Avebury. Ref: 16/02571/TCA. Plans were tabled and considered. It was unanimously agreed to support the application. Proposed by Mr Stacey and seconded by Ms Service.
  9. Summer solstice 2016: the Chairman said he had expressed concern about the NT’s proposals at an Avebury solstice Operational Planning Meeting he had attended 14 days ago.  He had articulated the need for a parallel and comprehensive plan to manage the displacement of people from the Ridgeway. The Chairman read out a possible draft response and plan (previously circulated to members and copies distributed to the public at the meeting, see appendix 1).  He explained the document had been put together by him and APC members in the absence in the NT’s proposal of consideration of the  needs of the community.  He noted that Jan Tomlin had rung shortly before the meeting to say that the proposal to close the Ridgeway had also been partly propelled by advice from the police.                                                    The Chairman invited members of the Parish Council to comment. In discussion members felt it was obvious there would be extra police staffing requirements because in reality the numbers of people attending Solstice was a growing problem. Members noted the police were in favour of using social media but neither they nor the NT had addressed displacement.  The absence of the National Trust at the meeting illustrated a lack of respect for the Parish Council.                                                                    The Chairman invited members of the public to put forward their views. The following points were made or questions asked:
    1. There was a Co-ordinating Committee [the WHS Partnership Panel] in place between Stonehenge and Avebury. Had the NT ever flagged up their intentions with regards to the Stonehenge / Avebury inter-relationship? The Chairman said he had emailed both English Heritage (Stonehenge) and NT (Avebury) to ask if an impact study had been carried out by each of them on impacts on Avebury but he had received no answer to these questions.
    2. Under English Law the NT must not do something that could cause its neighbours foreseeable harm if insufficient controls were in place. The Chairman asked the resident to email information on the law to APC.
    3. A member of the farming community expressed thanks to the Chairman for calling the meeting and disappointment at the non-attendance from the Police and NT. He said to cut down on police numbers would be a disaster and he was very concerned about travellers arriving over a weekend and trespassing on private land. He said the issues should be stopped before they start.
    4. The NT was concerned about health and safety issues of lots of tents on the Ridgeway but people camping in tents in the village were also packed in.
    5. A member of the pagan community pointed out that people had a right to worship but the gathering on the Ridgeway was not interested in Avebury or solstice at all and that the issues were getting worse with drug users. The police had been told they had no powers to stop vehicles in Green Street and Trusloe and that in the past the NT car park had filled up within 11 minutes.
    6. Neopaganism is synonymous with freedom of expression but neopagans don’t have a right to freedom of expression if that interferes with other people’s rights. People that live in Avebury have rights too but they have been marginalised and therefore this is a problem waiting to happen. Every authority involved has a responsibility and APC needs to ask WC, NT and the Police how they intend to protect the rights of the people living in Avebury.
    7. A family in Green Street feel threatened at Solstice.
    8. It was impractical that views were being expressed without the Police and NT present.
    9. Could the NT open land and charge for camping / parking as per EH practice at Stonehenge?
    10. Could the NT not also ban alcohol at Avebury?
    11. A member of the farming community endorsed the views expressed at item 9.e. but said that that people had a right to worship but not a right to camp. It would not be correct to provide another site and to do so would need universal approval.
    12. Stonehenge last year was very well managed. Avebury needed the same attention.
    13. Regarding road closures, it was noted there was probably different legislation depending on whether an event was classed as an organised event.  Solstice was however not an organized event, but a ‘date’.
    14. Did County Councillors have a duty to protect and close highways? The Chairman explained that  one of the reasons for closing the Ridgeway was because it was becoming a destination in its own right.                                                The Chairman invited Mr Simon Rowe (WC Highways) to comment. Mr Rowe introduced himself and explained he worked within the Highways team and had worked on solstice at Stonehenge for over 20 years.  He had however only just heard about the potential Ridgeway closure. He confirmed the NT application would be dealt with by him and that he was not certain closing the Ridgeway would be OK. Mr Rowe said the issue should have been raised last Solstice and there were other ways to manage the Ridgeway. For example, at Stonehenge the EH rented land from a local farmer. Mr Rowe reported that WC would be contacting the Police at a strategic level to see whether closure should be supported. The Chairman thanked Mr Rowe for his feedback.
    15. A member of the farming community asked Mr Rowe to clarify the geographic area that closure of the Ridgeway would cover and it was confirmed it would include Green Street too. Mr Rowe reported there had been a decline in the numbers of visitors to Stonehenge at Solstice and WC had told EH they would like an Event Management Plan in place.
    16. Zandria Service said Mr Rowe’s comments were useful and that there had not been a problem in the past because Solstice had been so well policed. The Chairman explained APC wrote every year to thank the NT, Police and WC for their successful work. The issue was three changes happening at once (proposed closure of the Ridgeway, proposed new arrangements at Stonehenge and revised policing arrangements) all without a strategic overview.
    17. A member of the public expressed agreement with the views expressed at item 9.p. Having lived 14 years in the Parish he had seen increased improvements for the Swindon Road until last year.
    18. A member of the pagan community felt that if the Ridgeway was closed it would be seen as confrontational and any closure needed time to plan and communicate properly.
    19. A local trader said the public were very much aware there would be a slight decreased police presence.
    20. The majority of Rawlins Park residents were elderly and vulnerable. There was concern how the displacement might affect them.
    21. A member of the Clergy said it was her duty to walk the streets and engage with all people. She said she had noticed since four years ago, a very different group of people on the Ridgeway (unacceptable for landowners). If something fatal were to happen then it would be difficult to get the emergency services in. A plan should be measured, manageable and step by step and the three things (proposed closure of the Ridgeway, proposed new arrangements at Stonehenge and revised policing arrangements) mustn’t happen all at once.
    22. A member of the public who previously spoke at item 9.f. said she wished to affirm her concern that the NT had not always worked with integrity and to challenge people on their obligations in order to stop it.                             The Chairman invited Mr Simon Rowe (WC Highways) to comment. Mr Rowe explained his remit was to be proactive and engage with people and he would like to see Ridgeway as a pro-actively managed byway. He also added that in the last couple of years he had noticed more people coming to Winter Solstice. Mr Rowe explained that Highways budgets had decreased and if Solstice management costs increased the funds would have to come from somewhere. The Chairman stated APC could talk to local politicians and reported that Lady Scott (Leader of WC) had expressed concern about  potential displacement. He added APC could press WC to release funds. The Chairman invited APC members and the public to ask questions.
    23. Mrs Paradise asked whether APC could still apply for a road closure in the village if the NT’s TRO was granted. Mr Rowe said it could be done but would take six weeks to process and an application would need to be in by the end of April.
    24. Mr Brotheridge asked if the Ridgeway was kept open this year then could Management forewarn all people camping on the Ridgeway that it might be closed next year. Mr Rowe confirmed that was possible.
    25. A member of the public stated the NT’s idea to close the Ridgeway was naïve; it would punish both the people camping on the Ridgeway that behaved well, and people in the village.
    26. It could be considered reckless to close the Ridgeway without a proper plan in place to address implications.

    The Chairman said the drugs dog used in previous years had been very effective but the Police appeared to be saying that the amnesty bin had been empty in 2015 and that it was no longer required. The empty bin could however be seen as evidence of success.  The Chairman noted about 10% of the Parish electorate were present at the meeting despite very short notice and that was a very good representation. He recommended the issues be referred to the WHS Partnership Panel. In discussion, members felt the response to the NT should make it clear there should be no temporary TRO on the Ridgeway in 2016. Members were also in favour of applying for a parking TRO in other areas of the Parish should the temporary closure of the Ridgeway go ahead but should be a Plan B and would not be included in the response document. It was noted APC would need to design a permit for residents. [WC Highways staff left the meeting]. It was resolved that (i) subject to the agreed amendments the Parish Council  adopt the draft Response and Plan document (response document to be tabled for approval at the 5 April ordinary meeting) (ii) request that the Ridgeway not be closed this year (copy of response to be sent to those involved i.e NT, the Police, EH, WC and WHS Partnership Panel) (iii) Provide Mr Rowe with a map of the TRO areas for the village at next ASOPM meeting. Proposed by Ms Service, seconded by Mr Stacey and carried unanimously. The Chairman invited a member of the public to speak, who asked as to whether a TRO gave Police more legal authority. The Chairman explained 1) The Police said they had no legal power to go on point duty 2) There were two sorts of traffic regulation orders; the first was access down a highway and that the Police could take action against obstruction; and the other was parking/waiting where WC traffic enforcement could take action.  It was additionally resolved that a TRO application from the Parish Council be lodged with Mr Rowe and include a period of about  4-7 days over Solstice. Proposed by Mrs Paradise, seconded by Mr Brotheridge and carried unanimously. The Chairman and Mrs Paradise to work on the TRO application and permit design. The meeting was temporarily adjourned whilst the majority of members of the public left. The meeting continued at 20:45 and from item 7.

  10. National Trust policy on visitor enterprises including Coach House, licensing and plans for High Street car park: the Parish Council expressed regret and disappointment that the NT was not present. The Chairman said he had written to Jan Tomlin regarding the need to improve communications and the need for her to attend Parish meetings such as APC’s annual Village meeting. The Chairman reported Hannah Hould (WC Licensing) had emailed to confirm 21 objections (and 2 responses supporting the objections) had been received. The Police had objected on the grounds of a lack of demonstrable plans for control of crowds of up to 4,999, and WC Environmental Health had objected because there was insufficient detail in the application. He said APC’s main concern was the blanket nature of the licence application and that he would be attending the hearing on 20 April.
  11. Connecting the pavilion to mains water supply:
      1. Two quotations (ex VAT) had been received for the ground works.
        1. A quotation for £2,097.61
        2. A quotation for £1,550.00 (TAP registered). It was resolved to accept the quotation from Whatleys for £1,550.00.  Clerk to order the work. Estimates were still being sought for the internal plumbing and a decision would be deferred to the next ordinary meeting.
      2. It was resolved to accept a quotation of £922.26 (including VAT) from Thames Water for mains supply connection charge to lay 1 x 32mm MDPE metered supply. Proposed by Dr Mike Bedford, seconded by Ms Service and carried unanimously.                                                     Members agreed to seek co-funding of the mains water project from ACSReC at next ordinary meeting.  Resolutions at item 11.a – b proposed by Dr Mike Bedford, seconded by Ms Service and carried unanimously.

     [APC has the power to provide a range of recreational facilities including powers to provide buildings, equipment, supplies and assistance of any kind under LGA (Miscellaneous Provisions) 1976, s. 19].

  12. Communications: not covered

  13. Correspondence: not covered

  14. Finance and admin:

    a. Cheques for payment and cheques for ratification: it was unanimously agreed to ratify the following cheque payment made to the NT on 24 March[authorized by the Clerk as due date for payment was 30 March]. Proposed by Mr Stacey and seconded by Mrs Paradise.

    (i) National Trust: Sports Field Rent 30 Mar 2015 – 29 Mar 2016.                                                                                                        £60.00

  15. Date of next meeting: 5 April 2016 [Ms Service gave her apologies].
  16. Any Other Business:
    1. The Chairman reported Dr Nick Snashall had unfortunately given her apologies for the Annual Village meeting and would not therefore be giving her popular update on local archaeological issues.  Dr Josh Pollard had however kindly agreed to do a talk on the Between the Monuments digs in 2013-15.
    2. Ms Service said she had noticed an increased amount of litter when cycling from Yatesbury to the village. Members noted there was a lot more litter along the A4 however this might be due to lorry nets not being secured. Ms Service suggested APC might organise a Community Litter Pick. Action: Clerk to put item on next meeting agenda.

  17. The meeting closed at 21:15                                                                     Appendices (included in the book of Parish Council papers):                                  1. Draft: Response and Plan: Proposed closure of Ridgeway over summer solstice 2016. Dated 29 March 2016.