Councillors Present

Graham Roberts, David Kellett, Andrew Waite, Jo Powell, Clare Pollak, Jane Osborne together with thirty seven villagers.

Item 1

1a. Election of Chairman

         The councillors were asked for their votes.  Cllr Roberts was elected to be Chairman.

1b.  Chairmans Declaration of Acceptance of Office

         Cllr Roberts signed the form and it will be kept on file by the Clerk.

1c.  Election of Vice-Chairman

         The councillors were asked for their votes.  Cllr Kellett was elected to be Vice-Chairman.

2.   Apologies

         George and Julie Metcalfe, Barbara Burke, Kenneth Tattersall and Bob Foster

3.   Guest Speaker, PC Gez Shillito, Northants Police

         PC Shillito was at the meeting with PCSO Cochrane.  He thanked the Chair for reading the Police report at the Annual Assembly meeting held last month.  The village had six crimes compared to eight in the previous year and he said the village must not get complacent.  Burglary offences are on the increase especially in Middleton Cheney and Croughton.   The police have a number of leads to follow up on and DNA evidence to look at.  As of yet no crimes have been reported in Sulgrave since April this year.  He spoke about Community Panel meetings which are held every three months.  The next one is on June 2nd in Croughton.  At these meetings, the priorities are set for the next three months e.g speeding.

         The Chair asked if PCSO Suzanne Bourne had been replaced.  PC Shillito replied that her replacement is Charlotte  Whitehead who started three weeks ago.   She is currently learning the job role.

         Mrs Barrett spoke about a post on top  of a pole between Culworth and Sulgrave and asked the police if it was theirs.  PC Shillito replied no, it could be highways but he would take a look.

         PC Shillito and PCSO Cochrane then left the meeting.

4.   Confirmation of minutes of last meeting held on 12th March 2009 and Annual Assembly minutes of 10th April 2008

         The minutes of the previous Annual Assembly meeting held on 10th April 2008 were agreed and signed as a true record.  The minutes of 12th March 2009 were agreed and signed as a true record.

         Matters Arising

         Cllr Pollak noted that Christina Shillito, the Footpath Warden had resigned.  She was pleased to report that her replacement is Digby Lewis and he hopes to be able to come to a future meeting.

5.     Declaration of Interest

6.   To consider an application by Sulgrave Allotment Society for funding

         Cllr Waite read out a letter that had been received from the Sulgrave Allotment Society.

         There has been a growing interest in the allotments over the last year and all plots are now taken.  At a meeting of tenants at the end of March, it was agreed that a society should be formed and a Chair, Secretary and Treasurers were elected as Officers of the Society.  The Society wishes to become a principle tenant and request the Parish Council to allow sub-lease of all the plots under the terms of a Charter.  The Society propose to prepare a Charter which would protect the current interests of the Parish Council as landlords and define the obligations of each of the plot holders.

         The Society wishes to pay a nominal rent of £1 to Sulgrave PC in return for which the Society will allocate plots for sub-letting (for which the Society will charge an annual rent).  The Society intends to supplement income through grant aiding, donations and fund raising to improve the allotment area and meet utility service charges.  The Society’s financial affairs would be open to scrutiny and they would report annually to the Parish Council of their activities.
         If Sulgrave PC agreed to this proposal the Society requested that consideration be given in making an initial grant of £100 to assist them with meeting the costs of formation which would include registration of the Society with the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners and premiums payable for liability insurance.

         The discussion was then opened to the councillors.

         Cllr Pollak felt the allotment holders would do a lot of the work themselves in place of a councillor doing it.  Cllr Kellett noted that the title of land would stay with the Parish Council but the council need to understand liabilities and obligations in more detail.  Mrs Barrett advised that the Society will take responsibility for providing a water supply and boundary fencing.    Boundary fencing is urgent as there have been several occasions when animals have got into the allotment area.  Insurance cover can be obtained to cover theft, damage and claims for accidents
         Cllr Waite then proposed that £100.00 be given to the Sulgrave Allotment Society to enable them to register with the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardens and obtain insurance. This was seconded by Cllr Powell.  All the councillors voted in favour.

7.   To discuss the renewal of the Shop Lease

         Cllr Kellett gave his report.

         Purpose and Background
         He had attended an informal meeting with three members of the shop committee on 18th April to explore the issues surrounding the renewal of the lease and the position of the parties to that.  The shop premises were purchased and converted using funds from a public works loan, grants from various bodies and PC funds. The premises are rented by the Shop Association for £1500.00 per year.

         Parish Council
         Cllr Kellett outlined the issues he believed needed to be addressed at the review:

         Shop Committee

         Key Points raised at the meeting were



         SC Proposals
         Two different proposals were put forward by the Shop Committee at the meeting

         Cllr Kelletts observations
The Parish Council have three options:
  a. To increase the financial support for the shop by way of reducing the rent. 
  b. To seek to reduce the cost of the shop to the community by increasing the rent.
  c. To maintain the status quo by renewing the shop lease along the current lines.

         Argument to support the shop

         Other Considerations

The Chair thanked Councillor Kellett for his report and then read out a letter received from a villager, George Metcalfe, who wrote that he understood one of the topics of discussion was a proposal to increase the rent on the village shops premises.  Mr Metcalfe went onto say the shop is not in a strong position financially and is a vital part of the heart of the village.  The shop is an amenity to be treasured and he urged the Parish Council to give it their full support.

Before opening the full discussion the Chair stated there appears to be a view held by some that the PC was intent on raising the rent. The Chair clarified that the responsibility of the PC is to discuss the renewal of rent on a village owned premises, no decision will be made on the rent to be set until the matter has been fully discussed in open forum and all parties had the opportunity to present their views.

         Cllr Osborne noted the impression given my some was that the Parish Council did not seem to recognise the value of the shop.  She pointed out the previous Parish Council worked extremely hard to get the grant funding and were responsible for setting up the shop, the present Council do not want it to disappear.

         Cllr Kellett felt it was a challenging venture, unlikely to be profit making so the shop needed full support.

         The Chair then opened the discussion to the floor.

         Mr Christy first declared an interest as he was on the last Parish Council who were responsible for setting the shop up and he is also currently on the Shop Management Committee.  He advised the meeting that the shop costs the Parish Council £1216.00 each year.  The Public Works Loan payments total £2716.00 and the shop pays £1500.00 in rent each year.  As there are currently 425 electors on the electoral role the shop costs them 5 and a half p per week.  He urged the Council not to put the rent up. 

         Mrs Blayney spoke of those who did not use the shop.  She has taken advice from estate agents and is iof the view houses are more valuable if a village has a shop and pub.  The message is simple, ‘Use it or lose it’.

         Mrs Kellett stated she fully supports the shop but it is struggling to find volunteers.  She felt that as a loan has to be repaid, to reduce the rent should not be discussed tonight.

         Mrs Wootton noted that she paid £5 when the shop first opened.  New villagers do not know about the scheme and they could be approached to increase membership.

         Mr Lloyd asked for the figures to be clarified.  55% of the loan repayment is paid by the shop and 45% by the Parish Council.  In his opinion the shop is the heart of the community and should be supported, perhaps a rent reduction could be made if the Shop Committee took on further liability for repairs.

         The Chair asked that if the rent were to be reduced, would the shop committee be willing to take on external repairs if they were finding trading difficult.  Mr Prior for the Shop Committee replied that whilst the shop is managing its own cash resources, anything that increases cost is a negative.  An extra £1 in cost required an extra £5 in sales.   Margins are small and the committee are working to the capacity of the size of the shop.  Mr Prior challenged the statement that only 50% of the village, he believed it was far higher.

         Mr Coverley asked about the legal position. He suggested the lease could continue on the same terms and conditions until the Parish Council serves a minimum of three months notice.  The Chair replied that the Council have taken legal advice on this matter and has been advised the lease requires renewal. Mr Coverley asked if consent from the District Valuer was obtained previously.  Mr Prior advised that the rent was sent by consent five years ago.

         Mr West agreed with the comments made by Mr Christy.  Everyone is in favour of the shop and it is a great asset.  It enhances the value of houses and is seen in lots of magazine adverts.  He felt the rent should not be increased but reduced and urged the council to make the decision now.

         Mrs Tattersall asked if the next lease would be set for five years or longer? The Chair replied it was something to consider as five years could be too short but it may be impractical to make the lease for twenty years.
         Cllr Osborne asked Mr Prior why the Parish Council do not see the Shop accounts?  Mr Prior replied that the Shop Association publish a report to their members, of which there are 138. The report is on view in the shop after being published.  Whilst the relationship with the Parish Council is landlord and tenant, the Parish Council could see them if they wished to.

         To conclude the discussion, the Chair stated that the Parish Council are responsible ensuring that they have all the facts available before a final decision can be made about the Shop Rental. The PC recognises the shop as it is an important community venture and the right balance needs to be found between the shop and many other projects that the Village needs to undertake. The Chair noted that a decision needs to be made quickly and the PC will consider all the points put to them and report back at the next meeting. 

8.     Councillors Reports

         Grass Cutting

         Cllr Waite advised that the current contract with Shires Gardening Services has now been terminated.  R & D Landscapes are going to continue with the work.  From the floor Mr Christy asked if there would be a cost implication.  The Chair replied the expected costs will be within budget but they will not know until the end of the year.  It would depend on weather conditions and Shires may have cost them a lot more than expected.

         Castle Green Restoration Project

         Cllr Pollak gave the following report.
         Wall Rebuilding
         On May 1st, Martin and Cllr Pollak attended a site inspection by the Rhodes Partners.  All the mortar on the wall is in a terrible state and many of the stones are loose, so Underwood & Weston were forced to agree that all the Hen and Chick capping would have to be removed, cleaned off and replaced.   The dwarf walls on the steps will be removed  and the return walls will be rebuilt.  The pier at the Dark Lane end will also be repaired.  They say they will start work in early June and will start at one end of the wall and continue until they reach the other end.

         The CGC emphasised the importance of the protecting the mortar with layers of hessian and Cecil agreed that the right mix and protection from dehydration was crucial.

         Extension of Project Completion Date
         HLF have accepted the need for the CGC to extend the project completion date to April 2011.
         Geoff Ratley has installed the three benches on the Green and Alec Cave and his family were able to celebrate his 88th birthday by placing a plaque in memory of Emma Cave on the bench nearest to her house.

         Pocket Park

         Cllr Osborne reported that it was nice to see so many people at this meeting that had helped with the fund raising at the village fete last year.  Money was allocated for Pocket Park although it has not been spent yet.  Cllr Osborne has completed paperwork for the Communities Small Spaces Projects.  The deadline was April and has to be fund matched.  A written response should be received within 10 weeks.  The Parish Council can apply for a grant from the Peoples Millions and the deadline is May.  She has also had a phone call from someone offering to send a working group to Pocket Park to clean the pond area, cut down trees and weed.  The date that has been picked for this work is 17th June.

         Underground Cabling

         The Chair reported that the undergrounding work in Helmdon Road is complete although there were issues with repair work outside Hill Cottage.  Mrs Clegg spoke about the work outside her property at Eagles House as the grass turf that has been put down, is now dead.  The Chair will ask the grass contractor to look at the area.

         Mrs Kellett noted an electrical box outside Wykham House which is completely exposed and has the controls for the street lamp inside. The matter will be drawn to the attention of ABB.

         Mr Prior spoke about the overhead electrical cables which are to be replaced with modern ones near his property.  The Chair noted they will be taken down but work could take place early next year as it has been agreed with Central Networks that they will not be working in the village during the summer months when activities are on.

         Culworth Church of England Primary School Inspection Report

         Cllr Powell had received the Ofsted Inspection report dated 2th February.  Most areas were graded 1 (outstanding) and some graded 2 (good).  The report is available for anyone who wishes to see it.
9.     Finance Report

The following payments were approved and cheques raised accordingly.  They were proposed by Cllr Waite and seconded by Cllr Powell.

10.  Update on Planning Applications

A decision notice had been received from SNC on the following application:

11. Correspondence

Item 12 – Open Forum

The Chair thanked everyone for attending the meeting.

Item 12 - Next meeting

13a.     Matters for consideration at the next meeting

            Shop Lease Renewal
13b.     Date and time of next meeting

         11th June 2009 at 7.30pm in the Church Hall    

Meeting closed at 9.30pm