Letchworth Committee Minutes

Wednesday, 7th December, 2016
Council Chamber, Council Offices, Gernon Road, Letchworth Garden City

Attendance Details

Councillor Paul Marment (Vice-Chairman), Councillor John Booth, Councillor Julian Cunningham, Councillor Gary Grindal, Councillor T.W. Hone, Councillor Lorna Kercher, Councillor David Levett, Councillor Ian Mantle and Councillor Mrs L.A. Needham.
In attendance:
Claire Morgan (Communities Officer) and Hilary Dineen (Committee and Member Services Officer).
Also Present:
At the start of the meeting 9 members of the public.
Item Description/Decision
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Mike Rice (Chairman), Clare Billing and Deepak Sangha.
Councillor Kercher advised that the response given by the Communities Officer that Howard Garden Social Centre no longer employed staff was incorrect. The Centre employed a cook, a cleaner and a care worker.

RESOLVED: That the Minutes of the Meeting of the Committee held on 7 September 2016 be approved as a true record of the proceedings and be signed by the Chairman.
There was no other business notified.
(1) The Vice-Chairman advised that, in accordance with Council Policy, the meeting would be audio recorded;

(2) The Vice-Chairman drew attention to the item on the agenda front pages regarding Declarations of Interest and reminded Members that, in line with the Code of Conduct, any Declarations of Interest needed to be declared immediately prior to the item in question.
Mrs Julia Sonander thanked the Vice-Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee and gave a verbal presentation regarding a proposal to instigate a Neighbourhood Forum in Letchworth.

Mrs Sonander informed Members that she was part of Transition Towns Letchworth and for sometime had been discussing how to become sustainable, which had led to looking at Supplementary Planning Documents and considering how they could influence issues such as the Local Plan.

Parishes were implementing Neighbourhood Plans as a way to influence what was happening in their areas and she was currently talking to local groups to raise interest in a Neighbourhood Plan for Letchworth.

Letchworth was a special town, with organisations like the Heritage Foundation who would be master planning a large part of the housing development but the Heritage Foundation had no obligation to consult in the way that a neighbourhood plan would and therefore it was unclear what influence local people would have. Also they would only be submitting the same sort of documents that local people could submit through a Neighbourhood Plan.

Mrs Sonander was looking to form a forum of 21 people with enough time to come together to produce a Neighbourhood Plan that would likely include the following issues:

Cycle Paths;
How to access the train station;
Parking Issues;
Housing - what sort, where and for whom;
Maximising use of redevelopment land;
Town Centre - what people want from their town centre;
Employment - skill requirements;
Green spaces;
Community Halls;
Location of schools.

She advised that she was keen to get the project moving, but to do so needed to have someone who was elected as part of the forum.

Members commented that the Local Plan did maximise the use of brown field sites for development. In respect of the siting of the schools, Members had fought to retain Norton School and Westbury School reasoning that there would be schools on either side of the town and that large housing estates would not be left without primary school provision. NHDC had an Economic Strategy which included employment issues.

Members felt that a Neighbourhood Plan should be for a neighbourhood and that an entire town would not be considered as a neighbourhood. They cautioned about raising expectations that could not be delivered such as siting of schools, which was a County Council function and the make up of businesses I the Town Centre, which was a commercial centre that would have in it businesses that made money.

Members asked whether Mrs Sonander was aware of how a Neighbourhood Plan could influence the Local Plan and advised that the County Council Transport Plan was currently out for consultation.

Mrs Sonander advised that she a read a lot of documents and attended a number of seminars of Neighbourhood Planning and did not underestimate the task. She acknowledged the comments made by Members and advised that one of the first tasks in the process was to identify the area considered as part of the neighbourhood, but this was made more difficult in Letchworth as there was only one station and one town centre, which had an effect on all parts of Letchworth.

The Vice-Chairman thanked Mrs Sonander for her presentation.
Mr Gary Hammond thanked the Vice Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee and gave a verbal presentation regarding the grant funding application for North Herts Beekeepers Association.

Mr Hammond informed Members that North Herts Beekeepers Association was formed in 1918, originally as the Hertfordshire Beekeepers Association. This had since divided into seven divisions with North Herts currently having 65 members aged from 12 to 92 years.

The aims of the Association were to educate the public on the importance of honey bees, bumble bees, butterflies and wasps and to improve the knowledge of the beekeepers through practical training and education programmes.

The North Herts Association was associated to the British Beekeepers Association and offered their curriculum of training programmes to their own members and those of other associations.

The Association had various apiaries that were used for basic, intermediate and advanced practical training and assessments which led people from little knowledge through to becoming Master Beekeepers.

In 2015, following an offer from NHDC, they opened a new apiary at the Norton Allotments, which gave people the opportunity to take up the craft of beekeeping and keep hives.

The allotment was originally extremely overgrown and members had cleared the site, made it secure and installed some hives. Honey bees required a few basic essentials including a hive, forage and water. Water was needed to dissolve the honey and to keep the hives cool and bees would travel shortest distance possible to get forage and collect water.

The Association was seeking grant funding towards enhancing the apiary on the allotment site by putting in a 6 by 4 metre pond and a wildflower bed of approximately 300 square metres, which would reduce the need for the bees to look for water and nectar on other allotments. This would also benefit other pollinators such as butterflies, hoverflies and wasps.

Members asked whether the Association sold honey from the apiaries and whether they had sought the views of the other allotments holders

Mr Hammond advised that the honey and wax produced was sold in Letchworth, Hitchin, Royston and Willian. I respect of other allotment holders, they had visited the site before taking on their own allotment and the allotment holders had been very supportive, even suggesting where hives could be sited.

The Vice - Chairman thanked Mr Hammond for his presentation.
Mrs Akua Obeng-Frimpong and Mrs Hilary Kemp thanked the Vice-Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee and gave a verbal presentation regarding grant funding application for Letchworth Festival.

Mrs Obeng-Frimpong informed Members that Proms in the Park was a key event of the Letchworth Festival and was held on the closing day.

It was an opportunity to showcase Letchworth’s music offering a varied programme from pupils from Fearnhill School to Letchworth Symphony Orchestra performing all kinds of music from jazz to pop.

The event was also a showcase for other opportunities in the town, last year this included the awards ceremony for the children’s art prizes and the writer’s competition.

Last year there were also several stalls including arts and crafts, food and drink and face painting. It was hoped to expand on this as it was a means of income.

Approximately 500 people attended the event, which this year had a new programmer who had previous experience working with the Balstock Festival.

The grant funding application was for support funding towards the cost of the infrastructure for the Proms in the Park event such as staging and technical support over the next two years.

Members asked if any equipment, previously funded by this Committee, would be reused and queried what they were doing to make the event more self sufficient.

Mrs Obeng-Frimpong advised that all equipment had been hired rather than purchased. In respect of funding, the Festival had a small reserve and they were considering where they could get further funding. This would mainly be through sponsorship and applications for grant funding from the BID and Nationwide Building Society.

Members queried why they had applied for two years funding and were concerned at the steep rise in the amount of grant funding required year on year, despite being advised for several years that they had to become more self sufficient.

Mrs Obeng-Frimpong informed Members that she had been advised that the NHDC grant policy was changing so that applications would only be accepted every other year.

The Vice Chairman thanked Mrs Obeng-Frimpong and Mrs Kemp for their presentation.
Mrs Lynne Misner, Small Acts of Kindness, thanked the Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee and gave a verbal presentation in support of their application for grant funding.

Mrs Misner informed Members that more than 30,000 of the 130,000 people living in North Herts were aged over 60, with 1,400 being aged over 90, which was the highest number in any District throughout Hertfordshire.

In the cold winter months many of these old people struggled to keep warm in their homes and were very often faced with the stark choice between heating their homes and eating.

Being cold increased the risk of high blood pressure with the resulting risks of stoke and heart attack and could have a negative effect on mental wellbeing.

Health professionals recommended that people who ere cold in their home, wrap themselves in blanket, protect their extremities and drink plenty of hot drinks.

The Warm in Winter gift bags contained all of those items to help an older person keep warm including a large fleecy blanket, a thermal hat, socks, gloves, a mug and a selection of hot drinks.

The project was launched in 2014 at which time 60 gift bags were distributed, last winter this had risen to 800, of which 168 were delivered to residents of North Herts by North Hers CVS and Herts Independent Living Service.

At that time there was no direct funding to deliver gift bags within North Herts, as most funding received was geographically restricted.

Small Acts of Kindness worked in partnership with care providers including Herts Healthy Homes, Age UK and Hertfordshire Independent Living Service who identified and refer their older clients who were potential at risk from the effects of the cold. This partnership working enabled intervention and prevention before the effects of the cold reached crisis point.

So far this winter they had received requests for 377 warm and winter gift bags in North Herts. So far they had distributed a total of 1,500 Warm in Winter gift bags as well as 300 Celebrate Christmas gift bags for those who would be spending Christmas alone.

Small Acts of kindness expected to give a total of 500 Warm in Winter gift bags in North Herts this winter with each one costing £15. The project was run entirely by volunteers to try to ensure that as many older people in need as possible receive a gift bag.

Currently funding was received via grants from Local Councils, Trusts and Foundations and donations from businesses, individuals and County Councillors. The plan for future sustainability of the project included the launch, in the spring of the 100 club, with the aim of getting 100 businesses to give £100 per month and the application for lottery awards.

Members acknowledged the work undertaken by Small Acts of Kindness and the value to the people receiving the gift bags. They noted the numbers of bags to be distributed and the increasing number requests which demonstrated a rapidly developing situation. They asked whether they were confident that they would receive sufficient funds to meet the increasing need.

Mrs Misner advised that, based on last year’s figures, the original estimate for this year was that 200 gift bags would be required, they had already distributed 377 and now expected the final figure to be 500. If NHDC awarded the full amount of grant funding requested they would have sufficient money to meet the requests this year.

Members asked why the demand was rising so rapidly.

Mrs Misner informed Members that the increase in demand was partly due to them becoming known to more organisations that work with the elderly and these organisations were making more referrals.
The Vice Chairman thanked Mrs Misner for her presentation.
Prior to the item being discussed Councillor Booth advised that he had a declarable interest in that he had nominated Jackie’s Drop-In as one of his Chairman’s charities. He stated that he would listen to the presentation but leave the room for any debate.

Mrs Jackie Nealon, Ms Zoe Theakston and Mr Ben Neale thanked the Vice-Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee and gave a verbal presentation regarding grant funding application for Jackie’s Drop-In.

Mrs Nealon, founder of Jackies Drop-In, introduced Ben Neale and Zoe Theakston.

Ms Theakston informed Members that she was one of the 15 volunteers working at Jackie’s Drop-In

Mr Neale advised that he was a volunteer and was currently helping with fundraising.

There had been a lot of progress towards the move of premises and they were almost ready to move into the new building.

One of the outstanding issues was the requirements for the kitchen. This was a key room to enable service users to have the opportunity to have a cooked meal and an important part of the social life of the Centre.

The documents previously requested by this Committee had been submitted and a lot of positive comments had been received, for which they were grateful.

He acknowledged that there had been some questions regarding the budget for the move and the management of the Centre, which he had answered. but was happy to give more detail if required.

Members were supportive of the aims for the Centre but expressed concern that the consequences of the development of the Drop In was not fully understood and asked whether they were confident that they could cope with the demands that the proposed increase in numbers could put on the management and the volunteers.

Mr Neale advised that there was a very strong team in place, with volunteers who had specific roles as well a team of volunteers who help on a regular basis. In respect of the management of the Centre, they were in the process of adding trustees with management experience, had set up a group of advisors made up of other charities and businesses and were taking advice from North Herts CVS. All of this work was towards developing the management and making it more secure and professional for the long term. This journey was one that any charity would take when moving from a voluntary organisation to a more professional set up and they were taking the right stepson that journey.

Ms Theakston advised that they undertook three main fundraising events each year and that last year two of these events raised a total of £4,900. They had previously been a Sainsbury’s charity and were currently in the fair share for Tescos.

They gave talks at schools regarding disability awareness and GP surgeries were making referrals.

Members advised that their main concern was that the Centre continued to be able to undertake the good work and that they were trying to help protect them. They expressed concern about the cost of the utilities bills in a much larger building, with no guarantee of support for these bills from the Heritage Foundation.

Mr Neale advised that funding in the short term was not in danger in that they had sufficient funds to operate for 6 months. They were also partnering with more organisations, such as local churches, which were providing more regular funding and were looking to sign people up to donating by direct debit. He stated that they could certainly cover their costs, the challenge was whether they could develop to provide more services outside of the drop in centre.

Ms Theakston advised that the Centre started with 4 service users and 5 years on they had a dedicated team providing support to 300 service users.

Members acknowledged the fundraising abilities of the team, but were concerned that there was little information about the potential cost of utilities and uncertainty regarding the support that would be given regarding the building.

In response to questions, Mr Neale informed Members that they planned to move to the new premises on 9 January 2017 and that, having discussed the options of either charging an annual membership fee and a small daily fee or charging no annual fee and a higher daily fee, the latter was the better option for the service users.

The Vice-Chairman thanked Mrs Nealon, Ms Theakston and Mr Neale for their presentation.
Prior to the tem being discussed Councillor Hone declared an interest as he was the County Councillor for the area which included Highfield School and was a trustee for the Cooperative between Highfield and Fearnhil Schools. He advised that he would therefore not be a signatory to any representation from this Committee.

Councillor Cunningham introduced the proposed admission arrangements for Highfield School, due to be implemented in 2018/19.

He stated that the main item of concern was Rule 4 - the proposal to give priority to children living nearest the school, which effectively removed the previous priority to Letchworth Children.

The Headmaster of the school had asked Councillor Cunningham to inform Members that there was currently no great pressure on admissions to Highfield School and there was no pressure regarding admissions in Letchworth. It should also be noted that the admission criteria was an annual item on the Governors reports.

Councillor Cunningham commented that historically Highfield had admitted children from Hitchin but was concerned that, were the situation to change, it was conceivable that, under this proposal, children from parts of Letchworth would no longer have automatic right of admission and therefore could impact a significant number of people in Letchworth.

He asked Members to consider whether they wished this Committee to make a formal submission to the consultation.

Members debated the proposals and, although noting that most schools gave priority to those living near the school, were concerned that the school was opting out of the Letchworth priority area, particularly in light of the large area identified in the Local Plan for housing in Hitchin that would fall into the catchment area for this school.

Members commented that Letchworth originally had 4 schools, two of which had been closed, and noted that Knights Templar had, at that time put in place a Baldock priority area, which meant that children from Letchworth, who lived near that school, could not gain admission based on location.

They acknowledged that the proposed changes to admission criteria were an attempt to give children a better chance of a reasonable secondary education and that currently Letchworth children were getting access to schools, but Hitchin children were finding it more difficult to find a place.

Members were keen that Letchworth was able to maintain the two good secondary schools and that they thrive. There were other issues that affected the schools including the poor public transport servicing Fearnhill School from other areas of Letchworth.

It was suggested that Rule 6 regarding Letchworth Priority and Rule 4 regarding those living nearest the school should be swapped.

Councillor Cunningham advised that the order of the rules was deliberate and therefore it was unlikely that they would be reordered.

Councillor Needham informed Members that she had been advised that this admission criteria had not been instigated by the County Council and that schools made their own decisions regarding criteria.

The Letchworth and Baldock priority areas were put in place a number of years ago by the County Council rather than by individual schools. The schools were now able to set their own rules and, in this case, could eventually result in a post code lottery for places.

Members were concerned that the Governors hadn’t thought through the long term implications of the proposed changes to the criteria

Councillor Cunningham advised that he would be happy to draft a response to the proposals, which he would circulate to all Members for consideration.


(1) That Councillor Julian Cunningham be requested to write a letter, on behalf of Members, detailing the objections and comments made at this meeting;

(2) That this letter be circulated to all Members, who will then decide if they consent to being a signatory to that letter.

REASON FOR DECISION: To enable the Letchworth Committee to make a representation to Highfield School regarding their proposed admission arrangement 2018/19.
The Communities Officer presented the report of the Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance entitled Grants and Community Update and drew attention to the following:

The amount available to be allocated by the Committee was £9,590.

Organisations providing similar activities and Services
In response to a question asked by Members at a previous meeting, Paragraph 8.2 of the report gave details of organisation that provided similar services and activities to the same type of service users. There were some crossover in services, however service users with complex needs may attend several different groups.

The Communities Officer aimed to contact some of these groups to invite them to discuss whether there were areas in which they could work in partnership in any way, which could benefit the organisations with funding applications

Members asked whether it would be possible to identify the sources of funding over the last three years and how many staff were employed by each organisation.

The Communities Officer advised that she could easily identify funding given by NHDC, however, for those organisations that had not received funding from NHDC, it would be up to them if they wished to divulge their funding sources.

She advised that she would update the list at Appendix 6 and update the Committee at the next meeting.


(1) That the budgetary expenditure, balances and carry forwards from the Development and Visioning Budgets be noted;

(2) That the actions taken by the Community Development Officer to promote greater community capacity and well-being for Letchworth Garden City be endorsed;

REASON FOR DECISION: To keep Members of the Committee apprised of the latest developments in community activities in Letchworth Garden City.
Members were very supportive of this project.

RESOLVED: That grant funding of £213 be awarded to the North Herts Beekeepers Association from the 2016/17 Discretionary Budget as funding towards the cost of installing a wildlife flower bed and wildlife pond on Norton allotments.

REASON FOR DECISION: To improve services provided by local organisations and groups which are accessed by the community.
Members were very concerned that an application had been made for two years worth of funding and felt that this should not be encouraged as other organisations would likely do the same with the end result that there would be no funds left for new applicants. They also commented that the grant criteria was clear that funding should only be given for one year.

Members expressed concern at the increase in the amount of grant funding requested and commented that the event should be becoming more sustainable and therefore requesting less grant funding year on year.

They noted that this was a popular and long standing event that took place on Council owned land, for which no charge was made and agreed that the event should be supported with grant funding for one year only for an amount based on funding awarded in previous years.

It was proposed and seconded that grant funding of £1,500 be awarded towards the costs of the Proms in the Park event.

RESOLVED: That grant funding of £1,500 be awarded to Letchworth Garden City Festival Steering Committee from the 2016/17 Discretionary Budget as funding towards the cost of organising the Proms in the Park event at the 2017 Letchworth Festival.

REASON FOR DECISION: To improve services provided by local organisations and groups which are accessed by the community.
Prior to the item being discussed Councillor Kercher declared a declarable interest in that, as a County Councillor, she had made a grant to this organisation from her Locality Budget and that the Howard Garden Social Centre had received 76 of the gift bags for their service users. She advised that she did not have a pecuniary interest and therefore would take pat in the debate and vote.

Members acknowledged the value of the gift bags to elderly people and noted that North Hertfordshire had a high number of elderly residents aged 90 years and over who would benefit from the warm in winter bags.

They explained that Local Authority funding would likely reduce and encouraged Small Acts of Kindness to look at other funding streams, particularly that mentioned in the presentation of asking businesses to make regular donations.

RESOLVED: That grant funding of £600 be awarded to Small Acts of Kindness from the 2016/17 Discretionary Budget as funding towards the cost of purchasing and distributing approximately 200 Warm in Winter gift bags to older people.

REASON FOR DECISION: To improve services provided by local organisations and groups which are accessed by the community.
Prior to the item being discussed, Councillor John Booth declared a declarable Interest as he had chosen Jackie’s Drop - In as one of his Chairman’s charities. He advised that he would leave the room for the duration of the item.

The Community Officer reminded Members that this application was regarding the release of funds allocated from last year’s budget.

Members were very supportive of the work undertaken by Jackies Drop-In.

They remained concerned about whether Jackie’s Drop-In were fully aware of the potential costs and felt that the business case had not been made, however they acknowledged that if the fit out of the kitchen was delayed, this could delay the move to the new premises.

The Communities Officer advised that the move to the new premises would take place whether or not the grant funding was released, as they had no option but to move as the current premises had been sold. The requested funding would help to provide a new kitchen, which in turn would help to generate income by enabling them to supply lunches.

Members felt that this was an exceptional case in that it was a one off payment for a specific purpose and, despite the business case not being satisfactory, this would benefit a large number of vulnerable people.

It was proposed and seconded that the £5,000 funding previously allocated to Jackies Drop-In be released, that the Communities Officer be requested to monitor the spending and Jackies Drop-In be requested to return to this Committee to give an update


(1) That the £5,000 of grant funding previously allocated to Jackie’s Drop - In from the 2015/16 Discretionary Budget be released;

(2) That the Communities Officer be requested to monitor the spending of this money;

(3) That Jackies Drop-In be requested to attend a future meeting of this Committee to give an update on progress.

REASON FOR DECISION: To improve services provided by local organisations and groups which are accessed by the community.

Councillor Booth returned to the room.
Councillor David Levett informed Members that the Christmas Lights Switch On event had been very successful with Garden Square having a footfall count of 23,000 people on the Saturday.
Published on Thursday, 26th January, 2017