Minutes from GCCG Meeting September 17th 2019
PO welcomed everyone and welcomed a couple of new faces.
Attendance and Apologies
Attendance: Peter Owen (PO), Alan Butler (AB), Michelle Inwood (MI), Keith Holloway (KH), Fran Heron (FH), Jim Arkwright (JA), Sharan Arkwright (SA), John Pollard (JP), Pete Phethean (PP), Clare Phethean (CP), Bettina (B), Stuart Priestley (SP), Christine Haigh (CH), John Haigh (JH), Mary Robinson (MR)
Minutes from last meeting
Minutes were submitted from previous meeting and approved by the group.
No matters arising the minutes were approved and signed.
MI submitted her report to the meeting with a brief summary of activity in the last quarter.
GCCG Treasurer’s report for Sep 2019 meeting (7 June – 16 Sep 2019)
16 Sep 2019 balance £1935.56
Splat the Rat (Gatley Festival) 54
20 years of GCCG 266
(individ = 85; Sign & Display 50; Marple naturalists 25; GS Foam Concrete 50; Mark Tinkler windows 120)
SMBC (dip pond/wfmeadow) 2832
Land drain 350
Gatley Festival stall 30
Maintenance (Alan) 30
Room hire 30 (June meeting/20 yr GCCG event)
PP presented the following current membership information:
Total Members on the 'Membership Renewal List' 114
49 members pay by standing order
65members do not use a standing order
Members may usefully be categorized in the following way.
1) 75 members the number of members whose renewal date came before Sept 2019 and who have paid their subscription.
2) 12 members the number of members whose renewal date this year will come before between Sept and December 2019 and so are still within their 2018 subscription at the moment.
Therefore, 75 plus 12 = 87 currently 'paid up' members.
3) 10 members the number of members who paid their subscription in 2018, but have missed their renewal date for 2019 (which fell prior to Sept 2019).
4) 17 members the number of members who currently appear on the membership renewals list but have not paid their subscription since 2017 or earlier
Therefore 10 plus 17 = 27 formerly paid up members to re-contact.
PO presented Chris Neil’s bird reports [as detailed here];
Wildlife and Nature report
JP gave his report [as detailed here]:
AB reported the following information to the meeting:
The Reserve is looking very attractive and in good order, especially now that the recent removal of trees near the pond has opened up better views of the water. AB thanked JA on our behalf for all his continuing hard work around the site.
Willow cutting which will further enhance the pond area is scheduled for Sunday October 6th. AB called for volunteers to help with the work.
For a number of years running SMBC has treated knotweed on the site by injection. Further treatment next year may well eradicate all the knotweed.
AB reported that Joe Huyton has again replaced broken slats on the boardwalk leading to the thirty-nine steps and the meeting expressed its appreciation for his work.
A neighbour of the Carrs site is making a floating duck house for the pond, to provide the ducks with some shelter over the winter months. It will be tethered to a stake out in the water when it is finished. The twenty five or so ducks are proving to be popular with visitors to the site and adequate funds have been raised for their winter feed.
AB was pleased to report that the site has been free of vandalism in recent months.
Fields in trust update
PO provided update on the latest progress in this ongoing saga.
As per the agreement made at the last meeting in June PO was to ask a formal question of the full Stockport council.
Despite attempts by the council to prevent the question being asked by using delaying tactics in the chamber the opportunity did eventually come and PO asked the question as below;
Question to Councillor Sheila Bailey on behalf of Gatley Carrs ref our application for Fields in Trust protection of our Nature Reserve.
Gatley Carrs is a conservation area in Gatley village. It includes a wildflower meadow, a pond with dipping area, a stream, willow bird hides and an orchard. It is a registered Nature Reserve and is listed as a grade C site of biological importance. It is widely used by birdwatchers, dog walkers, and by local primary schools. It is cared for by local volunteers under the banner of Gatley Carrs Conservation Group, which I am proud to represent tonight as Chairman. We carry out regular task days and host seasonal guided walks.
The site represents an essential green lung surrounded by motorways and Viridor waste depot.
It is essential this site is protected in perpetuity by the Fields in Trust scheme.
However, despite submitting our application over 3 years ago, followed by numerous enquiries to our local council supporters within our Group about the progress of our application, then submitting a petition with over 2,000 signatures on it, we have not even had the courtesy of a reply.
All we ask is that you support our application for Fields in Trust protection, at no cost to the council, so all you have to do is say yes.
Your failure to do so would lead us to the conclusion you have an ulterior motive to potentially use the site for commercial development at some later date.
Can the Executive lead confirm that there is no intention to have any development on Gatley Carrs and confirm this formally by approving our Fields in Trust application?
Councillor Bailey’s response was to deflect from answering by claiming the question was out of order as it represented a personal attack on her integrity.
As there was no further right of reply for PO in the council’s procedure then she was able to avoid cross examination.
She also claimed no knowledge of our application, this despite being present at, at least, 2 full council meetings where it was raised and where our petition was submitted.
However, “rattling her cage” did bring some response and we were invited to meet with some council officers (Ian Walmsley- Heads of Neighbourhoods/ Ian Keyte- Estates Management / Peter Cooke- West Neighbourhood Manager) which we (PO/ AB/ CP) did on 29th August.
PO outlined the history of delayed or no responses, an ignored petition and no reasons for not accepting FIT.
Ian said his lack of response was because there were no procedures in place to deal with such an application and said words to the effect that if they approved ours many other groups may want similar treatment.
PO said this was frankly a shocking admission after 3 years, why hadn’t this been admitted at the beginning? Also whether other groups applied was irrelevant.
The other council officers present looked shocked and embarrassed by the whole story.
Various denials by Ian about not knowing the details of the application were countered by PO by reference to numerous e-mails he had received and, in some cases replied to, including an e-mail to Jamie Leeson from FIT on 13th December 2016, and then by the fact he had had a meeting with Jamie Leeson in July 2017, a meeting requiring response but none received.
We then demanded a response and a time- table for action, and we were promised an answer within 3 months.
In the end Ian agreed to seek guidance and wrote to his boss the following day, content as below;
GATLEY CARRS – FIELDS IN TRUST – 29TH AUGUST 2019
Ian Keyte – Estates Management, Peter Cooke – West Neighbourhood Manager, Ian Walmsley – Head of Neighbourhoods, Peter Owen (FOGC), Alan Butler (FOGC), Clare Phethean (FOGC)
FIELDS IN TRUST
Fields in Trust works in partnership with landowners including local authorities, voluntary organisations and private landowners to protect land through a Deed of Dedication – a binding legal commitment with the landowner – which allows green spaces to be protected in perpetuity for current and future generations to enjoy.
The Landowner of the space must complete the application form
Evidence of ownership, and where relevant freehold interest must be produced
The principal use should be outdoor sport, play or recreation. This can include buildings or facilities if the use is ancillary to the outdoor space
Spaces must have public access
Spaces should be accessible in terms of location and affordability for the local community
Spaces should have local managers who are responsible for the quality of the facilities, maintenance and development, improving participation and financial and operational sustainability
The Landowner must be able to sign the agreed Deed of Dedication within six months of submitting an application
Key documents required
To progress your application, we require office copy entries of the register of title (or for unregistered land, the root of title). Office copies must be dated within the last 12 months to represent the current standing of the land. For registered land, copies can be obtained from the Land Registry for a nominal charge.
We will also require a completed application form for the relevant protection programme.
POINTS FROM FOGC
Peter – Three years waiting for something. No adequate response, not treated fairly, there has been issues with Cllr Bailey. The groups strength of feeling is very strong. They feel extremely annoyed and utterly let down by SMBC
Local Councillors and MP have expressed support
Application submitted but not followed up on
What is the policy that dictates such matters?
POINTS FROM SMBC
The site is unlikely to be developed at any time. It is protected as a greenspace, public open space, local nature reserve, is in an area prone to flood. It is not believed to have been included as a development site in the GMSF
Application to FIT can’t have been submitted. It needs to come from the land owner and we haven’t agreed to this. A form / expression of interest must have been filled out by the group?
Imposition of additional constraints is unlikely to be welcomed by SMBC (as it wouldn’t if imposed on any individuals or organisations land)
No policy and it is not the case that every decision taken by the council is subject to policy.
The group need an answer. Yes or No. That will inform their next move.
Council also need a yes or no and a set of criteria to determine the why and why nots.
Determine democratic process (ask Jonathan). Could be either Ian’s cabinet member, or both, or EED scrutiny.
Write a report that details pros and cons and suggest a set of criteria.
Invitation to History of Gatley Carrs 12th Sept - 7:30pm – Elm Road Church(?)
The frustrating matter as a result of all these delays is that our original application for FIT is now timed out so we need to re-apply.
Subsequent discussion in our meeting then followed:
PP reported that he had begun approaching Stockport councillors with a view to gaining their support for our Fields in Trust application. Very positive responses were secured from the first two, Councillors Morrison and Hunter.
PP expressed his belief that we should do all we can to bring Fields in Trust officers into a direct working relationship with Stockport Local Authority (LA) councillors and officers. He outlined conversations he had had with FIT's North West officer which detailed just how FIT have worked closely with other north west LA’s to identify priority sites for protection and give them protected status. In fact, FIT have a well-developed, tried and trusted set of online programmes with which to do so in concert with any LA.
PP expressed his concern that the criteria embedded in those programmes might not prioritize Gatley Carrs, amongst potential other Stockport green field sites, because the criteria seem to focus on local levels of social deprivation and on local cultural diversity. This concern was not shared by the meeting. KH, MR, JH and others were of the view that the criteria were sufficiently broad and flexible for us to have confidence in them.
MR was strongly of the view that we should also press ahead with pointing out strongly to Stockport council that Gatley Carrs is an extremely valuable community asset, and that GCCG wish to continue looking after it. We have a right to press the Council for FIT status.
JH spoke in support of MR and said that we should perhaps open up a 'second front' with Stockport council, perhaps moving to commencing the formal complaints procedure and then contact the media. This met with general approval. JH pointed out how little green space for walking in, is found in Gatley, apart from The Carrs.
KH expressed the view that Stockport's lack of a set procedure for dealing with submissions, such as our application for FIT status, was no excuse for the 3 year delay since our application. Such procedures can be defined, drawn up in documentation and implemented without great difficulty. CP supported this view by referencing a nearby LA where such things occur routinely. Reference was made to the LA's 'Stockport Plan' which has lots to say about green spaces.
MR reported that she had again exchanged letters with Stockport Council in her determination to support GCCG. The meeting thanked her.
MR thanked the group for our work on Gatley Carrs and felt certain it was appreciated by the residents of Gatley.
Proposed next meeting- December 17th 2019 at 7.30pm