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ELECTION OF CHAIRMAN
To elect a Chairman for 2017/18 (the Terms of Reference state that the appointment should be made from the Mid Devon District Council representation for 2017/18).
RESOLVED that Cllr R F Radford be elected Chairman of the Committee for the municipal year 2017/18.
(Proposed by Cllr Mrs C A Collis and seconded by Cllr Mrs S Griggs)
ELECTION OF VICE CHAIRMAN
To elect a Vice Chairman for 2017/18 (the Terms of Reference state that this appointment should come from the Devon County Council representation for 2017/18).
RESOLVED that Cllr C R Slade be elected Vice Chairman of the Committee for the municipal year 2017/18.
(Proposed by Cllr Mrs C A Collis and seconded by Mr P Brind)
To receive any apologies for absence.
The following members of the Committee had sent their apologies for the meeting:
· Cllr Roger Croad (Devon County Council)
· Cllr David Cutts (Sampford Peverell Parish Council)
· Cllr Chris Daw (Mid Devon District Council)
· Miss Jean Hall (Inland Waterways Association. Miss Hall was substituted by Mrs J Pilgrim)
· Mr Jeremy Ison (Devon Wildlife Trust)
· Mrs Ros Mills (Devon County Council)
· Cllr Miss Clarissa Slade (Mid Devon District Council)
PUBLIC QUESTION TIME
To receive any questions relating to items on the agenda from the members of the public present and replies thereto.
Mr Dave Gillings stated that he was a barge owner on the canal and addressed his first question to Devon County Council officers. He stated that the revitalisation of the Canal in 2005, when motor boats had been allowed on, must have been very fulfilling, now 12 years on, how does the County Council view the canal? Is it a beautiful asset or a country park with a large pond? The Canal Manager responded by saying that in some ways it was both. There needed to be balance of focus and attention. Resources were limited and had to be directed so that all users of the canal were accommodated, this included boat owners, users of the horse drawn barge, anglers etc.
Mr Gillings further stated that he found it difficult to proceed from his mooring and had trouble getting to the lift bridge. The reason for this was due to reed ingression. Last year there had been a 37% increase in their licence fee. Could the Canal Manager assure him that the same increase had been passed on to other users of the canal? The Canal Manager stated that it wasn’t just narrow boat owners who had to pay for a licence, Kayakers, anglers, the horse drawn barge all had to pay a fee. Potential increases were reviewed every few years not annually. They had always been keen to pitch the fee at a level below that of other waterways nearby so that boats preferred to remain on the Grand Western Canal.
Mr Gillings continued by stating that despite the increase in licence fee boat owners did not receive any services for it. The existing mooring had been provided by businesses and mooring spots were decreasing in number because of reed ingression. The Canal Manager responded by stating that he had not been asked to supply or install any more wooden landing stages since the existing ones were built. Concern was expressed by the Committee that in order for the views of boat owners to be heard they needed to have a representative. It was AGREED that Mrs Pat Brind from Mid Devon Moorings should be the conduit through which the concerns of boaters should be channelled. The Canal Manager also informed the Committee that there was a scheduled programme of works to address the reed ingression as exemplified by works in recent years near Ebear Bridge and forthcoming works this year near Ayshford Bridge.
To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting held on 7 March 2017 (please find attached).
The minutes from the meeting held on 7 March 2017, having been previously circulated, were approved as a correct record and SIGNED by the Chairman subject to the following amendments:
· Minute 22 – final sentence under ‘Future programme of works’ should read ‘The interpretation panel on the bridge was also replaced’ and not ‘The interpretation panel on the barge was also replaced’.
· Minute 25 – the second sentence should have read ‘….in certain stretches of the canal the water was not visible’ instead of ‘….certain stretches of the canal were now invisible…’
To consider any matters arising from the minutes of the previous meeting.
The following matters were raised regarding the minutes of the previous meeting:
a) Cllr Les Neville informed the Committee that there had not yet been an official opening of the Fossend project due to some dangerous overhanging trees and an unstable industrial arch feature in a stone tower which the Parish Council were seeking advice on as to how to progress. He stated that Aggregate Industries had offered an interpretation board but up till now nothing had been forthcoming. An official opening would happen once these elements had been resolved.
b) Cllr C R Slade informed the Committee that, in relation the dog bins on the canal, following a query from a local resident he had been told that Mid Devon District Council were still emptying them. The Director of Finance, Assets and Resources also confirmed that MDDC would continue to collect waste from these existing bins. The question was raised as to whether there was enough signage along the canal reminding dog owners of the need to bag dog waste. It was confirmed that every notice board had a reminder and advice to dog owners but ultimately it was their responsibility.
c) Regarding the Anaerobic Digester at Crown Hill, it was confirmed that a liaison group had been established with the owners of the site, officers from the planning authority, other interested parties and the Chairman of the JAC invited to attend. This had been due to meet every three months, however, the next meeting was already overdue. The Canal Manager expressed some concern about how well screened the boundary had been with the Canal tow path. As a result the Ranger Service was looking at laying a hedge to thicken it and obscure the view. This meant potentially spending quite a lot of money. He requested that the Chairman ask the liaison group whether the landowners could make a contribution towards the cost of thickening the hedge and further requested that he emphasise to the landowner that cutting the hedge short did not help.
d) At the previous meeting further information had been promised from the Head of Planning and Regeneration regarding the location of digestate at Tidcombe Fen. The Director of Finance, Assets and Resources stated that he would follow this up and report back to the Committee as soon as possible.
Note: Mr Peter Saupe declared a personal interest as he worked at the Anaerobic Digester Crown Hill site as a sub contractor.
To receive any announcements that the Chairman may wish to make.
The Chairman had no announcements to make other than to state he would be updating the Committee on correspondence relating to the Fenacre Water System later on in the meeting.
COMMUNITY PATROL BOAT
To introduce representatives from the Community Patrol Boat and to receive information on the significant role the boat now plays in patrolling the canal.
Background information relating to the reasoning for setting up the Community Patrol Boat was provided by Phil Brind. This had included persistent instances of dangerous cycling and irresponsible dog owners. Mr Dion Howells, who in his professional life was a Police Community Support Officer (PCSO), had developed a keen interest in setting up the Community Patrol Boat to initially operate in his spare time. He had visited several councils to gain information and advice about the best way to do this as well as contacting many Tiverton businesses for support. Many businesses had felt that this would provide a genuine public service. The Tiverton Canal Company had been happy to sponsor one of their old day boats. Following this Mr Howells had managed to secure some additional funding. A separate committee had now been formed to oversee the management of the patrol boat with the Canal Manager and Cllr K D Wilson forming a part of its membership. Positive feedback had been received from users of the Canal regarding this new initiative. This was an independent community led project with many other Canal users nationally watching to see whether this initiative could be replicated elsewhere.
Mr Howells stated that the patrol boat had been up as far as Westleigh and that this took about five and a half hours to navigate. He had noticed people sleeping rough, dog walkers neglecting to pick up dog waste, cyclists not getting of their bike when going under bridges and being on their phones. He kept a log of what he saw every time he took the boat out. At the moment he was only able to get out one day a week due to other commitments, however, it was hoped to be able to train somebody else to assist in the future. He would be able to act in the role as an angling club bailiff within the next couple of weeks and this was viewed by the Committee as a valuable step forward.
Further discussion took place regarding:
· Mr Howells had taken a group of sea cadets out on the boat which they had thoroughly enjoyed.
· It would be nice to extend the patrol of the boat beyond Westleigh.
To consider the Terms of Reference and membership of the Committee (please find attached).
Member considered the Terms of Understanding * and Membership of the Committee.
It was noted that there had been some difficulty in finding a representative from Sustrans (or the cycling community as a whole) to attend each meeting. It was therefore suggested that the Clerk write to them one more time stating that if no representative was forthcoming they would be removed from the membership.
RESOLVED that the Terms of Understanding and the Membership of the Committee be agreed subject to the following amendments:
· Mid Devon District Council – ‘Head of Housing and Property Services’ be replaced with ‘Director of Finance, Assets and Resources’ since there had been a change in the management structure of the Council within the previous six months.
· A representative from the Community Patrol Boat be added as a voting member on the Committee.
(Proposed by the Chairman)
Report of the Head of Public Rights of Way and Country Parks (DCC) informing members of the work that has taken place to date and the future programme of works.
Consideration was given to a report * of the Public Rights of Way and Country Parks Manager.
A recent heavy rainfall event showed that further fine tuning of the settings was needed to programme the weir to release more water, as on that occasion a ranger had to manually open a sluice to keep levels from rising too high.
Discussion took place regarding:
· The likelihood of the weir opening up accidentally either due to abuse or malfunction. There were concerns that should this happen the Canal would drain very fast. The Canal Manager confirmed that the engineers were confident the weir could not open accidentally. There had been no record of this happening. As regards abuse, vandals would need to know how the system worked and this was a technical piece of equipment. The system worked by measuring the distance from a sensor to the water level of the canal. There were actually three sensors and an email would be sent if there was a fault.
· Stopboards had now been delivered which could be inserted into steel grooves and screwed down.
· Water levels would have to drop by 20cm to trigger the existing low level warning system.
· The supplier confirmed that no regular maintenance was necessary for the tilting weir just visual inspection. The Rangers would just have to keep an eye on the batteries.
· The weir was potentially a fish trap and if a lot of water was released a large number of fish could be lost. However, it was not possible to secure meshing since this would potentially collect a great deal of debris.
· The Canal Manager would be investigating the possibility of installing camera’s to both monitor the effectiveness of the system and to detect vandalism.
Canal basin wall-moving project
The following update was provided:
· Good progress was being made.
· The soft Breccia stone wall had been successfully dismantled without the stones being broken.
· No archaeology had been found and no underground services had been affected.
· All was proceeding as planned although the road closure was not popular, however, this had been the only way South West Highways had been able to complete the works safely.
· There had been considerable costs involved with opening up the road at weekends.
· The project had taken up a lot of the Canal Managers time.
· All the parapet fences and hand rails would have the same finish.
· One car parking space would be lost at the entrance as a result of the new arrangements.
· The Conservation Officer at MDDC had insisted that two trial walls be built off site prior to commencement of the project since the wall was historically important.
· The project would be completed within an 8-9 week programme.
Discussion took place regarding:
· How well the project was progressing and the impressive standard of work by the contractors.
· There had been many near accidents with the previous arrangements.
· There was some confusion regarding the signage within the locality and whether the canal itself remained open ... view the full minutes text for item 10.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
To consider any other relevant business.
The following items were raised under this item:
Fenacre Bridge – this was still being looked at by the County Solicitors. It was requested that the Rights of Way and Country Parks Manager be contacted to see if she could provide the Committee with an update.
Items for the next meeting – it was requested that this become a standing item on each agenda in the future.
Marketing of the Canal – Phil Brind informed the Committee that a large article would be appearing in Waterways World next month telling the story of the Canal. He also informed them that he was heavily involved in a project reaching out for funding to brand the Canal as it was the largest attraction in Mid Devon. Other districts were branded but Mid Devon was very much seen as a drive through. A Facebook page had been started entitled ‘Mid Devon, What’s On’. He stated that he was Chairman of the Mid Devon Attractions Group which was focussing on the branding. This would be especially important if the plans for Junction 27 went ahead as if they did not lead on the branding somebody else would. He strongly believed that in the long run there would be economic benefits to Tiverton.
It was suggested that the Attractions Group put in an application for locality budget funding through the DCC website and that they make sure all Mid Devon County Councillors were aware of this not just the ones on the JAC.
It was also suggested that contact be made with MDDC’s Economic Development Officer and the Grants and Funding Officer who might be able to assist.
DATE OF NEXT MEETING
Tuesday 6 March 2018 at 7.00pm – Exe Room, Phoenix House.
The date of the next meeting was confirmed as Tuesday 6 March 2018 at 7pm in the Exe Room.