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MINUTES OF THE ANNUAL TOWN MEETING
HELD ON TUESDAY 7th APRIL, 2004 AT 8.00 P.M.
IN THE TOWN HALL, MARKET HILL, MALDON.
Amendments.

PRESENT: In the Chair: Cllr. K. Smith, Town Mayor
Councillors: Mrs. M. Curtis, Mrs M Game, D. Keighley, District and Town Cllr W Prior, Mrs S Riesebeck, S Savage and Mrs E Williams.

In Attendance: 15 members of the public, District Councillors
Mrs B Keighley and T Kelly, County Cllr B Mead and representatives of numerous local organisations.

Mrs. H. Vincent (Town Clerk), Mrs. J. Grant (Administrative Assistant), Rev Canon David Atkins, Inspector Kevin Jacobs, Mr. Ray Stannard (Crime Prevention Officer) and Mr D Fairweather a member of the Maldon and District Neighbour Mediation Service.
Prior to the commencement of the meeting, various local organisations had information on display and were available to answer questions from the public.
  1. WELCOME BY THE TOWN MAYOR

The Mayor opened the Annual Town meeting and welcomed all those present to the Town Hall, particularly Rev Canon David Atkins, Inspector Jacobs, Ray Stannard and Mr Fairweather, from the Maldon and District Neighbour Mediation Service.
  2. OPENING PRAYER

Rev Canon Atkins commenced the meeting by conducting a prayer.
  3. GUEST SPEAKER

MR D. FAIRWEATHER, CO-ORDINATOR, MALDON AND DISTRICT NEIGHBOUR MEDIATION SERVICE.

Mr Fairweather reported that he was the Co-ordinator for the Mediation Service which had started in 1999 and was supported with funding from the Maldon District Council and other organisations. Initially there was one part time co-ordinator with funding money being spent mostly on training. In 2000 community funding was received for a further three years.

The Dispute Resolution Service is an alternative to litigation with the parties themselves coming to an agreement with the assistance of the mediator. Parties met on mutual ground with the mediator controlling the meeting and helping them to find resolutions to their problems but not making suggestions. Often it gives an opportunity to tell each other how the problems are affecting their lives. It was felt that legal representation was a win - lose situation whereas the Mediation Service was win - win. Referrals came from Councils, Police, the Environmental Department, Housing and individuals, with a high proportion being related to noise, boundary and harassment issues. 185 cases have been dealt with so far with a success rate of 85%, and 1 in 4 arising from individuals contacting the Service themselves.

The Mediation Service is a confidential and free process and can be terminated at any time; the Mediators are impartial, non judgmental and live in the local area.

A group of Trustees worked hard to set up the service and at present there were two paid staff - Mr Fairweather (full time) and one part time case worker, plus eighteen trained volunteers who work to strict Health and Safety regulations; two mediators visit clients together and the Police can be used as a back up but this had never been necessary.

The advantages to the parties/clients were cost - there are no costs; speed - a response is received immediately; flexibility - the mediators share a wide range of experience; and control - the parties involved are in control. The advantages to Councils are a saving of office time by way of visits and reports.

Looking ahead the Mediation Service was to become involved in victim/offender mediation, peer mediation and workplace mediation and will be working closely with Community Safety Partnerships and are looking at providing a pilot scheme in Harlow. Additional funding is being provided from Tendring to cover the work undertaken in that area. Mr Fairweather reported that a donation had been received from Maldon Town Council.

Questions from the public

What relationship does the Mediation Service have with Social Services as they have not been mentioned?

The Mediation Service has an in house Child Protection Policy but are not really involved with the Social Services, but would develop this as it was a valid point.

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A friend had a problem with a neighbour's tree which was cutting out the light and dropping leaves in the Autumn. She had contacted the Mediation Service but did not get a satisfactory response; should she contact them again?

Mr Fairweather apologised that she had not received an acceptable response and said he would speak to the member of the public after the meeting to discuss the problem and hopefully the Mediation Service would be able to assist.

*****


How extensive was the training that the mediators received and do they specialise in particular areas?

They were currently undertaking NVQ level 4 and OCN2 which is equivalent to a GCSE plus any commercial training that is available. Mediation is fairly new in the UK and as a result training was not widespread whereas the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia were 15 years ahead. Mediators came from various professions such as Banking, Solicitors and Nursing.

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How much documentation is kept?

Very little - case notes, times of meetings and follow up reports. All information is kept under lock and key and only the parties involved and mediators have access; the Trustees do not have access to the documentation.

*****


The Prison Fellowship is an organisation that has taken mediation into prisons and this is working very well with striking results, is there any common ground?

Mr Fairweather asked if he could discuss this further with the questioner after the meeting and said that he was always interested in information gained from the public.

*****


The Mayor thanked Mr Fairweather and wished him luck for the future.
  4. MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS MEETING HELD ON 16TH APRIL 2003

The Minutes of the Annual Town meeting held on 16th April, 2003 were circulated at the meeting and were agreed as a correct record.
  5. MATTERS ARISING

There were no matters arising.
  6. TOWN MAYOR'S REPORT

The Mayor reported that since he was elected it had been an extremely busy and enjoyable time during which he had attended the following events:

Cabbie Day - always a great day, last year being no exception.

Carnival Day - all the visiting dignitaries thoroughly enjoyed their day and as Chairman of the Carnival Association it was the first time in twenty years that he had been able to watch the procession.

Children of Chernobyl - the children had a wonderful time particularly at the Monkey Puzzle at Madison Heights.

Maldon Regatta, the Firework Display, the Costermongers Harvest Festival in London and Remembrance Sunday in Heybridge were all very memorable.

The Victorian evenings and the switching on of the Christmas Lights which seemed to be met with approval this year.

Several prize-giving evenings , concerts and shows at the Plume School, a school choir at Chelmsford Cathedral, the Hospice Christmas Service, and a performance by the Maldon Youth Forum Dance Group and a Youth Awards Evening; the Mayor expressed his pride in all the young people involved.

The Mayor also reported that the Burgermeister and Chief Executive from Maldon's twin town of Cuijk visited the town a few weeks ago with members of their Twinning Association and had met with representatives from the Town Council, District Council and Maldon's Twinning Association.

The Mayor felt that this had been an eventful year for the town: the Plume School achieved Special Performing Arts status; the Town Council was awarded Quality Status and Maldon was voted joint third Best Market Town in the country in a national survey.

The two main charities this year were the Essex Air Ambulance Fund and SWANS who received cheques of 1000 each at the Mayor's Ball. Approximately 1500 was raised by the Mayor completing the Icicle Race on Boxing Day, half of which went to the Mayor's Charity fund and half was donated to the RNLI; other fundraising events such as the Charity Ball and donations had increased the total to 4,900 making it possible to also present cheques to Maldon Carers and the Maldon First Response Group.

The Mayor thanked all those who had supported and sponsored him throughout the year.
  7. CHAIRMEN'S REPORTS
b. a. Finance and General Purposes Committee
   The Mayor introduced Councillor Mrs Curtis, Chairman of the Finance and General Purposes Committee.

Cllr Mrs Curtis reported that donations had been made to the following:

Maldon and District Mediation Service
Maldon Carnival Association for their 100th Anniversary
Buddies - Maldon District Handicapped Children's Association
Essex Disabled Peoples Association
Dengie Project Trust Mental Health Forum
Plume Sixth Form College for the Senior Citizens Christmas Party
Maldon Carers Centre
Maldon Town Regatta
Farleigh at St Clare's Hospice

Cllr Mrs Curtis also reported that the Town Council had continued to run the Cinema; provided Christmas Illuminations in the town which this year were a success with additional decorations at the lower end of the town; had purchased a miniature bronze Byrhtnoth Statue by John Doubleday; had continued to support the Maeldune Centre; and had repaired the chairs in the Moot Hall.

Plans for next year included the provision of CCTV for the lower end of the town; continued support for the Town Centre Manager; refurbishment and redecoration of the Moot Hall and ongoing maintenance for the Town Hall which was now being used a great deal.

Cllr Mrs Curtis reported that there had been a slight increase in the Council Tax from 44.77 last year to 46.94 this year for a Band D property.

The Mayor thanked Councillor Mrs Curtis for her report.
b. Planning Committee
   The Mayor introduced Councillor Savage, Chairman of the Planning Committee.

Cllr Savage reported that the Planning Committee consisted of nine Councillors and met approximately every two weeks at which the public were invited to attend. The Planning Committee had also acted as consultees to the Maldon District Council and the Essex County Council regarding planning applications and appeals, the Replacement Local Plan, Mineral Extraction and Transportation, Licensing of Premises and Highway issues such as parking restrictions, yellow lines and traffic calming.

Planning applications could be viewed at the Town Council Office and letters of support and objection could be forwarded to the Town Council as well as the District Council. Two hundred planning applications had been considered over the past year including housing developments, commercial developments, extensions, works to trees and telecommunication masts. During this year a Road Safety Working Party had been set up to look at overall safety in Maldon and videos had been shown on the correct procedure for pavement repairs etc. and signage regarding highway works.

Cllr Savage reminded those present that the public were welcome to attend Planning Committee meetings and was pleased to report that on occasions members of the public had attended and taken part in such meetings. He also reported that agendas and minutes of all Council meetings were on display on public notice boards and on the Town Council website at www.maldon.info/maldontc.

The Mayor thanked Councillor Savage for his report.

Questions from the public

A member of the public asked Cllr Savage if he felt there should be more delegated decisions rather than Committee decisions.

Cllr Savage replied that delegated decisions could be made if officers had sufficient training; he also felt the members should make the decisions as they had been elected to do so.

*****


A member of the public reported that the Maldon District Council had received 150 objections to the development at the Quest Motors site and enquired why the Town Council had no objection subject to the clock remaining on the front of the premises. He also said that the nearby residents were concerned regarding the access and exit to the development.

Cllr Savage reported that representatives of Quest Motors had given a presentation to the Town Council with regard to their application and the Town Council had since received an amended application. He said that it was felt that there would be less traffic when the development was finished compared to the traffic generated by Quest Motors.

*****


A member of the public enquired if the new Road Safety Working Party that had seen Health and Safety Videos would be a suitable group to contact regarding a request for a 20mph speed restriction around schools.

Cllr Savage said the Working Party would welcome any input from the public.

It was reported that in 1987 a report produced by W.S. Atkins stated that a 20mph speed limit had been accepted by the Maldon District Council but would not be implemented until the High Street works were finished; however, it was not known how this would be policed.
c. Environment Committee
   The Mayor introduced Councillor Mrs Riesebeck, Chairman of the Environment Committee.

Cllr Mrs. Riesebeck reported that the Environment Committee was responsible for closed churchyards, various environmental issues and three allotment sites: Brickhouse Farm, Maldon Hall and Warwick Crescent, all were well cultivated and at present there were no vacancies. Members of the Town Council regularly inspected the sites and produced reports on their condition. A section of All Saints churchyard wall had been repaired and extra funding was being sought for the planned improvements to St Peters Churchyard and the Millennium garden.

A litter bin and dog foul bin in Longship Way amenity area had been requested by the Youth Council which would hopefully alleviate the litter problems in that area.

The Town Council had undertaken works to trees in the closed churchyards and grass cutting around the town; not all of these areas were the responsibility of the Town Council but had been undertaken to improve the areas. St Giles Ruin had some of the surrounding land incorporated into the site which had made it easier to maintain.

The Maldon in Bloom Working Party comes under the Environment Committee and enhances the town by providing hanging baskets and planters around the town. The Town Council provided bulbs for the Poets Estate Residents Association to plant in the amenity areas.

The Mayor thanked Councillor Mrs. Riesebeck for her report.
  8. FINANCIAL ACCOUNT FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31ST MARCH 2004

Those in attendance received a copy of the accounts attached to these minutes; there were no questions regarding this item.
  9. QUESTIONS FROM THE PUBLIC A member of the public asked the Mayor if he felt consideration should be given to the election of the new Mayor taking place at a public meeting such as this meeting rather than at the Council Mayor Making. The Mayor replied that the Mayor was elected by Councillors not by the public and the Town Clerk reported that the Election of the Mayor cannot legally take place at the Annual Town meeting.

*****


A member of the public asked Inspector Jacobs if he was satisfied with the decisions of the Magistrates Courts.

Inspector Jacobs said that there is often some dissatisfaction with the results from the Magistrates Court and reported that the Government and Police were working hard towards an improvement in anti social behaviour by the use of an Anti Social Behaviour Order. He said that the decisions of the Magistrates Court can be challenged, if felt necessary, and discussions are ongoing between the Police and Magistrates with a view to working together.

*****


A member of the public felt that there were a minority of young people that tarnished the image of the majority and asked whether the parents and public were doing enough.

Inspector Jacobs said that parents were out working all day and in the evenings the children go out to play and the parents do not know where they are or what they are doing. He reported that a lot of work had been done with a group of young people in the Maldon District that had been intimidating people, their parents had been contacted and 80% were concerned and worked with the police. They were now able to work with young people and their parents with an Anti Social Behaviour contract.

*****


A member of the public expressed concern regarding cars parking on pavements and enquired whether it would be trespass if as a result you had to walk on a garden and could you be prosecuted if you damaged the car when passing.

Inspector Jacobs replied that he understood the problem from his own experience in the past and said that it was difficult to enforce. However, he felt that if a car was parked on the pavement you have every right to walk on the garden and if the car was damaged, it should not have been parked there.

A member of the public also felt that the prevention of pavement parking could not be enforced unless there was a yellow line. He also felt that the Parking Officer was doing an effective job but the High Street was neglected and could be improved if the Police intervened. He expressed concern regarding the area outside the White Horse Public House where he observed the Parking Officer walking past a parked car; he felt this should be taken up with the Chief Executive, Maldon District Council.

A member of the public reported that there were often parking problems in the roads adjacent to the Promenade Park but thanked the Police for their help when they were present.

*****


Mr R Stannard, Crime Reduction Officer said that Maldon was a low crime area and as a result of this the biggest problem was complacency. He reported that valuable items were often left visible in cars and burglaries were often in houses where doors had not been locked.

*****


A member of the public asked Cllr Savage for his views regarding mobility buggies on pavements.

Cllr Savage replied that there was no law to stop mobility buggies on pavements but that he would investigate this matter as he was not an expert.

A member of the public said that mobility buggies are very big but seem to be invisible as they are on a different level. It was a vital means for some people to get around and to have some form of independence and he felt a balance must be struck.

County Cllr Mead said that people in buggies should be supported and a lot of money in the Essex County Council budget had been spent on dropping kerbs. Another member of the public felt that the buggies should have speed limiters on them set to no more than a running pace.

A member of the public enquired when the proposed 20mph speed restriction in the town would come into force and the High Street work completed.

In answer to the question County Cllr Mead reported that there had been a number of difficulties with the paving slabs in the High Street and before the work could start from Coes to the Police Station a survey of the cellars in that area must be undertaken; the work will not commence until 2005. Cllr Mead also said he would push for the introduction of a speed limit of 20mph in the town once the works had been completed.

A member of the public said that, when it rained, a river ran down the centre of the pavement and reported several loose and rocking slabs. He enquired why drains were not installed at the time and when the slabs would be repaired.

It was reported that the paving slabs in the middle of the High Street had not been laid correctly and repairing the slabs was an ongoing cost.
  
*****


The Mayor thanked everyone for attending the meeting and the local organisations for displaying their information.

Meeting closed at 9.35pm.



ITEMS   (copy, report herewith)  are available for inspection at the Town Hall during normal office hours.

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