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CLERK'S BRIEFING NOTE 1-12

SEDLESCOMBE

CAR PARK & PUBLIC CONVENIENCES

 

1. History. Sedlescombe's car park and public conveniences were built by Rother District Council in the mid-1980s. This followed years of lobbying by the Parish Council, particularly for the public toilets. Complaints were regularly being received by the Council from our shop owners (there were two grocery stores then as well as the Post Office/shop) that customers were asking to use their private toilets. The new school has also been built close to the car park in 1980. For the last 25 years, Rother District Council has retained responsibility for maintaining the facilities (see Car park Management Agreement below)

The Parish Council has agreements with Rother DC to allow a "Welcome to Sedlescombe" board to be placed on the side wall of the public toilets and for a dog bin to be placed in the centre of the car park. The salt bin does not belong to the Parish Council.

Rother District Council has stationed the recycling bins in the car park and arranges for their emptying.

A local resident, at the 2011 Annual Sedlescombe Parish Assembly, spoke of the importance of retaining the public conveniences in Sedlescombe.

.ToiletsCar park

Dogbin and Saltbin

2. Public Conveniences.

  1. Distict-wide provision. Rother DC provides 32 public conveniences throughout the District despite this not being one of its statutory provisions.
  2. Pass over of responsibility in 2004. In 2004, Rother DC attempted to pass responsibility for maintaining the public toilets to Sedlescombe Parish Council and threatened to close the toilets unless the Parish Council took over the maintenance.
  3. Pass over of responsibility in 2006. In 2006, Rother DC again asked the Parish Council to take the toilets over. The estimated annual maintenance cost of the Sedlescombe toilets at that time was £4,830 p.a. and Rother was proposing to make this payment to the Parish Council. They said that, although this would not immediately result in any direct cost reductions for Rother, the transfer of facilities would result in efficiency savings in freeing up staff time currently employed on this work. Rother had plans to turn the toilets into unisex/disabled units, if the Parish Council refused to take them over. Although the Parish Council did refuse, no changes were made and Rother renegotiated its contracts and continued much as previously.
  4. Currently. Several of these facilities are now in serious need of major refurbishment, demolition or redevelopment and Rother DC has outline plans in place for the refurbishment/rebuilding of eight public conveniences (Winchelsea Beach, Winchelsea Town, Pett Level, Rye Harbour and East Parade, West Parade, Marina and Devonshire Square, Bexhill). Professional fees to date of £30,000 have been incurred and the construction and building works are expected to cost about £1 million. Cabinet has recognised that if monies can be raised from the sale of assets, the major investment could be made as detailed above. This project is currently on hold.
  5. December 2012. Rother's Cabinet decided to approach all parish councils to seek their interest in the devolvement of the public conveniences to them. A letter was received on Christmas Eve. The following should be noted:
    1. Devolution may incur costs for the parish council which may require local taxation through precept.
    2. Once the service has been devolved to a town or parish council, the District Council would be unable to resume responsibility at a future date.
    3. A meeting of the Working Group at Rother has been arranged for 24/02/12 for parishes to discuss any services or assets in their local area that they think can be devolved.
    4. If a service were devolved to a parish or town council, Rother DC would cease to have any responsibility or accountability for that service in that part of the district. The ownership of land or buildings to which that service relates would be retained by Rother DC but would be leased to the parish or town council. Any financial support given by Rother DC would be in the form of a grant subject to some form of service level agreement. (Rother also says that "alternatively, Rother DC may receive an income from the parish/town council.)

3. Public Car Park.

  1. Management Agreement. The grass bank between the car park and Brede Lane belongs to Rother DC and the verge adjacent to the pavement belongs to East Sussex County Council. Fifteen years ago, the two councils had a different mowing regime for their land resulting in an untidy-looking area. Sedlescombe Parish Council, therefore, decided to take over the grass cutting and negotiated an Agreement with Rother DC that, in return for a small annual payment of under £300, the Parish Council would cut the grass. The Agreement has been re-negotiated every five years and a new five-year Agreement has just been signed. As well as the grass, the Parish Council is responsible for maintenance of the two (soon to be three) small trees in front of the public toilets.
  2. Currently. In October 2011, Rother's Cabinet decided to increase the figure for income from car parks across the District to £100,000 p.a. Sedlescombe's Chairman and Clerk attending a Working Group in November 2011 to explain the importance of retaining the free car park in Brede Lane. The car park's size is sufficient for most general uses by residents and visitors but is too small to cope with the large number of vehicles that arrive to deposit or collect children from the Primary School. In November 2011, the headteacher asked if the Parish Council would consider purchasing part of Pumphouse Yard in order to extend the car park. The Parish Council suggested this was something the School should consider.
  3. December 2012. A letter was received on Christmas Eve from Rother District Council asking whether the Parish Council was interested in the maintenance of the car park being devolved to it. The following should be noted:
    1. Devolution may incur costs for the parish council which may require local taxation through precept.
    2. Once the service has been devolved to a town or parish council, the District Council would be unable to resume responsibility at a future date.
    3. A meeting of the Working Group at Rother has been arranged for 24/02/12 for parishes to discuss any services or assets in their local area that they think can be devolved.
    4. If a service were devolved to a parish or town council, Rother DC would cease to have any responsibility or accountability for that service in that part of the district. The ownership of land or buildings to which that service relates would be retained by Rother DC but would be leased to the parish or town council. Any financial support given by Rother DC would be in the form of a grant subject to some form of service level agreement. (Rother also says that "alternatively, Rother DC may receive an income from the parish/town council.)

4. Additional work that would have to be taken on by the Parish Council if it agreed to devolvement of the public car park/conveniences.

    1. Regular inspection of public toilets and car park.
    2. Regular cleaning of public toilets.
    3. Dealing with vandalism, report it to the Police, extra cleaning as required.
    4. Additional insurance costs.
    5. Possible increase in the Sedlescombe parish council tax.
    6. Responsibility for upgrading the toilets or resurfacing the car park would have to be considered as part of the lease.
    7. Drawing up the lease, supervising the work, costing the work, and accounting for the work, dealing with complaints would become an extra burden on the Clerk.

5. Possible options

  1. Rother District Council to continue to maintain the public toilets and car park.
  2. Sedlescombe Parish Council to take over maintaining
    1. The toilets and/or
    2. The car park
  3. Rother to demolish the toilets.
  4. Rother to introduce car parking charges.
  5. Rother to sell the car park for building land.

6. RECOMMENDATION: Sedlescombe Parish Council to resolve "That, because of the unacceptable additional burden that the devolvement of maintaining the car park and public conveniences in Brede Lane would bring to the Parish Council, Sedlescombe Parish Council should write to Rother DC refusing its offer of devolving these facilities to the Parish Council."

 

P J Raymond
Clerk/RFO
6 January 2012