On a dismal night in October, the village hall was buzzing with the expectation of the Pembury Society AGM, followed by ‘Any Questions’ Pembury style. About 70 people packed the hall. After a very short summary of last year’s minutes and the financial statement the committee were re-elected on block. The chairman Lea Owen controlled the meeting admirably and introduced her panellists, adding a bit of humorist history about each of them before getting the discussion under way.
L to R – Mike Tompsett (Borough Council)- John Kennedy (Hospital)- Matt Topliss (Skinners Kent Academy)- -Lea Owen- June Crowhurst (Parish Council) – James Tansley (KCC)- Simon Wilshaw (Kent Police)
L to R- John Kennedy-Mike Tompsett-June Crowhurst-Matt Topliss-Simon Wilshaw- James Tansley
The first question was to John Kennedy, the director of nursing at the new Hospital at Pembury, who was asked how he was going to lose 200 staff in the budget cuts without affecting patient care. He assured the meeting that clinical staff would not be affected and the front of house team would remain. The reduction would be achieved by increasing efficiency in the running of the hospital and offering voluntary redundancy to anyone who wants to leave. In that case he was asked what would have to go and he replied by saying it would not affect patient care in any way.
The next question was about the emotive subject of the empty garage site in the centre of the village. James Tansley, the Kent County Councillor responsible for Pembury, replied that there would be a public meeting on 26th October for residents to air their views on the proposal for the Co-op to open a food store. This proposal is currently the subject of a planning application which will be discussed at the Borough Council on 29th October. The building is currently registered as a garage which is why there are cars for sale in the forecourt. The Planning application is for change of use to food store, which is a commercial business. The suggestion that the building be used as a community Library is not an option at present. Mike Tompsett, a Borough Councillor for Pembury, spoke on the details of the planning process.
Speed indicators in the village was the next subject to be aired. They cost £60,000 each, so with the limited number they are moved round to spread the use. Simon Wilshaw from Kent Police said they are a welcome safety measure and it is unfortunate that not all prime locations can be used all the time. Pembury is a village surrounded by bypass roads so is sometimes seen as a rat run at busy times. The use of 20mph restrictions is an option that could be considered.
The next speaker complained about the frustration of not having any clear access into Tunbridge Wells to visit the shops,with delays and road works on the two major roads into town. Matt Topliss from the Skinners Kent Academy explained that the school is planning to increase its pupil intake from 400 to 1000 after all the planned building is completed. It was therefore necessary to improve the Pembury Road junction as part of the planning permission. The subject was then raised about a Park and Ride scheme centred on Tesco’s development and also plans being considered to improve the traffic flow at Longfield road, which is in the hands of the Joint Transportation board.
“What plans did Pembury have for a Civil Emergency?” was the next subject. The Hospital has a well worked out Major Incident plan for any emergency, and was on stand-by for the Olympics should anything have occurred. The Police also have a Major Incident plan which is regularly practiced involving all the Emergency Services. They regularly have table top exercises involving all major companies including a clean up programme. June Crowhurst from Pembury Parish Council said the village has plans in place including Snow Clearance and communication with the vulnerable residents in the village.
Neighbourhood Watch was the next subject which was heralded by all the speakers as a well worth -while system. It is only by being alert that we can find ways of preventing crime before it happens. Pembury is a low crime area because many residents work to keep it that way.
The next question asked why the Ambulance service cannot find Sunhill Court. They rely on a SAT NAV system instead of knowing where they are going, because of the way the system is now administered.
Another questioner wanted to know if it was possible to have toilets at the Recreation ground now it is so well used. The Parish Council have looked at this and the cost is enormous. However if the residents started petition it would add weight and this could be looked at as a future project for the village.
Finally, the subject of road works came up again as there are plans to dual the A21. The disruption has already started with drainage works being carried out before the major road-widening works , which are due to start hopefully in 2016. We shall have to wait and see.
Many thanks to all the speakers and also to Lea who controlled the meeting very skilfully.