Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Council Meeting - Planning and Devolving Services

The Town Plan committee had their meeting yesterday, and will be putting their conclusions out for consultation in September - it's been front page news in the B&R this week. The press release was also sent to the Hereford Times, so there might be a story in there as well tomorrow. The Wye Local, because they are monthly, said they wouldn't run the piece, presumably because it would be old news by the time the next issue comes out - they said they'd wait until there had been some reaction to the plans. The Council are encouraging all the local community groups they can find to get involved.

Meanwhile, there has been more research about the tangled web of ownership of land around the Gliss. Councillors have been up to Llandrindod Wells to consult the records, and have gone back as far as 1902, when the railway ran through there - but they didn't just own the track. There was an extra bit of ground that they still owned when they sold the trackway - and on another occasion Welsh Water managed to sell a piece of land that they didn't actually own! It doesn't help that, on old photos, the Gliss looks quite a bit smaller than it is now. The old Hay Urban District Council maintained ownership by the use of the land, and the Glanusk Estate, which was supposed to have ownership at one time, can't provide any proof of ownership either (though I think I remember discussions at the History Group that mentioned that some of the Glanusk Estate records were destroyed in an air raid in the Second World War, when the Estate's solicitors' building in London got blown up). They also know that some land between the railway line and the river was purchased in 1970, but they have no idea which bit exactly.
When it comes to the ownership of the Council Chambers, the records go back to 1829, and the Community Centre goes back to 1939. There's a Welsh Office circular (back when the Welsh Office was the highest authority) saying that assets should go to the local councils rather than the borough (this was back in 1974 when everything was re-organised), but the only occasion locally where this seems to have happened is the Guildhall in Brecon, which was retained by the Town Council. The transfer of Hay car park to the County Council seems to have been automatic - they can't find any paperwork relating to it at all, though there's lots for the public toilets!

And then the little matter of Hay's £200,000 came up - and what could we spend it on? Originally it was earmarked for the extension to the car park, but when that didn't happen it was supposed to have been transferred to a fund for a new community centre, which almost happened around the millennium, at Forest Road. But now the community centre is going to be part of the school, so what's going to happen to this money? No-one knows, though there does seem to be a stipulation that it can only be released if Powys County Council own the land that will be used.
As Hay is being expected to take on more and more services from Powys, there was a lot of dis-satisfaction about the idea that the school building would be an adequate place to run all the Council services from, which is supposed to be the plan. They seem to be going back to the days when Hay Council had all the responsibilities of the old Urban District Council, but without the funding to run those services. Some of the new responsibilities will involve taking over staff and owning grass cutting machinery and so forth, which will have implications for the town's insurance policies.
There was a suggestion that a business plan should be drawn up to show that the present Council Chambers would be essential to providing those services, to make a case for Powys transferring ownership back to Hay, rather than the present lease that only takes them up to two months after the new school is built. Then they're supposed to move everything to the new school, which they really don't want to do. They didn't see any other option than to sign the lease offered, though they want to keep negotiations open with Powys.
This is one of the things that is being discussed as part of the Town Plan, and they also want to go to the electorate of Hay to see what the residents want the town council to take on.
There is a training day for councillors to help them grapple with these problems, and Fiona Howard seemed to think that they wouldn't be taken seriously in negotiations until they had that knowledge - so they're going to spend £400 on it. It's a day set up for 20 people, so all the councillors will attend, plus whoever else they can find who is interested locally.

There is still an empty place on the council - no-one has come forward to say they are interested, so the councillors will be looking for people they can persuade to take up the position.

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