Oldhamstocks Community Association
Committee Meeting held in the Hall on 18th January 2018
Present: Neil Richerby, Chair, Barbara Richerby, John Hanvidge, Janice Hanvidge, Gordon Simpson, Sharon Simpson, Nikki Edge, Isla-May Edge, Alex Ainslie, Alison Mells, Miriam Mells.
Apologies: David Legge, Chris Bruce, Sam Shanks, Andy Shanks, Nathanael Mells, Lauryn Simpson, Nathan Simpson.
Welcome: Neil welcomed all present, especially new members. He reported that Elaine Baillie has said that, due to work and home commitments, she cannot now commit to being a committee member. Barbara has written to convey our regrets at this news, and to thank her for her contributions last year.
Alex queried the large number of co-opted members, expressing the views that it is undemocratic to have whole families (or several members of one family) on the committee, that people should be co-opted not simply for general support but because they have a specific skill to offer/that is seen to be needed, and that the committee can call on others in the community to help at any time. There were several comments countering these views: in particular, Nikki and Sharon expressed the view that social and life skills are just as valuable as practical ones, and Neil said that we don't expect particular levels of competence from committee members and that we should celebrate the level of interest shown by so many willing people. The committee remains unchanged.
Christmas: Neil thanked all who helped with decorating the hall, and thanked Dougie and Alex who provided trees. Dougie had indicated that it can be hard to find a tree the right size and it was suggested that in future we might get one from Beanston, or have some alternative “outdoor Christmas lit feature” for the Green – to be discussed at an autumn meeting. All
Minutes of the meeting on 16th November were approved.
Treasurer's Report: At present funds held in the general account amount to £13 801.56, with £3 494.56 available (not ring-fenced). In the Windfarm Funds account there is £7 650.00.
Correspondence Policy: There was general approval for Neil's proposal that any anonymous letters sent to the committee should be discarded without response. In recent months, sadly, there has been some very uncomfortable correspondence with much hurt experienced and offence taken. Alex raised a serious issue over the language used in an email (in this case, as in some others, the content of emails sent between committee members had been passed to a person or persons outwith the committee, to whom it was not addressed), concerning the Alternative Plan, saying that some wording had been completely unacceptable. (A copy of the email in question was passed to the Chairman but was not read out.) Everyone was in agreement with Alex that committee communications must be respectful, and that we must all make an effort to take care with email content. Alison said that it is often hard to make the meaning clear, and get an interpretation overproperly in an email because it is not a conversation; Nikki encouraged us to have a positive policy of communicating regularly and openly with the community via Minutes, website etc. All
Website Management: Andrea Davison was thanked for dealing with posting on the Googlesites website for Oldhamstocks – Barbara will write. Nathan has created a new website, in a different format and with the domain name of oldhamstocksvillagehall.com, making information relating to the new hall project easier to locate and to post/organise. The creation of links (e.g. Facebook) is to be investigated. The website is live, and we are encouraged to view the trial pages etc in advance of further discussion at the next meeting. Nikki asked if Nathan could give us a demonstration.
AGM/ The Alternative Plan: Neil began by reporting that he had spoken at length with Billy Christison (as the one point of contact named in the Alternative Plan) about the proposals, facts and figures noted in the Alternative Plan (AP), but that it had been difficult to ascertain the basis for the various claims. He also said that Simpson & Brown (S&B) had carried out research into the pricing, etc quoted in the AP from the companies listed there. He further reported that S&B had presented their design and plans, etc at a pre-Planning meeting with East Lothian Council (ELC) Planning Dept personnel in December, receiving encouraging comments.
Alex raised the issue of parkingand vehicular access, maintaining that we will need a road through the Green for construction, maintenance and disabled access purposes, and that this will destroy the Green. He said there was a need for debate about this. Neil replied that the present plans are for all parking to be at the roadside, for a permanent footpath to be created (in something like grasscrete) across the Green, for temporary measures to protect the Green to be put in place during construction, and for the Green to be reinstated if there is any damage. He and Nikki affirmed that all this is already being discussed fully by ELC and S&B.
The possibility of alternative sites had been raised in the AP – Alex mentioned potential sites being where the old Post Office was, and the field beyond Green End Cottage - both sites avoiding damage to the Green by not requiring newly created vehicular access.The PO site is definitely unavailable, and committee members think it is most likely that the other site also is unavailable and, in addition, inappropriate. Alex expressed concern, and wished for further debate about the amount of soil to be shifted if the current planned site is used. The general feeling among other members was that this has been thoroughly discussed previously, with advice from S&B, and that the conclusion is that the current site on the Green is the best.
Alex said that actually only 34% of the community were in favour because many people hadn't voted in the most recent consultation; others felt that we have to go with the wishes of the majority who did vote, and that this means we should be going ahead with current plans. He was further concerned about the expense involved, saying he did not want to see money unwisely spent, wherever it comes from.
Neil returned to the examinationof the AP content. He said that it is not possible to obtain clear final construction costs for any design until we are ready to proceed. Research into the building companies suggested reveals that:
Homelodge Buildings Ltd does not carry out work in Scotland;
Fleming Homes' quotation expires shortly, and we should be aware that they themselves do not provide a complete build, and would subcontract the rest of the work – e.g. doors, windows, roofing, plumbing, electrics, heating, kitchen, internal fittings, groundworks, demolition of old hall etc – and the Quantity Surveyor has done a comparison which shows that for their part of the work, the price per square metre is four times as high as the price expected for our current S&B design/plans;
Fjordhus pricing is in line with the QS's level of costs but they use aluminium doors etc and ELC want traditional materials to be used.
Prices given do not include everything (e.g. groundworks, fees, land purchase, demolition, etc) as included inestimated costs for the S&B design/plans, and so are not the whole story.
S&B showed the AP to ELC who said they would not favour any of these designs.
It seems therefore that none of the suggestions is appropriate in some respect, whether cost or design, and that the AP therefore is misleading in its approach.
Alex asked what firm would be providing the building frame – Neil replied that we would expect to be guided on price and quality by the Quantity Surveyor's advice and experience. He also mentioned the tennis club building in Duns (architect Richard Amos, cost £91k), but no-one who had seen this building thought that a building of this sort would be suitable in Oldhamstocks.
John said that we have done as we were asked: we have looked at the AP, and we have sought professional advice -S&B have investigated the AP suggestions thoroughly.
Nikki said that the options laidout in the AP are obviously not viable, most especially if the Planners are not content.
Sharon said that the majority view expressed is for keeping the hall in the present location, and that if we do need to make some reinstatement of the Green following construction, it might actually be an opportunity to get better drainage. The S&B design was put to the community, the majority of those who responded were in favour, and we should go ahead to seek planning permission.
Neil said that discussion had gone on long enough, and that we should wait for the written pre-planning report from ELC, expected in just a few weeks' time, which will indicate how we should proceed and what needs further discussion.
Alex reiterated his opinion that it will be foolish to build a new hall without putting in proper access and car-parking, and that we should still have further debate with the community about whether to preserve the Green and have no vehicular access etc, or to sacrifice the Green for access purposes.
Neil said that ELC have indicated approval of our plans so far, that S&B are experienced in dealing with sensitive buildings in sensitive locations. He insisted that we should wait forELC's advice before discussing any further, and that we should now move on to other business. Alison added that the Planners are there to advise, and will bear in mind the needs of the whole community.
Constitution: Gordon said that OSCR holds a Deed of Trust, created in 1952, which contains a Constitution in very formal wording, and suggested that we should rationalise our Constitution with this. Janice confirmed that our Constitution had been sent to OSCR when it was revised in 2009. We agreed that Gordon should send a further copy to OSCR to update the copy they hold for us. Gordon obtained a copy of what OSCR holds on Public Record – the document called a Deed of Trust, which says that the Community Association holds/owns the land on which the current hall stands. He showed this to Fraser Symon who pointed out that it is not however a Title document and will follow this up with Register House. Gordon
SCIO: We need to establish what type of charitable entity the Association is best to be for purposes of owning land, purchasing more land, owning a new hall, dealing with Windfarm Funding, and attracting approval of other funding bodies such as LEADER etc: we can either be a limited company or a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO). Gordon's research leads him to advise that we should become a SCIO (as have Stenton, and Co'path Associations) – we need to be regarded as a stable entity. Personal liability of each committee member (or Trustee) would be £1, OCA can act as a body and would be responsible to OSCR (and not Company House). There is a certain amount of legal procedure to go through but it has been done by other Associations like ours, and OSCR would assist us in making the change from our current status to a SCIO. Gordon will continue his research into the next steps, and liaise with OSCR and a solicitor as necessary. He will send the SCIO information pdf files to committee members. The organisation Strive (“the leading Third sector Interface in East Lothian”) can also help (for free) with setting up SCIO status and is holding a training meeting on 23rd January in Tranent for charity trustees – Gordon plans to attend, and Alison expressed an interest also. Gordon
Social Events: for more discussion at the next meeting, but suggestions so far are: Midsummer walk/tea, Easter craft fair, Dinner evenings - perhaps the first one at the end of February (in Janice's capable hands... Natalie and Mags have offered help)? All
Hall user Guidelines: in line with other Community facilities it was agreed that the hall user guidelines should be updated to include a statement that no animals except guide dogs should be brought into the hall at social events. Gordon agreed to obtain the appropriate signage. It was also agreed to provide an area outside the hall where dogs could be tied up and water bowls provided. (Gordon and Sharon also agree to provide crates.) Dog training events will still be allowed. A “no smoking or vaporising” statement should also be included in the hall user guidelines. Nathan to post these on the website in due course. Gordon, Janice, Nathan
Noticeboard: Barbara asked if we could have a new, sturdier noticeboard – an appropriate place for putting copies of Minutes etc. Volunteers to take on this project - Nikki and Isla-May
Defibrillator: Gordon has put in a new battery. The supplier advised that storing the defibrillator in a cold place is depleting the battery faster than necessary, and he offered to supply a 'warm' cupboard, free of charge. Gordon accepted the offer. The cupboard will require an electricity supply, which may necessitate relocating the defibrillator – best solution to be investigated. Gordon
Library: Sharon has been given secondhand books which she proposes to make available (in the Hall) for borrowing. The suggestion was made that, in order to keep a flow of stock, annually, at Flower Show time, all 'Library' books could be donated to the book stall, and then new books can be accepted for the 'Library'. Sharon
Freezer: the current freezer is not working properly. We agreed to John and Janice's proposal to use some of the Local Priorities Funding money from ELC (some £580 per year) to purchase a new freezer and have the electrics checked. John and Janice
Mouse alert! John has put down mouse-traps and will continue to monitor the situation.
Next Meeting: will be held in the Hall at 7.30pm on Wednesday 21st February (trying a change of day as some people are unavailable on a Thursday).