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Image credit: Dianne Dear

Concerns are growing over the crisis with the village pond in Westham. A portentous moment in the life of the parish will be witnessed this week

The full Westham Parish Council to be held tomorrow (Monday 17 September), may seal not just the fate of the precious village pond, but also the deliberations of Westham Parish Council.

The affairs of the council are increasingly being seen as arcane and immune to the realities of local community life in the second decade of the 21st century.

The state of the village pond has been described as ‘a public health travesty’, and in s ‘pitiable state’.

The critical nature of the pond is to be a subject discussed at a full council meeting to be held by Westham Parish Council tomorrow (Monday 17 September) at the Amenity Hall in Stone Cross School

Clerk to the council, Alison Stevens, says in a portentous note published on the Parish Council website, “members of Westham Parish Council are summoned to the Full Council Meeting”.

Asked about whether or not the council would like to say something about the nature of the crisis with the pond, Alison told the Pevensey Bay Journal (5 September), “not at this stage, the Parish Council is considering its own independent Ecological Report at its meeting on the 17th September, I will get back to you after then”.

The question of how the report can be independent if commissioned by the parish council was not addressed in her note.

The crisis with the pond seems to have reached a point of no return with expressions by parishioners becoming increasingly vocal about what they are seeing with the precious village asset.

District Councillor, Dianne Dear, publisher of the Journal who holds a degree (FdSc) in Aquaculture and Fisheries Management said, “I visited Westham Village Pond on 3 September and took these pictures of their pond. All the years I’ve lived there 30 in total I’ve never seen anything like it.

“I’ve taken a sample of the water and it’s not good, needs sorting pronto.

“They need to clear the water up and they need to do it as soon as possible, I have never seen the pond look so bad.in all the years I have been there”

“They need to clean the water up or drain it completely because it is turning toxic – a public health travesty, rats have been seen.

“And if it’s not treated soon a warning sign needs to be put up to protect the local children as it’s becoming a public health risk

“Parents need to know that weils disease can be contracted from the water especially if you have an open wound or graze.

“The maintenance of the water has not been satisfactory I saw old bikes and tyres and trolleys

“The pond is crying out for an airator to oxygenate the water.

“I think the Parish Council will be taken to court”.

The background to questions over maintenance of the pond by the parish council date back a number of years.

Documented by parishioners these questions are beginning to stack up to the extent that they may threaten the future of the council managed in the current form..

The kinds of obfuscation seen the Pevensey Bay Journal with regard to the dealings of the council are to be investigated.

We are also looking at the question of whether Westham Parish council minutes have been ‘doctored’ to hide the cosy over extended role of clerk to the council, Alison Stevens.

Is Westham Parish Council hiding their deliberations behind some kind of cardboard facade?

In August in response to criticisms of their management of Westham Village Pond, Westham Parish Council told the Pevensey Bay Journal (edition 20, Saturday 18 August) “Westham Parish Council has received some calls from some residents who were upset to see dead fish on the surface of Westham Pond recently.

“It has spoken to the Environment Agency and understands the problem is countrywide and is a result of the recent severe weather which has caused the water level and therefore the oxygen levels to fall.

“Westham Parish Council has removed the dead fish and installed a temporary underwater pump to help restore the oxygen levels until it rains heavily again.

“Reports also state that the Parish Council does not carry out any maintenance of the Pond. In recent years it has carried out extensive works to the banks, monitored the water quality and the Pond remains part of its regular maintenance contract”.

Subsequent to this statement, alarm bells have continued to be rung about Westham Village pond.

In a letter to Bay Life (2 September), Westham parishioner, Christine Fenner, said “we are hoping that a satisfactory response comes from the parish council as so far the reply we have received to the letter below has failed to answer any of the questions”.

The points raised in relation to what is seen as the mis–management of the vilage pond date back to February 2013.

The text of the letter to Westham Parish Council is here.

Christine ends her letter by saying, “the parish council can no longer ignore what they have allowed to happen to the pond”.

Jo Belcher, owner of Vines Flowers in Westham, who has conducted an impassioned campaign to see that the critical questions over the state of the pond are addressed by the parish council, has also talked to Wealden Council about the matter.

She said on her Facebook newsfeed (September 15), “I have asked Westham Parish Council to update their Facebook page to add the next parish council meeting etc as nothing has been added since 2016″.

She added, “please remember the Westham Parish Council meeting is Monday September 17 and Westham pond is on the agenda.

“I have made them aware that signage around the pond explaining the hazards are extremely poor and they were very surprised that the correct warning signage had not been obtained by our Westham Parish Council from environmental health stating what to do in case of emergency linked to rat poison or algae and dangers to dogs etc.

“So please keep dogs away from water and children away from the pond edge as the ducks and the poor man who has to turn the generator on and off do leave trails of algae on the bank and as of yet we don’t know what type it is”.

What is also known is that Wealden Council has now communicated with the clerk to Westhamn Parish Council, about the matter of Westham Village pond.

What is clear from the nature of the discussions over the precious asset that is Westham Village pond is that the meeting will be important in relation to the question of what is to be done..

Given the acute nature of the questions over Westham Village pond, a cosy blank verse one line statement in the minutes, “Westham Parish Council has commissioned an independent ecological report”, is unlikely to be seen as adequate response to the parishioners of Westham,

Perhaps there is more at stake here than just the future of Westham village pond.