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Meeting held by Westham Parish Council agrees that up to £60,000 will be spent on village pond

At a keynote meeting of Westham Parish Council last night (Monday 15 October), a full council meeting made the unanimous decision to de-silt Westham village pond.

The decision will see as much as £60,000 spent to de-silt and remove the silt to a location elsewhere.

The need for the decision, which some campaigners argue has been the result of mis-management of the pond for 5 or six years, will see Westham Village pond returned to what is hoped by everyone, will be the former glory of clear water.

The pond is currently a mix of sludge and algae, which Westham Parish Council has described as normal for this time of the year, particularly since we have had such a hot summer.

Campaigners have poo-pooed the idea. How they ask, could this be the case since the mis-management of the pond by the parish council has been in evidence for 5-6 years, since February 2013, they argue.

A degree of harmony, or at least progress, was restored last night at the Westham Parish Council meeting, following the meeting held last month which was an example of spectacular dysfunction.

At one point a councillor appeared to describe the assembled audience as clowns, which has led to a call that he resign.

The meeting is reported here and is to feature as the lead story in edition 22 of the Pevensey Bay Journal, published on 27 October.

Perhaps the fact that the BBC came calling last week (11 October) to hear what both campaigners and councillors had to say about the state of the pond, energised the council in the decision making process.

Chairman Keith Stephens, took pains to explain to the many Westham parishioners that turned up to see the outcome of the debate that he ‘was listening’.

By the third time that he uttered the phrase last night, the audience had got the message.

Whether or not he had been to Parish Council charm school and learned something about how to manage and chair a parish council meeting, following the spectacular dysfunction last month, did not appear to matter. They accepted his sentiment.

For six years the council appears to have obfuscated over the pond. Suddenly last night everything had changed.

A management plan demanded by the parishioners at the meeting held on Monday 17 September, was passed by the council last night.

Councillors had chance to study the plan. Today we are promised, the plan will be posted to the Westham Parish Council website. Parishioners, we are assured, will be able to comment and contribute to the plan.

Common sense appears at last to have become a fixed item on the agenda with the deliberations of Westham Parish Council in relation to the pond.

Only a cynic would argue that the council has been forced to make a decision with regard to the foundation of a management plan, also including parishioners, because the BBC came calling.

The turnaround of events has taken a long time..

The decision was embelisehd by a short speech by parish Councillor Ken Saxby, marked by spontaneous applause.

Councillor Ken Saxby talked about why the council should be determined to be seen as making a pledge to the parishioners of Westham.

He spoke with purpose and clarity and determination. The positive response to his short contribution ,he clearly welcomed.

Looking rather beleaguered and weatherbeaten until that point, in an opened necked shirt, his face lit with hint of rosiness for the first time, as people applauded.

The credit he received for his measured contribution was earned.

Following the meeting last month we decried his contribution in this way,

“7:59pm: At this point Councillor Ken Saxby raised his head and spoke the words that will be nailed to the masthead of Westham Parish Council for the next generation. With the authority of a failed lower sixth form master from a minor Grammar school in 1974, he explained that for insurance reasons volunteers could not be employed to help with the question of the clearing of the pond. If what he said was accurate we would not have the Lottery Fund, the fund would not be able to operate”.

His short speech last night was exemplary. Most importantly restoring at that moment, a vital connection between Westham Parish Council and the parishioners This is something that had been so painfully absent from the meeting held last month.

I hold in high regard a lovely Westham parishioner who was seated next but one to me last night.

She has the wisdom of the trees and the experiential base to what she says that is both deeply humanist, and particular, with regard to her insight and perception.

The applause had died down.

She leaned across to me, and in appreciation of what Councillor Ken Saxby had said last night, with warmth and humour, whispered, “he is not wearing his 1974 tie now is he?

On the useful and credible Vines Flowers Facebook newsfeed, which doubles as the Village Voice Westham noticeboard,, there was insightful comment following the meeting today (October 16).

Owner of the enterprising Vines Flowers business, Jo Belcher, who has been instrumental in the campaign to see the fortunes of the village pond restored, posted a number of comments.

“We would like to thank the Chairman of Westham Parish Council for asking his Councillors to vote on whether to de-silt or not our precious pond .

“I am so pleased to announce that Westham Chairman put it to his Councillors and they voted to de-silt.

“It is just sad that the pond has got to this state . A draft pond management plan has now been discussed and will be implemented when Councillors have had a chance to read it and approve it .

“This is amazing news for the pond and a huge thank you to councillor Durling who has campaigned for the pond for a long time now .

“Westham Parish Council you have never been transparent. I am presuming you have had a qualified pond expert to write the new draft plan, please could you confirm this and be transparent as to who it is .

“So thank you Mr Chair of Westham Parish Council for listening and speaking to your council and to all Councillors who voted for the pond for taking a step to resolve the issue of the silt”

She continued her comments with a key point about timings for the management plan.

“Please could you also listen to our Wealden Councillor who last night did make a very valued point , that she is highly qualified in pond issues and yet not been asked for advice and that now is the time to try and start the work which most contractors we have spoken to have also confirmed and which we have found also in our many hours of research and emails .

“It’s just a suggestion but surely working together with a district councillor qualified in pond matters and water issues especially whilst deciding your draft management pond plan would surely be invaluable” .

She ended with a simple thought.

“Thank you Westham Parish Council for finally taking on board the parishioners concerns. We will continue to monitor the situation and support however we can” .

A total of £60,000 is a significant sum of money planned now to be spent on de-silting the pond. The perceived value of the precious asset to the village of Westham is clearly seen by the parishioners as worthy of every penny.

Chairman Keith Stephens did hint last night at the significant reserves that Westham Parish Council has in their bank account., drawing om some of these resources will now be necessary.

The additional information offered to the meeting by parish clerk, Alison Stephens, that there may well be a grant available to cover some of the costs of de-silting the pond, was also welcome news.

This is something that campaigners have suggested for some time.

There is every reason to believe that the meeting last night and the implementation of a management plan that will include the input of parishioners, will see the restoration of Westham Village pond, at long last.

Not once did any of the councillors call people in the audience clowns.

The meeting held at Stone Cross school on behalf of the parish of Westham on Monday 15 October 2018 is likely to be remembered for all the right reasons.

Simon Montgomery

Edition 22 of the Pevensey Bay Journal is published on Saturday 27 October 2018