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Tuesday, 13 August 2013


To the Editor

The following 'Open Letter' addressed to Sellindge Parish Council is intended to be uncompromising in its assessment of the way the Council operates. However it is not intended to be a direct criticism of people as individuals. Indeed there is no intention to demine the Councillors or the Parish Clerk. The intention of the letter is to provide a sharp reminder of what this village expects of its representatives and to encourage Councillors to operate in a professional way.

Kindest Regards
Ronald Lello

Grove House
              Sellindge  Kent TN25 6JX

I am writing as a Sellindge Parishioner and a former Chairman of the Sellindge and District Residents Association to voice my concerns regarding the apparent failures of the Parish Council and its Clerk to effectively fulfil their duties towards the Parish – a concern that is shared by many residents.
It is beyond doubt that Sellindge village has a great deal to commend it.
Most of the people who live here choose to do so because of the combination of facilities that Sellindge offers. We have an award winning modern surgery and dispensary. We have a friendly Post Office and an efficient Supermarket.  Nearby is an excellent and hospitable Farm Shop with a wide range of produce. We have a Pub, an active Sports and Social Club developing among other things activities for teenagers  and children. There are plans to teach youngsters to safely ride motor cycles. And there is a special centre called the 'Pop Inn' – a friendly meeting place in the Community Hall – mainly for those of a certain age and we have Michael who will bring you and take you home again. Our school, led by Helen Baxter, is recognised as amongst the best in Kent. St Mary's Church is active. Clubs and activities are plentiful and we even have a hairdressing beauty salon. Drive though the village and catch those characteristic glimpses of surrounding countryside of outstanding natural beauty. Take a look at the houses – old and new  –  they are well built and well designed and Sellindgers keep them looking good.  A narrow lane, or a footpath leads to the river or a stream – or perhaps  a glade of trees or ponds of fish and frogs and great crested  newts. Oh yes – Great Crested Newts! Wild birds and fauna abound. Canterbury, Ashford, Folkestone – the beach and the Downs are but a few minutes car trip away and yes, we have a bus service. OK! the motorway and the railway line, detract somewhat - Sellindge is not perfect - but if you are looking for an affordable family house to bring up your children in a good environment, or somewhere to retire, the community of  Sellindge has so much to offer.
People have invested in their homes and houses here and do not want to see that investment decline. None of us can afford to lose money on what is for most of us the biggest investment in life. However in recent years a series of proposals have been made that involve millions of pounds of big business investment with the expectation of large profits and/or the development of professional reputations  – all at the expense of Sellindge villagers. The lorry park between Aldington and Sellindge, waste treatment and huge wind turbines opposite the old Folkestone Race track represent the greatest threats.  Were such proposals to succeed there will be a serious downward movement of property values of houses nearby as well as, and perhaps more importantly, a significant deterioration of local amenities.  Millions of pounds are at stake, not to mention reputations – personal and corporate. Companies making such investments do not play games. When dealing with such organisations and the people who run them, an organisation like a Parish Council must surely act with great caution and professional expertise.
Unfortunately it does not appear that the Sellindge Parish Council or the Parish Clerk can be said to have experience of managing  large business operations nor does anyone serving on the Parish Council have expertise regarding the construction of lorry parks, the development of waste treatment plants or land based wind turbines. Evidence of this is all too apparent in the latest contribution of the Parish Clerk to Sellindge Village News when reporting the recent visit  of the Parish Council to Countrystyle at Ridham Dock.  The Parish Clerk places herself at a severe disadvantage due to lack of experience when dealing with skilled managers who sit on a budgets worth £millions and whose decisions affect our well-being. But alas matters appear even worse than this.
The Parish Clerk appears unable to fully articulate or convey intended meaning in Parish Council  communications.  To be charitable, the account given monthly by the Parish Clerk in the Sellindge Village News does not read well.  To be uncharitable, the message is often muddled and meaningless.  One example is the so called apology to me in the Sellindge Village News in respect of the public accusation made that I was constantly negative about everything that happens in  Sellindge and that I 'slagged off' all Parish Councils. People with whom I have spoken and who read what she wrote, thought that somehow it was me who was at fault. The reason for the apology to me was not mentioned at all, so no one knew why the apology was given.
When the Parish Clerk was asked at recent public meetings to identify something that would normally be found in the Minutes of a previous meeting, such detail appeared to be absent. Reporting of meetings lack substance and again this can be seen in the latest report in Sellindge Village News. All indications are that the Parish administration is in a mess. If the Parish Council cannot express itself clearly or work efficiently with regard to standard procedures for clean footpaths and trimmed hedges, how is it to look after the interests of Sellindge Village as a whole when dealing with large scale business interests? I do not doubt that Councillors are well motivated and are prepared to work but you need more than motivation at a time like this.  
So given lack of experience and knowledge how should the Parish Councillors conduct Parish business in the interests of parishioners?  The answer is very simple. First they should ensure the Parish Clerk stops trying to run the Council and then attend efficiently to the duties of a Parish Clerk. Then the Council should do what every successful businessman does and what any manager of any kind of complex activity does. They should get advice from people who do have the experience and the knowledge. The Parish Clerk has maintained this is not the time to ask for advice. Why? People with expertise are not difficult to find in Sellindge and I am certain such people would be happy to give advice especially if it will protect property values and amenities we all value. Anyone with common sense seeks advice about things they do not understand or have not previously encountered and people always have done this.  "I don't know – but I know a man who does!" is the refrain. And these days there are just as many women as men 'who know!' It is just simple management technique.
Now according to her contribution in the Sellindge Village News, Countrystyle want the Parish Clerk  to be a 'one stop  information point' so that Countrystyle can channel all communications through her. This would save Countrystyle having to answer a range of questions from those people affected. Oh yes? Would this not mean that Countrystyle will be telling the Clerk what to say and do? In effect, the Parish Council will become the official Information Desk for Countrystyle Ltd. This would be
extraordinary! Certainly I am sure Countrystyle will be delighted to realise they have a tame and compliant non-challenging Council but is this what we villagers of Sellindge want? Has the Parish Council seriously considered and approved this or is this something else 'created' by the Clerk?  Now had the Parish Clerk taken  professional advice as was advocated at a recent public meeting regarding the Parish Council's visit to Countrystyle Ltd., I think the advice would have been to do a great deal of research before going.
    Each Parish Councillor should have prepared questions and asked them  - but they didn't
The Parish Council  should have wanted to  know why Countrystyle  claimed to be doing so much for Sellindge when in fact, all Countrystyle's re-assurance was to repeat 'conditions' applied by the planning authority when permission was first granted. But they didn't.
The Parish Council should have wanted to know why Countrystyle, not long ago, seriously broke the law and were fined around £250,000 for doing so. But they didn't.
The Parish Council should have wanted to know what safeguards are now in operation to prevent such a terrible action – an action that would compromise this village and surrounding land -  happening again. But they didn't.
The Parish Council should have consulted the Environment Agency and ascertained whether Countrystyle had recently contacted them. They should have wanted to brief themselves in depth so they properly understood all the Environmental Conditions that apply to Countrystyle developing the Otterpool Quarry site. But they didn't.
And the Parish Council certainly should have wanted to know why despite all their assurances, Countrystyle's  Folkestone operation is still subject to so much local criticism – the same  kinds of criticism  that was being made five years ago! But they didn't.
And the Parish Council should have wanted to know about current financial income and the current economic returns on waste treatment investment. Since the returns on waste treatment investment are said to have deteriorated, would that affect their operation of Otterpool Quarry as it appears to affect the Countryside operation at Downs Road? But they didn't

Instead, at the last public Parish Council Meeting, most  Councillors and the Clerk  smiled warmly as they recalled a delightful morning spent at Ridham Dock and said what nice clean people Countrystyle were and their visit was certainly not  about a public relations exercise on behalf of Countrystyle, intending to soften up the Parish Council. Well they certainly did that. And now the Parish Clerk asks for sympathy for Countrystyle who have 'a lot of work' to produce documentation for 'submission to either the KCC or the Environment Agency or both.' Poor old Countrystyle!

The quality of people's lives and their financial well-being is what is at stake here. Is Sellindge to retain its integrity or are we to let outside vested interests establish themselves un-opposed  while remaining indifferent to the well-being of the village. The Parish Council must return the Clerk to her  duties as Clerk and then begin to seek advice from people who understand what threatens  our  Village of Sellindge. With such leadership Parish Councillor heads will then be held high,

Ronald Lello: Sellindger and lately Chairman of Sellindge and District Residents Association
Copies to: Damian Collins MP, Cllr Susan Carey, Cllr Jenny Hollingsby, P Wignall Shepway DC, Environment Agency , KCC Planning Dept.

Monday, 12 August 2013


                                                                                                                        COUNTRYSTYLE WASTE SITE DEVELOPMENT.
The Sellindge & District Resident's Association maintain strong opposition to the building of a waste and Digester site at Otterpool Quarry, even though permission was approved by KCC over 2 years ago. We will be doing our utmost to ensure that all 37 conditions are adhered to and tested before construction period.
In a recent meeting with Sellindge Parish Council, it was stated by the Chairman that their initial opposition has now changed to supporting the application.


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