Monday, 26 December 2011

Hedge End Freezes Council Tax

Hedge End Town Council has agreed a budget for 2012/2013 which maintains its council tax precept at the same level as 2011/2012.  Unlike the Borough and County Councils, the Town Council will receive no grant from your central taxes to cover any budget shortfall resulting from this change to the long standing Lib Dem policy of putting the Town Council precept up each year.  The freeze is made possible by continuing efforts to reduce ongoing costs and cutting back on proposed capital projects for the coming year.

The Council is still discussing changes to charges for community and sports facilities, but it is looking likely that all hirers will be subject to an increase in line with inflation for the coming year.   That is what is required to balance the books, and a working party convened on 30th December failed after two hours of discussions to come up with a feasible and fair alternative.  Its recommendation to the January Recreation and Amenities Committee will be to confirm a 5.2%  increase for all hirers and that the working party will continue to meet to discuss ways of addressing historical anomalies in the Council's charging structures.

Lib Dems - More Broken Promises

For the third time this year, the overwhelming Lib Dem majority on Hedge End Town Council have avoided any public debate on the Borough Council's local plan consultation.

After promising at the May elections to "stand up for our area against more building and even more traffic" local Lib Dems have failed even to discuss plans to build nearly 4,000 houses in Hedge End and Botley, while the same plan proposes only 68 new houses in Hamble and 536 in West End.

In July, full council agreed to defer any discussion until September.  In September the decision made was to discuss and agree a response at the December meetings of Highways and Planning and Full Council.

But come the December meeting, there was no item on the agenda for this subject.  This was doubly strange as not only were Lib Dem heavyweights Keith House and Rupert Kyrle behind the September resolution to discuss the plan in December, but chair of Highways and Planning Committee, Cllr Cynthia Garton, reported that she had specifically asked that the discussion be deferred to Full Council.

There has been no explanation why the Lib Dems did not follow their own September resolution to "make a full response to the Borough" in December.

Hedge End Lib Dems have failed to represent Hedge End voters and they have failed to keep their election promises. 

Botley Parish Council, in contrast, is not swamped by Lib Dems, and is talking about budgeting for legal representation to oppose the Borough's plans in 2012/13.

July Council Minutes
September Council Minutes
December Council Minutes
Eastleigh News Report on September Meeting
Eastleigh News Report on December Meeting

Monday, 19 December 2011

Berry "First Class"

It is great to see Hedge End's new theatre getting such good reviews for its first Christmas show, Hansel and Gretel.

The Daily Echo has described it as "simply first class ... The Berry Theatre proves the perfect venue", and online review site exhorts: "If you are thinking of taking the children to a Christmas show, make sure you take them to Hansel and Gretel ... you are guaranteed to be going home with very happy children ... and they won't be the only ones ... with smiles on their faces."

Congratulations to director Sarah Brigham and all the team.

The show runs until Christmas Eve, although ticket availability is already  limited for Friday and Saturday.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Hedge End's New "No" to Nick Clegg

Plans in tatters?
"Bad for Democracy" - Hedge End town councillors were unanimous in their criticism of proposals to split the Eastleigh parliamentary consituency down the middle.

As previously reported (here), the suggested Hedge End and Hamble consituency would throw the town into an artificial mish-mash of wards with no community links, split neighbouring West End down the middle and pluck Bitterne and Thornhill out of Southampton for no good reason other than Nick Clegg's obsession that all constituencies be the same size. 

Even leading Lib Dem councillors admitted at November's Town Council meeting that the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act - introduced by their own party leader -  is flawed in so far as it gives insufficient importance to community, historical or geographical criteria in determining constituency boundaries.  The Boundary Commission have merely followed the guidance in the Act.

Cllr Keith House recalled knocking on doors in Woolston when it was tacked on to the Eastleigh Constituency in a previous boundary change and getting the unamibiguous message that Southampton voters only want to vote for a Southampton MP.  He felt that voters in Bitterne and Thornhill would feel the same way and that turnout would suffer as a result.

In calling for no change to be made to the existing Eastleigh constituency (which is already the "right size" according to the Con Dem Coalition's calculations) Hedge End Town Council is joining a nationwide movement of opposition to the constituency changes.

In Cornwall a Tory MP has described them as a "dog's dinner".

In Scotland the Electoral Reform Society has criticised a "cold mathematical vision of equality" which " flies in the face of real communities, simple geography and common sense."

In Southampton, Labour MP John Denham has pointed out:

"Voters in Bitterne will be part of a constituency which stretches to the outskirts of Portsmouth.  So their MP will have Saints fans at one end and Pompey fans at the other.  They will have to say they are not interested in football.”

“This was just one example of the nonsense of linking Bitterne and Thornhill with Hamble, Warsash, Titchfield and Parkgate. People want their MP to represent the real community they live in.  Southampton voters want to vote for a Southampton MP.”

Following the overwhelming rejection of his new voting system in the May referendum, Clegg's plans for electoral reform look like being in tatters if the new constituencies are thrown out too.  It is doubtful whether improved proposals could be drawn up in time for them to take effect at the next general election in 2015.

Town Council minutes are published here.

The full text of the Town Council's objection as discussed at the meeting is available here.

Eastleigh Borough Council's response to the proposals will be decided by the Administration Committee on 21st November.

Photo credit: David Spender

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Lib Dems Resting on Laurels

“Every other council could raise its game if it wanted to, it’s a matter of political will,”  said Hedge End Town Councillor and Borough Leader Keith House in response to a Daily Echo report putting Eastleigh top of the league table of Hampshire councils' recycling rates.

Eastleigh's 43% of waste recycled is indeed impressive compared to neighbouring councils, some of which only achieve percentages in the low twenties, and Eastleigh is undoubtedly a leader in innovation locally with its weekly collection of food waste for recycling.  However, the percentage is one point down from last year, when Eastleigh achieved 44%

Look a bit further afield, moreover, and The Guardian reports that there are councils which manage to  recycle 64-65% of their waste.  If Bournemouth can recycle 64%, why can't Eastleigh?  Are the Lib Dems resting on their laurels instead of putting them in the garden waste bag?

Cllr House's fellow Lib Dem Town Councillor, and cabinet member with responsibility for the environment, Louise Bloom recently said:  "We know that around 70% of waste can be recycled so we are aiming to further improve the amount we recycle.  I would encourage all our residents to recycle their bottles and jars."

A report by the now defunct Environment Scrutiny Panel earlier this year claimed that Eastleigh was already collecting 85% of the available glass.  So residents are already doing a pretty good job of recycling bottles and jars.  Perhaps Eastleigh too needs is a bit of the political will which is apparently missing in our neighbouring councils to increase recycling rates.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Hedge End - The Future?

Local Lib Dems' promises to "stand up against more building and even more traffic" in Hedge End will come under scrutiny on Tuesday 15th November.

Eastleigh Borough Council's Draft Local Plan  exhibition comes to the Village Hall in Hedge End between 2pm and 8pm.

Attention will doubtless focus on the huge housing developments for which Hedge End Lib Dem councillors have repeatedly voted.  The plan proposes 3,700 more houses in Hedge End and Botley - nearly 40% of the 9,400 proposed for the Borough as a whole.

The draft plan also provides for:
  • Two brand new roads at Botley and Sundays' Hill
  • "Improvements" to Woodhouse Lane, Kings Copse Avenue and Heath House Lane
  • A "green route" linking Hedge End to Eastleigh
  • "Regeneration" of parts of Hedge End village centre
  • "Traffic management" in Hedge End centre
  • New public open space in the north of Hedge End

The Council's "consultation"  runs until 3rd January, although Tuesday is the only date in Hedge End for the exhibition. 

More independent commentary on the consultation can be found at Eastleigh News and TGR Worzel's blog.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Something on Your Mind?

Have your say on anything that is bugging you about life in Hedge End at the inaugural meeting of the Hedge End Society.

Do you have an idea about how life could be better for everybody in Hedge End, but are not sure about how to make it a reality?

Would you like to talk about it in a relaxed, informal, non-political atmosphere?

The HES is being organised by a group of citizens who want to make things better and realise that if we help each other we are more likely to succeed.

The inaugural meeting will be chaired by Chris Rowberry, the Vicar of St John's and will take place at the Underhill Centre, St John's Rd, starting at 7:30 on Monday 14th November.

Picture credit - Benoit Derrier

Street Pastors and Boundary Changes

Alongside the normal business of the Town Council next week, there are two items on the agenda that might be of wider interest.

There will be a presentation by the local Street Pastors on their work in the Hedge End area.

Council will also be considering its response to the Boundary Commission's proposed changes to parliamentary constitiuencies for the 2015 general election.  These would split the existing Eastleigh constituency with Hedge End being part of a new constituency stretching from the southern part of West End and Bitterne to Warsash.  There is more information about the proposals in this Hedge End Blogger post from September.

Full Council starts at 7:30pm on Wednesday 16th November.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Lib Dem Confusion over Berry Prices

New Signs at The Berry
Only a month after Hedge End Town Council agreed to subsidise local community groups who want to hire The Berry Theatre (as reported  here),  Eastleigh Borough Council's Lib Dem cabinet have bulldozed through a 5% increase in hire charges for both professional and community performances.  Normally this price hike would just make it even more difficult, if not impossible, for community organisations to use their local community theatre.  In the light of the Town Council's subsidy, however, the effect is that more council tax payers' funds will simply be transferred from Hedge End to Eastleigh.

It is also noteworthy that Cllr Louise Bloom ousted long serving chair Cllr Pearl Hicks in an internal Lib Dem coup to take over control of the Community and Culture Committee in May at the same time as the committee extended its terms of reference to include the Town Council's relationship with The Berry.  Cllr Bloom is also, of course, a leading member of the very cabinet which is pushing through these increases even in the face of criticism from the Council's own Resources Scrutiny Panel.  She consequently finds herself having been at one meeting where it was agreed the community rates were too expensive for local groups, and another where it was agreed to increase those same rates.

The Town Council is right to support The Berry, particularly in its early years while the theatre struggles in the Con Dem Coalition's age of austerity to get established as the high class arts venue we all want it to become. Eastleigh should surely have followed the Town's lead and frozen prices for the second year of The Berry's operation.

Interestingly, as car park charges are also increased across the Borough (as reported by Eastleigh News here), Eastleigh decided to keep charges for the Hedge End Station car park at their current level.  Perhaps this is in recognition that the car park is under-used while commuters still park for free in nearby streets, making it difficult for the Lib Dems to justify their plans to extend the car park on to the adjacent wild flower meadow.  (See my post on this subject here)

Following this summer's embarrassment of having the sign outside The Berry obscured by overgrown foliage within two months of the theatre's opening (see picture here) the Council have moved it to a better position.  It is good to see them responding to constructive criticism.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Gingerbread House at The Berry

Hedge End families are in for a "delicious festive treat" this Christmas with a specially produced version of Hansel and Gretel being performed at The Berry for the two weeks from 12th December.

Professional actors, puppetry and music will combine to give an up to date twist to the traditional story, promised director Sarah Brigham at the official press launch on 1st November.

A creative collaboration with Hiccup Theatre, Peut-Etre and Unpacked theatre companies, the production has already generated an artistic buzz about The Berry which recalls the excitement of its opening back in April.  Stand up comics and film screenings might be easy ways to bring in the punters, but just the promise of live theatre brings the building to life. 

After a period in the summer when it looked like the Borough Council was neglecting its new theatre, it is also good to see new signs of continuing investment to keep the area around The Berry looking smart.  But it was disappointing that only one of Hedge End's 20 Lib Dem Town Councillors accepted the invitation to the press launch.  Well done Cllr Jenny Hughes.

A Hedge End family of four can see Hansel and Gretel for £32.  The Southampton Mayflower Christmas show would cost between £56 and £108 depending on dates and seats.  Add to that the costs of travel to Southampton, parking, and the hassle of avoiding Christmas shoppers and football traffic, and The Berry looks a very attractive proposition.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Keeping Our Library Open

Cuts proposed by Conservative Hampshire County Council include reducing the opening hours of many libraries.

For Hedge End this would mean our library would be closed all day Wednesday (it currently opens during the morning).  The Town Council discussed these proposals at its October meeting and agreed to work with the County, not just to maintain the existing opening hours, but to extend them, if necessary with the use of volunteers, so that the library is easier to access for people who work.

One of the things I like about the Hampshire library service is that you can go online to browse the catalogue.  If you find that the book you are looking for is currently in Basingstoke, for instance, you can request it be sent to Hedge End.  You get an email when it arrives and you can pop into the library at your convenience to pick it up (after paying a few pence for the additional service).

It's a simple but effective way of using modern technology to enhance a public service which dates back to Victorian times.  Expectations have moved on since 1850 when the Public Libraries Act was passed.  Private sector shops used to close for a day or half-day each week, but in 2010 shops need to be open at least six days a week or they risk losing business.  The same holds true for libraries. 

The library in nearby Chandler's Ford is not being cut because it has better lending figures than Hedge End despite being comparable in terms of population.  Closing the Hedge End library on a Wednesday is unlikely to help increase the number of books lent, but the message to Hedge End people is clear.  Use it or risk losing it.

You can comment on the County's proposals on their web site.

"If you have a garden and a library, you will want for nothing."  (Cicero, 46BC)

Friday, 28 October 2011

Lib Dems "Lied"

A "weak and self-serving" Conservative opposition has allowed local Lib Dems to bulldoze through a version of the discredited SDA despite their election propaganda stating they would oppose it, according to a letter published in Thursday's Daily Echo.

Steve Sharpe, a resident of Boorley Green, was present at October's council meeting and gives an eye witness account of Council Leader Keith House being in "total control" of the meeting, his party and the council.

Hedge End Town Councillor House is also described as being "smug" and "arrogant" as he used his party's huge majority in the council chamber to force through the latest draft of the Local Plan which will sacrifice huge countryside sites in Hedge End and Botley to the developers. 

An unnamed, but clearly independently-minded, councillor stood up against the Lib Dem party machine to claim that the Lib Dems had "repeatedly lied to the electorate about their true intentions.. to secure electoral support", as indeed this blog warned on July 11th and July 14th.

According to the official minutes, six of Hedge End's seven councillors voted with the Lib Dem bulldozer.  Cllr Wheatley was not present: perhaps because he is embarrassed by his party's failure to keep its election promises.  If that's the case, why not follow the example of Botley's two Lib Dems and turn up and represent the interests of your electorate even if it means voting against the party line?

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Most Conscientious Town Councillor

Newly elected in May 2011, Cllr Margaret Allingham has achieved a 100% attendance record in her first six months as a councillor.  According to the published minutes, she has attended not just the six meetings of full council, but all fourteen meetings of the two committees she has joined.

A total of seven councillors have attended all six full council meetings, but Cllr Allingham is the only one to have a 100% record on all committees as well.  Cllr Ray Worley has attended 19 out of a total of 20 meetings and is in second place.

Unlike borough and county councillors, town councillors are not paid  an allowance, but if they were Margaret and Ray would be giving excellent value for money.

Attendance Record at Full Council May to October 2011

Allingham, Margaret100%(6)
Baynes, Sheila67%(4)
Bloom, Caitlin50%(3)
Bloom, Louise83%(5)
Clarke, Daniel83%(5)
Corben, Helen83%(5)
Day, Keith100%(6)
Garton, Cynthia100%(6)
Hicks, Pearl50%(3)
Houghton, Val100%(6)
House, Keith50%(3)
Hughes, JennyAnn67%(4)
Hughes, Peter100%(6)
Humby, David67%(4)
Kyrle, Rupert83%(5)
Pretty, Derek100%(6)
Sthankiya, Shankerlal50%(3)
Tennent, Bruce67%(4)
Watson, June50%(3)
Welsh, Jane83%(5)
Worley, Ray100%(6)

Combined attendance record at full council and committees
Allingham, Margaret2020100%
Baynes, Sheila101471%
Bloom, Caitlin5956%
Bloom, Louise 8989%
Clarke , Daniel7978%
Corben, Helen 171989%
Day, Keith141593%
Garton, Cynthia151883%
Hicks, Pearl4944%
Houghton, Val 131587%
House, Keith41040%
Hughes, JennyAnn71164%
Hughes, Peter 172085%
Humby, David 811 73%
Kyrle, Rupert 5683%
Pretty, Derek 111861%
Sthankiya, Shankerlal122255%
Tennent, Bruce4667%
Watson, June81553%
Welsh, Jane101567%
Worley, Ray192095%

Committees included are Highways and Planning (9 meetings), Community and Culture (3 meetings), Recreation and Amenities (5 meetings) and Finance and Administration (4 meetings).

Full Council includes Annual General Meeting.

(Photo credit - Hedge End Town Council)

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Lib Dem Gravel Pit Tiff

Disagreements between local Lib Dem County Councillors burst into the open at October's meeting of Hedge End Town Council.

Reporting on Hampshire's recent decision to designate the old airfield at Hamble le Rice for gravel and sand extraction, Hedge End Town Councillor and County Member for West End and Grange Park, Bruce Tennent commented that if Eastleigh Lib Dems want to build nearly 10,000 houses over the next 15 years, the building materials have to come from somewhere.

Fellow Lib Dem heavyweights Louise Bloom and Keith House (County Member for Hamble) tried to get Bruce back on message, stating that the Hamble gravel and sand would not be used for houses, but for roads.

Bruce had the last word, pointing out that presumably the new houses would have to have roads leading to them.  (He could also have reminded his colleagues that the Lib Dem proposals include a by-pass for neighbouring Botley, which means additional road building.)

Cllr Helen Corben expressed sympathy for the residents of Hamble, a sentiment I am sure was shared by all Hedge End Town Councillors.  But it was strange that so much time was taken at a Hedge End Town Council meeting to discuss matters primarily concerning a nearby parish.  Perhaps an indication of where the Lib Dem leadership's priorities lie at the moment.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Friday is Trafalgar Day

Let's mark this milestone day in Hedge End and have some fun at the same time with traditional English music.

The StGeorgeFest committee is laying on a ceilidh with dancing and live music by Jigfoot and shanty singing led by King John's Morris Men.

No previous experience is necessary.

Celebrations start at 8:00pm, Friday 21st October at the 2000 Centre, St Johns Road.  £6 a ticket, £15 for a family.

More details on facebook.

(Picture credit: RedCoat)

What Is The Town Council To Do?

Planning for the next financial year has started and the Town Council has come up with an initial "wish list" of capital projects for 2012-13.  It is not finalised or prioritised and there is no guarantee that everything on the list will be affordable and make it into the budget.  It would be good to know what people think about the importance and desirability of these proposals.  You can either comment here or email me (

Items on the list at the moment with rough order of magnitude costings are:

Scheduled Maintenance rolling programme for the upkeep of Council properties/boundary fences/infrastructure - £20,000.

To replace the play area of Nelsons Gardens - £50,000.
This is the oldest set of play area equipment in Hedge End and due for replacement.

Sports Walls, Turnpike Sports Field and Greta Park - £15,000.
Informal sports facilities to discourage the use of recently renovated building frontages for football games.  (The picture shows one recently installed at Dowd's Farm Park.)

Kanes Field Grazing - £10,000.
Improved fencing and land improvements to enable land earmarked for a new cemetery to be hired out for grazing in the meantime.

Planting and repair of village centre Brick Planters - £5,000.

Heritage sign - £3,000.
Probably to be installed in Lower Northam Road.

To replace the village centre notice board, donated by the late Ms. Violet Cook - £1500.

Paddling Pool seating/picnic tables - £3,000.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Berry Expensive?

The Berry lived up to its billing as a professional standard theatre at the end of September with an excellent performance of Oh! What a Lovely War by the Blackeyed Theatre Company.

A full house saw the facilities of the theatre and the size of the stage being exploited to entertaining and thought provoking effect.  Mr. and Mrs. Hedge End Blogger thought it was worth every penny of the ticket price.

The Berry's use as a community theatre is being encouraged by Hedge End Town Council with a decision this month to offer a 50% subsidy of the hire fee to local groups wishing to use the facility.  There is clearly a problem with making this professional standard, fully equipped modern theatre affordable to amateur and community companies who might be more used to paying the going rate for village halls and school assembly halls.  So the Community and Culture Committee under its new leadership this year of Cllr Louise Bloom has responded to this.  Perhaps Cllr Bloom could use her influence as an Eastleigh Borough Council cabinet member to encourage The Berry to reduce its prices next year for community organisations by 50% and resolve the problem at its source.

Cllr Bloom's committee also decided to invest £2000 to put on a free film and live performance next Spring and another £10000 to support as yet undefined community and school projects.

There is clearly a problem with the theatre's pricing structure, and lessons are surely there to be learned from the first year of operation.  It is right that the Town Council is supporting the theatre in its first year as it establishes itself, but an ongoing subsidy from the Town Council to the Borough would be harder to justify.

The Town Council is the most local level of local government and can be the most responsive, but as the higher levels of administration make cuts to balance their books they cannot expect the Town to pick up the pieces every time.

It doesn't help the hard pressed council tax payers of Hedge End if Tory Hampshire and Lib Dem Eastleigh freeze their council tax, but the Town Council precept goes up to to fill the gaps in the services they are no longer providing.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Chris Huhne Promised to Stop the Sprawl

This screen shot is taken from the web site of Hedge End's MP, Chris Huhne.  It shows Chris and Hedge End Town Councillor Tennent promising to fight mass development here.  Elsewhere Chris poses with Hedge End Town Councillor Rupert Kyrle, apparently squatting in the same field.

In the light of last week's Hedge End Town Council vote, the words accompanying these images have a hollow ring:

"The Liberal Democrats have always opposed over-development, preferring to find sites for necessary new homes on old industrial land in existing settlements (for example the Pirelli and Causton sites in Eastleigh). By contrast, the Conservatives back Greenfield development when they are in Government, as this is lower cost for the developers. Most of the owners and managers of Britain’s biggest housebuilders –(names removed by Hedge End Blogger)– give money to the Conservative party."

Where green field development is concerned there's not so much contrast between Lib Dems and Conservatives any more.

We have had to get used to Lib Dems at national and local level breaking promises made at election time.  It is strange to keep making the promise after it has been broken.

The quoted text and images were still to be seen at on 27th September.

Back on July 20th I emailed Chris. 

from Keith Day
to Chris Huhne <>
date Wed, Jul 20, 2011 at 9:23 AM
subject Eastleigh Local Development Framework
hide details Jul 20

Dear Chris,
I am sure that you remember supporting the Hedge End Lib Dem candidates in the May council elections with an issue of "The Voice" headlined "Save Our Countryside" and promising to stand up for the Hedge End area against more building and even more traffic (scan attached).

On 14th July the Lib Dems on Eastleigh Borough Council voted to designate countryside in Hedge End a "preferred location for development" and now plan to allow at least 1000 houses on green fields in Hedge End.

You clearly thought that this was wrong in May and promised specifically to stand up against more housing in Hedge End and West End.  As our MP will you lend your support to those of your constituents who are opposing the Council's plans for the Hedge End area? 

I would like to publish your reply on my blog.

Thanks in advance,
Keith Day

If I get a reply I will post it here as promised.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Lib Dem Let Down

For the second time in as many months Hedge End Lib Dems turned down the chance to keep their infamous election promise to "Save Our Countryside" and "Stand Up Against More Building and Traffic".

In July I proposed a motion at Town Council opposing the Borough's plan to designate land at Woodhouse Lane opposite Hillier's garden centre a "preferred development area" and recommending that the sacrifice of countryside and green fields be shared more proportionately across the Borough.

This is important because those fields are the last area of largely unspoiled countryside within the historical boundaries of Hedge End, and no other parish is being asked to give up all its countryside.  Combined with the proposed golf course development at Boorley Green, thousands of new houses and flats will generate an unthinkable strain on the local roads and other infrastructure.  The proposed preferred development area also includes Bottom Copse, a designated Site of Interest for Nature Conservation for which the Town Council is responsible.

Taking all this into account, I thought that Hedge End Town Councillors might want at least to discuss the merits of the Borough's plan.  In July the Lib Dem majority decided to postpone discussion of my motion because they needed more time to understand the proposals.  This week it came up again at Wednesday's Town Council meeting.

As soon as the motion was on the table this time,  Cllr Keith House stifled any debate on the issues by proposing an amendment which replaced all of my motion (apart from the first four words "Hedge End Town Council") with an anodyne procedural request to wait for the official consultation and for the Council's response to be determined by the Highways and Planning Committee in December.

The full wording of both motions, and details of the vote, are in the official minutes, here on the Council's web site.

The reason I voted against Cllr House's amendment was that as long as there is no opposition, the Borough will be developing their plans based on  Hedge End as a preferred development location for 1,000 units.  If we want get the plan changed, now is the time to do it, not when the "Consultation" is published.  The "Consultation" will include Woodhouse Lane, that has already been decided.   Town Council has missed an opportunity to reduce the number of houses proposed there.  Residents are already mobilising in Botley and Eastleigh to oppose the level of housing proposed for their areas.  Hedge End Lib Dems have missed an opportunity to provide some local leadership.

A mention in dispatches is appropriate for Cllr Sheila Baynes who not only seconded my motion so that it could be debated, but stood next to me in the face of the Lib Dem Borough bulldozer.  Thank you Sheila.  I hope it does not get you in trouble with the Lib Dem leadership.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

"Big Society" - How it Works in Hedge End

One reason I am sceptical about the Coalition Government's "Big Society" concept is that an awful lot of charities and social enterprises only keep going with regular inputs of cash from local councils at all levels.  As the Coalition continues to squeeze council funding, councils will have to reduce their support to these voluntary organisations, and in consequence the voluntary sector will be less able to step up and fill the gaps left elsewhere.

For the moment, however, Hedge End Town Council continues to use powers defined in Section 137 of the Local Government Act to support voluntary organisations active in Hedge End and providing a service to the people of Hedge End.

These grants are authorised by the Community and Culture Committee which this month has agreed to assist:
Hamble Valley and Eastleigh Heritage Guides
Victim Support
Southampton Shopmobility
Hedge End Street Pastors 

Monday, 19 September 2011

Hedge End Heritage Sign

After much discussion over many months, Hedge End Town Council has decided to use a grant it received for a "village feature" to install a heritage sign similar to this artist's representation on the grass verge opposite Kings Community Church in Upper Northam Road.

I felt it would have been more appropriate and appreciated by more people in the village centre near the library, but the Chair of  Recreation and Amenities made a strong case for her preferred option and the voting was 6-3 in favour of the chosen location.

Other items discussed at this month's R&A committee included the poor project management by the suppliers of the new skateboard park at Woodhouse Lane.  Outlook for completion of this project is now the end of October.

Following an excellent discussion including nearby residents, the Chair of the HEWEB Youth Council and a representative of the supplier company, councillors agreed to move forward with plans to install acoustic fencing to reduce any possible noise nuisance when the skateboard facility is complete and in use.

An informal footpath between Stubbs Drove and Willow Close will be closed off as there has been a long history of late night antisocial behaviour.  Unfortunate for those that use it as a handy short cut during the day without causing any nuisance.  I abstained on this vote, not because I didn't want to help the people who live there whose lives are being made miserable, but because I felt the Town Council should have worked through the Community Safety Forum to ensure that all the necessary agencies are involved.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Twitter serendipity

Apologies to Keith and Chris, but sometimes twitter  throws up a coincidence that it is impossible not to share....

What's Wrong With This Sign?

.. Apart from the obvious point that the Dowd's Farm developers installed the street name plate and then put their security fencing so close that it has loosened the footings and pushed the name plate out of the perpendicular, that is...

I quite like the Council's practice of giving us a little history lesson on new street name plates.  I particularly like that walking round the Dowd's Farm housing estate you can find two roads a few yards apart, one commemorating Hedge End's first publican, the other Hedge Ends' first Salvation Army officer.  It all helps to relieve the tedium of the new urban landscape that has replaced the green fields and rural footpaths of the old farm.

But it's not the Council's job to rewrite history.

The Rev. Payne would have been chairman of Hedge End Parish Council in 1894, and Hedge End would have been a rural parish with a population counted in the hundreds and six parish councillors.  Very different from the built up dormitory town it has become.

The First Chair of Hedge End Town Council in 1992 was Councillor John Butcher.  Perhaps he will get a street name plate in a hundred years' time.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Bad News For Boorley Green ..

 .. and Hedge End.  Despite their election promise to stand against more building and traffic in the Hedge End area, local Lib Dems have decided to push ahead with plans for massive new housing developments at Boorley Green and Woodhouse Lane, Hedge End.  Meeting this week the Borough Council cabinet, which includes Hedge End Town Councillors Louise Bloom and Keith House, decided that building at Boorley Green will have "less environmental impact" than a new mini-town at Allington Lane. 

Cllr House also dangled the carrot of a much-discussed Botley by-pass to be included in the package, despite there being uncertainty as to whether the already threatened levels of new housing will bring in sufficient developers' contributions to fund the required road expansion.

What is certain is that if the Lib Dems have their way, Hedge End is destined for more traffic, more strain on the local infrastructure and less countryside for peaceful, informal recreation.

Hedge End Town Council will have the opportunity to debate the Lib Dem housing plans in public next Wednesday when my motion opposing the plans (which the Lib Dems refused to discuss in July) will once more be on the agenda. 

The Borough Council's press release is here.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Chris Huhne and the Constituency Carve Up

Hedge End and Eastleigh bloggers were not slow to comment on the initial recommendations for new constituency boundaries published yesterday.

TGRWorzel's elegantly composed offering is here.

Eastleigh News' well researched article is here.

My own effort is here.

TGRWorzel gets the Hedge End Blogger award for best  blog post title on the subject:  "It's Eastleigh Chris, but not as we know it".

Today's Guardian Newspaper has an excellent Steve Bell cartoon.  Based on this famous Gillray caricature of William Pitt and Napoleon carving up the globe between Britain and France in 1805, it sums up the national situation with interesting resonances for MPs such as Chris Huhne, who are seeing their own constituencies carved up.

Here is a link.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

What a Waste of Money

£13000 was spent by Eastleigh Lib Dems on their flawed housing "opinion survey".   Despite delivering their glossy leaflet with photos of a smiling "perfect" family and a message from smiling Lib Dem leader and Hedge End Councillor Keith House to all 53,000 households in the Borough, only 1786 valid replies were received.

A staggering 97% of residents treated this ill-judged exercise in political opportunism and buck passing with the contempt it deserved and have refused to give any kind of mandate to the Lib Dem plans for two huge development areas in and around Hedge End.

The challenge has been laid down to Cllr House now to engage in a genuine, bottom-up consultation to allow the people to have a real say in the future of Eastleigh's countryside.

Amazingly people living near Allington Lane would prefer  development to take place in Boorley Green, and Boorley Green residents voted mainly for houses to be built in Allington Lane.  Overall there was a small majority in favour of Boorley Green, but the response is so tiny the Lib Dems would look ridiculous if they used the figures to justify their plans.

864 (48.37%) of respondents gave option A (Allington Lane) as their preferred choice for development.
922 (51.62%) of respondents gave option B (Boorley Green) as their preferred choice for development.
In total 58 more respondents opted for Boorley Green than Allington Lane.

Hedge End and Hamble To Get Own MP

Hedge End and Hamble will become a parliamentary constituency for the 2015 general election if the Boundary Commission's initial recommendations survive twelve weeks of public consultation and party political lobbying.

New boundaries are intended to make voting at general elections fairer by equalising the number of voters in each constituency and will reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600.

Changes to neighbouring constituencies to bring them in line with the new one-size-fits-all proposals mean that the existing Eastleigh Constituency extends further to the North (taking in parts of Test Valley) and some of its southern wards join parts of Fareham and Southampton in the new Hedge End and Hamble Borough Constituency

Any organisation of smaller towns and parishes into a larger entity is going to seem arbitrary to some extent, but I can't see the good people of Bitterne in Southampton being particularly happy at being hived off from Southampton Itchen into the new constituency.   Some of us are old enough to remember when Woolston was tagged on to Eastleigh for a couple of general elections and was returned to Southampton as soon as was possible.  It seems the Boundary Commission does not learn from its past mistakes.

Hedge End and Hamble Borough Constituency will comprise:

Bursledon and Old Netley
Hamble-le-Rice and Butlocks Heath
Hedge End (all three existing wards)
Netley Abbey
West End South (but not West End North, which is staying in Eastleigh)
Locks Heath
Park Gate
Titchfield Common

The political parties will now be poring over past election results in these wards and others affected by the changes to work out whether the proposals are to their advantage or not.

Apart from the anomalies of Bitterne and West End, the linking of Hedge End to Warsash and Sarisbury is no more or less logical than linking it to Bishopstoke and Fair Oak, but the old Eastleigh Constituency had the advantage of including - more or less - the same wards as Eastleigh Borough Council.  Where there is no community or historical tie, and no geographical feature to provide a natural boundary, at least there was a measure of consistency.  That consistency is lost in the new constituency which takes wards from a total of three local councils - Southampton, Eastleigh and Fareham.

Based on recent local election results, it also looks like being a keenly fought Lib Dem / Conservative marginal with the Fareham wards bringing Conservative majorities up against the Lib Dem heartland of Hedge End and Botley.

Photo credit: Tony Moorey

Monday, 5 September 2011

Neglecting Our Heritage

Another winter of neglect awaits a grade two listed building in Hedge End.  Delapidated and vandalised in the ten years it has been unoccupied, one of Hedge End's few historic buildings looks destined to wait even longer for renovation.  There is no sign that the Dowd's Farm developers are going to start plans to renovate and restore the fabric of the old farmhouse  and there must be a risk that it will continue to deteriorate until demolition is the only economic option.  A report to Council in April this year estimated that it would already cost £1 million to restore the farmhouse.  Another winter with rain and snow driving into the clearly visible exposed holes in the brickwork is only going to increase the bill.
The farmhouse dates back to the 17th century with Victorian extensions and historically interesting internal features including a bread oven and floor to ceiling sash windows.  But more importantly it is a material reminder of Hedge End's agricultural history.  If it goes, only the name of the housing estate and urban park will recall that there once was a farm on this land. 
Back in the Spring, the outlook for this threatened building was more optimistic.  Lib Dem councillors approved planning applications for an additional 30 flats at Dowd's Farm so that the developers could raise more money to fund the renovation and for a change of use for the farmhouse itself.  In April we were told that the Council was in discussions with a company which wanted to renovate the building and run it as a day nursery and that a detailed planning application would be presented in May.
Since then silence.  No planning application was on the agenda of the June  Local Area Committee, and the Lib Dems have now decided to cancel the meeting due on September 5th.  So nothing is going to happen now until November at the earliest.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Town Council Update

August has been a quiet month for the town council, with only two committees meeting.  The interesting bit of Highways and Planning was the discussion of The Lib Dem plans to build on Hedge End's last area of unspoilt countryside which I have already tried to cover on this blog without contravening Cllr House's secrecy order. 

The other committee that has continued to meet is Recreation and Amenities (R&A) under the chairmanship of Cllr Jane Welsh.

We had a normal evening meeting on 10th and then, following concerns raised by people living near the Woodhouse Lane playing field, a number of us had a Saturday morning on site meeting with some residents and a fencing consultant to discuss ways of reducing the impact of noise likely to be generated by the new skateboard park currently under construction.

This project has been discussed at various meetings since last autumn and details are on the Town Council web site.

The Older People's Forum has requested that instructions be provided for the Sports Point exercise equipment in the Recreation Ground, and the council is negotiating with the supplier.

Tennis fans will be interested to know that an LTA competition organiser is looking at staging a competition at the Woodhouse Lane courts.

The committee is working with Hedge End Junior Cricket Club to improve the practice nets at Turnpike Way and is also looking at a suitable gate for the entrance to the field from Thistle Road.

We also considered a number of letters of complaint arising from the barriers and dugouts that have been installed by Hedge End Rangers FC at the Norman Rodaway field to bring the facilities up to Hampshire League standard. 

The official minutes of the meeting are on the Town Council web site.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Keeping Hedge End Tidy

A pile of garden waste was dumped on a grass verge in Parkwood Close at the beginning of summer.  Eastleigh Borough Council - who have been mowing the verge for as long as anyone can remember - started steering their mowers around the obstacle so that grass started growing up through the debris.

Local residents reported the fly-tipping to Eastleigh  but were amazed to learn that according to the official maps this verge did not belong to the Council, nor was it designated highway land.  The Council don't clear fly-tipping from private land even if they are happy to cut the grass there.

Asked by the neighbourhood watch co-ordinator if the Town Council could help, I spoke first to the Streetscene department at Eastleigh and had a long discussion about cuts, funding, redundancies, boundaries, and precedents.  Eventually it transpired that Streetscene management would agree to clear this fly-tipping if they could cross charge the work to the HEWEB(*) Local Area Committee.  The Local Area Coordinator agreed that maintaining the tidiness of the local environment is more important than squabbling over who owns the land and within a few days the rubbish was cleared.

So it's well done to the responsive HEWEB LAC, but a shame that we probably spent more time arguing over whether the work should be done than it took to drive a vehicle onto the verge and shovel the rubbish away.

(*) Hedge End, West End and Botley

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Housing - Plan B

A view of new housing development at Dowd's Farm
 "If we don't accept this plan, it will be a developers' free for all and no green field will be safe from development."  Such was part of the argument used by the local Lib Dem leadership in bulldozing through their housing plans to impose at least 2,400 and possibly up to 6,000 new houses on green fields in the Hedge End, West End and Botley local area.

But the Lib Dems are guilty of presenting a false dilemma.  The choice is not between their plan and no plan.  The choice is between a bad plan and a better plan.

What makes the current proposals a bad plan is the inexplicable u-turn executed by the Lib Dems in adopting a small number of large scale "strategic development options" when they have campaigned against Strategic Development Areas and Major Development Areas in the past.

The impact of new housing on the existing infrastructure (roads, services, schools etc.) would be less invasive if the the new developments were spread more evenly throughout the borough instead of being concentrated in three locations.  It would also give existing communities and settlements the chance to grow organically without fundamentally changing their character, a fate which is possibly awaiting Boorley Green.
Let us accept for the moment the Council's target of 9,400 new houses and their assessment that 4,700 of these will have to be built on countryside locations.

They could reach their target by assigning 1,200 of the green field houses to sites near the urban centre of Eastleigh Town and Chandlers Ford and then distributing the remainder evenly throughout the nine southern parishes at the rate of about 400 per parish.

They could then engage in a more meaningful consultation in each parish allowing the local people to rank the identified locations in order of preference.  People in Hedge End might still vote in favour of building on the farmland at Woodhouse Lane, or they might prefer one of the other sites identified by the planners.  If the first choice does not have sufficient capacity to accommodate the 400 target houses, then the second or third choice locations would be added to the list until the required capacity is reached.

It might mean more work for the planners and a harder time for the developers, but it would be fairer and more democratic for the people of Hedge End.

New Job for Cllr Keith House

Congratulations to Hedge End Town Councillor, Bursledon Parish Councillor, Leader of Eastleigh Borough Council and Leader of the Lib Dem Group on Hampshire County Council, Keith House on landing another job.

The Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors announced on Monday that he has been elected Lead Lib Dem Member of the Local Government Association's Environment and Housing Programme Board.

I thought I'd have a browse of the LGA's web site to see what this new role entails:

Programme board members

  • To actively engage with councils and groupings of councils to secure the views and involvement of the wider membership to inform the board’s priorities and policy lines and act as an advocate for the LG Group and its work.
  • To attend and actively participate in programme board meetings
  • To attend conferences and other events initiated by the programme board.
  • To read and understand all board papers in advance of the meeting, and to keep abreast of all developments locally and nationally in relation to the areas covered by the programme board.
  • Where required, to take responsibility for a specified portfolio and act as spokesperson
Knowledge and Experience

Programme board members may be portfolio holders for that policy area in their home authorities or have experience/knowledge of, and commitment to, the policy area(s) covered by the programme board.

Travel and expenses

This role will require attendances at meetings in London and in other parts of the country.
Travel and subsistence costs incurred in attending programme boards meetings should be met by the member’s home authority.

Current programme board members’ allowance:   £2,593
Expected time commitment:      up to 0.5 days per week

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Lib Dems Keep Hedge End in the Dark

Lib Dems did not want members of the public at the Town Council meeting to discuss the new housing plans for Hedge End.  As I blogged on 1st August, the discussion was deemed to be exempt business under the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960 after Council Leader Keith House decreed that any briefing by council officials had to be confidential, and that section of the meeting was not recorded in the official minutes.

It's a pity, because I thought I asked some pretty pertinent questions:
Q. It is clear that 1,000 houses at Woodhouse Lane and possibly 1,400 at Boorley Green will put unsustainable strain on the Maypole Roundabout and roads to the M27.   Will the planned housing bring in sufficient developers' contributions to improve those roads, or will Hedge End be asked to accept even more housing in order to generate funds for the increased road capacity?


Q. People moving into the new housing at Hedge End will need somewhere to work.  If 1,000 houses are built on our green fields, will Hedge End have to sacrifice even more countryside for employment purposes?


Q. In addition to the three major strategic sites, Eastleigh is looking to build 1,000 more houses across the whole borough on "small" green field sites.  In the interest of fairness, why should any of these 1,000 additional houses be targeted on the Hedge End, West End and Botley area, which is already going to take 2,400?


Q. In the Strategic Land Availability Assessment, all the sites in Hedge End which are close to the motorway are considered  inappropriate for housing.  Yet in neighbouring West End, the Council has permitted housing right up to the motorway with approprate noise mitigation.  Why do different standards apply?


Next time Lib Dem candidates come knocking on your door, see if you can get an answer from them. 

Monday, 15 August 2011

Hedge End Bursting its Boundaries

Beautiful countryside between Hedge End and Botley is threatened by the Lib Dems housing plans.

Eastleigh Council's map of "small greenfield sites" in Hedge End shows a number of locations to the east of Hedge End in the local gap between Hedge End and Botley (labelled HE6 to HE11) which have been designated possible development targets.

Although the Lib Dems voted in July to accept these as Hedge End locations, they are technically the other side of the administrative border between Hedge End and Botley parish.  Presumably the Council planners know where the boundary is, so why did they not categorise them as Botley locations?

The same thing has happened on the other side of Hedge End where green fields to the north and west of Hedge End which are technically in West End are in the Hedge End allocation.  (See previous blog entries here and here.)

And to the south, a number of green fields in the Bursledon parish area are counted as Hedge End sites.  

In fact, if I have done the calculations correctly, only thirteen of the 31 identified Hedge End sites are actually inside the  Hedge End administrative boundary, and only 34% (3799 out of  11185) of the potential housing slots assessed are formally in Hedge End.

In real life the administrative boundaries between parishes are a fairly insignificant planning technicality.   So why has the Council misled people in this way?  

One possibility is that by exaggerating how many green fields there are in Hedge End it makes it look as if we can "afford" to accept a thousand houses at Woodhouse Lane because there is still plenty of green space left. 

But the fact is that under the developer-friendly Lib Dems the settlement of Hedge End has already expanded up to, and in some cases over, its administrative borders with neighbouring parishes and the Woodhouse Lane location is the last area of countryside inside Hedge End's borders.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Library to Charge Youngsters

Fining pre-school children is a bad idea according to local Hedge End councillor, and leader of the Lib Dem opposition at Hampshire County Council, Keith House.
Commenting on Hampshire Conservatives' plan to charge children for the late return of library books Cllr House revealed an alarming statistic.
“Charging late fees for children is a reading tax. This all covers up the more amazing fact that the county has lost 30,000 books in recent years.  The council should concentrate on tracking down these rather than discouraging children reading."
 Perhaps a well-publicised amnesty would encourage adults to return some of those 30,000 books rather than putting more pressure on families already struggling with reduced income and higher prices for everything from food to electricity.

Read the full story here.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Glorious Twelfth - Special Offer at The Berry

This Friday, 12th August, The Berry are showing "Cedar Rapids", and have announced a special price to celebrate the announcement of their new season.   So, while some might be trecking off to the grouse moors for the annual bird massacres, Hedge Enders can make a much shorter trip to our local theatre and see this recent comedy release for a mere £2.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Norman Rodaway Playing Fields Threat

Local Lib Dems have voted to make these popular playing fields a target for developers.

The Lib Dems nationally are in a developer-friendly coalition with the Conservatives which threatens our green spaces and countryside with more and more development.  The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England  is among many groups and organisations that have seen the truth behind the government’s planning consultation.

And the Lib Dems locally are going along with the national policy to put development ahead of the protection of the environment by designating just about every green space in and around Hedge End as a possible target for the developers.

Amazingly this includes not just farmland but our parks and recreation grounds too.

“Small green field site” HE12 (Land East of Heath House Lane and South of Kings Copse Avenue) is better known as the Norman Rodaway Playing Field.

Despite it being the home of local organisations including Hedge End Rangers FC, Smiles Pre-School and 31st Itchen Scouts, and a favourite place for informal exercise and dog walkers, the Council reckon that up to 180 houses and flats could be built there.  Or it could be developed for employment purposes.

The Lib Dems haven’t completed their master plan to concrete over Hedge End yet, but I am worried that one of their justifications for building at Woodhouse Lane (despite their election promises to fight against building on County Council land) is that they can get the developers to provide “new playing fields for the community”.

Does Cllr Keith House want to provide these new playing fields in the north-east of Hedge End so that he can then force the current users of Norman Rodaway to relocate and free up even more land for housing?  He must admit that the Council has previous form when it comes to evicting leisure users who have invested years in a much loved location – just ask the Eastleigh Allotment Association.

We might think that the Norman Rodaway is safe because it is owned and managed by Hedge End Town Council, but the national Lib Dems in coalition with the Conservatives are telling local councils to sell their leisure assets to “save money

If we put all these national and local policies together, things are not looking good for Norman Rodaway.

Things are looking even worse when we look more closely at the minutes of Hedge End Town Council in February.  The Recreation and Amenities Committee had resolved that Council should apply to preserve the Norman Rodaway Sports Field as a recreation ground in perpetuity under a covenant which would have seen it designated a Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Playing Field.  Decisions of committees can be referred to full council at the request of an individual councillor, which is what Cllr House did on this occasion.   At full council he talked his fellow Lib Dems out of protecting the Norman Rodaway field in this way and instead diverted the protection to the Dowd's Farm Park.

9. To consider the following Resolution under Standing Order 34 (b)
Referred Cllr. Keith House
a) Recreation & Amenities 9 February 2011
Minute R55
That the Town Council make application for
the Queen Elizabeth II Fields Challenge
Deed of Declaration for the sites of Norman Rodaway
Sports Field and Turnpike Way Sports Field.
Cllr. Keith House introduced this Motion expressing his concern
and reservations that by applying covenant restrictions on the
lands in question will make it very difficult for the Town Council
in the future to manage the land to its own advantage and
believed that the Town Council should not defer control to third
parties. He felt that it was more appropriate to designate Dowd s
Farm as ultimately the Town Council will never own the land
freehold but under a lease agreement with the Salvation Army.
Cllr. Keith House Proposed an Amendment to the Resolution,
Seconded by Cllr. Peter Hughes to read:
That the Town Council make application for the Queen
Elizabeth II Fields Challenge
Non-Charitable Deed of
Declaration for the site of Dowd s Farm.
13 For, 2 Against, 1 Abstention. AMENDMENT CARRIED.

 Did Cllr House as far back as February have plans ultimately to sell the Norman Rodaway for development?