Monday, 27 June 2011

Thieves Strike at Carnival Preparations

The sign says it all really.  Earlier this month there was a raid on the Hedge End Marie Curie Cancer Care shop as reported by Eastleigh News here.  Now thieves have struck at another Hedge End charitable institution by stealing a sign belonging to the Carnival.

Let's hope they are not too demoralised and that this week's 90th anniversary carnival is a resounding success.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Berry Disappointing - Act II does not live up to the promise of Act I

Hedge End’s new theatre is still without a manager and the evidence of neglect by Eastleigh Council is literally growing.  A sign installed only weeks ago is all but invisible from the pavement in Wildern Lane as surrounding bushes are not being cut back.  I can’t help feeling that if there was an on-site manager this would have been spotted and dealt with.

The box office for The Berry is still being run out of The Point.  This is confusing, particularly when tickets for events at The Berry are sent out with instructions how to get to The Point in Eastleigh.

Hedge End Blogger recently pointed out  that there was no mention of The Berry in the June edition of “Borough News” which showcased “Summer in Eastleigh”.

It is unfair to give the impression that there is nothing going on at The Berry during the summer months.  They have arranged some interesting films and stand-up comedy, there are three community hires for local amateur groups and the scheduling for children is strong.  All this is excellent, but it wouldn’t have hurt to have mentioned it in the “Borough News” and give some publicity for the hardworking team at The Berry.

What is worrying is that after the excitement of the opening week there is not much serious theatre for grown-ups.  In fact between “Austen’s Women” on 8th April and “Oh What a Lovely War” on 30th September there is nothing in the theatre strand at all.  That’s nearly half the first year during which The Berry is not being used to its full potential.

It is supposed to be a community theatre, not a cinema or comedy club, or indeed a school theatre.

Let’s hope there is plenty to excite us again when the new season is announced soon and we can forget the disappointing Act II and look forward to Act III.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Strikes Hit Hedge End Recycling

As news breaks that strikes in neighbouring Southampton are to continue next week, an unexpected consequence for Hedge End is revealed.

Eastleigh relies on Southampton to empty its large bottle banks like the one pictured in the Co-op car park in Hedge End.  This has clearly not been happening while the Southampton workers are in dispute with the Conservative administration of Royston Smith who wants to sack his entire workforce and re-employ them with worse terms and conditions.

In the meantime the Hedge End bottle banks will remain full.  Eastleigh are clearing up bottles left to the side of the bank (those in my picture which was taken on Sunday had been removed by Tuesday), but it might be best if we kept glass at home, or made use of Eastleigh's own monthly kerbside glass collection.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Lily the Laburnum is Safe

Responding to a clear message from the Hedge End community, I proposed a motion at last night's Town Council urging that the Village Hall and Pre-School find a children's play area that does not involve cutting down a mature Laburnum tree.  I was happy to take the initiative in this case, and acknowledge that the motion would not have been passed without the support of the dominant Liberal Democrat majority on the council.

The Town Council will now work with the interested parties to identify a play area which meets the Pre-School's requirements without cutting down any trees.

There has been some entertaining party political mischief making around this issue on various web sites including Eastleigh News, The Black Balaclava and Hedge End People.  One advantage of being an independent councillor is that I have no interest in spinning out a story to make one party look good or the opposition look bad, but could cut through the nonsense and hopefully get the right result for Hedge End.

For those who are interested I reproduce my statement in proposing the motion which represents the facts as I believe them to be.  The Pre-School organisers did point out that they had tried to contact the WI but had had some difficulty finding a contact phone number.

"This council has a record of trying to support and assist pre-schools in the village area, recognising that they provide a valuable public service.

In general if a pre-school wants to modify the premises on which they meet, the council does not object.

In September last year we made a section 137 grant as contribution to the fence around the grassed area outside the Village Hall.  At that time there was no mention of cutting down the tree and the minutes of that committee meeting state that the pre-school had approved planning permission.

The matter came up next in the March Finance and Administration Committee.  And the minutes there are contradictory because they firstly state that the Town Council has no jurisdiction over the tree and then that the tree be felled.  Now if this council has no jurisdiction, any resolution to fell the tree has no merit.

At that meeting of F&A it was pointed out by then Councillor Jenny Schwausch that the Hedge End WI did have an interest in the tree, and the committee was consequently making a deicision on partial evidence on a matter on which it had no jurisdiction.

If memory serves the Village Hall Management Committee and Pre-School representatives agreed to consult with the WI before proceeding.  This appears not to have happened and when the WI did find out they were understandably upset.

Subsequently it has become clear that the tree is important to the wider population and that the tree officers at Eastleigh agree to the extent of imposing a provisional tree preservation order.

The population of Hedge End is looking for leadership from this council which is why I have brought this motion forward to tonight's meeting.

We don't have formal jurisdiction over the tree, so it is not in our power to save it or to fell it.  But we can reflect the wishes of our community and try to influence other bodies, which is why I would urge the Village Hall Management Committee and Pre-School to look at alternative courses of action.  There are other options available for an outside play area.  They may not be ideal, but it is clear that this option is also not ideal.  Once felled the Laburnum is gone forever."

The Tree Preservation Order in progress at Eastleigh protects all the trees on the green space between the Village Hall and Allotment Road.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Lib Dems Steamroller Town Councillor

Another local green space will disappear despite a spirited defence by Hedge End Town Councillor Bruce Tennent at a Local Area Committee dominated by two controversial planning applications in West End.  Wearing his West End Borough Council hat, Bruce supported his constituents opposing development of a grazing field on Moorgreen Road.
Unfortunately he was opposed by Lib Dem Leader Keith House who pointed out that decisions made by previous generations of Lib Dems had already condemned the field to be built on.  With the honourable exception of Bruce’s ward colleague Cllr Tony Noyce, the local Lib Dems jumped in behind Keith and steamrollered the opposition.

Countryside fared better in the other debate with permission being refused for a 66 bed care home in a woodland location in Telegraph Road. 
Councillors approved a footpath / cycleway between Whites Way and Shamblehurst Lane South, and made grants to Hedge End Bowling Club and the Teenage Drop In Centre.

As Hampshire Tories (following a “pernicious ideology” according to Hedge End Town Councillor Dan Clarke) set about demolishing the country council youth service, Eastleigh is making provision in conjunction with the Town Council, Wildern School and other organisations to keep an open access youth service running in Hedge End.   What they need is for the County to agree to transfer The Box youth centre to the newly formed local youth partnership, but there is no sign of that happening soon.

Recent Labour defector, now Lib Dem ├╝ber-loyalist Dan was rewarded for his anti-Tory rhetoric with being appointed as the committee’s representative to the partnership.

The next Local Area Committee meeting is not until 5th September.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Chris Packham Was Right!

Local ecology is being damaged by the Go Ape high wire adventure course at Itchen Valley Country Park according to a report presented today to the Local Area Committee.

When the Lib Dem local area committee gave planning consent for the course to go ahead it was in the face of evidence that the chosen location is in environmentally sensitive woodland and right next to the internationally important River Itchen.

Experts, including celebrity green campaigner Chris Packham, opposed the development on environmental grounds, but the committee voted with the Lib Dem leadership with only two dissenting voices.

Go Ape have admitted that they got their design wrong and are having to apply for retrospective planning consent and rewrite their biodiversity protection plan.  

What is more worrying is that it seems their paying customers and spectators are stomping all over delicate plants in the vicinity.

The council’s nature conservation officer now writes:

"The soil material which makes up the landing mound is currently
unconsolidated and is not physically retained along its sides. It is
already spilling into the boundary of the woodland and having an
adverse impact on the ancient woodland and ground flora. This issue is
likely to worsen over time and cause damage either directly, or
indirectly through remedial works to repair the earth bund in the future
by contractors.
Additionally, the revised location of the landing zone appears to be
acting as a honey pot and there are many informal paths developing
into the woodland around the landing zone. This is causing
unacceptable trampling damage to the ancient woodland ground flora."

In July 2010 Cllr Keith House was clearly taken in by Go Ape’s publicity machine when he said “Visitors to Go Ape will have a fun experience on the high wire tree top activity as well as the chance to find out about other aspects of the park including our work to manage the important species and habitats found there”

They are not so much finding out about the important species and habitats as trampling them underfoot.

Councillors agreed to grant retrospective planning consent with conditions that they hope will mitigate the ecological damage.

Horses or Hearses?

Rightly proud of its Green Flag cemetery in Albert Road, the Town Council has been aware for some time that the space in that little quiet sanctuary will one day run out.

As the local burial authority, the council is not obliged to find a new cemetery once the existing one is full, but its strategic position has been to use land south of the allotments along Kanes Hill as a replacement location when the time comes.

Recent studies undertaken by the council have revealed, however, that to create a cemetery there is going to cost in the region of £400,000 and the highway authority have indicated that they would require works on the A27 costing another quarter of a million or so.  Massive costs such as these are calling in to question the viability of the whole project.

In the meantime there is the problem of what to do with the land in the short term.  Some of it is let for grazing.  A proposal before the council at the moment is to spend £10-15,000 improving the rest of the land and boundary fencing so that it could all be let for grazing.  If the cemetery project goes ahead in say five years then grazing rent would recover those costs and bring in a small surplus.

However if the cemetery project were put off indefinitely there would be a better business case for improving the land and using it either for community purposes or to generate income for the council.

Now that we have a new crematorium on our doorstep in West End, does it really make sense to have a huge new cemetery as well?  Perhaps there is a better use for the land.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Community "Payback" Scheme Costs Local Taxpayers £10,000 ..

I'm generally in favour of community service orders for offenders and thought it was a good idea earlier this year when I saw a supervised team of offenders tidying up the grass verges along Turnpike Way.  The Council is now planning to have some hedges in Grange Park tidied up under the auspices of  "community payback".

What I can't understand is why - according to the June edition of "Eastleigh Borough News" - it is costing local taxpayers £10,000 to have a team of offenders working in the Hedge End area.  I thought the idea was for the miscreants to be putting something back into the community, not for the community to be paying.

It is hard on the "back office" professional contractors being laid off by the Lib Dems to see the council happily spending council tax payers' money to get the work done by grudging amateurs.

Eastleigh's Forgotten Theatre?

Only two months after it opened, The Berry is ignored in the June edition of "Eastleigh Borough News". 

The only mention it gets is its phone number in the "A-Z of Council Services".  (An 01489 number which is routed through to The Point box office.)

There are three pages of summer events at The Point, but you'd get the impression that there is nothing at all happening in Hedge End.

It's very disappointing for those of us who are excited by the prospect of a new theatre on our doorsteps.  It looks very much as if there is no-one to speak up for The Berry at the Civic Offices since it lost its dedicated manager.  Are they worried that a successful Berry will be too much competition for the Point?

I hope the Point's music festival and Mela are a success, but the Council has to realise that there is now another venue here in Hedge End, and unless it gets the same level of publicity it will struggle to establish itself.  Now it's true that the March edition of "Borough News" covered the opening of The Berry at the expense of the coverage The Point might have expected, but surely now there are two "sister" theatres it's disgraceful to ignore either one in a council tax funded publication?

Friday, 10 June 2011

Eastleigh Blog Cast ..

Hedge End Blogger is featured in the inaugural Eastleigh Blog Cast.

Follow this link  to hear what some other Hedge End and Eastleigh bloggers are saying.

(Hedge End Blogger is not responsible for the content of other blogs and whilst upholding the right of free speech does not agree with all views expressed in the blog cast. )

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Preserving Trees and Opposing Signs ...

Keeping Hedge End an attractive place to live is a bit of a never ending battle.  The Highways and Planning Committee looks at all planning applications that affect Hedge End on behalf of the Town Council. 

Last week's meeting received notification of Tree Preservation Orders affecting trees at the Village Hall and in the woodland between Chalice Court and Mallow Road.  I find it interesting that the Borough Council has a policy of devolving management of green spaces to the Town Council, but then finds it necessary to apply TPOs which weren't necessary when the Borough were in charge.  It's as if they think the Town Council is waiting to take a chainsaw to all those trees as soon as they are in charge. 

The TPO at the Village Hall is a material and significant change in the debate about whether to fell the laburnum tree which was reported in the local press back on May 5th.  The Town Council does not have jurisdiction over that tree, but there has been some confusion as the recently elected chair of the Council is also treasurer to the Village Hall Management Committee.

In order to try and reduce the confusion I have submitted a motion to next week's council which, if the Lib Dem majority support it, would urge the Village Hall and Pre-School to find another solution which does not involve cutting down the tree.

Getting back to the H&P meeting, most of the planning applications reviewed were considered to be uncontroversial (mainly improvements to existing homes), but the committee has raised an objection to an application from the Interios store on Charles Watts Way for a number of large, new signs which were felt to be too intrusive.  

The question now is will the officers at Eastleigh who have the delegated decision give sufficient weight to the local council's objection, and if they do, will the government inspector uphold the inevitable appeal?