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.