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 http://www.chrishuhne.org.uk/issues/develop on 27th September.

Back on July 20th I emailed Chris. 

from Keith Day keithday2010@gmail.com
to Chris Huhne <chris@chrishuhne.org.uk>
date Wed, Jul 20, 2011 at 9:23 AM
subject Eastleigh Local Development Framework
mailed-by gmail.com
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.