Saturday, 15 December 2012

Tax Avoiding Phone Company Wants Mast on Recreation Ground

How's Your Signal? 
Hedge End Town Council has been approached by representatives of a mobile phone company who are looking for a site for a new mast to improve their signal in the "Southampton area".  They have suggested that the Town Council's recreation ground at Woodhouse Lane would be a suitable location (at least from their point of view).  Apparently they are willing to negotiate a rental for the land which would be occupied by their new base station.

At the moment the Council has no real information.  We don't know how tall, what it would look like, how much land it would occupy or how much the phone company would be willing to pay.  Although if their recent performance with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs is typical, we can expect them to drive a hard bargain.

On the down side a mobile phone mast would be an eyesore, would make the recreation ground more cluttered, and might raise concerns amongst the parents of scouts, guides and pre-school children who meet at Baden Powell Lodge.

On the plus side, it would be a new income stream for the Town Council at a time when it is trying to avoid any increase to its council tax precept.  And if you are a customer of a famous tax avoiding multinational mobile phone company based in Newbury, you might get an improved signal.

While the Council is trying to find out a bit more from the company, it would be good to know what people think about whether mobile phones on recs is an appropriate use of public land.

Photo Credit: Tim Parkinson

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Tories Insist: Land Not For Sale

Farm Land or Concrete? 
Serious doubts remain about whether the Lib Dem master plan for 3,500 houses in Hedge End and Botley is deliverable.  The planning process is currently stalled by unspecified concerns from the Highway Agency according to the Borough Council web site.  And local Tories continue to claim that Hampshire County Council will not sell the land at Woodhouse Lane in Hedge End where the Lib Dems want to build a thousand houses

Hiltingbury Conservative Cllr Grajewski plans to ask this question of Borough Council Leader and Hedge End Town Councillor Keith House at this week's Full Council meeting: "In view of the fact that Hampshire County Council has informed Eastleigh Borough Council that it will not release land at Woodhouse Lane for development within the plan period 2011-2029, what does the future hold for the Draft Local Plan?"

Perhaps the question should also be asked: "In view of the fact that official Conservative policy is to build as many houses on green field land as possible, can Hampshire Tories really stand up against their masters at Westminster?"  Planning minister Nick Boles has this to say: “It’s my job to make the arguments to these people [people who oppose development] that if they carry on writing letters their kids are never going to get a place with a garden to bring up their grandkids"

I've said it before - Who can you believe?

Friday, 7 December 2012

Lib Dems Tree Hypocrisy

How the Trees Looked in July 
Lib Dem controlled Eastleigh Borough Council recently destroyed a number of mature trees in Grange Road, Hedge End.  This despite claiming on their web site that "The Council is committed to protecting, improving and developing the Borough's tree stock in public places."

The Town Council's Highways and Planning Committee to its credit has tried to get to the bottom of this travesty.   In the minutes of its 5th December meeting it was reported that the chain-saw wielding Borough:

Firstly tried to blame local residents for damaging the trees in the first place, despite claiming on its web site that it will "ensure that trees on public land are retained wherever possible and are given appropriate protection from the effects of development and construction activities.."

Secondly revealed that the "works" were approved  by the 100% Lib Dem Hedge End, West End and Botley Local Area Committee.

Thirdly admitted that the trees were not on publicly owned land in the first place.  It's a shame they didn't bother to find that out before they sent in the publicy financed chain saws.

Finally have stated that the trees will not be replaced, despite claiming on their web site that  "A range of species will be selected for new and replacement planting taking into account their suitability to each site."

While they thought the trees were on public land, the Council had the "full intention of making a claim for enforcement and criminal damage against the resident."  But now they find they have destroyed trees on somebody else's land, they are washing their hands of the whole matter.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Hedge End Plants Native Trees

As a minority of one on the Town Council, it is pleasing when an idea you have suggested leads to something good.  Back in December 2011 I suggested to the Recreation and Amenities Committee that we should take advantage of native trees being offered free by the Woodland Trust as part of their Jubilee Woods project.

My original suggestion was for the trees to be planted on the Council's land at Kanes Hill as the nucleus of a new community woodland.  As it turned out more people supported planting them at the new Dowd's Farm Park, and I have to admit it turned out to be an excellent choice as more than fifty volunteers turned up on Saturday to help with the planting.

There were Town and Borough councillors, Town Council staff, members of Hedge End Horticultural Society, Girl Guides and local people of all ages.  The Council had advertised it as a four hour event, but the number of volunteers meant all the trees were planted in an hour.   Everybody deserves a pat on the back for a demonstration of true community spirit.

The important thing is that Hedge End now has 400 more trees than it did last week.  They are native species, so will contribute to our biodiversity and support native insects and birds.  They will be good for the environment and good for people too.

Mrs Hedge End Blogger took some photos:

Many Hands
Cllr Baynes
Hedge End's Tree Warden
Cllrs Jenny and Peter Hughes
One of the Younger Helpers
Hedge End Blogger

Cllr Allingham
Cllr Welsh

Grown from one of the Queen's Own Acorns

The "Royal" Oak

The Group Shot

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Lib Dems Too Late

Red alert or red faces?   
A full four months after Hedge End Blogger reported the story, the Lib Dems in their "Winter 2012" newspaper have finally caught up with the Conservative County Council's plans to privatize our museums.

Not only are they four months behind Hedge End Blogger, they are three months too late for the consultation which closed at the end of July.

All a bit embarrassing for our County Cllrs Kyrle and Tennent as the local Lib Dem propaganda machine puts a stock photo of them posing outside Hedge End Library to illustrate a story about museums.   If they think that is putting local people on "red alert", I hope they made a better job of returning those library books on time.

Seriously though, perhaps one of them could tell us what happened to the County Council consultation as all reference to it seems to have disappeared from the Hampshire web site.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Lib Dems Green Light for Late Night Pizzas

Opening the door for an enhanced night-time economy in Hedge End, Local Lib Dems have given the OK for Domino's Pizza to extend their opening hours.

As reported on this blog here and here, Domino's wanted to stay open until 3am seven days a week.  They applied to the Southampton and Eastleigh Licensing Partnership based at Southampton Civic Centre for permission.  This was in the face of their original planning permission when they took over the old Threshers off-licence which clearly stated that they should close at 11pm. 

Eastleigh's own planning officers were opposed to the extension, as were a number of local residents and the Lib Dems on the Town Council's Highways and Planning Committee.

Now the Licensing Panel, comprising Hedge End Councillors Pretty and Welsh, and Bishopstoke's Cllr Winstanley have decided that an extension to midnight is OK.

Within weeks of the decision, a visitor to Hedge End was mugged for his pizza in the car park behind Domino's.

Photo credit -Pål Berge

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Massive Housing Plans Force Boundary Rethink

Green fields sacrificed to more and more houses 
Lib Dem plans for thousands of houses on green fields in Hedge End and Botley may require local parish boundaries to be changed.  Hedge End Town Council's Finance and Administration Committee will be discussing the need for changes on Tuesday (meeting starts at 7:00pm at the 2000 Centre).

According to the Office for National Statistics the average electoral ward  has a population of 5,500.  The Lib Dems 3,500 new houses could bring with them enough voters for at least one new ward and require some adjustments in existing wards.

At a national level proposed boundary changes have revealed weaknesses and divisions in the Conservative dominated coalition.   All parties try to extract the maximum political advantage when constituency boundaries change.  Lobbying by Labour and Lib Dems has resulted in the Boundary Commission withdrawing its proposals for a new parliamentary constituency for Hedge End and Hamble

In Hedge End, the Lib Dems have disproportionate control over our local government with all seven Borough councillors and 20 out of 21 town councillors.  If the local Labour and Conservative campaigners are not careful, there could be a boundaries carve up entirely to the benefit of the Lib Dems.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Hedge End Bans Bee-Killing Sprays

Hedge End Town Council has agreed that its allotments will continue to be a bee-friendly area by formally adopting policies including the explicit ban of neonicotinoid sprays.

Several recent studies have indicated that these chemicals are contributing to the decline in bees even in non-lethal doses by affecting their nervous systems and interfering with their ability to find their way back to their hives and nests.

The Coalition Government (despite its claim to be the greenest ever) are so far refusing to ban these pesticides, but Green Party MP Caroline Lucas is fighting to have the Environmental Audit Committee investigate their lack of action.

How Hedge Enders Can Help Bees

More information about neonicotinoids and a petition can be found at the Friends of the Earth Bee Cause web site.

There is another petition here and details of which pesticides contain neonicotinoids are available at the Soil Association.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Will Dani King Save Lib Dems' Cycle Strategy?

Announcing the Dani King cycleway to honour the Hamble cyclist's Olympic gold medal, Hedge End Town and Borough Councillor (and Hamble County Councillor) Keith House claimed “The Council is committed to investing in opportunities for all its residents to enjoy sport and active lifestyles, at a time when many other councils are cutting back and I hope that as many people as possible will be inspired to use the new Dani King Cycleway.”

The cycleway (which will run for 3.5km along Hamble Lane) is an appropriate and imaginative way to mark King's achievement and might give the Lib Dems' cycling strategy a much-needed boost.  

Eastleigh has had a strategy (on paper at least) to encourage cycling in the Borough since 1990, but according to a recently published Department of Transport survey, the Lib Dems have failed spectacularly to encourage cycling in the Borough. 

Along with the Isle of Wight, Eastleigh is bottom of the league table of Hampshire councils for encouraging cycling, with only 13% of residents claiming to get on their bikes at least once a month, and only 2% cycling regularly at five times a week.

Local Authority1 x per month1 x per week3 x per week5 x per week
New Forest241574
Hart 24 14 7 7
Test Valley 22 13 5 3
Havant 21 13 9 6
Winchester 21 13 5 3
Portsmouth 20 14 8 5
Rushmoor 19 14 8 4
Basingstoke and Deane 18 13 7 4
Fareham 18 10 4 3
East Hampshire 16 9 3 2
Southampton 14 10 4 3
Isle of Wight 13 8 3 2
Eastleigh 13 8 3 2

Eastleigh has 44km of cycle routes, many of them in Hedge End, but people don't seem to want to use them.  Perhaps they have been built where they are easy to build, not where they would be really useful to people wanting to cycle as part of their day to day lives or where they would make cycling genuinely safer.

Perhaps it would help if the Council got on with the long-awaited Hedge End to Botley cycleway.


Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Late Night Pizzas Latest

Southampton City Council to Decide 
Following my report last week about Domino's Pizzas plans to stay open into the early hours of the morning seven days a week, all Hedge End town councillors have been advised that the Highways and Planning committee will have a chance to discuss the issue on Wednesday 5th September.

It doesn't appear on the agenda, but will be raised as an item of correspondence.  Hedge End Town Council can object to or support the license application, but the decision will be made by the licensing team at Southampton City Council

Despite their claims not to have cut any services, the Lib Dems at Eastleigh have, in fact, closed down the Borough's own licensing team and transferred the responsibility to Southampton, retaining just an email address at Eastleigh.

Town councillors are advised that Eastleigh Borough Council's planning enforcement team will be writing to Southampton City Council to object to the license application on the grounds that it contravenes the condition imposed by the planning inspector to limit opening to 9:00-23:00.

Interested residents can make representations to - objections should fall into one of these categories:

The prevention of Crime and Disorder
Public Safety
Prevention of Public Nuisance
Protection of Children from Harm

H&P on Wednesday will also be considering the pre-consultation draft of the Borough's local plan:
Hedge End's Future - A Lib Dem Concrete Jungle (part 1)
Hedge End's Future - A Lib Dem Concrete Jungle (part 2)

Southampton Civic Centre photo credit: Andrew McDonald

Monday, 20 August 2012

Local Plan Debate (3): Lib Dem Strategy Makes Plan Unsound

Eastleigh Planners have been working on the Lib Dems' new Local Plan for 3,500 new houses in Hedge End and Botley for years according to Hedge End Town Councillor and Leader of the Borough Council Keith House.  Yet the official  report recommending the Plan to Council last month was not exactly effusive in its conclusions:

According to the report (paragraph 50), the local plan must be ‘sound’, and to be sound, a plan must be:

• Positively prepared - it must meet objectively assessed development requirements

• Justified – it must be the most appropriate strategy, considered against reasonable alternatives

• Effective – it must be deliverable over the plan period

• Consistent with national policy – it must enable the delivery of sustainable development

The report goes on to say (paragraph 51):

"Meeting these requirements in the context of the Council’s preferred strategy and the defined programme for the plan preparation process has been challenging. The process is not without its risks and the proposals will, inevitably, be subject to continuing objections, but I believe that the presubmission draft of the Eastleigh Borough Local Plan 2011 – 2029 attached to this report provides a clear, deliverable framework of  proposals and policies for meeting the borough’s development needs and for managing development pressures over the plan period."

According to the report, the Plan is "clear and deliverable", but it does not state that it is positively prepared, justified or consistent with national policy.

Surely if the plan did meet "objectively assessed development requirements" the report would say so.

Similarly why not trumpet the fact, if the plan was the "most appropriate strategy considered against reasonable alternatives"?

If it would "enable the delivery of sustainable development", you'd have thought the planners would be congratulating themselves, not passing it over in silence.

It seems that according to the Borough's own planners, the plan only meets one of the four success criteria for a "sound" plan.  And that is because it is based on the Lib Dems' flawed strategy of building at Woodhouse Lane and at South Stoneham at all costs.

The "presubmission draft" of the plan is open for consultation until 12th October.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Domino Effect: Late Night Pizza Parties in Hedge End?

A Domino's Juggernaut 
To the shock and surprise of residents near Hedge End's St John's Centre, Domino's Pizza is planning to stay open until three in the morning seven days a week, and has applied to Eastleigh Borough Council for a licence to do so.
When Domino's applied for planning permission in 2010, they were turned down by the Council who wanted to preserve a higher proportion of retail premises in the centre of Hedge End.  That decision was overturned by the central Government inspector, but with the condition that "The use hereby permitted shall not undertake any cooking or be open to customers outside the hours 09:00 to 23:00 on any day."

They are now seeking to undermine that condition, not via the planning system, but through licensing.  They are also doing it in August, a favourite month to sneak through unpopular changes as most people are thinking about summer holidays and not scanning the public notices sections of newspapers or council web sites.

Let's hope the council licensing team take into account that the centre of Hedge End is a residential area with children who have to get up for school, and with people who have to get up for work in the morning.  They don't want the noise of delivery motorbikes and cars, or gangs of people on their way home from pubs and clubs hanging around buying pizza until three in the morning.

People wishing to support or object to the licence application have until 7th September to do so in writing.

Details of how to object are on the Council's web site: here.

The reference number for the licence application is 2012/00394/05EPRN.

The Eastleigh branch of Domino's has applied for a similar licence.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Local Plan Debate (2): Who Can You Believe?

Doomed Countryside? 
Can Eastleigh Lib Dems actually deliver their plan for a thousand houses at Woodhouse Lane?

Last month's Borough Council meeting which saw the Lib Dem's Local Plan for Eastleigh bulldozed through with a massive majority was remarkable for the succession of Conservative speakers, both from the public gallery and in the council chamber, who insisted that the plan is not deliverable because Tory controlled Hampshire County Council will not release the land at Woodhouse Lane (which is currently leased to farmers) for housing.

Even 2010  parliamentary candidate Maria Hutchings had a statement read out on her behalf which is reproduced hereA representative of Botley Conservatives said it.  Cllr Judith Grajewski (Hiltingbury West) said it.  There is even a letter from Cllr Ken Thornber which says it.  The Tories will not - apparently - sell the land that the Lib Dems want so desperately to build on.

The Lib Dems claim that the Thornber letter is only stating a personal view and is not representative of County Council policy.  Hedge End Town Councillor Louise Bloom claimed that minutes of internal meetings prove that Cllr Thornber is wrong.

According to an Eastleigh officer's report to cabinet the Eastleigh plan is "deliverable" (paragraph 51 in this document), so the planners at the Civic Offices agree with the political administration that Cllr Thornber's opinion as leader of the County Council carries no weight.

Broken Promise in 2011
Who To Believe?

Bearing in mind that we are less than a year from elections for the County Council, claims by either party need to be treated with some scepticism.  The Lib Dems have already made election promises they knew they would not keep.  Hedge End Town Councillor Keith House, in introducing the Plan to Council last month, admitted he had been working on it for six years.  Yet Hedge End Lib Dems promised in both 2011 and 2012 that they would "stand up against more building and traffic in our area" at the same time as they were working on a plan for increased building and traffic in Hedge End and Botley.  Only Botley councillors have broken ranks with the Lib Dem leadership and voted against the plan.

Only Cllr Kyrle has kept this 2012 promise
And the Conservative and Lib Dem Coalition Government is desperate for local authorities to give up land for housing.  Can even Ken Thornber resist the weight of Eric Pickles and his party's national policy?

Walk The Walk?

Cllr John Caldwell (Conservative, Hiltingbury East) claimed in the Council debate that only representations made in the final stage of the Local Plan consultation would be made available to the inspector who has to approve the plan.

If that is the case, then it is up to the Tories to prove to the Inspector that the land at Woodhouse Lane will not be sold for housing.  This would make the Lib Dems' plan not achievable and force them back to the drawing board.

Consultation on the Pre-Submission Draft of the Local Plan runs from 17th August to 12th October.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Lib Dem Leaflet Out of Date and Unreliable

Wildern Mill:  Derelict and Dangerous 
The Daily Echo reports on Wednesday that the proposed new development at the derelict Wildern Mill brown field site will bring 400 jobs and 50 new houses to Hedge End.

Don't forget that the news was here first on Hedge End Blogger:  Wildern Mill "Next" Step Leaves Lib Dems with a Dilemma on 31st July and Wildern Mill: Another U Turn in Prospect on 12th July.

Lib Dems Actually Out of Touch with New Plans
New jobs are welcome, although it is in the nature of retail employment that not all those jobs will be full time, and as the new Next store will be replacing the existing furniture warehouse, some jobs will inevitably be lost as well.

Local Lib Dems, with their reliance on paper newsletters, are struggling to keep up even with this not particularly fast-moving news story.  A "Standpoint" being delivered in Hedge End this week claims that "Eastleigh Borough Council's Local Plan for the area promotes employment use on the site, accessed only from Charles Watts Way".

Alas for Cllrs Keith House and Rupert Kyrle who are pictured claiming credit for these "new proposals", events have moved on, and the policy referred to has been removed from the latest version of the Local Plan, on which consultation is due to start on 17th August.

What we in fact have is a mixed-use proposal with access from both Charles Watts Way and Turnpike Way, which has originated from the landowners, and not the Lib Dems.

With the Lib Dem Standpoint out of date and unreliable, the current proposals can be seen at

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Local Plan Debate (1): Mayor Breaks Ranks

Cllr Kyrle said No but Cllr Welsh said Yes 
Lib Dem keeps election promise!

The only Hedge End councillor to oppose the Lib Dem bulldozer and vote against the Pre-Submission Draft of the Eastleigh Local Plan was the multi-tasking Hedge End Town Councillor, Botley Parish Councillor, Botley Borough Councillor, County Councillor, Head of Chris Huhne MP's Office and Mayor of Eastleigh,  Rupert Kyrle.

Unlike other "dual-hatted" Lib Dem town councillors who also represent Hamble, Bursledon (Cllr House), and West End (Cllrs Clarke and Tennent), parishes which are being asked to sacrifice less than their fair share of green fields to the developers, Cllr Kyrle's only elected power base is in Hedge End and Botley.

With County Council elections next year, it would have been suicidal for the Lib Dems to have the County Councillor for Botley and Hedge End vote in favour of 3,500 new houses in his patch. 

Rupert has spoken against the Plan on several occasions, but his voting against the Lib Dem majority at full council does raise the question why Hedge End's Borough Councillors did not take the opportunity to vote with him and keep their recent election promises.

Broken Election Promise 2011
Cllrs Jenny Hughes, Derek Pretty, Jane Welsh and Mick Wheatley have all been elected on promises to "Save our Countryside", and "Stand up Against more Building and Traffic" in the last two years, yet along with Cllr Peter Hughes, they dutifuly trooped in behind Lib Dem leader Keith House and fellow cabinet member Louise Bloom to vote for a plan which does just the opposite for Hedge End.

It was particularly irritating for Hedge End residents in the public gallery that a succession of Lib Dem councillors from Bursledon, Fair Oak, Horton Heath and  West End spoke praising the Plan which protects green fields in their areas from development but not a single Hedge End councillor spoke up for the green fields of Hedge End and Botley.

As both Botley councillors were allowed to break ranks and vote against the Lib Dems' plans, electors in Hedge End will be asking themselves why their councillors failed to join them and merrily voted in favour of more building and traffic in our area.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Sustrans: Supporting Cycling in Hedge End

But not all the way to Botley 
With approval by Hampshire County Council confirmed in the last week, work is likely to start "this year" on phase 1 of the long-awaited cycle link from Hedge End to Botley.  There is no outlook for when phase 2 will be completed so cyclists will still have to wait for a safe route all the way between the two centres.

With most of the funding provided back in March by cycling charity Sustrans and the Department of Transport, the wheels of local bureaucracy have turned as slowly as an olympic velodrome cyclist from a standing start.

A new, shiny cycle way will provide plenty of photo opportunities for candidates in next year's county elections, so what's the betting both Lib Dems and Conservatives take the credit?

A larger version of the map and other supporting documents are available on the Hampshire County Council web site.

Hedge End's Future: A Lib Dem Concrete Jungle (Part 2)

Unspoilt countryside at Woodhouse Lane 
Huge Housing Estates and Road Gridlock will be the most significant consequence of Lib Dem plans for housing in and around Hedge End, but what does the rest of the Borough Local Plan have in store for Hedge End?

Policy HE1 is concerned with the land to the West of Woodhouse Lane (opposite Hilliers Garden Centre).  Three quarters of the green fields will disappear under concrete for housing, "community facilities", a school (if the Education Authority thinks one is needed) and roads, effectively destroying the countryside gap between Hedge End and Botley.  The developers of the 1,000 houses to be built there will be expected to provide a financial contribution to road improvements.  Although the plan calls for footpath and cycle way links to the surrounding area, there is no protection for the existing right of way or permissive path that cross the site.

Road access to the new housing estates will be from Woodhouse Lane (which is also supposed to be "improved" as part of the indicative route for the Botley bypass), but a "bus-only" link will be provided to Maunsell Way.  It is not clear where this bus-only link will go if it is not to destroy existing footpaths and cycle ways, uproot more trees and hedgerows, or go through the grounds of Berrywood School.

The plan does call for the protection and enhancement of the stream and woodland corridor that meanders across the site and for landscaping and planting along the railway and Woodhouse Lane.

It anticipates that any future planning applications for those areas of Dowd's Farm that are not yet built should be in accordance with the development brief and provide appropriate open space and transport infrastructure (policy HE2).

Another hundred houses will be built on green fields between Foord Road and the motorway (policy HE3).

More green fields will go under policy HE4 which extends the office campus at Pavilion Road across to Woodhouse Lane, despite the wildlife interest present at the location.

Three remaining policies affect the narrow strip of land between the motorway and the A27 at Kanes Hill.  A wooded area will be developed for employment purposes (policy HE5) and a yard for travelling showpeople (policy HE6), and provision is made for a new cemetery (HE7).

Elsewhere in the plan routes are protected for new roads, including the Botley bypass / Woodhouse Lane widening, a new distributor road at Sunday's Hill, improvements to the motorway junctions, and a public transport priority route between Hedge End and Southampton (Strategic Policy S6).

The Council will "seek" to provide new cycleway and footpath links from Boorley Green to Hedge End station, from Botley to Southampton and from Eastleigh to Botley (Strategic Policy S7).

Consultation on the pre-submission draft starts on 17th August and goes on until 12th October, but don't expect the Lib Dems  to go out of their way to tell people.  The Council's web site still has the old, October 2011 version of the plan on its "Draft Local Plan Consultation" page, but the version agreed at Council can be found amongst the many papers presented to the special meeting of the Policy and Performance Scrutiny Panel.

Lib Dem Broken Promise 2011

Lib Dem Broken Promise 2012

Monday, 6 August 2012

Coalition Tiff Threatens Hedge End and Hamble Constituency

Nick Clegg has today announced the scrapping of the Lib Dems' plans to reform the House of Lords, blaming both David Cameron's failure to win over the 91 rebel Conservative backbenchers and, strangely, the Labour Party.  One of those Tory rebels was failed Hedge End Town Council candidate Conor Burns.

In a tit-for-tat revenge on his Tory partners, Clegg has told Cameron that his 57 MPs will no longer support the proposed boundary changes for the House of Commons which would have reduced the number of MPs to 600.  This despite a smaller House of Commons being a Lib Dem manifesto commitment.  The boundary changes would see Chris Huhne's Eastleigh constituency carved up, with some of the Eastleigh southern parishes moving to a new Hedge End and Hamble constituency.

In common with so much that the Lib Dems have proposed in coalition, the new constituency is an absolute dog's breakfast with wards from Southampton and Fareham with no geographical, historical, community or political affinity with Hedge End or Hamble stuck on to the edges to make the numbers work.  It is unlikely that anyone will mourn its passing if the Prime Minister fails to push the changes through without the help of his deputy.

Lib Dem activists (or at least those that are left after the recent slump in Lib Dem membership) must now be asking themselves what is the point of the coalition.  After embarrassing U turns on student tuition fees, nuclear power and nuclear weapons, and after meekly voting for Tory plans to dismantle the NHS and welfare state, they have had all their dreams of electoral reform thrown back in their faces.

Hedge End's Future - A Lib Dem Concrete Jungle (Part 1)

Countryside Doomed 
Huge Housing Estates and Road Gridlock are in store for Hedge End over the next twenty years as the Lib Dems bulldoze aside residents' concerns about the new Local Plan. 

Eastleigh Councillors have agreed by a whopping 37-5 majority to submit the latest version of the plan for a final consultation before it is submitted to a planning inspector for approval.  With a packed public gallery and presentations by residents of Hedge End, Bursledon, Botley and Eastleigh, all against the plan, the ruling Lib Dems turned their backs on local opposition and approved the third version of the plan.

What does it mean for Hedge End?

Above all, it means that Hedge End and Botley will be forced to accept more than their fair share of new housing, and will lose more than their fair share of green fields.

3487 houses out of a borough-wide total of 9613 (36%) will go up in Hedge End and Botley.  That compares with Hamble which will get only 80 houses, or less than one percent of the total.

If each household has two cars, each driving to and from work, that's another 14,000 daily car movements on our already overcrowded roads.  The Botley bypass and improvements to Woodhouse Lane are no longer required by the plan before the houses can be built.

A staggering 80% of the new housing in Hedge End and Botley will be on green field sites as our two parishes sacrifice more countryside than the rest of the Borough put together (2,800 houses on green fields here out of a total of 4,951).

.. and What does it mean for our neighbouring parishes?

Botley will see 1,400 houses built on the golf course at Boorley Green (policy B01) and 300 on fields between Winchester Street and the Railway line (policy B02).  The Botley bypass is no longer a prerequisite for these developments, but is reduced to a reserved "indicative" route (policy B03).  Restrictions are placed on any future development at Botley Mill (B04).

Bursledon will sacrifice green fields for 75 houses at Providence Hill (policy BU1), 155 north of the A27 and west of Blundell Lane (policy BU2) and 250 on the land east of Dodwell Land and north of Pylands Lane (policy BU3).   The added pressure from all the new housing in Botley and Hedge End will be too much for Sunday's Hill, and a new distributor road is proposed across green fields in policy BU4.  Boatyard expansion (policy BU5), restrictions on development in Old Bursledon (policy BU6) and provision of public open space (policy BU7) are also included.

In West End, green fields will go at Hatch Farm (80 houses, policy WE1) and Romill Close (60 houses, policy WE2).  Restrictions are placed on future change of use applications for the Chalcroft Distribution Park (policy WE3), criteria are defined for future sporting development at the Council's new asset, the Ageas (Rose) Bowl (policy WE4) and the door is opened for more commercial development at the Rose Bowl (policy WE5).  Land at the coach depot in Botley Road is allocated for housing (policy WE6).  Housing will be permitted on surplus land at Moorgreen Hospital (policy WE7).  Small scale residential development is proposed at Pinewood Park, Kanes Hill (policy WE8), and the Berrywood Business Park will be extended onto green fields off Tollbar Way.

Part Two of this blog will look at the Hedge End specific policies.

Consultation on the pre-submission draft starts on 17th August and goes on until 12th October, but don't expect the Lib Dems  to go out of their way to tell people.  The Council's web site still has the old, October 2011 version of the plan on its "Draft Local Plan Consultation" page, but the version agreed at Council can be found amongst the many papers presented to the special meeting of the Policy and Performance Scrutiny Panel.

Lib Dem Broken Promise 2011

Lib Dem Broken Promise 2012

Friday, 3 August 2012

Where Have All the Lib Dems Gone?

National and Local Decline 
National membership of the Lib Dems has fallen to below 49,000 (a slump of 25% in twelve months from 2010-2011).  In the same period, Labour membership has remained more or less static after a big increase in the previous year, and (although figures for actual Conservative membership are not available) the Tories report a drop in income from membership of 16%.

In the last two local elections, Hedge End and Eastleigh Lib Dems have bucked the national trend which has seen over a thousand Lib Dem councillors kicked out, and the lowest number of council seats in the party's history.

But Eastleigh Lib Dems are not immune to the drastic exodus of disillusioned members and betrayed activists.  According to its annual report filed with the Electoral Commission, they are losing members faster than the national party.  Between 2010 and 2011, 84 out of 297 local party loyalists voted with their feet, a collapse in membership of 28% compared with 25% nationally.

Lib Dem Dead Bird Graphic:

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Wildern Mill: "Next" step leaves Lib Dems with a Dilemma

Derelict Mill Buildings
As predicted in this blog, Lib Dem Eastleigh Council has changed its mind again.  The Wildern Mill brown field site has been removed from the latest version of the Borough Local Plan.

Originally expecting 184 flats to be built on it in accordance with an existing planning consent, the Council then decided to redesignate the location as "employment" land in the second draft of the plan.

The local plan process has now been overtaken by events with developers starting their own consultation process for a mixed-use development  on the land currently occupied by the derelict mill and a furniture store.  They propose a "Next" superstore with access from Charles Watts Way and a scaled-down residential development consisting mainly of houses with access from Turnpike Way.

Families in the neighbouring residential areas were invited to exhibitions to explain the plans on Saturday 21st and Monday 23rd July, but if you live a bit further afield or couldn't make either of the exhibitions, there is a detailed and informative web site at, which includes an opportunity to comment on the plans.  The consultation continues until 14th August.

The Saturday morning exhibition saw a steady procession of nearby residents taking advantage of the chance to quiz representatives of the landowners, consultants and Next.

The consensus among people I spoke to was generally positive, although there is some suspicion that the small block of flats (currently intended to be no more than 3-4 stories) shown on the plans might grow into something more significant when the final plans are submitted for planning permission.  After two applications for permission for high-rise flats at a density which would generate unacceptable increases in traffic on Turnpike Way, people are generally pleased to see that the new proposals are for about fifty houses in character with the neighbouring estates.  It is understandable, though, that some are reserving judgement until they see the final plans.

Some suggestions were made to improve the footpath and cycleway access to the new and existing stores in Charles Watts Way which seemed to have been positively received by the developers.  But the main sticking point for local residents is likely to be the access road to the new houses which is on a dangerous bend in Turnpike Way, opposite the existing access to the Turnpike Pavilion with its pre-school, playground, junior cricket, air cadets and other facilities for young and older people.

The dilemma facing our Lib Dem Borough Councillors when they consider the planning application (expected in September) is that the access road is already approved in the existing planning consent, and an expensive High Court battle has already been fought and lost on the issue of access over the land that the Council owns.   The Lib Dems are unlikely to have the stomach to re-open those debates, and Labour and Tories have criticised them for taking the battle as far as they did.

Alternative routes bring their own problems.  Access further west along Turnpike Way would damage the wooded strip of land which screens the residential development, and the Council has only just stated its intention to strengthen its protection by including it as part of a Priority Biodiversity Link in its new Biodiversity Action Plan.

Access to the North (via Charles Watts Way) is unlikely to be approved as it would mix residential and commercial traffic and bring its own issues of safety (as well as reducing the space available for the car park proposed for the new Next).

If the planning application is submitted in time, the next meeting of the Hedge End West End and Botley Local Area Committee is scheduled for 10th September.  Can the Lib Dems resolve their dilemma before then?

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Local Plan: Scrutinizing the Scrutineers

It's like reading War and Peace 
Four of Hedge End's seven Borough Councillors were present at Tuesday's hurriedly arranged special meeting of the Council's Policy and Performance Scrutiny Panel, convened to review the "Pre-Submission" Draft of the Local Plan , its background documentation and the consultation responses.

Cllr Jane Welsh is a member of the panel, Cllrs House and Bloom were present as cabinet members responsible for portfolios relevant to the agenda, and Cllr Pretty was in the public gallery along with thirteen other councillors.  

I was quite impressed by the number of off-duty councillors taking an interest in the committee until I learned that the Lib Dems were holding a private internal group meeting as soon as the scrutiny panel finished!  In fact some members of HEBAG and I were still discussing the outcome of the scrutiny panel when we were asked to leave the public gallery so the Lib Dems could get on with their meeting.)

Considering the plan will inform Borough planning policy for the next quarter of a century, some members of the public were surprised to learn that this was the first time some of the documents were to be discussed in a formal council meeting.  The panel members were asked to indicate by a show of hands that they had all read the documents - which run to about 900 pages, and some of which have only been available for six days. 

Unfortunately the committee chair declined the invitation on their behalf.

The public gallery were left to draw their own conclusions based on the individual councillors' contribution to the scrutiny. 

Four of the panel members did not speak at all, not a single question, not a single comment on any of the 900 pages of papers.

Three members asked one or two questions relating to policies in their own patch.

One member asked three or four questions of a general nature, but only one - Eastleigh South's Paul Bicknell - asked a sufficient number of questions on more than one document to give the impression that he had thoroughly read the papers under discussion.

It may be, of course, that the quieter members had in fact read all the papers and were genuinely content with them, but if they don't say so when they are scrutinizing them in public, what do they expect their voters to think?

Most of the panel's comments and questions related to the 200 pages of the Local Plan draft itself, and one or two concerned the hundred-plus page Transport Assessment.

No-one mentioned the 168-page Sustainability Appraisal Report, the 135-page Habitat Regulations Assessment or the nearly two hundred pages of feedback from the public consultations.  As a lot of the representations were from Eastleigh electors, it was disappointing that none of the elected councillors seemed to be interested in what they had said.

In fact the whole experience was disappointing:  two hours of questions being deflected either by council officers or cabinet members resulting in two fairly trivial recommendations: one to remove mention of the renovation of a pond in Bursledon and one to allow local scouts to keep using a stretch of the River Hamble for training purposes.  By concentrating on the detail, the panel seemed to lose any vision or scrutiny of the planning strategy as a whole.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Local Lib Dems - Too Little Too Late

Local Plan Debate Kicked into the Long Grass 
Hedge End Lib Dems have finally succeeded in delaying any local debate about the Eastleigh Draft Local Plan until it is too late.  At last week's meeting of Hedge End Town Council, none of the sixteen Lib Dems present would second my motions to discuss the defence of wildlife at Bottom Copse against development or a more suitable location for a site for travelling show people.

The new chair of the Town Council has promised that a special meeting in September of the Highways and Planning Committee will discuss the Draft Local Plan and the Town Council's response to it.   But as a member of Eastleigh's cabinet, Cllr Bloom is well aware that this week's full meeting of Eastleigh Borough Council is voting on the version of the plan which will be submitted to the Government for approval, after which no major changes will be tolerated.  In fact the Lib Dem leadership is so keen to rush through the decisions this month, that they have had to bring forward a hurriedly-arranged special meeting of the Council's one remaining scrutiny panel to review the Plan before it goes to cabinet and full council on Thursday.

Chandlers Ford Parish Council, which has only been in existence for two years, has had the self-confidence and sense of duty to its local parishioners to stand up against the Borough's plans.  Yet Hedge End Town Council with over a hundred years of history and tradition has been choked and stifled by Lib Dem party discipline and the dominance of senior Lib Dem Borough Councillors who hold most of the positions of power in the Town Council.

Lib Dem Town Council "Trivial"

One of the many disappointed Hedge End residents who came to last Wednesday's meeting hoping to see some serious debate on issues of vital importance to local people has emailed me this response:

"Thanks for all your help and your efforts at the recent HETC - we were there and thought it was a sham.

It's not the first time we've thought this of a TC meeting and not surprised that few people come

along - the councillors seem more interested in talking about their own exploits and on 'trivial' matters than on critical decision impacting the community -  guess they don't want the conflict?

Where Have All the Lib Dems Gone?

Local Lib Dems certainly don't give the impression that they want to make informed decisions when they do finally consent to debating the Local Plan.

Eastleigh planning officers gave up their Monday evening this week for a seminar at the Civic Offices to explain the current status of the Local Plan and the next steps.  This seminar was open to all Borough and Town Councillors, but attendance by Hedge End Lib Dems was frankly pitiful. 

Only one of our seven Borough Councillors was there - Cllr Peter Hughes.

And apart from three dual-hatted councillors, Botley's Cllr Rupert Kyrle, and West End Cllrs Bruce Tennent and Dan Clarke, I was the only Town Councillor there.

Only 20% of Hedge End's elected Lib Dems think the Draft Local Plan of sufficient importance to give up two hours on a Monday evening to inform themselves about it. 

Broken Promises

Perhaps they are too embarrassed by their broken election promises to stand up for our countryside and oppose more building and traffic in Botley and Hedge End.

Broken Election Promise 2011

Broken Election Promise 2012

Saturday, 21 July 2012

A Lifeline for Wildlife?

Hedge End's Priority Biodiversity Links   
Eastleigh's Lib Dem cabinet last week agreed a new draft biodiversity action plan for the Borough.  For the first time it recognises the importance of wildlife corridors in linking together high value biodiversity habitats.  In an era of climatic uncertainty it is vital that species have routes along which they can migrate to new habitats if forced out by climate change.

Unsurprisingly for an area that continues to be a Lib Dem target for large scale housing and commercial development, Hedge End does not have any "priority biodiversity areas" (PBA), but it does have three "priority biodiversity links" (PBL) which - according to the action plan - should be enhanced.

Hedge End's  PBLs are the motorway and railway corridors and a more meandering link named the "Wildern Priority Biodiversity Link".  Starting at the M27 Junction 7, it has one leg which follows the "heavily modified" urban stream through Hogsty Copse and along Turnpike Way, which it crosses via a culvert at the "superstore" footpath.  It continues through Wildern Nature Park, crossing Wildern Lane just south of the school.  It then follows the boundary of the school playing fields, crosses Grange Road, passes through the grounds of the hotel and into the Lib Dems' preferred strategic housing development area west of Woodhouse Lane where it joins up with the second leg which has taken a bendy course from the railway line through what is at the moment agricultural countryside, but is doomed to disappear under tarmac and concrete.  The BPL then continues through Bottom Copse, across Woodhouse Lane and on through Botley Parish where it connects with the upper reaches of the Hamble Estuary PBA.

The document acknowledges that the link is and will be constrained by development along much of its length, but it does give some recognition to local wildlife habitats including rivers, meadows and fen, floodplain grazing marsh, grass and rush pastures, hedgerows, and woodland, all of which - it says - have potential for restoration.

Watering Down

Sadly it coincides with a watering down of the Council's commitment to work to "protect, conserve and enhance networks of natural habitats and features, including watercourses and trees and hedgerows important to biodiversity and local character" in the Draft Local Plan.  The latest version merely requires the Council to "have regard to opportunities to protect and enhance the Priority Biodiversity Links set out in the Council's Biodiversity Action Plan".

A glance at the map shows that the Wildern PBL divides the area designated for housing West of Woodhouse Lane into two unequal parts (one looking west to the existing Grange Park estates, and one looking east towards Woodhouse Lane), which is going to make things more difficult for future developers.  It will be interesting to see if council planners and Borough councillors are capable of keeping their own wildlife links intact in the face of pressure from those developers.

The full Biodiversity Action Plan can be read on the Council's web site.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Standing Up For Our Wildlife

Threatened Fields Next to Bottom Copse 
Hedge End Town Council has a chance on Wednesday to stand up for our wildlife and fast-disappearing countryside.

The amended version of the Borough Council's Draft Local Plan includes a new site for an industrial or business estate right up to the edge of Bottom Copse in Woodhouse Lane.  I have already blogged about the presence of grass snakes in the fields that would disappear under tarmac and concrete under the Lib Dems' plans.

I have a motion for discussion at full council this week, calling on the Town Council to oppose the Borough's plans for one of the last bits of countryside in Hedge End.  The Town Council is the custodian of Bottom Copse, which is a designated Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC).

Combined with the plans for a huge housing estate to the north of the copse, an industrial estate to the south will inevitably change the nature of the SINC, making it less attractive as a habitat and wildlife corridor, especially to large mammals and birds of prey.

It will also be more at risk of disturbance, incursion and pollution.

The Draft Local Plan policy on biodiversity calls for the protection, conservation and enhancement  of areas subject to international, European, national, and local nature conservation designations.

It is hard to see how having an industrial estate on its doorstop will enhance this particular area.

Plans for Travelling Showpeople

Also on the agenda is my motion that the Borough's proposed site for travelling showpeople off Kanes Hill is not appropriate and would be better planned as part of the new housing and recreational development off Woodhouse Lane.

See also: Green Fields: Further Lib Dem Raids

Thursday, 12 July 2012

"Party in the Park" Cancelled

Greta Park after the Fun Fair Left 
Hedge End's first all day music festival, due to take place on 21st July has been cancelled, the Town Council has been informed.

The reason is not the damage caused to Greta Park by the last week's Carnival traffic, but - according to a letter from the organisers reported to last night's meeting of the Recreation and Amenities Committee - difficulties in obtaining the necessary temporary event license from the Borough Council.

The organisers are hoping to come back with another date for the Party in the Park, but the cancellation of the 21st July date is probably a good thing considering the condition of the waterlogged ground at the moment. 

Hedge End's carnival went ahead on 7th July as planned despite torrential rain, as other local events, including Southampton's Mela, were cancelled due to the weather and conditions underfoot.

The carnival procession did not drive on to Greta Park for the traditional end of its parade through the streets of Hedge End, but heavy vehicles associated with the Fun Fair and Gala Show were already on the grass, and it is as they have left that most of the damage seems to have been caused. 

The Town Council Stand Before the Rain Really Started
Hedge End Town Council had a stall at the Carnival for the first time, set up and crewed by Cllr Allingham and myself with assistance and moral support at various times from Cllrs Pretty, Houghton, Clarke, Welsh, Tennent and Kyrle.  Although weather conditions this year did not encourage those carnival-goers who ventured onto Greta Park for the Gala Show to stop and chat, we would like to make a Town Council presence at the Carnival, and possibly other events, a regular occurrence.  It's a great way to advertise what the Town Council is doing for the community and to get feedback and ideas from the people of Hedge End who ultimately pay for it.

Wildern Mill: Another U Turn in Prospect?

Derelict Mill Buildings 
As reported by Hedge End Blogger in May, Lib Dem Eastleigh Council appeared to have changed its mind about Hedge End's most eligible brown field site.  Originally assuming that the owners would go ahead with their existing planning consent for 184 flats, amendments to the Local Plan published for consultation in June re-designated the site for "employment" purposes, that is research and development, studios, high technology, laboratories, light industry, general industry, wholesale warehouses, distribution centres or repositories (but not retail).  As a consequence more green fields were to be sacrificed for housing between Hedge End and Bursledon.

New Proposals

The Lib Dem master plan has been thrown into confusion as households living near Wildern Mill have received a letter from a firm of planning consultants announcing "proposals for mixed-use retail and residential development".

It goes on to promise "a comprehensive scheme, delivering greater employment and more prestigious retail development as well as a vastly improved, lower density, primarily house-based residential offer", and invites local residents and businesses to a couple of public exhibitions to be held at the Turnpike Pavilion on Saturday 21st July (9:00am-12:00) and Monday 23rd July (4:30pm-8:00).

Town Councillors will be briefed on the exhibition next week, and the consultants are apparently already talking to Eastleigh Borough planning officers and councillors.

Pros and Cons

Although it is obvious that the best possible use should be made of this brown field location,  the proposals do not appear to be without possible controversy.

We have to assume that Eastleigh do not want any more retail development (otherwise they would have included retail in the permitted uses proposed in the Local Plan amendments).  There are already plenty of large retail warehouses and supermarkets in Hedge End, and smaller units would be setting themselves up in competition with existing shops in the village centre.

The existing plans for 184 flats were unpopular because they were out of character with the surrounding housing developments and squeezing that number of units into the available space would generate major problems with the existing infrastructure and roads.  A "lower density offer" sounds better, but I wonder what is meant by "primarily house-based"?

We will have to wait a few days to start to get the answers to these questions and concerns, but what is certain is that the Lib Dems' Local Plan will need to be rewritten yet again, if these proposals are to go ahead.  And that could be good if it means some of the threatened green fields could be saved.