Thursday, 23 February 2012

Crime Figures Point Downwards

Sign points downwards too 
High profile police initiatives are having a positive impact on crime in Hedge End according to a report to this month's Town Council meeting.

Overall crime in the area is down 21%.

Vehicle crime is down 44%.

Violent crime is down 7%.

Criminal damage is down 41%.

The local detection rate is 38% compared to a Hampshire Police Service guideline of 25%.

These improvements are attributed to proactive policing projects such as Operation Nemesis, which has been concentrating on known burglars across Hampshire.

In his report Sgt Mark O'Hanlon reassured councillors and members of the public that the lighter evenings will see renewed attention to antisocial car use in Hedge End's retail parks, and that the Safer Neighbourhoods Team will be holding more surgeries at the library and Sainsbury / Marks and Spencer.  Dates and times will be posted on the Hampshire Constabulary web site.

Responding to a question about the imminent closure of the front desk at Hedge End police station, Sgt O'Hanlon informed councillors that a contact pad at the door would connect directly with the control room in the case of emergency, and if an officer was in the station, they would be notified.  It will be made easier to contact the local police team online if it is not an emergency, and the police will be making home visits to local residents who are "regulars" at the station.  The station will continue to be operational and staffed, it will just no longer be possible to turn up without an appointment and speak to somebody on the desk (something that was relatively uncommon in any case).

Other questions referred to speeding in Maunsell Way, obstructive parking in Woodhouse Lane, antisocial behaviour in Stubbs Drove / Willow Close.

Hedge End Police are now on Twitter and can be contacted by email at

The Hampshire Police Authority announced earlier this month that the policing component of council tax for 2012/13 will be frozen at last year's level.  Despite qualifying for a central government grant of £3 million to compensate for the frozen council tax, the Police Authority will still have to find £20 million in savings.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Introducing .. Your UKIP Candidate

Michale O'Donoghue - Candidate on 1st March   
As promised last week, three of the four candidates in the Shamblehurst Ward by-election on March 1st have agreed to speak to the voters through the pages of Hedge End Blogger.  They have all been asked the same four fairly simple questions and have been invited to make a short statement.  I'd like to thank them all for taking the time to do this and having the imagination to realise that the internet is a valid vehicle for electioneering.

Michale O'Donoghue is standing for UKIP and has provided the following statement:

My name is Michale O’Donoghue and I am standing for the Parish Council By Election for the Shamblehurst Ward of Hedge End on 1st March 2012 on behalf of the U.K.Independence Party. I have lived in Hedge End for just over 20 years and currently run my own office stationery supplies business providing office products to businesses, schools, colleges, and health centres.

The reason for standing is threefold.

Firstly – over the past few years – the residents of Hedge End have rarely had a choice at local elections where parties other than the Liberal Democrats fail to field any candidates. The result is that the Liberal Democrats are returned unopposed – no election is held – and that cannot be good for democracy. Indeed – the Parish election of 2011 for the Shamblehurst Ward never happened as there were 3 candidates for 3 vacancies – all Liberal Democrats. It is therefore encouraging to see on this occasion a 4 way battle demonstrating renewed interest in local politics.

Secondly – I was always taught that whilst it is easy to be critical – it is better to be proactive by becoming involved. Hedge End has developed massively in the time I have lived here and the Council by virtue of being almost a single party Council would benefit from new ideas from alternative viewpoints. To the Council I would bring experience of business management from my current role - providing a reasoned argument for or against vanity proposals.

Thirdly – it is more important that we all recognize that Europe as a political basket case is intruding more and more into all our lives – making judgements by unelected commissioners enforceable despite the wishes of our own democratically elected politicians. We see at a national level high risk foreigners being unable to be deported because of “Human Rights”. These people have to be housed somewhere – and Hedge End is a possible somewhere. We see our money being used to support Foreign Aid in countries with a greater wealth than ours – whilst our own people are struggling with high living costs. As a member of UKIP – I am a traditional old school Tory. Trade with Europe Yes – Be controlled politically by Europe – No.

I hope the Shamblehurst Electorate will allow me the opportunity of representing them on Hedge End Council – and will be pleased to answer any questions by Phone to 07760 778130 or email to

Introducing .. Your Conservative Candidate

Paul Redding - Candidate on 1st March
As promised last week, three of the four candidates in the Shamblehurst Ward by-election on March 1st have agreed to speak to the voters through the pages of Hedge End Blogger.  They have all been asked the same four fairly simple questions and have been invited to make a short statement.  I'd like to thank them all for taking the time to do this and having the imagination to realise that the internet is a valid vehicle for electioneering.

Paul Redding is standing for the Conservatives and has provided the following answers to Hedge End Blogger's questions:

1. What do you think of the way that Hedge End has changed and developed in recent years?

Hedge End has grown and developed in recent years. A huge increase in population due to housing development has taken Hedge End from a small village into a Town. Not only are there more houses but there are retail parks, office parks, new schools and more public amenity facilities. I believe that this growth has been sustainable; the old and new seem to co-exist very well, however, even more housing development could erode Hedge End’s identity. Many of the local people I talk to do not want to see more large-scale development. They want to retain the strategic gaps between our communities and protect our green open spaces for future generations to enjoy. They do not want to see Hedge End merge into a larger conurbation of urban sprawl and neither do I.

2. How would you like to see it change and develop in the future?

Lib-Dem-controlled Eastleigh Borough Council is planning to build 9,400 houses in the borough. Whilst some housing is needed, overdevelopment would be catastrophic for the Hedge End community. I am opposing the build of 1,000 houses in woodhouse Lane (a green field area).

I am also opposed to the Borough Council’s plans to build 4,700 of the 9,400 homes planned on Greenfield sites including 1,000 houses at Woodhouse Lane. An increase of 9,400 houses across the borough will affect us all and could alter the character of our areas forever.

I believe that new housing should be built on brownfield sites where possible and that any new development must be sustainable; the necessary infrastructure (school, roads, healthcare services, employment, sewerage systems etc.) must be in place BEFORE the homes are built.

Hedge End has a strong community spirit and demand for new facilities will change in the coming years to cater for both an increasingly older population and new young families. Some of the ideas I’ve heard from people include:

  • Multiscreen Cinema
  • Bingo Hall
  • Night Club
  • Tenpin Bowling Alley
  • Sports Complex
New facilities will create jobs for local people and enhance the local economy.

3. What qualities and experience will you bring to the Town Council?

I would bring the ability to listen and communicate at all levels. People tell me that I have an ability to look at issues objectively and from every angle. I have already helped a number of people and ran a successful campaign on behalf of residents against inappropriate development in the area I used to live in. In fact that was when I first realised what can be achieved by local people when they get involved in local issues. Of course, I am a Conservative who believes that local decisions should be taken at a local level; by local people, for local people. To be elected to the Town Council as a Conservative would start to redress the political imbalance which currently exists and I will be determined to ensure that real debate and democracy prevails on the Town Council and that the Council is seen to be accountable for the decisions it makes.

 4. What would your priorities be for Hedge End and Shamblehurst ward in particular?

Well, it’s not really about my priorities; it’s more about your priorities. If elected, my duty as a Town Councillor will be to represent your views and pursue your priorities. Having said that, as a local resident and having listened to local people, I would say that helping to set up no cold calling zones in the area would make a real difference to many residents. Like many parts of Hedge End, introducing measures to curb inconsiderate driving and parking will also be a priority. Above all, I want to see your taxes spent as wisely as possible, not frittered away on schemes you neither need nor want.

5. Is there anything else you would like to say to your potential voters? 

The balance of power and decision-making across both the Town and Borough Councils is dominated by one political party the (Liberal Democrats). That is not healthy! True Democracy does not currently exist because of this; you can change that by voting for me on March 1st (you do not need your polling card to vote). My InTouch leaflet will be delivered to you soon expressing more good reasons why you should tick the box for Paul Redding. Please feel free to get in touch with any concerns you may have and let me know of any ways I can help.

If you have already used a postal vote to vote for me, may I thank you for your belief in me. I promise to serve you to the fullest of my ability should I be elected.

Tel: 01489 783715

Paul has also sent a copy of his election leaflet which you can read here.

Introducing .. Your Independent Candidate

Ray Turner - candidate on 1st March 
As promised last week, three of the four candidates in the Shamblehurst Ward by-election on March 1st have agreed to speak to the voters through the pages of Hedge End Blogger.  They have all been asked the same four fairly simple questions and have been invited to make a short statement.  I'd like to thank them all for taking the time to do this and having the imagination to realise that the internet is a valid vehicle for electioneering.

Ray Turner is standing as an Independent and has provided the following answers to Hedge End Blogger's questions:

1. What do you think of the way that Hedge End has changed and developed in recent years? 

I saw Grange Park being built and thought at the time that it was completely out of character with the centre of Hedge End and that parts of it were too densely packed. Subsequent developments have been even more more dense and more out of character. The problem is that when people are living too closely together, social problems can arise. Our planners don't seem to take that into consideration. Developers are too concerned with profit and don't think sufficiently about social issues. We're not building Tower blocks any more, thank goodness, but we are introducing a similar problem by building too densely.

2. How would you like to see it change and develop in the future?

I would like to see Hedge End stabilise and mature into a well-managed Town with a clear identity and a strong community that everybody, from all corners of Hedge End, is willing to participate in. Stability isn't likely to happen in the near future, because there is still pressure to build more houses and roads, but we can make a start on developing our identity and strengthening the community. Encouraging more residents to attend Town Council meetings and/or be prepared to stand for election to the Town Council would be a good first step.

3. What qualities and experience will you bring to the Town Council?

I have worked in the Civil Service previously, for over 20 years, and thus have plenty of experience of working in teams, participating in meetings and chairing them. I left the Civil Service after a period of stress-related depression, caused (frankly) by some very bad management. I  understand those problems only too well and I am acutely aware of how issues that seem trivial to some can trigger serious problems for other people. I also think that is a very good experience to have had. It will be very relevant, for instance, when dealing with antisocial behaviour issues in Hedge End.

I have previously been unemployed for a period of nearly two years, not qualifying for any benefits and having to live off my savings, so I know how difficult life can be if you find yourself in that situation. Once again, it was hard at the time but good experience to have had. Now semi-retired (in theory) I work as a parts-delivery driver, working 47 hours a week on the minimum wage and I still don't qualify for any benefits or tax credits. I therefore know exactly what it is like to be in a low paid job, working hard but not getting the rewards, exploited, struggling to stretch the inadequate money to the end of the month, only to find that the Council Tax bill is going up again next year...

 4. What would your priorities be for Hedge End and Shamblehurst ward in particular?

As an independent candidate, I am looking to be returned to the opposition on Hedge End Town Council. It would thus be completely unrealistic for me to promise to change anything, as I will not be in a position to do so. For instance, I would like to be able to promise to move the Recycling Centre, but I'm not going to be in a position to deliver that. After this election, the Lib Dems will still have a very large majority on the Town Council and what happens in Hedge End will be down to the way that they vote, or are persuaded to vote, in Council meetings.

What I can promise to do though, and it is my absolute top priority, is to interact with the people of Hedge End and espescially the residents of Shamblehurst ward, to learn about the issues that you are concerned about, make sure they are raised in Town Council Meetings and do my best to obtain a satisfactory solution by arguing the case and working constructively, in a non-partisan way, with the people who hold the real power on the Town Council.

5. Is there anything else you would like to say to your potential voters?

I have never been a member of a political party. Being independent allows me to support what I think is appropriate, whatever the source of the idea. My observation is that none of the parties have the monopoly on being right, despite their grand claims and partisan attitudes. There are ideas from each of the main parties that I can agree with. I do not support any specific ideology and I certainly do not want to be in a position where I am required to promote policies that I don't believe in, or be expected to defend the indefensible. Being independent is a much better place to be.

Raymond has also sent a copy of his election leaflet which you can read here.

Cricket Fans to Subsidise Council Tax

Rose Bowl: Cash Cow or White Elephant? 
Debate rumbles on  - mainly in the letters page of The Echo -   about Eastleigh Borough Council's controversial December decision to purchase the Rose Bowl in West End.  Ex West End Councillor Martin Kyrle has been defending the Lib Dems' position, provoking a response from West End residents who would like to see Council Leader and Hedge End Councillor Keith House come to the crease himself to answer questions about the bail-out.

Trying to cut through all the bluster and short-pitched bowling from hotel owners who are worried about competition, and political parties who will oppose it just because the Lib Dems are proposing it, the kernel of fact is that the Council will borrow money at a certain rate of interest to buy a piece of real estate which they can lease to a cricket club at a rent higher than the interest on their loan.  The surplus will go towards financing council services, filling part of the funding gap caused by the Lib Dem's long term policy of keeping council tax increases below inflation.

What's not to like?  Cricket fans, golfers and people who like expensive spa hotels will in effect be helping to keep Eastleigh's council tax down and services running.  In common with other councils, Eastleigh already manages a property portfolio, admittedly on a smaller, less spectacular scale.  The Rose Bowl deal is an ambitious extension of something the Council has already shown that it is competent to do.

The Council will not be spending taxpayers' money in any real sense, because the money will have to be borrowed, and they can only borrow for projects that have a positive business case.  As long as the income line remains higher than the expenditure line, then the council tax payers of Eastleigh will not be subsidising the Rose Bowl.

That said, it is a bail-out despite the protestations of some Lib Dem Councillors that it is not.  But it is a bail-out that benefits both parties.  The Rose Bowl gets to proceed with its amibitious plans for Hampshire, and the Council gets both the financial surplus and the harder to quantify benefits to the local economy.

Rose Bowl Boss Leaves

Council had already agreed in 2009 to borrow in order to finance the building of the Rose Bowl hotel.  The implementation of that decision was delayed by a judicial review instigated by rival hoteliers, leading to a review of the business case and a repeat of the extensive due diligence process which involved consultation with a dozen legal and commercial experts.  In the intervening two years some of the risks involved in the project have come into focus: the UK economy with George Osborne and Danny Alexander at the helm looks decidedly shaky, and the plans of Rose Bowl plc have taken blows with both the failure to secure an Australia test match and relegation to the second division.  It has now been reported that their MD for the last six years has left.

Nine Lib Dem councillors were absent for December's debate - including three of Hedge End's seven representatives - and  the debate and voting split on party lines.  All councillors will have read the same reports and documents and attended the same briefings and seminars, but all the Conservatives decided to oppose the purchase and only the Lib Dems supported it.   Unless those absentee Lib Dems were dissenters kept away from the debate to preserve party unity...

Was Report "Sexed Up"? 

Independent Cllr Glynn Davies-Dear accused the administration of "sexing up" the Rose Bowl report by inflating the likely new jobs to be generated by the project.  He claimed that a newly built, similarly sized, hotel in Reading was only employing 70 people, not the 500 hoped for in West End. 

He may well prove to be correct, but even 70 jobs are not to be sniffed at as the UK lurches towards three million unemployed under the Conservative / Lib Dem Coalition, and the number of jobs is not critical to the business case.  The important thing, as pointed out in the conclusion of the report, and alluded to by the Conservative Leader, Cllr Godfrey Olson, is:  "This is not a risk free project and Members do need to understand and consider the risks involved."

A succcession of Lib Dem councillors got to their feet on 15th December to state that "the benefits outweigh the risks".  When so many come out with exactly the same wording it looks likely that that is the party line, the sound bite that the leadership wanted to be reported.  Parroting the words dictated by their leader, those councillors did not convince that they had themselves, personally, considered and understood the risks.

Luckily for Hedge End, we have the chance to question our borough councillors at the town council meeting each month and Cllr Louise Bloom subsequently made clear that owning the ground is fundamental to managing the risks that might impact the income stream from the Rose Bowl.

2000 Houses?

Councillors have not been explicit on how ownership of the land would provide a plan B in the event of the income stream failing.  Presumably the Council would have to sell it and use the revenue to pay off what is left of the loan to avoid a massive and unsustainable increase in Council Tax.

It's easy to see that the Council could grant planning permission for 2000 or so houses on the 167 acre site and more than recoup any losses by selling it as building land, thus digging itself out of a financial hole and coincidentally relieving pressure on green field sites in the Hedge End and Botley countryside.   It would require a major change to the Lib Dems' Local Plan, though, as currently it only allows for five hundred new houses to be built in West End between now and 2029 (compared to nearly 4,000 in Hedge End and Botley).

Nobody wants Rose Bowl plc to fail and the Hampshire cricket team to be made homeless, but the question remains: In the worst case scenario, would the Council have the ruthlessness and courage to carry out its plan B? 

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Sponsored Roundabout Winter Colour

This roundabout at the junction of Tollbar Way and Charles Watts Way is looking particularly splendid in the winter sunshine at the moment.  Thank you to Eastleigh Borough Council and the local businesses that sponsor it for bringing a bit of cheering colour to the area.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Fancy a Facelift for your Road?

Cracked and Damaged Road Surface 
Residents in Shamblehurst Ward are currently seeing one of the advantages of a by-election which the ruling Lib Dems are desperate not to lose (judging by the number of leaflets they are delivering). 

Moss Covered Pavement
Grass and Weeds Growing in Gutter
The by-election in Shamblehurst was formally called on 26th January, and at the very next meeting of the Lib Dem cabinet, they agreed to open the corporate coffers to fund a £130,000 facelift for Grange Park Mobile Homes.

It's a rotten coincidence that makes a planned and necessary improvement project look like a piece of blatant electioneering.

Blocked Drain 
New Vacancy on Town Council

People living in another part of Hedge End might want to consider if a by-election in their ward might bring a similar coincidence and facelift to their roads, as a vacancy has been announced for the Town Council Ward of St Helen's, following the death of a sitting councillor.

Damaged Grass Verge 
Broken Utility Cover
If ten people who live in that ward petition the Returning Officer at Eastleigh Borough Council, a by-election will be called to fill the vacancy.  Alternatively the Town Council has the power to co-opt a new member until the next planned elections in 2015.

If a by-election happens, it will take place on the same day as the Borough Council elections in May 2012.

Neglected Roads and Pavements

As these photos (all taken this week in St Helen's Ward) show, there are plenty of opportunities to improve the condition of the roads and pavements.  In fact it makes you wonder what "Team Lib Dem" actually get up to between elections and leaflet deliveries.

Rough and Uneven Pavement
If there is a similar, or worse, example of pavement or road neglect near where you live, send me a photo (, including the road where taken, and I will add it to the Hall of Shame.

St Helen's Ward

Broken Kerbstone
You can send me a photo from anywhere in Hedge End, but only people who are on the electoral register for the ward of St Helen's can call for a by-election.  St Helen's is the south-eastern part of Hedge End.  Its boundaries are St John's Road, Freegrounds Road, Tanhouse Lane and Heathouse Lane and it includes Bursledon Road, St Helen's Road, Cranbourne Park, Woodstock Close, Yardley Road, Sherwood Avenue and Tanhouse Close.  

There is a map showing all of Hedge End's electoral wards on the Town Council web site.
Sunken Utility Cover

Neglected Utility Cover

Damaged Kerb

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Lib Dems 1 Countryside 0

Meadow soon to be a car park 
Despite the resolute opposition of local Hedge End Councillors, led by Cllr Derek Pretty (Grange Park), Eastleigh's Lib Dem cabinet has voted in favour of a car park and against a wildflower meadow at Hedge End station.

Although not a cabinet member, Cllr Pretty spoke against the scheme at the cabinet meeting on 9th February before rushing back to Hedge End to chair that evening's meeting of the Town Council's Finance and Administration Committee.  His ward colleague Cllr Louise Bloom, who is a cabinet member, voted against and requested her opposition be recorded in the minutes. 

Unfortunately for the nearby residents who will now have a noisy car park at the bottom of their gardens, and for the wildflowers and biodiversity of Hedge End, the trusty Lib Dem loyalist bulldozer came out of the garage to brush their objections aside and proceed with the next phase of the project.

At Wednesday's meeting of Hedge End Town Council, Cllr Pretty declared that he was "disappointed" in the outcome.  Cllr Bloom pointed out that the Local Area Committee will have another chance to vote on this when the Council applies to itself for planning permission. 

It will be interesting to see how Hedge End Town Council responds to that planning application when it is consulted.

Lib Dem election promise to stand up against more traffic

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Councillor Puts Town Before Borough

Which Hat to Wear? 
Hedge End Town Councillor Rupert Kyrle is also Chair of the Borough's Local Area Committee, a parish councillor in Botley and County Councillor for the Botley and Hedge End division, so he has a lot on his plate and a lot of demands on his time.

When the Chair of Hedge End Town Council announced last month that the Annual Parish Assembly for Hedge End would take place on 12th March, Rupert was worried.  There was a planned private meeting of Borough Councillors in his diary for that day.  This meant that a total of nine dual-hatted town councillors would have to choose between town council and borough council duties, a situation that has caused problems recently as reported in Eastleigh News.

Rupert himself has been very keen to attend the parish assembly in recent years, to report in person to the people of Hedge End what the LAC has been up to in the last twelve months, and this conflict would also affect the Chair and Vice Chair of the Town Council, and four of the five committee chairs, all of whom serve on both Borough and Town Councils.

It was therefore good news for them all when it was announced at January's Local Area Committee that the Borough meeting would be postponed for a week, enabling all borough councillors to attend the Hedge End parish assembly after all.

The Annual Parish Assembly is not a meeting of the Town Council, but a meeting for the whole parish of Hedge End, organised by the Town Council.  It is a statutory requirement to hold this meeting between March and May each year, and it offers a chance for the Council to report back to its parishioners and for those parishioners to ask questions and feed back on the Council's performance.  In recent years Hedge End has also used the event to present its "Serving the Community" awards, although last year attendance was low as I reported here.

Picture credit: Eric Bouliane

Monday, 13 February 2012

Diamond Jubilee

Racehorse named for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee 
Diamond Jubilee, the racehorse named to mark the only previous occasion one of our monarchs  reached the 60 year milestone, was the leading colt of his generation, winning five races in the 1900 season before being exported to stud in Argentina.

It is unlikely that Hedge End Town Council will name a racehorse to celebrate the 2012 jubilee, but the Community and Culture Committee meets on Tuesday to discuss a rather more realistic way to mark the anniversary.  It will consider the merits of working in partnership with the Hedge End Carnival Committee to stage a Jubilee Street Party with funding from the Town Council's coffers.

In what looks to be a busy evening, the committee will also discuss the Hedge End Festival at the Berry Theatre, a Hedge End calendar for 2013, twinning with Möckmühl, and the provision of grants to local organisations.

The meeting starts at 7:00pm in the 2000 Centre, and is open to the public.  The official agenda is on the Town Council's web site here.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Shamblehurst By-Election Goes Digital

Democracy in Hedge End is starting to embrace the internet!  Three of the four candidates in the March 1st by-election have agreed to answer a short questionnaire and provide a short online election address to Hedge End Blogger.

The questions are intended to reveal something about the candidates themselves and what they think they can bring to the Town Council, and what they think about Hedge End and its future.

I hope to have responses from the three candidates by the end of the week.   In fact, I am hoping that there will be a change of mind on the part of the only candidate who has declined my invitation so far, and that all four will have agreed to participate by the end of the week. 

The four candidates are (in alphabetical order of first name for a change):

Michale Steven O'Donoghue of Melbourne Gardens (UKIP)

Paul Redding of Newcliffe Gardens (Conservative Party)

Raymond Ronald Turner of Newcliffe Gardens (Independent)

Richard Sean Effeny of Walker Gardens (Liberal Democrat)

Previous posts on this subject are: "By-Election Looms" and "Shamblehurst By-Election Date Set"

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Is Lily Laburnum Still Safe?

Borough Council Refused to Protect These Trees 
A number of Hedge End people have asked me recently what is happening about plans to convert this green space outside the Village Hall to a children's play area.  In June last year, the Town Council agreed with my resolution to protect the attractive laburnum tree, named Lily by campaigners, from felling and urged the Village Hall Management Committee and Pre-School to find a solution for their children which does not involve killing mature trees.

In the meantime local campaigners have been disappointed that Eastleigh Borough Council did not see fit to confirm a tree preservation order which would have given Lily a degree of formal protection.   Campaigners in favour of the tree are now understandably concerned that public opinion is once again the only defence against the original plans to cut Lily down.  Communities across the country are planting trees to celebrate the Royal Jubilee.  It would be tragic if Hedge End was to go the other way and cut down a tree in Jubilee year.

Clarification is needed, and I have asked for an update at Thursday's Finance and Administration Committee.

The committee will also approve the Town Council's monthly expenditure, receive an update on the new storage building for grounds maintenance equipment at Pavilion Road, and discuss leasing arrangements with the St Luke's Pharmacy.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Yobs to Close Short Cut?

Antisocial behaviour by late night pedestrians using the unofficial short cut between Stubbs Drove and Willow Close and Aspen Close has brought local residents to the end of their tether.  They came to the Town Council last year asking for help in restoring tranquillity to this area of Hedge End.

The Council has been consulting people who live in the area, and some who use the cut, and representatives of both parties have come to meetings to make their case.  Discussions with the County Rights of Way Officer have led to the suggestion that the Town Council put a fence and gate on the land they own to the south of Stubbs Drove.  The gate would be open during the hours of daylight, but in the dark even law-abiding pedestrians going about their legitimate business would have to go the long way round. 

A report on the latest consultation will be presented to the Recreation and Amenities Committee on Wednesday 8th February. 

Other items on the agenda include:

Hedge End Junior Cricket Club's plans for the new season,

Green Flag Community Award for the Recreation Ground,

Whether dogs should be on lead only in our local parks,

Protecting Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation,

and The Village Centre Clock.

The Queen's College Hates Hedge End Countryside

Oxford Institution Wants to Build on Our Fields
With no fewer than ten comments on the draft local plan, The Queen's College is showing more interest in the future of Hedge End than many of our elected town councillors.  Clearly worried that the value of their own land holdings will go down if they are excluded from the development, most of their comments can be paraphrased as "build on our land, not Boorley Green", or "build on our land, not Chestnut Avenue". 

Desperate to get their land north of Hedge End included in the Lib Dem plans for almost 4,000 houses in Hedge End and Botley, they are even opposing the principle of gaps between our settlements and insist that the proposed countryside policy is "unnecessary".

The Queen's College is a wealthy institution that can call on and pay for all sorts of planning consultants and lawyers to defend its interests.  Ordinary people (the overwhelming majority of whom have opposed the Lib Dem's plans for large scale development in our area) rely on our local councils to stand up against these vested interests.  That is why Hedge End Town Council were guilty of dereliction of duty in refusing to debate and agree a response to the draft plan.  Just about every other parish council in the area has commented, but there is nothing from Hedge End.

The message given is that with two notable exceptions, the Lib Dems on the Town Council do not care what happens to Hedge End, and the wealthy landowners and developers are encouraged to bulldoze ahead with their plans to concrete over our green fields.

When will the Lib Dems keep their election promise to stand up for our area against more building and traffic?

The Queen's College Photo credit : James

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Lib Dems Listen on Library Lolly

The rapidly increasing cost of installing self service kiosks in Hedge End Library set alarm bells ringing back in January when I blogged "Library Costs Treble in Three Months".  My concerns multiplied when I stumbled across an Isle of Wight blog which discussed the library self service project on the Island.  It quotes an expert and independent consultant on these kiosks saying that "you should expect to pay £6-12,000 for one of these devices". 

That means that the £7,000 figure quoted to the Community and Culture Committee in November is more reasonable than the £23,000 in the report presented to the HEWEB Local Area Committee on 30th January.  It certainly looks at first sight as if Ken Thornber's Conservatives are trying to rip off the Hedge End council tax payers.

Taking advantage of the invitation for members of the public to address the committee on any agenda item, I pointed out my concerrns at the LAC meeting (making clear that I was generally in favour of the steps being taken by the Borough and Town Councils to mitigate the worst effects of the County's library cuts).  It's impossible to know whether any of the committee members would have questioned the costs without my intervention, because the rules of engagement are that members of the public have to say their piece and shut up before the real debate (between members) gets going.

Once they had it pointed out to them however, Cllr Louise Bloom and one or two of her Lib Dem colleagues did seem to agree that there was a discrepancy that should be explained.  It may be that the increase is explained by additional cabling and new desks required to accommodate the kiosks.  It may be that the cost of tagging all the books is included.  It still looks a high figure though and I hope that our councillors will follow through and keep an eye on these bills. 

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Lib Dems Split Over Station Car Park

Car Park is Rarely Full
 As predicted in my post last week, the issue of whether to extend Hedge End station car park proved a difficult one for local Lib Dems.   Asked whether to proceed with a project that will destroy a wild flower meadow in order to extend a car park which is only three-quarters full most days while commuters enjoy free parking in nearby residential roads, the Lib Dem members of the HEWEB Local Area Committee could not agree, leaving the Chair to use his casting vote to break the deadlock.

Council's Own Wildflower Meadow Threatened
 This came after the bombshell news that the committee meeting on 30th January was not in fact empowered to make any decision on the project, and that whatever the local councillors decided, the Borough Council cabinet would override them.  So the real decision will be made by councillors from Chandlers Ford, Eastleigh, Netley Abbey, Bishopstoke and Fair Oak and Horton Heath who depend for their cabinet posts on the patronage of Lib Dem Leader and supporter of the car park extension Cllr Keith House.

Despite having the wind somewhat taken out of his sails by this bureaucratic technicality, Grange Park Cllr Derek Pretty put up a staunch defence on behalf of the nearby residents (represented by two speakers from the public gallery who eloquently opposed the project).  His alternative recommendations to address immediately the parking problems in residential streets and postpone any decision on the car park extension until it is shown to be necessary were supported by fellow Grange Park Cllr Louise Bloom.

Cllr House made it clear that he would prefer to spend money now - even to the extent of "buying out" the covenants that currently protect the land - to solve a problem that might or might not exist in the future.  Cllr Dan Clarke agreed with his leader and showed off his growing Lib Dem loyalist credentials by quoting liberal luminary David Lloyd George(*).  Like Cllr Clarke, Cllr Bruce Tennent chose not to support his Grange Park voters as he spoke in favour of the Lib Dem leadership line.

When it came to the vote, five were in favour of Cllr Pretty's compromise proposal and five against.  Cllr Tony Noyce (West End) abstained, and Cllr Mick Wheatley (Hedge End) had mysteriously absented himself from the meeting without explanation.  The tension of a five-five split was broken a few seconds later when Committee Chair Cllr Rupert Kyrle put his casting vote at the disposal of the Lib Dem party line.

The votes in favour of delaying the decision came from Cllrs Pretty, Bloom, Welsh and (Jenny) Hughes from Hedge End and Cllr Goodall from West End.  Those against were Cllrs House (Hedge End), Fraser (Botley), Kyrle (Botley), Tennent (West End) and Clarke (West End).

Cllr Pretty's alternative recommendations having failed on the chair's casting vote, consideration then returned to the published recommendations.  These were amended to include a plea to cabinet that any yellow lines required to discourage parking in nearby roads be payed for from corporate, not local, funds. It is surprisingly expensive to get a yellow strip painted along the gutter (there have to be consultations, reports, additional signage and all manner of legal and administrative high-jinks).

When it came to this second vote, Cllr Noyce came off the fence and Cllr Goodall was clearly satisfied with the additional request for money, and now sided with the leadership so that the proposals supported by Cllr House were passed seven to four.  It therefore looks likely that the Lib Dem cabinet will bulldoze ahead with the car park extension despite the valiant opposition of some of our Hedge End councillors.

It must have been frustrating for the independently minded committee members who spoke and voted against the party leadership line in favour of Hedge End people.  It only needed one more vote, and we were all left wondering how Cllr Wheatley would have voted had he been in the room.  Would he have sided with Cllrs Pretty and Jenny Hughes in line with their joint election promise to "Save the Countryside"?  Would he have voted with the majority of Hedge End councillors or with those from outside Hedge End who mantained the Eastleigh leadership's preferred outcome?

(*) Footnote:  Cllr Clarke quoted an obscure Lloyd George aphorism that "there is nothing more dangerous than to leap a chasm in two jumps", which although witty and entertaining, was not exactly apposite in this case, because this is the second extension to the car park, so the Council supported by Cllr Clarke is doing precisely what Lloyd George was warning against.