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.


  1. Last time I looked, there were no Chandler's Ford councillors in the Cabinet.

  2. Cllr Broadhurst, Chandlers Ford West, Cabinet Member for Leisure?

    1. Oh yes, thanks for the reminder.

  3. I do acknowledge there should be an apostrophe in Chandler's Ford though ;-)

  4. The solution to commuters shunning parking charges and clogging up residential streets in central Eastleigh was the introduction of the residents parking permit scheme.
    So why not in Hedge End?
    Of course permits are no longer free (Although Keith House always denies this) so perhaps a backlash is feared?

    Dan certainly knows his political history so we shouldn't be surprised that he should reference Lloyd George. At the last Full Council he invoked the memory of John F Kennedy by comparing the purchase of the Rose Bowl to the late, great President's decision to put a man on the moon.
    Keith House was not oblivious to the toe-curling comparison and in response talked about 'having a vision'.

    I get a bit nervous of leaders who have visions....

  5. Re car park extension: Shame Cllrs Wheatley and Hughes weren't around to represent the views of the people of Hedge End for which they were elected and paid an allowance.

  6. Talking of visions, has anyone actually seen Councillor Wheatley at a meeting?

  7. No! Not for the full meeting as he pops out after 10 minutes to do his paid job whilst earning his allowance. Is that technically fraud?

  8. Stephen, I think the difference between the area round Hedge End station and central Eastleigh is that the houses in Hedge End were built with more off street parking, so a paying residents' parking scheme would probably just motivate people to clear out their garages to use them for the intended purpose, and the revenue to the council would be minimal.

  9. Anonymous, I don't think there is anything fraudulent going on. The minutes of the meeting (printed version) record the times that Cllr Wheatley was present as 7:00 to 7:30 and 8:50 to 9:20,and the basic allowance is a lump sum paid to all councillors and is not dependent on how many meetings are attended in whole or in part. The dept of communities guidance states: "Basic allowance is intended to recognise the time commitment of all councillors, including such inevitable calls on their time as meetings with officers and constituents and attendance at political group meetings. It is also intended to cover incidental costs such as the use of their

  10. Reasonable Oak and Horton Heath who be dependent for their cupboard content on the patronage of Lib Dem Innovator and advocate of the car playground expansion Cllr Keith Home.

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