Thursday, 29 March 2012

Town Council's Buzzing

Hedge End Votes to Help Bees  
Town Council Seeks Volunteers to Help Make Parks Bee Friendly

At the same time as Friends of the Earth were kicking off their "Bee Cause" campaign for 2012, Hedge End Town Council were voting through  a number of practical measures to help bees in our local parks and green spaces.  Councillors voted unanimously at the March meeting of full council to support an initiative I proposed which will see:
  • Wildflower gardens planted in local parks
  • Space for bee hives at the Town Council allotments
  • Bee nest boxes in Council green spaces
  • Bee-friendly planting in the Council's flower beds.
Plans to extend the car park at Hedge End station will mean the loss of a designated wildflower meadow, while bees and other pollinating insects are already suffering due to habitat loss, disease, parasites and pesticide use.

The Town Council is in a position to make up the habitat lost to the car park extension by working with volunteers and local organisations to make our other green spaces bee-friendly.  It's now up to local people to come forward and make those nest boxes, plant the wildflowers and run the bee hives.  This could become a genuine community project with the Council providing the space for local environmentalists to work in.

Greg Hewitt of Southampton and Eastleigh Friends of the Earth and Eastleigh Transition Network commented: "This is perfect.  It's just the sort of thing we want local councils to be doing."

The Friends of the Earth Bee Cause campaign launches formally on 11th April and will call for a national bee action plan alongside practical activities to help bees in local communities.

More information is available on the FoE campaign hub and Southampton and Eastleigh FoE web site.

Hedge End people who would like to volunteer for one of the bee projects, can get in touch at

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Hedge End's Quarter Million Pound Cycleway

Potential for conflict with pedestrians 
Poor visibility junction opposite Hobb Lane
£260,000 of a total handout of £15 million has been granted by the Department for Transport towards a shared-use cycleway between Hedge End and Botley.  Draft plans were published on Eastleigh Borough Council's web site at the end of last year, but they don't seem to have been well publicised, as the proposals are coming as a surprise to many local people.  Concerns have been raised about the safety at certain junctions along the proposed route, which is along the northern side of Lower Northam Road, across the Maypole Roundabout and along the A334 part of the way towards Botley.

Residents' Concerns

At one point a footpath linking Lower Northam Road with Allen Road meets the proposed cycleway and a brick wall will prevent pedestrians seeing if a bicycle is coming.

Mature trees and hedges will also need to be cut back along the section between the Hobb Lane junction and the roundabout.

 Get Your Bike Out of the Garage

The Council's Cycling Strategy is to encourage cycle use over the car for shorter journeys, and the Hedge End to Botley trip would seem to be an ideal candidate.  With petrol prices increasing inexorably, traffic queues in the centre of Hedge End getting longer, air pollution getting worse and a growing emphasis on a healthy life style with more exercise, a decent network of cycle paths is long overdue.  This initiative will also provide two safer crossing points for pedestrians in  Lower Northam Road near the Hilton Road and Hobb Lane junctions. 


Overturning decades of highway development during which everything was done to make car driving easier, more convenient and cheaper is never going to be easy and some compromise is going to be necessary.  It's a pity that cycle path will not go all the way to Botley, leaving cyclists to continue to share the busy A334 for the final section.  Perhaps the DfT grant will give the Council some leverage with the private landowners along the route to enable this to become a really useful cycleway.

It's also regrettable that the shared pedestrian / cycleway is only going to be 2.5m wide.  That's going to be a bit tight if a cyclist meets a pushchair or mobility scooter.  

If the Lib Dem plans to build 4000 houses in Botley and Woodhouse Lane come to fruition, all those extra cars trying to get to the M27 will have to cross this cycleway at some point, possibly at the Maypole Roundabout.  That's going to be interesting.

Still, if the Council finally gets a move on with this project (which was first approved in 1998, fourteen years ago!) Hedge End residents will have a few years to enjoy their new cycleway before all those additional cars start cutting across it.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Village / Town Controversy Reignites

Which Direction are the Planners Taking Hedge End? 
The Liberal Democrats in Hedge End can't have expected that, twenty years after they decided to rename Hedge End Parish Council as a Town Council, it would still be causing arguments in the local community.

At this month's Annual Parish Assembly (not Annual Town Assembly or Annual Village Assembly) the first person to stand up in the "Public Questions" part of the agenda asked the Chair to settle the issue whether Hedge End is a village or a town.  Cllr Jane Welsh made clear that in her eyes, it is a village.  Although she conceded that some of the "newer" folk might see it as a town.  As Jane has lived here for over fifty years, "newer" folk are probably most of the rest of us!

Unfortunately for Jane and the village people, you don't have to go far to find evidence for township:

On the Town Council web site,  Hedge End is described as "the fastest growing town within the Borough of Eastleigh over the last twenty years. The town now has a population of over 20,000 across some 693 hectares. Yet for most of its existence, Hedge End has been little more than a small village on the outskirts of its close neighbour, the parish of Botley."

And on Eastleigh Borough Council's site we find:  "Like much of the Borough, Hedge End was a rural farming area dating from the 13th Century.  In the late 19th Century it became known as the 'Strawberry Village' with a substantial market garden and strawberry growing areas.  Today it is a modern town with office parks, out of town superstores and residential areas, on the main transport route of the M27."

Then there is Stephen Tanti's book "Hedge End: From Village to Town" which wouldn't have the same ring if it had to be called "Hedge End: Still a Village".

The Draft Local Plan published by the Borough Council and supported by local Liberal Democrats - which would put nearly 4,000 more houses in Hedge End and Botley - generally avoids the controversy by referring to  "settlements" and "district centres", although the planners' guard does slip when it refers to Eastleigh as the "The main town in the Borough" and goes on "It includes two other large urban areas – Chandler’s Ford and Hedge End – ...".   A "large urban area" sounds more like a town than a village to me.

I have been there when Cllr Welsh has opposed inappropriate developments in Hedge End, but battle after battle has been lost in the face of the Lib Dem bulldozer.  Hedge End is no longer a small, primarily rural community with a church, pub and shop, surrounded by green fields.  If the Lib Dems get their way, the last tract of undeveloped countryside in Hedge End will disappear under more concrete, and the urbanisation of this historic fruit-growing village will be complete and irrevocable.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Chris Huhne Wrong - Tribunal Decides

Hedge End MP Chris Huhne has been siding with the Government in the recent controversies over Andrew Lansley's Health and Social Care Bill, voting to keep secret the Department of Health's Risk Register.  Although recognising it was in conflict with the Liberal Democrats' long-standing policies on freedom of information and open government, Chris concluded that "not releasing this risk register is in the best interests of full and frank policy-making".

After two days of evidence and two days of consideration, the Information Tribunal has decided that Chris, together with most Conservative MPs and a number of Lib Dems, was wrong, and that it is in the public interest that the Government should publish the risk register.  The Information Commissioner's original judgement has been upheld, and MPs and the public should have the full facts before the final decision is made on the Bill, which has been described as a hand grenade being thrown into the NHS and "an unholy mess".

The Lib Dems are split over the NHS reforms with some, such as Andrew George MP, the Lib Dems' representative on the Health Select Committee in favour of publishing the risks and against the Bill itself. 

These NHS reforms have no popular mandate: they were not in the Lib Dems' or the Conservative manifesto, and they are not in the coalition agreement.  An e-petition calling on the government to  "drop the bill" has reached over 170,000 signatures and will be debated in the House of Commons on Tuesday 13th March.

In the teeth of opposition by voters and the majority of the professional bodies working in the NHS, there is a strong grass roots movement in the Lib Dems hoping to use an emergency debate at their Spring conference this weekend to call on the leadership to withdraw support for the Tories' plans. 

As the Conservatives have indicated that they have every intention of kicking Eastleigh Lib Dems when they are down, Chris and his local team must be wondering whether it is in their best interests to support the Tories or defend the NHS over the next few days.

If you should feel inclined to let Chris know how you feel about the NHS plans, he can be contacted on

(Photo credit: David Spender)

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Glass Ceiling for Women on Councils

As it's International Women's Day I thought it would be interesting to look at gender balance on our local councils:

Hedge End Town Council  



At the moment (with one vacancy to be filled) Hedge End Town Council is perfectly balanced with ten women and ten men.  The Council and three of its committees are chaired by women, with men chairing two committees.

West End Parish Council


In neighbouring West End, women parish councillors outnumber men eight to six (with five of the women having been elected as independents).

Botley Parish Council



There are four women and seven men serving on Botley Parish Council.

HEWEB Local Area Committee 



Although Hedge End elects three women out of seven councillors to serve on the Local Area Committee, and Botley has one woman and one man, all four West End borough councillors are men, which gives men a 2:1 majority on the committee.

Eastleigh Borough Council



Of the 44 Eastleigh Borough councillors, only 13 are women (twelve Lib Dems and one Conservative).

Hampshire County Council



Things get even worse for women at the County Council.  Of the seven councillors elected locally in Eastleigh divisions, only one is a woman.

Glass Ceiling

There would seem to be a form of glass ceiling in our local government in so far as it seems to be easier for women to serve at the most local level, on parish and town councils, but as the council gets more remote, the proportion of women councillors decreases.

It is notoriously difficult to fix these imbalances with our current electoral system.  It is desirable that local councils reflect the demographics of the population they represent, in terms of gender and age at least, but the members of the councils are elected as individuals with particular skills and experience, not as representatives of a particular cross section of society.

One answer is, of course, for the political parties to select more women as candidates, but the example of West End Parish Council shows that women can stand as independents and get elected.  After all, 50% of voters are women, and that's more than enough to win most local elections.

(IWD logo courtesy of

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Lily's Fate Still Uncertain

Town Council Has No Powers To Save These Trees 
 Lib Dems No to TPO

Hedge End residents are still concerned by Lib Dem Eastleigh Borough Council's refusal to confirm a Tree Preservation Order on a group of much-loved trees outside the Village Hall.  The laburnum in particular is under threat because its seeds are perceived to be a risk to children attending the Village Hall Pre-School.  Eastleigh's decision is in contrast to New Forest District Council which recently took a much stronger line in protecting a walnut tree under similar circumstances.

Town Council Cannot Act

In response to local residents' concerns I asked for a formal re-statement of Hedge End Town Council's position at February's Finance and Administration Committee.  It was made clear that the Town Council's June 2011 resolution (which urged the Village Hall Management Committee and Pre-School to find a play area that does not involve felling a mature tree) still holds.  However, the Town Council does not own the Village Hall land, has no formal jurisdiction over it, and has not been informed of any new plans that the Pre-School and Management Committee might have.

If their plans require planning permission, the Town Council will be consulted, but the decision will be made at Eastleigh.  Until then, Lily's future is in the balance.

March Finance and Administration Committee

The F&A Committee meets again on Thursday March 8th.  On the agenda this time are:

A bid to apply for Government funding as a "Portas Pilot", which has already been reported by Ray Turner on Eastleigh News.

Decisions on tenders for the construction of new grounds staff facilities at Pavilion Road.  Due to the complexity and scale of the tenders those of us who are committee members will have a special briefing starting at 5:15 before the formal meeting starts at 7:00.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Traditional Methods Work for Lib Dems

Last week's Town Council by-election resulted in a resounding victory for the Liberal Democrat candidate, Richard Effeny.  Congratulations to Richard and the ever-efficient Lib Dem election machine.  

Unfortunately Richard was the only candidate I could not contact when I had the idea of inviting the candidates to introduce themselves on this blog.  In fact when I contacted the Lib Dem constituency office, I was told that they did not have contact details for their own candidate and I would have to go through the leader, Cllr Keith House.

Keith declined the invitation, stating that the Lib Dems would rely on "traditional methods" of campaigning.  It is hard to criticise that decision, given the result of the by-election.  I do hope, though, that in future Hedge End elections the Lib Dems and other candidates will consider participating in online campaigning alongside the traditional methods of loads of paper leaflets and knocking on people's doors during The One Show.

I'd like to thank Paul Redding, Ray Turner and Michale O'Donoghue for taking the time to respond and take part.  There was a time when election candidates were willing to submit themselves to hustings where they met their prospective voters face to face and answered their questions in person.  Online question and answer sessions are a modernisation of that tradition.

There is at least one e-lector out there who appreciated the effort.  Perhaps we have started something.

(Photo credit: Hedge End Town Council)