Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Green Fields: Further Lib Dem Raids

More Habitat Loss 
Not enough provision was made in the Borough Council's Draft Local Plan for business and industrial areas to provide employment in the Hedge End area.   The Lib Dems cannot claim that their thousands of new houses on green fields are "sustainable" if people have to drive miles to get to work in either Eastleigh Town, Southampton or further afield.

More Concrete and Tarmac

Their solution is for more open spaces, gardens and trees to disappear under concrete and tarmac, when they have promised in the last two local elections to "save our countryside" and "say no to more building and traffic".  Green fields next to the Berrywood Business Village off Tollbar Way will go, as will fields and gardens in Woodhouse Lane and the undeveloped grounds of properties off Kanes Hill.

More Fields Lost at Tollbar Way
Berrywood Business Village

The business village in Tollbar Way will be extended to the south east, sacrificing a green field between the existing buildings and the road.  Hedge End Blogger feared back in August last year that this field was amongst those targeted by the Lib Dems for business development.  At the time I was accused by leading Lib Dems of NIMBY scare-mongering.

Kanes Hill

Lib Dem proposals for land between the motorway and the A27 Kanes Hill to the north of Netley Firs Close will sacrifice mature trees for an industrial or business park. 

Hedge End Town Council have been told by Hampshire County Council that their outline plan for a new cemetery in fields just to the north of this location would require major highway changes, including a dedicated turn right lane and traffic islands, costing in excess of a quarter of a million pounds.

Presumably an industrial park on the same road would generate the same requirement for highway works, but there is no indication in the Borough plan as to where this money would come from.  Perhaps the leader of Eastleigh Borough Council is looking for another expensive fight with the leader of Hampshire County Council.

Threatened Fields next to Bottom Copse
Woodhouse Lane

Bottom Copse is a Site of Interest for Nature Conservation (SINC) that recently transferred ownership from the Borough to the Town Council.  New Lib Dem proposals would replace the fields and large gardens which border the SINC with yet another industrial or business park.  Development right up to the border of the SINC would come with a risk of pollution or other disruption, would certainly change the nature of the SINC and affect its attractiveness to large mammals and birds of prey.

Where Will Horses Graze When This is Tarmac?
It was clear when the draft plan was published that insufficient provision had been made for employment opportunities.  The Lib Dems were not honest last summer and now these additional plans are being sneaked through after the consultation on the main document. 

See also: Wildern Mill:  Lib Dems Change Their Minds

Link to cabinet report (see pages 31-35)

What are the permitted "Use Classes"?

Planners and Councillors have a tendency to hide behind jargon and codes when it suits them, so I have translated the use classes in these extracts from the cabinet report:

Berrywood Business Village:  "The site is developed for employment in use classes B1b (Research and development, studios, laboratories, high technology), B1c (Light Industry) and B2 (General Industry) ...."

Kanes Hill:  "The site is developed for employment in use classes B1b (Research and development, studios, laboratories, high technology), B1c (Light Industry) or B2 (General Industry) ...."

Woodhouse Lane:  "The site is developed for employment in use classes B1a (Offices, excluding Banks, Building societies, estate and employment agencies, Professional and Financial Services and betting offices), B1b (Research and development, studios, laboratories, high technology) or B1c (Light Industry) ...."

Wildern Mill:  "The site is developed for employment in Use Classes B1b (Research and development, studios, laboratories, high technology), B1c (Light Industry), B2 (General Industry) or B8 (Wholesale warehouses, distribution centres, repositories)..."

Lib Dems Failing to Save the Countryside 

Lib Dems Saying Yes to More Building and Traffic

Wildern Mill: Lib Dems Change Their Minds

Derelict, Delapidated and Dangerous  
A Hedge End brown field site is no longer targeted for housing according to changes to the Draft Local Plan agreed by the Lib Dem cabinet at Eastleigh last week.

The derelict Wildern Mill is a reminder of the days when local Lib Dems listened to their voters and stood up for them against developers' interests, fighting all the way to the High Court if necessary. 

Planning Application Rejected

A planning application for 184 flats at Wildern Mill proved almost universally unpopular with nearby residents and was thrown out by the Local Area Committee in 2005.  The decision was overturned by the unelected central government inspector and subsequent legal attempts by the Council to quash the plans were ultimately unsuccessful.  The protracted legal arguments did have the effect of delaying any development until the market for flats had become less attractive, and they have never been built.

Included in Plan

Once the legal battle was lost however the Lib Dems embraced the plans and included the 184 flats in the evidence base and housing calculations for the original Draft Local Plan with the comment  "The developer has started work on the site to maintain the validity of the planning permission. Site owner considering alternative uses".  Local residents and councillors had hoped that those "alternative uses" would be less dense housing in character with the other estates around Turnpike Way, and not massive blocks of flats.

More Houses on Green Fields

The Lib Dems have now done another U-turn and want to designate the land for business or industrial use again. 

Whilst admitting that nobody seems to want the 184 flats to be built and there is a gross shortage of employment provision for Hedge End and Botley in the Draft Local Plan, it is a shame that a consequence of converting this brown field site back to industrial use is that even more houses will have to built on local green fields

The Wildern Mill site has been neglected and has become a dangerous eyesore, but the change of designation introduces uncertainty once more as to what is going to replace it.  If the Draft Local Plan threatens to make a new planning application for appropriate housing more difficult, the developers may be provoked into going ahead with the unwanted flats for which they already have permission.

Consultation on the proposed changes to the Plan is due to start on 1st June.

Link to cabinet report (see pages 32-33)

Sunday, 27 May 2012

More Countryside Lost to Lib Dem Housing Plans

Trees will have to give way to Traffic 
Council Capitulates

Major developers have convinced local Lib Dems that even more green fields to the south of Hedge End should disappear under concrete according to amendments to the Draft Local Plan approved for "consultation" by cabinet last week.

The original draft plan had just 40 houses planned around the proposed "Sundays Hill Bypass" .  But self-confessed "Master Planners" John Thompson and Partners produced their own plan for 250 houses.  These plans were presented to sceptical local residents at St Johns Church in February.

New bypass junction will be on this bend 
It comes as no surprise that the Lib Dems have capitulated before the developers.  They are now proposing to change the Draft Plan to show a new route for the bypass which allows them to  increase the amount of housing to the south of Heath House Lane.  Accommodating the developers' target of 250 houses, the area of the new housing estate is quadrupled from five hectares to 21.

Green Gap Threatened

Fields and Woods Between Hedge End and Bursledon
The proposed area for new development creates a very narrow corridor of green fields between the new houses and Heath House Lane, which will be very difficult to defend against future development.  It also moves the "urban edge" - the official boundary between countryside and town - to include the Piland's Copse designated site of interest for nature conservation (SINC)  in the "town" rather then "countryside".  All this despite the Council having a policy to maintain the green gaps between settlements such as Hedge End and Bursledon.

More Green Fields Go in Botley

In a further amendment to the Local Plan, Lib Dems have belatedly realised that they cannot squeeze 1,400 houses into the Boorley Green golf course.  In order to preserve the total number of houses, they are proposing to take a further five hectares of green fields to the south east of the golf course for development.  That's the equivalent of  another five full size rugby pitches which will disappear under concrete.

It's yet another example of local Lib Dems failing to keep their election promises to say no to more building and traffic in our area.

The new consultation period on the Draft Local Plan starts on 1st June.

Link to Planners' Document for Pylands Lane
Link to Eastleigh Borough Council Report (pages 22-4 for Sundays Hill Bypass and pages 18-19 for Boorley Green)

The 2011 Promise

Lib Dems vote for more building south of Hedge End

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Council to Call in Consultants

Do Councillors Read All the Reports They Commission? 
The bill for the increasingly acrimonious dispute between the leaders of our Borough and County councils (which will  fall on Hedge End council tax payers) is due to get larger according to a report to be presented to Eastleigh's cabinet this week.

Readers of this blog will need no reminding that Eastleigh Lib Dems are planning to build over 3,500 houses in Hedge End and Botley, many of them on green fields - despite their repeated election promise to "stand up against more building and traffic".  The Draft Local Plan - which went out to consultation last year - attracted massive opposition from local residents and also from Hampshire County Council who, as the Highway Authority, are refusing to endorse the Borough's plan for a Botley by-pass which is shown following the route of Woodhouse Lane through the Maypole roundabout to the M27 - although planners say that the map is not definitive and the route might change.

The Highway Authority also estimates that the by-pass will cost £30 million and that even with the large-scale development threatened on Hedge End and Botley's green fields it will not be possible to raise enough contributions to pay for it. 

Eastleigh Lib Dems, led by Hedge End Town Councillor Keith House, are refusing to accept the judgement of the highway experts at Hampshire and are planning to engage their own consultants to generate evidence in favour of their own policies.

Incredibly it is only two years since PUSH (the Partnership for Urban South Hampshire) published a consultant's study which concluded that the planned development at that time (which was for even more houses - 6,000 to the north and north east of Hedge End) did not justify a Botley by-pass (see below).  Has Cllr House forgotten this already?  Will he keep paying for consultants and studies until he gets the answer he wants?

Financially it is a lose-lose for Hedge End council tax payers who already pay for one set of highway experts at the County, have payed for one study only two years ago, and now will be paying for yet another set of experts to be employed by the Borough.

Build Houses First and Upgrade Roads Later

The same cabinet paper proposes amendments to the Draft Local Plan which would remove the requirement for the road improvements to be completed before the houses are built.  In theory there could be thousands of new houses on our green fields with all the new residents trying to get to the motorway on our existing roads - which are already overcrowded.

The Lib Dems' cherished plans are rapidly degenerating into a shambles.

The Cost of Party Politics

With County Council elections less than a year away, this is not the only example of party politics costing you more.  Hampshire Conservatives want to include the disused airfield in Hamble in their plans for gravel extraction.  Eastleigh Lib Dems don't want that to happen and are going to spend over £8,000 on even more consultants to justify their position.

Footnote:  Extract from July 2010 PUSH report

4.8.19 Provision of a Botley bypass has mixed support locally but has a
safeguarded route to the north of the village. TfSH conclude that a bypass
cannot be justified by forecast development traffic alone and although there
may be other justifications for a bypass, it is not included in the preferred
access strategy. Local noise and air quality in Botley could however be
improved, and a bypass offers scope for environmental improvements to
the village and conservation area. Costs would be significant. If a bypass
is proposed in any future transport strategy, any route would require some
third party land and safeguarding as part of masterplanning for the SDA.

Photo credit: Pizarros

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Equus at The Berry

Proper professional theatre walking distance from where I live - I still find it amazing.  Hedge End's very own Berry Theatre was at its best last Friday with London Classic Theatre's touring production of Sir Peter Schaffer's "Equus".

It was an engrossing, intense evening with thoroughly convincing performances - especially by those actors who represented horses using not much more than stylised masks and body posture and movement.  The stark design with echoes of Greek drama seemed to fit the Berry perfectly, and the scale of the place contributed to the evocation of claustrophobic settings such as the psychiatrist's consulting room, the stables and Alan Strang's bedroom.

It's good to see The Berry's success with stand-up comedy and children's productions, but this was serious theatre for grown-ups and a major milestone in The Berry's development, just what Samuel West was talking about in his speech on the opening night a year ago.

With "Hamlet" a week ago, and "Love on the Tracks" to come on June 2nd, it's good news for Hedge End theatre-goers this spring.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Lib Dem Bulldozer - Bad News for Countryside

More Building and Traffic at Dowd's Farm   
As yet more of Hedge End's ancient countryside disappears under concrete at Dowd's Farm Urban Park, the party that claims to "stand up against more building and traffic" votes to support plans to build thousands of houses on green fields in Hedge End and Botley.

Honourable Exceptions

At last week's Town Council meeting, the Lib Dems had an opportunity to keep their repeated election campaign promises to oppose further development, but with a few honourable exceptions the majority felt unable to stand up to their leadership and fell in line to support the Borough's draft local plan.

My motion, urging the Borough Council to revisit its plans for massive housing developments on our local green fields was defeated by 14 votes to two, with four abstentions.

Broken Promises
Lost Countryside

The Woodhouse Lane site, where 1,000 new houses are planned (opposite Hilliers) is the last area of land within the historic boundaries of Hedge End where you can walk without being only a few yards from housing or roads.  It is also the last area of land dedicated to agriculture in what was once a farming village, our last living link with Hedge End's heritage.

One of the arguments put forward in favour of the draft local plan is that "it is not just about houses" but includes provision for sports fields - probably alongside the railway.  That's  fine for youngsters who want to play football, but what about other people who just like the chance for a walk along ancient rights of way in relative tranquillity, whose hobby might be bird-watching, or who are just excited by the occasional glimpse of a deer, or buzzard, or kestrel?  Kestrels used to hover over Dowd's Farm, but no longer.

There should be a place for informal exercise and recreation in unspoiled countryside.  We don't need every green space to be managed, mown and exploited for council revenue.

Two of These Lib Dems Say No but Vote Yes
Broken Lib Dem Promises

The disease that has affected the Lib Dems nationally has spread to the local party.  The party that promised prior to the 2010 general election to vote against any increase in tuition fees has twice in Hedge End promised to oppose more building and traffic in our area, while behind the scenes it has been planning to allow nearly 4,000 new houses.

The leadership's justification is that as long as people keep voting Lib Dem, they must be happy
with what the council is doing.  If that is the case, why did they go through an expensive consultation exercise? 

The 1000 Hedge End people who voted Lib Dem on May 3rd are being used to justify a policy which affects all 21,000 people who live in Hedge End.

Links to others' opinions:
Eastleigh News
Hedge End Independent

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Town Council To Debate Local Plan?

Will Lib Dems Keep Their 2012 Election Promise? 
Having avoided the issue four times in 2011, local Lib Dems have a fifth chance to keep their repeated election promise to say NO to more building and traffic in our area.

At next Wednesday's town council meeting I will be proposing the motion:

"In light of the Draft Local Plan summary consultation representations published by the Borough Council, and the overwhelming public opposition expressed therein, Hedge End Town Council urges Eastleigh Borough Council Cabinet to reconsider the large scale development proposed for Hedge End and Botley in favour of a plan for smaller-scale, sustainable, organic growth evenly spread across all the Borough's settlements."

In an agenda consisting otherwise only of rubber stamping committee decisions and receiving routine reports it has again fallen on the lone independent councillor to propose a motion of any substance.

It is still not certain that the debate will happen as history shows the Lib Dems to be reluctant to address the Local Plan in the most local forum , the Town Council.

In July when I first proposed a motion they decided they had not had time to read the plan and postponed any decision to September.

In September the Lib Dem leadership amended my motion to further delay any discussion until December.

In December the Chair of the Highways and Planning Committee decided that full council had been wrong to devolve the debate to her committee and passed the buck back to full council.

At December's full council meeting, the item was not on the agenda - it was never really explained why not.
I was able to raise the point in response to the "Chairman's Remarks", but without a Lib Dem seconder it was not possible to have a debate, despite it being the clear wish of the Council itself in September that it should "make a full response to the Borough Council."All that happened was that individual councillors were invited to respond to the Borough consultation as private citizens - and then there were only three of us who did so.

Consequently the voters of Hedge End do not know what the majority of their Town Councillors think about the most significant document to affect the future of our community for the next twenty years.

Lib Dem Election Promise 2011

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Floodlights and Poppies

Floodlights on the Norman Rodaway playing field are the subject of a presentation to be given by Hedge End Rangers FC to the Recreation and Amenities Committee of Hedge End Town Council this week. 

No decision on floodlights is required at this stage, and I expect there will be many more discussions about this, but those of us who are members of the committee are being asked to:
  • Approve the location of a textiles recycling bin for the Hampshire and IOW Air Ambulance
  • Determine the colour of poppies on the new gate for the War Memorial Garden
  • Approve a charity football match on Greta Park on 3rd June
  • Approve the use of Greta Park for next season by Hedge End Club FC.

There has already been some discussion about the poppies at Eastleigh News

You can let me know what you think about any of the agenda topics, either as a comment on this blog, or by email at hedgeendblogger@gmail.com  Alternatively, the committee meeting is open to the public and starts at 7:00pm on Wednesday 9th May at the 2000 Centre.

For the second month running, the Finance and Administration Committee is having to be rescheduled.  This time to avoid clashing with the Borough Council Mayor Making.

Picture credit: "Floodlight at Kennington Oval" by The Evil IP Address

Friday, 4 May 2012

Jerry Frustrated by UKIP

Conservative Vote Split  Aids Lib Dems 
Hedge End Town Council's Lib Dems bulldozed their way back to full strength of 20 councillors at Thursday's by-election in St Helen's ward on the strength of promises to say 'NO' to more building and traffic in our area .  But would they have done it without UKIP's help?

"Local Campaigner" Paul Carnell was declared elected with 438 votes, and Conservative Jerry Hall came second with 314.  But add Michale O'Donoghue's 162 to Jerry's and you get a winning total of 476.  The chances are that had UKIP not been there Jerry would be taking his seat in the council chamber instead of Paul.

A Labour or even Independent candidate might have balanced the outcome, but that's all part of the rough and tumble of democratic politics in a first past the post world.  Paul won according to the rules, and we congratulate him and welcome his campaigning spirit to the Town Council.  I particularly look forward to his assistance in opposing plans for more building and traffic in Hedge End and Botley.

UKIP: Best Election Ever

UKIP's Michale O'Donoghue
With the BBC reporting:  "The UK Independence Party has its best local election night in history gaining 13% of the vote where they stood, but have so far failed to convert that into significantly more seats" (*), Hedge End's defeated UKIP candidate Michale O'Donoghue has this message for his voters:

“A big thank you to all those 301 electors of Hedge End St John’s who took the opportunity this year to support myself and UKIP at the borough election. Can I also thank the other candidates – and congratulate Jane Welsh in holding the seat for the Liberal Democrats.

I am especially pleased to note that with a best comparison to 2008 – my vote for UKIP has risen from 8% of the turnout (180 votes from 2,239) to 13.6% in 2012 (301 from 2218). As a further comparison – all the Hedge End St John’s results in which I stood for UKIP in 2008, 2011 and 2012 are here:-

Liberal Democrats 1,150 (51.4%)Liberal Democrats 1,276 (44%)Liberal Democrats 1,070 (48.2%)
Conservatives 824 (36.8%)Conservatives 1,099 (38%)Conservatives 673 (30.3%)
UKIP 180 (8%)UKIP 268 (9.3%)UKIP 301 (13.6%)
Labour 85 (3.8%)Labour 236 (8.2%)Labour 174 (7.8%)

The interesting thing here is that while the other parties are up and down – UKIP has been increasing steadily – and I look forward to future elections by helping to move the UKIP philosophy to regain our self determination into even greater support locally.

Once again – many thanks to you all – Michale”

Elsewhere in Eastleigh,  UKIP were third in Bishopstoke West and Hamble-le-Rice and Butlocks Heath, and second in Bishopstoke East and Netley Abbey.

(*) As of 15:38 on Friday 4th May - national results are still being announced

Local Lib Dem Bulldozer Rolls On

Election Promise or Hostage to Fortune? 
Congratulations to Hedge End Town Councillors Rupert Kyrle and Jane Welsh who retained their Borough Council seats on May 3rd as Eastleigh continued to offer a sanctuary for Lib Dem councillors while nationally the party slumped to its lowest number of councillors ever.

Local elections decided on local issues are good for local democracy, but obtaining votes by deception is bad for democracy.  Rupert and Jane were accused by the Conservatives of misleading the electorate in the final stages of the campaign.  It remains to be seen if Hampshire County Council Leader Ken Thornber will follow up his threat to refer the Lib Dems to the Electoral Commission.  Where there is no doubt is that the Lib Dems promised for the second year to stand up against more building and traffic.  It remains to be seen if they will act on that promise this year, having failed to do so last year.

Putting Botley First
Assuming that Thornber's threats were mere bluster and that the Tories will revert to type and ignore Hedge End for the next eleven months, Rupert is in line to be made Mayor of Eastleigh next week.  He's going to be a busy man balancing his elected roles as Hedge End Town Councillor, County Councillor for Hedge End and Botley, Borough Councillor for Botley and Botley Parish Councillor.  At least he will get to see his partner at Botley Parish Council meetings, as she was another one of five Lib Dems elected to Botley Parish Council on Thursday.(*)

Having promised to "Put Botley First" it looks unlikely that Rupert will be able to improve his attendance record at Hedge End Town Council where he only managed seven meetings in the last year, the equal lowest attendance of all Town Councillors.

Hard Work
Jane, although dual-hatted as a Town and Borough Councillor, is not pulled in as many different directions as Rupert, and has been a hard-working and conscientious Chair of the Town Council for the last year.  She has only missed seven of the 33 meetings of full council and committees of which she is a member, and was present at most of the meetings of Highways and Planning, despite not being a voting member of that committee.  That is all in addition to the informal meetings, allotment inspections and other site visits that do not get minuted or recorded.

Although turnout was low - 36.5% - compared to recent elections in St John's, Jane's percentage share indicates a recovery in Lib Dem support, which had been declining, and her strong personal vote.  The Conservatives must be disappointed that their share of vote fell by almost ten per cent - probably because Tory supporters disappointed with the Cameron / Clegg coalition's recent performance simply stayed at home.

Although the UKIP vote broke through the 10% line for the first time, all the UKIP votes would not have been enough for the Conservatives to catch Jane on this occasion.

Labour support (in contrast to neighbouring Southampton) is flatlining at 8% in the absence of any local presence.

St John's Ward Percentage Share of Vote

(*) As an independent councillor I am very happy that Botley also elected six Independents to their parish council, resulting in a balanced council of six Independents, five Lib Dems and one Conservative.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

There's Still Time to Vote

Village Hall Polling Station 
There were no queues outside Hedge End's polling stations in the middle of the afternoon on polling day.  The Lib Dems sitting outside taking voters' numbers all agreed that voting had been "steady" in the early part of the day.  Defending Councillor Jane Welsh was taking the opportunity of a break from leaflet delivering for an hour or two sat down at the Village Hall.

The Conservatives seemed to have given up.  One blue rosette had been spotted earlier in the morning, but by the afternoon they had left the Lib Dems as the only presence outside the polling stations.  Perhaps all the local Tory footsoldiers had been dragged off to neighbouring Botley.  It would be sad for him if Paul Redding were to lose due to lack of support on the day after what appears to have been a more active and professional campaign than the Blues have managed in recent years.

HEYCA Polling Station
If you are reading this before ten o'clock on Thursday, there is still time to get to your polling station and cast your vote. 

There are Labour and UKIP candidates as well as the Lib Dem and Conservative.   Let's at least have a decent turn-out, whoever wins when the last vote is counted in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

You don't need your polling card if you can't find it.  Just turn up with proof of ID.

If you have a postal vote which you have not returned, you can take it along to the polling station and it will be counted.

Catholic Church Polling Station 
The three polling stations in St John's ward are all close together -Village Hall, HEYCA (Old School) and the Catholic Church - so if you are not sure which one to go to you can get round all three in five minutes.  There is a list of the roads covered at each location, so once you are there you can chceck it's the right one.

It's your money that the Council spends, why wouldn't you want a say in who spends it?

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Could Labour Win Hedge End (One Day)?

% Share of Vote St John's Ward

Labour are the fastest growing party in Hedge End according to results in the last five borough elections in St John's ward.  Starting from a base of zero in 2006 when the party failed to field a candidate, their share of the vote has increased steadily to reach eight per cent in 2011 - without having local candidates, without any local activists and without any local campaigning.  It makes you wonder what they could achieve if they tried.

The Conservatives seem to be stuck at just under forty per cent, and UKIP at just under ten per cent.  The Lib Dems are showing a steady year on year decline from the heady days when they took over half the votes.

Eastleigh news has reported (link) on a resurgent Labour Party in Eastleigh and found evidence (link) that Eastleigh voters find Labour policies more palatable than any other party's.

Hedge End - with no independent or green candidates - is one part of Eastleigh where the Lib Dems' much-repeated claim that "Labour can't win here" appears to be true - for now at least.  But with both coalition parties struggling at a national level, the Lib Dems being accused of misleading voters locally, UKIP openly campaigning to take votes from disaffected Tories on national issues, and voters in general being fed up with all political parties, Labour could profit from the absence of an independent this time round and attract the anti-coalition protest vote.

Realistically Labour are not going to win this time, but a significant increase in Hedge End votes could encourage local activists to work on increasing their support in this area, provide another alternative to the coalition parties, and that would only be good for local democracy.

(Voting takes place this Thursday in St John's ward only in Hedge End)