Saturday, 30 June 2012

Tax Avoiders Coming to Town

P&O Cruises Ventura in Southampton Water   
P&O Cruises are celebrating their 175th anniversary as all seven of their cruise ships will sail from Southampton on the same day, 3rd July.

Southampton, recently announced as the second busiest cruise port in Europe, does not have capacity to handle all 14,500 passengers at once, and permission was granted in March for the Rose Ageas Bowl to act as a temporary check-in terminal with passengers being transferred to and from Southampton docks by coach.

Eastleigh Borough Council estimates an additional 840 cars and taxis on the roads of West End and Hedge End, and more than fifty coach trips back and forth over the three days of P&O's huge corporate shindig. 

175 years is an impressive milestone for P&O who have a long relationship with Southampton's maritime history, and industry insiders estimate that the cruising business brings £300 million to the Southampton area.  That's an economic benefit not to be sniffed at, but there is a dark side to the cruise industry

Sadly the whole celebration is tainted by the fact that P&O's parent company, Carnival Cruises, are serious long term corporate tax avoiders.  Between 2002 and 2008 they paid just over $60 million in tax on profits of $4.3 billion (about 1.4%) according to Christian Aid.  And a maritime lawyer reports that in the last five years they have managed to bring their tax bill down to an even more scrooge-like 1.1%.

So if you are held up this weekend by the additional traffic as you sit in your taxed car, burning taxed petrol, try to think how you will spend your share of the £300 million benefit that cruising brings to our area, and try not to think about all the millions that don't get paid in tax by the corporate giants that now run the cruise industry. 

Unsurprisingly, the current "Life President" of P&O and Executive Chairman 1983-2005 is a Conservative Life Peer, Lord Sterling of Plaistow.  One of Margaret Thatcher's "favourite businessmen", he established his "all in it together" credentials in 2010 when he insisted that plebeian ferry passengers at Portsmouth be segregated from his posh Swan Hellenic cruise customers who would not want to consort with "semi-lager louts smelling of body odour".

He went on loyally to support the Con Dem Coalition's Health and Social Care and Welfare Reform bills.  

Reform of the House of Lords can't come soon enough.

Carnival's Offices in Southampton

Thanks and acknowledgement are due to the excellent Tom Pride and his irreverent Pride's Purge blog for a lot of the research and links in this post.

Picture credits:
P&O Cruises Ventura in Southampton Water - Iveco 59-12
Southampton Offices of Carnival UK - Rod Allday

Friday, 29 June 2012

Every Dog Has Its Day

Are you talking about me? 
Pooch problems in Hedge End and Eastleigh are rare, says Council cabinet member with responsibility for environmental health, Anne Winstanley.  Bishopstoke's Cllr Winstanley is new to the environmental health portfolio, having taken it over from fellow cabinet member and Hedge End Town Council Chair Cllr Louise Bloom earlier this year.

Change of Kennels for Eastleigh Strays

One of her first actions has been to move Eastleigh Borough Council's stray dog kennels from Warren Avenue in Southampton to Bishops Waltham.

The Bishops Waltham kennel is marginally closer to Hedge End than the old facility in Southampton, and probably easier to get to for most people.  According to Cllr Winstanley the change of service provider has been made following a best value review, and Winchester City Council use the same kennels.

The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act terminated the police's role in dealing with stray dogs, and since 2008 local councils have had the responsibility.  If a missing dog is reported the same day it goes missing, it will most likely still be in holding kennels in Eastleigh and can be reclaimed from the Council's dog warden before it even gets to the Bishops Waltham kennels.

Dog Wardens Do Microchips

As the dog's owner will be charged for kenneling costs when they recover their straying pet, it makes sense to get reunited as quickly as possible.  Dog wardens will scan stray dogs for microchips and try to contact the owners according to the information on the chip or on the dog's collar tag.

As dogs can escape when they are not wearing their collar, or the tag could fall off, it makes sense to have dogs microchipped, and Eastleigh Borough Council will do it for only £15 in the comfort of the dog's own home.  That seems to me to be good value for money and a good council service.   Although some charities will do it free, owners would have to take their pets to the charity, and vets normally charge £20-30, again at the vet's own surgery.  Following a government consultation that finished on June 15th, microchipping may in any case become compulsory for dog owners.

Animals Victims of Recession 

Cllr Winstanley tells me that the number of stray dogs picked up in Eastleigh is relatively low:  only 109 across the whole Borough in the last year.  Seventy-seven of them were reunited successfully with their owners.  Of the remainder, 26 were not claimed and were rehomed through animal charities,  and six were euthanised (five because of behavioural problems and one because it was considered to be a banned breed under the Dangerous Dogs Act).

It's an unfortunate consequence of the recession that people who can no longer afford their dogs are having to make the heartbreaking decision to give them up for rehoming. Rehoming charity The Blue Cross, which has an adoption centre in Bubb Lane,  has seen a 28% increase in the number of animals dumped or abandoned.

Dog Fun Day

On a lighter note, the Council's annual Dog Fun Day is due to take place this year on September 8th.  Hedge End Blogger has attended past fun days both as a member of the public and as a volunteer helper and can confirm that it is a thoroughly enjoyable, entertaining and informative event.  Councillors and members of staff at the Borough Council give up their spare time to help run the event, which also has a serious educational purpose in encouraging responsible dog ownership.

It's a shame that Eastleigh Conservatives seem to want to cancel the event to judge by questions from Cllr
Grajewski at February's Full Council. 

Lost and Found Dogs

To report a lost or found dog during office hours, call 023 8068 8329.
The evenings and weekend contact number is 01489 892760

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Lib Dems: Why Can't They Be Honest?

Not Smiling Now.. 
I had a rather depressing conversation today with somebody whose property is going to be blighted by one of the new development locations our Lib Dem Council are trying to sneak in to the Draft Local Plan after the full consultation closed.

The proposals will completely change the character and environment of where he lives and has lived for 14 years.   But the thing he found most difficult to understand was that if I hadn't informed him, he would have had no idea what was being proposed for the land near to his property.  He has had 14 years of Lib Dems stuffing their Focus and Standpoint leaflets through his letter box, but when they want to do something that is going to affect his life and happiness, none of them, not one of his Lib Dem Borough Councillors, has had the common human decency to warn him and give him a chance to comment on the plans.

I hated to be the bearer of bad news, but he was actually grateful that he had found out about the Lib Dem plans and how to comment on them before the consultation closed and it was too late.

Lib Dem Broken Promise 2012
The Lib Dems, in their rather pious way, will no doubt dismiss his objections and those of his neighbours as "NIMBYism", and my intervention as "petty, trivial and personal", but the serious point here is that the Council's rather pitiful attempts to publicise the second round of consultations on the Draft Local Plan have been inadequate and have not reached the very people who are most likely to want to comment.

The consultation needs to be extended beyond July 13th, and all those families who live close enough to one of the new development sites to be directly affected should have an individual invitation to comment delivered through their door.

Lib Dem Broken Promise 2011
 Link to Eastleigh Bourough Council web site:  "Consultations and Latest News"

Monday, 18 June 2012

Good Things the Council Does

Bloomin' Marvellous 
Hedge End Blogger has recently come in for some behind the scenes criticism from senior Lib Dem councillors for being too negative, and for concentrating on the petty, trivial and personal.

As it happens the Borough Council geranium planters have just reappeared in the village centre, and when in full bloom they certainly cheer things up and take drivers' minds off the condition of the road surface (I'm allowed to say that, because that's the fault of Conservative Hampshire County Council).

And that's just one of many positive things the Borough and Town Council have done in the last year:  there's also the preservation of a youth service at The Box and the protection of opening hours at the library - both in the face of Conservative cuts - the Berry Theatre and support for the Rose Ageas Bowl.

In fact last Monday's meeting of the HEWEB Local Area Committee formally agreed the Chair's annual report which detailed all the Hedge End projects, large and small, that the Borough Council has funded or assisted:

£12,000 on fitting out and equipment for the Berry Theatre
£54,000 on the digital projector and screen at the Berry Theatre
£22,000 to underwrite the Berry launch costs and first season
£52,750 contribution to the Town Council's skateboard project
£7,300 on pedestrian safe routes around Shamblehurst Lane / Charterhouse Way
£3,000 contribution to Hedge End Bowling Club's new changing facilities
£1,200 to resolve low lighting levels on route from Maunsell Way to station adjacent to Beattie Rise
£21,942 on crossing points for pedestrians on Turnpike Way
£400 for Hedge End Indoor Bowls Club to promote community participation
£5,250 annual subsidy for Hedge End Teenage Drop-In Centre
£6,500 to manage removal of traveller encampment at Dowd's Farm Park
£45,000 to extend Dowd's Farm Park play area
£17,000 for Dowd's Farm Park Youth Zone
£5,000 for minor works at Dowd's Farm Park
£350,000 to fund renovation of Dowd's Farmhouse
£7,600 for new 30mph signs in Upper Northam Road
£22,800 for new equipment to counteract County Council library service cuts
£13,500 contribution to youth worker's salary to counteract County Council cuts
£2,000 on running costs for Street Talk minibus
£4,600 to keep The Box open in the face of County Council cuts
£18,300 on road improvements near Kings Copse School
£85,000 on community use facilities at Kings Copse School
£47,000 on community use facilities at Wildern School
£2,000 sponsorship of the Berry pantomime
£1,500 for new boardwalk at Aspen Close
£8,000 for residents parking area in Ratcliffe Road
£3,000 to address parking problems in Allen Road
£5,000 for new footpath/cycleway from Nelson Gardens to Maunsell Way


Tuesday, 12 June 2012

New Tennis Courts for Hedge End

What the Deuce? 
A subsidy of £50,000 from the Borough Council will allow Wildern School to build six new tennis courts for school and community use.  This is on the understanding that the school's existing courts will be converted to extra car parking.

New sports facilities are good, and more car parking is needed to reduce inconvenience to people living near the school campus, especially now the Berry Theatre is attracting people from outside Hedge End. 

It will be interesting to see the impact this subsidy from The Hedge End, West End and Botley Local Area Committee has on usage at Hedge End Town Council's tennis courts at Woodhouse Lane, bearing in mind that nine of the LAC members are also town councillors.

The news comes at a time when Hedge End Town Councillors have been agonising over fees for its sports facilities and hire of its community halls.  Over time a number of anomalies have arisen in the Council's charging structure, and the Recreation and Amenities Committee has resolved to standardise its charges in the interest of fairness to all hirers and taking into account increasing costs for energy bills.  A working party consisting of Cllrs Baines, Welsh, Pretty and myself has met several times and its first recommendations will be debated by R&A this Wednesday.

Also on the agenda for Wednesday 13th June are a proposed policy for bee keeping at the allotments, the suitability of a wild flower and bog garden on the St John's Rd Rec, a proposal that the Town Council has a stall at Hedge End carnival, quotations for picnic tables at the paddling pool and a report on the "green flag" inspection of Dowd's Farm Urban Park.

See also:
Pro-Pollinator Policies Proposed
Town Council's Buzzing

This week also sees a meeting of the Finance and Administration Committee on Thursday.   That committee will discuss (in addition to routine financial and audit matters) the membership of the personnel sub-committee for the coming year, and how to record the attendance of members who arrive late, or leave early, at meetings.  It will also receive a progress report on the new store for grounds staff equipment at Pavilion Road.

Both meetings start at 7:00pm and are open to the public.

Putting Hedge End Second

Concerts OKed in Leader's Absence
Lib Dem Leader, Hedge End Town Councillor and Borough Councillor for Hedge End Wildern, Keith House, abandoned Monday's Local Area Committee meeting after only a few minutes to prioritise his County Council constituents in Hamble.  Keith clearly is having to keep an eye on the peninsula as next year's county elections loom.    


In his absence the remaining local Lib Dems managed to confuse the chair and his advisers by proposing an amendment when discussing a controversial West End planning application.  Advised to take a vote on the substantive motion before the amendment, Hedge End Town Councillor Rupert Kyrle (who continues to chair the LAC alongside his mayoral duties) overruled his officers with the support of one or two of his senior colleagues and - correctly - took the vote on the amendment before the substantive motion.

It's not the first time this has happened at the Hedge End, West End and Botley LAC, and it does not give a good impression of the professionalism of the Borough Council.  Rupert is experienced enough in the role to know the correct procedure.  He should either ignore his officers or make sure they have a refresh in basic meeting management.


The confusion was only a temporary diversion from the debate.  Referred to the committee because the Council received more than ten letters of opposition (the threshold, apparently, that makes it a "controversial" application) the application was for an unpopular infill development in the garden of a house in Monarch Way.  Residents were concerned that the access to the garden was too narrow for construction traffic and that delivery lorries, cranes and other plant would be a dangerous disruption to traffic and pedestrians in a constricted area.

Independently-minded Hedge End Town Councillors Bruce Tennent and Jane Welsh sided with the residents as they indicated they were minded to vote against the motion to permit the application.  In the other corner were their Hedge End Town Council colleague Cllr Dan Clarke and West End Cllr David Goodall who could see no valid planning reasons to turn down the application.  Clearly concerned that Cllrs Tennent and Welsh might gain sufficient support to reject the application and that consequential appeal costs would fall on the Council, Louise Bloom proposed her amendment to defer the decision to a future LAC.

Seconded by Botley's Cllr Cathie Fraser, the amendment was passed with only Cllrs Clarke and Goodall voting against.  When it came to the vote on the substantive motion, Cllr Tennent was as good as his word and voted against.  It's not the first time that Bruce has stood alone in front of the Lib Dem bulldozer, but his vote was not enough to save everybody having to go through the whole thing again in September.

Rose Bowl Concerts

Less controversial was the request from Rose Bowl plc to stage more concerts at their Ageas Bowl stadium.  Local members and Council officers are convinced that Rose Bowl concerts are now supported by most local residents.  Only three letters have been provoked by the new application, and two of those were in support.

Public participation prior to the debate raised two questions about the application.  The first was in relation to the officers' recommendation to grant temporary permission only.  Why not make the arrangement permanent and accept that the Ageas Bowl is a major entertainment venue?  The second was about limiting the number of concerts to four in a two year period.  As Rose Bowl plc has trouble raising money from banks, why not allow them to have twelve concerts a year to help their business case and make it more likely that they can repay the Council's loan?

The official view was that temporary permission for concerts is appropriate while the stadium is still unfinished as the acoustic characteristics will inevitably change as more stands and the hotel are built. 

Members were convinced that the good will of local residents would be stretched if the number of concerts were to be increased.  At the moment concerts are seen as a positive contribution to the Borough's cultural and economic life, and consent was granted with just one or two Hedge End councillors wanting to make sure that the traffic management plans would ensure that access to their houses in Dowd's Farm would not be blocked by unofficial parking.

Highway Improvements

Plans to spend £350,000 on highway improvements (described here) went through on the nod.

See also:
Hedge End Independent: Lib Dem Cllr Puts Hedge End Second
Hedge End Independent: Putting Hedge End Third

Monday, 11 June 2012

Grass Snakes: Hedge End Habitat Under Threat

Protected and Priority Species Status 
Council plans for an industrial park in Woodhouse Lane threaten a proven grass snake habitat - despite the grass snake being a "priority species" according to the Council's own Biodiversity Action Plan.

Suddenly realising that their plans for thousands of new houses on green fields in Hedge End and Botley are not sustainable, the controlling Lib Dems have been scrambling at the last minute to find new sites for "local employment" in the area - and most of these are green, not brown, field locations.   One of their preferred sites is in Woodhouse Lane, currently consisting of fields and rural style housing with large gardens (see pages 20- 21 of the new consultation document).   The Lib Dems would tarmac this over for a business or industrial park.

Yet an ecological assessment of part of the threatened area undertaken in 2010 found grass snakes to be present and possibly breeding there, as well as large numbers of foraging bats.  Grass snakes are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and since 2007 have been a priority species in the national Biodiversity Action Plan.

This habitat destruction would take place despite the Council's Biodiversity Action Plan's statement that the three biggest threats to Eastleigh's biodiversity are "Habitat loss or damage as a result of land-use change", "Habitat degradation through lack of management or unsympathetic management" and "Habitat Fragmentation".

It's not exactly joined up politics when one part of the council ignores what another part of the council is saying.

Consultations on the proposed "employment" sites and
the revised  Biodiversity Action Plan run until 13th July:  
Link to Draft Local Plan amendments consultation
Link to Revised BAP consultation

See also - Green Fields: Further Lib Dem Raids

Grass Snake Picture Credit: Lukas Jonaitis

Friday, 8 June 2012

Local Plan - New Consultation

Happy Families or Hitch-Hikers Guide?
"'But Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months.'
'... You hadn't exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them had you?  I mean like actually telling anybody or anything.'
'But the plans were on display ...'
'On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.'
'That's the display department.'
'With a torch.'
'Ah, well the lights had probably gone.'
'So had the stairs.'
'But look, you found the notice didn't you?'
'Yes,' said Arthur, 'yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying Beware of the Leopard.'"
(Douglas Adams, The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy)

The advent of e-government has dated Douglas Adams' satire on local government planning consultations, and these days if the council wants to discourage participation, the relevant information is likely to be at the bottom of an unlinked web page behind a paywall with a pop-up warning Possible Worm Malware Infection.

Lack of Publicity

Although previous consultations on Eastleigh Borough Council's Draft Local Plan have been well publicised, it has been less keen to let people know that a new consultation started on 1st June.

Perhaps because the Lib Dem cabinet seem determined to ignore the hundreds of people who objected to the proposed developments at Woodhouse Lane and Boorley Green, there is to be no high profile mailing to every household in the borough, just a small article hidden away on page six of "Borough News".  

Hedge End Town Council's web site does have a link, and the documents are available at the Town Council office for those who prefer to peruse a paper version, but if people don't know they are there, they can't go along and consult them.

New Plan Documents

Comments are invited only on the proposed changes to the Plan and on new documents which have been produced since the last consultation.  These new documents are:
  • Draft Sustainability Appraisal Report
  • Draft Habitats Regulations Assessment
  • Draft Transport Assessment.
I have already blogged on some of the changes affecting Hedge End:
The consultation is open until 13th July and full details are on the Eastleigh Borough Council web site.  If you feel strongly about any of these changes, do please let the Council know.  Do you think the Lib Dems are keeping their election promises?

Election Promise 2011

Election Promise 2012

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

More Concerts Planned for Rosebowl

What's In a Name? 
Hedge End residents have enjoyed previous Rosebowl concerts from the comfort of their own gardens when the wind has been in the right direction.  But free music has been in short supply recently while the Rosebowl has been concentrating on the building of new stands.

Under its new name of Ageas Bowl, the Rosebowl is now applying for permission for four concerts with an attendance of up to 35,000 over a period of two years

The police, Eastleigh Borough Council and the Rosebowl have learned a lot of lessons since the Oasis concert in 2005 resulted in considerable disruption to local residents.  Recent major events at the stadium have been well managed and resulted in few complaints.  A small number find the noise annoying, but the majority of people seem to be happy to tolerate it as long as it remains an infrequent occurrence.

Let's hope the new management and stadium sponsors will want to maintain the good record of the ground in maintaining a positive relationship with local residents.

First HEWEB LAC Meeting Since March

The Hedge End, West End and Botley Local Area Committee will be considering the Ageas Bowl application on Monday 11th June at the 2000 Centre, starting at 7:00pm.

Other items on the agenda are: whether to spend nearly £30,000 on various highway improvements, including a pedestrian / cycle link from Boorley Green to Hedge End station, a "Park and Stride" from the Budgens car park to the Wildern School campus, improved footpaths at the Kanes Hill roundabout, and works in West End Road, Chapel Road and Kenilworth Gardens in West End; a further £9,000 on air quality monitoring equipment for Botley; and £313,000 on the Lower Northam Road cycleway which I blogged about here back in March.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Town Council, the Pope, Pirelli and the WI

Following in the footsteps of Pope Gregory XIII, Pirelli and the WI Calendar Girls, Hedge End Town Council will have its own calendar in 2013.

Like Pirelli and Calendar Girls, it will use the Gregorian calendar, but unlike those two the pictures will be views of old Hedge End.  Proofs will be viewed and agreed at the Community and Culture Committee on Tuesday 12th June.

Also on the agenda are reports from the HEWEB Youth Council and the Diamond Jubilee Street Party.

The meeting starts at 7:00pm at the 2000 Centre, and is open to the public.

See also: Councillors Plan to Abolish Hedge End Random Time

Friday, 1 June 2012

Warehouse Development to Create Ten New Jobs

A huge warehouse and distribution centre anticipated for a long empty site in Botley Road will create just eight to ten new jobs according to a planning application submitted on 24th May.  Cleared five years ago, the site was formerly occupied by Ryvan Chemicals and Simmons Engineering.

At 15,000 sq ft with the same area for car parking, the engineering tool warehouse will be the largest building in the new development and will provide jobs at the rate of one for every 3,000 sq ft.

Coalition-created austerity means that even the smallest number of new jobs is welcome, but these plans indicate how expensive in terms of land modern jobs in "traditional" industries and businesses can be as employers are forced to cut their labour costs.

Lib Dem Plan for Jobs Inadequate

At the same rate, the four "employment areas" proposed for Hedge End in the Draft Local Plan amendments (see "Wildern Mill: Lib Dems Change Their Minds" and "Green Fields: Further Lib Dem Raids") would generate just 94 jobs.  Not many to share around the nearly 4,000 houses that the Lib Dems want to build in Hedge End and Botley.

Unimaginative planning has led to sites being designated for business, industry and distribution purposes, with nothing for the caring professions or leisure and other professional services which are likely to generate more jobs as Hedge End's population grows older in the next twenty years.  If the Council's plans are to sacrifice green fields for "employment" they should seek to maximise the employment benefit from the land and get as many jobs per square foot as possible.

Highways and Plannings Committee 6th June

Hedge End Town Council does not decide planning applications, but it has the right to comment on and object to any application in Hedge End.  The Highways and Planning Committee, which next meets on 6th June, has delegated powers to do this, and although it does not publish in advance the applications to be considered, I would expect the Botley Road warehouse development to be discussed at the June meeting.