CCH Logo
Community News
The Newsletter of the Community Campaign (Hart)
Issue 11, Spring 2011

What’s Happening?

This, our 11th newsletter, follows somewhat later than usual after the last one because, until now, so much has been in a state of flux that it has never felt to be the right time to take a 'snap shot' of events.

The new planning application for the QEB has finally been submitted; after a delay lasting for most of 2010. Although, as expected, this application is less intrusive than the previous one, there are still issues. Of major concern is the fact that Hampshire education authority look to be repeating the mistakes made on Zebon Copse and Ancells Farm and is telling the developer that they don’t need to build a primary school on the site!

The principle junction improvements for the QEB were implicitly agreed through the Secretary of State’s ruling after the planning inquiry into the previous application. Despite our vigorously arguing at the appeal that these junctions were inadequate, Hampshire Highways scuppered any leverage we had by agreeing with Taylor Wimpey that their plans would work. This makes it even more important that the £3m contribution for ‘general’ highway improvements is not squandered on inappropriate schemes. This will mean keeping a close eye on how the money is earmarked to be spent and not allowing it to be diverted into ineffective schemes or those which represent poor value for money.

Whilst on the subject of major developments -alarmingly despite the much publicized ‘localism’ bill Hart’s Conservative cabinet have voted to set the building target at 4,000 new houses in Hart over the next 20 years. This means that we will inevitably lose some green fields and will result in yet more pressure on our inadequate infrastructure. This will have a major impact on the quality of life that we enjoy in our local area.

QEB Issues

Taylor Wimpey (TW) has submitted their long anticipated planning application for the QEB site. The application is for 872 houses, somewhat fewer than the 1,150 originally being sought. Most importantly TW are not seeking to close the Bourley Road car park; a major victory for all who protested last time. However, there are still major concerns.

Previously, the developer had been willing to make provision for building a new primary school on the site. Then, at the last minute when the application was about to be submitted Hampshire education authority decided that it would not be needed after all as they could expand local schools instead.

Expansion at the Church Crookham Junior and Tweseldown Infant school site to provide an additional form for each of the 7 year groups would drastically reduce the grounds which make this school site a wonderful learning environment. Also, local residents know that already there are serious parking issues at school drop-off and pick-up times, even before the school is expanded by a third. So, why turn down a new 1.5 form entry school, with sufficient space to expand to 3 form entry, when it is offered on the QEB?

An expanded Church Crookham school will only provide an additional 1 form entry although 1.5 was said to be needed. It seems likely that some children from Church Crookham will be displaced and will need to attend the Heatherside Schools instead. Hampshire claim to have already drawn up plans to also expand Heatherside to cope with increased demand. This will also impact on the amenities of that school.

So, why not build a new school, within its own parkland and with adequate parking? Without a school on this site, the QEB school traffic will have to use local roads at peak times. With a school on QEB, this traffic would be contained within the site.

If you anticipate having children or grand-children going to primary school in the area in future years, or if any unnecessary increase in peak time traffic would have an impact on you, then you should care about this issue.

Primary schools were not built on Zebon Copse or Ancells Farm. This is widely considered to have been a big mistake. Even the school on Elvetham Heath was initially built too small. There is a long history of school planners selling the local community short on school provision. If you are going to comment on any aspect of the QEB application, do please raise any concerns that you may have about the short sightedness of not putting a primary school on the site. You must remind Hart’s planning committee not to repeat past mistakes.

How many new homes should be built in Hart over the next 20 years?

Hart is currently devising a “strategic housing strategy”. This is part of the process to introduce a Local Development Framework (LDF) to replace the ageing Local Development Plan and will specify how many new dwellings are to be built on which major sites.

At their cabinet meeting of 6th January 2011, Hart’s Conservative cabinet voted to set a target housing level of 200 new builds per year for each of the next 20 years. These 4,000 new homes are equivalent to more than two new Elvetham Heath estates!

They did this without stopping to consider where these houses will get built or what impact they will have on our already over stretched roads, schools and medical services.

Council leader Cllr. Ken Crookes (Con.) in response to questioning by the CCH at the January Council meeting admitted that his Cabinet have not considered the impact of the 200 per year target on local infrastructure.

A Hart report “Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment” has identified land at Grove Farm (south of Hitches Lane) and sites along Redfields Lane as being amongst those available for this excess housing. Local residents familiar with these locations will appreciate that with existing traffic levels and the demand for school places, these areas are effectively already full. The Community Campaign continues to argue that Hart cannot set a new housing target until such time as they determine how to mitigate the impact of these developments.

The local area has still to experience the impact that Edenbrook (Hitches Lane) and QEB will have on our road network. It is very disingenuous to consider building yet more houses when the local community remains to be convinced that these developments, already in the pipeline, will not have a drastic impact on our quality of life.

Crondall Report

by John Bennison Jon Bennison

May 6th 2010 was a significant day at the polls for the government of this county. It was also a significant day for me as well, in that I narrowly missed out on holding onto the Crondall ward seat by just 85 votes. I'd previously won the seat by the tiniest of margins (just 2 votes) so I always knew that it was going to be tight.

However, given the swings in other wards across the district, due to the effect of the general election, I am heartened by how the size of the vote for me held up. I do have to say how grateful I am for the warm words of encouragement that I received while out canvassing. I am looking forward to the opportunity to contest the election and to winning the seat back next time.

The Boundary Commission recently looked to review the number of district councillors at Hart in advance of adjusting ward boundaries. We in the Community Campaign were adamant that, given the cuts in council budgets, the only right course of action was to reduce the number of councillors.

Hart currently have 35 councillors. The boundary commission said that we could recommend any number provided that it is divisible by 3. This is because Hart elects a third of its members at each district election, so each ward should ideally be represented by 3 councillors. We therefore felt that it would be more efficient if we reduced the number of Hart councillors to 27. This is a reduction of a little over 20% and is in line with the level of restructuring across government as a whole.

Unbelievably to us, some sectors of the Council actually wanted an increase in councillors. However, the leading group voted through a token reduction of just 2 seats, leaving a total of 33 councillors.

Now that the number of councillors has been set, the Boundary Commission has started to look at adjusting ward boundaries to give an even distribution of electorate to each ward seat. Crondall has been 'over represented' because at the last boundary review it was anticipated that the QEB would have added a significant number of new voters by now. This coupled with the need to have an electorate size that can justify having 3 councillors means that the Crondall ward must change significantly. Hart are suggesting Crookham Village & Ewshot be joined into one each of the Church Crookham wards. While Crondall looks set to be merged with neighbouring Odiham.

There will be a significant change when whatever new arrangement comes into effect in 2014. Local people with strong views on what happens to the Crondall ward should look out for notice by Hart of any consultation on the new boundaries.

Hart Budget Challenges

by Chris Axam

Chris Axam Everyone will be aware of the severe financial issues facing our country and the impact that this will have on public finances. Although headline figures were revealed in October, the full impact of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review on Hart District Council (HDC) only became apparent in December. The details of Hart’s general revenue grant ‘settlement’ confirmed the Council’s worst fears as to the scale of the cut in Government financial support. As a result, the budget for 2011/12 will prove difficult. Statements made by national politicians indicate that further significant cuts in support grant can be expected over the next few years.

To put this into context, for the current financial year 2010/11, the cost of providing council services amounted to £9.884m which was funded by Central Government grants of £3.854m; council taxes of £5.801m and interest on balances of £243k. The grant from Central Government this year has been cut to £2.947m, which after the adjustment for the transfer of responsibility of the concessionary travel fares scheme from HDC to HCC, estimated to be £322k in the current year, means an overall reduction in the cash grant of around £584k. This alone would require an increase in the council tax of 10% - which is unacceptable. The news gets no better with an indication that the cut in the central grant next year would further reduce the income by some £300k.

This is not the end of the financial challenges that face HDC. Reductions in some other government grants made to specific services together with adjustments made for the contractual inflation associated with outsource contracts, and external inflationary pressures such as fuel costs, will mean that Hart will need to find an estimated £660k extra for 2011/12. The net result of all these changes is that HDC will have to find savings in the range of between £1.25m and £1.35m simply to balance the books. It is unavoidable that at this level of budget shortfall, savings will inevitably translate to cuts in services.

Where these cuts will fall has still to be decided by the Conservative administration and to be honest I do not envy their task. However, we will try to steer them away from cuts to the services which we know residents truly value, if we feel that more appropriate savings can be made elsewhere. It is, for example, too easy to suggest reducing the level of litter collections or putting up car parking charges to help close the gap without first looking to see if there are other costs which could be addressed with less impact. The council is looking to reduce the cost of waste collection by sharing the service with Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council. This is something I believe should be supported as the benefits of increased scale will provide a more resilient service while allowing Hart to reap efficiencies in back office costs.

There are no simple answers when faced with the problem of resolving the level of national debt, a challenge that we will all be sharing over the next decade. Although the spending cuts at HDC are not debt orientated, the problem is similar in that we have to live with a reduced income and mounting cost pressures. In these difficult times some services will have to be reduced if we are to deliver a balanced budget and not be forced to consider borrowing to support services which, in my view, would be a mistake. The CCH Group would therefore like to hear from anyone who wishes to protect particular services provided by the Hart District Council.

A Great Start for the Parish Councils

One recent newsworthy event was the formal creation of the new parish councils at the beginning of April 2010. Previously Fleet & Church Crookham had been unparished. Thanks to our long campaign and the petition that we ran back in spring 2006, which collected over 2,000 signatures, Hart finally conceded and gave Fleet and Church Crookham equal footing with the rest of the district.

One of the arguments against forming parishes, put about by our opponents, was that the Parish Councils would cost us more in Council Tax. However, Church Crookham's parish precept looks like it will have a 0% increase again this year. At the same time, it is now empowered to use the parish precept money to provide services & facilities for the communities from which it was raised. These new parishes are in a position to invest this money back into local facilities. It is not often these days that you get a public body able to offer more to the tax payer whilst not increasing the amount that they ask you to pay to them.

This is possible because the creation of the parish councils has freed up money previously diverted out of the local community to maintain Hart facilities such as the Harlington Centre. Credit is due to Hart, which has been very open and supportive towards the new parishes and has gone out of its way to ensure that monies previously held by the district have been fairly distributed back to the new parishes.

Church Crookham Parish Council is currently in negotiation with both the developers for the Peter Driver site and QEB to ensure that the community gets worthwhile and viable facilities at both locations. The Parish Council is putting considerable time and effort into these tricky negotiations which would be daunting for any established parish council, let alone a new parish council during its first full year of official existence.

The new Fleet Town council is facing its own challenges, not least with how to maintain The Harlington Centre on a viable footing. Meanwhile, the newly split Crondall & Ewshot parishes are also working to ensure that they can operate efficiently as independent villages.

Licensing Matters

by Gill Butler
One of the more interesting roles I have undertaken since becoming a Hart District councillor in 2006 has been that on the Licensing Committee. This committee comprises eleven councillors and meets on a monthly basis to discuss district wide matters relating to premises which sell alcohol and late night refreshments, gambling establishments, private hire vehicles and hackney carriages.

On occasions, three councillors make up a quasi judicial sub-committee, also known as a licensing hearing, in order to make a decision on a particular issue. Some examples of typical hearings might be:
  1. A public house or shop which applies to extend its hours of operation but where local people have objected.
  2. A licensed premise which has failed test purchases by police or trading standards, who suspect that alcohol is being sold to under-age persons.
  3. A taxi driver appealing against a licensing officer’s decision to revoke his license.
  4. The review of a license where the police consider that a licensed premise is being operated in such a way that it breaches the four core objectives of the 2003 licensing act.
In such cases, the three councillors have considerable powers, for example, to revoke an individual’s licence to run a public house. We encourage members of the public to take an active interest in what is happening in their neighbourhood but it is vital that should you wish to object to a licensing application that your letter addresses at least one of the 4 ‘licensing objectives’:
  1. The prevention of crime and disorder
  2. Public safety
  3. Prevention of public nuisance
  4. The protection of children from harm
These are the only grounds that can be taken into account when a member of the public raises objections. So, unless your objection makes reference to one or more of these objectives, your objection will not in itself trigger a hearing panel.

Published by: Julia Ambler, 39 Du Maurier Close, Church Crookham, Hampshire, GU52 0YA