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Community News
The Newsletter of the Community Campaign (Hart)
Issue 9, Spring 2009

The Peter Driver 5 a-side saga:

The site of the burnt out former night club known as Shott's and the adjacent car park were all part of the Peter Driver sports ground. It sits on land donated for the use of the people of Church Crookham by the MoD in memory of local athlete Peter Driver, who famously won a gold medal in the 1954 Empire Games in Vancouver. The MoD gave ownership of the sports ground to Hart District Council, but kept a covenant on the site intending to ensure that the sports ground would remain for recreational use. However, the MoD cancelled this covenant in return for an undisclosed sum of money, when Hart sold the site in 2005.

Originally the Fleet & Crookham Athletic Club had the benefit of a gym on the Shott's part of the site but the area was leased off, without their knowledge by Hart to allow the building of the nightclub in the late 80's. This was the first stage of Hart's piecemeal selling off of this important local asset.

After the nightclub burnt down, in mysterious circumstances in 2000, Hart gave outline planning permission for small offices and industrial units to be constructed on the site. This permission allows the units to be built on the existing car park. Although 18 spaces are to be provided on the site of the old bungalow, this will not be anywhere near sufficient. Currently, even with 50 spaces, the car park is often overflowing and consequently, once the units are built, the sports ground could not continue to be viable.

In 2005, without consulting local people or the ward Councillors, Hart sold the site for £600,000 to a developer. Although it is impossible to say exactly how Hart used this money, we can be sure that it has not been reinvested in sporting facilities in the local area.

When the Community Campaign learnt of this questionable deal we were deeply concerned. In response to our questions, Conservative Councillor Stephen Gorys showed his true contempt for the people of Church Crookham and users of the Peter Driver site when he said; “[CCH] have no reason to be involved in the negotiations because they are junior backbenchers. All those that needed to be involved have been involved."

In fact, lots of people who should have been involved weren’t; those who use the facilities and for whom the facility had been bequeathed, were not consulted at all.

In the current economic climate business units do not represent a viable economic prospect so the developer is asking to build a nursing home instead. They are sweetening the proposal by configuring the site to allow for a larger car park, thus providing space for 36 cars. In reconfiguring the building plot they will need to pull the 5 a-side pitch into the development. The developer is offering to mitigate this by building a replacement 5 a-side court in the local area, before the existing one is closed.

This new pitch would be built to modern Football Association standards and would be of a much higher quality than the existing one. However, local people are rightly concerned that this new 5 a-side court should be built within the local area. In conjunction with various bodies and very public spirited locals, Jenny Radley has been helping to identify possible sites in and around Church Crookham. There are a number of possible sites which look to be viable.

However, now back under Conservative control, Hart are having none of this and refuse to allow the new 5 a-side to go anywhere else other than on the new Hitches Lane development. This is too far away for the local teams who currently make use of the facility. Hart’s administration seems unable to stop themselves from depriving the local communities of every valuable asset, whilst foisting the loss making assets on to the new parish councils.

County Elections:

Inside we explain why the Community Campaign feel that in the best interest of the communities which we represent we must put forward our own candidate in this year’s Hampshire County election. It is very clear from the way that Hampshire has ignored the needs of this area in recent years that the Church Crookham, Courtmoor, Crookham Village & Ewshot division needs active representation.

From the pre-announcements, we know that the major mainstream party in the area is putting forward a candidate who does not even live in the area.

Therefore we are proud to be putting Jenny Radley forward as our candidate. Jenny has an impeccable track record of working tirelessly to get things done. Anyone who has seen Jenny at work will know that she hates politics and is only driven by achieving the best for the local community.

See more below ..........

Hampshire 2009: An opportunity to put things right

Jenny RadleyThe more we have tried to work with Hampshire County Council, the more we have discovered that if your county councillor doesn’t care enough to drive things forward, then nothing is going to get done. Worse, without vigilance Hampshire can, and does, impose awful decisions on a community. This is what has been happening in recent years within the Courtmoor, Church Crookham, Crookham Village and Ewshot county division seat.

Therefore the Community Campaign feel that the area desperately needs a hard working and community minded county councillor. Jenny Radley has a proven track record of devoting her time to tackling the issues that really matter to the community; mitigating impacts of QEB, maintaining public access to Tweseldown; working with local schools; promoting road safety and supporting local youth groups and organisations. Jenny is the least politically motivated of any councillor at Hart - she just wants to see that the real needs of local people are not neglected by the authorities that should be putting local people first but which all too often don’t. By working with people rather than wasting time playing politics Jenny is the person best able to make a positive difference and to get things done.

As a community we must not sleep walk into another 4 years of neglect. Take a few examples;

Pyestock: Hampshire County Council (HCC) signed a legal agreement with the prospective developer of the massive warehouse at the Pyestock site that would allow them to route all their lorries through Fleet & Church Crookham at any time of day or night. The Community Campaign did go to the appeal to argue that the agreement would seriously harm the area and so should not be allowed. However, how much better would it have been if the county councillor had insisted that they check any legal agreement first?

QEB: HCC were quite happy to say that the QEB development would not impact local roads in return for a financial package of £3m to make improvements to the area’s infrastructure, even though HCC have no idea how they could use the money effectively to achieve this.

Education: All of Hart’s secondary schools are full. This is really not a surprise because of all the new housing that has gone into the area. However, it appears that our County Council could not see this coming.

In March this year, 40 families were told that their children did not have a place at the Fleet or Odiham secondary schools and instead, would have to go to schools in Aldershot & Farnborough. Although work is going on to try to find a place for all pupils this year, it is little comfort for families living towards the outer edge of the catchment area and who are hoping to have their children accepted into local secondary schools in future years. There has been a systemic and long term under-investment in the schools in this area. Our County Councillors have chosen to ignore the consequences of the housing developments which have gone up in recent years.

It may well be too late to salvage some of these problems but for the sake of our community we have to try. We certainly need someone good in place to deal with whatever the next challenges turn out to be.

Frankly, the County elections are a straight choice between voting for someone who has been selected simply on the basis of party politics or for someone whose only interest is addressing the really serious challenges that we face in this part of Hampshire. Despite the momentum of the national parties, if you think we need an active inspiring County representative then please come out and vote. Not voting is effectively a vote for 4 more years of complacency and inaction. Voting Slip

Please vote Jenny Radley for Hampshire County Council;
4th June 2009

Harlington Centre

by Chris Axam   
 Chris Axam  
There has recently been much public concern over the future of the Harlington Centre. There was an outcry when it was rumoured that it was about to close, so demonstrating that residents are determined to see that this important asset remains open. We in the CCH could not agree more and support the efforts to tackle the high running costs associated with this facility.

However, we disagree with the way this cost cutting exercise has been handled. The only communication with users has been a letter hinting that the Harlington Centre would stop taking bookings, thus suggesting it would close. This failure to consult users over the minimum service level required has lead to an ill thought out cost cutting programme, which will increase the burden on tax payers as revenues decline. Given that many of the users of the Harlington Centre are now actively looking for alternative venues, it’s long term viability has fallen into doubt.

Hart has decided that the Centre should become the financial responsibility of the three new parishes. Despite recent cut backs, the Centre is likely to cost circa £300k per year, a huge proportion of the budget of the new parishes. Until this year, Hart has taken responsibility for the building’s maintenance, but has now decided to take out a £45,000 loan on behalf of the as yet non-existent parishes for a 75% share of the costs to repair the flat roof. This commits the incoming parish councils to a 10 year loan to repair an asset which will still belongs to HDC.

It is clearly wrong to transfer the cost of running and maintaining the building to the new parishes while Hart keeps tight hold of the asset. Hart are proposing to give the incoming parish councils an indeterminate lease on the building with the full obligation for repairing what is now an old building. While at some point in the future Hart can simply take it back.

We believe that it would be fairer if the Harlington Centre was retained and operated as a Hart council asset.

Crondall Report

by John Bennison 
 John Bennison 
Children are the life blood of any village, and the village school is at the heart of the community. Crondall and Ewshot now face a very real threat from the secondary schools crisis mentioned elsewhere in this newsletter. Crondall and Ewshot are on the edges of the catchment areas for their respective secondary schools, which means that when Calthorpe and Court Moor are full, it is the village children who don’t get in. The distance of travel from the school is one of the main factors in prioritizing who gets admitted.

I would not wish to be alarmist but everyone in the villages should be concerned about the implication of the local secondary schools becoming full, because whether you have children going through school or not – this problem could very well impact on you.

Already there are reports of people leaving or planning to leave the village so that they can live closer to the Fleet and Church Crookham secondary schools. If it was to become widely believed that living in Ewshot or Crondall could jeopardize the chances of a child getting into a local secondary school, this would have a detrimental impact on village life. Young families would have little incentive to stay in or move to the villages. The vitality and viability of the villages could suffer accordingly.

The CCH were the only group who considered the lack of sufficient secondary school provision to be a serious issue with the QEB development plan. We had to persuade HCC to come to the appeal to ask for the money they really needed. This is the same authority who thought that a small entry primary school would suffice for the children living in the 1800 plus houses on the Elvetham Heath estate only to find that they had to take way one of the football pitches to build more class rooms to accommodate them. What have our County Councillors been doing about this foreseeable problem?

Even if they are able to accommodate the 14 children from Crondall Primary School who had not been allocated a place this year, what will happen next year?

With 300 houses being built next door to Calthorpe Park School, possibly more on the QEB site and central government making HDC build 4,400 houses over the next twenty years, we really need to pull the County’s head out of the sand.

The truth about the Velmead Community centre

by Simon Ambler

The refurbishment of Velmead Community Centre (VCC) brings together a culmination of two long running saga’s; how to spend the developer contributions (S106) money from Zebon Copse and how to safeguard the future of the Community Centre. Long before I was first elected in 2005, I was aware that Hart held a significant pot of money and had spent time seeking views of local residents as to how they felt this money should be best spent. I had also had discussions with representatives at Hart in an attempt get the money released for the benefit of local residents who had paid the money as part of their house purchase price. There was significant opposition from the ruling group at the time to allow the money to be spent on Zebon Copse.

Velmead CC

Matters came to a head in 2002 when the same ruling group decided that they no longer wanted to carry on running the VCC. By this time the Centre was well used by local groups and had an established play group. The plan was to transfer the centre to the Parish Council with very little consultation. Not wishing to lose the only community facility in the area, the Parish Council entered into discussions with Hart with the view that they could only take it over if it was possible to make it financially viable. Following consultation with the users, the Parish Council believed that this could be done by implementing changes and enhancements to the Centre, funded by the unused developer contributions.

Discussions had barely begun when, in 2003, the Leader of Council and ward member for our area announced at a Full Council meeting that unless the Parish Council took over the centre quickly, it would be closed down. Thankfully the Parish Council persevered and persuaded them not to carry out their threat of closure. Over the next three years, there followed a period of protracted negotiation with many false starts as the Hart Cabinet members kept changing their mind as to the best approach. In 2006 when the CCH / Lib-Dem Coalition took control, there was yet another change of direction. This time for the better. The proposal was to form a genuine partnership with the Parish Council to achieve a four years phased handover of the facility allowing the Parish to get to grips with the issues associated with running quite a large community centre, which includes two halls and sports facilities. Agreement was quickly achieved; money allocated to appoint an architect and plans drawn up for the building changes. Even so, there were many issues to be agreed and, as always, the complex legal agreement between the two parties took time to complete to the satisfaction of both sides. In April 2008, following presentation of the Parish Council’s business plan, the Coalition Cabinet approved the expenditure of the money on the refurbishment project.

The project was dealt a further blow when the tenders from contractors revealed that the work would cost well in excess of the budget. Undeterred, the Parish Council revised the plans to be less ambitious and sought new tender responses.Finally in December 2008, a response was received that was within budget. Despite an 11th hour attempt over Christmas by the Conservative leader to scupper the project by trying to claw back from the project much of the money approved by the previous administration, the building contract was awarded and Hart and Crookham Village PC signed the legal agreement for transfer. Building work has now begun and will be complete by the start of the school term in September. This will provide new facilities including a small stage, a completely new kitchen, additional storage and a fully refurbished children’s play area. Little did I think in 2005 when one of my election pledges was to secure the future of the Community Centre that it would take this long, but the outcome will have been worth the wait.
Published by: Julia Ambler, 39 Du Maurier Close, Church Crookham, Hampshire, GU52 0YA