CCH Logo
Community News
The Newsletter of the Community Campaign (Hart)
Issue 15, Spring 2014

Listening Thinking Acting

The Community Campaign (Hart) is a local residents association who have members elected as independently minded councillors on both Hart District & Hampshire County Councils. We are apolitical, simply focused on the local issues which matter to the community we live in. Those of us who stand as Community Campaign councillors don’t do so because we have pre-set ideas, we do it because we want to make a positive difference, as best we can, to the place in which we live. This means listening to the concerns of those who live here, thinking about what we can do to help and where we can, acting to do something about it. By not being stuck within a political doctrine we are free to think about things in different ways.

Take the vitality of the Fleet “high street”. There are some very good, much loved quality shops. There are also empty shops which stand vacant for long periods, reminding us how fragile the retail climate really is. People keep asking, please do something to help the retailers who have steadfastly stuck by Fleet, despite the economic pressures, and do something to draw in more quality retail outlets. To date, quite frankly, the district council has tinkered at the edges – but hasn’t done anything significant.

The problem is that the only real contribution the district council can make to support retailers in Fleet is to address parking. It is well known in the retail industry that big name stores look to set up shop in towns which offer free parking. There are many reasons for this: it removes a financial barrier for people to set foot on the high street; it encourages people to come in from wider afield and it makes a statement that ‘this community supports a vibrant retail centre’.

Anyone who has lived in the area for any length of time knows that the politicians like to ‘play’ with parking. First they banned people from parking on Fleet Road and issued tickets for ‘loading’.  They then offered a few red bays and moved them around a bit, before taking them away again. Finally they brought back 30 min parking on Fleet Road after it turned out the restrictions weren’t enforceable anyway. We are all sadly familiar with the pattern.

The problem politicians have with parking is that it is a revenue stream and Hart District Council (HDC) does need to balance its budget.

So, here is a radical idea; why not introduce 2 hour free parking in the Victoria Road and Church Road car parks, paying for this by raising council tax? Everyone hates council tax but loves free parking – how can we balance this?

The Community Campaign wants to start a dialogue with local residents along the lines of “would you be willing to stump up an extra £12 per year (on a band D house) to fund free parking for up to 2 hours in Fleet?” If you regularly pay to park in Fleet at the weekend you are likely to say ‘yes’. If you live close enough to walk into Fleet to shop, it is a more finely balanced issue. However, remember the point of the scheme would be to attract more quality retailers and to support those we already cherish. If you walk or cycle into Fleet to shop then look on this idea as being about creating even more reasons to want to do so.

Can it be done? We think so, but we will need to crunch the numbers further. The £12 per year (ie. £1 per month) increase is a limit we should not exceed. Which days in the week we could make free for that amount of increase is a variable yet to be determined. The increase could possibly be phased in over a number of years.
We would not do anything without consulting people first. Canvassing in the run-up to the district elections will be a great opportunity to start this process. We will probably be the only people knocking on doors this year who have the courage and imagination (and let’s face it – honesty) to be broaching the subject of possibly raising council tax. We look forward to some interesting doorstep discussions. If we don’t have the opportunity to talk to you directly you can always give us your views via e-mail;

It’s time to have a meaningful debate about how to regenerate vitality in our town.

Pushing the limit Alan Oliver

by Alan Oliver
The new 20mph speed limit that has been introduced in the streets parallel to Fleet Road has caused a lot of debate.

The intention of the scheme was to improve road safety by limiting speeds. A significant number of residents have called into question whether the scheme was needed (was there a significant road safety issue on these roads?) and also the consultation process (was it widely advertised and were the responses acted upon?). Most residents accept that in areas of high pedestrian use or where there is a constriction in the road then some form of traffic calming, such as a 20mph limit, is in the public interest. The areas around our schools are obvious examples of sites where these measures are acceptable and help to provide a safer environment for our children.

Many other residential areas in Fleet and Church Crookham have their own issues of speeding and rat runs but should we turn all our residential streets into 20mph zones? Or should we be selective in where they are applied and look to enforce more rigorously existing 30mph zones? This would seem to be a more balanced approach.
20mph sign

The new 20mph zone has been described as a pilot scheme by Hampshire County Council; but when I discussed this with Hampshire officers they seemed reluctant to consider its withdrawal as this could be seen as them having wasted £25,000 of council tax payer’s money on the scheme. They have also already agreed with our Conservative councillors that the only question to be asked in the consultation promised for the end of the year long trial is to be; “Has the 20mph zone improved road safety?” It will be difficult to answer ‘NO’ to this even if we now see inappropriate overtaking on Connaught and other roads by drivers frustrated at the apparently artificial speed limit.
We believe the consultation at the end of the trial must also ask the question; “Do you want to see the 20mph zone removed?” This will allow residents to have their say on the matter and not be manipulated by another narrow consultation designed to get the answer County Officers and Councillors want. The decision as to whether the new 20mph scheme stays in place or is scrapped should be driven by local residents in a fair and open consultation.

FlightFarnborough Airspace

TAG, the operator of Farnborough Airport, has started a consultation into their taking control of a vast swathe of airspace across Hampshire and Surrey. They would use this controlled airspace to define the routes flown by aircraft using Farnborough. This will allow them to constrain aircraft to using dedicated flight lanes in the sky. Their main stated reason for doing this is that it is in the interest of noise abatement; although it was admitted in a discussion that it was also required to enable them to handle significantly more flights than are using the airport at the moment.

TAG claim that by having controlled airspace they can ensure that the aircraft climb higher quicker and stay higher longer when overflying the area. This would indeed act to reduce overall noise on the ground but there will of course be winners and losers. If you live outside of a defined flight path you should notice a dramatic decrease in noise. If you live directly under the new designated flight lanes you will get constantly overflown (the aircraft distribution will cease to be dispersed widely across the area).

So naturally, you may very well have a specific view on this initiative depending on where you live. Therefore the Community Campaign strongly recommends that if you are bothered by aircraft noise that you take a look at TAG’s dedicated consultation web-site;

This is a complex consultation and there is a significant amount of documentation to look through. Perhaps a good place to start is with document ‘Part B’ and in particular figures, B9, B10 & B11. These will give you a good idea as to whether you will live under a proposed flight lane or not.

The consultation period closes on 2nd May at 11:00pm. As different people will be affected in different ways, the Community Campaign are deliberately not taking a stance on this proposal. If you have a strong opinion you should respond to the consultation.

Housing pressure and the Local Development Plan (LDP)

It has been widely reported that Hart’s Local Development Plan (LDP) was rejected following an ‘Examination in Public (EiP)’ back in the summer. It failed predominantly on a bureaucratic hurdle, thrown into the process by the Government fairly late in proceedings, known as the ‘duty to co-operate’. This is an obligation on councils to engage with their neighbours on strategic planning matters. The injustice of it was that 11 neighbouring authorities came to the EiP to give evidence about how closely Hart had been working with them. What the ruling was really stating was that Hart should have sought to co-operate with government imposed policy and plan to build substantially more houses over the next 20 years than the then Hart LDP was proposing.

The issue, which the inspector who presided over the EiP had neatly avoided addressing by focusing on the alleged failure to cooperate, was having to contend with Hart’s arguments about being unable to build more than 220 houses a year because of environmental constraints. The local Thames Basin Heaths at Bourley and Long Valley are European recognised Special Protection Areas (SPA), which are proven to be threatened by the growth in visitor pressure resulting from over-development.

The challenge now is that developers are scrambling to submit applications for many new large housing estates in highly inappropriate places, such as Watery Lane and on Grove Farm. Realising that the continued over-development of the area deeply concerns many local residents, every politician will tell you that they oppose ‘inappropriate’ development. However, this development pressure is being brought about by the coalition Government, the very parties that most local councillors represent. If you are standing for a particular party then surely you must stand by their national policies as well?

As an example of this double standard, a planning appeal into an additional 100 houses at the QEB site was heard in late February. The council’s planning committee had originally rejected the application to build the 100 houses on land earmarked for employment use. The developer Taylor Wimpey (TW) predictably appealed, effectively giving the decision over to their friends in Government. It was subsequently pointed out to Hart’s Planning Committee that building houses on employment land was a flagship policy of the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework and that there were financial risks in going against the dictates of Government. A vote was held on whether to back out of defending the appeal. Predictably, with a few exceptions, the councillors from the main parties voted for Hart to drop their defence of the appeal; effectively rolling over and surrendering without a fight. Undoubtedly they were intimidated by the implication of going against such a policy. Can you seriously trust them to defend your local neighbourhood against threatened development when it is their own parties in government which are mandating the frenzied building programme with little concern as to the impact on local communities?

Coming soon to a field near you?The Community Campaign believes that it is vital to preserve allocated employment land for use in generating jobs. We went to the appeal and stood alone against Taylor Wimpey’s London based barristers. We believe our argument is justified, reasonable and plain common sense. While it is true that office blocks stand empty, it is the small to medium scale light industrial businesses which will underpin the economic recovery of the UK. If you buy a house, you need a job to pay for it. If you don’t build new employment sites along with new housing then inevitably people have to commute to get to work. This adds congestion to our already jammed roads; causes pollution and further erodes our quality of life. If you build employment facilities along with new houses you are at least attempting to restore the balance. We might not win, as thanks to Hart abandoning their defence the odds are stacked against us – but at least we did try. The Community Campaign promise that we will try to hold back the tide of inappropriate developments that fail to bring with them adequate infrastructure. Where there is new development we want to see quality affordable homes, new roads, new schools, new recreational facilities and new employment opportunities, – but not at the expense of the natural environment which characterises the beautiful area we all are proud to call home.

Major changes in 2014 election arrangements

The district elections in Hart will be different this year. The Boundary Commission have redefined all the ward boundaries across the district and in so doing have reduced the number of district wards from 18 to 11. They have also reduced the number of councillors from 35 to 33. From now on each ward will have 3 sitting district councillors. As 2014 is the first year of the new arrangement, all 3 ward seats for each district ward will be coming up for election. This means that you will have 3 votes for the district election and you will be allowed to put up to 3 X’s on the ballot paper. This is not some form of ‘transferable’ voting system; each vote has equal value and is counted as a single vote for each of the 3 individuals to whom you assign them. You get to vote for 3 people because this year, 3 ward seats are available. While you don’t have to use all 3 votes, you will be ‘wasting’ votes (effectively partially abstaining) if you decide not to use them all.

With fewer wards, each ward is inevitably going to be larger. The southern part of Fleet Courtmoor will move into the new Crookham East ward, while the northern part moves into the new Fleet Central ward. The old Fleet West ward also gets split (this is the ward that voted in Alan Oliver as an Independent councillor in 2012). Part of the old Fleet West ward will move into Fleet Central, the remainder will join Elvetham Heath in a new, larger Fleet West ward. Crookham Village & Ewshot break their bond with Crondall ward and join Crookham Park, Quetta & Humphrey Parks in the “Crookham West & Ewshot ward”.

For those living in the Fleet area who may be confused as to which ward they will be in as of 22nd May 2014, you can find out by studying the Boundary Commission’s map (link - 8M Byte PDF).

The Community Campaign Hart (CCH) will be contesting both Church Crookham wards. We shall continue to offer all residents in Fleet Courtmoor who have loyally supported us in the past the opportunity to vote for CCH candidates by also contesting Fleet Central. Alan Oliver will join with us as a CCH candidate for Fleet Central which will contain part of his old Fleet West ward. We will be fielding a strong set of candidates in the new Fleet West ward so that Alan’s loyal independently minded supporters can continue to vote for non-politically aligned local representation.

We look forward to bringing our promise of non-political, community focused, active participation to new voters in Fleet West and Fleet Central who may not have previously known about us. We hope to be knocking on as many new doors as possible over the next few months to introduce ourselves and explain what we stand for. If we don’t get to talk to you, for instance if you are out when we call, yet you would like to talk to one of us, then please see below for the contact details of our currently sitting councillors.

To reiterate the district election in May 2014 is a ‘triple X election’. This means that you get to have 3 votes on the same ballot sheet for the 3 district candidates of your choice.

Remember the 22nd May is XXX day!!

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