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Community News
The Newsletter of the Community Campaign (Hart)
Issue 14, Autumn 2013

Maintaining the Independent spirit in Fleet Central

Next May the electoral wards in Hart District are facing a major shake-up due to the boundary changes made by the Electoral Commission. Part of the Fleet Courtmoor ward is to be combined with Fleet Central along with part of the existing Fleet West ward to create a new enlarged Fleet Central ward. The Community Campaign already represents Fleet Courtmoor and Alan Oliver represents Fleet West. Given our close co-operation over the past two years, it makes sense for us to join forces to contest the new Fleet Central ward in the May 2014 elections.

The Community Campaign have been working closely with Alan since his election as we have shared concerns about ensuring that the community of Fleet & Church Crookham is not sold short on infrastructure or blighted by more than our fair share of development.

Therefore, we the Community Campaign, are delighted to be able to announce that Alan Oliver will be joining our group. Alan brings with him his enthusiasm and independent attitude to augment the team that we have already established at both a District and County level.

There has been a long history of Independent candidates standing and being successfully elected to represent Fleet on Hart District Council. Most recently Alan won a decisive victory in the Fleet West ward when he stood in the last district election. Alan stood in opposition to the proposed development of Grove Farm. His independent and enthusiastic spirit was welcomed by the electorate and he won with a huge majority.

Alan and the Community Campaign councillors were able to use their electoral mandate to influence the then draft Local Development Plan (LDP) to have the Grove Farm site removed before the plan was sent for examination by the planning inspectorate. (We will discuss the Local Development Plan in more detail inside as this is an important topic in its own right and is of great concern to all residents of Fleet).

The independent movement south of the canal has been gaining momentum courtesy of the Community Campaign, which has since its formation in 2004, gone from strength to strength. Now the Community Campaign has seven district councillors elected to represent four of the current Hart district wards and John Bennison, the county councillor for the Church Crookham division, is also a member of the Community Campaign. This level of elected representation is testament to the track record of the Community Campaign’s proactive community orientated approach to local issues.

The Community Campaign were instrumental in bringing about the creation of the town and parish councils for Fleet and Church Crookham, bodies which have delivered real and tangible benefits for the area. Without our active campaigning, the main political parties would have been content to keep control over Fleet’s resources while denying residents the ability to spend their money according to local needs.  The residents now enjoy the benefits of having a town/parish council looking after their local amenities as happens in the remainder of the District.

The Community Campaign is proud to be apolitical in our outlook and is therefore able to focus on the issues which really matter to the communities which we represent without getting distracted by wider political issues. We stand by our track record of proactive community focussed representation.

The Local Development Plan (LDP);
combating the threat of unrestrained development

Many residents will be aware from local press reports that the Local Development Plan (LDP) which Hart District Council had been hoping to have adopted this autumn has been found to be unsound. The plan was rejected by the government appointed Inspector on the grounds that Hart had ‘failed in its duty to co-operate with neighbouring authorities’. This is a somewhat disingenuous assessment because all of Hart’s neighbouring authorities and many beyond turned up to the first day of the public inquiry to testify about the close working relationship that they had with Hart.

In reality the Inspector was objecting to the fact that Hart had not been making special efforts to accommodate much higher levels of development. The government makes no secret that they want to drive up the number of houses being built in the south east, regardless of the environmental impact and with insufficient regard of the infrastructure needs of the existing community. Government level housing spokesmen from both coalition parties and the opposition have been spouting the mantra that house building should be pushed forward with little regard for quality and with a cynical view of ‘sustainability.’

Many local authorities in the South East have had their Local Development Plans overturned at the Examination in Public stage. This leaves them open to an avalanche of development sites being imposed upon them, at inappropriate locations and with very little in terms of mitigating infrastructure. Hart could very well face the same fate. However, the Community Campaign is not prepared to roll over and accept defeat on such an important issue.

The Community Campaign remains adamant that we should not be building more houses than has already been agreed to in the original South East Plan. Drawing on our experiences from the appeal into the QEB development, we believe that the need to protect the local Thames Basin Heathlands overrides the Government’s imperative for ever higher levels of housing growth. From our attendance at the lengthy public inquiry into the QEB development and the technical assessment into the South East Plan, the Community Campaign have built up a unique understanding of the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA) and the mechanisms put in place to protect it from the impacts of development. The SPA is a protected natural area, a rare example of a lowland acid heath; important for three species of endangered birds, the Dartford Warbler, the Nightjar and the Woodlark.

The theory is that if each new development provides an area of Suitable Alternative Natural Green-space (SANG), the residents of the new estates will use these areas instead of visiting sites such as the Bourley Valley & Tweseldown heathland. The Community Campaign argue that such an approach is not effective with ever increasing housing numbers because it is unreasonable to expect that all new residents of a development will exclusively use the SANGs in preference to using the SPA.

In order for a new development not to have a detrimental impact on the SPA, a new SANG must be capable of drawing at least as many of the current visitors away from the SPA as those from the new development who will visit it. Once the pool of current SPA visitors who are prepared to use SANGs instead of the SPA has been exhausted, further SANGs cease to be effective. This is because despite the provision of further alternative green space, each new development will inevitably generate a net increase in the number of SPA visitors. Developers can not just keep on building ever more houses on the edge of Fleet without expecting to have a detrimental impact on the environment.

Hopefully from this article you will appreciate that we in the Community Campaign go into more detail than you may have come to expect from the superficial titbits put out by the traditional political parties. This is because the Community Campaign really do care about actively representing the communities who elect us. To be effective we do need to get to grips with the detail, we do need to put in the effort. It is not about being photographed pointing at a pothole near election time nor claiming to have introduced free parking on the High Street 5 years after having taken it away. It’s about really understanding, really caring and actively engaging on the issues that matter.

Grove Farm

Fleet Issues Alan Oliver

by Alan Oliver

Having lived in Fleet for more than 25 years and raised our three sons here, both my wife and I have come to appreciate what makes this area very special. We moved here because we really valued the quality of the schools, the friendly small market town feel, the green and leafy suburban environment and the excellent transport links. These are the attributes that my family have cherished through this period and are what I want to see protected and improved.

I am sure many residents feel the same passion for Fleet as I do. Over the last three decades, we have seen our quality of life steadily eroded. Despite this, I remain very positive about Fleet’s future as the potential to enhance our environment and improve services is still there.

The reason I became involved in local politics and eventually joined Fleet Town Council (FTC) soon after it was formed, was that I was becoming increasingly disturbed that decisions affecting local development and services were being taken based on political expediency rather than on community benefit. I sensed that there was a lack of strategic reasoning behind a lot of what was being allowed. As an individual resident, I felt that I couldn’t get straight answers to simple questions. As a businessman, I could see decisions being taken that would cost the community dearly in the long term.

To support the work of FTC, I was asked to set up and chair the ‘Friends of Calthorpe Park’ group; to draw up the development and maintenance plan for this important 36 acre ‘green lung’ in our town. Many people have commented that the general maintenance and appearance of our parks has improved since the town council took control and formed the various ‘friends groups’.

The work of FTC is important but has limited powers with regard to the most pressing issues that affect our town. In particular I was concerned with the housing development plans of Hart District Council. I strongly opposed the Local Development Plan which saw Fleet carry a disproportionate share of Hart’s housing quota. I was further incensed that Hart could contemplate suggesting such development without mandating adequate infrastructure improvements.

Many of you asked me to oppose the plan and pursue a fairer deal for Fleet. It was apparent to me that some of the Hart representatives for Fleet Central and Fleet West did not have your best interests at heart (with the exception of Richard Appleton who was thrown out of the Conservative Party for challenging the party line).  I agreed to stand for district elections in May 2012 and was duly elected for the Fleet West ward, with a mandate to represent Fleet as an Independent.

Since the elections in 2012 I have worked closely with the Community Campaign to make sure Fleet residents have an effective voice. I am looking forward to joining forces with the Community Campaign to contest the elections in May 2014.

The plan for a huge development to the west of Fleet at Grove Farm has been removed from the draft plan. However, please do not think that the fight is over. The government has rejected Hart’s plan, wanting Hart to go away and justify why we can’t take substantially more expansion. On the back of this, we know that the developer with an interest in Grove Farm, as well as others with land bordering Fleet and Church Crookham, are drawing up large scale planning applications.

I believe that together the Independents and the Community Campaign have made progress over the last 2 years in refocusing the council’s plans and ensuring the views of Fleet residents are taken into account e.g. parking charges and inappropriate town centre developments. To continue making a positive difference, we need to maintain our influence.

It is vital that Fleet residents continue to have a voice on the district council which, otherwise, is disproportionally influenced by those who either don’t live in the town or whose political affiliations bind them to Westminster party policies. We need to stay engaged if we are to;
We need a town plan that encompasses retail, residential and leisure services for our high street and town as a whole. Fleet Central residents deserve councillors who don’t sit passively on the side lines. Fleet needs good proactive councillors.

Fleet Central candidates

There are three Community Campaign candidates who will be standing for election in the Fleet Central ward in May 2014. This is because all three district council seats for the newly formed ward will be contested for the first time. Each elector will have three votes to cast in the ballot box.

Our three Community Campaign candidates for Fleet Central will be;

Alan Oliver
Alan oliver

Alan and his family have lived in Fleet for over 25 years. His early career was in academia, as a research chemist, but then he moved into IT where he has held board positions in a number of major IT companies. He set up and chairs the Friends of Calthorpe Park community group which seeks to improve the park for everyone. He works alongside other charitable groups such as Fleet Lions to help set up events in the park which are a highlight in Fleet’s calendar. He is an active member of Fleet Town Council and was elected to Hart District Council (HDC) in 2012 as the Independent representative for Fleet West.

Alan’s involvement in local politics has been driven by disenchantment in the way local views and issues were being ignored by 'Westminster' style political groupings in Hart who seemed to fail to appreciate the concerns of their electorate. He firmly believes local politics should be about local issues and focussed on achieving tangible results. Combating the inappropriate overdevelopment of Fleet without new infrastructure is a key area on which he has worked since his election to HDC in 2012.

Wendy Makepeace-Browne
Wendy has lived in the Fleet and Crookham area for 30 years.  Wendy is passionate about fairness and respect and wants to make a positive contribution to her community and environment.  As a personal development specialist, she understands how important quality of life is to general happiness. Only when people are able to live in an environment that matches their “value set” are they at their happiest.  Hart is one of the best places to live in the country and maintaining this position will require continued investment, care and the active engagement of the community.  Wendy believes that the Community Campaign Hart (CCH) offers the best prospects for the area by focussing on local needs that are independent from the influence and motivations of national political parties.  Using her “people knowledge” and many years of corporate experience in information technology, Wendy will be able to engage with people to act in the best interests of the community, thus enhancing the environment and experience for all residents and visitors.

John Bennison
John Bennison

John has lived in the local area for the last 26 years with his family, having moved to Castle Street in 1987. He has been an active member of The Community Campaign since its inception in 2004, challenging unsuitable development including the overdevelopment of Crookham Park.

John was first elected to Hart District Council in 2006. He also served for three years on Church Crookham Parish Council and in 2013; he was elected to Hampshire Council to represent the areas of Fleet Courtmoor, Church Crookham and Ewshot.

He has had a lifelong interest in long distance running and triathlon and is proud to have helped Church Crookham Parish Council to improve sports facilities in the area. He is on the working party looking at the feasibility and financial viability of a new leisure centre for Hart residents.

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