COMMUNITY CAMPAIGN (HART)
1ST ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING THURSDAY 7TH OCTOBER 2004
The CC(H) Chairman, James Radley, extended a warm welcome to members of CC(H) and to three invited guest Councillors from Elmbridge Borough Council who form part of a coalition of resident association councillors.
Members were reminded that the two CC(H) Councillors were able to encourage debate amongst the audience, but not necessarily to contribute themselves, being mindful of the requirements of the Standards Board for England.
CHAIRMAN’S ADDDRESS, REVIEW OF 2003-04 AND LOOKING AHEAD
Members were reminded that CC(H) had been formed in September 2003 in order to represent the concerns expressed by residents about issues of local concern. At the time of formation a significant concern had been the extent of the proposed development at Queen Elizabeth Barracks. It was noted that residents’ concerns had to be expressed as letters of objection because that is the mechanism that permits the District Council to evaluate those concerns. Concerns had been raised about the adequacy of provision for schools, roads, sporting and leisure facilities. The concerns had generated a huge number of letters, with 1,250 letters recorded by the District Council. However, this figure did not include an unknown number that had been lost by the District Council. They were unable to explain the reason for this.
Many concerns were valid and consequently Taylor Woodrow had spent the last year seeking to address these concerns. It is now expected that Taylor Woodrow will submit amendments to their original outline planning application and that a further period of consultation will begin on Friday 16th October and last for six weeks.
It is to the credit of the community that such a large number of letters were written. It will be interesting to see how the amendments have addressed the concerns of the community.
The Constitution of CC(H) allows for candidates to stand in the local elections, consequently CC(H) had fielded five candidates in the June 2004 District Council elections. It had become clear that CC(H) needed its own voice within the District Council to give local people a voice for their many and varied concerns on a wide variety of issues.
Tribute was paid to the knowledge and meticulous plan put in place by our election agent, John Colburn who sadly passed away during the election campaign. It was clear that his advice and thorough planning had paid a significant role in the subsequent success of our first election campaign.
John’s foresight had meant that CC(H) registered with the electoral commission and formed itself into an official party. This had enabled CC(H) to have an official identity within the District Council with its own logo. It also meant that if more than one candidate was elected, as happened, then those Councillors gained an equivalent status to the Councillors from the national political parties. The importance of this is that it gives CC(H) the right to a place on some of the decision making committees.
CC(H) had five excellent candidates and made
a strategic decision not to declare wards and candidates until the
‘last minute’. This proved to be the correct decision because Lorraine
Fulbrook tendered her resignation at the last minute in order to pursue
her candidacy as prospective MP for a seat in Lancashire. This
triggered a by-election and CC(H) was able to field a candidate in her
vacant ward. Thus, our five candidates stood in Church Crookham (East),
Church Crookham (West), Fleet West, Crondall and Odiham. The two Church
Crookham candidates were elected with resounding majorities while the
candidates in Fleet West and Crondall achieved very respectable and
convincing second places. The untimely passing of our Election Agent,
John Colburn, left us short of resources and we were not able to devote
the required effort to canvass in the Odiham ward. The results were a
great success and all candidates were thanked for their hard work.
Thanks were extended to everyone who helped
with the election, in particular those who undertook the daunting task
of canvassing for us, this effort was very much appreciated. Thanks was
extended to those who put their trust in us by giving their vote to
CC(H) candidates. The two elected CC(H) Councillors now had a remit to
seek to alter and change the policies of the District Council in the
many areas where residents had concerns.
TREASURER’S STATEMENT OF ACCOUNTS
The audited accounts were presented (See
attached sheet). It was noted that income is derived from membership
subscriptions and donations. The accounts will be sent to the Electoral
Commission. Clarification was given about the status of donated time
and expertise during the election and it was confirmed that such
donations are not formally noted in the accounts. Although such
donations are recorded and presented to the Electoral Commission in
respect of declaring the election expenses incurred for each candidate.
A member asked why the interest figure of 34
pence was so small. The Treasurer explained that that it was a current
account that did not attract bank charges and thus did not benefit from
a high rate of interest, and the balance of the account was generally
not more than £300.
John Bennison proposed that the accounts be accepted and this was seconded by Chris Dickenson.
Graham Butler, qualified accountant was thanked for scrutinising the accounts, they have been found to be in order.
PRESENTATION BY ELMBRIDGE COUNCILLORS
It was explained that Elmbridge Borough Council is run by a collaboration of about seven Residents Associations.
Councillor Mrs Turner is a Hinchley Wood Residents’ Association Member and Hinchley Wood Ward Councillor and Cabinet Member with responsibility for the Leisure and Culture Portfolio. She thanked CC(H) for inviting her to speak. She explained that Hinchley Wood became a new village in the 1930’s. It now has two schools, one church, memorial gardens, about 28 shops and businesses and 1,800 households. In the 1930’s urban development was threatening the surrounding countryside and this motivated the Residents Association to field a candidate in the District Elections and since that time there have been no political councillors. The success of this can be attributed to a number of factors. A key element is that Councillors are very involved and active within their local communities; open, frequent and regular communication with the electorate plays a vital role. Residents are keen to make their views known to both the District Council and the County Council. Successes, such as winning an appeal to prevent McDonalds from taking over the village pub can be attributed to the commitment of residents to influence decisions taken which affect their quality of life. It was emphasised that there is absolutely no political involvement or political agenda. Councillors are only there to represent the views of their communities. Although the 31 resident association Councillors are from different towns and villages with different views, they form a tight group and by discussion form a consensus view.
Councillor Chubb was pleased to be invited to
speak. He is a Walton Society Member and Walton Central Ward Councillor
and Cabinet Portfolio Holder for the Environment and Economy. Walton is
a riverside town. The River Thames is a boundary and an important
amenity. The Residents Association was formed in 1975 to guard the
town’s heritage from an onslaught from developers on buildings and open
spaces that peaked in the 1970’s. There are eleven electoral wards and
a population of about 11,000. The Walton Society was strengthened after
the introduction of Conservation Areas. In addition a controversial
planning application had convinced residents that the only way to make
their voices heard was to elect a councillor who was not party
political. The Councillor would then give priority to the needs of
Walton, not Westminster. Most residents are firmly of the view that
national party politics had no place in local government.
It was important to establish the credibility of resident association councillors by only putting forward the best evidence, researching issues, seeking advice from professional people, developing ties with other authorities and so on. The aim is not to be faulted. Councillors are able to request information from Council Officers that was not previously available. Sometimes Councillors within a political network would think twice about challenging policies. It is important to be active within your community and this can help in maintaining a source of volunteers.
Councillor Bartlett introduced himself as a
St George’s Hill Independent Member and St George’s Hill Ward
Councillor. He is the Cabinet Member responsible for the Regulatory
Affairs Portfolio. This includes planning policy. He described
Elmbridge as a fast growing area with the fourth highest house prices
in the country. There is very strong development pressure and very
powerful pressure arising from the large sums of money to be made from
development. There was a widespread feeling of sleaze within the
planning process. St George’s Hill Independents are a newly formed
party, who like CC(H) registered as a party in order to have a logo, be
part of a group and gain rights within the Borough Council for elected
Councillors. Their Constitution differs in that there is no membership
or subscriptions. In the May 2000 elections their three candidates won
all three seats in the St George’s Ward from very strong and well-known
Conservative candidates. The priority is to represent residents.
Regular newsletters are distributed to give people information. It is
their policy not to criticise the opposition; this is not what
residents want to hear. However, the opposition are still keen to
criticise St George’s Hill Independents!!
He emphasised that the residents associations
are not NIMBY’S, but do believe in sustainable development. It is
evident that if the environment in the South East is destroyed,
international businesses will not find it a pleasant place to be
located. In Elmbridge 100% of the housing target is being met by
development on recycled land, not greenfield. It is also necessary to
fight to ensure that developers provide appropriate facilities.
Elmbridge has fostered a strong sense of
social involvement. In 2006 a new Leisure Centre will open. Residents
recognise that facilities such as this have to be paid for and they are
prepared to do so. Walton town centre will see the development of 400
flats which will support a thriving community in the town centre. A
development at Brooklands by Mercedes will provide a 60 acre community
park in an area where there has previously been very little open space.
Elmbridge has received £50,000 from English Heritage to train Conservation volunteers to help fill a gap caused by difficulties in recruiting Conservation Officers.
James Radley thanked the guests from
Elmbridge and said that much of their experience and advice had struck
a chord. He asked each of the Elmbridge Councillors how they had
overcome any ‘fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD)’, that the main parties
may have spread about Residents Associations being ill equipped to run
a local Council. Councillor Turner emphasised the importance of
teamwork, listening to advice from Officers and then looking for
yourself. Teamwork gets things moving. It is important to attend
Scrutiny Committee and listen to the views of other Councillors and
then check the issues yourself. Officers get to know which Councillors
they can trust.
Councillor Bartlett mentioned the importance of good relationships with Officers. He noted that Elmbridge Borough Council had been graded as ‘Excellent’ It was noted that this is in sharp contrast to Hart District Council who had only just managed to be judged ‘Fair’. It was noted that successful authorities gain commitment from good quality staff who are keen to promote their career development. Successful authorities find it easier to recruit and retain good quality staff. As Councillors depend on Officers for good advice, these factors can have an effect on the service residents receive.
Councillor was asked how he could represent
the views of the Walton Society in committee situations, if the Society
had submitted formal views on an issue, for example, a planning
application. Councillor Chubb explained that he had to decide whether
or not to declare an interest and whether he could vote. He noted that
he thought it safe to do so if he was representing the views of
Councillor Bartlett noted the difficulties in publicly reaching a view before a committee meeting. He noted that developers use many devices and strategies when making planning applications, for example, multiple applications and amended plans on the same site. In these cases he advised residents to look carefully at the applications, making suggestions about relevant issues. He noted that the timescale for appeals is getting longer and that Inspectors are listening carefully to members of the public, especially where large numbers have objections. It is sensible to stop all development, but residents can help to ensure that developments improve the quality of the surrounding area.
A member asked how the Elmbridge Councillors had been so successful in challenging apathy.
Councillor Mrs Turner explained that regular newsletters and involvement in the local community was vital. Councillors should be visible all year, not just at election time.
Councillor Chubb explained that the newsletter was distributed two or three times a year to the whole of Walton and was useful in keeping people’s interest alive. The newsletter also contains useful telephone numbers and so copies are often kept for reference.
John Bennison asked whether the various residents associations were fighting to win more seats. Councillor Bartlett said that as his party had won all the seats in St George’s Hill, it was possible to look at the County Council elections in the future. Councillor Turner said that as both seats in Hinchley Wood were held by her residents association, it was possible to help with canvassing in other wards.
Councillor Chubb concluded by noting that usually the local community is receptive to new ideas and if they feel that a candidate cares about the area, they will receive support. Residents are always very appreciative of help at planning appeals.
James Radley thanked the Councillors for attending, and Councillor Chubb extended a welcome for CC(H) to visit Elmbridge.
ELECTION OF OFFICERS
The following officers were elected:
James Radley remains as Chairman
Proposed by John Bennison
Soo James remains as Treasurer
Proposed by David Harrison
Alison Macallan remains as Secretary
Proposed by James Radley
Jenny Radley has decided to step down as Membership Secretary due to her commitments as a Councillor.
Gill Butler was nominated as Membership Secretary
Nominated by Chris Dickinson
Steve Cantle was nominated as Press Secretary
Nominated by James Radley
Following the sad passing of John Colburn is was decided not appoint a new Election Agent as there are no District Council elections scheduled for 2005.
OVERVIEW OF LOCAL ISSUES
Queen Elizabeth Barracks James Radley
explained that the developer, Taylor Woodrow (TW) and their consultants
had spent the last year looking at the concerns raised by residents.
The two main subjects had been 1) the impact on the nature conservation
issues affecting the nearby proposed Special Protection Area (pSPA),
namely the effect of additional people on the rare ground nesting birds
this habitat supports, and 2) transport issues. Amendments to the
QEB planning application are expected to be available from Friday 15th
October, with a six week period for consultation. Everyone who wrote to
Hart District Council to express their views on QEB should be notified
A group of CC(H) members had attended a meeting with Hampshire County Council’s Highways Department in October 2003 to discuss the transport concerns. HCC had agreed with some of the concerns and T W have made some amendments to their transport plan. These include changes relating to the junctions of Sandy Lane with Aldershot Road and Gally Hill Road. It is proposed to paint the road red. Zebra crossing(s) are proposed to help those walking to the two nearby schools. It has been confirmed that the planned shuttle bus between QEB and Fleet station will stop at points along Reading Road South to pick up passengers.
The nature conservation issues affecting the pSPA are also considerations for other developments in the area, including the 4,000 - 5,000 homes proposed by Project Connaught in Aldershot. However, it is T W’s view that if they can show that the development of 1,132 homes at QEB can have a positive impact on the nature conservation objectives of the pSPA, then it is not necessary to consider the impact on the ground nesting birds and their habitat ‘in combination’ with other developments. It is proposed to close the large car park situated half way along Bourley Road, leaving 5 spaces instead of the 80 now available. The closure is to be offset by the opening of a new car park off Beacon Hill Road, opposite Leipzig Road. This is close to the Water Catchment Area and would provide about 40 spaces. A member noted that this area is already available to the public. It was noted that T W had obtained a 999 year lease from the MOD for land to the south of QEB for open space, but this was also already open to public access.
A member asked a question about the adequacy of drains and the collection of surface water in Sandy Lane. James Radley noted that the details of the amended application were not available yet, but that residents would be able to check this when the amendments are released.
A member noted that the 4,000 to 5,000 homes proposed for Project Connaught was likely to have an effect on traffic in this area. He noted his concerns that six axle lorries (38 tonnes) were leaving the M3 at Hook and using Aldershot Road and Sandy Lane as a route to avoid the traffic congestion at Junction 4 in Farnborough.
A member asked whether the two CC(H)
Councillors had a working relationship with the ruling Conservatives.
This member also asked, given that some Conservatives had spoken
against QEB, whether the CC(H) Councillors could do a better job.
It was noted that there is a good working relationship with the majority of other councillors. It was noted that the Council have consulted on amendments to the current Local Plan. These amendments have been chosen by the Conservatives who are the ruling group. Although they could have done so, the Conservatives have chosen not to make any amendments to the Local Plan proposals for QEB.
A member commented that the information circulated by CC(H) was very good in its perception and clarity.
A member asked whether there were any
proposed junction improvements between Redfields Lane and the A287.
James Radley explained that Hampshire County Council were no longer
planning a roundabout at this junction because recent white line
painting had reduced accidents. In this context a roundabout would be
too expensive. Taylor Woodrow would be advising residents to use the
route up Beacon Hill to access the A287.
Shotts Nightclub Site It was noted that this site had been sold to Hart District Council by the MOD with a covenant that it should be used for sports and leisure purposes. It was subsequently leased to an individual who had opened a snooker hall and night club. It is now proposed to relocate the existing Richmond Doctors Surgery to a new building on the site, with an increase in the number of GP’s and services offered. This would occupy about one third of the new building. The remaining two thirds would comprise a private medical facility with up to 17 consulting rooms. This would result in the closure of the existing surgery. The fear that this could lead to the probable loss of the chemist from parade of shops in Linkway was noted.
Various points were noted by members:
The loss of the Doctor’s Surgery and Chemist was likely to have an adverse effect on the viability of the parade of shops.
The proposed Surgery is on the edge of town and away from its patient base. The new location might cause access problems.
A new surgery of this size on the Shotts site would prevent the land allocated for a surgery at QEB from being used. This raised a question about an alternative use for that land.
The site is under the flight path for Farnborough Aerodrome and thus there were noise and safety issues.
Hart has a shortage of sports and leisure facilities and cannot afford to loose a site allocated for that purpose.
It was noted that the Primary Care Trust
would like to see a surgery at QEB. The PCT had expressed support for
more GP’s, but did not necessarily support such provision at the Shotts
Sports and Leisure Provision Members were invited to let CC(H) know their views on sports and leisure facilities.
A member noted that sports and leisure often seem to be the last thing to be considered. These facilities should not be decreasing when the population is increasing. It was appropriate for the Shotts site to retain its sport or leisure use, but not as a nightclub. The Chairman quoted the much used saying that Hart District Council knew the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
It was noted that information about the
Farnborough Aerodrome Public Safety Zone is now available on the
District Council web site. A member noted that some affected residents
had not received a letter yet. It was noted that the information
contained on the Rushmoor Borough Council web site was more informative.
James Radley undertook to provide a link to a schedule of the various council committee meetings from the CC(H) web site.