Committee members

James Radley Chairman
Alison Macallan Secretary
Gill Butler Membership Secretary
Soo James Treasurer
Pat Lowe Press Secretary
Ken Blockwell Election Agent


Alison Macallan sent apologies for her absence due to illness- Jenny Radley agreed to act as secretary for the meeting and took the minutes.

Soo James sent apologies for her absence due to work commitments- Chris Axam agreed to present the Treasurer's Report.

Welcome and Introduction

CC(H) Chairman, James Radley welcomed all the people who filled the Willis Hall for the 3rd CC(H) AGM and introduced the members sitting at the table: Chris Axam who would present the Treasurer's Report, Simon Ambler, Gill Butler, John Bennison and Jenny Radley, Hart District councillors, and the guest speaker for the evening, WPC Caroline Webster, who was to arrive shortly before 8pm.

Chairman's CCH overview: 'A Year In Perspective'.

James emphasised just what a year or so had passed since the last meeting for the CC(H).

The elections of May 2006 had seen the re-election, by a large majority, for Simon Amber in Church Crookham West, and the successful election for our new councillors, Gill Butler for Church Crookham East and John Bennison into Crondall. There was also the good showing for our candidate, Jeremy Keep, in Fleet West and how grateful we are for all his efforts.

In fact, the election night was one of those events that will go down in the Chairman's memory until the end of his life…and probably for a few other members of CC(H) too. Having been told that the group stood no chance at all in the Crondall ward, the nail biting count and re-count were agonising to witness. The Presiding Officer finally decided that given two successive counts in favour of our candidate, John Bennison by just 2 votes, that John was indeed the successful candidate. Much to everyone in the CC(H) group's delight. This was a real show for all the time and effort that he had put into the ward already.

This being the last of the votes to be counted and the majority to the previous administration hanging by one seat, this meant that the controlling party group was no longer in overall control. Indeed they were not prepared to help to share in the responsibility for the new administration, in fact they soon appeared to take on the role as active opposition. However, this allowed negotiations to take place between other council members and for the Liberal Democrat group and independent members and the CC(H) to set up an alliance that would be prepared to take on the role of administration at a time which would indeed be very difficult and testing, for the benefit of Hart District Council.

This had not been an easy decision for the CC(H) committee, who value their independence as a group very highly. However, it was clear to them that they had been voted in to do an important job and felt they had to step up to that role. Hence The Coalition was formed and agreed to take on that role and face the difficult challenges.

The over-riding problem for Hart District Council was and still is the budget, as we are all too aware at this time with the forthcoming year's budget to be agreed next month.

The Government grants that can make all the difference seem to be distributed in favour of the Labour areas, and there are also the large impacts on the council from staff costs of pensions and increases which are beyond our control. Meanwhile at HDC there seem to have been some interesting accounting in the past and the questionable use of reserve funds to cover spends that could not be done through the planned process. Capital funds can be used to invest in infra-structure and capital expenditure.

Revenue funds provide for the day to day running costs. The revenue is provided by the collection of Council Tax, from some government grants and local measures such as parking charges.

However, over recent years, there has developed a hole in the accounts as the running costs of HDC has exceeded by £1.5 million in a budget of about £10 million per year. This overspend has had an effect on the reserves, and there is no longer any scope to continue in this way.

It would in fact cost each householder another £40 per year extra to lift HDC out of this situation, but the council tax rate has been capped at 5%. There are also many residents who already struggle to pay their Council Tax in this district particularly the people who rely on their pensions and no fair way as yet to address this. Nobody feels the council tax system is right and fair but it is all there is at the moment.

This budget problem for HDC cannot be fixed by raising more council tax at this stage. What can be done to address this shortfall is to increase some of the charges for services within HDC control, which may likely include car-parking charges, and it will also affect services as staff cuts and other savings are made in every department of the Council. This will most likely affect the standard of service provided by the Council, but the real impact remains to be seen. Meanwhile, these hard decisions are currently being discussed and debated by all district councillors in the run up to the decision on next year's Budget, before and when it is due to go to Full Council on Thursday 22nd Feb.

At Hart District Council the administration is led by a Cabinet system. In fact the CC(H) hold 2 of the portfolio positions out of the 9. James holds the Portfolio for Planning and Simon Amber holds the Portfolio for IT (Information and Technology). James has only recently heard that the Planning Services are to lose 3 staff places, which may well have an affect on the efficiency to protect the built environment, but this is a necessary contribution to address the balance of payments. Simon too, will be losing some of the staff who were brought in to help with the work on the Customer Contact centre.

This financial problem also means that other agreements needs to be reviewed, such as the level of HDC contribution to the Basingstoke Canal… CCTV are threatened with staff cuts, and having spent an evening in the unit we recognise what a good and valuable service this provides to the people who live in and come to this district. An explanation about how efficient and high resolution the CTV cameras are and how they can track people form one part of the to another. It is being considered that staff could be taken off the day-shift, although the cameras are still recording they are not being monitored then and there by staff, who would normally pick up on any problems. If this shift was to be cut this might also have an effect on the crime rates. The savings from cutting the staff level might well be lost by the cost of problems that might occur in the local towns if they were not prevented by the actions of the CCTV staff? The budget decisions will be a tight balancing act.

At that moment very coincidentally, WPC Caroline Webster arrived. So as to allow WPC Webster to be able to get back to work and not have to wait until this item was completed, she was invited to take the floor for her presentation.

Community Policing

WPC Caroline Webster introduced herself and two support officers to the meeting. She is the Community Beat Manager from Hampshire Constabulary for the Church Crookham area and is based at Fleet Police Station.

Caroline explained that she had taken up the post in May 2006 and had previously been based at Fareham as a First Response Officer. Following a period of maternity leave she had returned to work as the Community Beat Officer in Church Crookham for 30 hours per week.. She is now part of the Neighbourhood Beat Team NBT. She had recently been joined in her responsibility to cover Church Crookham by Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) Dan Eales.

As the Neighbourhood Beat Team, their way of working was to provide a consistent approachable and visible presence in their local community. They were there to listen to their community and provide solutions to problems and help by empowering the members of the public to help them. Their aim was to ensure that Church Crookham remained a relatively crime free community, and they were able to do this through multi-disciplinary working. It was also important that residents knew who they were and she was keen to meet as many local people as possible and introduce herself.

Since she had arrived in May, she had responded to reports of anti-social behaviour in Quetta Park, where a small group of youths had been the cause for a series of problems. It was apparent that the ring-leader had been the main instigator and he was targeted him for police attention. Following multi-agency work which included work with people from the local community and a series of cautions it was necessary to administer an ASBO (Anti-Social Behaviour Order ) upon the young person and he was banned from living or visiting Quetta Park. Since then things have been peaceful there so that appears to have worked well.

Caroline has also accepted the invitation to join Velmead School Board of Governors and as part of this she has been visiting the school to meet the pupils and feels this is very worthwhile.

She is holding Community Beat meetings with local representatives four times a year and this has helped to develop some very useful community contacts and assists with information exchange, this also helps the wider community help themselves by keeping the police informed about crime and disorder issues. If incidences are reported to the police, they will be able to work to help. If incidents are not brought to their attention they cannot assist. The recognition for the need to have police officers on the streets has resulted in the recruitment of the PCSOs who are able to spend up to 80% of their time out in the community. Unfortunately the Community Beat Officers themselves are often caught up with the need to complete reports, paperwork and police station based work and are not able to spend so much time out in their local beat area. It is very important to have familiar faces for the local community to know who they can turn to when they need to.

Local people should be assured that Hart District is recognised as being one of the safest districts in the country. It ranks very favourably against statistics in other parts of the country, and has very low robbery,burgulary, and assault incidents. In fact within the district Church Crookham is even considered to be one of the safest areas, so we are doubly fortunate.

However that does not mean that there are no problems and these issues do need to be addressed. The main complaints are related to juvenile nuisance, and this is not easy to deal with. Once again it requires work on many fronts to try to reduce the number of problems, and for people to report the problems when they occur so that they can be dealt with efficiently.

Recently there have been a group of girls that have been causing problems for the shopkeepers and passers by at the Ridgeway Parade in The Verne. They have been spoken to on a number of occasions by the police and by the Community Safety Team who are based at the Council Offices and it has been explained that their behaviour is not acceptable. Most of them have agreed to behave with acceptable limits otherwise they would be facing more serious action. However, as one group grow up and start to behave better there tend to be others that take their place so it is an ongoing issue for these groups of teenagers. It may be that there are better ways to help them behave, rather than to let them spend time entertaining themselves out on the streets. The problem is that will take the involvement of a range of people and authorities if the call for better things to do as many of the teenagers ask for, are to be addressed. There have also been problems with inconsiderate and obstructive parking outside the local schools, in particular at Tweseldown Infant School and Crookham Junior School. When this results in abusive language and behaviour from the people who are parking and from drivers this will not be tolerated. The police are working with the schools and highways to solve some of these problems.

The main message is that if there are crime and disorder problems WPC Webster needs to know about them in order to be able to help. She then asked for questions from the floor.

Question:  What will happen if QEB is developed?
Answer: It is likely that the level of reported crime in the area will increase, as has happened at other local development sites. That is why it is important that incidents are reported so that the police can target the resources to where it is needed. Do not assume that someone else will report it or that it makes no difference it is important to make sure the police are informed.

It is not always possible for the police to respond immediately and it will depend on what work they are having to deal with elsewhere and the severity of the problem. Where there is an emergency then people should ring Emergency Services on 999.

But for reports of anti-social behaviour and other less serious matters then these should be made using the regular Hampshire Police number: 0845 0454545 which is the county contact centre in Netley who will them pass the message on to the relevant police station. The other service is the 101 number, to report less serious problems. The police will always try to tackle the problems to the best of their ability.

Question:  What about the problems with traffic and parking in Church Crookham especially outside TJ services in Sandy Lane?

Answer: This requires work alongside Hampshire Highways who could put in posts in the verge along the road to stop parking there, but provided the cars are taxed and licensed they can be parked on the roads. If there are problems with obstructing traffic the police can help. It may be possible to arrange for restricted parking areas but that needs to be done by the Highway authority.

Mr K Blockwell offered his congratulations to WPC Webster on her hard work and for her commitment to being out in the community, and also to her PCSO. His question was if the police were up to full strength where do the reports get sent to?

Answer: Calls will be reported either to the Neighbourhood Police team which is based in Fleet for this area or to the Target Police Team which are based in Yateley, Aldershot and Farnborough. If it is an emergency and life is in danger the Target Police Team should arrive within 4 minutes. Other incidents and crimes are graded according to priority and any response will be according to need and resources.

This is one of the major dilemmas for the Police force at present as to how to allocate their limited resources. If she had time she would like to be able to involve the members at the meeting in an exercise to allocate police resources, but maybe that could be done at a future event. The Chairman thanked WPC and her colleagues for taking the time to come and talk to the meeting, and that their efforts were much appreciated. We were very fortunate to have the level of support that she afforded.

A Year in Perspective, continued.

Just to follow up on WPC Webster's talk, the Chairman could say that support from WPC Webster had made an important contribution to working with the children on Quetta Park where she regularly dropped in to play and talk to the children at the youth club there. Also her visits to the local schools was very much appreciated by the school children as she was very popular and this was an very important way to help children understand and respect the work of the police and how they helped their local community. This would set the children an excellent example as they get older and hopefully would avoid some of the problems that were currently reported about older juveniles in the area.

To up-date the meeting about business at Hart District Council:

The QEB Planning Application Appeal was scheduled to start on 15th May and was expected to last up to 9 weeks. Some of the local representatives had taken up the opportunity to take up Rule 6 status and they who would submit evidence at the appeal and be able to question the experts who were brought in by the appellant, the developer.

The CC(H) Chairman had arranged for some unpaid leave over this period in order to attend in a personal capacity, not as a representative for the Council, and would be supporting the QEB Campaign Group to challenge the appeal.

He and Ken Blockwell, who was leading the QEB Campaign Group, had attended the pre-Inquiry meetings and to meet the Planning Inspector who would be officiating at the Appeal. A new Planning Inspector had been appointed as the original Inspector had not been able to allow for such a lengthy Inquiry. Also the Barrister who was expected to represent Hart District Council had also decided that he was not able to devote enough time to the appeal and a colleague from the same Legal Chambers had come forward and he had a good reputation at planning appeals. They had also met the Barrister who would be representing the developer and he would be interesting to be up against…

The Appeal Inquiry would be held at the Princes' Hall, Aldershot as the expectation was that there would be a large number of people who would like to attend, and there was not a large enough venue in Fleet. It had been suggested that the Church at Elvetham Heath be considered as that was a new and available facility, so that was being followed up.

Farnborough Aerodrome Planning Appeal, this is currently in progress at the Rushmoor Borough Council (RBC) Offices in Farnborough. TAG the main operators at Farnborough Aerodrome had applied to double the number of weekend and Bank Holiday flights from 2,500 to 5,000 per year, and that had been refused by the RBC Development Control committee.

Representations would be made by local residents and groups including those for Fleet and Church Crookham against the application, as there was strong opposition to the impact from noise and disturbance from an increasing number of flights during times when local residents wanted peace and quiet at home.

Concerns had been raised about the definition of business flights and how these could include flights for leisure/tourist purposes, i.e. to and from holiday destinations. An explanation was provided in the application documents.

A poll had been held by the Farnborough News paper on their web-site in an attempt to determine the numbers of people who opposed or supported the application. Given the large number of written objections to the application to the planning authority and the response to the web-site poll there were suspicions about why the numbers did not match. However, the results of this poll had not been mentioned at the inquiry.

Up to date information was provided on the FACC web-site:

In fact the appeal proceedings took longer than expected and was re-convened for 2 further weeks in April. An amended outline planning application for the large site at Pyestock had been submitted but was considered to be too different to be considered as an amended application. It had not been put out for public consultation yet.

Parish Petition: Thanks to everyone who had given time and effort to help with gathering the petition and gathering over double the number of signatures required on 8th June 2006. The process, which should have been quite simple and could easily have been rolled out to include the unparished area of Fleet north of the canal by a decision from Full Council, had been made much more complicated by incorporating a Parish Review for the whole district. This would prolong the process considerably.

One of the major benefits to call for the area to be parished would be a chance to simplify the budgeting for Fleet and Church Crookham. This was currently covered by what is called the Fleet and Church Crookham Special Expenses and was paid for by local residents, much like a parish precept, and added to the basic Community Tax. This was currently under the control of Hart District Council and was very complicated, many of the costs were not as clear as they would be if a parish was responsible. Some of the major budget items under Fleet and Church Crookham Special expenses were related to the Harlington Centre which took over half the Special Expenses money. Currently it was in the region of £350,000 per year, almost £1,000 a day to run… and was due to increase to £500,000 for the forthcoming budget year. Currently there was also no scope for Fleet and Church Crookham Special Expenses to pay towards organising the Fleet Christmas Festivities which was regarded as being a very important event for the town.

A parish council would have much more control and understanding about how the precept would be spent. The Parish Council would be able to reduce or increase the amount depending on what their community required.

So, What is it like to be a Councillor?

Gill Butler had been elected to represent Church Crookham East ward in May 2006.

Her high point so far was when she was duly elected in the early hours of Friday 5th May 2006. She was grateful to her husband Graham, Ken Blockwell, James and Jenny Radley, Pat Lowe, Chris Dickenson, Chris Axam and all the electors in Church Crookham East for all their help and support. In fact she was elected alongside her fellow CC(H) candidate, John Bennison who now represents Crondall ward. At the election count, just after they were elected, they were handed 2 things, a copy of the HDC Constitution and the training programme for new members. At first the whole process was rather a blur and there is still so much to learn.

The most immediate effect was the change to the balance of power at the council, when the CCH and Liberal Democrats worked together as a Coalition group to step up to the duty to administer the council. This brought with it the responsibility for the CCH group for two cabinet positions, James for Planning and Simon for Information and Technology. Gill took positions on two of the Council committees: the Licensing Committee and Scrutiny Committee. All the ward members who represent the unparished area also take part on the Planning Advisory Group (PAG) which acts as a substitute planning sub-group at parish council level and is consulted on all new planning applications for that area. Local councillors also work to help their local residents, and she has been working to help residents with problems especially to do with parking around local schools, and planning applications. It makes it all worthwhile when it is possible to help or explain to the satisfaction of residents. As the elected representative there is the responsibility to be involved and vote in the council decisions and strive to make sure that common sense prevails. It does make a difference and this is the chance to work with the council staff to guide the level of service for local people.

The less positive side of the role is the length of time it takes to get things done. She has been striving to get a pedestrian crossing to be built across Reading Road South, knowing that the funds were allocated several years ago following the development of the site at number 170. However, it is still in the process of being surveyed and decided just where it should go and that is having to involve Hampshire County Council and Hart District Council Highways Departments. The other low point is having to endure Full Council meetings which are held at the end of every month, which can be quite pointed and personal.

However, there are no regrets and it is very rewarding. Every member of our group plays a small part in the business of Council but where every little helps it does make a difference. There are 5 council members for the CC(H) now and there is opportunity for more.

Both John and Gill are enjoying their position as councillors. John agrees with Gill and they are privileged to be elected to represent their wards. He is working hard to be accepted by Crondall Parish Council and now feels that he has a feel for how things work there and has a good relationship with them. The first months seemed a blur, as there was such a lot to take in. Gill is the Membership Secretary for the group and is working hard to bring in all the renewals in from the 120 members. She has set up a system for members to use standing orders to be able to renew their subscriptions.

John was keen to say how everyone works hard to do their best to be good councillors, but behind that there are those who help to support them and keep them in touch with their electorate. There are many jobs behind the scenes where people help from delivering leaflets and other information, to writing articles for the newsletters. It is all about making sure that people are well informed so they can make educated choices.

Report of Accounts

The accounts have been drawn up by the group Treasurer, Soo James, but unfortunately she is unable to attend the meeting. Chris Axam has kindly agreed to present the accounts on her behalf. Soo has also asked to be relieved of the treasurer duties due to heavy work commitments.

The reporting of the accounts have been aligned with the CC(H) registration date, to start at the beginning of the calendar year. Please see the annual report and statement of accounts as attached at appendix 1.

There are now 94 members who have renewed their membership and the membership secretary will be contacting the remaining members for their renewals. The cost of the newsletters are covered by the councillors allowances.

The accounts show a balance at 31st December of £739.68.

A vote was taken to accept the accounts and a majority vote was given. No-one voted against accepting it.

Election of Officers

The following officers were elected:

James Radley was returned as Chairman. Nominated by John Bennison and seconded by Gill Butler.

Fran Jones was elected to take over from Alison Macallan as Secretary. Nominated by Jenny Radley and seconded by John Bennison Thanks were noted for all Alison's hard work to date.

Chris Axam was elected to take over from Soo James as Treasurer. Nominated by James Radley and seconded by John Bennison. Thanks were noted to Soo for her hard work to date.

Gill Butler was returned as Membership Secretary. Nominated by James Radley and seconded by John Bennison.

Ken Blockwell was returned as Election Agent. Nominated by James Radley and seconded by John Bennison.

Pat Lowe returned as Press Secretary.

The next district election will be held on the Thursday 3rd May 2007.

Any Other Business.

Questions were taken from the floor.

Question from Fran Jones: Why is the Bourley Road Car park part of the set of QEB planning applications?

Answer: There are 3 rare European birds that breed on the Thames Basin Heath Special Protection Area (SPA) that includes the Army training land at Tweseldown. The QEB development is a threat to the SPA through dog-walking and fires. The Habitats Regulations state that nearby development should only be permitted if it has no adverse impact on the SPA. By reducing the car-park on Bourley Road and opening up a new one on Beacon Hill Road they hope to claim to reduce the impact of the QEB development on the SPA.

However, we are told that this matter is being considered at the highest levels, even the Prime Ministers office, as it is through the issues raised from the QEB that the importance of the Thames Basin Heath SPA has been raised. The TBH SPA consists of a range of heathland area scattered across the region and affects 13 different local authorities and has brought some major development to a grinding halt at a time when there is a move to provide more housing.

Natural England (formerly English Nature) were having to draw up a delivery plan in order to enable development. This is being done by making developers provide alternative green space to attract walkers away from using the SPA.. It will also involve visitor management on the SPA which will probably try to make walkers keep to the acceptable footpaths or direct walkers to less sensitive areas. The developer hopes to enable the QEB by reducing the Bourley Road car-park and using the water catchment area instead. We know this simply will not work. The unique qualities of the SPA are what people go for and it is not provided by any other area in this locality. This will be a key issue in the QEB appeal. We have asked for this to be the main issue for a large evening session of the appeal so that the real strength of feeling can be shown. We hope that it will be agreed and a adte set, and if so people will be informed.

Pat Lowe has been working hard to make sure that walkers and people who use the Bourley Road car-park are kept up to date. It is interesting to note that she reports that if anything more people are using the car-park now than ever before.

There is also some concern about the project to introduce cattle grazing on areas of the SPA, there is suspicion as to whether this is a way to limit access to the areas. However the understanding is that this is a way to manage and restore the necessary heathland habitat. There was a question about the possibility of there being the rare smooth snake on the QEB site.

Question: About District Member allowance increases.

Answer: An independent body has assessed the allowance for members for Hart District Council (HDC) as they do on a regular basis for all local authorities. Hart allowances are the lowest in Hampshire and the second lowest in the country. Admittedly the financial situation at HDC has meant that some staff are being made redundant and this has made if very difficult to decide on any increase for members. However, there are some members who simply could not do so if they did not get some reasonable allowance, and this should not be the way members are supported. This would exclude some people who should be able to have the opportunity to represent their communities. It is a very difficult issue but it may be possible to phase in the increase in a reasonable way.

Question about the what the Council Tax pays for.

Answer: Although the local district or borough council collect the Council Tax, in fact only just over 10% is provided to the local authority. The majority goes to the County Council and also to the Police Authority and the Fire and Rescue Service and also the parish precept or to Fleet and Church Crookham Special expenses for those of us in the unparished area.

On average HDC take about £128 from each household out of the £1100 average council tax annual payment.

Question: What is the ruling about Tweseldown Racecourse?

Answer: The landowner is the MOD andt they have said they allow access to visitors. However, it is leased to British Eventing who have a manager in charge of the area. He is not making it easy for people to access the land. It has now been fenced in and the only way onto the course is through the former car park, as the gates are locked, but there are 3 access points in the barbed wire fence.

Question: What is happening to the former Shotts site on Bourley Road? Answer: The site was sold by HDC eighteen months ago. There is a major concern about how much use of the car-park will be retained to provide for the recreation ground which is still the responsibility of HDC. It seems there is some sensitivity about how this site was sold off. A large For Sale sign was erected in the autumn and we were contacted by the newspaper reporter for Aldershot, Clive Mogg, who was asking about the sale of the Shotts site and there was an article published in The Star newspaper. Interestingly Cllr Stephen Gorys then asked a question at Full Council about this despite being one of those who signed the documents on behalf of HDC when they sold the land, when he was Council Leader… It was as though he had forgotten.

It had not been a simple process for selling the land, as the land have a covenant imposed by the Army to bequeath the land for leisure use in respect of Peter Driver who was a local athelete who won honours in the 1956 Olympics. This too needed to be bought from the Army by the new owner to enable them to use the land for other purposes.

Apparently there had been an earlier article in the newspapers about the site being sold for a Medical Centre, although it had been given permission to build a warehouse and offices on that site. In fact the Richmond Surgery in Fleet had seriously considered taking the site to develop a larger Medical centre and private medical wing as they need to expand their current facilities. However there were difficulties and concerns about the amount of traffic that would be generated there and they pulled out. It is now being considered as a site for a Nursing home, but it is very close to the Farnborough Aerodrome flight-path, and a small corner of that site clips the PSZ.

Question: Chris Axam asked just who has bought the site?

Answer: All we can say is that HDC have indeed sold the site we have seen some of the papers and that was an executive decision at that time.

Question: Can more information be found through Freedom of Information, as this was not made known to the public?

Answer: The land had belonged to the MOD who handed it over to HDC in memory of Peter Driver and his achievements in 1956, it had the covenant for leisure use and was used for public recreation. The building had a varied history of leisure use, more recently as a snooker hall called Frames before it was changed to a night-club which was then burnt down. The night-club had allegedly been going through a troublesome period. The police were involved but no-one has been charged with any offence in relation to arson. Now as a site for development but there are constraints. It is not suitable for housing as it is within 400m of the SPA and it is right on the edge of the Public Safety Zone for Farnborough Aerodrome.

It already has outline planning permission for warehouse and office space, but is right next to the Peter driver Recreation area and there needs to be some provision to allow for parking for the use of those facilities, but unfortunately that may be much reduced. Question: What is happening at the site at the Blue Prior site on Redfields Lane?

Answer: An application to develop part of that site, which had been allocated for industrial use, was made for a Nursing home. They claimed they had tried to advertise the land for industrial use but had not had any interest. The application for a 60 bedded nursing home was refused by HDC Planning Committee but allowed at appeal in August 2006. There were concerns about drainage at the site and there was also a badger run that required to be protected. Concerns had also been raised about traffic and parking. A more detailed application was expected.

It was pointed out by a member of the floor that it was not well known but there was an opportunity for members of the public to inspect the annual accounts at HDC. They could arrange to look at them for 15-20 days after they were published, and also to ask questions of the auditor on the income and expenditure. That is why there is a notice put in the local paper to notify people that the accounts have been published. This was useful to know.

Question: What is the situation for the placement of mobile phone masts? There are 3 applications in this area.

Answer: Telecoms masts do cause a high level of concern. There are two main acceptable issues to challenge them, and they are blighting the landscape or streetscene, and highway safety if the equipment obstructs the view of traffic. The application for the 25m high mast at the Sewage Station on Velmead Common which had been refused by HDC planning committee was granted at appeal. However, the application was the submitted for a 30m mast. A pole was set up to that height for the site visit and turned down again, as it was clearly visible from a wide distance away. The grant for the 25m mast still holds but it has still not been built.

Meanwhile, another operator has put in an application for another 25m mast.

The application for a mast at Chestilton Crescent was also granted at appeal. There was great local objection but that has now been installed. The other application was on Gally Hill Road near the roundabout with Malthouse Close and Brandon Road. This was successfully refused.

The mast applications can be very difficult. There is strong demand for phone connectivity and therefore masts are necessary. However, the choice is for some large masts or a greater number of smaller masts within the required area. The other concern that many people have is the health and safety affects, however research indicates there is no cause for concern and the local planning authority is in no position to question the research. The Telecom operators have paid huge amounts to the Government for licenses to operate and they are therefore entitled to install the necessary equipment. There are some people who say they have reasons to doubt the Government position on safety of telecom masts but it is beyond most local authorities and residents to challenge this effectively.

Finally Chris Dickenson, offered a vote of thanks for the efforts of the group and members, which was given a round of applause.

The AGM closed at 22.10 hrs.

Jenny Radley.