Monday, 31 March 2008

Beldham Road - open for play

A big swing for the Mayor

A playground, some children ... And a great big swing (not political!) for the mayor.

It was the official opening of the new playground on Beldham Road, and it was great fun. The children seemed to pretty much pour out of St. Peter's and Weydon, and seemed to be particularly delighted with this massive basket swing.

Planning Appeal Decision

Appeal Ref: APP/R3650/A/07/2056390
6A & 8 Wrecclesham Road, Wrecclesham, Surrey, GU9 8TZ
• The appeal is made under section 78 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990
against a refusal to grant outline planning permission.
• The appeal is made by Crownhall (PNH) Properties Ltd against the decision of Waverley
Borough Council.
• The application Ref WA/2007/0901, dated 17 April 2007, was refused by notice dated
31 August 2007.
• The development proposed is a mixed use scheme comprising 45 dwellings and a 41
bedroom nursing home with associated parking and landscaping. The appeal
application is in outline with only appearance reserved for subsequent approval.

Procedural Matters
1. At the close of the Inquiry I requested that plans showing the location of Alice
Holt Forest, Farnham Park and the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection
Area be provided at the site visit. This was done and these plans are listed at
the end of this decision.

2. I allow the appeal, and grant outline planning permission for a mixed use
scheme comprising 45 dwellings and a 41 bedroom nursing home with
associated parking and landscaping at 6A & 8 Wrecclesham Road,
Wrecclesham, Surrey, GU9 8TZ in accordance with the terms of the application,
Ref WA/2007/0901, dated 17 April 2007 and the plans submitted with it,
subject to the conditions set out in the Schedule attached to this decision.

Click here to go to the Planning Inspectorate website, and here for this appeal summary, from where you can access the full documented appeal.
Planning Inspectorate

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Paving - permeable? Pourous?

RHSThis weekend the in-laws are staying, and I rely on my mother-in-law to educate me about our garden (including today's tip on how best to prune and otherwise treat our fig tree). What she's also great for, is saving up press cuttings and other interesting bits and pieces, and this time, it was a page out of the Royal Horticultural Society's magazine, The Garden.

The story is about new legislation, due into effect this October, that will mean a householder wishing to pave a front garden with an impermeable material (as yet to be defined), will have to apply for planning permission. The reasoning is to do with floods and run-off, and requiring good reason to provide yet more run-off on our streets than we already have.

Anyway, it sounds like good reasoning, although it has the potential for a greater burden on the planning department. Let's hope that the aspiration of this legislation (to make householders think twice before doing it), will work, rather than not stopping it at all, and simply making it more expensive and time-consuming for everyone.

Download the Impact Assessment from the Communities and Local Government website.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Electing Gladstone

A late post tonight. We've arrived home from a quiz evening at church, and, what with it being the night for putting the clocks forward one hour (already done the microwave and the oven), I should probably go to sleep.

But, before I do, one of the questions in the final, 'History' round, was this:

"How many times was William Gladstone elected Prime Minister?'

Being suspicious of trivia and tricks, I tried an answer of "0". Partly, because I really didn't know the right answer. However, as I thought about it a bit more, I starting thinking that Prime Ministers never get elected - they are appointed.

Firstly, we elect our representative to parliament. Then, as a consequence of this, either the leader of the political party in the majority is elected in his or her constituency, and one assumes the Queen (head of state) will appoint him her prime minister. Or, the leader of the political party in the majority is not elected, and thus the parliamentary party needs to elect itself a new leader, or follow its current hierarchy, prior to the Queen appointing him or her, her prime minister.
Millmead - Guildford Baptist Church
My point is this - our system of a constitutional democracy should not be summarily packaged into neat soundbites and titbits of understanding. Unfortunately it is, often by media columnists and leaders, and these end up being the 'facts' that we all think we know.

It's probably not the end of the world, but it did make me pause and think on the nature of our political system in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Hope it's made you think too.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Council Tax News

Important information regarding your council tax for 2008/09

The Government has announced that it has designated the Surrey Police Authority as one of seven authorities in the country that it may consider taking action against in response to the council tax increase being greater than 5% in 2008/09. Surrey Police Authority's council tax increased by 9.7% in 2008/09. Whilst Waverley has to collect the Council tax on behalf of the Police Authority, Waverley Borough Council's own budget has not been challenged and is not affected by the Government's announcement.

Surrey Police Authority has informed the Council that it would appeal against any action that could result from this announcement. The Government has made it clear that it has not today imposed a cap on Surrey Police Authority's council tax, therefore it is possible that no change will be necessary to their 2008/09 Budget. At this stage there is no change to the current council tax position and all amounts included on the council tax bills received earlier in March must be paid in full as previously advised. We will keep Waverley's residents informed when we have any further information.

Council Tax News on the Waverley website.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Bus Passes - revised

Great news - I'm delighted to post about Waverley's revised position on bus passes. In summary, disabled bus pass holders will be able to use their passes all day for travel.

Taking effect from April 1st, this assures a continuation of existing privileges, and is very much the position that the Community Overview & Scrutiny committee voted for last year when this issue arose.

Free Bus Travel in Waverley on the Waverley website.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Plan for a Village Design Statement

A conversation I had yesterday with a resident of Wrecclesham, who came to me with regard to a contentious development proposal nearby, crystallised for me my desire to help facilitate a Village Design Statement for Wrecclesham.

I posted about the challenges for a councillor of predisposition, predetermination et al a few days ago, and it relates to the complexities of national planning legislation when all a small community wishes to do is to ensure the continued existence of its natural way of being.

However, the challenges facing neighbourhoods in striving to protect there future in ways that complement existing structures and infrastructure, are greater. Planning law is not written in plain English, and is daunting to address, as well as frustrating in the process.

My wish, my proposal, is to facilitate the creation of a Village Design Statements. Such statements actually have persuasive power in that they are considered by planning authorities, and can hold quite some sway in decision making. Although they do take some time to create, it's been seen as worthwhile when done, as seen in another area of Waverley, Blackheath, Shamley Green and Wonersh.

If anyone is interested in being a part of such an endeavour, please do contact me, as I'm seeking to form a small group who can take this further. I've had a few expressions of interest, and we're keen to get it going as soon as possible.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Ten minutes late, yet still on time...

South West TrainsCynicism about performance of public transport almost prevented me from blogging about this - but once I'd taken a breath, I realised that this really is outrageous. Train companies still receive truly massive subsidies (by any other name), all of our tax bills, and yet the way in which they publically report their performance is shocking..

This Times report day reveals all, and, the example it is based on is for South West Trains...
Ten minutes late...


Is it me, or has there been a proliferation of graffiti in Wrecclesham recently? I keep walking past walls particularly - as well as street signs - and see 'tags' of people who think that graffiti is either

(a) a form of public art that everyone by default wants to see;
(b) generation Y rebellion that will be viewed as prophetic in a few year's time; or
(c) a generous and anonymous effort to decorate Wrecclesham.

Or perhaps, it's the way that most people view it - mindless vandalism, that degrades our village, and in some ways is tyrannical - forced on Wrecclesham's resident, by a minority of arrogant and selfish individuals.

This may come across as somewhat assertive language, but I believe in calling this the way I see it, and it needs to be nipped in the bud straightaway. I'm going to speak with the local police and the village society to see what we can do about it. I'll post some photos shortly so you can see what I mean.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Back to my mac!

Back to my MacI know this may not mean much to anyone else, but just in case... I'm back on my mac! Hurrah!

Being a fanatic about Apple Macs is not unusual for a mac user, but since becoming a councillor I've not been able to fully use the Waverley email system on my mac. The council is based around Windows PCs and servers (isn't everywhere?), and like most public sector bodies and councils, uses Lotus Notes for its email and diary functions.

Thus, when asking as a new councillor, if Lotus could be installed on my mac, I received great help at attempting to do so, but no success.

After using a Windows laptop for a number of months, I decided that I simply had to get back to my mac, and after a concentrated effort this afternoon, I did it - I installed and configured Lotus Notes on my mac!

Thus ends my post of the day, which is probably only of real excitement to other mac users.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Free our bills

So, not another post about council tax or great antipodean cafes (see post on Sat 15th March). This time is to highlight a great campaign to make parliamentary bills much more accessible online. The web site They Work For You is already a favourite of mine, but now they've started to campaign for a much more modern approach to transparency.

As Sam Leith says in the Telegraph today:

"The point is not to alter the texts of the Bills, or interfere with their drafting and passage through the House. The point is simply to "parse" them into a format - marking headings, subheadings, dates, amendments and so forth - that makes them available to be searched, indexed and cross-referenced by outside users."

If you support this concept of easier access to information on bills that are passing through the house, and what your MP is saying about them, then register with the site, and they will keep you up-to-date with their progress.

Waverley webcasts its meetings, and is pretty good in my view on publishing what's going on. But, if you have any complaints, and think we could be doing more, let me know.

Friday, 21 March 2008


.... found out today that I had forgotten to book my places for the local conservatives Spring Buffet. It's in my diary, but that's obviously not a guarantee that I sorted out the tickets. I must do it this weekend.

What it also reminds me is that the only way that local political parties continue to survive is by way of their membership, and fund raising events throughout the year. And I should note, in the kindest possible way, that the membership profile of the local party needs much change in order to fairly represent the various age groups in our villages. Around the country Conservative Future is strong and active, but here in Wrecclesham and Rowledge, we see very few young people involved in the party.

If you've ever thought about getting politically involved, as a local member, or national, and wanting to get together with similarly minded young people at bigger events, there are plenty of ways to get started.

Do email me if you want to know more. I'm always happy to meet up over a coffee, and I know activists in most groups in the Conservative Party, in whose direction I can point.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Waverley Weather

A first for me this morning - I opened my email to see a weather warning from the Safety and Emergency Planning Advisor, Keith Allen. I had heard that the weather wasn't going to be that great over the weekend, but I didn't expect the following, and certainly didn't expect to get if from Waverley! I keep learning more and more about what we do:

The Met Office issued an early warning this morning

Although it covers the whole of the SE of England, it is actually only Milton Keynes that we are singling out for a 60% risk of disruption. It is hopefully a bit clearer if you look at the Advisory online.

Let me give you a bit more of a breakdown of what we think might happen over the next few days

Friday: Cold with strong North winds and some showers - these may be wintry especially over the hills but will not settle or cause any problems.

Saturday: This is the time the Early warning is valid for. A spell of snow will cross the area - and there is a good chance (60%) it will settle in Milton Keynes. However, there is also a 40% risk of some settling snow in Kent, East Sussex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. The highest risk of getting this settling snow is in the early hours of the morning. For the rest of the day it will again be bitterly cold with some wintry showers.

Sunday: Another very cold day with some wintry showers, and although we are not confident about how much snow there will be, we are concerned enough that there could be a reasonable amount of snow across parts of the SE that again we have issued an advisory.

Monday: Cold again with wintry showers.

Predisposed, predetermined, pre...tty complex

The Standards Board for EnglandIt's a mine field, let's face it. Not that I wasn't aware of the area of standards in public life before I stood for election, but I certainly wasn't an expert, and nothing makes things crystallize in one's mind like experiencing it for real.

So, East Street provides the basis on which I find myself beginning to understand the nuances of when, where, and how once can speak on an issue on which one feels strongly.

Especially helpful has been a paper sent out to councillors in the past couple of weeks. It's from the Standards Board for England, and is an 'occasional paper' from August 2007. It's the clearest explanation of Predisposition, Predetermination or Bias, and the Code, that I've yet read, and I'd recommend it anyone that wishes to understand the challenges that face all councillors in wishing to be forthright regarding any planning application, not just East Street.

I'd also recommend reading Alan Lovell's letter in the Farnham Herald today. He clearly articulates his challenge to councillors, and yet also demonstrates his determination to walk the fine line, and represent his residents appropriately. I also wish to do the same, and so invite anyone in Wrecclesham and Rowledge to tell me your views on the latest East Street application, bearing in mind that I have an open mind to the merits of any argument, both for and against.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Committee meetings are open to the public

Admittedly, it's probably not most people's idea of a great night out, but, so you know, virtually all committee meetings of the council are open to members of the public. It's possible that towards the end of some meetings, there are items that are confidential, and so members of the public are asked to leave, but it doesn't happen too often.

I mention this, as one of the committees closest to my heart, is the Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee. It reviews decisions to be made by the executive and full councils, on issues such as bus passes, voluntary bodies, housing, and others that impact our communities in down-to-earth ways.

The next meeting is on the 2nd April, and I've had a couple of items added to the agenda that I want to mention. Firstly, I'll be speaking briefly about a community exercise being started in Wrecclesham by the Farnham Christian Community Trust, something I've blogged about before and am taking the opportunity to update other members on how things are going. Secondly, I'll be feeding back from my involvement with Citizens' Advice Waverley, and speaking about its great service, and the challenges ahead.

[Click here for details on meetings, minutes etc.]

Monday, 17 March 2008

Wrecclesham Playground Opening

Earlier today I attended the opening of the Wrecclesham Playground. Now, I don't yet make the habit of using playgrounds regularly, (although it won't be long before Caleb is old enough to enjoy it), but wow - great playground. There's even a swing a bit like a childseat, so you can strap your son or daughter in, and be happy that they're nice and safe. I think that will be the one that Caleb uses very shortly.

The one disappointment was that very few people turned up specifically for the opening. Our Waverley Mayor, Maurice Byam was there, as well as myself and Pat Frost, local councillors for Wrecclesham. Also, Jeff Thorpe of the Wrecclesham Recreation Ground Committee attended. However, any disappointment in offical turnout for the opening, pales into insignificance compared to the families who were there simply to enjoy them the playground, and were very obviously having a great time!

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Bills - both of them

Just a few hours prior to flying home, I visited a great little coffee shop in a suburb of Sydney - bills. Some of you might of heard of Bill Granger, the owner, who has become somewhat of a celebrity chef and published a number of books of great recipes. I couldn't resist visiting as some of his recipes are firm favourites in our house and coffee shop.

The other bill I should mention is the Council Tax Bill, which will be arriving on doorsteps very shortly. As per much news recently, Waverley's portion (small portion actually), has increased by 4.4.%, but the bill will cover all portions of the council tax (town, borough, county and police).

Friday, 14 March 2008

Bus Passes

Some time ago, I was involved in the Community Overview and Scrutiny committee meeting that voted to continue to extend the hours of the free bus pass scheme in Waverley. We were informed of the changes to the scheme that meant passess would now be valid nationally, not simply borough-wide, and were asked to consider whether keeping the extended hours (a 9.00 am start instead of the minimum 9.30 am start), would cause confusion if other boroughs didn't do the same.

We agreed to keep the extension, but on receiving further advice that it was required for all councils within Surrey to agree to the same hours, we amended our decision, in order to be in line with an emerging consensus for the standard 9.30 am.

However....! Very recently a handful of councils have decided to individually override this perceived need for a consensus, and announced plans to start the scheme daily at 9.00 am (e.g. Mole Valley). So, I'm delighted to blog that Waverley will also begin concessions at 9.00 am as well.

All information on bus passes can be found on the Waverley website.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Budget Response from Jeremy Hunt

Our MP has created a 'channel' on YouTube recently, and today's he's used it to issue his own response to the latest budget, in particular, its effect on the residents of South West Surrey.

Jeremy Hunt's YouTube Channel
(Click the play button in the middle of the picture)

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Post Offices - Waverley response

WBC have now submitted their formal response to the Post Offices consultation. Following on from the February meeting where very clear indications of the feeling of residents were given, David Munro, portfolio holder for 'Partnerships, Community and Enhanced two-tier working' (and I'm sure even he thinks that quite a mouthful!) has sent a letter on behalf of WBC.

David makes very clear the unique and material circumstances of our communities in Tilford and Farnham, that mean the Post Offices should remain open, and by doing so will actually assist the PO in acheiving their own stated objectives as a business.

I'm sure this will be available on the WBC website soon, and when it is, I'll blog about it straightaway, and include a link.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Stats? No, Best Value Performance Indicators

There are many requirements on local councils to measure and report on their services. Thankfully, in the new tax year the number of these mandatory statistics is reducing quite drastically to 198! (See this exec briefing paper)

At first glance some of them seem at worst useless, or at least out of the control of the council (i.e. crime numbers). However, being on the sub-committee that reviews the indicators for community issues (housing, maintenance, safety), I'm finding that these numbers do actually reveal a good understanding of how well our services are working out. Our performance isn't perfect, but in many areas we are well over the target, and where not, are working hard to be so.

The devil is always in the detail of course, and in these instances it's understanding the exceptions, and acknowledging the often personal circumstances of tenants (for housing indicators), or homelessness enquiries, that mean our actions are appropriate, but don't always result in a nice statistic.

You will find the housing performance numbershere.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Planning for Physics

Most weeks I receive a list of all the new planning applications that have been received by the council. My usual process is to open it up, and search for references to Wrecclesham, or Rowledge, and check them out.

This week there is one from Weydon School. It look like they are consulting on changes to their entrance, and the possibility of a first floor extension for a science lab. Having been in the area only 3 1/2 years, and with no children of school age as yet, I'm not very familiar with Weydon, but, I'll be trying to visit soon to see the site of the application first hand.

As with all planning applications, anyone can comment by writing or completing an online form. This is amazingly helpful to councillors - to be able to know the opinions of local residents - and specially so here, as I am not on a planning committee, and can therefore advocate on behalf on residents, without prejudicing the decision.

Visit the Waverley Planning website - which is excellent - for more information.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Waverley Tenants

A couple of weeks' ago I posted about the Special Interest Group (SIG) looking at Landlord Services in Waverley, and how it would be responding strategically to the challenges facing us when our next audit of these services is conducted in late 2008.

Well, a key section of that SIG is comprised of participants from the Tenants' Panel. I received an email yesterday from its chair, Miss Pat Wright, and along with details of the current tenants serving on the panel, she mentioned that she would be very pleased to have more offers of help.

The panel is a key way for the council and its councillors to hear about the critical issues in our housing services, and thus enable us to address them. If you think you might be able to give some of your time, and live in a Waverley owned property, please do consider offering. We want to get our services right, but can only do so if we are informed clearly and coherently, from across all areas of Waverley.

Contact Pat Wright:

Friday, 7 March 2008

Queen's Birthday - our Queen!

In New Zealand (where I'm spending the weekend) actually has a public holiday for the Queen's Birthday. Yes, that's our Queen!

Now, I'm not certain that I would call myself a royalist or such like, but the depth of cultural attachment displayed by Kiwis to their home country - whether England or Ireland or Scotland or another - makes me realise that I'm sad about the increasing shallowness of the passion with which we hold onto our heritage in the UK.

It strikes me most when I see bills passed in the Houses of Parliament that abandon the moral foundation of our nation's law, and essentially put us on the path to tyranny, when our legislation is simply the result of, and response to, a short-term fad or fashion.

I would love to see the reawakening of full and deep discourse, and be able to believe once again, that our parliament is the home of leaders AND thinkers AND doers.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Second languages

This business trip is proving to be more educational that I thought. Tonight I was with friends and their children in the west of Singapore, and I learned that all children are taught a second language from junior school age.

Then, talking to colleagues from Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Phillipines, I realised how envious I was that they were able to speak into a culture not only by being there, but by conversing in that language, itself a wonderful repository of history and environment through its structure and use.

I hope to encourage our own son to learn other languages when he starts school in a few years, but acknowledge that language classes in our primary schools is unusual. May be the borough council isn't the right place for curriculum policy, but right now, I wish it was!

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Post Offices

I notice a good, succinct report on the recent consultation on post offices closures. The report summarises the recent meeting held at The Maltings, Farnham, to discuss the proposals to close two POs in the borough.

As we would all expect, the Executive were recommended to oppose these proposals that would directly damage our communities, and I know that David Munro and Jeremy Hunt, amongst others, will continue to campaign hard and vocally on this issue.

See the Waverley website for the Executive documents.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Flat Earth News

A book I'm reading at the moment is challenging my preconceptions of local news coverage. For a while now I've been disinclined to believe most of what I read in the newspapers, and (sadly) what I see or hear from the BBC and other TV stations. But, I've considered local newspapers to be guardians of community opinion, if not exactly guardians of truth per se.

However, I'm tempted to believe otherwise by Nick Davies, based on his analysis of the reporting coverage of the UK by way of PA and PR.

I do think he paints it in a light that makes out journalism to be a venerable profession, as precious to life as healthcare or agriculture (which is is not). I'd say he goes overboard on page 85 by referring to the 'now vulnerable media'!

But, in lieu of a full book review, I'd say it's worth reading for insight into the state of journalism today, and as a prompt to think more incisively about what we read, and not consume it as so much fodder for our insatiable appetites for gossip. If he's right, even a good percentage of what we read in the Herald is straight from a PR person's pen, or an agencies newsfeed.

P.S. I do admit to being a amateur PR person now and then, striving to help a business for which I work get better known...

P.P.S. I wonder how many fully original stories the Herald contains...

Monday, 3 March 2008

Litter? No - letter from Singapore

I'm in Asia on business, and whilst I was told before I arrived about the approach to litter, (and jaywalking, and general law-abiding behaviour), it didn't really hit home until the drive in from the airport. Wow, is really all I can say.

It contrasts massively with the kind of litter that we experience every day in our own villages. Living near a corner shop in Wrecclesham, I'm appalled at how little some of my fellow residents seem to care about the general wellbeing of our community. I believe that there is a strong link between a level of good manners in all areas of life, and the safety and happiness of our lives.

Without getting on my soapbox too much, it's not that I think that Waverley shouldn't have to clean the streets, collect waste, and recycle, but, it's that I think that the contract of society is broken between state and citizen. And not solely because of the trend towards bigger government. I believe that simply because the state does something, doesn't mean that the rest of society shouldn't.

Anyway, I could go on for a long time about this (email if you'd like to!), but suffice to say that I love Singapore, not least because I can walk down the street... and actually see the street, not just the cornucopia of retail rubbish. (And if you've been to Singapore, you'll know exactly how much retail I'm talking about!)

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Britain.. no, wait... Farnham in Bloom

Farnham Town Council have their eyes firmly set on achieving greatness in the 2008 Britain in Bloom competition!

The borough council have responsibilities for ensuring parks and other public grounds are maintained and cleaned, and our contractors Glendale are as enthusiastically committed to the competition as both councils.

The area of the competition is the town centre itself, and over the coming months the co-ordination between contractors and councils will continue apace. Here's hoping that our flowers flourish.

Oh, and any offers of sponsorship would be very welcome.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Make space for place: relate

Relationships Foundation
I've long been a fan of the Relationships Foundation. It seeks to encourage relational thinking in business, politics and community. I get an email from them periodically, with a recent article attached, and today the article was by Michael Schluter, the founder of the organisation.

Michael worked as an economist for the World Bank before setting off to do things more community based, and he draws on his experience and skills to ensure that the thought leadership of the Foundation is appropriate and realistic.

His article on the benefits of face-to-face meetings (place) over technologically based virtual meetings (space) is great reading, and I heartily recommend it. A company I contract for takes this view, and from experience I can endorse the view that meeting colleagues in person can transform a working relationships, and enable long-distance communication to take on so much more meaning and clarity.

Find his article here, plus links to lots more.