Tuesday, 24 February 2009

10 days

I’m not in the habit of simply processing Waverley press releases, but this one is certainly worthy. In the light of the economic circumstances, the council will aim to pay as many bills from local businesses as possible, within 10 days. A challenging aspiration, but a good one.

There’s no specific target as yet, but I’ll see if I can get a measurement after the first month.

Muzzled? No way.

I'm 'Annoyed of Wrecclesham' today, following an email last night that gave instruction not to engage in any kind of debate on the issue that I posted about yesterday.

Here are my reasons why I just don't get that attitude:

  1. We don't live in a Stalinist state.
  2. We do live in a constitutional monarchy, with a representational democratic political process.
  3. It is foolish to assume that the council meeting tonight will contain all (i.e. pre meeting debate is fantastically important to sort out the right answers, as well as the chamber) the necessary debate (both in quality and quantity) to produce the best decision.
  4. It is arrogant to assume that the opposition is not able to spot benefits that we as the group in power, have missed.
  5. It is condescending to assume that all Tory councillors are unable to be clear and precise in their communications, and confident enough in what they've said, to defend themselves if necessary.

Can you tell how annoyed I am?

Finally, how does a Tory group with a majority - that's right, a majority - of 45, get so scared of openess?

Monday, 23 February 2009

Council Tax does not equal Rent Increase

Had a good swap of emails with an opposition member yesterday, regarding his proposal to reduce cyclical maintenance in the budget, in order to peg the increase in social housing rent, to be the same percentage as the proposed council tax increase.

At first glance, the principle of keeping the rent as low as possible drew my interest, and I'm always one to investigate such a possibility, whether it comes from a Tory colleague, or the opposition. However, on further detials, and consideration, I believe that the proposal confuses good aspirations, with a slight lack of medium-to-long term thinking, and, a simplistic view of percentages.

The budget for cyclical maintenance has been pretty low in recent years, and both main parties in Waverley held the same desire to increase this, but both have operated under the same horrendous constraints of the negative housing subsidy. However, even in this envrionment, it is myopic to think that saving money now on maintenace, will not translate into greater costs in the long-term.

Therefore, deciding to increase this maintenance budget by 60% for 2009/10 is a considered, and responsible step. A proposal to reduce it in order to align two percentages, which don't in reality relate, may well be more political posturing than community compassion.

In the words of a fellow councillor:

Rent is a charge for the right to occupy a dwelling and for it to be maintained by the landlord (in contrast to homeowners who meet their own maintenance costs as well as paying mortgage charges in most cases) while Council Tax is charged for the services provided to all occupiers, irrespective of the nature of their tenure.

As landlords it is imperative that we are honest and accurate about our budget needs, and certainly must do our very best to maintain our housing stock to as good a standard as possible. This year's increase of 60% represents that judgment, and adjusting that to match council tax as a percentage, and thus make a good headline, is not good leadership.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Blink and you missed it

That's the quickest AGM I've ever been to. Probably a reflection of the skills of our chairman, fellow councillor John Ward, and also the agenda being mostly compiled of business / admin items.

Anyway, it was a only a little over 30 minutes long, and there were no questions from the floor! That was the bit that surprised me.

I'm also pleased as on a Sunday I'm really loathe to attend political meetings. It's a family day for us, and from now on I'm going to follow the example of our MP, Jeremy, who keeps it a private day.


A member of the opposition on Waverley Borough Council has just emailed all councillors with information about a potential budget cut that would allow us to reduce the proposed increase in rent for our housing.

I'm certain that colleagues would tell me that there's many a pitfall here, as line items in budgets (printed in agenda) will never tell the whole story. However, at first glance it seems as though there may be an option here, and, with my over-riding desire to see residents get the very best possible service from us, I've emailed to follow-up and find out more.

For the outcome you can attend the meeting on Tuesday evening at the council chamber, or, watch online.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

How local is local?

This week the Conservative Party issued a paper on local democracy (you can see it here): sections 3 and 4 have some sound, sensible, and essential proposals that will help change the nature of 'local government.

But before I go further, and risk giving the impression of a sweeping endorsement of the paper, I am struck by the question "How local is local?" Today, some neighbours from across the road, who've been here a few years, and who like us, live just 7 minutes walk from the Farnham Pottery where we have our farm shop and coffee shop, came up for coffee and cake this afternoon for the very first time. After two years.

I'm sure many before me have asked this question, and possible answered it in many ways. I'm thinking about what non-physical barriers there are - such as circle of friends; living in a town that acts simply as a place for commuters to sleep; working so many hours that very little interaction takes place in the evenings nearby; driving everywhere meaning that no-one bumps into each other and chats on the way to or from somewhere; and, possibly, the irony that in this time of communication coming out of our ears, (where anyone is wants to be can publish everything they do on the internet for all to see), it can actually be fairly difficult to either tell everyone, or find out, what's going on locally.

Considering these items then drew me to think on whether the existing constructs of local government are expressions of natural communities, centred round historic centres - towns, markets etc. - or whether what we have now is more the consequences of decades of political posturing, leaving us with un-natural boroughs and districts etc.

Ask 10 people what local community means, and I think you'll get 10 different answers. But, ask 10 people if local community means their respective council, and I'm pretty certain that 9 or 10 out of 10 will say "No".

And so, while resonating with most of this paper from the Conservative Party, I hope that in the not too distant future, another paper will be released, that outlines the vision for revising local representation such that the natural geography, economy, and history of our communities, is counted as paramount.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Social Networking - charm or curse?

I've been using Facebook as an online social network for some time now, and although I wouldn't call myself a facebook junkie, I certainly find it immensely useful.

However, now that I'm also a twittering councillor, I've (a) managed to link the two together so that my facebook status is the same as my twitter status, and (b) decided to mention it so that if anyone would like to find out more about what I do / think etc., you can.

Of course, if none of this makes sense to you, or you're not interested, no worries. Otherwise, see you on facebook sometime soon!

Wrecclesham Youth Club

Great news about the Wrecclesham Youth Club hit my inbox. It starts up again on Monday 16th March.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Final (hopefully) update on refuse collection catch-up

All things being equal, this will hopefully be the final blog post from me about the refuse collection catch-up after our week of snow and ice. John Sandy, portfolio holder for this area, has been steadfast in his communications to councillors, and assurance of clear messages on the Waverley website. Here's his latest email:

The normal day collections have been proceeding as planned.However at the end of each day afew roads have not been completed due to the excessive volumes, in spite of the extra vehicle, but in every case the missed roads have been picked uo first thing the following day. If there are any unfinished roads by close of play on Friday, they will b e collected on Saturday. We anticipate normal collection arrangement to be in place onMonday 23feb.

The telephone calls to the team peaked during the period 2nd to 13th feb but have now returned to normal

Actions, not words

A quick snap to show that actions are being taken to rectify the water leakage on Pottery Lane. The two carrying out the work haven't sourced it yet, but in any case will put in something that's known as a 'correlation point' which will measure where the leak is coming from.

However, I'm sure that will only work if it's a leak from the mains, and if, in actual fact, it's simply groundwater - from an extremely high water table round here - I don't know whose accountability that will be. Must find out.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

STOP PRESS! Again...

My brother-in-law tells me that the guys from yesterday were back again this morning. Apparently they were doing a bit more of a survey, and think that the water leaking onto the roads is a mixture of ground water, mains, and perhaps even some drainage. Let's hope we find out soon.

Planning Applications 18th February 2009

(Click here if you want to go the Waverley planning search page, and select 'Ward' from the left hand list of options)

WA/2009/0133: 27/01/2009
Proposed Development: Erection of single storey extension following demolition of existing. Installation of rooflights. 4 Copse Way, Farnham.
E: 482690 N: 144731
Case Officer: Mr Stefan Enslin

Applicant: Mr Devaney, 18a Tilford Road, Farnham GU9 8DL
Agent: Mr G Phillips, Phillips Associates, Vernon House, Thursley Road, Elstead, Surrey GU8 6DH

WA/2009/0154: 09/02/2009

Proposed Development: Conversion of garage to kitchen and utility room; erection of infill extension between garage and house. 28 St Peters Gardens, Wrecclesham, Farnham.
E: 482662 N: 144862
Case Officer: Mr A Griffiths

Applicant: P Lechev, 28 St Peters Gardens, Wrecclesham GU10 4QX
Agent: Mr A Cutler, Fiducia UK Ltd, 27 Gillian Close, Aldershot GU12 4HU

WA/2009/0156: 28/01/2009
Proposed Development: Erectio of a two storey extension. Firlands, 16 The Avenue, Farnham.
E: 482878 N: 143561
Case Officer: Mrs J Hammick

Applicant: S King, The Avenue, Rowledge GU10 4BD
Agent: Mr Wright, Wrecclesham Farm, Echo Barn Lane, Farnham GU10 4NJ

Tuesday, 17 February 2009


Just saw some water board and County Council personnel reviewing the water pipes etc. around Pottery Lane and Quennels Hill, in order to solve the problem of ground water leakage!

That was quick!

My first phone call this morning regarding borough council things, was directly to do with the SANGS! Not that it was an immediate reponse to my own blog below, but more that a local resident with an outstanding planning application, has discovered that this (and I quote) "blanket" ban on planning permission will affect his application for one property which he has been working on for some time.

Unfortunately, this is exactly the kind of impact that will occur many times until we have the review of the SANGS. I'll be passing on this information to my member colleagues, and keeping the blog up to date with progress.


This is not an acronym that I would have known prior to becoming a councillor, but it is one that has a significant impact on planning, especially new houses, in our town.

Suitable Natural Alternative Green Space

The below text is on the Waverley website, and describes a review about to occur of the status of Farnham Park as a Suitable Natural Alternative Green Space, for planning applications. It is critical that any review not only takes into account the need to allow planning to continue without unnecessary constraints, but also legitimately identifies green space that mitigates the potential negative impacts of any new construction in the town.

If you need to know more, do search on the Waverley website for historic documents and news items related to this. And ask the planning department for more information. But - and here I admit my ignorance (further than what I've described) - don't ask me!

“Information for prospective applicants regarding the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA) and the Council’s Interim Miniplan

In order to avoid new housing in the Farnham area having an adverse impact on the Thames Basin Heaths SPA, the Council adopted an Interim Miniplan in 2007, whereby developers contributed to the enhancement of Farnham Park as an alternative green space. When the Miniplan was first adopted, the identified capacity at Farnham park was 10.9 hectares. That capacity has now been almost completely exhausted and it is likely that it will be completely used up as a result of planning applications that are already in the system or pending appeal decisions. Therefore, prospective applicants for new housing within the affected area are advised that, in the short term, it is likely that there will no longer be the opportunity to contribute to the enhancement of Farnham Park as alternative green space. As a result, the Council may have no alternative but to withhold planning permission for new residential development within the affected area.

On 10th February, the Council’s Executive approved plans to review the Interim Miniplan. This review will include exploring with Natural England the scope to increase the capacity of the green space at Farnham Park. This review will take some months to complete and in the meantime, prospective applicants are advised to discuss their proposals, and progress with the Miniplan review, with the planning officer before submitting their planning application to the Council.”

Monday, 16 February 2009

Slippery Slope

As you may have already read on my blog, I was away during the heavy snowfalls, but I heard about the flurry of accidents that took place near the bottom of Quennell's Hill, and read a number of letters in the Herald that note the continued leakage of groundwater from the junction with Pottery Lane, and the lack of any noticeable work to prevent this.

I've just this minute emailed our County Councillor David Munro, who I know has already been involved with trying to work this out. Presently the only warning abou the road conditions is given part way up Quennell's Hill, but this doesn't help anyone on the main road through Wrecclesham, and when it's icy, you can see what happens to the house at the bottom of the hill!

Sunday, 15 February 2009


I'm musing on two things today:

(1) Neighbourliness - I've decided that landscaping my front garden is an excellent way to catch-up with neighbours, visitors to my neighbours, and people walking their dogs. Simply being outside where people see you going about your business is a really great way to strike up conversation. I heard a lot about this kind of community when we had all the snow a couple of weeks ago (although sadly I wasn't around): my mother was helped up a slippery hill, and some neighbours who'd never met each other before were nattering outside with fresh coffee in their hands.

(2) Twitter - now, I think of myself as technically literate, but I'm not sure I've quite clicked with Twitter just yet. Follow this link to see for yourself, but, I'm going to give it a few weeks whilst I work out whether it does anything different from Facebook or blogging.

Saturday, 14 February 2009


...of my mind, and definitely not of my feet.

Not that I wouldn't love, simply love, to be rambling over the mountains this weekend. I was invited to a weekend of winter walking in Snowdownia, but turned it down as I needed to be at home with my family, especially after being away so much recently, and with Rach 38 weeks pregnant... yes, I hear you all ask, was there ever really an option to go walking. No, not really.

Anyway, I love winter climbing - usually Scotland somewhere - and so Snowdownia was going to be a great weekend, as I haven't been out in a couple of years. And it looked especially exciting, what with all the snow over the past few weeks. However, all that was before I heard about how some climbers have been killed on Snowdon this week, and how the continues are extreme and treacherous.

There's a part of every climber that, on hearing that information, simply wants to get out there and see how bad (read 'exciting', 'thrilling' etc.) it really is.

But not this time. With a baby on the way, and the sobering news of two brothers (both with young or imminent families) dying in the past week, I know I made the right decision. Nobody could every call me risk averse, but on this occasion, I feel that discretion is the better part of valour.

Friday, 13 February 2009

My nice neighbour

A day off today (after 3 weeks business travel including weekends), and my first job is to fill the skip in the driveway with rubble and earth from the front garden which we're completely re-landscaping.

So, good exercise certainly, but not exactly fun - until that is Ian, our next door neighbour, popped round with his wellingtons on, gloves on, and a shovel in his hand: "Can I help? I could do with some exercise."

It was then that the job became fun, and chatting over a shared endeavour became simply the best thing in the world to do right then.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Good news? Bad news?

I'm not sure that this FT story is entirely good news for Farnham. Whilst restructuring of the debt and equity of Crest Nicholson is bound to be designed to some extent to allow some cash to flow, and existing schemes to progress to completion, it may not necessarily allow new schemes to start, perhaps not this year, perhaps not for a number of years.

Just my own opinion.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Planning Applications 11th February 2009

(Click here if you want to go the Waverley planning search page, and select 'Ward' from the left hand list of options)

No new aplications to report this week.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

From the ridiculous to the sublime

I'm fuming. Really fuming. There's no excuse for the kind of inconsiderate, rude, and downright unacceptable behaviour that my wife experienced on public transport today.

Electing to use the bus that runs to Farnham - primarily because our car was in for its MOT, but secondly, choosing it in lieu of borrowing her brother's car as my mother had said how good the service was - Rach duly waited until 45 minutes after it was due, and as you can imagine (in the cold, the wet, and having to entertain a toddler for 45 mins), was delighted to see it arrive.

What was not delightful was the following 5 minutes during which:
* she struggled to get the pram up the steps;
* no-one offered to help or watch Caleb;
* eventually a gentleman assisted with the pram;
* once the pram was in, the driver pointed out that (due to another - uncollapsed - pram taking up most of the room available, our pram had to be moved again so it wasn't in the way;
* and then, when the driver suggested that a couple of ladies make way for my pregnant wife of 37 weeks, they said no, as they were in (and I quote) "their" seats; therefore
* my wife stood all the way into town.


However, contrast this with the way back to Wrecclesham:
* the bus arrived on time;
* she was given help into the bus;
* when exiting the bus, the driver held Caleb on his lap (and I can't tell how much Caleb loved that being a bus driver!) whilst Rach took the pram out and made it ready.

In summary:

(1) Isn't it incredible how inexcusable some people's behaviour can be, when in actual fact it takes very very little to behave in a polite and kind manner?
(2) In fact, the worst of the experiences had more to do with members of the public's attitude that the public transport system itself.

Monday, 9 February 2009

I didn't realise it was so bad

Email's a great thing, and in many ways I've kept in touch with what's been happening even though I've been thousands of miles away in some pretty remote places.

But it wasn't really until I was home this weekend, that I could really envisage the difficult circumstances under which our public services have been operating, especially the rubbish and recycling collections. And it's been driven home to me by the number of emails from fellow members of the council who are sharing residents' frustrations at the lack of collection over the past week.

Whilst I can't claim to be able to solve the problem personally, I can promise to communicate and negotiate and influence as much as possible - so, if you do still have an outstanding collection issue in the ward, let me know, and I will find out as soon as I can about when you can expect it to be sorted.

Saturday, 7 February 2009


I really do think that Waverley is a beautiful borough. However, stood on the top of Table Mountain overlooking Cape Town this morning, simply took my breath away.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Grit, protectionism, and other stories

(1) Today we depart from Luanda, the capital of Angola, to Cape Town. I've been here since Monday with two colleagues, and, whilst I'm glad to be on my way home after almost two weeks on the road, I'm sad not to have seen more of a country that is beginning to find its feet after 3 decades of civil war.

Some incongruities caught my eye this morning though, when after breakfast in the guest house we're staying in, I saw a bit of Sky News telling me that councils were running out of grit in the UK! Well, I can say that I've heard no such status updates for Waverley, and we would certainly be appraised if it happened.

(2) While the EU gets its federal knickers in a twist about US proposals to favour US companies and purchasing, I'm drawn favourably to the concept of buying in-country, having heard much this week about the Angolan strategies to build a skill and knowledge base that is presently lacking. Of course, it's protectionism for a very different reason, but it at least made me stop to think that blindly lashing out at the US for what at first appears to be anti-free-market policies, is not the most helpful response, and instead we could we calmly considering whether promoting local economies is indeed a good and right thing to do.

(3) They make great coffee in Angola! And although I had read that prior to the 70s coffee had been major business here, I hadn't expected to be drinking Angolan coffee, as virtually everything - and I mean virtually everything - is imported, rather than produced locally.

Don't expect to see Angolan coffee on the menu any time soon at the pottery, but, if Rwanda is anything to go by, the potential growth in the industry could see high quality Angolan coffee on the UK supermarket shelves in a few years time.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Planning Applications 4th February 2009

(Click here if you want to go the Waverley planning search page, and select 'Ward' from the left hand list of options)

WA/2009/0085: 15/01/2009
Proposed Development: Erection of two storey extension to dwelling and new pitched roof to existing garage. 8 Lickfolds Road, Farnham.
E: 482372 N: 143210
Case Officer: Mr A Griffiths

Applicant: Mr & Mrs P & M Ede, 8 Lickfolds Road, Rowledge GU10 4AF
Agent: Mr K Field, 4 Hillary Road, Farnham GU9 8QY

WA/2009/0097: 28/01/2009
Proposed Development: Erection of extension and alterations (revision of WA/2008/1762). 9 High Street, Rowledge.
E: 482287 N: 143510
Case Officer: Mr J Hammick

Applicant: P Brooker, 9 High Street, Rowledge, Surrey GU10 4BS
Agent: Mr Andrew Tomkins, Abode Architects LLP, The Forge, 5 Upper Church Lane, Farnham, Surrey GU9 7PW

NOTICE: Waste / Recycling Catch-up

Due to the snow, collections were interrupted. I've just received the below email notice of the plans to catch-up - which of course are subject to further weather interruptions!

Dear All, I am pleased to confirm that the operational arrangements we made yesterday were put into place at 0700hrs today, Wednesday , when all the vehicles left the depot. The arrangements are as follows:

Wednesday normal collection. Thursday normal collection, Friday normal collection. The missed Monday and Tuesday collections will be collected on SATURDAY 7 feb.

This information has been placed on the Radio,BBC Southern Counties, Eagle andDelta. and in the Surrey Advertiser and the Herald Group of newspapers. EXTRA side bags will be collected during this period.Some roads may remain unsafe and therefore collections will not be made.When new arrangements will be made and communicated over the radio . If no collection is made, or for further information please phone 01483 523524.

Best Wishes,

No to No2ID... for now

You may recall that a few weeks ago I described how I support the NO2ID campaign, and I followed this up by proposing to the executive that we put forward a motion at the next full council, an example of which could be as follows:

1. That the introduction of National Identity Cards will do little, if anything, to prevent terrorism, crime or fraud and that the money could be spent more effectively.
2. That it will be an unacceptable burden for the citizens of West Berkshire to be forced to pay for a card without regard to their ability to pay.
3. That this is an unacceptable infringement of civil liberties and a further domination of Government over the citizen.

I circulated this with members, and received a broad range of responses. On the basis of needing to address various points raised (all good), and in the desire not to detract from what will be necessarily a robust and critical meeting in a few week's time (where the budget will be the main item), I will be postponing this motion until a future date.

I'd still be very pleased to hear from anyone who has a view on this, and help inform my position, and a future council motion.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

And snow...

From Mary Orton, this morning:

Dear Councillor

We are not able to run any refuse / recycling collection service today, as too few roads are passable. The web-site has been updated, and we are asking local radio stations to broadcast the information to the public.

Our plan now is to resume the service tomorrow. We will aim to run the normal service for the remainder of the week. People whose collections were missed today and yesterday (except for the most remote and isolated properties) will receive a catch-up service on Saturday. Obviously, this plan still does depend on what happens with the weather over the next few hours - any further heavy snowfall could still disrupt services further.

I shall keep you posted by email on service developments.

Kind regards


Monday, 2 February 2009

Let it snow

I don't believe it. I love snow, I mean, really love snow, and the moment I go to Africa on business for a week, we get more than a foot of snow one day in our village, and I miss the opportunity to break out my winter climbing gear, and build snowmen with my son!

I'm distraught. 31 degrees and humid may be some people's idea of bliss, but I'd much rather be back in Wrecclesham, and being able to post great photos of the pottery in a snow blanket.