Thursday, 28 April 2011

Tories come first!

The winning team visited Kingsley the night before last, mob-handed, all blue-rinsed and enthusiastic with their chirpy "can we rely on your support?" It turns out their candidate this time round is a nice looking old buffer who'd be happy to talk to me and is definitely not a "single-issue advocate".

David Ashcroft is, apparently, a flourishing farmer and Selborne parish councillor and is keen to develop tourism in the area whilst helping businesses hidden away in homes or barn conversions.

One ominous sign though is that he has a virgin.net email address, just like Pelham Ravenscroft who was defeated in 2003. Does this portend a Tory defeat? surely not.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

District council election 2007

A timely reminder of the nail-biting tension of the district election last time round.

In 2007 only two parties stood, the Conservatives represented by the fearsome local campaigner Maureen Comber and the Liberal Democrats represented by the unheard-of Keith Pritchard. The Alternative Vote procedure was not used, the council wisely sticking with the tried and trusted "first past the post" system.

Voter turnout was a magnificent 46.42%, well up on the 2003 figure of 45.56% when the abysmal Warwick Womack (C) roundly defeated the avuncular Pelham Ravenscroft (LD) by a full 33 votes.

Recount followed recount with villagers holding their breath until, finally, the result was announced, in hushed tones:

The Conservative Maureen Comber was duly elected, by a single vote.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Vote Yes to AV on May 5th

At first glance voting for "First Past The Post" (FPTP) as it's curiously called is a no-brainer: it's simple, it's what we do, what we've always done and the Alternate Vote (AV) method is just too hard to understand and it'll let the BNP (or, worse, the LibDems) in. The referendum on May 5th will produce an overwhelming "no" (a vote for FPTP) because almost no-one will think about it rationally, or at all.

For a while I didn't think about it either but then I started to be annoyed by the patronising stupid nonsense put out under the heading "no2av" and sought out arguments marked "yes2av" - not so patronising but still stupid nonsense with an added dose of incoherence. Oh dear me!

In this constituency (East Hampshire) the result will be academic, everyone round here votes Conservative (1997: 50.9%; 2001: 53.2%; 2005: 53.7%; 2010: 60.6%) but let's think about this just a little bit anyway. (AV only affects the result within constituencies, it is not the dreaded PR where the LibDems would get 20-30% of the seats in parliament. Who forms the government would still be decided using FPTP counting seats in the Commons!)

Let's start by asking why on earth we call the current system first past the post: what post? All that's required under FPTP is that a candidate gets more votes than any other single candidate, so that's a moveable post then. Consider the following table showing results in some less tribal constituencies. The  green cells  show the winner getting at least 50% of the vote,  red cells  indicate that more than half the voters wanted someone else. How democratic, fair or "right" is that?

Constituency1997200120052010
Cambridge53.445.14439.1
Coventry South50.950.245.841.8
Edinburgh West43.242.449.535.9
Guildford42.542.643.853.3

In those constituencies and many others AV could actually contribute to improving the overall satisfaction with the outcome. (and it is still one man one vote!)

One of the better arguments against the use of AV is that it requires voters to consider more than one of the candidates, effort! But fortunately the system doesn't actually require that, you can just carry on voting for the local Tory as before BUT you'll have to remember to write "1" in the box rather than the "X" currently required.

There are really only two reasons to vote 'no' in the referendum: it'll embarrass Nick Clegg and save some money. The money "saving" is fictitious although, according to the 'no' campaigners it'll be £250 millon! Of course that's complete rubbish; the figure's made up of the £90 million cost of referendum (spent anyway), £130 million for voting machines (entirely unnecessary) and £26 million for "voter education".

Here's £26 million worth of education for free: number the candidates in order of preference until you don't care any more.

If you'd like a more considered examination of the issues please read Gowers otherwise get over the petty politics and personalities, switch your brain on and vote 'yes' to AV.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Cradle Lane is a BOAT

Cradle Lane is a BOAT (Byway Open to All Traffic), which means that everyone has rights to use it (even horseriders) and not just those who choose to amble along and not abuse it. The lane has been closed for the last few years having been seriously damaged, in particular by irresponsible vehicle users, but that does not justify banning all vehicles as is currently advocated by Kingsley Parish Council (see below) and the District Councillor.

By all means punish the guilty but to remove legal rights from an entire group on grounds of convenience is simply wrong. If there is a statutory need to maintain the highway then it must be maintained for the benefit of all users and not just the select few. Lack of funding or other resources is not an acceptable reason for abrogating hard-won rights, neither is inconvenience to other groups of users.

It seems to me that the approach taken by HCC Countryside Access (below) is not only reasonable and sensible, it's the right approach.

HCC proposal:
It is proposed that the route is progressively opened up over the next two years, so that the effect of use on the surface can be seen and monitored, with a view to establishing the level of use which the route can sustain in the long-term.

- The route is currently open to pedestrians and cycles only and the proposal is;
- From May 15th 2011, open to ridden horses in addition to pedestrians and cycles
- From mid-Aug 2011 open in addition to horse-drawn carriages
- From March 2012 open in addition to motorcycles
- From March 2013, if the surface is holding up well, open to all users (including 4 wheel motor vehicles) for the summer.

Kingsley Parish Council position:
Kingsley Parish Council feels it appropriate to limit the future use of Cradle Lane to pedestrians, cyclists and horseriders only and request a permanent change of designation from a Bridleway Open to All Traffic (BOAT) to a Bridleway. It is relevant to mention that Cradle Lane forms part of the proposed Shipwrights Way which it is hoped will go from Bentley Station and Alice Holt Forest in the north to Queen Elizabeth Country Park in the south. This is intended to provide easy off-road access for cyclists, walkers and, where possible, horse-riders and disabled users.

Global warming

Noting the warm and sunny conditions as I walked my dogs on Kingsley Common first thing this morning I decided to see what the weather's like elsewhere, especially some of those holiday destinations people traditionally disappear off to in the hope of better weather.  I have shown the screen grabs below ranked according to the spot temperatures.



As you can see, while Kingsley (Whitehill, Bordon) is only third warmest, right now, its outlook for the next few days doesn't look too shabby. Perhaps Spain is getting cooler?

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Engage with training on the power of well-being

Last Friday an important document, The Hampshire Local Councils Partnership Framework (PDF), was signed between Hampshire County Council and Hampshire Association of Local Councils (which provides technical support to Parish & Town councils).  This protocol establishes a framework for the relationship between the local councils, such as Kingsley Parish Council, and Hampshire County Council.

The title of this post, "Engage with training on the power of well-being", is one of the roles detailed to apply to the local councils.

According to Councillor Ken Thornber, “As Hampshire moves forward to support the Government’s ‘Big Society’ it is vital that we continue to empower local communities and listen to their views to ensure that their interests and needs are taken on board when we develop policies and services. The new Partnership Framework complements this important approach and one which we are also already embracing through the collaborative work of the Hampshire Senate.”

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Tower Mustard

Kingsley (no, not the SSSI Kingsley Common)  is one of only around 32 remaining known sites in England harbouring the famous "Tower Mustard" (Arabis glabra).  Although widespread elsewhere in Europe and western Asia, it is classified as endangered and protected under the terms of The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is considered to be facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild and is listed as a Priority Species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

Tower mustard is a biennial or sometimes short-lived perennial member of the cabbage family which generally favours light, nutrient-poor sandy soils often over chalk or limestone. Plants germinate in spring, spending at least one season in a vegetative state before flowering the following May-June. It can produce abundant seeds, which appear to remain viable for many years with plants often reappearing on old sites after long periods of absence. As a mobile and opportunistic species, it appears to be well matched to the traditional management cycle of extensive grazing with occasional arable cultivation.

Friday, 15 April 2011

District campaigning - the candidates

As we are now less than a month away from the all important election of a District Councillor I feel it's time we had some proper campaigning from the candidates and this blog is keen to do its part.

Scouring the web (in the absence of any actual literature from the candidates) I have come across the following:-

NameDescriptionAddressThumbnail
Maureen ComberLiberal Democrats (Yes, she's plural!)Frith End"Maureen Comber was elected for the Ward of Selborne on 3rd May 2007" (the rest of this has been omitted as it's "Copyright 2011 East Hampshire Conservatives. All Rights Reserved".)
Sarah HallThe Labour Party CandidateNewton Valence"Sarah Hall is a former senior reporter, political correspondent and health correspondent on the Guardian" (I have no idea if this is the same Sarah Hall, aren't they all alike?)
David AshcroftConservative Party CandidateSelborne"Ten years ago today, David Ashcroft came into wealth most of us can only dream about." (This is almost certainly not the David Ashcroft)

Hopefully soon we'll be able to offer some policies as well.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Planning for traveller sites: Consultation

The government has just launched a consultation, open until 6th July, which will lead to a replacement Planning Policy Statement covering Planning for Gypsy and Traveller Caravan Sites and  Planning for Travelling ShowpeopleEssentially this document will help determine where provision will be made, locally, for Gypsy and Traveller sites.

The specific questions needing feedback are:-

1. Do you agree that the current definitions of “gypsies and travellers” and ”travelling showpeople” should be retained in the new policy?
2. Do you support the proposal to remove specific reference to Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessments in the new policy and instead refer to a “robust evidence base”?
3. Do you agree that where need has been identified, local planning authorities should set targets for the provision of sites in their local planning policies?
4. Do you think that local planning authorities should plan for “local need in the context of historical demand”?
5. Do you agree with the proposal to require local planning authorities to plan for a five-year supply of traveller pitches/plots?
6. Do you agree that the proposed wording of Policy E (in the draft policy) should be included to ensure consistency with Planning Policy Guidance 2: Green Belts?
7. Do you agree with the general principle of aligning planning policy on traveller sites more closely with that on other forms of housing?
8. Do you agree with the new emphasis on local planning authorities consulting with settled communities as well as traveller communities when formulating their plans and determining individual planning applications to help improve relations between the communities?

and several other questions about transitional arrangements and clarification.

You can download the entire consultation document (PDF) here and you should respond either by email to travellerspps@communities.gsi.gov.uk or in writing to
Paul Williams
Planning: Economy and Society Division
Department for Communities and Local Government
Zone 1/G6, Eland House, Bressenden Place
London
SW1E 5DU

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Street party myths

  • That the law requires complex forms for a road closure and councils need to sign off every detail. For most small parties in quiet streets, all your council needs to know is where and when the closure will take place so they can plan around this (for example, so emergency services know). And you can organise a street party or 'Street Meet' in another space such as a local park without any requirement to fill in council forms. If councils really need more information, they will contact organisers. If councils ask for excessive information, they should be challenged.
  • That you need insurance. There is no requirement from central government to have public liability insurance. Many councils do not insist on it, so you can challenge those who do.
  • That you need a food license. Again there is no requirement for this.
  • The law requires a fee to be charged for a road closure. The Department for Transport has scrapped guidance that was being used by councils as an excuse to charge people wanting to close their road. Many councils will charge nothing for Royal Wedding street parties. If your council is charging, you have every right to challenge them.
  • It's too late to ask for a road closure. Some councils have set deadlines to help them manage their work. But there are no requirements in law so if those deadlines look unreasonable, ask your council to be flexible. You may be able to organise a 'Street Meet' - a gathering in a park, driveway or cul-de-sac. Residents should speak to their council about plans and Streets Alive have some excellent guidance on how to do this: www.streetparty.org.uk/residents/street-meet.aspx (external link).
  • You need to buy expensive road signs. Some local councils will lend you signs and cones.
  • It's too difficult and confusing. Streets Alive has a great website to help you plan and people can also use DirectGov to access local information and contact details for further advice. (by entering postcode at the DirectGov website).
  • You need an entertainment licence. Some councils argue that you need a licence for live entertainment - that's not the case.The Licensing Act 2003 (external link) explicitly exempts garden fetes "and functions or events of a similar character" from being regarded as the provision of regulated entertainment, provided the proceeds of the event are not used for the purposes of private gain.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Easter Egg Hunt

Regrettably, there will be no Easter Egg Hunt for local children in the gardens of The Cricketers this year :(

Although the Kingsley Benefit Fund has run this event for many years, including last year when a greatly reduced committee ran a very successful event, the combination of a very late Easter and various bouts of family difficulties has meant that organising an egg hunt has been a step too far.

I don't suppose it'll matter much this year as half the children will have flown off to the sun and the other half will be able to amuse themselves with egg throwing instead.

Who knows, maybe next year we'll have more helpers, maybe.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

May 5th elections

PARISH
Nominations are now in for Kingsley Parish Council and they are:- David Comber, Mary Herbert, Linda McCorkindale and Christopher Rigden.

These will almost certainly be elected unopposed.  The authorised number of councillors is six (having been increased from five by KPC request in February 2009) but, with only four volunteers, those named above must surely be a shoo-in.

DISTRICT
Nominations for the one seat in Selborne ward on East Hants District Council: David Ashcroft (Tory), Maureen Comber (LibDem) and Sarah Hall (Labour).

Here of course is where the excitement lies!  Sarah Hall obviously stands no chance whatsoever, this is Hampshire for goodness sake - Labour? I think not.

So Tory or LibDem? If this was a general election it would be the Tory, we just can't help ourselves but district elections have gone both ways over the years. This year we have the added spice that Maureen Comber, wife of David Comber, is the current councillor having been elected as the Tory candidate in 2007.

Maureen was unceremoniously thrown out of the Conservative party a couple of weeks ago after having irritated the hierarchy by banging on about having horses on the Shipwrights Way and has now become a LibDem.

Who's going to call that then?

AV or not AV
That is the question.  The Tories say "no", the LibDems say "yes".

Friday, 8 April 2011

Dogs on Kingsley Common

As you know, Kingsley Common is a SSSI and dogs therefore need to be 'under close control' from March to July because of disturbance to ground nesting birds.  The MoD are also considering new Byelaws for all MoD land, including Kingsley Common which of course they own primarily for military training, because they are concerned about increasing problems with dog fouling and irresponsible dog-ownership and the consequent issues for their personnel.  Such a pity that the 'don't care' attitude of some dog-owners could affect all of us!