Ferris Cowper’s County and District Councillor Newsletter

Dear neighbours,

Here is my latest District and County Councillor newsletter for July 2014. A lot is going on and has been going on In Grayshott lately and I hope this provides you with additional insight. Please note for the younger members of the family that Butserfest is back for an eighth successive year as Britain’s biggest drug and alcohol free music event for young people. It’s on Saturday 13th September and the headline bands are The Blackout and Kids in Glass Houses with a fabulous supporting line up. Go to butserfest.co.uk or Facebook/butserfest or Twitter @butserfest for more information.

Local Newspaper

I know that a lot of villagers buy the Haslemere Herald. If you want to know what is going on with me, in Grayshott, with East Hampshire District Council and Hampshire Council and all of the council services and community activities, the local newspaper to buy is the Bordon Herald. Judgementally, less than a quarter of all stories about Grayshott that are carried in the Bordon Herald are carried in the Haslemere Herald. When it comes to the councils, council tax, council strategy and council services that judgemental figure falls to less than 10%.

This is because the Haslemere Herald editorial strategy is focussed on Surrey County Council, Waverley Borough Council and the communities and personalities within those areas. I’ve discussed this with senior staff at Tindle Press and there is no prospect of a revision to their coverage policy so if it’s local news you want from your local newspaper, the Bordon Herald is the one to choose. It’s usually stocked in the Co-op but not in Sainsbury’s.

Planning.

As we all know, it is expected that two highly talked about planning applications will be submitted soon. I must be clear that neither of them have been submitted in any form so we do not know what exactly will be proposed.

Essential Background

In case anyone is reading this who hasn’t read my planning comments before, the assessment of a planning application Is a quasi-judicial process, there is no subjectivity about it at all. Applications are decided by the Local Planning Authority, (LPA), which in Grayshott is East Hampshire District Council, (EHDC). They make legal decisions based on the law. A decision for permission is, for all practical purposes, final. A decision for refusal can be appealed and the appeal is heard by a government agency, HM Planning Inspectorate. The LPA has to be careful when issuing decisions for refusal as the Inspectorate come down very hard indeed on “vexatious” refusals.

EHDC is in an interim phase as an LPA, with less than normal powers. Earlier this year I explained that we were successful in getting our housing strategy, (the Local Plan Core Strategy), approved at the second attempt after being told to increase the number of houses we plan to approve. This is good and gives us some power but not all of it. The Government has introduced further requirements before we can resume our normal powers. The main hurdle is that we must have outstanding approved decisions for sites not yet built, equivalent to 5 years supply of the quantity we plan to approve by 2028. In other words, with 14 years to go we need to have approved roughly 5/14 of the total house building in the Local Plan Core Strategy. This is usually called the “5 year housing supply rule” and we are unlikely to achieve that until the end of this calendar year. There are other limitations including a requirement that we must determine applications in the sequence in which they arrive, we can’t delay one because we think there is a better one coming soon.

Golf Driving Range

An application is expected from the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, (PBCC) for a change of use of the Golf Driving range buildings from commercial premises to a place of worship. I don’t expect there to be a request for any external building work. Change of Use applications are rarely refused and then only in unusual circumstances. If this application were to be submitted, a key consideration, possibly the only consideration, would be highway access. The village is full of rumours about vast numbers of vehicles. So, I met on site with my EHDC Head of Planning, (Mr. Murray), as well as representatives of the PBCC. Mr. Murray and I were assured that the maximum assembly size in what would be the Gospel Hall, would be about 55 people and with a large number of families that would imply 20 vehicles arriving on the site for the largest attendance of the week, (Sunday morning). Since the meeting I have been beset with rumours touting numbers of cars in the hundreds. I have a written commitment from PBCC that the numbers I have quoted here are correct.

If this estimate is accurate, it is likely that the number of vehicle movements would be similar to, or even less than, the highest numbers recorded for the driving range. If consent is given it can be restricted to permit a maximum number of vehicle movements. In addition, my judgement based on what I know today, is that no highway access will be sought to Hammer Lane and it is also unlikely that a new access will be sought to Headley Road. In my opinion, it is most likely that the existing access across Applegarth Farm land will be retained.

Applegarth Vale

I don’t have much to add to the public presentations as, like the Golf Driving range, there is no planning application as yet. However there are some interesting rumours going around which I can kill off now. I hope.

The proposed footpath extension to Kiln Way is nothing to do with any of these possible developments. It was requested en masse by the residents of Kiln Way and I can produce the very large number of emails from them when they were lobbying me to secure funding, about a year ago. Funding was finally agreed by Hampshire County Council last November. So, I am telling you now, categorically, that the footpath extension is unconnected with the PBCC Gospel Hall or Applegarth Vale.

Also unconnected is the new highway access in Headley Road opposite Ludshott Common. This access is for the EHDC natural burial site Heatherley Wood and as you will see below, the first burial has been carried out there.

Should the application be approved, the element of “affordable housing” will be strictly limited to people with a close Grayshott connection and specifically the Grayshott waiting list most of whom are known to me in some way, albeit confidentially. So, there will be no “invading hordes”, just 35 individuals or families from Grayshott needing a home of their own.

Accidents in Headley Road

Most villagers are aware of the two accidents in Headley Road in May. One was fatal and as reported in the Bordon Herald, I carried out my own investigations because of local concerns about the safety of the road.

The only thing I can say about the non-fatal accident is this; “The Police are still investigating this incident and we will also need to take into consideration the outcome of the Coroner’s Inquest report, in respect of its findings and any recommendations the Coroner may make.” This is the approved public quote and I can’t deviate from it at the moment.

The fatal accident was investigated by the Police and County Council in detail and I met with representatives on site last week. There is no evidence to suggest that road design, signage and speed limits were connected with the causes of the accident. The accident took place on the straight between Kiln Way and Hammer Lane. It’s possible the driver who was killed was distracted in some way but there is no evidence of that and it’s hard to see how that could be laid at the door of the dangerous, (in my opinion), Kiln Way junction.

However the investigation did show that since 2010 there have been nine reported road accidents between Waggoners Estate and Fairlands, a distance of about 1.5 miles. As a result I have persuaded the County Council to look at the entire 50 mph stretch of road with a view to reducing it to 40 by taking into account all nine accidents. Recent complaints about noise from speeding traffic may also be remedied if I can get the speed limit lowered.

In the meantime the stretch of road where the accidents took place will be re-marked, signs will be cleaned and vegetation will be cut back. I don’t want to over-claim here; this is just maintenance, I realise that. But I’m hopeful the assessment of the speed limit will yield a more substantial improvement to safety just there.

Other Local Highway Issues

General Reporting of Highway Issues

Locally we are getting into the way of using me as the means to sort out highway matters. I don’t mind that, but I have recently discovered that these reports often don’t end up on the County Council files and so they lose visibility of the history of long term problems.

The best way to achieve both objectives of keeping the data current and getting results is to report the incident yourself direct to HCC. This gets the data right. Then if there is no action or insufficient action after three weeks then contact me and I will chase.

You can do this online, quite easily, at http://www3.hants.gov.uk/roadproblems or you can ‘phone 01329 225393.

Footpath at Grayshott Primary School

I’m pleased to say that this saga, which has been running over a quarter of a century, is months away from a conclusion. The new footpath has been designed and is currently being costed by County Council sub-contractors. Work is scheduled to commence at the start of next term, (September).

Boundary Road

If you read my newsletters often you’ll know all the background here. At the request of the local residents’ association, the County Council, have erected signage making the legal status of the road clear to all; a bridleway with no access for through traffic. Meanwhile I have persuaded the area highway engineering team to patch the road close to the surgery.

Headley Road Layby

A concern about this was raised at the Parish Assembly and highway officers have visited to investigate. The exact problem of the visibility of the kerbs in the layby needs better definition and so this is ongoing.

Roadside Advertisements

Please take care with any roadside advertising of any kind. Most of the advertisements in and around the village are illegal.

Hampshire Highways have written to me to complain about the proliferation of advertisements stuck in the ground beside the highway, attached to lampposts and similar posts, in fact anywhere that is on public property.

Advertising banners and similar signs erected beside the highway, even if on private property are also likely to be illegal. I have distributed the rules on this very widely so please comply.

I try hard to adopt a light touch with these regulations but every summer the village is swamped and it makes it very difficult to avoid getting the various enforcement teams involved.

Crossways Road

I have been pressing for the post completion review which is now well overdue.

Broadband

Details are slowly emerging about the plans for Grayshott. The County Council project leader responded to my enquiry by saying;

“As a summary we expect the following cabinets to be upgraded across the villages / parishes that you mention, however these have not yet all been confirmed via the planning process:

  • Grayshott is mainly covered by commercial investment (as shown by the pink area on the map)”

I realise the map is a little blurred. However the key point is that the area in pink will get Superfast Broadband, (about 24 mbps), as part of BT’s commercial rollout of the service. It is not part of the subsidised scheme operated by Hampshire County Council. This is quite good news because it means Grayshott gets Superfast because BT thinks it’s a good commercial proposition, so that ought to bring it to us faster.  However it also means that if you want to know when you will get Superfast I’m afraid you have to ask BT, neither I nor the officers at HCC can help.

Devolved Grants

I have made a local grant to Grayshott Little Sunflowers Pre-School for £900 for an awning to allow the children to spend more time outside.

However, do please note I have useful sums in both my County Council and District Council devolved grant budgets still available.

Economic Development

You will have seen that Grayshott Galette has, very sadly, closed. I have asked my Economic Development manager to contact Michelle and Noel to see if the District Council can offer any help, financial or otherwise.

Parking Capacity

You may recall I commissioned a study of the current situation which I think is very serious. I am being briefed this Thursday, 31st July and I’ll let you know how it goes.

Natural Burial Site

My management team at EHDC have told me “We have been advised that the first burial took place at Natural Burial Ground on 11 July. In addition the Planning service granted permission for the new building design and layout on 30 June so we can look forward to seeing changes on the site too.” The buildings approved are much smaller that previously proposed but obviously a place of rest and contemplation is vital.

…and finally

My daughter Adele had a wonderful wedding on Saturday 19th July. My thanks to Moray and everyone at St. Luke’s for a wonderful service in a beautiful church.

My contact details are as below. Once again can I please ask that nobody uses my AOL email address any more. Thank you. You can contact me at;

Ferris.cowper@easthants.gov.uk for District Council matters

Ferris.cowper@hants.gov.uk for County Council matters

and by ‘phone on 01428-609858.

Cllr. Ferris Cowper

Leader of East Hampshire District Council and ward councillor for Grayshott.

Hampshire County Councillor for Grayshott, Headley and Bramshott and Liphook.

28th July 2014.