Ferris Cowper’s District and County Councillor Newsletter

Dear neighbours,

It’s about time I issued another newsletter. So here is a bumper Christmas edition. It’s believed that this is the longest running councillor newsletter in Britain, entering its twelfth year now. I remember starting it in 2003 and I must make it clear that without the help of Peter Hatch, it may never have got off the ground. Thank you Peter for your help then and for giving the village this precious resource.

Chaos Theory

Chaos Theory is understood generally to refer to the ultimate and inevitable connection between everything that happens on the planet and beyond. In 1961, Edward Lorenz postulated that a hurricane could be influenced by the flapping of the wings of a butterfly some weeks earlier*. So it’s not surprising that our local conspiracy theorists see a connection between the new Headley Road footpath, Applegarth Vale housing proposals and the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church. Maybe I’ve been flapping my wings too much!

I don’t enjoy the nasty remarks about my integrity in this connection, but if it makes those people happy then I guess I just have to look the other way and move on, trying not to flap my wings in the process. However, given a choice of;

a) doing things for Grayshott and

b) criticising those who do things for Grayshott,

you all know which choice I make, have made and always will make. However since a) requires immense energy, time and cash and b) just requires a computer and a comfy chair, I can see the advantages of b) 😉

For those of you with an interest in how the footpath project came about, here are the facts.

The footpath extension to Kiln Way resulted from a high volume lobby from the residents of Kiln Way during 2012/13. I still have the emails on file. At the time this included disabled representations. Their lobby represented the largest volume lobby I have experienced in 15 years as Grayshott’s councillor.

As an aside, the big complaint just now is that you can’t park in Grayshott. If we can make it easier to walk into the village this just might make it slightly easier to park! Even Britain’s great National Parks have footpaths to the villages within their curtilage.

As a result of the lobby, I requested funding which was considered by the officers of Hampshire County Council. They investigated the idea with highway design and safety engineers and concluded it represented good value for money.

However there was a further hurdle. These schemes are funded from a pot that is smaller than the cash needed for the array of competing schemes. Each November the competing schemes are assessed by all the County Councillors in the area, (in this case East Hampshire) and the relevant highway engineering managers. The scheme was assessed on 4th November 2013. East Hampshire has seven county councillors and they have to vote through the schemes even though their own schemes are also in the list of competing projects. Following a presentation by officers the scheme was voted through without any objection.

Since November 2013 the budgets for this area of expenditure have been reduced by the County Council Cabinet but the Headley Road scheme remained in place.

It’s impossible for me or any County Councillor, to force through a scheme such as this. The officer and democratic controls are too stringent. All of the above is public record and can be verified by any citizen who chooses to ask the Assistant Director of Highways or the Chief Executive of the County Council.

As to the alleged link to the Applegarth Vale planning application those assertions and innuendos are fatuous. The planning application was first drawn to the District Council’s attention on 27th June 2014 when the applicant’s agent requested to meet me. For probity reasons we met at Penns Place, Petersfield, in the company of planning and legal officers of the Council. Such “pre application” meetings are considered nationally to be good practice and councillor involvement specifically encouraged by the Localism Act. The planning application was eventually received by the District Council on the 18th August.

Plainly there is a gap of about a year between the genesis of the two projects. Specifically the highway scheme was approved over nine months prior to the planning application being received. Even if I did have some mystical power of persuasion over two County Council teams of officers and six other competing County Councillors, no highway scheme that is justified on the back of a housing development would ever be approved nine months before the planning application was received.

As to the conspiracy theorists I do wonder why the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church and Applegarth Vale would engage in a plot to build a footpath that actually leads away from the village of Grayshott from their location. I agree that Kiln Way is a nice road but it’s not exactly a tourist destination. There really are some daft ideas about. I think our friends in Kiln Way deserve a safe walk into the village.

By the way, there are a few posts about not getting replies from EHDC and “silence”. Only two people have written to me about any of these issues and both of them received long and comprehensive answers. My ‘phone and email address are widely known, (see below), so anyone who wants to know more, simply has to call me or write to me. It’s as easy as writing a post on Grayshott.com but possibly not as much fun. But you can still do it with a computer and a comfy chair!!!

*According to Wikipedia

Applegarth Vale

This will be considered by the Planning Committee soon. I’m a member of the committee and so that makes it difficult to comment in public.

What I can do safely and legally is comment on the likely determining issues. It’s vital to understand that the world of planning has changedout of recognition in the past two years. Much has been written, so in very short order;

  • The Government’s National Planning Policy Framework, (NPPF), is now the yardstick against which all applications are assessed.
  • Whilst some elements of EHDC’s Local Plan from 2006 remain in force, there are very few.
  • Grayshott is classified in planning terms as a “small local service centre” which means it is supposed to have a housing allocation. It is the only small, local service centre in East Hampshire that does not. The reason is that I persuaded the Council’s officers a couple of years ago that it already has an adequate housing stock. A point reinforced by others more recently.
  • EHDC’s new Local Plan is in development and the Core Strategy is approved. It requires 150 dwellings to be built in villages north of the National Park. Although there is no allocation to Grayshott, our village falls within this geographic definition.
  • To deal with this matter, EHDC has developed a Local Interim Planning Statement, (LIPS) for these northern villages. This document will be published very soon.
  • All District and Borough Councils must, at all times, maintain an approved bank of planning applications equal to 5 years’ worth of housing supply. This number is outside of our control because when an application is actually built, it drops out of the calculation and that is a decision only the applicant can take. The flow of new applications coming in is also a decision taken by the applicants and I know that, (as Council Leader), my officers are urgently awaiting several large planning applications to be submitted because without them it will be a long time before we will achieve the 5 year figure. The delay in securing this figure is not due to our slowness or our rate of refusal.
  • Without a 5 year supply, Local Plan policies such as Local Gaps and Settlement Policy Boundaries, (SPB), are very hard to enforce, especially if the proposed development in a gap or outside the SPB, is, nevertheless, close to an existing built up area. EHDC has already lost an appeal against our refusal of a development in a Local Gap and outside an SPB, for this reason, in Clanfield.
  • By way of information, issues to do with construction, such as noise, dirt and contractor vehicle movements, are not grounds for refusal but may be grounds for special conditions attaching to a consent notice.

So, objections to Applegarth Vale based on these policies may not be strong enough to secure refusal due to the current Government legislation and guidance.

In my opinion the determining planning considerations are likely to be thus;

  1. Highway access. This requires that the safety of the proposed access to the site is assessed in the light of the visibility along the main road at that point and the likely volume of traffic on the road and using the access road to the site. This will be carried out by the County Council highway and safety engineers. In the event of a refusal and an appeal, their opinion carries great weight with the Planning Inspectorate.
  2. Ecology. The site is adjacent to a Special Protection Area and so there is a presumption against development unless the applicant undertakes a programme of mitigation. The effectiveness of the mitigation will be assessed by English Nature, a Government agency.
  3. Amenity. The land lost to housing is open recreational land and so there is a clear loss of amenity. This argument is diminished, (but not eliminated), because the land is already in private, not public ownership.
  4. Trees. If there is to be a new highway access, it is likely to result in the loss of several important, (but I’m afraid unprotected), trees. Just because the trees are not protected does not mean they are unimportant. An argument could be assembled quite persuasively that those trees are an important feature of the street scene and the approach to a rural and award winning village.
  5. Affordable Housing. The need for Affordable Housing in the village is already defined in the Core Strategy and would be fully met by the development.
  6. Local Plan Allocation. Grayshott is a village north of the National Park and would be expected to take a share of the 150 allocated in the non-specific manner I have described. Planning applications must be considered sequentially regardless of consequences and so the Planning Inspectorate would see the 80 as a vital contribution towards the District Council’s commitment of 150.
  7. Bulk/Overlook and similar. The site seems to be well screened. However residents in the Waggoner’s Estate may take a different view and also may feel there is a risk of a noise nuisance.

It’s my opinion that drainage, water supply and traffic congestion will not count significantly to the Planning Authority or the Planning Inspectorate and so along with the issues described about Local Gap and SPB, I think the seven points immediately above will decide the outcome.

I have no doubt at all that there will be well made points in support of refusal and also in support of consent. The job of the Planning Committee will be to weigh the issues.

If you are planning to write in with an objection, or to speak in the Committee debate, my advice is to major on these seven points four of which could be reasons for refusal, two for consent and the last one probably justifies a strong condition attached to a consent decision.

The people who can speak in the Committee debate are one person representing each of the applicant, the objectors, and the Parish Council. Each of the three people has three minutes to speak and so cogency is vital.

EHDC is very good at accepting representations even after the deadline has passed. “Late” representations are summarised and made available to members of the committee on a yellow form distributed before the meeting begins.

I hope this discussion of the planning procedures is informative and assists those who want to make representations.

Plymouth Brethren Christian Church

I am unaware of any further developments with this organisation. They own the land formerly called the Golf Driving range and that’s it.

Crossways Road

I have the results of the measurements of the Crossways Road Traffic Calming Scheme. There is a lot of data so I’m only going to note the highlights here. If you want the files just ask me and I’ll email them to you. The data is recorded at pre-tunnel, (March 2009), post tunnel, pre-traffic calming, (February 2012) and post traffic calming, (average over 6m to May 2014). The objective of the scheme was to get traffic volumes and speeds back to the pre-tunnel levels in Crossways Road.

The average daily traffic flow, (both ways), was about 3,100 vehicles per day pre tunnel, it rose to just under 3,700, (+18.2%), post tunnel, pre traffic calming and then fell back to about 3,200 post traffic calming. So that aspect was successful.

Average speed both ways pre-tunnel was just under 32mph, it rose slightly after the tunnel opened but post traffic-calming it has fallen sharply to just under 25mph.

This means the scheme met its goals almost perfectly and there has been a significant improvement in road safety in Crossways Road.

What happened in Headley Road? The answer is fascinating. People tell me Headley Road is worse than ever since the Crossways Road traffic calming.

So, pre-tunnel the average daily traffic flow, (both ways), was just over 7,000 vehicles per day. After the traffic calming in Crossways Road it is just under 6,800. That’s a fall of 3.8%.

Obviously, the figures show that aggregate traffic flow through the village has fallen since the tunnel opened. This is consistent with national and regional data which shows over a similar timescale that vehicle miles travelled are steadily declining, probably due to the cost of motoring. (However there are now far more cars per household which explains why parking congestion is a problem throughout this area).

Police and Crime

Last week I met with Hampshire Constabulary at one of our regular meetings on crime and anti-social behaviour in the area.

I’m sure you are aware that Grayshott has, in the past few weeks, suffered a serious spike in crime. The crimes in question are referred to as “Non Dwelling Burglary”, (NDB). This distinguishes them from car crime, (of which there have been a small number of incidents), burglaries of residential dwellings, (also very low) and other types of non-burglary crime, (all these are anti-social behaviour and are also quite small).

The NDB situation is higher than any of us can recall, over 30 incidents in the reported quarter compared with 8 a year ago. This includes burglaries at Applegarth Farm and St. Luke’s Church.

Police resources are tight due to funding cuts and so they’ve done well to have a suspect that they have arrested. Although it’s at an early stage this is really encouraging. Hampshire Police have a generally good record at clearing up the more serious crimes and it’s a very good record in East Hampshire.

The big message here is please be extra vigilant. Also, if you see anything at all suspicious, even very small, please ring 101 and report it immediately. This could include unfamiliar people in the area, any unusual activity and any movement of vehicles that seems odd to you, (I’m told these gangs spend a lot of time swapping vehicles around).

When you ring 101 or 999 please emphasis that Grayshott is in Hampshire. The operators have a habit of thinking we are in Surrey and sending the call to the wrong team.

Local resources no longer include a dedicated Police Constable I’m afraid. However our complement of PCSOs remains intact and I’m assured that PCSO Leggat’s replacement will be in post soon.

However, better news organisationally is that the Police have now organised themselves along local council geographic lines. This means that we now have a Chief Inspector for East Hampshire and that covers exactly the same geography as the District Council that I lead. The new officer is CI Beth Pirie. She introduced herself very promptly and seems to be a first class officer. She has kept me up to date on the NDB situation.

As District Council leader I’m pleased to say that the Council has approved expenditure on three PCSOs to be tasked exclusively to the needs of East Hampshire residents and they will be supplemented by our purchase of five Automatic Number Plate Recognition, (ANPR), cameras. This begins in Spring 2015. I’m afraid we’re moving into an era where our Police are underfunded and someone is going to have to make up the difference. The good news is that this expenditure will not cause an increase in Council Tax as no increase in tax is foreseen at EHDC for several years.

Car Parking in Grayshott

As I mentioned before, I have a project under way to try and make improvements. The data gathering has been completed and the information has been analysed. The solution will be multi-agency no matter what is done and the agencies are likely to be the District Council, the County Council and the Police.

I have been told quite clearly that the District Council will not purchase land for a new village car park unless all other options have beenexhausted. However, if and when they are then the cash will be made available, without doubt.

The advice I have received based on the analysis, is that a large amount of parking capacity will be released if time limited parking is introduced. The time limit suggested is two or three hours.

District Council officers tell me that there is a jump in the duration of parking in the village from two hours to all day. If the all day parking was limited to two hours there would be enough spaces for all cars observed looking for a space, every day of the week.

Of course this might have an “M25” effect and then attract even more shoppers and then the capacity would be full again. However in that case we would get the cash for a new car park.

The time limit would be enforced by wardens not by parking meters.

I know many business owners and staff park all day in the car parks and on the street. However there is also a great deal of parking capacity off street behind the shops and businesses which is not in use. Maybe some of this could be shared between business users? Maybe BiG could organise this?

Ideally I think we may end up with a business users’ car park in Grayshott, which could have controlled access to ensure the business users can park there. All other on and off street spaces would be time limited to two hours for shoppers.

Migration to this end point may have to be via time limited parking, initially on street and then maybe off street as well.

I can see that this solution is painful. But so is the current situation.

If there is a better idea out there, please write to me.

Grayshott Primary School Footpath

As you know, I have secured funds and approval to provide a safe access for the pupils at Grayshott Primary School to get from their cars to the playground without walking in the road. I hope work will begin this winter and so bring an end to a 25 year saga.

Junction of Kiln Way With Headley Road

I know that there is a lot of concern with traffic speeds at this junction. I met with County Council Highway and Safety engineers and the Parish Council on site last year but was unable to achieve any progress.

As you know, very, very sadly we had a fatal accident involving a villager along that stretch a few months ago. Although not connected with the junction I was able to persuade Council officers that it should be looked at again and another on site meeting was held a few weeks ago. I’m pleased to say that as a result, on 10th November I was able to secure funding for a safety assessment of that junction including a speed assessment. These funds are for use in the 2015-16 civic year so there will be a delay but at least we now have a project under way to assess the evidence.

Boundary Road

We seem to be close to the best solution in living memory. Patience is needed however. The reduced traffic in the road resulting from the clearer signage

means that with one more improvement to traffic flow, there may be an opportunity to improve the surface. As a result, the Residents’ Association have agreed a revised route for school pick up and drop off traffic, so the usage of the road should fall to manageable levels.

At that point we can consider a suitable, new surface for the road, consistent with its status as a bridleway and rural in nature, but nevertheless safer to walk on than the current surface. I am in discussions with Highway and Rights of Way officers to obtain good advice for the Residents’ Association as to the recommended surface for this type of bridleway that has vehicle use. The officer team have helped me in a similar way In Headley.

This possibility is due to the efforts of the Residents’ Association and the ex gratia support of several County Council officers.

Seat in Headley Road

I’ve been asked if a seat can be provided between the Crossways Lodge retirement home beside Boundary Road and the shops. This is to enable the residents of the home to take a rest en route to the shops and back. I’m trying to find a place where the footpath is wide enough to do so and I’ve submitted a few suggestions to Hampshire County Council Highways.

Layby in Headley Road

There is concern about an unlit layby in Headley Road west of the village centre, being a trip hazard. Although I reported this to Hampshire County Highways in the summer it seems there has been some confusion about which layby. A few weeks ago I walked along there to try and understand the confusion and it seemed fairly obvious to me. I’ve verified my understanding with our Parish Clerk and provided clearer instructions to the Highways team.

Heatherley Wood

The natural burial site will be officially opened very shortly. This will provide secular burial capacity for our area which is desperately needed. As you know the local churchyards are very full.

I’ve seen some bizarre comments about this on the village website implying some sort of urbanisation. Obviously some newer villagers don’t realise this is all reclaimed land from various industrial uses which were finally removed legally about 10 years ago. These industrial usesincluded a concrete crushing facility and a used car wrecking business and dump. The ground contamination caused by these industrial uses was extreme. EHDC compulsorily purchased the land and then spent a lot of money over many, many years trying to get rid of the contamination. Bits of old cars and concrete were breaking through the surface until a few years ago.

I’m pleased to say that after so many years, the experts are now fully satisfied that this land is free of contamination. Extensive testing and boring has been carried out to verify this.

Although classic heathland, I’m advised that the site is not assessed by experts to be of significant ecological value, mainly due to its legacy, although efforts have been made to find a land manager to take it on, but failed.

Apart from the modest chapel, there will be no other above ground structure of any kind. When the construction team have left it will return to open heathland with only the chapel to interrupt the view.

Traffic and Pedestrian Management in Grayshott

I’m working with the Grayshott Society and also Hampshire County Council to try and come up with some strategies to alleviate the problems of traffic congestion in the village. No obvious solutions spring to mind and the loosely formed idea is to fund a consultancy to assess all available options and see if there any feasible solutions that might improve things.

The slight snag is that the County Council’s Strategic Highway Planning team has been reduced in size and the remaining officers are very heavily stretched. I am in an email discussion with them to try and secure a member of staff to at least offer some guidance. Even this simple request is taking time but I am determined to make a start on this as soon as is possible.

Grayshott Events

I don’t have to add much about Karl Jenkins’ The Healer, it’s all been said!! It was fabulous and we are so lucky to have this right in the heart of our community. Thanks of course to Peter and Vivien Harrison.

I’m proud to be a sponsor of the Christmas Lights and a member of the Monkey Club. Many congratulations to everyone for some exciting fireworks and a spectacular switch on last Friday.

I was very sorry to hear of the passing of Dennis Lusby and even more sorry that I couldn’t attend his Thanksgiving Service. Dennis was a tireless contributor to so many aspects of Grayshott life over many, many, years. I’m proud to have counted him as a friend.

Congratulations to Tim Wickes and his team for getting the Grayshott Market off the ground. It seems to be very successful but I’m sure this is only achieved with huge amounts of hard work.

Whilst not a Grayshott event, quite a few villagers were kind enough to sponsor my younger daughter in her “Swim 2 Bestival”. This involved swimming across The Solent to the Isle of Wight to the famous music festival, instead of taking the ferry! She swam for charity and her choice was CRY; Cardiac Rehab. for the Young, which helps children and young adults unlucky enough to suffer heart problems. Thank you to everyone who contributed, it was very kind of you.

Friday 10th October was “Hug A Drummer Day”. Sadly it seems only I noticed it….

…and lastly

This will be my last newsletter before Christmas. I wish everyone in Grayshott a very Happy Christmas and a successful New Year.

Speaking of the New Year, my band Good Times Roll, (www.goodtimesrollband.com), with our new ex-pro singer Bill O. are playing at the Deer’s Hut, Liphook on New Year’s Eve. It’s a Beach Party theme and £25 gets you a BBQ supper, music all night and the Deer’s Hut as you’ve never, ever, seen it before!!! Suitable beach attire is obviously essential. See you there, but be quick, tickets are limited!

If you want to contact me about any council matter please call me on 01428-609858 or email me as follows;

County Council, ferris.cowper@hants.gov.uk

District Council, ferris.cowper@easthants.gov.uk

These really are different addresses on different computers with different contact databases and history!! The old AOL address shouldn’t be used any more please.

Cllr. Ferris Cowper

District and County Councillor for Grayshott and Leader of East Hampshire District Council.

Published by Ferris Cowper, 79 Kingswood Firs, GU26 6EX.