I wish everyone in the village a very happy and magical Christmas and a successful 2016. It’s been an incredibly busy year for me as your District and County Councillor. My “other job” leading the District Council, has also undergone an unprecedented year. As usual, what follows are a few notes on the main activities I’ve been carrying out on your behalf.
The highlight of my Council year was as Leader when I met His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales at Poundbury. The meeting was at the invitation of his office and recognised the national exemplar regeneration EHDC is managing at Whitehill and Bordon. I was privileged to have an extended conversation with him as we walked around Poundbury together, with about 30 European Union ambassadors “in tow”.
Fabulous. He is also a really lovely man, very engaging and easy to talk to.
The Applegarth Vale planning application is still under discussion and the Council is trying to find a way of keeping the business centre without an unacceptable housing solution. I’m leaving all that to my officers as you’d expect. There is an appeal against the refusal, but I suspect that a negotiation will be achieved before the appeal is heard.
The care home proposal for land to the west of the village is still around but I remain confident that the proposal will fail. The applicant has adjusted the proposal several times but my officers remain fundamentally unhappy with it.
I opposed an application to convert the shop we used to know as the Shoe Shop into a residence. The problem for me is that EHDC shopping centre policy for Grayshott, (but not Petersfield or Alton), allows every other building to be not retail but residential thereby opening up the possibility of a 50% reduction in the number of shops because residential rents are usually higher than retail rents. The planning committee agreed with me but an appeal has been lodged.
As you may have seen the new footpath along Upper Hammer Lane towards Woolmer Hill School has resumed. There was a delay while the undergrowth was checked for dormice but now it is safe to proceed. This very much needed footpath will make the walk to school incomparably safer; all of us who use that road know how dangerous it is. It’s taken me three years to get that footpath built so you can imagine how delighted I am.
I was petitioned to apply to have the Headley Road footpath extended from Kiln Way to Firway. At the moment there are insufficient funds but I am reviewing the situation.
You will have seen that the Boundary Road Residents have arranged for “Jet Patching” to be carried out. This is at their initiative and they are obviously to be commended highly for their initiative and investment. Jet Patching is an approved highway repair system but it is known to have a short life. At the moment I still have a long term project on hold until the residents ask me to set it in motion.
The new streetlight for the layby in Headley Road will be installed soon.
In the September newsletter I asked for views about the issue of street parking in Headley Road and Crossways Road in the shopping centre obstructing the sightlines for vehicles using the side roads. I’m still happy to take comments.
This project is live and continuing, but the slow progress is caused by the self-evident complexity!! The main solution is to limit all on and off street parking to 3 hours. The computer model suggests that there will availability almost all of the time if that is implemented.
The problem to solve is the need for all day parking by business users. Buy in Grayshott estimates that 100 business spaces are needed every day. The Council can’t work with the current facilities to enable that. So my officers are surveying all owners of business premises in the village in order to calculate how much all day business parking can be allocated to off street spaces behind business premises. If that brings the 100 net requirement down to a reasonable figure then the Council can allocate some designated all day spaces within the car parks that exist.
My officers are also looking hard at possible property acquisitions to ease the situation further.
The Waggoners Estate
I walked around the Waggoners Estate a few weeks ago with my Head of Planning Policy and the outgoing Chair of the Residents’ Association. The idea was to show the Council manager why the estate should benefit from a special housing designation that would offer future planning protection.
Now that the Council has achieved agreement with the Government for the allocations of housing across the District, (meeting the numbers you have seen published in the Core Strategy), we can start work on the more detailed policies. We can designate Areas of Special Housing Character, (ASHC) and the Waggoners Estate looks to be an excellent candidate. I am optimistic that EHDC will be recommending such a designation but I need to be clear; my independent and professional officers must agree and then the Government’s Inspector must also agree.
I’m very sorry to hear that the County Council has decided to end the mobile library service across the entire County. In Grayshott this is especially upsetting for two reasons. Firstly, it was only very recently that I negotiated for the largest mobile library available to visit the village to compensate for the closure of the brick built library. Second, the Grayshott stop on its route is one of the busiest of all. I did oppose this decision.
I am in discussions with the Parish Council to see if we can come up with a volunteer run library.
You may know my stance on this already as I’ve been extensively quoted on TV, in the press and on internet news sites. Devolution is often quoted as being a way in which local councils can retain all Business Rates levied.
What you don’t see quoted is that the number is not 100% at all and the Treasury has never ever agreed that 100% is on offer. The Chancellor’s Party Conference speech was “adjusted” by Treasury officials the very next day!
Also you don’t see quoted that fact that councils would have to give up on all central government grants that are currently received. In the case of Hampshire councils those grants add up to about the same as the value of retained Business Rates so there is very little net gain or loss, but if less than 100% of Rates are retained then we all stand to be much worse off. Not quite the political spin, is it!!!
On top of that, council representatives from Hampshire councils met the Secretary of State earlier this month and he made it clear that even this rather doubtful benefit required us all to commit to much higher housing targets. That means another third as a minimum and possibly 50% more than all the figures we have consulted with you about so far. I don’t think that is necessitated by the housing situation and I don’t think the Hampshire electorate as a whole want that. Bear in mind that the southern cities won’t be taking many more; numbers advocated by their umbrella body “Partnership for Urban South Hampshire” fall way below the figures the Government are now proposing and indications from the two National Parks are that they won’t be taking any more. That doesn’t leave much spece for an extra 50%.
Grayshott Parish Council
A short word here for GPC. You have an excellent Parish Council. I can say from detailed knowledge that it is one of the very best in East Hampshire. You would find it hard to comprehend the disgraceful conduct by some Parish Councils even within the area of East Hampshire and actually ongoing now. There has never been the slightest hint from GPC of anything other than very professional, responsible and sympathetic management of their Council.
Sometimes when these organisations run so well we can take them for granted. GPC runs very well and I do hope you support me in telling them how much they are appreciated.
I’m pleased to have made grants available to Grayshott Cricket Club and also to Grayshott Concerts since my previous newsletter. The grant year ends in February and my budgets are close to being spent. If you want to make an application or know someone who does, the sooner the better I would say.
This is where I indulge myself a bit on non-council news.
My excellent rock band, Good Times Roll, have been invited back to the Deer’s Hut in Liphook for New Year’s Eve. It’s a ticketed event with food, fun and music with a fancy dress theme. This year it’s the Wicked Wild West.
Then we are back to Grayshott on Friday 29th January at our wonderful Fox and Pelican pub for a great night of some of the best dance rock classics you know from 1958 to 2013. We’d love to see you there.
As usual, please contact me on the following;
Email for Hampshire County Council is firstname.lastname@example.org
Email for EHDC is email@example.com
My ‘phone number is 01428-609858
Please note I’m on holiday until 4th January.
Happy Christmas and a successful New Year 2016
Cllr. Ferris Cowper
Leader of East Hampshire District Council.
District Councillor for the Ward of Grayshott
County Councillor for Grayshott, Headley and Bramshott and Liphook.