So as the count proceeded on 4 May, watching, it was obvious I was going to win, and by the time the announcement was made several minutes later, I had gone from ‘What have I done?’ to ‘What do I do now?’.
Two weeks later, and I’m in the thick of it already. Having been through levels of induction, the first formal occasion (Mayor Making) is tonight.
I have been allocated to committees, all relevant to the Brookwood ward, and exactly what I had discussed with ex-Cllr Glynis Preshaw. I am on the Planning Committee and the SCC Local Committee, both highly relevant with regards to the number one issue which residents have spoken to me about, namely, Brookwood Farm. My first planning meeting is next Tuesday, which should allow me to begin to come up to speed regarding the entire process ready for the Brookwood Farm planning item at the (likely) next meeting.
I am on the Basinstoke Canal committee, and the Surrey Heathland Project, both of which play a large part in defining the uniqueness of the Brookwood ward. This is good news for us.
I am also on another committee about climate change and the Overview and Scrutiny committee which looks at the conduct of the Council and other third party entities in the borough.
I have arranged with Brookwood Social Club to hold a monthly surgery on the third Monday of each month from 19:00 until 20:00. Please come and find me.
I have also started to deal with some resident’s requests. Please contact me either by this blog, my published phone number or email address.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks with meetings around Council, Planning and the Local Committee.
In addition, there has been a fair bit of casework, the majority of issues are to do with roads which is the responsibility of Surrey County Council. Our County Councillor, Linda Kemeny is our contact, so I have been in regular contact with her reporting issues and feeding back to residents.
Some of the issues raised and reported include:
- The fiendish drop off of the Zebra crossing outside the school where the drain has collapsed.
- Speeding issues at the Brookwood Crossroads end of Connaught Road.
- Speeding issues with Blackhorse Road as people try to avoid Brookwood Crossroads.
- A lack of understanding as to who is responsible for ditch clearance around the Bridley area.
- Potholes where ever I find them or when someone tells me about them.
There’s also been news about Brookwood Farm, in that SCC have determined that Cala’s current plans are unsuitable without significantly more changes to the highway infrastructure. Cala have asked me to meet with them to go through their plans, although they are yet to return my call regarding available dates and times.
No one appears to know who the surveyors that have been seen around the village and Sheet’s Heath are working for or why they are there. SCC have confirmed they have not commissioned them.
We’ve also begun to look at parking issues in Heath Drive and Connaught Crescent.
I was notified this morning that Surrey Police intend on running a bicycle marking workshop at Brookwood Station on 13 June from 16:00 to 19:00.
I have claimed no incidental expenses beyond the member’s allowance, and the ICT allowance which are standard for a Councillor.
Monday 18 June, there is an opportunity for Brookwood residents to have a say about physical parking issues (not cost of permits).
We have representatives of Surrey highways visiting, as well as our County Councillor, Linda Kemeny, joining us initially at Heath Drive at 09:30, and then onto Connaught Crescent. The plan will be to look at these two locations, and try to figure out how to improve matters.
If you would like to join us, please send me an email. I have a rep from both roads already in attendance, but a few more voices will help our cause.
Yesterday morning I met up with Mike Peel, Linda Kemeny (our County Councillor), and Chris Higgs (SCC Highways) to discuss issues in and around the village. Our primary focus was the parking issues which exist in Heath Drive and Connaught Crescent. Heath Drive looks the easier to solve, with a solution based on grasscrete looking the obvious solution. SCC are pricing the job up and will go from there.
Connaught Crescent is a different kettle of fish as there are far more cars, and too few allocated spaces. The best solution would probably be to remove the second parallel running pathway and create a whole bunch of spaces running either side of the road. Problem is that would be considered a far bigger job than laying a bit of grasscrete. Initially the matter is being referred to the parking people and we’re see if a viable solution can be defined without it costing a fortune once SCC and parking are knocking their heads together.
The large pot hole at Brookwood Lights should be filled in this week, and the huge puddle that develops on the way in to Connaught Road from the crossroads is now on the radar to be sorted out. Chris Higgs believes it has been left in the past because a traffic management solution would need to be put in place prior to any jetting being carried out. This would cause significant congestion, so Chris Higgs suggested this was something that would probably be done at half four in the morning. We’ll wait and see.
I’ve received complaints about the drop off the Zebra crossing at the school being quite violent. Certainly at 30 miles an hour it is a bit much, however Chris Higgs suggests it is not dangerous. As the drain appears to be subsiding, he will keep an eye on it.
At my surgery last night in Brookwood Club, I discussed the problem with litter with a resident. Some areas of the village are quite untidy with some people not using the bins provided. I’ve also had a few complaints from people on Percheron Drive about litter. I have a breakfast meeting with the store manager at Sainsbury’s on Thursday morning at which he will take me through Sainsbury’s processes for minimising litter that originates from the store. In addition, we’ll discuss the recent abandonment of trollies down Brookwood Lye road and down the canal, and what Sainsbury’s do to try and prevent this, and what they do collect up the trollies.
Although not in our ward, and in support of fellow councillors, I have sent a photo to Chris Higgs of the ridiculous situation that now exists when it rains on the roundabout at the bottom of Amstel Way. With the road being narrowed there for some unknown reason recently, when an enormous puddle develops it now fills the entire road with no options to avoid it. Cllr Cross, and Cllr Smith had used the Local Committee to raise this and the state of Lockfield Drive up towards Knaphill.
Apologies for the short notice.
This Wednesday 27 June, Surrey County Council’s Local Committee (Woking) will meet at the Civic Offices.
The meeting starts at 18:00 with an Open Public Question Session, and then at approximately 19:00 SCC will update the committee on the plans to accommodate extra places at Woking primary schools in 2012/2013.
As this is an issue that is mentioned regularly to me, especially in light of the proposed Brookwood Farm development, do come along and find out what is being done.
Lots going on, and I should have updated this earlier.
I had a meeting with Sainsbury’s store manager in June. The purpose of the meeting was to understand Sainsbury’s processes regarding litter which originates from Sainsbury’s (but isn’t created by them) and the dumping of trollies. I am very pleased to say that Sainsbury’s takes these responsibilities really seriously, and do have their contractors regularly tidy up close to the store, and the entrance to Percheron Drive. Recently there has been a spate of trollies abandoned down by the canal, and also into the area where the cows are due to go along Brookwood Lye Road. Sainsbury’s have told me that their trolley loss is absolutely minimal, and that putting in place mechanisms to prevent trolley loss is not on the cards. However, they have also asked that anyone who wishes to report excess litter or abandoned trollies should email firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve had a meeting with Cala Homes regarding Brookwood Farm. Tough one this, but working from the starting point that there will be houses built on that site, many of their proposals seem reasonable. The one area which I strongly disagree with Cala is the traffic situation and whether the roads around Brookwood will become more congested. Cala still seem hopeful that Surrey Highways will eventually be able to make the roads work, whereas I come from the viewpoint that SCC have had the last ten years to make it work (since the redevelopment of Brookwood Crossroads), and it still doesn’t and that it taking 20 minutes to cross the junction is unacceptable. Brookwood Farm will generate more traffic. That is a clear fact. I am due to meet Cala Homes highways chap in the next week or so and I’ll report back on that meeting. I strongly believe that we must push back until it can be proved that the roads, will cope.
Little case work has come through recently, although I’m still working on stuff from further back around parking etc.
My surgery this month is next Monday evening at 19:00 in Brookwood Social Club.
During June, I’ve not claimed any expenses beyond the standard allowance and the IT/telecoms allowance.
I spent a good couple of hours yesterday with our Neighbourhood Officer, Kate Wilson. http://www.woking.gov.uk/environment/team/knaphill-brookwood
Kate is our official contact at the Council for issues around:
- waste and recycling
- abandoned vehicles
- untaxed vehicles (on highway land)
- grounds maintenance (trees, grass cutting and vegetation)
- street furniture (street name plates, litter bins, dog waste bins and benches).
We wandered around Brookwood talking to residents, looking at parking issues, litter, the canal and the rec. All the while discussing how we could improve things. I have made a few requests to Kate around land ownership and ‘how we go about things’.
Very affable, please click on the link above for Kate’s contact details if you need to get hold of her.
Kate has been our Neighbourhood Officer for nine years, so she has a great wealth of knowledge about Brookwood and our needs. I really look forward to working with her, as we strive to make Brookwood and the surrounding areas a better place to live in.
The owners of the Total garage at Brookwood Crossroads on the A322 have applied for 24 hour opening.
This may suit some, it may cause problems for others.
If you have an objection you will need to write/email before the end of the consultation period (August 7) based on one or more of the licensing objectives:
- Prevention of Crime and Disorder
- Protection of Children from Harm
- Prevention of Public Nuisance
- Health and Safety
Send your support / objection letter to email@example.com, stating Application: 12/00227/PREMIS.
Yesterday afternoon, I had a two hour meeting with Cala Homes and their external highways consultant. This was arranged as I had raised considerable concerns around the ability for the highways to cope with the Brookwood Farm and other developments likely to come on stream in the next few years.
SCC also has concerns about the ability of the highways to cope with the extra traffic. At the moment, this is a significant blocker to the development starting.
Living almost next to Brookwood Crossroads and having to pass through it several times a day (as a walker, cyclist and driver), I am fully aware of the problems that occur. Since the re-development of the junction some ten years ago, it still hasn’t worked particularly well, and the linking with it to the Cemetery Pales junction hasn’t worked either. The proposals I was initially aware of would see the Sainsbury’s junction added into this mix, with all three junctions trying to operate together.
The proposals we discussed yesterday are not quite as written above, but are essentially two fold:
Sainsbury’s Junction – As we all know, the A322 backs up from Brookwood Crossroads all the way to the Sainsbury’s junction frequently. Due to drivers entering the Sainsbury’s junction when their exit isn’t clear, this blocks the road and prevents traffic leaving Sainsbury’s. Clearly this would be double trouble when the fourth arm is in place. Cala’s proposals would have a sensor added to the A322 roughly by the BT Exchange. When it detects backing up traffic it would stop the A322 through lights. This does make a lot of sense as a proposal, although I think in the longer term as more traffic uses the A322, traffic will block up further. This will create access problems for residents of Oak Tree Road and the Broadway as their exit on to the A322 is likely to be blocked more frequently and for longer periods based on the changes to Brookwood Crossroads.
Brookwood Crossroads – Much more complex, and I hope I have my facts correct. The lights here currently operate on a 150 second cycle, with no preference given to pedestrians or cyclists except when crossing at one arm that leads down Brookwood Lye Road. The proposals here are to increase the cycle up to 240 seconds, and allow a progressive method to allow pedestrians and cyclists to climb the queue wait time. There is new Siemens technology that would be implemented to allow this. On the surface, these proposals make sense, allowing pedestrians and cyclists a shorter wait will prevent any more Fishwick Island debacles, and the 240 second cycle will definitely allow more traffic through overall as the lights will be at red less frequently. The problem I see is that this will cause longer queues temporarily on all arms of the junction, which will negatively impact Cemetery Pales and Sainsbury’s junction more frequently. There are no plans to modify the Cemetery Pales junction, although that may now be on Cala’s radar. The junction is already programmed to provide the A322 more green light time at the expense of the A324, which can sometimes mean a 20 minute wait to cross the junction (not to mention the accident risk as cars back up round the corner on a 60 MPH limit road). These plans won’t make this any better, in fact will probably make crossing the junction via the A324 much worse.
Cala are of the opinion that a second exit from Brookwood Farm isn’t necessary. I agree with this to a point, in that if a second exit wasn’t signal controlled, it would increase rat running as people try to avoid the congestion at the Sainsbury’s junction. I do believe a signal controlled junction would help the flow of the A322, as would looking at the Oak Tree Road, and the Sparvell Road access points which are currently non-signal controlled.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and I suspect almost everyone reading this blog entry are probably of the opinion that these traffic management proposals won’t work. I share that view, and proposed to Cala that if they were that confident that these plans would work, then they should implement them up front of the development. Sadly, Cala are not willing to commit to implementing this up front (citing financial reasons) but insist on working on this some time down the Brookwood Farm project once n number of houses have been built. This is unacceptable from my viewpoint, and I suspect many others, as it clearly means that there is too much wriggle room to leave the Brookwood ward with a totally non-functioning highway infrastructure.
I’ve now seen the licensing application, and the actual request is to sell food and alcohol between the hours of 23:00 and 05:00.
There is no mention of petrol sales, and I have asked the planning department to dig out the original planning application and see what restrictions are in place. It would seem strange to seek permission for food and alcohol sales if the garage is unable to sell petrol at the same time, unless, the garage already has 24 hour permission for this. Alternatively, the garage may be trying to get permission to sell food and alcohol, and then attempt to overturn planning restrictions preventing 24 hour petrol sales.
If you wish to write in support of, or object to, you must write in to the licensing department by the 7 August for your view to be taken into consideration. Details on how to do this are included in my previous blog entry about the garage.
The window for supporting / objecting has now closed, and sufficient responses have been received by WBC for this to go before the licensing committee.
Everyone who wrote in will be given the opportunity to speak at the meeting which must be held within 20 working days so is likely to occur early September.
WBC will write individually to everyone outlining the process from here.
If you did write in, I encourage you to attend the meeting and speak as the case is slightly weakened by the fact that neither the Police (crime & disorder), not Environment (light pollution) objected.
Following on from the licensing application to sell alcohol and hot food 24/7, there have been six objections from residents of Brookwood and Knaphill. This means a Licensing Sub-Committee meeting will be held to determine the application.
This has to be held within a certain time frame and the date and time of Wednesday, 29 August at 10:30 AM in the Council Chamber has been arranged. Not particularly convenient, but there you go.
I believe those that sent in objections are entitled to speak at the meeting, so I encourage you to attend and exercise your right.
Anyone else who wishes to attend may do so and view the proceedings from the Public Gallery.
I shall be there and will speak if necessary.
Today the Licensing Sub-Committee met at 10:30 to discuss the licensing application for the sale of hot food and alcohol between the hours of 23:00 and 05:00, seven days a week, 365 days per year.
For those that don’t want to read much further, the decision was:
Application granted with two conditions:
- The shop doors are closed between the hours of 23:00 and 06:00, so everything is served through the night hatch.
- There is a restriction to serve only hot drinks and pre-packaged food.
The Licensing Committee further suggested that a central contact point is made for local residents to maintain a level of dialogue with the garage owners.
I was there to represent two residents who had explicitly asked me to perform that task. Also present were Cllr Linda Kemeny (SCC), Mike Peel (BVA) and Phillip Stubbs (KRA). All four of us were speaking against the application.
It became apparent fairly early on that the legal situation was heavily stacked in favour of the applicant. Not one of the reasons offered for objection was allowable under the licensing laws.
For example, the issue of light pollution. Struck out as the shop won’t be any worse than it is now, and the lighting from the forecourt isn’t a licensing issue, but a planning issue.
Anti-social behaviour and litter along the canal. Again, not a licensing issue, the applicant can’t be held responsible for the behaviour of customers once they have left the premises.
Noise and pollution from cars, not relevant to a licensing application for alcohol and hot food.
All in all, a very frustrating experience, and my frustration with the whole farcical situation came across during my closing speech.
During my investigations over the previous six weeks, I asked Planning what restrictions were in place on the garage, and there are none. This means the garage already has permission to sell petrol 24 hours a day, but the previous owners have chosen not to do so. The new owners intend on opening 24 hours a day, selling petrol, alcohol and hot food.
A sorry day for the residents in the immediate vicinity where it is clear that the views of the few count for very little against laws stacked in favour of granting applications such as this.
The Council’s hands are tied and the process from here is to monitor the situation and contact the relevant authorities if the situation worsens once the garage is operating 24/7.
I’m sorry my efforts failed to make any difference.
Had an enjoyable afternoon today at the Woking Athletics ground in Sheerwater watching some great young people perform in various disciplines. With luck some of them will be our future Olympians. I felt incredibly honoured to present a set of medals to three young girls, although I could barely reach the gold medallist as the podium was too tall, and I’m too short! Also lucky enough to meet with Mr Austin Playfoot who carried the Olympic torch in 1948 and 2012.
The summer recess has finished and it is back to business this week with meetings every evening except Friday. It wasn’t must of a recess however as August was very busy with several planning issues cropping up which are causing residents and the Council difficulties, as well as the Total garage licensing issue which took up many hours of time in research and preparation.
I’m aware that the other ‘Welcome to Brookwood’ sign has disappeared down the western end of the village, although absolutely no one knows why as far as I can tell. I have spoken with Cllr Linda Kemeny about replacements, as she holds a Community Pride fund which we may be able to tap into. Will keep an eye on this.
I’m hoping to meet up with the Surrey parking team during September so I can discuss the parking issues with Heath Drive and Connaught Crescent. Many residents have responded to my request for views, and I’ll take all that information with me. I have asked the parking team for information regarding the number of resident parking bays in Brookwood, as well as the amount of resident permits issued. I’ll keep people informed of progress.
Finally, during July and August I have not claimed any expenses beyond the standard allowance and the IT/Comms allowance. In August I joined the Surrey Local Government Pension scheme, and I took delivery of one box of paper, and one printer cartridge which is my annual supply of those items.
In my last blog entry, I posted about the disappearance of the Brookwood sign at the western end of the village. I’ve done some digging around and a bizarre set of circumstances have come to light.
Firstly, the sign is still there, it was knocked down by a car driver and is currently buried under the wild life sanctuary that once surrounded it.
However having spoken with the resident whose garden it sits at the end of there actually appears to be a land ownership issue. The resident owns the land, but SCC own the topsoil! WBC have confirmed that this is their understanding.
I’ve written to Chris Higgs at SCC who is our highways contact. With luck he can point me in the right direction and put me in contact with someone who can confirm this. After that, we’ll try to figure out how we can get new signs for the village.
I popped into the Bakers at lunch time and Sean brought to my attention that changes have occurred to the parking signs outside the shop. As we know Brookwood has a Controlled Parking Zone with a restriction between one and two o’clock.
Having done a spot of digging round, I’ve found out the following from SCC:
From as far back as 2007 (and maybe before), the rules in the centre of Brookwood have been slightly different. Essentially it is mainly a controlled zone all day (no parking).
The diagram below indicates the CPZ configuration:
- Red indicates double yellow lines and no parking.
- Blue indicates a CPZ between 13:00 – 14:00.
- Green indicates no parking between 08:30 – 18:30 Monday to Saturday
- Turquoise indicates permit holder bays.
It seems to me that someone has been tidying up loose ends, and has now ensured the signs reflect the legal position. What I don’t know is whether WBC’s parking enforcement wardens will ticket people as per the times stated. I shall endeavour to find out.
Further to my blog entry from yesterday, I can confirm the parking signs have been changed at the request of WBC. I can only guess they had been losing appeals based on incorrect signage elsewhere and wanted everything watertight across the borough. I have also been informed that the enforcement officers will not be enforcing any parking restrictions outside of the times 13:00 – 14:00, Monday to Friday that we are all used to. Interesting that even though the rules have been in place for many years, I and almost everyone I spoke to were not aware of them. The current new signage still doesn’t reflect reality in that on the North side of the road, most of the restrictions are still only between 13:00 – 14:00. I shall be trying to get those signs put back.
I’ve been asked about the missing bollard outside the Post Office. The stump is causing some people to trip over it. I have asked our Neighbourhood Officer, Kate Wilson and SCC if there is anything that can be done.
Next Monday I am seeing a Surrey Highways Engineer to discuss speeding in Connaught Road. I’ll be suggesting that:
- Solar powered 30mph signs are installed the length of Connaught Road
- An additional speed cushion on the Woking bound side of the road between Sheets Heath Lane and Heath Drive, probably by Brookwood Club and the bus stop.
- An additional set of speed cushions on the bend by West Hill Close near the Brookwood Crossroad traffic lights.
I’m not aware of any specific issues at the western end of the Connaught Road, but if you have a view about this or what I’m proposing, please contact me.
Speeding in Blackhorse Road has also been reported to me, although an official report doesn’t advise lowering the speed limit. I shall push the highways engineer to also install solar powered 40mph signs as a reminder.
The A322 towards Fox Corner slips into a 50mph limit and the decision has recently been taken to lower this to 40mph.
Although outside of our ward, the A324 between Elmgrove Close and Blackhorse Road is currently a 40mph limit. This is the road that children from Brookwood will cross if they walk down the canal tow-path towards Winston School. SCC and the Police have recommended that this stretch of road is lowered to 30mph. I support this. Assuming this limit is accepted, I shall then push for a Zebra Crossing at that natural crossing point.
Today I met with Kevin Patching of SCC to discuss speeding issues in Brookwood. We also discussed the CPZ parking and footpath cycling.
I argued the case for speed cushions to be placed by the Club and up by the corner at West Hill Close before the Brookwood Crossing traffic lights. SCC will now give serious consideration to the proposal and see where it comes out on the priority list. I also asked for the solar panel 30mph reminder lights, but ceded on the point that it could well be that cushions in the appropriate place may well be sufficient. Not sure what timescales exist here, but it is now on the radar.
Having now spoken directly with someone over the CPZ in the middle of the village and the changing of the signs, it maybe that a more appropriate solution exists over the current confusion of 13:00 to 14:00 CPZ and 08:30 to 18:00 on small sections of the same road on opposite sides (see my previous blog entry on parking for the map if you’re confused). SCC will give consideration to changing all the 08:30 to 18:00 areas to double yellow meaning no parking at any time. This does make a lot of sense, leaves the existing bays as is, but removes the confusion over the same stretch of road having different timings. Not sure if I’ve written that down too well, but further consultation would be necessary prior to anything changing anyway.
I’ve had it reported to me about cyclists speeding on certain pathways in the village. I’m certainly guilty of cycling on the pavement by the crossroads, and agree that cycling too fast there could be dangerous. As it happens, immediately by the crossroads heading towards Knaphill on the A322, that is a shared use section from the traffic lights to the canal path on both sides of the road. However it would appear that the ‘End’ markings haven’t been painted on the path, thus giving cyclists reason to believe they are okay to cycle on the path beyond these points. I’m hoping this will be rectified.
I reported the knocked down post by the Post Office on 14 September to SCC. I’m not sure when the stump was removed and the pavement fixed, but I noticed today it has now been done. I have to be honest, that was quicker than I expected and I have sent a ‘thank you’ to the appropriate people.
As and when I have any exciting news on the topics covered, I’ll update it here.
Quick update from last night’s SCC Local Committee meeting.
Trading Standards did a presentation on their ‘Stop Cold Calling’ campaign. A sticker pack is available from the Civic Offices, Police Station and the Library and further information can be found here: http://www.surreycc.gov.uk/business-and-consumers/dealing-with-and-avoiding-rogue-traders/no-cold-calling-zones/stop-cold-callers/information-for-residents-about-our-no-cold-calling-sticker-scheme
SCC currently have a public consultation period into the flood management strategy until 30 November. As we have flood plains in the ward, and the Brookwood Farm development will remove additional soak away land, this is our chance to add to the mix. More information can be found here: http://www.surreycc.gov.uk/people-and-community/emergency-planning-and-community-safety/flooding-advice/surrey-local-flood-risk-management-strategy
Yesterday I spent an informative afternoon with Surrey Wildlife Trust. SWT own and manage the wetlands fen area on Brookwood Lye, and the woods across the road. This is the patch of land with the five cows currently roaming. SWT also advise if required on planning applications, and I was keen to understand what they did, how they did it, and where I potentially could fit into the loop.
Having had a wander through the Brookwood Lye area with rangers David and John, I must admit to being very impressed as to how this is being managed to ensure it still exists for future generations to enjoy.
We are lucky in Brookwood as we have some magnificent wildlife, including herons, buzzards, owls, as well as lesser seen breeds such as water voles and a variety of plants and grasses.
SWT have had input into the Cala Homes Brookwood Farm development with a view to protecting the wildlife. With the diverse mixture of plants and animals in this area, I will be doing my best to ensure the interests of wildlife are represented as well as I can.
Okay, I sympathise with those that have tried getting any sense out of the Surrey Parking team. It’s been almost six weeks now since I sent an email requesting information, one follow up email, two telephone calls, and one submission of the Customer Satisfaction Survey have yielded nothing. I shall escalate this to Cllr Linda Kemeny and consider asking a Member’s Question at the next SCC Local Committee, covering my original question and why on earth it has taken so long to get any sort of reply.
I have submitted a Member’s Question to the SCC Local Committee regarding Brookwood Crossroads. The aim of which is to understand what SCC is doing in light of developments that are likely to occur outside of our borough (Fox Garage, Deepcut and Chertsey MoD site), all of which will arguably put additional pressure on the A322 and A324 yet won’t be considered during the planning phases.
Finally, in the month of September, I have claimed no expenses apart from the standard allowance and the IT/telephone allowance.
This week, I spent some time with Mike Peel wandering through the village discussing issues and possible solutions. We discussed parking, traffic, the Welcome to Brookwood signs, the care home application, litter and Brookwood Farm. We also walked the length of the Basingstoke Canal through Brookwood and I took photos to pass on to the Basingstoke Canal Authority as part of my role as the section’s Lengthsman.
Amazingly, I have had a reply from SCC over my parking requests. As noted in my previous blog entry, I had been waiting around six weeks for a response, which came through this week. To be fair to them, they have been busy, and it must be a nightmare job administering parking across the county. Then again, the lion’s share of our total council tax bill goes to Surrey, so I don’t think it unreasonable to expect a better level of service. Anyway, they have confirmed that there are roughly 90 resident parking spaces in Brookwood, and that I need to go to WBC to find out how many permits have been issued. Email has been sent, and I await a response.
Thursday evening I attended a Gypsy and Travellers Awareness training session at Elmbridge Borough Council Civic Offices. This was a chance for me to understand the culture behind travelling communities and the planning laws that travelling communities are experts in exploiting. This is a frighteningly tough subject to cover as we have a legal (now) private pitch in the ward and my chances of pleasing everyone is impossible. The Council has a legal requirement under the Housing Act 2004 to consider the provision of housing for all members of the community and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) forces councils to ensure Gypsy pitches exist in the borough on a rolling five year cycle. It is in the interests of WBC to work within this as failure to provide adequate pitches takes the control away from us locally. Brookwood has done its bit in the provision of pitches, so I will be pushing WBC to make further provision under the NPPF requirements elsewhere in the borough. As a footnote, once pitches become legal, the residents become council tax payers and have the democratic right of representation.
Finally, there were three burglaries in the village last week, and I am hoping to put a session together for the Police and other interested parties to present to residents on burglary prevention. As soon as I have stuff organised, and a date known I shall endeavour to give as much notice as possible.
A big thank you to Steve and Kath Brooks for spending several hours on a major litter picking exercise on a patch of overgrown and unused land at the Pirbright end of Brookwood. A full nine dustbin sized bags were filled, five of which contained recyclable materials. Woking Borough Council’s waste contractor Serco collected the rubbish Saturday morning. If you spot something that needs doing, and no one appears to be responsible, I may be able to direct some of the Council’s resources to help.
The Council recently put up a sign where the BMX tracks have been laid out by young people in Brookwood Country Park, by the garage, on the Lye side. The sign basically talked about what had been done to the area, where the modifications had the potential to break bye-laws, and invited the young people to contact the Council to discuss how the area could be made safer with the Council’s help. I’m pleased that a response was forthcoming, and the Council’s officers are now working with the young people to make that track safer, repair damage to other areas in the park, and contain the BMX track within its current boundaries. I believe the plan is to tolerate and encourage the track if it means more inappropriate tracks are not built in other areas, including the track up on Sheet’s Heath which the Council would dearly like turned back to woodland. With luck this sensible plan from the Council will keep the young people safer, and stop the destruction of prime woodlands.
Speaking of the Sheet’s Heath track, this is a photo I took of the BMX track there with an abandoned shopping trolly. I’ve reported this trolley and the two currently submerged in the canal by the Brookwood Crossroads to the manager of Sainsbury’s.
I’ve also reported to Surrey Highways the vandalised sign at the entrance to Sheet’s Heath by the canal bridge, and the Cattle Grid sign. They look like they’ve been ‘tagged’ to me, if you know whose tag it is, please report it to the Police.
I’ve recently assisted two Brookwood based organisations apply for funding from the SCC Local Committee. Our SCC representative, Cllr Linda Kemeny has a small pot of money that can be granted to any project which is community based subject to certain conditions. If you have a requirement for some money for a defined cause that benefits the community, give me a shout and I’ll help where I can.
That’s it for now.
Last night at the SCC Local Committee we were presented with a draft discussion document about infrastructure improvements in Woking borough over the next 10 years or so.
Disappointingly, Surrey doesn’t seem to think that the Brookwood Crossroads need any improvements. I found this shocking based on experience, and that the map of the borough presented showed Brookwood Crossroads as the cause of the greatest cost of congestion in the borough (in excess of the Six Crossroads). It is quicker to cross Woking Town Centre at peak hours than it is to cross Brookwood Crossroads if you are trying to get into Brookwood from Woking.
Obviously I raised this and had the opportunity to bring to the table the fact that developments outside of the borough were due to come on stream over the next few years which would massively impact the junction.
Three weeks ago, I tabled a Member’s Question to the SCC Local Committee about the junction which is due to be answered at the next public meeting on 5 December. I copy it here verbatim:
“The Brookwood Crossroads is a significant bottle neck on the western side of Woking. It is the point at which the A322 and A324 cross. It has been the scene of many accidents over the years primarily due to signal confusion. It also causes rat running problems and speeding issues in other areas nearby as people do everything they can to avoid it (Blackhorse Road being one such road dealt with at the most recent Local Committee meeting).
The re-development ten years ago and the linking of the junction with the Cemetery Pales junction has had limited success with regards to safety, and has caused additional congestion due to waiting times. The A322 is prioritised over the A324 and it can mean that traffic begins to back up towards Woking on the A324 from half past four through to half past six with waiting times often exceeding 15 minutes to cross.
The Cala homes development is recommending changes to this junction to help the flow of the A322 which is welcome.
However, with development likely to occur outside of Woking Borough to include Bisley (old Fox garage), Deepcut, and possibly the old MoD site at Chertsey none of these developments will have to take into consideration the Brookwood Crossroads junction. Arguably, Deepcut will increase traffic along the A324 into Woking, Bisley and Chertsey will increase traffic along the A322 towards Brookwood railway station and Guildford.
The time for sticking plasters is over, an ambitious strategy and redevelopment of this junction must be forthcoming.
What is SCC planning and if not planning anything why not?”
Well, we now know that SCC is not planning to do anything, so I await their response as to why not. I’ll report back in due course. I shall not let this drop, as virtually all traffic related problems in Brookwood, Knaphill and surrounding areas can be traced back to this junction.
Another thing about the transport discussion that I was disappointed in was the limited amount of discussion around sustainable transport outside of walking and cycling. For example, the Camberley Society is proposing that a direct rail link from Camberley to Woking is put back in place:
This is something we should be supporting as this will allow residents of that area (including Deepcut) to access Woking easily and quickly and will clearly help congestion in Brookwood as people won’t be driving to Brookwood station for London trains, or driving through Brookwood to get to Woking.
Brookwood Crossroads is a major cause of congestion on the western side of Woking causing numerous problems elsewhere. Instead of introducing new schemes to mitigate the problems elsewhere, why not propose a bold initiative for Brookwood Crossroads and solve the problem once and for all. I’m working on it.
Last week I attended a two day training session on planning in Coventry. With extensive changes coming through as part of the Localism Act, trying to keep abreast of the rules and regulations is essential if I am to get planning decisions correct. The session was paid for by the Planning Advisory Service, and Cllr Wilson, and Cllr McCrum also attended. It was made up of a number of sessions, one of which on the viability of development was delivered by a third party consultant. This session helped to understand the pressures on developers when it comes to assessing what can be delivered in terms of affordable housing et cetera. It was interesting to note that said third party consultant was extremely supportive of Woking Borough Council’s current strategy for development, including the acquisition of Wolsey Place and the town centre improvements. Well worth my time away from my normal job.
The ownership of Brookwood Cemetery is currently a significant issue which is taking up some of my time. There is nothing I can do in terms of the legal issues, but as the only remaining open cemetery in the borough the outcome is being followed very closely by WBC. The Council has funds tied up in the cemetery guaranteeing burial places for Woking residents.
I understand Brookwood Farm may make it to the planning committee in December. As soon as I know when it reaches committee, I shall announce it here. On this subject, I am trying to get Cala Homes, Brookwood Residents Association, and Knaphill Residents Association around a table to see where everyone is.
I’ve been keen to see something done with Brookwood Pavilion as it is in such a state. WBC have performed a detailed review of the existing drainage system and have concluded that it is not cost effective to replace the drainage system based on the age and condition of the pavilion. I’m hopeful that some money from Brookwood Farm will actually come to Brookwood and we’ll get the pavilion replaced. Have to be honest, I’m not holding my breath, but I’ll fight for it.
During October, I claimed no expenses beyond the standard allowance and IT/Communications allowance.
Very blustery weather yesterday resulted in at least one tree coming down into the Basingstoke Canal. This has been reported to the Canal Rangers, and depending on their workload will be dealt with as soon as possible.
I’ve had some queries about Sheets Heath, in particular who is responsible for it. As usual, nothing is simple, but Woking Borough Council is responsible for Sheets Heath from the cattle grid eastwards. All the land to the west of the cattle grid is owned by the MoD. This means that the recent cutting down of trees is being done on MoD land and there is nothing I can do except report it to the Mod, and the recent disgraceful dumping of rubbish is also out of WBC’s control. However, having had a quick scavenge through some of this lot:
It looks like this is the result of a recent house clearance as many of the items are very much traceable. Our neighbourhood office is investigating and has involved the police. The dog by the way is mine and she soon lost interest as there wasn’t any food.
Amended plans for the Brookwood Farm estate have gone online. Essentially there are plans for a school behind the telephone exchange, and access to the estate in addition to the Sainsbury’s junction. The number of dwellings remains the same at 297.
The reference number is PLAN/2012/0224 and if you wish to have your say, please ensure you submit your comments at http://www.woking.gov.uk/planning/publicaccess or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The closing date for comments is 14 December 2012.
Last night was a shockingly long SCC Local Committee meeting, with both good news and less than good news for Brookwood and the surrounding area.
Firstly, I received a response to my Member’s Question regarding Brookwood Crossroads. You can read my question here: http://www.windowonwoking.org.uk/sites/cllr.kevindavis/weblog/2012/10/25/a
I’m not going to print the answer here as it is long and now totally irrelevant. I thank the officer concerned for his time, but suffice to say, it doesn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know, and I get the impression the problem is too big to solve.
I was allowed to ask a supplementary question which was along the lines of whether the answer to my original question had been written with the knowledge that SCC & WBC were proposing to build a new 280 pupil school less than 400 metres away. Essentially the answer was no, and it probably wouldn’t have made much difference to the answer anyway. Very disappointing.
One fact garnered in the written answer was that the junction operates above its design capacity at certain times of the day. I struggle to understand how there can be serious proposals about building a school when there is no credible solution to known traffic infrastructure problems.
The next Local Committee meeting is March 2013, by then plans will be more advanced and I’ll raise the question again. SCC and WBC cannot leave Brookwood and Knaphill gridlocked just to solve problems of a lack of housing and lack of school places elsewhere in the borough. This is the opportunity to make infrastructure improvements not operate a wait and see policy when we already know the roads are unable to cope. Madness.
The good news from the meeting was that two Brookwood organisations have had funding requests approved through the Members’ Allocation Funding scheme. This scheme provides each County Councillor with a discretionary wad of money they are able to hand out in the form of a grant. Brookwood Babies and Toddlers has been granted funds towards new equipment, and Brookwood Club has been given a small grant to help kick off their community Christmas Tree project. This is great news for members of our community. If you have a worthwhile community based project which could benefit with some help from SCC, please give me or Cllr Linda Kemeny, our County Councillor a shout.
Overall, the meeting delivered good improvements across the borough. Worth noting are the removal of the temporary traffic lights at the narrow bridge over the railway on St. John’s Hill Road with a permanent solution, and the positive response to the request for a controlled crossing near the Wheatsheaf in Horsell.
Last month, I claimed no expenses other than my basic allowance and IT/Comms allowance.
Tonight’s full Council meeting was fun. Most interesting things on the agenda were parking charges and the Market.
Raising parking charges are always a bone of contention, and on the one hand it is obvious why, raising prices is never palatable, but on the other hand the argument for raising prices is quite compelling.
Prices haven’t risen for three years, and in that time, extensive refurbishment has occurred. In 2010, the town centre car parks were the outright winner in the Reinventing the Car Park: Refurbishment Award by Parking Review magazine (I didn’t know such a thing existed, but there you go). In addition, this year the town centre car parks retained their Park Mark – Safer Parking Award status. The Council has invested the money, and personally, I think the barrier entry / exit and pay on foot solution is far better than the old Pay & Display, where frequently you ended up running back to the car park to slap an extra hour on the car or ended up losing over an hours pre-paid parking if you finished earlier than expected. It would be very different if nothing had been invested and the shopper / commuter / town centre worker was being used as a cash cow.
Bring a bloke who rushes into Woking, parks, grabs what I need and rushes out again, I do support having a 30 minute parking window, but this was unsuccessfully tried a couple of years ago and isn’t on the radar.
It looks like the market is finally getting a new permanent home. It will be going back under cover in the void / walkway between Wolsey Place and the Peacocks. The plans are excellent, and I sincerely hope high quality market traders will flock to the new purpose built units. This will end the uncertainty and encourage people into town. I do hope a quality fish monger is able to come back. This along with the Bandstand development will make the town very modern with excellent entertainment and shopping facilities.
Possibly the best bit of news is that as part of the works, new toilets will be built on the ground floor in Wolsey Place by the walkway down to the yellow car park.
It’s difficult having to make decisions that will upset people (such as parking charges) but on balance I’m grateful to have been given the opportunity to help shape our town centre.