Happy New Year. It’s going to be an interesting and difficult one from my perspective as a Councillor.
I received a generic notice about the streetlights being replaced in Brookwood in the coming weeks recently, and I assume everyone has. This looks like a good improvement which should save SCC money and will be better for the environment which I welcome.
While the teams are here, I will hopefully get them to address the issue of light pollution from the flood light on the Zebra crossing by the Church. It appears that gaffer tape was originally applied to the head to block light being beamed into neighbouring bedrooms. This has come away recently and the light is a problem again. The school crossing has a similar arrangement although the tape is still there. This picture shows the belisha beacon (nicely covered) and the flood light. The front of this light used to have tape on it, and I have asked SCC to resolve the issue. Have a look at the school light if you’re confused. Actually I’m amazed that tape was used and I can’t believe a more permanent solution couldn’t be devised.
Some time ago, WBC created The Woking Forum, a little corner of the Internet where residents are able to start discussions about life in Woking. This is read by Councillors and officers of the Council, and is a reasonable way to get involved. It’s not used as much as it deserves to be, but that could be because few people are aware of it. Anyway, have a look and contribute if you wish. https://www.woking.gov.uk/forum
I found out this morning that the Cala Homes Brookwood Farm planning application will come to the Planning Committee on 29 January 2013. Knowing how many people feel about this development and its ramifications, you may wish to attend the meeting and watch the debate from the public gallery. I don’t know whether the housing development and the proposed school will be listed together, but as and when I get more info, I’ll post it here.
Finally, during December I claimed no expenses apart from the standard allowance, and the IT / Comms allowance.
Some of you will be aware of the application for 30 flats on Connaught Road where Wesson Fencing currently is. The consultation for this officially ends tomorrow on 8 January 2013.
Over the weekend there has been a problem with the IT system preventing people from viewing the plans. I’ve spoken with Planning and the case officer is prepared to accept representations for at least a few days afterwards. The plans are now available again.
I am meeting some residents near the site on Wednesday at 14:00 to discuss concerns, if you wish to join us, you’re more than welcome.
Today I held a meeting with some residents who are keen to understand more regarding the planning application for 30 flats on the site of Wessons Fencing.
My main concerns are around the contaminated land, and the vehicle access out on to Connaught Road. Residents also had legitimate concerns around the entire planning process regarding this application, characteristics of the development including parking provision and the look and feel of the development.
My view is that for the benefit of future generations we possibly have a duty to ensure the contaminated land is cleaned up, and compromises may need to be made as we go along. I will be seeking input from the Environment team as soon as I can to understand the exact problem, and what they feel is required to decontaminate the land.
The timing of the application has fallen at a time when it could be justifiably argued that it was submitted over the Christmas period deliberately knowing that people are less likely to object as they have other things on their minds. I genuinely don’t think this is the case, and have asked Planning to allow extra time for representations. I believe that officially they will now accept comments up until 24 January, and unofficially beyond that date until the matter is determined. I suggest if you wish to comment, and the website won’t allow it, then directly email planning at email@example.com
When Officers write their report on the application and their recommendation, they will read all comments (support for and objections) and a specific section of the report will summarise the points, and include notes on whether the objection is something that legally can be considered by the Planning Committee. Of course, all letters / comments are in the public domain and are usually read by the Councillors responsible for determining the application.
When an application receives 10 or more comments (either for, neutral or against), a representative of the public is allowed to speak for three minutes at the Planning Committee meeting when the application will be determined. As this application currently has 38, then I suggest an organised approach is followed. I can’t see this application coming before committee until the end of February at the earliest so there is time to get organised.
This leads on to the BVA (or the lack of as I understand it has ceased to perform its primary function). I believe the BVA did a fantastic job, and the village needs to organise itself again. Forming a group which is able to nominate someone to speak at the Planning Committee meeting may be the catalyst required. I would be very keen to hear from people who have specific ideas on how the BVA can be kicked off again. As a suggestion, I feel it would be a good idea for the many number of groups within the village to provide a representative to form a new BVA committee. I am unable to get directly involved but will help to get it off the ground.
Brookwood Farm is being considered on 29 January, and I now believe the school will be considered at the same time. Councillors are having a briefing about the development on 18 January, when we will be able to question in detail the developer and the respective Council Officers. I have no idea how these applications will pan out, but I do expect the 29 January meeting to be well attended by the public. If you wish to attend, then I would suggest getting there early to ensure a seat.
Finally, my next surgery will be held in Brookwood Club on 21 January at 19:00 until 20:00. Everybody is welcome to attend.
So it’s snowing, let’s hope it doesn’t cause too much disruption. The Council has published some advice and useful links for help: http://www.woking.gov.uk/news?item=000050F827CE.C0A801BA.00003FC1.001A
If you need help, I may be able to help direct Council resources to you. I especially would like to know about empty grit bins. Call me on 488109 or email me firstname.lastname@example.org
The school remains open with an update around lunchtime which will determine if it is to close early this afternoon. http://www.brookwood.surrey.sch.uk/?cat=11
Sensibly, South West Trains decided to run a reduced service, and it looks like most of the trains through Brookwood are currently running.
Keep warm and safe.
Tonight at 19:00, the Planning Committee meets. As you know, Brookwood Farm features prominently as the Cala Homes development of 297 houses and the newly proposed school are numbers one and two on the agenda respectively. There are also some very straightforward applications and one other difficult one. It will certainly be an interesting meeting.
I’ve devised a two hour walk and talk of the A322 corridor highlighting the problems that exist traffic wise from the Chobham Road junction down to Cemetery Pales. Essentially, we discuss the impact of the proposed Cala Homes highway changes to the network. I’ve delivered this three times over the weekend to fellow Councillors on the Planning Committee.
I’ve no idea how tonight will pan out, but I suspect the gallery will be full, so if you want to watch proceedings, please arrive fairly early.
‘It’s a done deal’, ‘they’ve already made up their minds’, ‘they’ll do what they want regardless’.
Comments spoken to me in the run up to last night’s Planning Committee meeting. An insult as far as I’m concerned laying accusations that we (as elected members) would nod Brookwood Farm through.
Well, it saddens me to say, that those people were right. Only it wasn’t a done deal as far as the members were concerned, but it was a done deal as far as the officers of WBC and SCC were concerned.
I went in to the meeting believing that we should probably seek a deferment on the grounds of highways and then work with SCC to relook at the problems. I was prepared to vote yes if SCC presented anything that would give me hope that grid lock wouldn’t ensue. I didn’t believe voting no could be justified.
‘Its democracy Jim, but not as we know it!!!!!’, ‘I am disgusted by what I have just witnessed. I believe the correct term is blackmail’, ‘It was a disgrace’.
Comments made to me after the meeting. Blackmail may be a bit strong, but then we were told in the meeting that if we didn’t vote yes then the decision would be taken out of our hands and referred to the Secretary of State.
I wanted to defer the decision on the grounds that the impact of the development and the proposed highway changes would lead to severe congestion on the surrounding roads. SCC flatly refuted any suggestion that all the proposed homes, school and highway changes would make the traffic worse.
A document that backed up many of my claims of highway congestion (written by SCC) was deemed inadmissible and couldn’t be presented to the meeting. One reason cited was that it was confidential. I was fairly surprised about this as the copy I have isn’t marked Confidential and I certainly wasn’t told it was confidential when it was given to me.
With regards to the School, I argued that although it was really in the wrong place, there were no real alternatives and that we had to compromise on the issue of greenbelt. I presented evidence (WBC’s own document) that the likely ‘catchment area’ of the school would see children travelling in from as far afield as Goldsworth Park. Still SCC refused to acknowledge that this would have an adverse impact on the highways. Do they really believe that children as young as five are going to walk from Goldsworth Park to Brookwood? As an objector said at the meeting, SCC is living on a parallel planet.
So there you have it, Brookwood Farm has been granted planning permission, the school has been granted outline planning permission, and our efforts made absolutely no difference.
Today I spent just over an hour with a couple of guys from SCC Highways regarding Brookwood Farm, the school and their impact on the seven junctions from Chobham Road down to Cemetery Pales. I thank them for their time, and it was good to actually talk to people who understand the problems with this section of road, and discuss ideas for making our lives easier. There’s no magic solution, and I can’t see anything changing in the short term. It’s a pity that their input was not taken in to consideration when the planning application for Brookwood Farm came before committee. It appears that an opportunity was lost.
On that subject, I have had various conversations with people regarding the shocking way the committee was allowed to debate the application for three hours, and then forced in to voting yes. That work has yielded a couple of meetings over the next week or so to discuss this with senior executives within WBC. I hope to get to the bottom of that entire process, as I’m not happy being taken for a fool by WBC officers.
I’m not letting the subject of Brookwood Crossroads drop, and have submitted a member’s question to Council this week. My question is:
I believe the Brookwood Farm Cala homes development, and the new school will lead to severe traffic congestion around Brookwood Crossroads. Article 1, point 5 of the EU Directive 2008/50/EC, cites ‘maintaining air quality where it is good and improving it in other cases’.
What is the current reading of micrograms per cubic metre at this location and will the Council be failing in its responsibilities under the above EU directive if this level increases substantially because of the new developments?
We’ll see what answer I receive as it is clear to me that 297 houses and a school isn’t going to improve the air quality in an area which is a mile away from the first air quality management area recently declared in the borough. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-surrey-21483909
Cllr Kingsbury has also been endeavouring to get answers regarding Brookwood Crossroads from SCC via the Local Committee process. There is a public meeting of the Local Committee on 6 March in the Civic Offices where with luck, we’ll have some answers.
I also took the opportunity this morning to discuss with the highways guys the crossing light which is missing a cowl by the Church http://www.windowonwoking.org.uk/sites/cllr.kevindavis/weblog/2013/01/05/a, and the drainage problems in Brookwood.
I know it has rained a great deal for the past year, but it seems to me that there are drainage problems across the length of Brookwood, and areas of Blackhorse Road. Worse, near the proposed flats development, the drains round here frequently spew creosote out when blocked.
I have subsequently received emails regarding both the crossing light and the specific drainage problem down Connaught Crescent. Both issues have been passed on to the appropriate people, so I expect some action in the near future. I shall also be asking a member’s question at the Local Committee on 6 March around drainage across Brookwood, as soon as I’ve figured it out, I’ll publish it here.
I’ve also been loosely involved with the Byfleet Gypsy planning application, offering my limited expertise around having a gypsy site in the ward to fellow Councillors.
Apart from that, I claimed no expenses beyond my allowance and IT / Comms allowance for January.
I’ve spent a fair bit of this week trying to get to the bottom of the creosote contamination that exists in the village by Wessons. I’ve also discovered Brookwood has two further contaminated sites in the village, and another one close to Percheron Drive. These are complex sites, but for this blog entry, I intend on focussing on the Wessons site and the impact it has on surrounding properties.
The contaminated land has come about due to the previous practices with creosote in the fencing industry. Those practices were banned years ago except under certain circumstances called ‘Permitted Processes’. I stress at this point that the current owner of Wessons Fencing isn’t contributing to the problem, but is assisting the Council in finding a resolution.
WBC Environment is well on top of the problem, and has a strategy and plan. This has involved drilling boreholes to monitor the progress of the creosote underground. A tank has also been dug into the road behind Wessons, and this stores creosote, and is periodically emptied. Fortunately, the creosote floats on the water, so is fairly easy to capture.
Recently, two things have happened which has led to an intolerable situation for the immediate neighbours of the site. Firstly, snow and rain has contributed to the water table rising to the highest point Environment has seen here, and this has caused the drains to overflow and some creosote has leaked into the main drainage system. As can be seen from this picture, the resident here is unable to access their property without crossing water, which has traces of creosote. This is made worse by the fact that this is the only entry point for pedestrians, which means cleaning shoes to remove traces of creosote is essential prior to entering the house each time.
On top of that, recently the creosote drainage system put in place many years ago has become blocked due to plastic bags. It is not known from what source. As can be seen from this picture below, which is a drain by the garages behind Wessons and in Connaught Crescent, the creosote is thick and it is from here the bags were removed.
On Wednesday, I arranged for SCC to empty the blocked drain outside the property as that is their responsibility, however after turning up Thursday, they refused when they realised it was contaminated as the costs involved in decontaminating their drainage lorry is significant. I have left this problem with WBC Environment to deal with.
We have to get on top of this problem, the smell from creosote is noticeable at times, and it is prolonged exposure to the vapours that can lead to serious illnesses.
I accept that people not directly affected by the creosote contamination will not view the problem as significant, but I do, and I will do what I believe is right for the environment and the village as a whole.
I have spent a considerable amount of time recently dealing with the above subjects.
I think the amount of pressure that I and others are applying regarding Brookwood Crossroads is leading to some progress. A report is to be presented to the Local Committee on 6 March which discusses the A322 corridor in more detail. WBC officers are keen for SCC to focus on the area from Gordon’s School roundabout down to Fox corner to ensure that any investment goes towards Brookwood Crossroads, rather than funds going to look at the M3 and A30 junctions which could arguably be considered more congested. I will continue to keep Brookwood Crossroads at the fore front of everyone’s minds, and indeed I asked a question at full Council last week regarding pollution.
The answer to my question yielded a mostly satisfactory response, although there is no monitoring equipment at the crossroads. I requested that a monitoring tube should be placed at this location, based on the close proximity to the SSSI canal and that the A322 splits the Brookwood Country Park in two. I expect to receive a response in the near future.
Contamination wise, the owner / developer of the Wessons site arranged for their consultants to figure out exactly what was required, and I’m pleased to say that a pumping crew cleared out the drains yesterday that SCC rightly refused to do. It appears that the highway drains had become blocked due to the amount of gravel around that area. I assume the amount of rain over the past year has shifted the gravel and eventually blocked the drain. I thank all concerned in helping to sort this out.
I have asked the following Member’s question at the Local Committee and we should receive an answer on 6 March:
‘Various sections of Connaught Road, Brookwood frequently suffer from flash floods when there is prolonged or heavy rain fall. This happens the length of Connaught Road, especially at the crossroads, central areas, the junction with Connaught Crescent and by the Pirbright railway bridge.
Blackhorse Road also suffers severe flooding and this can be especially dangerous at the crossroads when freezing conditions are experienced.
Is there any reason why this happens at these locations and is there anything that can be done to limit the impact?
I’ve also spent time talking with the developer of the proposed flats figuring out if more parking can be allocated to the scheme. I await a progress report and I’m reasonably confident an improved solution may be forthcoming.
I’ve claimed no expenses during February apart from my standard allowance and IT / Comms allowance.
Public service bit:
The Government has given Council Tax payers the legal right to pay their Council Tax over 12 installments: https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/making-sure-council-tax-payers-get-good-value-for-money
If you want to take advantage of this, you will need to opt in. WBC will be providing further information when bills are issued.
Surrey Switch & Save is a collective switching initiative created by SCC which enables residents to join together in getting a better energy deal. The date has just been extended to 8 April 2013 to apply. In no way are you obligated to take any deal offered, but the more that sign up, the more competitive the eventual price will be. http://www.actionsurrey.org/switch I have signed up.
The Green Deal is another Government initiative to enable people to install energy efficient measures at no up-front cost. Right now, the first 2000 people to apply can book a free Green Deal assessment which would typically cost £150. This offer is open until 15 March 2013. http://www.actionsurrey.org/greendeal I have made an appointment for next week.
Many people express the view that the Council ‘does nothing for me’. Here is a chance to get some value for money from your Council Tax.
Recently I and others have been applying a great deal of pressure on WBC and SCC over Brookwood Crossroads. Everyone knows the immediate area won’t cope with the increased traffic resulting from the new school, Brookwood Farm development, and general organic growth over the next few years.
At the Local Committee on Wednesday evening, the Assistant Director of Strategy, Transport & Planning kindly presented a paper on the A322 corridor that Cllr Kingsbury had asked for. We kind of ambushed the poor fellow, and prominent speakers from Knaphill Residents Association and Brookwood Residents Association spoke about the crossroads and its impact on our daily lives, as did I. The video from the meeting will eventually be online accessible through here: http://www.surreycc.gov.uk/your-council/councillors-and-committees/decision-making/local-committees/surrey-county-council-local-committee-in-woking
The paper basically stated that there was currently no budget to even look at what could be done, so it would slot in to the 2015 – 2019 programme of studies to be designed with an implementation date sometime beyond 2019. We decided this wasn’t acceptable as by 2016, once 400 odd new houses within a mile or so of the crossroads and the school have been built, the place would be grid locked.
As if by magic, a slide was displayed on screen which provided a timetable for accelerating this if a budget of £50k could be found for an A322 corridor study through Woking borough. Essentially the Local Committee agreed that SCC should identify a source of funding and closely examine the area with a view to coming back to the Local Committee in 12 months with some proper proposals and potential dates.
There are other sources of finance available; it just needs the right people to find some of it.
This is good news for Brookwood. I believe we have made a significant step in the right direction, and I thank all the people in WBC, SCC, residents and Councillors who have helped bring this forward.
A couple of fairly busy weeks.
As the designated WBC representative on the Basingstoke Canal Joint Management Committee, I thought I’d provide a brief update on the canal.
The canal is owned by Hampshire and Surrey County Councils, and both entities pay an equal amount of funds to maintain the canal. Several miles of the canal run through Woking Borough. Of all the Councils that are required to make a contribution, Woking makes the second highest payment, behind Hart District, and ahead of Rushmoor. Woking is also the only borough out of the two above, Guildford, Runnymede, & Surrey Heath that has actually paid the full amount in the last five years as per the contribution formula. In 2012/13, we paid £53,276. All of the others have not paid their full dues with Surrey Heath being particularly poor. I believe this is embarrassing for those Councils, a credit to ours, but also unfair on ours. Fortunately, the current chair of the committee is Cllr Linda Kemeny, our County Councillor who is able to apply pressure on those councils.
The canal has been shut to boating for the last five years or so because of maintenance problems. Virtually all of the problems have now been rectified, and the canal is expected to re-open to boating on 22 April, providing nothing unforeseen pops up. There are changes proposed for the cost of mooring boats on the canal in future. This will bring the canal more into line with other canal authorities.
We are very lucky having this SSSI open space running through the borough, and long may WBC continue to support it.
The Moor Lane development, although not in our ward has caused me to spend much time understanding the issues there as this will come up to the Planning Committee within the next couple of months. Some own goals by WBC are providing some lessons to learn.
The Connaught Road flats development, although not wanted by the majority in the village, is wanted by some for various reasons (mainly young people who wish to live in Brookwood, but are hampered by the lack of small housing, affordable or not, and businesses in Brookwood which need more business traffic). In my efforts to represent all groups I thought we were inching closer to an acceptable outcome having spent time with residents, businesses, the developer and the planning officers. I now understand planning are suggesting that there are more parking spaces than required, and not enough soft landscaping. It seems the concept of common sense have gone out of the window! Yes developments should tick all the right boxes, but Brookwood isn’t Woking town centre, and it is likely that each flat owner will have a car. To suggest that residents of the flats would prefer to have raised flower beds rather than a car parking space is absurd. Especially when considering that the development lies 100 yards from a children’s play area, and is 400 odd yards from the Rec and Sheets Heath. If we’re going to have development it has to be right for Brookwood.
The Brookwood Village Association is holding its AGM on 17 April, 20:00 at the school. I suggest the village and the wider ward comes together and starts the process of creating our own Neighbourhood Plan as legislated and encouraged under the Localism Act. I’m hoping a representative of Hook Heath may be able to attend and provide an overview of the process as they are further down the road in creating their own neighbourhood plan. This is our chance to have a say in our environment, let’s seize the opportunity.
Irresponsible and dangerous parking, especially at school peak times is continuing to create problems. Is it really that difficult to park safely so that all young people can safely arrive and leave school? Many people across the borough are now trying to get a plan together through the Local Committee and Council that will target these people borough wide, I hope it succeeds and people are prosecuted.
At the end of the week, I am having a walk-about with Kate Wilson our neighbourhood officer. If you have any concerns which we can look at, please let me know so that it makes it on the list.
At the crossroads end of Brookwood, many properties have been experiencing power outages since Thursday, including my house.
I have spoken with UK Power Networks, who is our distributer and I have directly spoken to the work gangs trying to fix the problem.
The engineer I spoke with yesterday thinks the problem may be a faulty cable laid in 1959 which is causing main fuses to blow. This is putting many houses out at once.
I will continue to monitor the situation, and use all the methods at my disposal to try and expedite a permanent fix. I will also ask UK Power Networks to let me know when they think they have solved the problems so I can announce it here.
I shall seek assistance from WBC first thing Monday morning if we are still having problems.
Many of you may know that there are proposals to move Brookwood Post Office from its current site to one of the new local style Post Office branches which operate out of existing convenience stores.
Bakers Dozen have applied to take over the running of postal services in Brookwood and combine postal services with their current offerings.
As nice as it is to continue with a full Post Office branch, small branches like Brookwood have been under threat now for years, and I’ve regularly wondered how long it could survive with the constant cost cutting pressures we seem to live under these days.
If by moving the branch into the Bakers Dozen, we get to keep our local postal services, then I’m all for it. The Post Office has opened a consultation period running from yesterday through to 9 May 2013. Have your say by going to the web site www.postofficeviews.co.uk and entering the branch code of 13992399.
I wish Nisha and her family well in the future, and would like to offer my thanks to them for the good service to the village.
Nice to see boats on the canal this weekend. Many are moored up on the stretch alongside Brookwood Country Park and the Lye. There are some down at The Bridge Barn, and I have seen some navigating the canal through Brookwood on the way towards Deepcut.
The canal formally reopens on 22 April, a great deal of effort by lots of people has gone in to reopening the canal over the previous five years, so it is good to see that hard work has paid off.
At the end of last week I went on a walk about with our Neighbourhood Officer, Kate Wilson. One of the areas I’d identified needing remedial action was in the Country Park. One of the pathways consistently floods and is impassable at times. Conveniently, workers were building a new path across the park, and Kate managed to divert some of the resources into improving this section.
I hope this stops the flooding and makes the path usable at all times.
SCC have come back to me with some proposed changes to parking arrangements in the middle of the village. Last year during a tidying up exercise, signs were changed, and that left a situation where the CPZ areas was less clear that before. Having spent time with the highways guys, we discussed some ideas and I’ve now received the image below:
I think this scheme will make it much clearer to people exactly what the score is. Double yellow (red lines on image), absolutely no parking at any time, gold will stay as it currently is. The crucial difference here, is that some of the existing signage will be removed which should lead to less confusion.
My next two surgeries are due to be held on the third Monday of the month. For April that is due to be 15 April, and May it is 20 May. Unfortunately, I need to cancel both of these as the last full Council meeting of this municipal year and the first full Council of the next municipal year fall on these dates. I shall move the April date to the Wednesday 17 April, 18:30 at Brookwood Club. The BVA AGM is immediately after this at the school. The May date I’ll publish nearer the time.
After digging up the pavements, the electricity board has fixed the supply problems to the East end of Connaught Road.
Finally, apart from my allowance and IT / Comms allowance, I’ve claimed no expenses during March.
My surgery is tonight in Brookwood Club at 18:30.
Following on from that, I will be at the Brookwood Village Association AGM at 20:00 at the school.
SCC is consulting on a draft Surrey Rail Strategy. This is our chance to have a say on the railways through Brookwood and Woking. I have not read it yet, but will do so over the weekend. I’ll report back on my views after I’ve submitted my view. The documents can be found here: http://www.surreycc.gov.uk/environment-housing-and-planning/development-in-surrey/surrey-future/the-surrey-rail-strategy
I believe the flats development in Brookwood will make it to the Planning Committee on Tuesday 21 May. Planning officers will continue to take representations right up to the point where the report is written, which is roughly 10 days or so before the meeting. At this late stage, you will need to email email@example.com
I attended the BVA AGM 10 days ago, and while I was a little disappointed by the turn out (there were 25 or so), I remembered how despite living in Brookwood for almost 14 years, this was my first attendance at an AGM. However, we do have development proposals going on at the moment which has attracted much angst among residents. The BVA is the forum to collectively push a view forward, which leads me nicely on to a Brookwood Neighbourhood Plan.
The Localism Act allows communities to get together and create a Neighbourhood Plan. This plan is a formal document which tells the wider area (WBC and SCC essentially) how we, as residents, want to shape our community. It’s not a NIMBYSM panacea to prevent change, but once agreed, it has to be taken into consideration when defining strategies. It is my strong view that any area in Woking without a neighbourhood plan will be susceptible to overzealous development and change in the future. Those areas with a plan will have defined how they want their area shaped, and human nature rules regarding the least path of resistance will see planners effectively dump on those without a plan. We ignore this at our peril.
Here’s the problem though. It requires a body of at least 21 people to get this through, one of which must be the local councillor. The BVA is the perfect engine for this. The Hook Heath Neighbourhood Forum has started down the path to a plan, and there was a meeting this week to elect officers. Brookwood is further down the road as we already have a Chair and Treasurer of the BVA.
Only one area in the whole country currently has a plan and you can view their plan here: http://uecp.org.uk/. There are grants available to help us.
I am going to arrange a meeting for the end of May where we will try to get this off the ground formally. Once I know when and where I’ll make it as widely known as possible and hope people attend.
Further to my post from 27 April, I have now booked the small Memorial Hall for Thursday 30 May at eight o’clock.
At this session, I shall go over the concept of the Neighbourhood Plan, look at a case study, see what grants are available to us and we’ll try to define a way forward.
I hope to have a representative from the Hook Heath Neighbourhood Forum in attendance who can tell us their experience so far.
I’ll also see if I can get an officer from WBC to attend who may be able to guide us in our dealings with the council.
I guess it is an overused cliché, but the future is in our hands.
Next Tuesday evening, planning committee sits. The most interesting item for Brookwood is the application at Five Acres for an additional two gypsy pitches bringing the site to the recommended maximum of 15 pitches. Tough one this, the Officer’s report is recommending temporarily granting permission while further details are gathered with a two year time frame. Being granted temporary permission generally means that the application will become permanent eventually. I’ve no idea how this will pan out in committee, but I suspect it will go through. In many respects, this going through and bringing the site to 15 pitches is in the longer term interest for Brookwood depending on the outcome of my efforts to kick off a Neighbourhood Forum. The government has published guidance on gypsy site design which is worth reading if you are adamantly opposed as it does help understand the problems planners are trying to overcome: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/11439/designinggypsysites.pdf
The Brookwood Flats development is not coming to committee this Tuesday; I suspect it will make it into June, although I have no prior knowledge of that.
As mentioned previously, I am holding a public meeting on 30 May 2013 at 20:00 in the Brookwood small Memorial Hall to discuss Neighbourhood Planning. Due to absences, I’ve been unable to get the head of planning or anyone from the planning strategy team to attend. I’m still hoping an officer from the Council will attend as we need their help and advice to push this through. Absolutely everyone is welcome to attend from within Brookwood and the surrounding area.
Finally, I claimed no expenses during April, except my standard allowance, and IT/Comms allowance.
Last night I attended a joint Police and WBC panel meeting in Knaphill. Crime in Brookwood and Knaphill is relatively low in general, although most crime tends to be more anti-social behaviour rather than physical or property related.
We have a good team of neighbourhood officers led by Police Sergeant Chris Lee. In today’s modern world, you can keep up to date with what they are doing by following Twitter @WokingBeat and Facebook ‘Woking Beat’.
Although crime is low in Brookwood, it is still really important to report anything and everything. Longer term planning of resources can only be effective with accurate information on the ground. In an emergency, dial 999, but at other times, dial the non-emergency number 101.
This link provides further guidance on which number to call, and when to report problems to the Council http://www.police.uk/101.
I hope that we’ll be able to occasionally hold a joint meeting in Brookwood and I will liaise with Sergeant Lee to make that happen.
Tonight at eight o’clock in the small Memorial Hall, I shall hold a meeting discussing the Localism Act and Neighbourhood Planning.
We shall look at what it is, what it isn’t and why it is important for Brookwood to define a plan.
We’ll look at how a Neighbourhood Plan may make a difference in the future, and where a plan may have made a difference in the past.
I am hoping that enough people who wish to get involved will turn up and make this a fully inclusive process and we can figure how to proceed from here.
If you want a say in how Brookwood develops over the next decade or so, please turn up tonight and don’t leave it to others who may not have the same view as you.
Last night I held a public meeting about the Localism Act and Neighbourhood Planning. It was extremely well attended with almost 50 people making the effort to find out more and some good volunteers stepped forward willing to put their names down to help formally kick this off.
From here, the group of around 15 will initially engage with WBC, and begin the process of finding other interested people in the immediate area who either were unaware of last night’s meeting or who were unable to make it.
Over the course of the next few months the group will expand to the minimum size required to be formally recognised, figure out the area to be covered, and engage with the community to ensure everyone who wishes their view to be known is given that opportunity.
This will be a lengthy process, but we must get it right to ensure that any eventual proposal and plan meets the needs of the area.
I also thank Kingfield and Westfield councillor, Cllr McCrum for attending and supporting my efforts.
Finally, I have claimed no expenses this month apart from the standard allowance, and the IT / comms allowance.
The Brookwood Flats development comes to the Planning Committee next Wednesday evening. This is a public meeting so everyone is welcome to attend and watch the debate.
The officers are recommending that the revised proposals are granted subject to legal agreements being put in place. The key legal agreement will prevent residents of each flat from applying for resident parking passes. Although this won’t prevent excess cars parking on the roads, it will ensure that the small spare supply of resident passes is still available for existing residents.
As expected, the officers have viewed the contamination as the biggest problem with the site. In fact they go as far to say that it is considered the most contaminated site in Woking.
References have been made to the main objections around the height of the buildings and the increased danger of entering and exiting the site. In both cases, the developer has taken on board these concerns and adjusted the plans to fit with the officer’s recommendations.
I have no idea how this will go at Planning Committee, although I suspect permission will be granted. I will probably speak in favour of and against when debating as there is still one area I’m not fully satisfied with.
I’m more than happy to answer anyone’s questions both before and after this application gets to committee.
The consultation on the Borough’s electoral cycle starts today with the publication of the questionnaire on the Council’s website.
It is important the Council receives as many views as possible to enable any decisions that are made to reflect the wishes of the majority.
A short paper on the background and the pros and cons can be read here:
The form only takes a few minutes to complete and is available through this link:
The consultation runs for six weeks, and the results will be reported at the Special Meeting of Council on 25 July 2013.
This morning I attended the official opening ceremony of the partially refurbished leisure centre. Freedom Leisure, a private company in conjunction with Woking Borough Council have invested around two million pounds so far creating a more modern centre.
Rather than having that municipal, civil service type design, it is now an attractive, bright and airy, environment with an open front ticket area, next to a small coffee shop. The gym facilities have been brought right up to date, and Freedom Leisure now run many fitness courses across the age ranges. The crèche has been moved to the indoor play area.
There is still more work to do on some areas, but from what I’ve seen so far, it is a massive improvement. If you haven’t been for many years, or like I do, only go to the beer festival, then pop along or visit the website http://www.freedom-leisure.co.uk/centres.asp?section=840§ionTitle=woking+leisure+centre where it is also possible to book online.
Yesterday, I attended the afternoon session at Brookwood School regarding the proposed new campus at Brookwood Farm. I believe this to be a good opportunity to ensure Brookwood keeps a village school, as a one-form entry school is costly when compared to two-form entry schools. WBC have given outline planning permission for the school, and now SCC and the school management are working on a plan to make two campuses, over a split site work as well as possible. I have concerns around traffic and the proposed direct path between the schools. I intend on working closely with the head, Mrs Green while a comprehensive Travel Plan is drawn up. Ideas I’ve heard so far are encouraging, in that the school will do everything in its power to minimise traffic impact. I shall also engage with Surrey Wildlife Trust to ensure that proposals for the pathway are good for the wildlife, and the school use.
Further information may be read here: http://www.surreycc.gov.uk/learning/schools/education-consultations-and-plans/proposal-to-expand-brookwood-primary-school-from-1-to-2-forms-of-entry
Last night at Planning Committee, the flats development in Brookwood was granted permission by a unanimous vote. I raised concerns around parking provision, and stated that I expect to see and understand exactly what the developer is doing to ensure that Wessons remains a viable business. I’m extremely pleased that the immediate residents, who have suffered years of issues around the contaminated land, have some degree of light at the end of the tunnel.
My surgery this month is in Brookwood Club on Monday evening at 19:00. I shall also be hosting a meeting on Tuesday night regarding the Neighbourhood Forum.
Last night I held a meeting at the school about creating a Neighbourhood Forum and ultimately a Neighbourhood Development Plan. I had arranged for Ernest Amoako, WBC’s Senior Strategic Planning officer to come and talk to us about how to move forward. A very interesting two and a half hour discussion developed covering what needs to happen now. I thank Ernest for his time and pushing us in the right direction. So what happens now?
We are in a chicken and egg situation. The Forum isn’t recognised by WBC yet as no formal application has been submitted to the Council because without a constitution it won’t be accepted. Further, no geographical area has been defined for the Plan. To resolve this, it was agreed last night that we would hold another meeting towards the end of September, when we would aim to agree both of these issues. In the meantime, a small group of people will separately look at the constitution, and everyone would look at the Brookwood ward boundary and see if we can collectively agree that this would make a good boundary.
This is absolutely not a closed group, the Forum needs an extremely diverse make up, so please contact me if you wish to be included in the forum. Eventually, members of the forum must live or work in the area defined, so if you live just outside of Brookwood ward and think your area should be included, please get in touch. The map below shows the Brookwood ward:
It should be noted that this is from 1999, and there is currently a boundary review about to take place which may change some of this slightly.
I strongly believe younger people should be involved, as having had a chat with three of our local youths yesterday who were digging holes and creating ramps on Sheets Heath, they were justifiably moaning about the lack of local facilities. Any plan can take this in to consideration but we need input from the young people in the first place. Otherwise we’ll end up doing the exact opposite of what they want, whilst believing we are doing what they want.
We need more people involved; people with a variety of backgrounds and skills. Volunteering isn’t going to be an onerous task for most people. Generally members will provide their own views and help to garner the views of other people. So please don’t think you are signing up to something that will suck up most of your spare time. The more people involved, the less work individuals will need to do.
The ball is rolling, let’s keep it going.
In the last 20 minutes I have received the agenda for Planning Committee next Tuesday, 2 July. I’m fairly surprised to see the Care Home application at 299 Connaught Road as item number one. On the one hand, it’s been bogged down for ages in a bureaucratic nightmare based around the closeness to the Thames Basin SPA (Sheets Heath). On the other, progress must have been made from the original application that received 25 objections to something that is now deemed acceptable to the Local Planning Authority.
I haven’t read through the entire report yet, but would like to offer residents the opportunity to provide me with their views on the application first hand. Accordingly, I shall be on site at 19:00 on Thursday evening for a look. Please join me if you wish.
Today I spent an hour with our neighbourhood officer and the officer at WBC responsible for bin allocation and management helping residents who are struggling with aspects of the black, blue and food bins. There is still misinformation issues which causes the Council increased costs. One of the key messages out of today was that the small electrical appliance collection bags (pink ones) do not need to be used. Your small electrical appliances can be collected without being placed in a bag. Just leave them outside with the normal bins. Further information may be read here: http://www.woking.gov.uk/environment/wasterecycle/householdwaste/weee
Tonight I met with fellow residents at 299 Connaught Road to discuss the care home application. Firstly, I’m extremely grateful to Cllr Eastwood for coming over to see the site and meet with residents. There is plenty of misinformation and unfounded conspiracy theories about this application which are not helpful in trying to reach a conclusion which is best for Brookwood. Although, I certainly agree that the timing of this application reaching the planning committee is a bit out of the blue and I will be raising this with the planning department. The clear facts are that this site is extremely limited in what it can accommodate because of its close proximity to the Sheets Heath SPA. This presents difficult challenges. A further meeting has been arranged for tomorrow night (Friday 28 June @ 20:00) in the Small Memorial Hall to discuss a strategy for resident representation at the Planning Committee meeting on Tuesday evening. I will attend, however we must focus and be realistic about what can be achieved.
What is apparent, is that apathy reigns supreme in Brookwood until something crops up which upsets people. By then it is generally too late to have a significant impact on the outcome. Please get involved in the Neighbourhood Forum where your view can genuinely make a difference to the future in Brookwood.
At Planning Committee tonight, we refused the outline planning permission for the care home. I have to confess I’m fairly surprised with that outcome. We ended up backed into a corner where it was pointed out to us that if we granted outline permission for a building with 32 bedrooms, then we were effectively accepting the bulk and size of the building. We would subsequently be unable to seek changes to the size at a full planning application. It is on this reason we refused it. I’m grateful for the input from the more experienced councillors on the committee.
I’m certainly not against a proposal for a care home on that site, and tend to believe that is preferable to many other options that could come forward. On this basis, I was happy for the principle of a care home on that site to be established which hasn’t happened. Basically, we have asked the developer to come back with a proposal with fewer bedrooms. I hope to pick this up with the developer and a few residents in the next few days to see what may be viable.
I’ve been in contact with the care home developer and plan to meet up with him and his architect to look at options for 299 Connaught Road. That should happen on Monday. I support development on that site and will work with the developer and the residents to find an appropriate solution. However, we have to be realistic, leaving it as it is isn’t a credible option, any form of housing can’t happen due to the proximity of the Sheets Heath SPA which only really leaves industrial, commercial or a care home. I am of the opinion that a care home is arguably more suitable for a residential area than the other two.
Today is Party in the Park. A day of free entertainment and a variety of zones catering for all members of the community. Worth attending, especially with the weather we are currently experiencing. http://www.celebratewoking.info/aboutpartyinthepark2013.aspx
I’ve mentioned this before, and I think it is extremely important for residents to have their say. The Council is consulting on the electoral cycle as part of a boundary review. The ward boundaries of Woking are going to change and the number of Councillors will be reduced. If you want a say, now is the time as the deadline for responses is 19 July. http://www.woking.gov.uk/news?item=000051C87698.C0A801BA.00007BA2.0017
The Neighbourhood Forum is grinding away in the background, seven of us are looking to define a constitution and will hold a meeting towards the end of this month. Many members are looking at a map of the borough to try and define the area. I expect much of this phase to be completed by the end of September, with an application to the Council to be made during October. At the moment, I am still the focal point for this, if you wish to get involved, please contact me.
Finally, I’ve made no expense claim in June. I’ve received only my Councillor allowance and IT / Comms allowance.
I had a meeting at the start of the week with the care home developer to assist them in understanding why the Planning Committee refused the previous application.
It was a good meeting where we discussed the impact on the neighbourhood. In particular we discussed the height of the building with two and a half stories, and the lack of parking on site and the impact of parking off site.
Our collective voice has been heard and the developer is keen still to ensure that what is built out on that site is as suitable as possible for Brookwood considering the constraints.
The intention right now is that the developer will go back and look at what they can do to ease those problems and then hold a meeting with residents before submitting an application to planning.
WBC has opened a consultation period for people to air their views on the introduction of parking charges in Woking Park. Tough one this, as on the face of it, it’s a bad idea, effectively taxing people for leisure activities. On the other hand, there are a bunch of people that park there, and then exercise their way into Woking town centre, thus avoiding paying to park in Woking, and lessening the number of spaces available for leisure use. There is still a plan to be hatched which will allow leisure users to park for free and this consultation will feed into that. Worth spending the five minutes or so if you have a view. The survey can be found here: http://www.woking.gov.uk/news?item=000051E7B42E.C0A801BA.00007DDB.0003
Tonight at full Council there was much debate over the size and make up of Woking Borough post 2016.
Currently, there are 36 councillors representing one, two and three member wards. This largely reflects what people would class as geographical areas. Those large villages with many people have more councillors, small villages have fewer councillors. Some anomalies have occurred over recent years with more growth in some areas meaning the councillor to resident ratio has deviated from the average. To resolve this the Boundary Commission will redraw the boundary lines within the following guidelines:
If Council is elected all out once every four years, then wards could continue to reflect geographical areas. If Council continues to be elected by thirds, then all wards must be three member wards or all wards must be single member wards.
For Council to change from election by thirds to all out, a majority vote of two thirds is required.
The Boundary Commission asks the view of Council as to how the Council sees a possible new configuration of the borough in terms of the number of councillors and the make up of individual wards. A cross party panel of councillors has met which has ultimately led to a report being tabled suggesting that Woking should reduce the number of councillors to 30 and continue to be elected by thirds.
Much debate centred around the number of councillors. Almost universally, 36 is considered too high and doesn’t reflect the on-going austerity the country and borough is suffering. The report proposed reducing this to 30, and an amendment was made tonight to reduce the number of councillors from 36 to 33. I’m fairly ambivalent about the actual number of councillors providing the work gets done and residents feel they are properly represented. Some debate occurred on the election period, but there was no real interest from Council in moving to all out elections and no vote held.
In the end Council determined that our recommendation to the Boundary Commission would be for 30 councillors with a third of councillors elected each year. The fourth year will continue to be Surrey elections.
I strongly believe that election by thirds is not in the interests of Brookwood as was mentioned more than once tonight by a couple of councillors. Brookwood will be annexed into a far greater super ward and will cease to exist as a village with its own dedicated representative. Worse, in my view, there is no actual realistic boundary that will even work. Knaphill is big enough to be a three member ward, so Brookwood will likely end up in a super ward with villages to the east.
The Boundary Commission will take Council’s view into account when defining the new boundaries, but with the Council not wanting to go to all out elections, their options will be limited and the Brookwood ward will probably cease to be from 2016.
The village idiot(s) was/were out last night in Brookwood Country Park, holding fires in inappropriate places. Two fires right in the middle of the path as the photos show:
Apart from the obvious risk to the whole park and houses in Percheron Drive if these fires get out of control, it looks like the pathways have been damaged. I’ve notified our Neighbourhood Officer so that someone can come out and assess the damage.
The Neighbourhood Forum is moving along snail pace. I think we have a viable constitution which along with the area map will be hopefully agreed at a public meeting on 24 September. I am holding a couple of meetings over the next few weeks with the intention of allowing people to look at and draw on maps which potentially outline the area. I’m yet to get confirmation of the venue, so until I do, I can’t confirm anything. The plan, however, is to hold meetings on Wednesday 14 August and Monday 9 September. Everyone is welcome.
Finally, I claimed some expenses last month (although I’ve not been paid yet). Cllr McCrum and I are attending a four day planning workshop in Leeds in September. I bought rail tickets for both of us as soon as the advance fares became available which means we both travel up there and back for less than we would have been able to in a car. Apart from that, I’ve received my printer cartridge allowance for this year, and I declined a box of paper as I still have two reams from last year’s box. I have received my councillor allowance and communications allowance as normal.
I’ve started receiving emails about fracking, as have other councillors. People are obviously concerned about possible fracking in the borough and have probably heard and read the same reports as I have in the media.
Co-incidentally, the emails were identical, so I assume a co-ordinated plan is in place. The email content is below:
I’m very concerned about the prospect of fracking – or hydraulic fracturing – in our area.
Fracking has been linked to contamination of water supplies and atmospheric pollution, as well as increased traffic to construction sites. The government has promised lower energy bills if gas and oil from fracking is produced, but even the fracking companies admit this is unlikely to happen.
I would like to know if any companies are planning to carry out fracking in this area and whether any relevant licences have been sold. If so, I would be grateful if you could let me know your position on the matter and what steps I can take to register my objections.
If there are no current plans or licences, I would be grateful if you could keep me informed of any future developments.
I have to be honest, I have no real understanding of fracking other than what I have heard in the media. So at this point in time I can’t say what my view is.
I do know that fracking is an emerging technology to extract gas from underground. Research and pilot projects are currently on-going to understand its environmental implications.
The Woking Core Strategy promotes the development of sustainable energy and has no specific policy on fracking. In any case, any application for fracking will have to be determined by the County Council as the minerals authority for the area. It is likely that any application will be considered on its merits taking into account the environmental, social and economic implications of the proposal.
WBC is not aware of any evidence of significant gas (or oil) reserves in Woking to merit fracking in the area at this stage.
If an organisation applies to SCC for a fracking licence, they in turn would consult with WBC, who would inform us councillors. At this point, I would publish this fact on this blog.
Essentially, until there is an application, then there is no way to register an objection. However, if you have a concern about fracking or any other planning issue, please get involved in the Neighbourhood Forum as that is the correct vehicle for shaping how our area develops.
I am holding another meeting next Wednesday at 19:00 in the Small Memorial Hall to look at maps trying to define the Neighbourhood Area.
Please come along and get involved.
It looks like SCC are finally replacing the remaining lamp posts throughout Brookwood. I have notified my SCC contact about this post which doesn’t seem quite straight. I’ve also spoken to the gang replacing the posts, and it appears this post was done by a different gang. This post has also been reported up the contractor chain.
It’s also fair to point out that my photography skills are dysfunctional as I’ve managed to make the other lamp posts and the houses look like they are leaning the other way, or maybe it’s an optical illusion based on just how much the Leaning Lamp Post of Brookwood is out of kilter.
I am quite surprised that a like for like replacement is happening. It would seem to make more sense to me to replace them according to some system whereby smaller lamps were positioned in places where less light was required, and the more powerful lamps were positioned where there were extra hazards such as junctions.
Yesterday I spent four hours with an officer from WBC touring areas in Woking containing social housing. I wanted to understand the types of housing and what the implications are for areas with social housing. Brookwood has virtually no social housing except for the odd house here and there and a few part buy houses.
This was driven by the fact that for Brookwood to create a Neighbourhood Development Plan it has to define where it is happy for development to occur. This time spent allows me to advise the Neighbourhood Forum on what options exist for the Brookwood area. I thank the officer for his time.
There was a meeting last night about the Care Home application in Brookwood. I arranged the meeting between the developer and a few residents who live close by to allow them to have an overview of revised plans yet to be submitted. Embarrassingly, I incorrectly entered the meeting in my diary and didn’t show up so I have no idea what happened, if anything. I shall endeavour to find out today. I apologise to those that did turn up expecting me to be there.
Firstly, my surgery is tonight in Brookwood Club, at seven o’clock for an hour.
The Neighbourhood Forum isn’t progressing as well as I’d hoped, with only a total of eight people making it to the two sessions I’d planned to discuss the area. There is no way we will be able to get this through if the active number of people is in single figures. It’s especially disappointing as I’d managed to get the second session in the local press, and only two people turned up. I guess this shows that people are generally happy with the area, and they’ll want to do this when something comes along that they disagree with. Too late by then.
My plan from here is to submit the area map to the Council shortly (as agreed at the most recent meeting) as this requires a six week consultation, and during that period work really hard to raise awareness across the area. We’ll then hold a meeting early November to adopt the constitution and elect officers. The proposal for a Neighbourhood Forum will stand or fall at that time. The meeting on 24 September at the school will still go ahead so I can appraise those that turn up of the current progress.
Last weekend I was at Planning School at Leeds University. This was a four day event from Friday afternoon until Monday afternoon with sessions quite late in to the evening on the Saturday and Sunday. Very hectic with lots of sessions which enabled me to really get a good understanding of the recent developments in planning law. I learnt a lot. I also had the opportunity to network with other councillors and officers which I know will prove useful in the future. I did claim some expenses for this, £129.40, which covers the cost of the train fares for Cllr McCrum and me. I did pay for my own beer though!
Tonight will be a public meeting at the school as we continue our Neighbourhood Forum journey. I will be suggesting an area map that people have commented and agreed on, a constitution, which again has been commented and agreed on. I hope we can get these agreed and then we can begin the formal process of gaining recognition. The meeting begins at 19:00. It’s worth noting, that it looks like the Hook Heath Neighbourhood Forum will become the first body to be accepted in the borough when it comes to full council in the next month. It can’t be stressed highly enough the advantage those members of the community will have over people who live in an area without formal immediate local representation.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, the Local Government Boundary Commission is looking at the number of councillors and the ward boundaries in Woking. The first phase has begun and now members of the public have the chance to have their say. Use the link below to comment on the size of the council being made up of 30 elected members: https://consultation.lgbce.org.uk/node/2341/la=182
Finally, at my most recent surgery, the subject of litter was raised. Mainly around the distribution of bins. Not an easy one this, as the council won’t place bins on other people’s land (for example, the canal towpath), and Serco have to have reasonable access to empty the bins. I have tried to initiate discussion through the Basingstoke Canal Joint Management Committee that will look at the problem of litter down the entire length of the canal, and I hope that will yield results. It obviously won’t solve the problems elsewhere in the ward, but until selfish people stop throwing their litter on the ground this problem won’t go away.
SCC have submitted the plans for the new school in the green belt just south of the Brookwood Farm development. The plan number is: PLAN/2013/0856. Objecting to the school would be silly, but it is worth keeping the pressure on SCC to sort the roads out so the residents of Brookwood are not ‘kettled’ in each day at various times. The consultation period has begun and your view can be added in the normal ways.
At the Neighbourhood Forum meeting on Tuesday evening, it was agreed to submit the proposed Neighbourhood Development Plan Area map to WBC for them to put out to consultation. Once it has been determined that this area is acceptable, the forum will be formally constituted and further submissions to WBC will occur in line with the process. I expect this to occur probably towards the end of the year. In the meantime, an awareness campaign will be kicked off in the following couple of weeks.
Sometimes, I don’t understand how the world works. I’ve been trying to get WBC to place some bins down the canal and in the Country Park. Semi-valid excuses are given, specifically around land ownership and Natural England’s view that the bins are out of keeping with the look of the area. I’m then shocked to learn that Thames Water can appear to ride roughshod over these points by placing safety equipment on the land without even informing the land owner. Worse, it seems if you are going to drown in any of the four ponds in the Country Park, it needs to be one of the two that Thames Water claim to have assets in, as they are the only two ponds to get life rings.
It is backside covering at the expense of common sense.
Last night I attended a public meeting put on by Surrey Heath Borough Council in Chobham. The meeting was to discuss Surrey Heath’s strategy on Gypsy and Traveller housing. Like Brookwood, Chobham has a large gypsy site with 16 authorised pitches, against our 15 pitches. Like WBC, Surrey Heath is going through a review to find appropriate gypsy sites to meet the five year housing supply as demanded in the National Planning Policy Framework. I wanted to understand how a neighbouring village is dealing with the same problem we have, namely ensuring that other areas in the borough share the load.
Noting that communication and awareness of the Neighbourhood Forum is an issue, a resident has created a Facebook group for the forum. It is hoped that this mechanism, together with the usual methods will get us to where we need to be. This week a flyer is being designed which will be sent to all 800 households in the identified neighbourhood area. This will have details of two public meetings where people can come along and get a good understanding of what the forum is trying to achieve. Assuming you use new-fangled technology, search Facebook for the Brookwood and Bridley Neighbourhood Forum and ask to join.
Finally, I claimed no expenses last month, although I did receive my standard allowance and communications allowance.
Last week I attended the Basingstoke Canal Joint Management Committee. I’ve blogged about this previously, and generally the thrust of the meeting from WBC’s perspective is that we are the only borough council that pays our full contribution to the cost of running the canal. Not much different this time. At this meeting we voted on co-opting special interest groups on to the JMC for a four year cycle. The Woking Cycle User’s Group had submitted a request for a place. As most of the issues that come to me about the canal are irresponsible cyclists, Cllr Kemeny (vice-chair) and I were keen for cyclists to be represented and voted accordingly. Sadly our votes were not enough, and WCUG missed out by one place. WBC in conjunction with the Basingstoke Canal Authority will probably be placing litter bins across our nine mile stretch in the near future. Not guaranteed yet, so fingers crossed. The BCA’s weed cutter should be in operation by the end of the month after repairs and refurbishment, and I believe will target the Woking areas initially.
I’ve decided to immediately stop doing my surgeries in Brookwood Club on the third Monday of each month. In the last three months, I’ve had one person attend, generally it is me, a pint of beer and a bag of pork scratchings. My time can be better spent elsewhere and I believe I’m easily accessible via telephone and email. Of course, I shall carry on meeting residents when anyone requests and I’ll continue getting involved in larger resident meetings when required. I’m happy to change this and start doing surgeries again if there is demand.
PLAN/2013/0864 seeks to link Brookwood Primary School with its new campus over at Brookwood Farm. It’s quite a bold plan as it requires a new footbridge to be built over the canal. The bridge will be a swing bridge so it can be closed off outside of school hours. This would mean that the path across the Country Park would be public access, whilst the path across the school would remain for private use of the school. Seems very sensible to me.
It has now come to light that SCC may in future want to make the pathway a public right of way across the school. Of course they would be required to guarantee the safety of the school, i.e. ensuring the path is sufficiently fenced off, but it does make me a bit uneasy about the change of use and I know it is causing some distress to nearby residents.
I have decided to call this application in, which means it will be fully debated at the Planning Committee. I simply don’t believe the officers of WBC and SCC will make a decision that is in the best interests of Brookwood here. Rather, they will be trying to demonstrate value for money by ensuring the pathway is used to its maximum capacity. As it joins the canal path, which is already a well laid, cycle grade pathway, and most traffic for the pathway will be either school related or railway station related, I see no reason to create another public footpath which joins Connaught Road by the school.
As is usual in all planning applications, the officers will accept representations of support or objection beyond the consultation period end date so make sure you send your views to WBC via the Planning Portal or via the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also provide me with your views so I can try and reach a balanced opinion of what Brookwood wants.
The map has gone to WBC for some comments around the proposed area. Knowing the Hook Heath area was modified very slightly by WBC for good reasons, we will get a view back from Planning as to whether the proposed area is suitable prior to formally submitting it. It could be that we have a ratified constitution in place by then as well which would mean both the area and the forum being submitted and consulted on at the same time.
Over the next week, a leaflet will be delivered to all house holders in the proposed area outlining the forum and its aims. This contains details of the forum website, how to contact members of the forum and notices of two public meetings being held in November for interested parties to get involved. The forum website may be viewed here: http://www.bbnf.org.uk
Two meetings have been arranged at Brookwood school on the evenings of 19 and 28 November at 19:00. This will be your chance to understand what we are trying to achieve and details on the opportunity to become one of the founding members of the forum committee.
Finally, I drew my standard allowance and IT/Comms allowance during October, but claimed no expenses.
I’ve just realised I haven’t updated my blog for around three weeks. I apologise about that, I’ve been shockingly busy with all manner of stuff. I’ll give a quick overview here.
The SCC Local Committee is coming up on 4 December and I’ve been working with three residents who wish to ask questions at that meeting. Essentially, they have come to me as the borough councillor with problems that are county related and thus out of my sphere of influence. Most people don’t know they have a voice regarding county matters via the Local Committee.
I attended a confidential green belt review briefing. Obviously I can’t divulge in any detail what I learned, but suffice to say, any possible changes to Brookwood are expected, warranted and I support them. Essentially, there is nothing for Brookwood ward residents to worry about.
I attended a briefing regarding the bandstand development. This ambitious plan sees the relocation of the fire station and market, and then a lot of retail space created, as well as more residential flats. Not overly impressed about the height of the buildings, but see the paragraph above for a steer on my view.
The WWF building in Woking is now open, and I was invited to have a tour. It is impressive, a major asset to Woking and a coup to bring another high profile organisation to our borough. Yes I know there has been contentious issues around financing initially and in to the future, but I think it cements Woking’s green credentials which is important. It opens to the public soon, and there are quite interesting displays and interactive areas to see.
At planning committee at the start of November, we approved some aspects of the Sainsbury’s re-development. This was done amid much opposition from local residents that complained of sustained noise problems. I along with two of the Knaphill councillors walked the area at midnight last week with a member of the public who was able to point out the problems to us and demonstrate the sound levels through sophisticated sound detecting kit. As this is not in my ward, I have left this with Knaphill to pursue.
The Brookwood and Bridley Neighbourhood Forum is beginning to take shape. Some key members have joined and things are powering ahead. An extensive leafleting campaign over the previous two weeks hit about 95% of the area, and we held an awareness session last week, with another tonight at 19:00 in the school hall. Please come along if you can.
This afternoon, I am touring the area with the WBC planning strategy officer. We are looking at the whole planned neighbourhood area so that he may get a better understanding of the area and the challenges of planning here. This is far better than a desk study and I thank him for coming out to Brookwood and Bridley to help us. I expect to give a verbal update tonight at the meeting.
At the end of August, SCC applied for planning permission for a new foot path between the new school building to be built as part of Brookwood Farm and the existing school off Connaught Road.
The application has been steadily working its way through the system, but early on a resident got wind that the intention was to make it a public foot path. This seemed ridiculous as part of the path was through the existing school grounds with a swing bridge over the canal controlled and operated by the school. The application does not mention it is to be a public foot path and WBC would rightly determine the application on what is before them. I clarified this with WBC, and they had no knowledge of a public foot path through the school grounds. The school also had no knowledge that it was to be a public foot path at this point. No one has a problem with it being a public foot path across the fields.
I suggested the resident asked a written question at the SCC Local Committee (Woking), and tonight the answer was received. The simple answer is that as far as SCC is concerned, it is to be a public foot path, with the intention to convert it to a dual cycle path in the future. Quite why this isn’t in the application is anyone’s guess. Clearly, a public foot path open all hours requires a different planning consideration to a private path being used during school hours. The application has nothing in it regarding screening residents from additional night time noise, and there is no security fencing for the school grounds.
Fortunately, the application has yet to be determined. I shall be emailing the additional evidence from the SCC Local Committee to the planning officer shortly, and I shall call the application in if the officers are to recommend anything but refusal. By calling the application in, it ensures the application is determined by elected councillors.
As the online consultation period has ended, if you wish to support or object to the application you will need to email email@example.com with PLAN/2013/0864 in the subject line.
There is confusion around this application between the two authorities, (I got into trouble tonight for describing it as a ‘total disarray’ in the chamber, for which I apologise) clearly created by SCC and impacting WBC planners and Brookwood residents. The planning application is misleading, and it is only by luck that the details are slowly coming out.
Finally, last month I claimed no expenses, but did receive my councillor allowance and IT/Comms allowance.
Things move rapidly in Council terms occasionally.
It appears the application PLAN/2013/0864 has been withdrawn by the applicant. Strange coincidence that the decision should come immediately after the application’s short comings were exposed at a public meeting.
I hope SCC will now work with all concerned to get this application into shape, especially the school management, residents and even the WBC Planning Department, none of whom were aware until last night that this was to be a public foot path through the school grounds.
Tonight at a meeting of the proposed Brookwood and Bridley Neighbourhood Forum, a significant group of residents voted to form a Neighbourhood Forum by adopting a constitution. Voted to agree a Neighbourhood Area acceptable to all present, and finally voted to elect a Management Committee, as well as authorise that committee to submit an application to WBC for approval and formal adoption.
This is tremendous news for the Neighbourhood Area, and will give all residents and businesses a chance to have more of a say in how our area progresses in the future.
You may still get involved, and you would be most welcome.
At Planning Committee, we knocked back an application by SCC related to the new school. It wasn’t something anyone on the committee wanted to do, however some of us have the impression that SCC is rushing this application, and corners are being cut to try and get this in as soon as possible.
The application was mainly dealing with the building and access. The application was confined to a tightly controlled area which prevented us from raising issues outside of this designated area. Farcical. We were unable to re-open the debate on traffic problems for example as this has already been judged to be acceptable based on the outline planning permission granted in January. The area on the plans for parking and drop off was outside of the area under consideration. Worse, the withdrawn plans for a path connecting the two schools is a key component of the travel plan that the school has to deliver, and is also ‘access’. This was also outside of the area. So we were told in the meeting the fact that those plans had been withdrawn shouldn’t stop this application proceeding.
Experience and cynicism says that once this application was approved, SCC would brush the other problems under the carpet and resolve to never sort out access properly. So I proposed a motion, which was seconded, and we effectively insisted that SCC submit a proper coherent application without cutting corners, and trying to slip things through without people noticing.
As a resident said to me afterwards, what have SCC been doing for the previous 10 months since outline planning permission was granted? To come to committee with a poorly thought out application, withdrawing a major component of the application after their intentions were publicly outed a few weeks ago is shocking.
I’m also a little disappointed that our own WBC officers didn’t bat the application back to SCC before it even reached us. Surely they could see the holes in it?
We have to have development and growth, but not at any cost. SCC and WBC have to get this right.
Have a great Christmas and remember there are slight changes to our bin collection dates: http://www.woking.gov.uk/environment/wasterecycle/householdwaste/christmaswaste