Victory for housing campaign

Housing developers Taylor Wimpey have withdrawn an application to reduce the affordable housing content at Augusta Park to 30%.

The decision comes after TVBC planners decided to recommend refusal of the application. The application was universally condemned by parish councils and residents including local Lib Dem campaigners see details here. Lib Dem Len Gates wrote to TVBC objecting to the proposals. You can read his comments here objections to planning application

Welcoming the news Len said “There is a major shortage of affordable housing in Andover and across North West Hampshire I am pleased to see Test Valley planners acknowledge this and will be holding Taylor Wimpey to their obligation to supply affordable homes for local people.”

 

Lib Dems call for rethink on yellow lines

Alamein Liberal Democrats are calling for a rethink on the discredited parking restrictions installed on Roman Way and King Arthurs Way. Andover Town Councillor Barbara Carpenter is leading the campaign.

Barbara who originally called for yellow lines on the corners along Roman Way only says “the council’s response to put yellow lines all along the roads has caused nothing but aggravation for local residents. The decision was made by borough councillors with no knowledge or understanding of the area.”

Local campaigners have recently launched a petition calling for a rethink of the yellow lines. You can sign the petition here

Planning permission approved for more homes

Despite widespread local opposition Taylor Wimpey have been given planning permission for a further 350 homes at Augusta Park. The new site was originally reserved for a new secondary school for the town and many residents in Augusta Park bought homes in the mistaken belief this school was to be built.

Opposition to the plan was lead by local Liberal Democrats including town councillors Barbara Carpenter and  Len Gates. Len spoke against the plans at the borough’s planning meeting when Tory councillors ignored local concerns and voted the proposal through. Full details can be found here and here.

Local conservatives continue to dismiss objections while residents ask quite rightly when are they to get the infrastructure every community has a right to expect.

Refugees welcome here

Andover Town Council has backed Lib Dem calls to call on the borough and county councils to take a more positive approach to welcoming refugees to Andover.

The motion proposed by Lib Dem Cllr Len Gates at the council’s October meeting was as follows –

ATC notes-

  • The current plight of thousands of refugees fleeing war in Syria and other countries
  • The legal obligations of the United Kingdom as a signatory of the 1951 United Nations Convention and its 1967 Protocol on Refugees
  • The recent public petition calling on Test Valley Borough Council to welcome refugees to Andover, reflecting the humanity and Britishness of fellow Andoverians and
  • The recent deplorable attempts by some journalists and politicians to demonise these refugees and refuse them help.

 

ATC calls on-

  • Test Valley Borough Council and Hampshire County Council to facilitate the reception, support, and integration of refugees into Andover
  • Central government to extend financial support to local councils for the reception of refugees and their integration past the one-year point so that the more generous communities are not unduly financially penalised.

Len’s statement to the council meeting can be read in full here – Refugees speech.

Speaking after the meeting he said “I am appalled by some recent newspaper headlines and the behaviour of politicians seeking to demonise these innocent people. We should be taking our fair share of refugees in the spirit of decency and humanity and welcome them not begrudge them.”

“This country has a proud record in helping refugees; those who oppose doing so do not speak for me, my country or my town. Their arrogance, ignorance and selfishness have no place in our society. I am proud to see Andover join so many other towns in taking a lead in calling for a positive response to the humanitarian crisis on our doorstep.”

Borough council election results

After a very long campaign and almost four hours to count the votes the result for the Alamein borough council election was announced on Friday. Results were as follows

Phil North Conservative 1960
Alexander Michael Brook Conservative 1677
Tracey Lorraine Preston Conservative 1570
Conner Docherty UK Independence 941
Len Gates Liberal Democrat Focus Team 768
Robin Hughes Liberal Democrat Focus Team 688
Amy Michele Bower Liberal Democrat Focus Team 686
Andy Fitchet Labour 648
Ben Kinross Labour 569
Michael Joseph Mumford Labour 504
Adam Richard Timby Green 468
Joshua James Cussen Green 418

Thank you to everyone who voted for us in the borough council elections. And thank you to everyone who took the time to discuss local issues with us and support us throughout the campaign. Your support made it worthwhile and showed Liberal Democrat values are still important to local people. We will continue to campaign for these values on your behalf.

Amy Bower, Len Gates, Robin Hughes

 

 

Disgraced councillor – Lib Dems call for answers

Local Liberal Democrats have written to the chief executive of Test Valley Borough Council calling for an explanation and action in the case of disgraced Conservative ex-councillor Ellie Charnley.

Mrs Charnley was automatically disqualified as a councillor in January after failing to attend meetings for six months (see previous story here).. Despite this she later attended and participated in meetings and presumably continued to draw her councillor’s allowance. Her non-attendance was raised on a number of occasions but no action was taken either by council officers or the council leadership. The facts are as follows

  •  Mrs Charnley attended a planning on 22nd July 2014 and no other meetings between then and 21st January at which time she was automatically disqualified as a councillor. It also appears she has not attended any Overview and Scrutiny committee meetings, the most important committee for protecting the public’s interests, since 2011.
  •  Her lack of attendance was reported on 15th January. Despite this no-one within Test Valley Borough Council was aware that she was automatically disqualified from 21st January.
  • Mrs Charnley attended planning meetings on 22nd January and 12th February. She was not entitled to do so. By allowing this the council has exposed itself to a possible judicial review if an aggrieved resident felt so inclined.
  • On 31st March Mrs Charnley was still listed as a councillor and still referred to as a councillor by officers. Council officers were advised of this and a response requested. A further email of 7th April asked for action. No response has been received.
  • The matter was again raised at a council meeting on 15th April 2015; officers were unaware of the situation and not prepared to give an answer. They eventually replied on 1st May – over three months after Mrs. Charnley ceased to be a councillor.

Lib Dem councillors are now asking for urgent answers to the following questions

  • Is the chief executive satisfied with the handling of this matter?
  • Did Mrs Charnley receive her councillor’s pay after 21st January?
  • If so what action has been taken to have the allowance paid back?
  • What action will be taken to prevent a re-occurrence of this?

Vice chairman of North West Hants Liberal Democrats commented “this is unacceptable. A councillor has abused the system and yet no action has been taken either by officers or council leaders. Rather than address the problem there appears to be an effort to ignore it in the hope that no-one would notice.”

Andover councillor Nigel Long said “the timetable of responses is simply not good enough. Residents expect their councillors to represent them and make decisions on their behalf. By her behaviour Mrs Charnley has failed in her public duties and compromised the integrity of the council.”

Fellow councillor Katherine Bird added “It is shocking that there is apparently so little awareness of the law which disqualified Mrs Charnley after six months of absence.  It is made worse by the delay in dealing with the situation after it was brought to the attention of the administration. These things need to be addressed immediately.”

The case of the disappearing parking spaces

Residents of Camelot Close have rejected claims by local Tories that additional parking spaces have been allocated to them. The reports in March suggest the councillors had recently got planning permission for 12 extra spaces.

In reality what happened was that Aster Communities applied to convert an existing open space into car parking. Councillors approved the plans by email just before Christmas. No formal meeting was held to discuss it despite objections from residents concerned about loss of open space used as a play area and the proximity of the new parking to their homes.

Andover Town Council and residents commented that the twelve spaces were too narrow. As many residents park vans and large cars at home wide spaces are essential. This may loose two spaces. Twelve becomes ten.

 Access to the new area is via an existing turning head where two and sometimes three cars currently park. These spaces would therefore be lost. Ten becomes seven.

 Having received permission for the car park Aster now propose to build three more houses on open green space in the same area leading to a loss (according to Andover Town Council) of a further six parking spaces.  Seven becomes one.

 Finally it is reported that one of the new spaces is to be a disabled space despite no resident asking for an allocated space. One becomes zero.

 If and/or when both proposal go ahead Camelot Close residents will have lost one paved open space used as a play area, and one grassed open space also used for play and parking. The net gain – one disabled parking space?

Whiteley sacked by Tories

Residents may have seen stories suggesting that Alamein conservative councillor Janet Whiteley has decided to stand down from the borough council. However reports are emerging that far from retiring Mrs Whiteley and her husband, and fellow councillor Neville, had both wished to stand for re-election but were summarily rejected by local conservatives.

Janet and Neville Whiteley_jpg-pwrt2

Janet and Neville Whiteley (picture from Romsey Advertiser)

For many years Mrs Whiteley has split her time between serving as a borough councillor for Alamein ward and sitting on Stockbridge town council. She wanted to move to a safe conservative seat near her Stockbridge home. However, Tory officials decided not to call her for selection.   “As a sitting councillor, I would have thought that I was a strong candidate.  It’s the principal of it all that has upset me and I think that what’s happened is disgraceful” she said.

Meanwhile husband Neville is threatening to resign his party membership after being replaced as council candidate for Dun Valley. The decision came in a meeting to which Neville had just 36 hours notice. “I am disgusted at this behaviour and disappointed. It’s very shoddy and I will now be looking at whether I continue my membership of the Conservative party,” Mr Whiteley said. “I didn’t stand down. I wasn’t given the opportunity to continue and was replaced. ”

The full story can be read on the Romsey Advertiser website here

Golf Club should be a formal Park for all Andoverians

Andover golf Club lies on a chalk spur which extends westwards from Bere Hill, rising from below the 75 metres contour in the north western corner to over 110 metres in the east. It is the highest land in Andover.  It covers 44.74 acres (18.12 hectares) and it is owned by Test Valley Borough Council.

The Andover Golf Club dates back to 1907 and the current course is a 6,100 yard par 70 and is 18 holes. Over the years the Club has looked after Test Valley’s asset. It is a very attractive area of countryside. It is hemmed in on three sides by housing development and the southern edge is constrained by the feeder road on and off the A303. Public paths skirt the eastern and southern edges so Andoverians are fully cognisant of the golf course’s landscape quality.

In truth, however, the site is rather constrained. The Hampshire Golf Club, just one mile to the south is much bigger. Despite being a relatively new course, the Hampshire Club is more highly rated by its users. The Golfshake review gives Andover Golf Club (as at the end of March) a review score of 3.47… and there are 31 reviews. The Hampshire Club ‘s Golfshake review is 3.94, with 180 reviews. And therein lies the problem. The number of users. The Andover Club only has 250 members and that includes the Juniors.

“The Andover Club leases the Golf Course from Test Valley,” says Cllr Mark Cooper. “I don’t see how they can sustain their leasing costs and all the usual Club overheads on just 250 members. It really is time for Test Valley to review its asset and to see if the land is being put to its best use. With a population of 40,000 Andover has need for a large amount of recreation land. The Andover Golf Course site would make an excellent formal park for the use of ALL Andoverians, not just a handful of golfers.”

“That’s why Cllr Katherine Bird and I have submitted the following motion to Test Valley’s full Council Meeting on Wednesday, 15th April.

‘In view of the reported small membership and therefore perceived lack of viability of Andover Golf Club, Test Valley Borough Council should call in the lease and give consideration for an alternative use for the 18.12 hectares (44.74 acres) as a park for the recreational use of ALL Andoverians and Test Valley residents, rather than a limited number of golfers.’

Cllr. Cooper has been informed that the matter will be referred to the Council’s cabinet for discussion. There will be no debate at the April Council meeting.  It will then come back to a future Council agenda for discussion by all Councillors.

(Cllr Katherine Bird is a member for the Andover St. Mary’s Ward. Cllr Mark Cooper was Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Test Valley between 1991 and 2001, 2011 and 2012 and Leader or joint Leader of Test Valley Borough Council 1995 to 1998).

Disqualified Councillor attends meeting

News has just emerged that a conservative borough councillor attended a meeting (and presumably voted) when disqualified from doing so.

Cllr Elly Charnley Conservative member for Penton Bellinger attended a Northern Area Planning Committee on 22nd July 2014 and then failed to attend any other meetings in 2014. Council rules stipulate that any member not attending for six months is automatically disqualified and must not attend or participate in any future meetings unless given dispensation by full council. This did not happen.

According to the regulations Mrs Charnley ceased to be a councillor at midnight on 21st January 2015. Despite this Mrs Charnley attended a further planning meeting on 22nd January 2015 in direct breach of the rules, No action was taken by the council leadership.

Commenting NW Hants Liberal Democrat vice chairman Len Gates said “This is a disgraceful flouting of the rules by this ex-councillor and the leadership of the council. Previously when councillors have not attended action has been taken either by allowing a dispensation or by removal of party membership from the offending councillor. On this occasion the conservatives appear to have swept the matter under the carpet in the hope no-one would notice.”