Smannell Road Excavations update


Residents will by now know that the funfair planned for this weekend has been cancelled again. The main reason for the cancellation was the weather making the site too water logged for the fair to open. However, only a small fair could have moved on to the site because of ongoing works by Southern Water. This work also contributed to the condition of the grounds. It is hoped that the fair can be re-scheduled for October.

I raised local concerns about Southern Water’s access to the Smannell Road open space at Wednesday’s council meeting. They have the power under government legislation to go on to the land and lay pipes but should advise Test Valley before doing so. On this occasion they did not do so. The current work is to rectify problems with the previous work carried out in April.

Once completed all work must be checked by Test Valley to ensure the land has been re-instated to the previous standard. The previous work was not completed to an acceptable standard and this has been communicated to Southern Water. Council officers will now check the site weekly to ensure the work is done properly. The council will also be seeking compensation for officer time related to the work, costs to rectify substandard work and any potential loss of income for the funfair.

I have also been given assurances that the East Anton developers and their sub-contractors will not access the Smannell Road open space without full consultation with the council and your local councillors to ensure disruption and inconvenience to local residents is minimised.

Damaged Street Signs – latest

Swallowfields sign

In July I reported a damaged street name sign in Swallowfields to discover that the lead time for repairs is six weeks and that because of staff shortages work was often taking even longer. I raised this with the Cabinet member responsible at yesterday’s council meeting and got the following response.

 A six week lead time is typical because signs are ordered in bulk on a six week cycle. Approximately 35 signs are repaired and 80 replaced every year at a cost of £3000 pa (£85 per sign) for repairs and £10,000 pa (£125 per sign) for replacement.

Council officers are required to survey damaged signs before further damage is done and pro-actively repair signs where possible. Doing so saves the council £40 a time and prevents the area looking run down. Because of staff shortages this service has not been provided for several months. Now that extra staff have been recruited it is hoped the service will return to normal once the backlog of work is cleared.

For the future I would advise residents to report all damaged signs as soon as possible so that repairs can be undertaken before the signs  are damaged beyond repair.

Damage should be reported to Test Valley Borough Council on 01264 368000 or direct to me.

Tories reject more spending on buses

Hampshire Bus

Test Valley Tory councillors have rejected calls for increased spending on public transport. At this week’s borough council meeting councilors debated petrol prices. Lib Dem councillors proposed the following amendment to a Tory motion –

 “Test Valley Borough Council will communicate its concerns (on fuel prices)to the government and request it take appropriate action to control fluctuations in fuel prices whilst encouraging investment in alternative environmentally friendly fuels and investing in adequate public transport for those areas currently over dependant on private cars for transport.”

In proposing this I reminded councillors of their need, as signatories to the Nottingham Declaration on Climate Change to promote more environmentally friendly policies and reduce local dependence on private cars. However they rejected the motion preferring to send a demand to the Labour government that it introduce a “fuel stabiliser” to subsidise petrol prices from tax revenues. This move would reward the owners of gas guzzlers while ignoring the needs of the 20% of local people with no access to private transport.

Residents condemn green waste charges

Garden Waste bag

Local residents complained angrily this evening at the Andover Forum about charges for green waste collection in the borough. The current bag system was introduced after Test Valley decided the previously used wheely bins were not suitable for green waste.

When the bags were introduced the new system was intended to be self funding and assurances were given to the public that no costs would fall on non-participating residents. However the new system proved to be more expensive than expected and the annual cost for 2006/2007 was £3.99 for every household in the borough. The issue has been debated at the council’s scrutiny committee when I argued strongly that those residents using the green waste scheme should pay the full cost of the scheme. The majority group disagreed but did agree to increase charges by £1 per bag for the following year. It is expected that the scheme will cost £2.75 per household over the coming (2008/2009) year.

Defenders of the scheme argue that it makes a significant contribution of 5% to our overall recycling rate. While I accept that our recycling has improved I would prefer the council to spend money on real recycling and reducing the amount of waste sent to land fill rather than paying residents to collect grass cuttings to artificially massage recycling rates.

I and my Lib Dem colleagues will be raising the matter again next year when budgets are set and pushing strongly for a self financing scheme and a real increase of recycling of household waste.

Environmental meetings

Climate change affects us all

Interest in Environmnetal issues in Andover is increasing. As previously reported here the next meeting of the Amazing Alamein group takes place this evening at 6:00pm at King Arthur’s Hall. Come along you will be amazed at what the local community can achieve.

Amazing Alamein also have a litter pick planned for next Tuesday (15th) at 3:00 – 5:30, meet outside Roman Way school. Further details tonight or contact me.

This coming Friday (11th July) the Andover Area Christian Ecology Link are holding an evening of information entitled “Climate Change – why we should care and what we can do”. 

The meeting, introduced by Rev Jill Bentall is at St Thomas’ Community Hall, Charlton and starts at 7:30pm. Speakers include Anton Page of Test Valley Friends of the Earth and Rebecca Windwood of the Envirnment Centre.

I’m not sure I can make this one myself but having attended previous talks by Anton I can recommend what I am sure will be an entertaining and informtive meeting.

The folly of biofuels

Grain for biofuel

As a chemist working in the food industry for the past 35 years I have always had doubts about the viability and morality of biofuels. To devote vast acreages of land to the generation of plants solely for the production of fuels for cars when millions do not have enough food to eat is both selfish and irresponsible.

It was interesting to read therefore on Friday that a World Bank report study has shown that biofuel production has forced world food prices up by 75%. The figure contradicts US government claims that biofuels contribute less than 3% to food price rises. But who believes a US government run by the oil industry and its puppet.

Robert Bailey, a policy adviser at Oxfam is quoted in the Guardian as saying “Political leaders seem intent on suppressing the strong evidence that biofuels are a major factor in recent food price rises.” The study has identified three ways in which biofuels have distorted the price of foods. First it has diverted grain away from food with over a third of US corn and half of EC vegetable oil used to produce biofuel. Second farmers are being encouraged to set aside land for fuel production and third it has sparked speculation in grain prices.

Reports today suggest prime minister Gordon Brown is setting himself up for a potential clash with US officials by calling for a moratorium on biofuel production at least from grain crops. This is of course too little to late from a government which has for too long been subservient to the US government and its oil industry.

What is needed is an alternative policy which encourages reduction of use of carbon based fuels all of which contribute to global warming and all of which are not in the long term economically or environmentally sustainable.

Amazing Alamein

A new environment group has recently established it self in the Alamein Ward and what a difference it has made already!! Set up by local residents, the group will be tackling various environmental projects throughout the ward, ranging from planting flowerbeds, assisting with conservation at Anton Lakes, encouraging recycling, a source of information for the community and much more more.

One project has been completed to date; using plants donated to the group by Blakes Nursery on Saturday 19 April at Atholl Court, King Arthurs Way. Local residents were asked to choose a plant, which was then planted by member of the environment group. A once dull and neglected bed flowerbed has now been transformed bringing much colour to the area. Chris Lawton, Church Army Family Worker, commented “it really does brighten up the area and I’ve received many positive comments about it.” Chris provides outreach sessions at the Askalot Community Shop.

If you would like to get involved, the next meeting is being held on May18 at 6pm at King Arthur’s Hall, or for more information please call John Cockaday on 01264 334562.

 Story supplied by Marianne Piggin, Community Support Officer, Test Valley Borough Council

Alamein Environmental Group

Alamein Community Association is working to make the Alamein Ward an even nicer place to live. Are you interested in your local environment? Would you like to help take action to make it even better?

Come and find out more at King Arthur’s Hall on 10th April 2008 at 5:30pm. Refreshments will be available. Representatives of Test Valley, Testway Housing and Hampshire County Council will be there.
Following this the next step will be a chance to get together and talk about what types of environmental issues you would like to tackle. This will be at King Arthur’s Hall on 29th April at

All residents are welcome at either or both events. For more information please contact

Alison Angell, Community Support, Hampshire County Council
email – [email protected],  phone -07736 792686
Marianne Piggin, Community Support, Test Valley Borough Council                  
email – [email protected],  phone – 07899 664209

East Anton tree planting delayed

Local residents hoping to see the start of planting and landscaping of the East Anton MDA this spring have been told nothing will now happen until November 2008.

The landscaping will be in two parts, both areas will be planted with native species:

1)       A woodland landscape feature 25m deep along Dark Lane and a similar feature 25m – 40m deep between the proposed playing fields and Woodhouse/Smannell. Work will start once plans have been approved and must be finished within the planting season after the first house is built on the MDA.

2)       A 20m corridor from the playing fields south to the Smannell Road/Finkley Road junction will start at the same time and be completed prior to the building of the 700th house on the MDA. 

I share residents’ disappointment in the delay and will be monitoring progress to ensure as much planting as possible is finished by spring 2009.

No funding for rat control

Test Valley borough council has withdrawn its free rat clearance service on the ground that there are too many rats. Due to the unusually warm winter there has been a dramatic increase in the number of rodents to the level where the council’s three Pest Control Officers can no longer respond to all public requests for rat clearance. “But if the rat numbers are going up then the Council should resource and fund the pest Control service adequately” said Romsey councillor Mark Cooper. “I was given firm assurances by the Leader of TVBC that rat clearance would continue to be a free service for all Test Valley residents“, yet the very next day The Head of Environment and Health announced to councillors a reduction in the rat clearance service for a period of three months, telling them that people who called in would be advised to refer to Yellow Pages, for details of private pest control companies” he said. TVBC will continue to treat for rodents where the householder has a disability, has pre-school children or is over 60 and in receipt of benefit. The Council will also answer a call out where the source of the rats is open land such as a railway or river. 

The borough council voted on Wednesday not to allocate more resources to rat clearance…the vote was on party lines. However, Conservative Portfolio holder Peter Boulton did concede that “he wanted to deal with the rat problem.” The issue will be discussed at the council’s next Executive meeting.