Avoid the blue badge parking scam

Hampshire Trading Standards are would like to bring the public’s attention to websites offering Blue Badge parking applications online, and charging a fee of £49.  The websites are not affiliated or associated with any local council, or any other official body or organisation. 

It is not obvious from entering the websites that they are not official, or that an application fee is charged.  However, the information is contained in the terms and conditions, and it is recommended that these are looked at before deciding whether to use the sites.

It is possible to apply for a Blue Badge online through the official website https://www.gov.uk/apply-blue-badge  or via Hampshire County Council’s website  http://www3.hants.govuk/bluebadge/treasurers-bluebadgeapply.htm

There is a fee of £10 per application, but no other charges.

Hampshire residents wishing to find out more information on how to apply for a Blue Badge, or to download an application form, can visit the Hampshire County Council’s website Blue Badge, telephone 0300 555 1376 or email to [email protected]

Anyone wishing to make a complaint against an unofficial Blue Badge website or to receive advice, should contact Trading Standards via our partners Citizens Advice Consumer Service  03454 04 05 06.

Hampshire County Council Trading Standards Service

Montgomery House, Monarch Way

Winchester, Hampshire  SO22 5PW

Tel: 01962 833620

Fax: 01962 833698

E-mail: [email protected]

 

 

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?

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).

Say NO to a reduction in affordable housing

Alamein Liberal Democrats are calling on councillors to reject proposals to cut the number of affordable homes in Andover. In a recently submitted planning request Taylor Wimpey, developers of the Augusta Park site, have applied for a change of their obligations so the number of affordable homes is reduced from 40% to 30%.

The 40% figure was agreed when planning permission was granted and is a mixture of rented and shared ownership homes. The change would apply to houses yet to be built at Augusta Park and could mean a loss of 200 affordable homes. Taylor Wimpey has recently received permission to build 350 additional houses on land originally intended for a new secondary school at Augusta Park.

Lib Dem spokesman Len Gates said “the 40% figure was part of the legal agreement with Test Valley and reflected the needs of the local community. It has been shown to be economically viable. A previous attempt to reduce the number of affordable homes was recommended for refusal. Taylor Wimpey’s attempt to change it now boosts their profits at the expense of local residents.”

Fellow campaigner Sheryl Scott-Clarke added “on Test Valley’s housing register there are over 2,000 people in housing need. Many of them could be accommodated by the 40% requirement which is part of the council’s planning strategy. New development must reflect the needs of local residents. The council planning department and councillors should ensure its policies and targets are met.”

Campaigners are recommending that local residents join them in submitting objections to the proposals. This can be done via the council website here. The application number is 15/00437/OBLN.

Residents condemn parking restrictions

 

Residents of King Arthur’s Way and Roman Way have reacted angrily to the newly introduced double yellow lines on several local roads. Many have contacted us complaining of no consultation and no notice being given on the plans. The plans were approved last year by Alamein’s conservative councillors. Full details of the plans and the   council officer’s report on local consultation and the decision making can be seen on the Test Valley website here

We were particularly concerned by local comments that the decision to introduce yellow lines on King Arthur’s Way was made by or for local Liberal Democrats. The following letter of clarification has been sent to King Arthur’s Way residents. We will also be contacting Roman Way residents.

Dear residents

 Many of you have contacted us in the last twenty four hours regarding the recently introduced double yellow lines on King Arthur’s Way. These are outside Knights Enham School, in Launcelot Close, and at the junction of King Arthur’s Way and Stuart Court.

 There has been some suggestion that these were introduced at the prompting of or by local Liberal Democrats. This is not true. The restrictions were introduced by Test Valley Borough Council following “consultations” carried out in June of last year on a range of parking restrictions for the whole of Alamein ward. Two public meetings were held and 250 letters sent out. Full details can be seen in the attached council report.

Given that there are about 900 homes in the King Arthur’s Way area it is likely most of you didn’t get a letter. This is confirmed by the fact that only two comments were received on the plans for King Arthur’s Way.

The decision to introduce the parking restrictions was made in July 2014 by your conservative borough councillors Phil North and Janet Whiteley. The third conservative councillor Alex Brook didn’t attend the meeting but later signed off on his colleagues’ decisions. All of this is clearly recorded in the attached report.

 Local Liberal Democrats had no input in the decision making and made no comment on it until November when we lobbied TVBC to take action on road safety outside Roman Way School. We campaigned then and still want to see a controlled crossing outside the school. We were advised of the decision to introduce yellow lines outside the school and that these would be introduced in February. We supported these as a first step to improving road safety at Roman Way School. We did not endorse any of the other parking restrictions.

 The problem here is that your local councillors have signed off on a package of parking restrictions without bothering to adequately consult with you, or inform you on the plans or decisions. Many of you will have recently received an eight page colour newsletter from them. There is no mention of the yellow lines they have approved. This is a disgraceful failure on their part for which they owe everyone an apology.

 We hope to speak to as many of you as possible about the way these new yellow lines were introduced and will raise your concerns with the council. If you have any comments in the meantime please contact us.

Roman Way School update #2

We are pleased to report that following a meeting between local campaigners and council officers improvements to road signage will be carried out on the approach to Roman Way School.

Roman Way School West

Roman Way School approach in November 2014

 

The meeting was held in November and reported here on the Alamein Focus team website.  Among the traffic calming measures suggested by Len Gates and the campaign team was a review of existing road signs and additional signs on the road. The Focus team had previously surveyed the roads and signs outside both Roman Way and Knights Enham Schools. Photos and details were submitted to officers and discussed at the meeting.

A specific issue requested was the repositioning of the existing school sign on the approach from Newbury Road to ensure it was visible to drivers exiting the A343 King Arthurs’ Way roundabout. Details of the discussions and agreed improvements were reported in our Roman Way Focus of November.

Both the suggestions to move the sign and a request for extra “slow” signs were taken up by highways officers and have now been approved by the county council highways department. The sign has been moved and the extra road markings will be painted in February  at the same time as painting double yellow lines to prohibit parking at the school entrance. This was another measure agreed at our meeting.

The Alamein Focus team will continue to monitor road safety in the area and report back on improvements as they happen.

 

 

 

40 mph limit for Newbury Road

Enham speed limit

2008 Lib Dem councillors Robin Hughes and Len Gates campaigned for and got a 30 mph limit through Enham village..

Alamein Focus team are calling for a reduction in the speed limit along Newbury Road from Enham arch through to Enham Alamein. The current speed limit varies between 30 mph and 50 mph along this stretch of road. Enham Alamein parish council also want speed restrictions south of the village. The current 30 mph limit in Enham Alamein village was introduced after a successful campaign by Lib Dem councillors Len Gates and Robin Hughes.

Len Gates has contacted police and county councillors to get their support for the initiative and has written to highways officers asking for a review of the speed limits along this stretch of road. Andover Town Councillor Barbara Carpenter supports the campaign. “Reducing speeds would reduce noise and air pollution for residents of Roman Way, King Arthur’s Way and Lilywhite Crescent” she said. Fellow Town Councillor, Kevin Hughes, added “Many parents and children cross Newbury Road from Roman Way to Knights Enham Schools. A lower speed limit would make the journey to school safer for all of them.”

The Lib Dem proposal are to replace the existing 40 mph (Greenwich Way to King Arthur’s Way), 50 mph (King Arthur’s Way to Knights Enham) and 60 mph (Knights Enham to Enham Alamein) with simpler, safer limits of 30 mph (Enham Arch to Smannell Road) and 40 mph (Smannell Road to Enham Alamein).

The Alamein Lib Dem team have already succeeded in persuading the borough council to review traffic calming measures on Smannell Road and on Viking Way outside Roman Way School.

Residents say planning policies have failed

During November and December Alamein Liberal Democrats surveyed over 900 residents on their views of local planning policies. Replies were overwhelming critical of the Tory run council and its policies.

Over 70% of respondents agreed strongly, and a further 20% agreed, with the statement “Andover has grown with many more homes but no other facilities.” Just 5% disagreed with the statement. A similar margin of 90% called for improvements in local roads to cope with the extra traffic generated. The only crumb of comfort for planners was the overall satisfaction with the current level of affordable housing.

When asked what extras facilities were most needed 84% said more shops, 58% wanted more and better local employment and 54% wanted more/cheaper town centre parking. All of these and more were promised as the “planning gain” when the original housing plans were approved.

Commenting on the results Lib Dem spokesman Len Gates said “the Tories policy of building large numbers of homes in the hope that other benefits will follow has obviously failed. Residents have been left with massive housing developments on one side of town and nothing else. The council now need to deal with this. The Tories should not be approving more large scale housing developments in this town without making sure there are also adequate facilities to cope.”