Prezzo gets approval


At last night’s Northern Area Planning Committee the application to convert Andover’s lower Guildhall into a Pizza restaurant was approved. The plans now have to be referred to the Secretary of State before the changeover can go ahead.

I am disappointed with this decision. The objectors from STAG raised real questions about the validity of the application. The council’s response was muddled and unconvincing. It failed to prove it had followed its own guidelines by seeking to maintain the Guildhall for community use. It could not explain the so-called financial losses cited to justify the decision and it relied on the provision of a substandard alternative as a reason for a clear breach in policy.

I was particularly annoyed to hear some councillors calling for a vote without even waiting to listen to the end of the debate. Andover deserves better than this.

Also of some concern was the claim by some members of the committee that another restaurant in Andover would bring in more business and enliven the town’s economy. My own discussions with local restauranteurs suggest that in the current economic climate there is insufficient business for exisiting restraurants. Any new one would only take clients away from them and could lead to one or more of them folding. I hope this is not the case the council should be protecting local businesses not undermining them.

The measure of a civilised society is how well it cares for its heritage, its local businesses and its minorities. The ruling group on Test Valley borough council have ignored this in the pursuit of short term financial gain. Andover Lib Dems will continue to oppose this short sightedness and work for a fair deal for Andover.

East Anton MDA update

At the East Anton development

Local residents have been asking for an update on works at East Anton. Today a letter from me and county councillor Robin Hughes will be delivered to all homes in the area. The text of the letter is as follows

“As part of our commitment to keep you informed we will be issuing regular newsletters on the progress of the development and how it affects you. At present the developers have outline planning permission only which means they cannot yet start building houses but can start on the infrastructure of the area. House building on the southern end of the site will start when Test Valley approves the detailed plans later this year.

Southern Water contractors have now finished water main work to serve the MDA at the Smannell Road open space. We have contacted council officers about the poor quality of the re-instatement of the field and this will be repaired by council staff.

 Contractors are currently working on the roads within the site and work on the first roundabout access opposite Venice Court will start on 13th October. All local residents will be notified and signs will be erected along Icknield Way advising of the works. Once building does start landscaping and tree planting to screen the site will also start.

If you have any queries regarding these works please contact us.

Amazing Alamein Swap Shop

Following on from the success of the Amazing Alamein litter pick your local environmental group has now arranged a swap shop. This is an ideal opportunity to bring along things you no longer want and swap them for something you do want. Recycle and reuse rather than dumping things.

 Also on offer is face painting, cookery demonstrations and a treasure hunt. The event takes place on Saturday 11th October from 12:00 noon at the Smannell Road church centre.

Full details are given on the attached poster swap-shop-poster.pdf

Fluoridation update

Readers will be aware that Cllr Alan Dowden and I proposed a motion to council on fluridation of Test Valley’s tap water (see The motion was referred without debate to the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee. The date and agenda for that meeting has now been set.

The meeting will take place on Wednsday 8th October at 6:00pm at the council’s Duttons Road, Romsey council chamber. The decision to hold the meeting in Romsey was taken because residents in the southern part of the borough, particularly the outskirts of Southampton are most affected by the current proposals.

I have discussed the matter with the chair of the committee and he has decided the whole meeting should be devoted to this issue. There will be presentations from the South Central Strategic Health Authority, a representative of Hampshire Against Fluoridation and a local dentist. Councillors will then be free to quiz all the speakers on the issues.

The meeting like all council meetings is open to the public.  If anyone would like further information please let me know.

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.

Daily Mail condemns Tory waste of taxpayers money

Zip hydrotap

The Daily Mail has recently identified Hampshire as one of the most wasteful local authorities. Among some of the more wasteful items are £12,000 on new taps and £1.25 million on new furniture. The following article recently appeared in the Daily Mail (July 4th 2008); highlighting some of the ways that Hampshire County Council are spending your money.

Council in hot water over £12,000 taps:

 A council criticised for spending thousands of pounds on bottled water has brought six designer taps costing £2,000 each. Hampshire County Council bought the Zip Hydrotaps as part of a £40million taxpayer-funded renovation of its HQ in Winchester. Some £1.25million was spent on furniture alone, including designer desks and chairs. Earlier this year residents were furious after it was revealed that the council was spending £141,000 every year on bottled water for staff. Hampshire County Council claimed it got a discount when ordering the taps, which are said to ‘dispense freshly filtered, chilled and boiling water with an impressive flow rate’. But Lib Dem opposition leader Adrian Collett yesterday described the purchase as ‘extraordinarily extravagant’. Meanwhile the Tory run council continues to cut bus services, close care homes and schools, and reduce investment in libraries, roads and other facilities.

Say No to Chuggers

I was recently contacted by a local resident who reported that on 26th August the King Arthur’s area was invaded by a high pressure sales team from a deaf charity.  Their reflective jackets had ASDC on them and basically their patter was very similar to Time Share, Double Glazing and the early days of the Power companies.  It consisted of trying to get access to each person’s home, pulling out out a form and getting them to commit to a direct debit.

This, of course, is no way for a reputable charity to behave and I referred the matter to the council’s licensing manager. The reply was less than encouraging.

Unfortunately collection of money for charitable purposes by direct debit falls completely outside of current charity collection law and there is nothing that we can do to prevent this type of activity. It is quite common and used by many of the established charities. Persons undertaking this type of work have earned the rather unkind nickname of chugger, meaning charity mugger. However I think this does indicate the level of unease over this type of activity and it is to be hoped that the new Charities Act will address this and make direct debit collections licensable. Unfortunately at the present time we do not know when the new Act will come into force.

Until the new act does come into force I would recommend all residents to ignore these high pressure techniques, never allow people into your homes if you are suspicious of them and if in doubt – contact the police.

If you really want to support a charity, do it through their website, not a chugger.

A community centre for Roman Way?

Residents have no doubt seen Friday’s Andover Advertiser. I am grateful to the paper for giving me the opportunity to talk about some of the plans your local Liberal Democrats have for improving Andover. I would welcome comments from residents on these or any other Lib Dem proposals for Andover

 I must, however, correct one small error in the reports. When discussing the need for improved community facilities I highlighted the fact that there is no community centre on Roman Way not River Way as reported. I am currently discussing this with a number of local residents and interested parties and would be pleased to hear from anyone interested in getting involved in this project.

River Way, of course has the Phoenix centre and I see no reason why a similar centre couldn’t work on Roman Way if there was sufficient local demand.

Massive response to residents survey

It is now just over a year since the borough council elections and Alamein Liberal Democrats have been surveying local residents to see whether they are satisfied with the pepformance of their local council.

The surveys have been distributed to households in Roman Way, Viking Way and Lilywhite Crescent and dozens of replies have already been received.

Residents have raised concerns about antisocial behaviour, poor maintenance of roads and footpaths, traffic problems and bus services. Thank you to all those who have replied. I will be personally replying to all correspondants over the next few weeks.

Anyone who has still to return their survey please do so. All responses will be answered and forwarded to the appropriate departments for action. Further surveys will be delivered to residents in other parts of Alamein ward over the next month.

If you didn’t receive a survey and would like one please email me on [email protected] and we will deliver one to you.