Friday, September 29, 2006
Reflections from a Year on the Council
One year on and I've been trying to reflect on my first 12 months as a Winchester City Councillor.
Bad things first:
- Losing control in May, which didn't affect me too much as a backbencher, but it was frustrating to see years of good work being thrown away.
- Cabinet government and the scrutiny process. Brought in by our current government as a way of improving efficiency. In fact, it seems to me, an ineffective and relatively unaccountable way of running local government.
- The bizarre rules on standards, which seem to mean that the more involved you are in a ward issue the less able you are to take part in council decisions about it.
- Planning. The way in which central government casually dismisses local concerns and overrules decisions by local councils.
- Actually managing to get a few environmental improvements underway, like better foliage management in Badger Farm and some hard standing by the bus stop in Sunnydown Road, Oliver's Battery.
- Working with the two Parish Councils. I have a lot of respect for both PC Chairs and for the, often unrecognised, work they do for our communities.
- Being able to provide help to quite a few people locally.
- Working with the good, experienced Liberal Democrat team on the City Council and with our very hardworking County Councillors.
Well, there we are. A few random thoughts, but no regrets!
Sunday, September 17, 2006
The good, the bad and the ugly
This is a coach trip around the district looking at development sites, a real chance to form our own opinions on what is "good, bad and ugly." I was particularly interested to visit Knowle Village, right down in the southern parishes near Wickham. This is the site of a Victorian mental institution that has been developed to provide new housing alongside the original hospital buildings. The building themselves have been converted into flats and the whole thing is really a most attractive and imaginative development.
We also saw the so-called "Elan Development" in King's Worthy. I guess it's all a matter of taste, but I hated it! A recent development with vast areas of zinc roof, completely out of keeping with the rest of the village. A real contrast with Knowle and with other good developments we saw in places such as Sutton Scotney. Truly a "good, bad and ugly" day.
Monday, September 11, 2006
Oliver's Battery 50th Anniversary
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Oliver's Battery Conservation & Butterflies
I had a really interesting afternoon on Sunday. It was the official opening of the Oliver's Battery Conservation Area, followed by a guided walk to Butterfly Conservation's nature reserve on top of Yew Hill. The work done by the Oliver's Battery Countryside Group (http://www.bfobrca.com/OBPC/activities/countryside.htm) and the Parish Council in setting up the Conservation Area is truly impressive and, over the next 5 to 10 years, as the trees and shrubs mature and the wild flowers take hold, we're going to see a transformation on this piece of land by the Recreation Ground.
The butterfly reserve was fascinating. I've been up there before of course, but this was the first time I'd met the Reserve Manager and Warden. There's more information at their website: http://www.hantsiow-butterflies.org.uk/reserves/yew_hill.html and the reserve is well worth a visit, particularly in July and August for the maximum number of butterflies, or in June for the wild orchids. The photo is of a pair of Chalkhill Blues and was taken on Yew Hill by John May (reproduced here with his permission). Chalkhill Blues are one of the key species of butterfly at Yew Hill. They breed on horseshoe vetch, and Butterfly Conservation manages the habitat with this in mind.