Friday, January 26, 2007


"Extreme Gardening" in Falcon View, Badger Farm

The story so far: Thursday last week, residents of Falcon View, Badger Farm were surprised to see a JCB turn up and start demolishing a raised bed of shrubs and a tree at the corner of their close. I was phoned by a concerned resident and went down to take a look. A quick chat with the JCB driver established that he was demolishing the planter because the retaining wall surrounding it had some loose bricks and the Hampshire County Council Highways Department had decided it was unsafe. He then told me that the site of the bed would be covered in tarmac.

This is the bed in question. It's in the centre of the picture with a large green tree and a white car parked to its immediate left.

Some quick phone calls established that the Highways Department had acted without informing or consulting anyone. The Winchester Environment Department officers who actually maintain the beds (the county pays the city to look after them) hadn't been told. Charlotte Bailey, our local county councillor, hadn't been told. Neither Brian Collin nor I as city councillors had been told and, inevitably, local residents had been neither consulted nor informed.

So we put out a leaflet to explain what was happening and local residents got together a petition demanding reinstatement of the bed, which was then signed by the vast majority of affected households .

Here is the JCB on site a few days ago, along with me and the letter to residents:

Today Charlotte and I met with county council officers on site. "We did it because it was the cheapest way to fix the problem" we were told, "We didn't consult because it was just a minor maintenance issue."

"We'll give consideration to your comments" they said. "Alright, we'll give you a tree but no shrubs."

To me this is a case of official vandalism. The residents have every right to demand the restoration of the green space. The fight will continue.

Friday, January 19, 2007


Gales hit Badger Farm

Two pictures taken today in May Tree Close, Badger Farm that show the after effects of yesterday's gales.
The damaged building is a 2 storey garage block. Most of the wall on one side of the upper storey was blown over at about 3.00 on Thursday afternoon. Fortunately no one was in the garages or passing by at the time. Sorting out the damage could pose a few problems as each of the garages is privately owned. Meanwhile, Winchester City Council has cordoned off the area with "Danger -Do Not Cross" notices.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Selling off council houses

It was a marathon City Council meeting on Wednesday night, not finishing until 11.30 pm. One of the reasons was the long debate on a new proposal from Winchester's Tory administration. In a nutshell they wanted to give the Portfolio Holder for Housing the right to sell off up to 10 vacant council houses every year if it would cost more than £8000 to bring such a house up to lettable standard.

We had identified a number of problems with this proposal.

First, the brunt of such disposals was likely (based on previous experience) to fall on rural housing. Winchester has a desperate shortage of rural housing to let and we, as a council group, were unhappy that the number could be further reduced this way.

Second, the Cabinet was basing part of its budget proposals on the income from these sales. We felt that this would force them to sell enough houses to meet the expenditure target. Either that or the cabinet would be acting irresponsibly by basing part of their spending on income that was wholly unpredictable.

Third, we did not believe the claims that there was no one who wanted to rent these houses. My colleague Simon Cook (councillor for Alresford) produced a letter sent to one of his constituents acknowledging her interest in renting a house in Cheriton. The council subsequently withdrew their offer of this house and added it to the list for disposal. She still wants to rent it.

Eventually the council approved the sell off of these houses. Interestingly the solid Tory vote in favour was boosted by the support of all three Labour councillors. I think no further comment is necessary.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Happy New Year!

As always at this time of year one hopes that the new year will prove better than the old one.

2006 was a pretty awful year all told. Nationally we saw our country get more and more deeply embroiled in an illegal, unpopular war. Politically my party faced the resignation of its leader, difficulties for our local MP and, in May, the loss of control of the City Council.

2007 can and, hopefully, will be better. A Happy (and optimistic) New Year therefore to everyone reading this and, particularly, to all the residents of Oliver's Battery and Badger Farm.

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