Wednesday, January 31, 2007

No to ID Cards

Averil King (no relation), who is the chairperson of Mid Dorset and North Poole UKIP has a letter in tonight's Daily Echo making some very good points in opposition to the Government's plans for ID cards.

Good for Averil.

I'm opposed to the ID card scheme. It will be a huge intrusion in to our privacy and it wastes money which could be so better spent elsewhere (for example, helping the Home Office keep track of convicted offenders).

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

No casino for Bournemouth

So, the Super Casino is going to Manchester and the South Western casinos are going to be situated in Southampton, Bath and Torbay.

Am I disappointed? Truthfully, No.

I voted for the application for the casino to proceed largely because I was persuaded of the tourism and employment benefits of the wider development which may accompany it. I remained opposed to it being situated on the corner of Bath Road and Westover Road and being linked to the Pavilion and the news that it won't be going ahead is no real blow.

It would certainly have been a draw, but the social consequences for the town could have been severe and the scheme did not have public approval, despite some councillors and officials trying to spin the opinion soundings differently.

It is now clear that the town centre development plan is up in the air. We should therefore be stopping and taking stock as to what now happens to each of the central sites in the light of this news. For me, this means not rushing in to the cultural centre plan until we can properly assess the effect this news has.

Monday, January 29, 2007

PCSO's - Comments please

My comments about the Government not funding the increase in Police Community Support Officers promised in their election manifesto has raised some interesting comment, I've recieved a number of e-mails and a couple of comments have been posted here.

These clearly come from people who know more than I do about the issue.

I fully realise that the greatest benefit of the PCSO's is their deterrent effect. The posters seem to be suggesting however that the money would be better spent in funding fewer, but fully trained, police officers. I'd be interested in your comments.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Back garden developments....

Back in July the Council passed this motion:


c. Residential Development in Bournemouth

Councillor Garratt moved and Councillor Brandwood seconded:

‘That the Council recognises the deep concerns of many residents about the impact on the character of residential areas that redevelopment of house sites as flats may have. The Council further recognises the concerns arising from the loss of back gardens to housing development.

The Council also recognises the similarly deep concerns of many residents that the high cost of housing to buy and rent locally could mean that as their children grow up they will have to move away from Bournemouth in order to afford somewhere to live.

In order to address issues of the loss of character the Council resolves, as part of the preparation of its Local Development Framework, to consider the development of Character Assessment policies.

In order to address the issue of the loss of back gardens the Council resolves to:

1. support calls for garden land to be reclassified as green field land;
2. welcome the commitment of Bournemouth’s MPs towards securing this;
3. express its support for the specific provision within the Local Government and Planning (Parkland and Windfall Development) Bill sponsored by Lorely Burt MP, which would require the Secretary of State to issue guidance to local planning authorities to the effect that ‘the gardens of private houses should be regarded for development control purposes as green field sites.’

In order to address the need, in particular, of local people growing up in Bournemouth to be able to afford a place to live, the Council resolves to confirm that affordable housing both to buy and rent is one of its top priorities.’

The motion was carried, 34 in favour, 6 against, 3 abstentions.

Simply enough, no?

Then why is there an advert in the latest edition of the Council's magazine, delivered monthly to you all, for a company offering to buy up back gardens in order to develop them?

Why has the Council not vetoed advertisers who specifically advertise services to which we are opposed?

You may be aware that my own business advertises in BH Life, we have been told that there are waiting lists for advertisers in the magazine throughout the Spring as only a certain number of adverts are accepted. The excuse that accepting adverts keeps the cost down and they have to take adverts from whichever source they can therefore doesn't pass muster.

We should be practicing what we preach and ensuring that adverts of this type are not allowed in Council publications.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Police Community Support Officers

The Government has reneged on its election manifesto pledge to create 24,000 Police Community Support Officers by 2008.

Their plan to roll out the national non emergency number has also been revoked.

I've come across a number of PCSO's in the last few weeks, they undertake an excellent job supporting the local police. People want more uniformed officers on the streets, not less. We were promised support from Bournemouth East PCSO's for Iford, I suspect that might now not be available.

Increasingly the attention of the police is centred on Poole and Bournemouth town centres, particularly at the weekend. PCSO's provide a vital service in retaining locally knowledgeable and responsive officers, we should be finding ways to fund more rather than less.

Parking Orders

My apologies for placing this on the blog rather than being able, at the moment, to e-mail everyone involved.

The new proposals for parking regulations have been published. They include two of the proposals for which we have been campaigning: a single yellow line, staggered between the eastern and western sides of the road in Cheriton Avenue and a single yellow line on the southern side of Petersfield Road from it's junction with Harewood Avenue to number 50a.

In both roads local people have been campaigning for some time for these works to be undertaken. I'm very pleased that the Highways Department have listned to local requests for the works to be carried out.

Plans for town centre car parks

The Daily Echo is reporting today that revised plans for flats and shops on the Terrace Mount car park are to be submitted by the developers Redrow. You can read the full story here.

A Council spokesman has responded to concerns over the loss of parking spaces by pointing out that the new Casino development next to the Pavilion and the Hotel School next to the BIC will provide sufficient spaces to cover the loss of public parking provision at Terrace Mount.

However, plans for both the Hotel School and Casino are yet to be fully approved and their planning applications and construction schedules are likely to lag well behind that of the residential scheme.

Where in the meantime will parking be provided? What assurances do we have that the developments proposing replacement parking will be approved or built as currently envisaged?

I'm yet to be convinced that there is a coherent policy for the retention of sufficient town centre parking provision. We should be stopping the car park sales until we can be sure that the current public parking provision can be maintained throughout the construction process.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Access on to Council land

You may have seen this article in yesterday's Echo. The Council have sent out 300 letters to residents who have gates that lead on to land owned by the Council and controlled by the Leisure Department. There are a further 300 letters to be sent out.

In the letters residents are being asked to pay £50 for an access agreement which will last for five years, thus ensuring that the Council does nothing on its side of the access to block it (like planting a shrub or erecting a fence.

I understand that most residents have refused to pay this amount as yet. The argument against there being a need to put such an agreement in place is that in the vast majority of cases the access has been in place for more than 20 years and therefore should be considered an established right of way.

The Council's initial response was that established rights did not apply in cases where access was on to a public right of way.

I've just received a note from the Council to say that they are having second thoughts and are checking out the situation with their legal department.

I understand that amongst those 300 people to whom letters have been sent are residents of Iford, Old Littledown and some homes in Littledown Avenue with gates on to King's Park. Amongst those not yet sent letters are those elsewhere with entrances on to King's Park.

If you've received a letter you should be receiving a second one explaining the situation and telling you that you need take no action until the Council contact you again.

I have to say that I despair though. Why did no one think that this would be an issue for residents before the letters were sent and why did no one check out the likely objections about established use and obtain a proper legal opinion before the letter were sent?

We're left with a situation where residents are upset, a second set of letters is having to be sent, money has been wasted and no one is happy. Most of all, let's see if someone takes political responsibility for this. I somehow doubt that they will.

The wonders of wi-fi

Oh dear, I fear my New Year's resolution looks like it has been broken, and we're not even out of January. I am afraid that as I post this message, it'll show up as being posted on the 26th January rather than the 25th, because it is just that now in the UK.

I have an excuse however. Oh yes, I always have an excuse as my friends will gladly tell you (well I am a politician).

The hotel's wi-fi (wireless internet service) has been down until now (9pm Eastern Time), so I am officially blogging on Thursday 25th, although it's only Thursday 25th as a result of my time zone.

The fact that I can bring my laptop, just plug it in and happily tap away updating my blog and web site, effortlessly, thousands of miles from home, is truly wondrous.

I was left pondering about this while I was waiting for the system to come back on earlier today. Our ability to access information, details and one another at pretty much any time must, I surmised, play a part in people's increasing desire to ensure that they retain their privacy in their own homes.

Ten years ago the Internet was in its infancy, mobile phones were only just becoming popular and phone signal coverage didn't extend far beyond our towns and cities, laptops were enormous and no one had ever heard of blackberries. Now, even whilst wandering around Fort Lauderdale I can receive texts, phone calls and e-mails from home on my Blackberry, I can respond to them all, I can access the Internet to change my flight arrangements and I can even post to this blog.

Whilst that makes home, my job (Rubyz) and my vocation (politics) completely accessible, it also makes me totally accessible to other people. Sometimes it's nice (and necessary) to get away from all of that. Increasingly that comes when you get home and shut the door on the world. I can fully understand therefore why people should wish to retain their privacy in their own home and why I return to the opinion that privacy is going to be a huge issue in the years to come.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

French Fries in Bins

Having arrived in Florida last night I had the rather bizarre experience of being called this morning by the UK Correspondent of the Miami Herald asking me about the chips in bins issue.

She is writing a piece about the strange contradiction in Britons' attitudes to surveillance in public places and our ambivalence to any intrusion in to our homes. She wanted to use the reaction in Bournemouth to the insertion of the chips in our new 'little' bins to illustrate this.

I explained my point of view, which is that we are happy that we are watched over whilst in public because we rest assured in the (largely mistaken) belief that it brings help or intervention closer to us if we run in to trouble. However, there persists a very strong sense of 'an Englishman's home being his castle' and to this extent any intrusion by the government across that imaginary moat we place around our dwellings is greatly resented and swiftly rebuffed.

I also explained that I felt that most Britons perceive their car to be an extension of this home.

This therefore explains our acceptance of the widest degree of CCTV surveillance anywhere in the world, (and our clamour for even more to be introduced); our strong ambivalence towards micro chips in waste bins and the proposal that cars should carry tracking devices to enable road pricing; and our suspicion about the introduction of ID Cards.

The reporter listened very carefully and then kindly asked whether I had read a book called 'Watching the English' by Kate Fox. I said truthfully that I hadn't. Apparently the views I expressed about our national characteristics are almost identical to those espoused by Ms Fox in her book.

I think there is an important message here, that being that interference by Government (at any level) in our lives is of increasing concern to Britons. I believe it is going to be a huge issue in the coming years, one which will begin to differentiate the parties as clearly as the economic and defence arguments of the 1970's and 80's.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Competition Commissioners and supermarket chains

The Competition Commission are carrying out a report in to UK Supermarkets. The initial report is about to be published, a full report is due out next year. The BBC have the full story here.

Publicity is concentrating on the supermarkets holding on to 'land banks'; land they have bought for possible development but that they have not begun building on as yet.

For me a much more important issue is the effect that supermarkets are having on local retail markets. The Commission is looking in to how large supermarkets can effect the economy of their surrounding area, with particular reference to grocery shopping and local shops and shopping centres.

I welcome their investigation, I've blogged before about my concern over the power of out of town stores to neutralise smaller businesses in their surrounding area and local town centres, thereby forming a monopoly.

Support for small town, suburban and village businesses is going to be vital if we are to truly retain and create sustainable and vibrant local communities.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Canford Heath Post Office First to go?

I've been contacted by a number of very concerned residents of Canford Heath this evening. It appears that the Post Office in Adastral Square has announced it will be closing at the end of next month.

I'm not sure if this is the first of the closures we anticipated as a result of the Government's restructuring announcement last month. I'm attempting to find out more detail at the moment and will keep you abreast of developments.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Youth Crime

With my hat of Parliamentary Candidate I attended a Crime Reduction Parnership meeting in Mid Dorset last week It made me think about one of the common concerns raised there, that of youth crime.

I therefore have spent some time today looking out some information from the party and elsewhere about the issue. The figures are quite astounding. The shocking statistics were obtained by Conservatives under the Freedom of Information Act.

· Across the country, a third of all muggings last year were on 11-16 year olds. They are seen as easy targets by muggers seeking mobile phones and MP3 players. In turn, 11-16 year olds were responsible for 40 per cent of all robberies.

· The Government, despite claiming street crime is a top priority, does not properly monitor the level of youth muggings.

· There were a projected 113,000 robberies on 11 to 16-year-olds last year across England & Wales. This is equivalent to over 600 muggings a day for each of the 195 school days.

· In Dorset 23%, or 55 of 239 personal robberies reported were on 11 to 16 year olds.

These new statistics reveal a worrying area of crime that has gone unrecognised. This is likely to be the tip off the iceberg given how few crimes are actually reported.

Secondary school students and their parents will immediately recognise the picture of life these crime figures paint. Having mobiles and ipods routinely stolen, being marched to the cashpoint, seeing their friends mugged – this is the everyday life for too many of our teenagers. Too often these crimes are carried out by people of their own age.

Youth-on-youth crime could be a serious long-term problem and the Government are not properly monitoring it. I believe young people have a right to expect violent crime against them to be taken seriously by this Government.

For that reason I want to work with our local Crime Reduction Partnerships to identify both the victims and perpetrators of these crimes. We should be offering support to the victims and looking for Community involvement in the identification of those who carry out the attacks.

King's Park Litter Pick

On Sunday 4th February, 2007 between 12-2pm there will be a littler-pick in Kings Park. Anyone wishing to attend please meet at The Chapel, Gloucester Road where you will be given equipment from the Parks Department. (suitable clothing advised).

I'll be there - wearing suitable clothing of course!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Green Waste Collections

I had a chance to talk directly with Roger Ball today, he's the Head of Technical Services for the Council. Essentially he looks after everything that is maintenance related, including waste and recycling.

I asked him when we could expect to see the Green Waste bag collections return. He has given me a date of April 7th. Essentially, the underlying message was that the Council have run out of money this year to continue the scheme. Once the new financial year begins then the budget will allow the recommencement of the scheme.

Roger and his team have done a great job with a scheme which, let's face it, is flawed. At least he has been able to confirm a fresh start date.

Now, if you could all ask your plants to stop growing or creating any waste until then we'll all be fine.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Jade Goody

So much has been written about Celebrity Big Brother this week that I hardly feel qualified to comment.

Suffice it to say that I have been on the receiving end of prejudice and discrimination. It isn't pleasant and for me Shilpa Shetty has behaved, from what I have seen, with decorum and dignity. Good for her.

As for Jade Goody, well, I think her comments on hearing she was to be evicted were the most incisive thing she has ever said. "I swear to God, I said it would start here and it would end here."

Let's hope it has, for all our sakes.

Planning Hearing for the Cultural Centre

The planning application for the Winter Gardens has now been submitted to the Local Planning Authority and a special Planning Board meeting has been programmed into the timetable to consider the application on Monday 12 March at 5.00 pm in the Council Chamber at the Town Hall.

This will be your chance to have your say about the site.

My sincere apologies for not replying yet, to everyone who has e-mailed me their comments. I hope to get back to you over the weekend.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Traffic England - what a good idea!

I've been alerted to this site by the Dorset Chamber of Commerce.
This Highways Agency site gives you real time traffic information for the major routes in the region. I know the BBC and AA sites also have this kind of map too, but you have to navigate your way through pages to get to them.
Amazing a government site that is easy to use and is of some use! Now, if you're like me and heading out to brave the A31, the M27 and the M3, or even going further afield, you can see exactly what's going on.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

McCarthy & Stone letters in Holdenhurst Avenue

I understand from some residents that McCarthy and Stone have written to some residents living at the Christchurch Road end of Holdenhurst Avenue asking whether they would consider selling their homes. It seems they are envisaging purchasing some properties with a view to creating a 'retirement development'.

Their letter states that some residents are already considering selling. If you have recieved one of these letters can I warn you that they always say that. They hope that by creating the impression that your neighbours are going to sell you will do so too.

McCarthy and Stone do build some very pleasant developments. I'm just not sure that Holdenhurst Avenue is going to be the right place for them, particularly when they could well be developments of flats.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Cats disappearing in Swanmore Close

This story is on the front page of today's Daily Echo. It's about a number of cats going missing in Swanmore Close and, heartbreakingly, how one little girl discovered her cat was one of two that had been found drowned in a garden pond.

The whole story is very distressing. What concerns me a little about it, however, is the headline and first paragraph, which blames 'sick yobs' for drowning the cat. When you read the full story it would appear that there is no evidence as to who has attacked and killed the cats.

If indeed there are some very sick people out there who are attacking the animals then the police should be taking much greater notice of the area. I've not had any reports of this happening though.

Can anyone shed any more light on the situation? I have had reports of an inordinate number of foxes in Meon Road and Swanmore Road recently. Clearly they aren't reponsible for the drowning of two cats, but the report may explain why it appears a further five are reported missing.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Southbourne Beach

The Daily Echo carried this aritcle on its front page today, highlighting concerns raised by the owner of Bistro on the Beach, Sheila Ryan, about the amount of shingle there. The picture on the left is one of those carried in the paper.
The Council issued this release and these pictures late this afternoon:

"Bournemouth’s seven miles of golden sands will continue to be just that, despite numerous misleading and inaccurate claims over recent days. The beach replenishment programme currently underway is a routine and normal process to preserve our famous sandy beaches for the future. The programme is not designed to replace sand with shingle nor is it doing so. Whilst some patches of shingle can particularly be found at the far eastern end of Bournemouth, at Southbourne, this is not a permanent fixture.

Every year, the prevailing winds attack this most exposed part of our beach, blowing away the sand. The replenishment programme will counter the eroding effects of the winter weather by topping up the beach with more hard-wearing material than sand now, and, when the worst of the weather has passed, adding a top covering of fine, golden sands and restoring the beach to its former splendour. The remaining stretches of beach are currently having even more fine sand added ensuring the beaches will be ready as usual for the 2007 season.

Chief Executive Pam Donnellan said, “This really is a sandstorm in a teacup. Our stunning beaches are Bournemouth’s biggest asset and it is just madness to suggest that we would do anything other than preserve and protect them. This programme is designed to do just that – boost our beaches in time for summer use by our residents and visitors, and I myself am looking forward to enjoying them too!”

I have to admit to not having been down to the beach for a couple of weeks, although I did see the shingle there over the Christmas holidays.

There are a couple of points here I think. I know Sheila Ryan and respect her enormously for the business she has created at Bistro on the Beach. Sheila is not the kind of person to exaggerate a problem, nor is she the kind of person who would complain about the state of the beach without knowing that reporting there to be a problem with the shingle may create a self fulfilling prophecy in turning people away. Things must be bad for Sheila to be raising this issue.

Similarly Roger Brown, the Head of Leisure Services is under huge cost pressures because of the overspend in the Council. Telling the Echo that he doesn't know where the money is coming from to complete the job might not have been the best quote in terms of attracting visitors, however it does seem to me to be a veiled plea for help.

Our beaches are what make Bournemouth unique, we need to make restoring the sand a priority now, before the season gets under way.

Much more importantly we need to bring some financial control to those areas of the Council that are overspending. My ward colleague Cllr Fudge had another rambling letter in the Echo today about the council's overspent budget and our pledge to introduce green waste recycling. He is after all the chap in charge of the money, perhaps rather than worrying about what we're promising he should be looking more carefully at what certain departments of the Council are spending and why they can not keep within their budgets.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The greatest form of flattery....

I've spent today updating a lot of the links for this and its sister web site.

I'm amazed at the number of Conservative blogs that have developed in Bournemouth, Poole and the surrounding area since I started my Littledown and Iford blog just a few months ago.

Check out the local Conservative links on the right. They include blogs that cover the Bournemouth wards of Moordown, Queen's Park, Redhill & Northbourne, Wallisdown and Winton West, Westbourne & Westcliff and Winton East.

Richard Booth, one of the Conservative candidates for Wimborne also has a blog, upon which he is running a poll on the desireability of allowing Waitrose to build on Wimborne Cricket Club's ground at Hanham Field. I urge you to take a look at his blog and let your voice be heard in his vote.

Finally I should mention Will Burstow's excellent blog, A Young Conservative. Will is from Ulster, hence the posts about the province and its politics. Will lives in Alderney, which is currently part of Mid Dorset and North Poole but transfers in the boundary changes to Bournemouth West.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Replacement for the Winter Gardens

I attended a joint meeting of the Supporting our Economy and Quality Service and Value for Money Scrutiny and Review Panels on Thursday evening. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the report from Price Waterhouse Coopers commissioned by the Council in to the viabaility of the Draft Winter Gardens Business Case.

The Winter Gardens was a huge issue in the elections four years ago. The Conservatives' planned to demolish it, sell the site and spend the money on improvements to the Pavilion. The Liberal Democrats promised to save the Winter Gardens and renovate them. Many say that this issue gave control of the council to the LIberal Democrats, certainly the elections saw the loss of many Conservative and Independent seats.

Then the Liberal Democrats undertook a spectacular U-turn. The Winter Gardens were demolished last year and the site is currently being used as a car park. The Council now propose that a new cultural centre should be built on the site.

Planning permission needs to be granted before the end of April if a deadline of completion of 2009 is to be met. The fear is that if the construction is delayed any longer then the cost of work will spiral as tradesmen are diverted to the Olympic sites and therefore become more difficult to find.

The problem is the cost of the plan. In order to afford it many of the town centre car parks need to be sold. See my earlier post about that here.

The panels decided that any recommendation to proceed should await the provision of further information from the Council. The case for the development on a cultural basis is undeniable. The financial case, particularly in terms of its ongoing cost once it has been built, requires much more information. I'm worried that we are rushing in to a decision without sufficient information. The panels meet again to discuss the development on February 20th.

I'd very much like to know what you think before then.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Old Bridge Road Mobile Phone Mast

Claire and I are going to be delivering letters tomorrow morning in Old Bridge Road and Christchurch Road telling people how they can object to the application for the mobile phone mast.

If you would like to object but don't recieve a copy of the letter then please let me know and I'll make sure one is dropped in to you.

Jane can't join us, it's a big birthday for her, so we've let her off.

Happy Birthday Jane!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Mobile Phone Mast Application by the Iford Bridge Tavern

I've recieved notification of an application to place a mobile phone mast on the corner of Old Bridge Road and Christchurch Road opposite the Iford Bridge Tavern, adjacent to the area of grass and seating next to the river.

I met O2 with a group of residents to discuss the possibility of a mast in this location back in October. We suggested alternative sites, but unfortunately it looks as though our recommendation has been rejected.

My opinion is that this is a totally unsuitable site. It's right opposite the pub and the neighbouring houses, within 100yds of the Little Bridges Nursery and the Old Bridge Road is already difficult to exit without adding to the obstructions on the corner.

I'll be opposing the application and will be happy to assist any other local residents who wish to do so. The application number is: 7/2007/18550/GZ

You can make your objection by e-mailing:

or writing to the planning department at:

Bournemouth Borough Council
Planning and Transport
Town Hall Annexe,
St. Stephen's Road
Bournemouth BH2 6EA

Helping with the cost of living

The official inflation rate at the moment is 2.7%, I think it's pretty clear to all of us that this doesn't reflect the true increase in the cost of living in the past twelve months.

I've certainly found that the combination of increases in utility costs, the mortgage rate, council tax and fuel duty have hit my pocket.

As many of you may know, I'm one of the owners of Rubyz, the cabaret restaurants in Bournemouth. A night out with us is one of those luxuries people tend to cut out if money is tight, and we've noticed in the last six months that many of our regular customers aren't coming as often as before. The answer from most is that money is tight and therefore they simply don't have the spare cash to go out as much as possible.

Talking to other people with small businesses this seems to be fairly common.

I'm therefore very pleased that the party is recognising this fact with the second update of their 'Sort it' web site. The publicity for the site says:

Life is expensive and the cost of living is increasing faster than our salaries, making our pockets feel ever emptier.

But don’t panic, there are ways to cut the cost of living and live your life for less.

Just click below to check out the sort-it website’s latest issue – ‘live life for less.’

The site has links to a number of different web addresses where you can compare the cost of utility companies, find out where the cheapest petrol is in your area and even compare the cost of your weekly shop between supermarkets.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Save Dorset's Post Offices - Update from Oliver Letwin

Oliver Letwin MP, who of course represents West Dorset, is in the process of establishing a task force to look at ways by which sub post office incomes can be increased, thereby enabling them to stay open.

Here's what his office has to say:

Oliver Letwin, who has campaigned vigorously against post office closures both locally (at Toller Porcorum and Bradpole) and nationally, is now seeking to establish a task force. This will consist of representatives of all levels of local government and local bodies, others with expertise in the field, and volunteers willing to lend their support. Their role will be to prepare plans to increase revenues or find imaginative ways of sharing costs for sub-post offices that are threatened as a result of the Government’s new proposals.

It's an excellent initiative and one that hopefully can be extended to the rest of the County.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Troika Development - Update

I’ve been told that the likely result of the public enquiry will note be known until after the elections in May, therefore a result in June is likely.

I uncerstand the really good news is that Troika have not applied for costs were they to win their case against the council.

Monday, January 08, 2007


I’ve been asked by Loraine Willson, the Neighbourhood Watch coordinator for the top end of Corhampton Road to pass this warning note on:

A burglary took place on Saturday 6th January 2007 in Pinecliffe Avenue between the hours of 5.30pm and 7.30pm, entry was gained by a patio door and an amount of cash was stolen, the intruders were disturbed by the occupants. If anyone has any information please ring Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 1111 or contact P.C. 2430 Cook at Boscombe Police Station.

AFC Bournemouth Development

A quick note to bring you up to date. The plans have as yet not been published for the proposed housing development along the eastern side of the stadium and the hotel and leisure complex on its southern side. I understand the hold up is with the environmental audit.

I’ve been contacted by a number of people concerned that the proposed access to the housing development will be through Thistlebarrow Road, where a house has been purchased by the developers and will be demolished to make way for the access road.

I have made our opposition clear to the developer, one of his agents wasn’t very responsive to the suggestion they should look at an alternative route. However, I spoke to another representative over Christmas who did not appear completely adverse to the idea of an alternative route through King’s Park Drive being considered.

I’ll keep you up to date.

Community Action

At a dinner party the other evening a friend said to me: ‘Now don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re not really the right type of person to be a Tory candidate; you’re too nice and too caring.’ I took this somewhat back handed compliment in the positive light it was meant.

It started me thinking however, particularly in light of our efforts this Christmas Day, swimming in aid of the Mayor of Bournemouth’s charities.

The perception my friend carries with him, that Conservatives are traditionally uncaring and disinterested in those less fortunate than themselves is plainly wrong.

Conservatives have so often been at the forefront of community action. The problem is that they don’t shout about it. How many times have I spoken to Conservative activists who are heavily involved in charitable activities.

In my short time getting to know the members of Mid Dorset and North Poole Conservatives, I am already aware that we have members who are very much involved with the Citizens Advice Bureaux, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Julia’s House, Help the Aged and various cancer charities.

With local authority grants being so tightly squeezed the way ahead in provision of effective community and social support must be through greater cooperation between public sector and voluntary agencies. This could be as complex as social services using the great work that the CAB’s or Relate carry out to enhance their activities. Or as simple as encouragement of the In Bloom committees throughout the area to take over and enhance our roadsides.

Our government, particularly local government, should be playing a proactive role in encouraging and linking in the services of voluntary organisations to their own. There is an enormous pool of good will and support from the voluntary sector on hand in our area. I’d like to see our local authorities sitting down, as a group, with our local voluntary agencies. They should be discussing how our volunteers can assist in further supporting their efforts. Just as importantly, our local authorities should be asking our voluntary services what assistance they need.

The support can be as straight forward as reducing the barriers to collections for their charities. It’s a shame that this doesn’t currently happen in Bournemouth; hopefully a new administration will address this issue after next May.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

163 Harewood Avenue - a reminder

Tomorrow is the last day to send letters of objection in to the Planning Inspectorate over the planning appeal for flats at 163 Harewood Avenue.

If you haven't done so, please do try to send a letter, or you can object online via the Planning Inspectorate web site, here. You will need to quote the application reference, which is APP/G1250/A/06/2031982/NWF.

No Party Conference in Bournemouth?

The Sunday Times' Atticus column is reporting here that Party Chairman, Francis Maude, has decided not to bring the 2008 party conference back to Bournemouth as a result of the problems over delegates passes at this year's conference.

If you remember many delegates had to queue at the Pavilion for hours to obtain their passes after Dorset Police had been unable to process them for security clearance prior to the opening of the conference. I was lucky, my pass arrived in plenty of time (and then I spent all my time at St Mary's church), however the Mayor and Mayoress were amongst those waiting until the last minute for clearance and Hannah Ellwood's (our MP, Tobias' wife) never turned up at all.

The full details of Mr Maude's anger and frustration at the fiasco are set out in an eleven page letter to the Chief Constable, Martin Baker.

I have a copy of the letter and it certainly raises a large number of questions that Mr Baker needs to answer. It does not, however, say that the party will not return to Bournemouth next year, it does say that the venue of the conference is under review. Mr Baker therefore needs to answer Mr Maude's concerns very quickly indeed and provide some assurances of the utmost police cooperation to ensure that this year's confusion and delay are not repeated.

I know that the Mayor and our members of the Police Authority are also doing all they can to ensure the party's concerns are assuaged.

If the report of no return to Bournemouth is true it would be a huge blow to the town. We all need to be lobbying to ensure that Atticus' prediction doesn't come about.
(With apologies to James Cleverly for stealing his photo of the queue for conference passes)

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Kings Park and the Five Parks Act

I think my position on the Five Parks Act and its application to King's Park is well known. To reiterate it though, I feel strongly that the Act needs to be revised urgently.

We must protect our parks for recreational and community use, BUT, the Act needs to reflect the realities of modern life in Bournemouth. It's a very blunt instrument which has been used to hinder sensible use of the parks.

The closure of the road through Meyrick Park comes to mind as an example of this. Another has been brought to my attention by a comment left here under the New Year's Resolution thread on this blog. The congestion in Ashley Road in the mornings by King's Park School hinders traffic flow and is, as the poster comments, frankly dangerous. Allowing drop off in the parking area by the cricket pavilion would make perfect sense to me.

I brought the issue of the Act up at a meeting I attended this week to discuss the detail of the Conservatives' manifesto for the forthcoming Council elections. I'm very pleased to say that we agreed to include a commitment to review the Act and ask our MPs to sponsor a revised version in Parliament.

That recommendation will be put to our current councillors and candidates at a meeting later this month, if approved it becomes a commitment should we win control of the Council on May 3rd.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Things you didn't know about me

I've been tagged by Justin Hinchcliffe who has a very good blog here, to tell you five things you didn't know about me. So here goes:

I have a very large collection of videos and DVDs of the Eurovision Song Contest, so much so that a few years ago Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson (If you're under 60 you'll have no idea who I'm talking about) got in touch to ask me for a copy of the video of the 1959 Contest. They had of course performed 'Sing Little Birdie' live that night and, in the days before video, had never seen themselves. I was very happy to oblige.

When I was 9 I had a guinea pig called Skippy, you guessed it, I really wanted a bush kangaroo.

Jeg snakker norsk/I speak Norwegian

When I was 4 I appeared for a week on 'Romper Room' which was a childrens TV show on Anglia TV hosted by Miss Rosalyn.
I'm horribly claustrophobic: I'd rather climb stairs than take a lift, I avoid the tube if possible and my idea of hell is a windowless room with the door closed (I'd never last as a prisoner). I also have a dreadful phobia of rodents, particularly rats... shudder!
I now have to 'tag' other people to do the same thing apparently, so it's over to you Will, Richard and Jeremy.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Can a company grow too large?

Jonathan Sheppard, who runs the excellent Tory Radio site, has alerted me to this article in last weekend’s Sunday Times.

It suggests that half of all the new retail space created in the UK last year was taken by Tesco. That’s over 2 million square feet of shopping space, more than the entire Bluewater shopping centre.

Can that be healthy? For competition and for consumers? As a Tory you might expect me to be open to the market and accept that this is what market forces dictate. Well, in this case I’m not.

The increasing dominance of out of town shopping centres concerns me greatly. I believe that we must safeguard our town centres and most importantly local shopping centres. Not to do so is to be very short sited.

At least Tesco, through their Tesco Metro network, seem to recognise this too. However, in Fordingbridge where my parents live, they immediately disposed of the post office from the One Stop store they took over. It concerns me that, in this case at least, they put retail space and therefore profit before community need.

Providing easily accessible local facilities, not least shops and of course post offices, is essential to the sustainability of communities. In time, as environmental and energy conservation issues discourage us from such frequent travel, these facilities will be vital. We need to look to the long term and find ways by which we can support and protect local shops and shopping centres.

It's a theme I'm passionate about and to which I'll be returning in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Festive Debt and Job Applications

There are two reports out today, which in my mind are linked if not in their cause then in a way to resolve the problems they highlight.

The first is from accountants Grant Thornton, predicting that 30,000 people will declare bankruptcy in the first quarter of this year. They estimate that 10,000 of these people will need to do so because of excessive spending in the lead up to Christmas. You can read the full report here.

The second is from the Recruitment and Employment Federation for the BBC, which found that 47% of job applications contained spelling or grammatical errors. You can see the details of the survey here.

The issue in both these cases to my mind is education. Our curriculum should be focussing on the basics of good English, both spelling and grammar.

Similarly, the curriculum should be looking at basic life skills, not least personal economics. I wasn’t taught any basic money management skills in school, I learnt about handling a budget largely through my parents, I was lucky, they were in business and therefore basic finance and economics was part of my upbringing.

There are now two generations who have been educated since the freeing of credit controls. Very many people of my and successive generations have no education in how to handle money, it’s a matter of learning from experience.

Freeing credit was a Conservative policy and its effects have been to invigorate our economy and provide enormous personal freedom. With that freedom comes the need for responsibility and the danger of living beyond your means. Teaching the basics of money management and how credit works would in my opinion go some considerable way to tackling the problem of personal debt.

The Conservative Party have made a good start with the ‘Sort it’ campaign. That’s just the kind of initiative that should be transferred to our schools.

School Sports - bad for you?

Sandra Gidley, the Liberal Democrat MP for Romsey, has spoken in Parliament about her opposition to competitive sport in school. Apparently her preference is for activities which focused on "personal improvement" like skipping, dance and games.

Now I can speak with some considerable experience of this issue. You see, I was always one of the tubby kids who was last to be picked for the teams on either side.

Only once did I ever succeed in playing well at something, in the final of the inter house cricket competition and, in a Hollywood style 9th wicket stand, I managed to somehow scrape the winning runs for my house that won us the house cup. (This I have to admit was an additionally impressive feat as I have always hated cricket with a passion).

I therefore consider myself to have been one of those disadvantaged and traumatised children Ms Gidley is talking about. Did competitive sports in school do me any harm? Of course they didn’t.

They taught me two lessons, sometimes hardly learnt, but well learnt none the less:

You can’t be good at everything, but there are always opportunities to play to your strengths and that life is essentially competitive and therefore you’d better get used to losing as well as winning.

We should be encouraging more competitive sport amongst our children in my opinion. For these very reasons, let alone the need to encourage exercise in our young people who are lured to sit in front of the TV far more than my generation ever was.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Green Waste

Just when you thought Bournemouth’s recycling scheme couldn’t get any less user friendly, the Council suspend green waste collections using the bio degradable bags on December 22nd.

Apparently the reason for this is that there is no need for green waste collections until after Easter (which this year is at the end of the first week of April). I suspect the real reason comes down to lack of funding for the scheme. Over spending elsewhere in the Council, particularly in Social Services, has resulted in a huge deficit.

Apparently the Cabinet Member for Resources (and my own ward colleague here in Littledown and Iford), Cllr Fudge, is calling the Conservatives’ pledge to introduce green waste recycling as financially irresponsible. That’s funny, particularly when you consider Conservative controlled Poole can run an effective and popular green waste collected scheme and yet they receive £126 less per head of population in grant settlement than Bournemouth (£168 per person in Poole vs £294 per person in Bournemouth).

We should be learning their lessons and applying their policies in Bournemouth as soon as possible.