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Clerk’s Column December 2007

QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT.
It was expected that by the time you read this, the Lights would have staged the real-life drama of Tesco and the Magic Roundabout; but since the meeting was postponed an uneasy but welcome peace has descended. Perhaps the Advertiser’s Sports Pages will soon feature a friendly Christmas football match on the old airfield between Tesco Wanderers and Beech Hurst United. Unfortunately, however, they would be playing not in No Man’s Land, but in Goodman’s land, so it is certain that this is only a temporary cessation of hostilities. This did not exactly result from a gallant cavalry charge, but from the slow advance of the heavy artillery of the Highway Authorities, who are still trying to digest the spaghetti-like proposals for Hundred Acre Corner and maybe contemplating the effects on our lives of all that traffic. Judging by what has happened to the plans to move, or bury, the A303 at Stonehenge, their deliberations seem to be inspired more by the cautious tortoise than the hasty hare. So the tireless organisers of Stop the Megashed, not to mention Abbotts Ann Action, may have a little more time to spend with their families this Christmas, and we may have to watch this space for some time yet.

PROTECTING RURAL ENGLAND
As we occupy a rather special part of Rural England our parishioners are keen to protect our village’s special qualities, and none more so than our Chairman, who has roots in Wales, and our Scottish Vice-Chairman, not to mention the Clerk, whose grandparents all came from Ireland. However, in commenting, as is his wont, on the rising tide of buzz-words and jargon, the latter, in a recent Newsletter, was questioning the use of the newish word sustainable, but was rightly taken to task for his rather flippant reference to CPRE by one of its leading local representatives. The borderline between being entertaining and being hurtful is a very narrow one for writers, which is why so many entertainers are deeply serious people, and the weapon of satire is useless if it is blunt. Actually, far from being dismissive of the work of this excellent organisation, the Parish Council greatly appreciates the CPRE’s unceasing efforts, largely through dedicated volunteers, to prevent the urbanisation of our countryside, and we are enjoying the fruits of their diversion of many potential local planning disasters. Which is why the Council has just renewed its subscription.

DID YOU KNOW?
Further to comments on the CPRE and its valuable campaign to reduce roadside clutter, the Hampshire Magazine reveals that the CPRE did a count of signs along the B3400 between Andover and Basingstoke and, to their amazement, found 400 signs. This adds up to 45 per mile.
There are 266 powers under which state officials can legally raid your home. These include: checking for foreign bees; surveying the seal population; checking for offences related to stage hypnotism and carrying out fact-finding missions in accordance with the Ottawa Convention on Land-mines. Source: Inside Time, a monthly magazine for inmates of Her Majesty’s prisons.
Traffic Wardens are being transformed into Enforcement Officers. Does this mean that they can enforce penalties such as that suffered by a Devizes motorist, who, according to a local paper, was “suspended from the wheel for a month”? By the way, it is still illegal to park obstructively on a pavement unless there are signs permitting it. Signs forbidding it would be considered “clutter”.
Bollards. Have you noticed that the bollards on the pavement at the Jubilee Oak have acquired a white band to improve night-time visibility? Hampshire Highways are thinking about more bollards outside Lane Cottage, too, but don’t hold your breath; it took nearly two years of nagging to get the broken kerbstone at the entrance to Webbs Lane mended.
Christmas. If you are going away for Christmas you are advised not to patronise the travel agent who wrote: The flight you mention is fully booked, but we shall inform you immediately if anyone drops out, which usually happens on this route.
The Council wishes all Parishioners a safe, serene and sustainable Christmas and may the New Year reduce the impact of all your core issues on the carbon footprint of your options.

PARISH COUNCIL MEETING, 6th December 2007

PLANNING
The Clerk has attended a seminar on the planners’ plans. Even the most die-hard pen-pushers are being inexorably nudged towards keyboards and monitors, and tempted by visions of paperless offices with piles of rusting filing-cabinets waiting to be recycled into razor-blades. “But,” said the assembled clerks, “this is already happening and it doesn’t really work, because you can’t make sense of an architect’s drawings, originally submitted on a sheet of – um – paper measuring 84 x 59 centimetres (2′ 9″ x 1′ 11″ or so to the die-hards) when it’s reduced to the size of a monitor or printed out on A4 paper.” A suggestion by the presenters (representing an IT firm under contract to the Government) that architects should take to producing lots of little drawings instead of putting everything on one big one was greeted with rather disrespectful mirth; their next idea, that the Clerk could take a lap-top along to meetings, together with a Powerpoint projector, and display the plans on a suitable wall, received a similar reaction. Council meetings already tend to go on past most clerks’ bedtimes as it is; if the Councillors did not have the chance to scrutinise the plans (which often tot up to a half-dozen per meeting) beforehand no-one would get to bed at all. And would the Borough kindly supply each Parish with a couple of thousand poundsworth of technology anyway? Ah well, in the end, the planners admitted that actually they had no plans to phase out paper plans in the foreseeable future.
Cllr. P.Wilkins had attended a meeting of the Borough’s Planning Committee to express the Parish’s misgivings about Mr.D.Li’s application to demolish Jasmine Cottage and replace it, further up the site, with two houses whose looming presence on the edge of the Conservation Area would, in the Council’s opinion, be detrimental to the neighbourhood generally, while adding to parking problems on Red Rice Road and involving the loss of a protected tree. Mrs. Wilkins might as well have stayed at home.
An unusual application had arrived at the last minute, in which Railtrack was asking for permission to take out 10 metres of hedgerow to provide access for equipment to be used in maintenance work around the viaduct over Cattle Lane. Though rather scruffy, this is an ancient hedge, because Cattle Lane is an ancient lane, and our eagle-eyed Footpaths Officer had noticed that there is an existing gap in the hedge close by which seemed to be already in use by Railtrack’s engineers. It was also noted that the application had nothing to say about reinstating the hedge afterwards. A pained response was ordered from the Clerk.

REPORTS
The Clerk had asked (not for the first time) that the County Council should revive the defunct lamp-post on Church Path. Men had been observed climbing up it, and they had gone away pleased with their day’s work. The light came on for one night only…
An illuminated battery-operated star had been placed in the Garden of Remembrance, which Councillors considered not entirely appropriate for a place where the tributes normally consisted of flowers. It was recommended that the regulations, which were in any case due for revision, should require specific approval by the Council for anything other than floral tributes to be placed on graves or the Garden of Remembrance.

On behalf of Abbotts Ann Action, Cllr. G. Whyte presented Dr. John Moon’s update on the Airfield development. The Planning Committee’s mass meeting scheduled for 3rd December had been postponed because submissions from the developers and from the highway authorities were still incomplete. The Council is still dismayed by the prospect of massive congestion on the A303, with visions of 100-lorry queues around 100-Acre Corner and the total lack of measures to minimise “rat-run” traffic through our lanes and villages. It seems that this space will have to be watched at least until next February.

The Fete Committee had distributed its handsome takings to various village organisations. It had been hoped that representatives of all these organisations would attend the Committee’s AGM.

November 5th had seen a very successful bonfire and fireworks night, and the Council expressed appreciation of the excellent work of the many volunteers responsible.

Neighbourhood Watch wished it to be known that the 101 phone number was still running and should be used for non-emergency calls.

The Village shop is to be congratulated on again being short-listed for the Southern Region finals of the Best Village Shop Competition; also short-listed is the shop in Goodworth Clatford.

Finance
The children’s playgrounds have been inspected for Health and Safety, and the ground surfaces around the swings and slide behind the War Memorial Hall have been criticised as having become compacted and therefore rather hard to fall on. This is disappointing as these surfaces are not very old and not very cheap; it will not be easy to find a satisfactory solution within the budget.

Other items which will cost money are still being investigated, including the repair and raising of the fence at the War Memorial Hall and modifications to the “cuckoo-pen” on Church Path. It also looks as if the Church Clock, which the Council considers to be an important village amenity, will need a financial injection to get it ticking again, and the Council has agreed in principle to help

Other Business

Cllr. S. Oram expressed concern about the hazards caused by the number of cars parked in Church Road on important church occasions. It was suggested that ways should be found of placing a warning notice at the approaches to the Manor Close corner.

Longstock Parish Council is organising a demonstration of electronic speed indicator devices designed to warn drivers of speed-limits. As this could be of value on the approach to the village from St. John’s Cross, several Councillors will be driving carefully over to Longstock early in the New Year.

What’s in a name? TVBC has asked whether the Council wanted the new house next to Rosebank to have a name or number. Expressing a marked preference for names, the Council has asked for suggestions, with the proviso that they do not come up with anything containing the word “Rose”, since, much as we all love everything about those glorious flowers except their vicious thorns, as well as Rosebank and Roselands we already have no less than three Rose Cottages.

In closing the meeting, the Chairman expressed his appreciation of the hard work and steady support of all Councillors and Officers and wished them, together with all parishioners, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. And so say all of us.

The next meeting will be on January 10th 2008. Full Minutes will be available in the Village Shop, on the Website or from the Clerk.

Adrian Stokes, Clerk to the Parish Council

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