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Clerk’s Column February 2007

Questions, questions Some of us would very much like to know what the Powers that Be, in their air-conditioned ivory towers, bulging with full-time officials, think that Parish Councillors and Clerks do all day. They surely do not imagine that the main task of many (very part-time) Clerks consists of providing a massive umbrella with which to shelter Councillors from a steady downpour of Consultations, usually accompanied by hefty questionnaires with a deadline that inevitably falls before the date of the next meeting.

Like the daffodils around the Jubilee Tree, the early Spring has produced a crop of consultations: one concerned local transport, to which the only relevant response, among dozens, concerned the difficulty of getting to a hospital or surgery by bus. Another current survey, about Countryside Access, is asking whether we have provision for kite-flying, picnicking or “linear access” – yes, we all wondered what that meant until research revealed that it meant “walking routes”, once again showing how much easier it is to understand things said in Old English, or in Government-speak, the enhanced facility for comprehension demonstrated by utilising Anglo-Saxon terminology. Next, we have been invited to comment on Test Valley’s proposed Equal Opportunities Policy, as Beech Hurst is anxious to be on the right side of the law, apparently wanting to be sure that Abbotts Ann is not unfair to anyone on grounds of (wait for it) gender, disability, race, ethnic or national origin, age, religion or belief, or sexual orientation. After much brow-wrinkling no-one could think of anything except possibly the difficulty of navigating a wheel-chair through a cuckoo-pen (aka kissing-gate).

We have had some dramas over a milestone, but these humble monuments are hardly designed to thrill; however, SEERA’s Chief Executive has given the description of “an exciting milestone” to the process of ploughing through its series of EiPs (Examinations in Public, as opposed to public Examinations such as GCSEs), covering an area with Oxford to the north, the New Forest to the west and far-distant Kent to the east. We are told that members of the public may attend and observe, but not speak, so this is rather a limited kind of consultation. Incidentally, our little bit of this huge area only seems to get a look in as part of the Western Corridor; are we happy to be classed as merely a passageway from A to B vaguely attached to the M4?

Meanwhile Mr. Griffiths, wearing his Chairman’s hat (or maybe beret) plans to attend the “Meet your HAT” gathering at Thruxton (see last month’s Newsletter); the village also needs to be represented at two more important consultation meetings – one on the proposed development of Andover Airfield; and another on the future (if any) of Andover Hospital Not to mention the Clerk, who is instructed to download and comment on an endless document from Whitehall seeking a reaction to a revised Code of Conduct to replace the previous dog’s breakfast of the same name. How refreshing it would be if our political masters would think before they legislate; perhaps if they did, they would decide, even more refreshingly, not to legislate at all, leaving us to rely on common sense.

Village School. The Clerk has been asked to press the “pause” button at this point in order to provide space for an important report on the future of the Village School, which will appear as an Appendix to the following notes on the Council Meeting and to the full Minutes.

PARISH COUNCIL MEETING ON 1ST FEBRUARY 2007.

Police. It was noted that our new local policeman is P.C. Richard Jewel; in a mistaken departure from the studied formality of the Minutes he appeared under his nick-name, with which he is suspected of being thoroughly fed up. An apology is due.

Planning. No less than four members of the public attended the meeting for the first planning item.

a. Dingwall, Little Ann. This was the third (revised) application produced after much consultation with the Planning Office, but the immediate neighbours were still very unhappy about the loss of light and privacy involved and the Council listened carefully to arguments from Mr. Pearce, Mr. Lillystone and Mr. Hunt. Mr. Pearce indicated that he had done all he could to minimise the impact of the house itself on the neighbours, but it was clear that no small part of their problem was caused by the location of the garage, which was not where he had originally planned it. The reason seemed to be that it could go nowhere else because of the need to preserve a tree – not a venerable oak or chestnut, but a rather ordinary prunus, too large to move, but not too difficult to replace with an identical model for about £24.99. The Council expressed sympathy for the neighbours, but, given the plans and regulations before them, could find no planning grounds to register an objection.

b. New House adjacent to 85 Little Ann. The Chairman pointed out a number of inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the application, including the continuing intrusion of “Clatford Road”, but the Council, by majority vote, resolved to register No Objection.

c. Garage and store at “Formosa”, Cattle Lane. The applicant was seeking to remedy an acknowledged breach of regulations in the retention of the old bungalow, pleading that he had needed it for storage; accordingly he was applying to replace it with a large garage and store. But the council considered it to look more like an additional house, its dominance of the site emphasised by its forward position on the plot and its construction, as clearly of 2 storeys in height, conflicting with the Council’s general policy for Little Park and Cattle Lane. An Objection was registered.

d. It was noted that the Application to replace White Smocks, Little Ann with a much larger house and garage had been referred to TVBC’s Planning Committee.

e. TVBC’s Enforcement Officer has stated that Listed Building consent is required if the strange red box of tricks mounted on the Poplar Farm Inn chimney is to stay there. If it has some essential function, the Council is asking for it at least to be disguised (how do you disguise a sore thumb?). It is considered unlikely that this will delay the long-awaited re-opening.

Village Organisations.

a. Neighbourhood Watch. It was noted that the Police had recently been on duty outside the Village School discouraging the parking of cars on the pavement. It was hoped that this might indicate progress on the possibility of installing permanent bollards.

b. Footpaths. Mr. Downey reported that he had found the agents for the Abbotts Ann Estate to be helpful and reasonably prompt in dealing with a considerable number of trees brought down by recent gales. There was concern about the disposal of litter, including dog-fouling, in Church Path, for which solutions are being sought.

c. Village School. Mr. Stanton, who is the School Governor involved in negotiating the project, reported on the plans for relocating the school. See Appendix.

Finance. The Council has decided to set aside finance for the cleaning of the memorial stones in the Garden of Remembrance, as they are subject to unsightly weathering. The operation will not include repainting the lettering, as this is the responsibility of the families concerned, and it is regretted that a DIY approach is not permitted.

A bill has been received from Hampshire Highways for the cutting-back of the hedge at Dances Corner, but since the hedge is in private ownership, Councillors were not able to authorise payment from Parish Funds. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

Other Business

a. Speed Limits. HCC is considering a major initiative which reflects the anxiety of hundreds of Parish Councils about excessive speeds in villages, especially near schools. The Clerk remembers this as a major issue in the 1980s, long before the invention of Chelsea Tractors, when the majority of children actually walked to school. The Chairman has written to the leader of HCC, Cllr Thornber, welcoming the idea without telling him how long we have been asking for it. A little bird, however, has whispered that nothing will happen without, of course, a consultation in the form of a “Public Attitude Survey” to assess the acceptability of lower limits accompanied by stronger enforcement.

b. Maps. Not content with up-dating the Village Map, organising its distribution and obtaining two jumbo-sized copies, one for the notice-board at the War Memorial Hall, and one for the Jubilee Room inside, the indefatigable David Downey is now engaged in up-dating the Emergency Map, which, we are sure, the emergency services will find a lot more reliable than satellites, especially now that the Chinese have the ability to treat these like astral clay pigeons.

c. Notice Boards. Mr. Downey has experienced difficulties in sourcing the correct fluids for treating the notice-boards to a face-lift; the firm originally used has gone into liquidation and its successor apparently wanted to know precisely what kind of oak the boards were made of. Mr. Downey is still working towards a solution.

Future Meetings

The next regular meeting of the Parish Council will be held on Thursday 1st March at 7 p.m. in the Jubilee Room.

All residents are welcome, indeed encouraged, to attend the Annual Parish Assembly in the War Memorial Hall on Friday 30th March at 7 p.m. This provides a golden opportunity to hear from, and question, your Councillors and representatives of village organisations. See you there.

Adrian Stokes, Clerk to the Parish Council

APPENDIX TO MINUTES OF MEETING DATED 01.02.07

UPDATE – RELOCATION OF ABBOTTS ANN SCHOOL

Following a meeting on 1st February between representatives from Hampshire County Council, Abbotts Ann Estates and the school governors, the general shape of the project is becoming defined. It is the intention to relocate Abbotts Ann Primary School to the south west of the village onto land adjacent/close-to the Criswick Close development. The exact location and size of land to be used is still subject to negotiation and assessment of suitability. Also to be confirmed is whether the proposed new school will seek to utilise the Bulbery playing field for its sports area, or have a dedicated piece of land allocated for this purpose. The timetable for the project is swift, with planning to be finalised by September 07, and building to commence summer 08 at the latest. There are still many unknowns at this time, and aspects such as planning approval cannot be taken for granted.

Regarding the other land related issues, it is the intention that the school will remain in its current location until building is complete, then conduct a single move to the new school, not via any temporary accommodation. Disposal of the current site would then follow. As regards the Manor Close land, there is no intention to dispose of this green site in the immediate future, although its status as a school playing field would have to be reviewed dependent on the final plan for the new school green area. HCC own this land and ultimately will decide its fate.

It is the intention of the school governors to keep the residents of Abbotts Ann informed throughout, with the monthly Parish Council meeting and subsequent reports placed in the village shop and in the Parish magazine as prime means of conveying plans and intentions. Should anyone have particular concerns or questions on the project, these should be passed to the school in the first instance for onward transmission to the school governor monitoring the rebuild.

Paul Stanton

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