Clerk’s Column November 2007

“A Nation of Shopkeepers” was Napoleon’s summing up of the British character, though no-one knows whether he meant it as a compliment; and Adam Smith, founder of the science (?) of Economics, also talked about a nation governed by shopkeepers. It is strange that well within living memory, apart perhaps from Boots, W.H.Smith and Woolworths, most of our shops were individual businesses; now it takes little time to count the number of “retail outlets” in Andover that do not belong to a nation-wide chain. The supermarkets seem as unstoppable as looming Leylandii hedges, depriving all smaller concerns of their share of sunlight – the new ASDA certainly looms, and so will the Megashed unless… If we don’t watch out, we will soon be living near Tescover, with a new store opening where SCATS used to be and the astonishing take-over of what was Charlton’s village shop, and we will find ourselves in a Borough, or even a country, governed by super-shopkeepers.

As if these vast organisations were not frightening enough, another lumbering giant, in the form of the Post Office, has joined the grim reapers by announcing the closure of thousands of sub-post-offices, most of which are located in smaller shops, including those in Anna Valley and Goodworth Clatford. It must not be forgotten that the latter was enormously helpful in the establishment of our own shop; it is now set up as a similar community-run venture and the loss of their Post Office counter threatens the survival of the whole business. The proposals are now the subject of – you’ve guessed it – a consultation; the local residents are making very sure that the Powers that Be hear their views. The outcome will be a very interesting indicator of whether the consultation process is any more than a game of charades. The exectioners have not bothered to conceal the fact that the overall number of closures is not negotiable, so that if they decide to reprieve one office they will have to axe another.

So we must watch our backs and keep up our support of our own shop, as they compete in the great Local Shop Championship. If people are tempted to shop at T—co, they should perhaps be reminded that if they add the cost of getting there by bus or car to the bill there is a lot to be said for using a shop that is within walking distance. And it’s surprising how much shopping you can load onto the carrier of a bike.

Andover Airfield
The “Stop Megashed” protest movement has seen a heart-warming level of co-operation between the local parishes. A small committee has put a tremendous amount of time and energy into the organisation of demonstrations, leaflets, the petition and the button-holing of passers-by in Andover on market-days; our main contribution has been the sterling work of Abbotts Ann Action (Ray Lucas and John Moon) on drafting letters on behalf of all the parishes showing a far more realistic view of the technicalities than that of the developers and highlighting the fudging inadequacies of their forecasts.

However, the committee does ask you not to leave it all to others, such as those of your Councillors who have been manning the “Stop Megashed” stand in the market. They need more volunteers, and they are also asking for 50 people from each of 10 villages to turn up awesomely at The Lights for the Planning Committee on 3rd December (if it is not postponed). If the scheme goes ahead unmodified, we will all be affected, particularly by an incalculable increase in traffic, not just on the A303 with its inadequate 4 lanes, or the A343 with a mere 2, but in places like Red Rice Road, Duck Street, Little Ann, Red Post Lane and Cattle Lane, where even cyclists and buggy-pushers often have to take refuge on the verge. So it’s not just Them, it’s Us; please think about it.

Did you know?
What is an EiP panel? It is all part of the passion of the Powers that Be for Consultation, and it has been busy for weeks running an Examination in Public (nothing to do with Public Examinations which are things like GCSEs) of the South East Plan, with the result that they have decreed an increase of 5 per cent in the number of houses to be built in Hampshire by 2026 to a massive 128,000. 600 of the extra houses are designated for Andover, but Basingstoke gets an extra 1700 bringing their total of new homes to 17,300. Will Basingstoke soon be visible from the top of Danebury?

Mineral Extraction
The subject of yet another consultation, this concerns the digging of huge holes to provide gravel etc required for the construction of all those houses, not to mention the concreting over of green fields. Ah, but now that you have a huge hole, you have somewhere to put all the non-recyclable rubbish generated by all the new households.

Surface Water Drainage Rebate
You may not know that the law requires water companies to offer a reduction in their charges if surface water from customers’ properties does not drain into the public main drainage system. So, if the rain from your roof goes into your own soakaway or simply drips off the edge of your thatch, you can get some money back.

This has given rise to another consultation, not of immediate concern to your Council. The AH stands for Affordable Housing.


The Shed. As the reader will have already gathered, much of the meeting was devoted to discussion of the development of the old airfield, and Mr. Lucas and Dr. Moon came along to bring the Council up to date on their activities in general and the letter of objection which all agreed was a masterly exposure of the weaknesses in the developer’s case. The Council had no hesitation in authorising the Chairman to sign the letter, in company with, so far, the Chairmen of the Councils at Monxton, Amport and Penton. The full text will be appended to the Minutes.

At the Planning Committee meeting, due on 3rd December, an amazingly generous slot of three minutes has been allotted to a spokesman for all the local parishes put together, as if all we are objecting to a is neighbour’s proposals for a potting shed; the Council agreed that the speaker should be Katrina Saville of Monxton, who has been a tireless campaigner from the start.

Mr. Lucas, always the realist, reminded the meeting that the site belonged to the enormous property developing company of Goodman (what’s in a name?), not to Tesco, and they would still be there even if Tesco went away. The stalwarts of Abbotts Ann Action left the Jubilee Room with a unanimous Vote of Thanks for work which must have taken up countless hours of their time.

Planning. Most of the Council’s deliberations on planning matters deal with plans of a rather smaller scale than the above, so there was little problem in recording no objection to an additional bedroom in BerryWay, a conservatory in Bluebell Close and revised parking space off Rice Road. Four applications referring to trees were a reminder that permission is required before we do almost anything to a tree hereabouts, and that if there is a tree-problem, such as bits falling off, it is the owner’s responsibility to clear it up. Sometimes it is a problem to establish who owns what – especially when a tree is on, or worse still half-on, a verge.

Nursery School. Mrs. Rachel Osmond, Manager of the Nursery School, like so many people involved in education, receives a steady snowstorm of directives and regulations from the Powers that Be; she came to tell the meeting about some of those which would involve the Council in advice, decision or action. Councillors are certainly aware of the great value of the Nursery School and its importance both to the village and to the War Memorial Hall and promised to give sympathetic consideration to ideas about a children’s garden, the use of the parking area as a playground, better storage for play equipment, prevention of dog-fouling and general security. The latter produces the biggest headache, because it involves the fencing, which is, in Health and Safety terms, too low and so too easily climbed, or leaned, over. However, the authorities are unwilling to spell out a minimum height, but only tell us that it should in effect be “sufficient” or “adequate”, terms which would provide a bonanza for a clever lawyer. Sufficiently tall to prevent a passing elephant from leaning over to pick up a child with its trunk? Adequately strong to ensure that a runaway white van would bounce off? We are left just with a term which the law rarely seems to recognise, namely common sense, which points to something like the existing railings at four foot six.

Clerk’s Report. Since the Airfield Saga began what feels like years ago, the number of emails reaching the Clerk’s computer has at least quadrupled with no sign of diminishing. From among these messages, he passed on a reminder that “protest fatigue” is just what the applicants would like to see; so we must all keep soldiering on by turning up at demonstrations and helping to reach the target of 5,000 signatures on the protest petition (the current score is 3,000).

The Hampshire Association of Parish and Town Councils (HAPTC) is an enormously helpful organisation without which we would have dire problems in understanding, applying and responding to the deluge of regulation, consultation and general guff emanating from organisations like DCLG, the HATS, NERC, SEEDA and UTC&A. They have kindly invited the Clerk to a seminar in Longstock from which he hopes to learn exactly who or what is/are LCDT, the E-Planning Agenda, the CLG Planning Portal and the E-Consultation Hub. To make life easier and less tongue-twisting, HAPTC has also decided to change its name to the credible HALC.

On hearing about a brief but emphatically critical anonymous phone call, the Council requested that its continuing approval and support of the Clerk’s approach to the publication of the Newsletter be recorded in the Minutes. While unclear about the nature of the complaint the Clerk wishes to express his sincere apologies for any offence unwittingly caused.

The Council is still concerned about the speed of traffic approaching the village from St. John;’s Cross, and the Clerk is looking into the practicalities of those electronic roadside signs which flash a warning to drivers to watch their speed. Another possibility for the area would be “build-outs” like those which deter people anxious to catch a train from speeding up the Avenue in Andover. Much depends on the design of the approaches to and from the new Village School site.

Finance. This month’s expenditure included the Council’s contributions towards the Parish Magazine and the Website (240 each) and the Sports Field Committee (£1,500) all of which the Councillors feel is money well spent. Notice of the satisfactory completion of the audit of the Council’s accounts for 2006-07 has been received from the Audit Commission in faraway Plymouth. Anyone who can’t wait to see the Annual Return is welcome to look at it in the book in the Village Shop or ask the Clerk.

Parish Organisations. The regular attendance of our Borough Councillors is always welcome. This time it was Cllr Graham Stallard’s turn. Reminding us that with Cllr Arthur Peters he represents the Clatfords, he reported on the very vigorous campaign getting under way at Goodworth Clatford for saving their Post Office, and warned us that no rural offices were entirely safe from the axe. So for our own shop “use it or lose it” should be borne in mind.

David Downey reported that Footpath 11 in Little Park was now clear of obstructions thanks to some successful nagging.

Cllr Paul Stanton assured us that the plans for the new school are up to schedule, so that 2008 should see the start of building.

The Council welcomed the completion of the repairs to the War Memorial Hall within budget and on time. Cllr Stallard reminded us that 23rd November was the date of the Hall Committee’s AGM, which members of the public were welcome to attend. It would mark the end of the outstandingly successful Chairmanship of Alyson Godman, to whom the Council passed a unanimous Vote of Thanks for her great contribution to the life of the Parish.

No representative of the Burghclere Down Community Association had attended, although, as before, an invitation had been sent.

Other Business

Church Path. The council was firmly of the opinion that the “cuckoo-pen” should be retained, but more research was needed into ways of making it more user-friendly for buggies and wheel-chairs while still discouraging bicycles and horses.

Bollards (again). A parishioner had written about an injury caused by the invisibility in the dark of the bollards opposite the Village Shop. The Council re-affirmed the long-held decision not to install any more street-lighting, though Councillors asked that public-spirited residents might consider putting low-consumption bulbs in their outside lights and leaving them on in the dark evenings. They recommended in any case that pedestrians should carry torches and discussed various solutions to the problem of the black bollards. An experiment or two was suggested, so everyone is advised to watch this space and their step.

Meetings Full Minutes of the meeting are available in the Village Shop, on the Website or from the Clerk.

Next year’s regular meetings will be held on the first Thursday of each month as usual, except for those on 10th January and 11th September. The Annual Assembly will be on 14th March. The next meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday 6th December.

Adrian Stokes, Clerk to the Parish Council