Clerk’s Column September 2007

Shipshapely. How do you clean a barbecue? Well, wire wool and elbow-grease can remove the accumulated gunge in the end, but apparently the best implement is a Barbecue Brush. These should be re-named, as they are also being found to produce interesting results on barnacled boat-bottoms, rusty railings and peeling paintwork. Your Parish Council, not wanting anything in the village to look down-at-heel, recently purchased one for the ingenious David Downey who put it to work on the distinctly dingy woodwork of the Parish notice-boards, which now look better than new. And if anyone fears that the Basil Hibbert seat outside the Village Shop has been hi-jacked by villains, there is no need to worry, because it has been removed for similar treatment. If you want something done, they say, ask a busy man.
We have the same busy man to thank for the re-instatement of the finger post at the entrance to Church Path plus another one, known only to the more energetic dog-walkers, far away on Abbotts Ann Down. After several naggings from the Clerk and a sharp nudge from the elbow of our County Councillor, Michael Woodhall, it was explained in a phone call from the Castle in Winchester that the Footpaths Department could only afford, for jobs like this, to employ two workmen (or should they be called Technical Assistance Operatives), so the chances of either of them being available within a decade or two were rather slim. It was possible, however, for new “fingers” to be supplied, free, and so, a couple of days later, the Clerk found, to his surprise, three new “fingers” on his doorstep.As it turned out, he found that the spare one could only be read from one side, so that it will need careful placing, but the other two were fine, and so he asked a busy man…
Still on the subject of keeping things ship-shape, it has been obvious to everyone that the recent weird weather has encouraged luxuriant growth of hedges and verges; it is equally clear that the Powers that Be consider that dealing with this sort of mundane activity is less interesting than great issues such as deciding which green fields should be covered in concrete, which ethnic minority should have its human rights protected, or which commercial enterprise should take over the Guildhall. So it is up to us. The Parish Council already sees that the footpaths are kept in good order – and if anyone asks why it is so hard to get to Bury Hill, it should be noted that the higher part of the path is in another Parish – so we are already doing some of the County Council’s work; to be practical, if we want a tidy village it cannot all be left to them.
There are some splendid examples, especially in Little Ann, of public-spirited people mowing, clipping and planting glorious flowers in the verges. Would others take the hint?

The Shed. The Warehouse War has gone a little quiet for the time being, as the deadline for objections reaching the Planning Office has passed. However, in good time, a hefty missile was lobbed into Fort Beech Hurst thanks to the sterling work of Abbotts Ann Action (namely Ray Lucas and John Moon) in the form of a masterly 12-page letter which should have left the officials reaching for something strong enough to restore their self-confidence, as it is intended that this should embody the considered opinions of all the Parish Councils round about. The text should be available shortly in the Parish Council Book in the Village Shop and on the website; and talking of websites, you can put pressure on the Government by adding your name to the Petitions Website at 10 Downing Street HERE which is almost as easy as falling off a log. Meanwhile it is important to keep the posters posted and the flyers flying.

One might expect such an important development to be discussed by the full membership of the Test Valley Borough Council, but it is just the Northern Area Planning Committee that is scheduled to debate the matter on December 4th in the theatre at The Lights, where it is fervently hoped that the proceedings will turn out to be neither tragedy nor farce; the latter outcome is made a good deal more likely by the fact that just one three-minute slot is allowed for all the Parish Councils put together to address the meeting, with the same rule applying to all the hundreds of individual protesters put together. Although we hear that the Lib Dems are making themselves useful by pressing for these limits to be at least doubled, the procedure, in this respect, is the same as if the application is for a harmless conservatory in Wisteria Grove. An odd quirk in the Code of Conduct also forbids Borough Councillors from telling anyone which way they will vote, because if they do they will be regarded as prejudiced and forbidden to participate in the debate. You may very well guess the opinions of Cllrs. Peters and Stallard, but they could not possibly comment.

Consultations – the last word. Consultation documents, on subjects ranging from Spatial Strategy in the South (your guess is as good as mine) to Sewage and Salvage in Suburbia, from the Preservation of Polecats to the Positioning of Polling Places, have been raining down on Parish Clerks like conkers on Church Path. We thought we had weathered the current Silly Season without too much hassle, and we are always careful to see if any communications are dated April 1st, but we have just been given notice that we will shortly receive a consultation on – wait for it – Consultations. This Clerk cannot printably comment.


The Shed. A fair amount of Councillors’ time was spent on an update of the progress of the application to impose on our neighbourhood a building which would be larger than Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and likely to generate up to 6,000 lorry-journeys per day. No need to describe the attitude of your Council, which is shared by all the nearby Parish Councils as well as many which are quite far away, and Councillors noted with approval the letters to the Andover Advertiser from Robert Brock of Abbotts Ann and Peter Jopling of Upper Clatford. As explained above, the attitude of Borough Councillors remains inscrutable, but we may know more about the Chief Planning Officer’s policy after her attendance at the next meeting of the Test Valley Association of Parish Councils at which Abbotts Ann will be represented. Meanwhile enough said for one Newsletter – the developers would be delighted if protest fatigue should set in.

Planning. No-one seemed to want to build anything else hereabouts apart from an Abbotts Ann Down resident wishing to provide accommodation for a granny where his car used to live. Four Councillors will soon be extending their expertise at a Planning Seminar at Fort Beech Hurst, after which, no doubt, they will be able to convert hectares and centimetres to acres and inches at the drop of a ridge-tile.

Burghclere Down. It is perhaps too easy to forget that this Parish is a great deal larger than the village, and extends southwards almost to Middle Wallop and northwards right into Floral Way – hence the many planning applications for conservatories in Honeysuckle Gardens and Hibiscus Crescent. The Chairman of Burghclere Down Community Association, whose six Trustees run a thriving Community Centre and produce a glossy quarterly magazine called Buzz, has expressed interest in attending Parish Council meetings, where a representative would be most welcome.

Traffic. Someone has been driving round Bulbery at an alarming speed. Surely someone knows who it is. If not, a note of the car’s registration number would be helpful to the Police. The Police are still paying occasional visits with radar equipment, paying particular attention to Red Rice Road, where it tends to be forgotten that the 30 mph limit starts at St. John’s Cross. It is suggested that we might follow the lead of Goodworth Clatford and try out a flashing electronic warning sign.
The Council is aware of the “20’s plenty” campaign, which advocates voluntary 20 mph limits in the vicinity of schools, but is a little sceptical about an unenforceable scheme. However, the relocation of the Village School may provide opportunities…

As for Cattle Lane, despite nagging from the Clerk, there has been no response to the request that the turning from the Salisbury direction on the A343 should get back its “refuge”, and it appears that the problems of vehicles passing each other in the lane have gone into the “too difficult” or “not important enough” file. It has been suggested that in any case it would be a good safety measure to have No Right Turn onto the Salisbury Road, as it is no distance from the roundabout. It would be interesting to hear the views of Cattle Lane residents.

And yes, the Clerk will issue his annual nag about the overgrown verge at St. John’s Cross making the exit from the Red Rice direction quite a stressful experience.

Other Matters. A selection of the 22 other items of miscellaneous business which will be found in the full Minutes (available in the Village shop and on the Website) include:

a. The name of the old “Out of Town” café site is still not finalised; the proposed “Danebury Mews” has not met with the Council’s approval, because it is nowhere near Danebury – not even close to Bury Hill – and isn’t a mews; these are strictly defined as places to keep either hawks or horses and carriages, though they have acquired upmarket status and mind-boggling values in places like Kensington, which is not quite the same as Salisbury Road.

b. The Fete made record profits for the benefit of the village, and was described as “biggest and best” by Sir George Young MP, whose experience of fetes must be unrivalled. The Council passed a unanimous Vote of Thanks for the organisers and all who contributed to this success.

c. There is concern that the Ofsted inspectors will require that the fences around the War Memorial Hall should be heightened to improve the security of the Nursery School. The Parish Council, which regards the Nursery School as an important asset to the village, certainly wants to offer all possible help.

d. Overflying by commercial aircraft was the subject of a detailed technical report from Southampton University experts. Skipping to the final paragraph, it appears that there should be no night-time flights and that any day-time noises were unlikely to exceed those of tractors, birds, mowing-machines or the A303.

e. There was still time, within the desired 2-hour limit, to look at the abolition of SEERA, ragwort, hedges, insurance, Burial Ground fees, broken kerbstones and a dud bulb on Church Path.. If you really want more details, they are there in the Minutes.

Next Meeting. The next meeting will be on October 4th at 7 p.m. in the Jubilee Room.

Adrian Stokes, Clerk to the Parish Council