Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Empty Shops and Empty Pockets?

Now, some people might think that I'm a bit tight. (I prefer to think of myself as appropriately frugal). Anyway, I went shopping for a Christmas present today for one of my God Sons. We'd agreed not to see them until the New Year and I had, genuinely, not had time to find the present prior to Christmas.

I therefore spent a couple of hours at Castlepoint and the shopping centre on the old bus depot site opposite.

What was astounding was firstly how few people there were about, the car parks were busy but by no means full and the shops were equally busy but there were virtually no queues at the tills.

More surprising for me was the lack of stock on the shelves. Admittedly, we are at the end of a week in which there is little stock coming in to the stores, but even so there was a very limited choice of goods. This wasn't just the case in the electrical stores, but also in the food shops as well.

It's a poor augry for the coming year. Little money to spend, both by consumers and by retailers stocking their shelves will surely have a circular and knock on effect, one thing leading on to the other. It doesn't bode well and it proves how wrong the Government's policy of borrowing wildly to pay for tax cuts that have had little effect and to bail out the banks who continue to refuse to lend is.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Christmas Day

James had to go to work this morning, just for a couple of hours to do a ward round.  He was met with his first patient, a frail elderly lady, having arrested.  

Despite his efforts and those of the team of nurses and doctors present I'm afraid she died.  

The staff, particularly the nurses, were very upset.  They had called her family, who arrived too late to see her.  James had to speak to her daughter to explain what had happened.  Her elderly husband was at home.

Christmas is a happy time for so many of us.  We spent Christmas with our families, who spent the day with us at our home.  

James' experience this morning though provided a timely reminder that Christmas can be a very sad time for some of us.   My thoughts and prayers are with you if the festivities provide you with a reminder of sad times.  

Friday, 28 November 2008

Labour choose their candidate

The Labour party have chosen their candidate for Mid Dorset and North Poole, Chris Thompson.

Chris is also a blogger, his blog can be found here.  His first post is a response to the comments I've made about proposals for the BBC to start local internet news services and the threat they pose to local newspapers.

Welcome to the fray Chris!  

Friday, 31 October 2008

Cannon Hill quarry proposals

Cannon Hill is an area of woodland which runs in to the centre of Colehill.

Dorset County Council have just published their proposals for sites suitable for quarrying over the next 25 years. Cannon Hill is included, proposed as a site for gravel extraction for a period of 15 to 25 years.

The idea is totally bonkers!

The site is completely unsuitable. It's in the middle of the village, access for at least some of the traffic would need to be through Cannon Hill Road, which is adjacent to Colehill First School. There are also significant numbers of properties backing on to the plantation. Not only in Pilford Heath Road and Cannon Hill Gardens, but also in Quarry Road and the roads around Bridle Way.

Complete madness. We'll be circulating letters to help people object in the next few days.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

RIP Harry

My dog Harry died this morning. He was nearly 17 and if he had lived until the end of the week then we would have been together for 16 years.

I couldn't have had a more faithful and loving friend during that time. I don't mind admitting that I'm heartbroken.

Harry came from Battersea Dog's Home, where he had been re-homed three times before we rescued him on a sunny Friday afternoon in 1992. He was full of character and life; mischievous, obedient and stubborn in equal parts.
He became known throughout Littledown and Iford as he was the mascot in 2005 of the campaign to oppose the green belt development proposed there, appearing on posters in people's windows across the ward.

I loved him very much, and I'll miss him terribly.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

When is a tax cut not a tax cut....?

You know when you hear something on the radio news and you don't quite believe you heard it so have to make sure you listen to the next bulletin in case you misheard it.

I had one of those moments today listening to the radio 4 news this afternoon.

Yvette Cooper MP, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury was talking about what the Government was doing to help people hit by rising prices.

She told us that they were 'cutting taxes' like 'removing the additional 2p rise in fuel duty on a litre of petrol'.

So that would the Government cutting a tax they haven't imposed yet.  You can't cut taxes you haven't imposed, and in this case you shouldn't be imposing a tax in the first place.  

The preposterousness (is that a word?) of the Government's justification of the mess they have us in just get worse.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Castleford, empty houses and the RSS

What do these three things have in common?

Well, we've just been watching a programme on Channel 4 about the regeneration of Castleford, where there are apparently streets of houses sitting empty amongst other symptoms of urban decay.  This appears to have been largely brought about by the demise of the mining and other industries in the area.

It was a good example of why this kind of area deserves more than its fair share of Government funding.

However, it made me ask the question why the Government is forcing us to concrete over huge areas of the Green Belt around Bournemouth and Poole while there are clearly areas of housing standing empty in the north.

This Government's prioritisation of funding for the north has resulted in superior infrastructure for those areas receiving it.  Greater funding for local authorities has also resulted in much lower rates of council tax for residents.  This has, it would appear, lead to complacency over issues such as recylcing (see here).

Proper regeneration of deprived areas of the country should be lead by private investment.  In the 1980's the government encouraged new businesses by offering tax breaks, incentives, pump prime funding and practical assistance to start up businesses prepared to relocate to those areas.

They also prioritized those areas requiring regeneration when they decided where to relocate those government departments and agencies being moved from Central London.  

That kind of practical intervention and assistance would begin to bring true regeneration through opportunity to deprived areas, partculalry those in the North.  Maybe then there wouldn't be the need for the Government to propose such enormous housing growth here in South East Dorset.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

AFC Bournemouth - A question of fairness?

Rotherham football club will start the new season with a 17 point deficit as a consequence of their not coming out of administration in a proper manner.

Apparently the same threat hangs over AFC Bournemouth and the fate of the club will be decided by the Football League today.

Deducting points from the club would seem to me to be completely retrograde. They were already relegated last season and if the club is to have any chance of survival, let alone thriving, then success on the pitch is an, if not the, essential component.

Making the team start with a points deficit from which they will find it difficult if not impossible to recover doesn't seem fair to me. More importantly it seems terribly unfair for the players and the fans. They shouldn't be penalised for problems in the boardroom.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Labour's Bin Tax Scheme are reporting that no councils have signed up to Labour's proposed trials of the 'bin tax'.

This would be exactly the kind of scheme that the 'chips in bins' were designed for.  I've been opposing the use of this technology and the proposals for this kind of taxation since I was first elected to Bournemouth Council back in 2005.  

The removal of refuse from the home is one of the fundamental services provided by local councils.  It's one of the services that's been consistently provided by local authorities and it is exactly for this kind of service that local taxation (be it rates, community charge or council tax) has been paid by residents.

If your council doesn't take away your rubbish as part of your local tax, then why have a local tax in the first place?

Good on those councils who have refused to join in the scheme.  Let's hope the refusal of local authorities to cooperate with the Government over this will kill the idea for good.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Lib Dem councillor defects to Conservatives

Lib Dem Councillor Ian James has defected to the Conservatives on Weymouth and Portland Borough Council.

This is the third defection from the Lib Dems to the Conservatives in Dorset in recent times.  

Welcome to the party Ian, and well done to South Dorset Conservatives for showing the leadership in Weymouth that has inspired Ian to cross the floor.

The full story is here.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Future 3000 in trouble

Apparently the Wednesday edition of the Daily Echo sold out.  This is largely due to the fact that Richard Carr was on the front page of the paper here.  

There appears to be a good deal of schadenfreude around Bournemouth and Poole at this news.

I don't share in it.  I know from bitter experience how hard anyone in business for themselves has to work in economic times like these.  I also know how difficult the decision to take the company in to administration must have been for its directors.  

I disagree with Richard Carr about very many things.  That's no reason to revel in his troubles, as some are doing.  He faces a difficult enough few months ahead attempting to keep his businesses afloat in such uncertain times.  As do we all.  He deserves our respect for creating a profitable business and our sympathy now that it has run in to problems.

I wish him and all his staff all the best.  Let's hope there is a way out of this situation for them.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Regional Spatial Strategy

The Regional Spatial Strategy announcment we were expeciting has been published this morning.

I always thought the Government would be cynical in their timing.  There's an article on about Ministers 'clearing out the trash', in other words how the Government is getting rid of a number of relatively contentious issues today, the day before the Parliamentary recess.  

The consultation period that now begins will last for 12 weeks.  The Parliamentary Recess lasts for 11 weeks.  That's a coincidence isn't it!

As I've said in my previous posts, these proposals will be disastrous for the whole of South East Dorset.  We'll do all we can to make sure everyone is aware of them and that everyone has a chance to make their point of view heard.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Annette becomes a grannie

I've heard on the grapevine that our MP, Annette Brooke, is due to become a grandmother for the first time this week.

Congratulations to Annette, Mike and their family. I hope everything goes well.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Susan Jefferies, the RSS and Me

Susan Jefferies is the Lib Dem County Councillor for Corfe Mullen and I appear to have upset her.

Now, I've never actually met Susan.  I have, of course, heard about her and most of what I have heard has been positive.  She represents her community on both the Parish and County councils and she's been consistent in her opposition to the RSS proposals for her area.

Susan has a web site, and she's a bit upset about last month's meeting to coordinate opposition to the RSS across SE Dorset.

Aparently the guest list 'read like a Tory cocktail party'.  Despite the fact that there were councillors there from each of the political parties on Bournemouth Borough Council, two Liberal Democrat Councillors and our own Liberal Democrat MP.  

Unfortunately for Susan, there were quite a number of Conservatives, but that simply reflects that each of the authorities in South East Dorset are Conservative controlled.  Therefore it's hardly surprising that a meeting to which the leaders of each of the councils were invited should include quite a number of Conservatives.

Susan goes on:

"At this meeting all sorts of protest actions were discussed and agreed and Nick King seems to be hailing himself the lead protester for the RSS.

May we remind the Tories that when the response to the original RSS was debated in March 2006, ...... the Tory administration in Bournemouth ..... supported the proposals for urban extensions into the Green Belt."

What Susan has conveniently forgotten is that the administration in Bournemouth at that time was a Liberal Democrat one.  The did indeed support development of the Green Belt and continued to do so up until the elections in May 2007.  

I was elected to Bournemouth Council in December 2005 on a clear platform of opposing Green Belt development.  Indeed it was the main issue in the by election as the Liberal Democrats were supporting then and continued to support development on green belt sites in my ward.   I think it goes some way to explaining how I won the by election, gaining the seat from the Lib Dems, with almost two thirds of the vote and how that majority was increased further in the elections last year.

Everyone has now come on board with opposition to the RSS plans.  Some have altered positions they previously held, including Bournemouth's Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives on Dorset County Council.

It's absolutely shameful that Susan is trying to make a party political points out of this.  We are all working together to oppose these dreadful plans that threaten to change the character of our area for ever.  

Stop playing politics Susan and work with everyone to fight the proposals when the Secretary of State announces them next week.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Post Office Closures Announced

The Daily Echo have obtained an advance list of the post offices proposed for closure in Dorset.

We seem to have gotten off very lightly here in Mid Dorset and North Poole. The only post office proposed for closure within the constituency is Sandford. I have been told that the owners of the post office there were not going to be greatly opposed to their being on the list for closure were it to happen.

Ensuring that the local community gets an outreach service will now be all important. Jane Thomas and I will be working with our colleagues on Purbeck District Council to lobby the Post Office for this.

Of more concern are the proposed closures of post offices in East Dorset. There are none in the East Dorset part of the constituency, however there are a number of closures proposed in the rest of the district, around the periphery of Wimborne. The proposed loss of Holt, Stapehill and Longham post offices is a blow to the area as a whole.

Longham is a particular concern. I visited the post office with Bob Walter MP last month.

The Post Master there has only recently rebuilt the post office after a fire damaged the building. They offer a particularly good service to local businesses and are likely to see even more trade as a consequence of the closure of the post offices in Stapehill and Wimborne Road, Ferndown. Let's hope that Bob and his district and county council colleagues for the area can wage a successful campaign to oppose the closure.

Friday, 4 July 2008

David Cameron and the Regional Spatial Strategy

David Cameron was in Bournemouth today, to speak at the Local Government Association Conference at the BIC.

I had to pick him up from Bournemouth Airport and take him to the conference centre. I therefore managed to get 20 minutes with him to talk to him about how important the Regional Spatial Strategy is to our area. He was horrified to hear about the proposals from the Examination in Public which would result in enormous incursions on to the Green Belt in East Dorset, Purbeck and Bournemouth.

He agreed entirely with our campaign to ensure that local people, through their local councils decide where, how many, of what type and for whom this housing should take place. He also agreed to confirm that a Conservative Government would overturn these plans if we were elected in time to stop the planning permissions being granted.

When we reached the BIC demonstrators from Lytchett Minster and Lytchett Matravers were already outside the building. I had a chance to talk to them while David Cameron went in to do his speech. It was great to see both Conservative and Liberal Democrat Councillors from Purbeck and the County Councils there demonstrating side by side. They were joined after a little while by people from Bournemouth, Christchurch and East Dorset.

David gave an interview to the Daily Echo, which I understand is going to be front page news tomorrow. He confirmed our position over the RSS in the interview. Good for him.

More importantly he also took a few minutes to meet and speak with the demonstrators outside. Again he emphasised the party's opposition and told the demonstration that if we're elected in time we would over turn the plans. He also confirmed that a Conservative Government would do away with all regional bodies, handing responsibility back to local councils to decide what kind of development should take place in their own areas.

Friday, 27 June 2008

RSS opposition meeting

I attended a meeting a Bournemouth Town Hall this afternoon about coordinating opposition to the Regional Spatial Strategy.

The leaders of each of the local authorities covering South East Dorset were invited, along with the local MPs, the Council for the Protection of Rural England, Friends of the Earth and the chair-people of the various action groups set up to oppose the RSS proposals in each of the areas.

I was delighted that we had such a good turn out from everyone.

The meeting was hosted by the Local Development Framework group on Bournemouth Council. The group includes a member from each of the political parties represented on the Council, in Bournemouth it's going to be this group that puts together our submission to the RSS proposals once the announcement of the final scheme has been made by the Secretary of State.

The proposals, if they remain as initially proposed, will change the character of our area for ever. As I've said often enough before.

The purpose of the meeting was for us to coordinate our opposition to the proposals.

We wanted to ensure that the local councils were all on the same page in their opposition to the proposals. That they were sharing their submissions with one another, to ensure commonality in their responses, and that this information was going to be made to the local action groups and other concerned parties to help them with their responses.

I'm very pleased to say that all of these points were agreed.

We then went on to discuss the opportunities for creating events highlighting the opposition in the area to the proposals in order that we can obtain maximum publicity for our opposition. Ideas included creating a human chain from Throop to Lytchett Minster.

We'll be meeting again once the RSS announcement has been made.

Sunday, 22 June 2008


Yesterday at the Lytchett Matravers Carnival the local protest group opposing the inclusion of a new development of 2,750 houses between Lytchett Minster and Lytchett Matravers had an exhibition tent.

Community Action for Lytchett Matravers (CALM) did a super job.  I was pleased to be able to visit them, buy one of their wristbands and show my support for them.  They're doing a great job.  Let's hope that the Secretary of State throws out this ridiculous proposal.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Mobile phone mast protest

We've been fighting a mobile phone mast application in my ward in Bournemouth.  There's an article in the Daily Echo today about it.  

The link is here.

The proposal is to build a mast at a busy junction in the middle of a residential area.  We've suggested an alternative site, about 800 yds away, which would give similar coverage but would be well away from any local housing and close to the masts built by other companies.

It reminded me of the protests we held last May opposing the mast proposed for The Clump in Broadstone.  I was pleased to see some of the people who were involved in those protests last weekend.  Permission was of course refused for the mast at The Clump.

Hopefully we'll have the same result in Littledown and Iford.  When will the mobile phone companies learn that rather than taking the easy option they should properly consult with local people first to ensure that they are taking their opinions on the site in to account.  It would cause them (and us) a whole lot less trouble!

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Iain Dale's Civil Partnership

Quite possibly the best known political blogger in the UK, Iain Dale, is getting 'hitched' to his long term partner John Simmons at their civil partnership ceremony today.

Congratulations and best wishes to them both.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Ireland says 'No'

The BBC are reporting that the Irish have voted 'No' in their referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

Good for them!

Let's hope that buries the plan and allows a new relationship between the countries of the Union to be negotiated. Let's also hope that the negotiation is carried out by a Conservative Government which will stand up for the UK's rights and ensure a repatriation of our eroded sovereignty from the EU.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Strawberry Tea at Kesworth

What a lovely day it's been.

This afternoon was the annual Wareham St Martin branch Strawberry Tea at Kesworth House. A super location for a really nice afternoon. Our largest turn out for some time as well, over 70 people there to enjoy the gardens and to catch up with friends and make new acquaintances.

Thanks to everyone who came along and most importantly to Jeremy Drax and his family for their continued support of their local branch and for lending their lovely house to us for the afternoon.

(Luckily this photo doesn't show me filling my face with scones, clotted cream and jam, but believe me I did!)

Tourism Minister can't stand the heat

Tourism plays a huge part in Dorset's economy. It's also been totally neglected by this Government.

It would seem that the Minister responsible for the tourist industry has finally been told a few home truths by one of its leading backers. (The Daily Mail has the story here).

About time too. It's a shame that her response, and that of her party has been to attack the comments rather than listen to the cry for help they contain.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Greenridge Action Group Launch

The Daily Echo is carrying a report about the Greenridge Action Group's launch in Lytchett Minster and Upton here.

Saturday, 31 May 2008

I am Legend?

We've just watched 'I am Legend' on the DVD.  It was scary (I'm not a fan of scary films - Shrek, Love Actually and the Railway Children are more my type of thing).

I vaguely remember an old Charlton Heston film called, I think, 'The Andromeda Strain', this film appeared to be a remake of that.

In common with many post apocalyptic films of its type, it had a common theme, that he end of civilisation will be caused by a virus caused by genetic experimentation.  It may seem fanciful, but to me it would appear to be a salutary lesson in being cautious with allowing genetic experimentation.

Greenridge, Upton - Public Meeting

I spoke last night at the public meeting at the Upton Community Centre about the campaign to persuade Hall and Woodhouse to work with the community to provide an acceptable use for the site.  The meeting was very well attended with some really good points made.

I had already written to the Lytchett Minster and Upton Community Association (LUCA) about the situation with the pub and this formed the basis of what I said:

The market for the night-time economy and social drinking has been declining for some time. Most people blame the smoking ban. In my opinion, that’s simply an easy answer. In fact it’s been a combination of factors; the increase in mortgage rates from eighteen months ago onwards, the cheap availability of alcohol through supermarkets which has encouraged people to drink at home and the changes in the licensing act making it much easier to obtain alcohol have all played their part. My thoughts on all of this and particularly the availability of ridiculously cheap alcohol are well documented elsewhere.

The one thing we have learnt over the past couple of years is that in order for the business to survive we have had to invest in it. Improve our premises, improve our entertainment and improve the ambience of the venue in general. For Hall and Woodhouse to be giving you the answers they have is, I have to say, something of a cop out. The Greenridge may well be too large a premises to sustain profitably for them. However, to propose the plans for disposal of the site altogether smacks, to me, of their ignoring the potential of the site and following what their marketing people have told them should be their demographic.

Having seen the investment they have put in elsewhere, I am afraid that Upton probably doesn’t match that for them. Trying to get them to change their mind about pulling out is therefore going to be relatively fruitless. Ideally the course should be to suggest they look for a purchaser from the sector who would be happier to trade from the site. It may be that they needed to be persuaded of this course of action by opposition to their various plans for the site. Your campaign to shame them over the loss of such an important local amenity is also an excellent course to take. I firmly believe that once we allow local amenities to disappear, such as pubs, post offices and libraries then we are condemning our communities to sterility and slow decline. A very short sighted approach given that I think economic stringency is likely to force many of us to a much more local view of things in the coming years.

Let's hope Hall and Woodhouse recognise their social responsibility and look for a use for the site that includes some kind of hospitality venue.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Proposed Planning Bill: More Centralisation; More Control Freakery; Less Democracy

The BBC are reporting growing opposition amongst Labour MPs to the proposed Planning Bill here.

Good for them!  These proposals place decision making powers over 'major' projects in the hands of an unelected commission.  Local councils, MPs and even government minsters would have no say in planning proposals referred to the commission.

The proposed commission would presumably be similar to the unelected and unaccountable Planning Inspectorate, deliberating remotely on planning applications without reference to local peoples' views.

We need more accountability, local control over planning decisions and greater transparency in the process.  This Bill will result in the exact opposite, more centralisation and less democracy.  

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

The Greenridge Pub, Upton

The Greenridge public house has an iconic status in the centre of Upton.  It's also the only public house in this town of 6,000 people.

The owners of the property, Hall and Woodhouse closed it some time ago, citing declining trade and anti social behavioural problems with some customers.

They now plan to sell the site, possibly for a care home or alternatively a largely residential development.  

We took Theresa May to see the site when she visited Mid Dorset last month.

The Lytchett Minster and Upton Community Association (LUCA) are opposing the plans, hoping to persuade Hall and Woodhouse to retain a pub, restaurant or coffee shop in the middle of the town, there being no other place for people to meet and socialise.

A public meeting to discuss the plans and public opposition will be held on Friday evening (May 30th) at 8pm in the Upton Community Centre.  I'll be there to say a few words.  Come along if you can.

Nuclear Power Plants

Apparently so little attention had been taken to Gordon Brown today, his announcement that the energy crisis is such that we should be considering sites for nuclear power plants in addition to replacing those already built was missed entirely by the media. Only when Downing Street staff pointed it out to journalists was it reported.

I should be very clear, I'm not in favour of nuclear power in its present form. I'm not convinced that it's safe and I'm certainly not convinced that its expansion is desirable. I recognize that the coming energy crisis is going to need radical solutions. I think these need to be environmentally friendly ones.

I welcome the advances that are being made in tidal power sources.

These, to my mind, offer the best solution to the energy shortage. In the short term we may need to rely upon the refurbishment of our current nuclear power stations. This should be a short term solution only, buying us time to develop further a full range of environmentally friendly options.

The subject reminded me of an e-mail I received back in March. The correspondent was asking me how I would deal with a conflict between my party policy and a local issue which was universally opposed by my constituents. The question came on the back of my comments about the EU Referendum vote in the Commons and the example used was a plan to construct a reactor at Winfrith.

I'm afraid I received the e-mail while I was away in Spain and it was lost when my lap top crashed. I'm therefore happy to answer the query here and hope that the gentleman who asked me the question might understand that I wasn't able to answer his original e-mail.

That answer is quite simple. If I'm elected at the election then I will have been elected on a party platform which will be clearly laid out. I'd react to subsequent decisions on the basis of representing the best interests of my constituency. If that mean opposing a decision otherwise backed by my party or the government of which I was part then so be it.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Theresa May MP in Dorset

Theresa May MP, the Shadow Leader of the House of Commons was in Dorset today. She joined us at a demonstration in Lytchett Minster against the RSS proposals.

Theresa spoke to a gathering of some 80 people in New Lane and confirmed that a future Conservative Government would overturn the Regional Spatial Strategy and place responsibility for deciding where, how many, what type and for whom new housing should be built in the hands of local councils.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Traffic concerns in Sandford

Increased development in Purbeck can only increase traffic on the A351 running through Sandford.

In addition to the proposed developments, a planning application by SITA to increase the size of their quarrying, landfill and recycling facility at Binegar will add further heavy goods traffic on to the road. “The A351 simply can’t take any more traffic,” says Jane Thomas.

The Conservative spokesman for Sandford continues, “I live by the A351 and know the problems caused by the congestion already. I will be pushing for the Sandford by pass to be put back on the agenda.”

Lytchett Minster most under threat

Lytchett Minster will shoulder the greatest burden of development under the Government Inspectors’ plans.

With 2,750 extra homes planned around Lytchett Minster the infrastructure overload is of greatest concern.

Town and Purbeck Councillor for Lytchett Minster and Upton West, Paul Johns says: “Our area is under the greatest threat from these plans. Traffic problems at peak periods are all ready chaotic at Upton Cross and on the Blandford, Dorchester & Poole Roads. “

Other infrastructure concerns are around health, education and leisure. Spokesman for Lytchett Minster and Upton East, Simon Williams asks, “where will the extra people go to access doctors and dentists, and where are their children going to go to school? If the development were to go ahead additional funding for local services would be vital.”

Councillor Paul Johns is urging people to ensure their voices are heard over the proposals.

“When the formal consultation process starts in June and July we will be helping people to write in with their comments. In the meantime we would urge local people to become involved in the local Action Groups being set up to oppose the developments and to sign our petition calling for local people to decide on the size and site of the new housing,” says Paul.

Roy calls for affordable homes for local people

Chairman of Purbeck District Council, Roy Anderson, is most concerned about the provision of affordable housing for local people.

“These development plans make no provision for ensuring that local people are given preferential consideration when they are built,” says Roy.

The Government inspectors are recommending that 2,400 homes should be built throughout Purbeck in addition to the proposed development between Lytchett Minster and Lytchett Matravers.

“If the profile of buyers for these homes remains similar to those for the new developments in many locations around Purbeck, up to 60% of the purchasers could be people from outside the area looking for a second, holiday, home,” says Roy.

“The Government must ensure that local people are able to decide where these developments are placed, what kind of housing they provide and, most importantly, that incentives can be offered to ensure that they are available to local people.”

What is the Regional Spatial Strategy?

We're banging on about it, but what is it?

The Regional Spatial Strategy (or RSS) is the process through which local authorities have to meet Government housing targets.

Organised regionally, the initial proposals were given to and debated by local councils. Their responses were then collated by Government appointed inspectors who made proposals to the Secretary of State.

This is the point the process has now reached. The proposals made by the inspectors have completely ignored the representations made by Purbeck District Council.

The Secretary of State will consider the proposals and publish a final plan for consultation in June, before making her final, binding decision.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Let's work together to oppose over development

I'm very pleased that all of our candidates and councillors standing in Mid Dorset for the local elections on May 1st have signed up to a statement confirming we'll work with anyone and everyone to oppose the Regional Spatial Strategy proposals.

Here's the text of the statement:

The Government’s plans for development in Purbeck propose enormous and unsustainable development in Purbeck District. Concern at the proposals crosses political lines.

Purbeck District Council has passed a resolution deploring and condemning the recommendations, which propose the construction of 2,750 houses on the Green Belt between Lytchett Minster and Lytchett Matravers and a further 2,400 throughout Purbeck over the next 20 years.

There has been no proper process underlying these plans. They ignore the wishes of local people. They make no provision for the infrastructure to support the proposed developments. Our local roads are already gridlocked with traffic, our local medical facilities are overstretched and our schools often over-subscribed. It’s imperative we work together to oppose the development.

Both Purbeck District Council and our local MPs have expressed their opposition to these schemes and have confirmed their preference that local people, through their local councils, should decide on the amount and location of development. We agree wholeheartedly with these sentiments and support our local representatives in these aspirations.

Now is not the time to use the issue as a political football. Local, non political, Action Groups are being set up to oppose the recommendations and make sure that Government hears the concerns of local people. We will support these groups, our local Councils and our local MPs in their opposition to the plans and will do all we can to further this cause.

Now is the time to put politics aside over this issue. Now is the time to act. Let’s work together to oppose these developments.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Peter Hain's donations

Undoubtedly there is an enormous amount of comment about Peter Hain's undiscolsed donations to his Labour Party Deputy Leadership campaign.

The part of the story that confuses and concerns me most is what on earth he found to spend over £180,000 on.

To put this in context, in the last year we have written over 40,000 letters, printed and delivered over 280,000 pieces of literature and sent tens of thousands of e-mails. All of this campaigning, which has been enhanced with canvassing, setting up street stalls and attending meetings, has been carried out with a budget of less than £20,000.

Addmitedly there are clearly very many more members of the Labour party than there are residents of Mid Dorset and North Poole, however I can't imagine that there are more than nine times that number.

Mr Hain has numerous questions to answer, not least how he managed to expend so much money on an internal party election.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Seasonal Drunkenness

I read today that, astonishingly, there were a number of churches who held their midnight mass at 6pm on Christmas Eve.

The reason?

Because of the fear of disruption from drunken people.

This fact was used in the context on a commentary about 24 hour licensing policy.

Undoubtedly the introduction of extended licensing hours has played its part in the increasing problem of drink related anti social behaviour and disruption. However, I do wonder how many of those who attend church on Christmas Eve inebriated have at the very least begun their drinking at home, if not completed it there too.

Until we control the sale of cheap alcohol through supermarkets and off licenses we will be unable to control the problems associated with excess alcohol consumption.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Nostalgia for Hartland

I watched part of Sense and Sensibility on BBC1 on New Year's Day. Good, but not as good as the film version on first viewing. That's actually an unfair comment probably, the tv version clearly has neither the budget of the film, nor of course the sublime Emma Thompson.
I thought I recognized the cottage to which the family move and indeed my recollection proved correct with this article in the Daily Telegraph today.
I spent my teenage years living on this part of the North Devon coast. It's near Hartland and made me feel very nostalgic for Summers spent in Westward Ho!, Hartland and Bucks Mills.

Health Inequalities

David Cameron's comments about the National Health Service today have been heartening to say the least.

They've served to highlight another issue however.  The inequality between the services provided by the NHS in each of the Home Countries.   Dr Gill Morgan, who is the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, is reported to have said that devolution has caused even more of a 'post code lottery' in health care.  

The Daily Telegraph reports the situation here.

She suggests that there is unlikely to be any 'health migration' within the UK.  That comment misses the point to my mind. The fact that there are inequalities in the service provided in each of the home countries is bad enough.  What is worse is that the situation remains where MPs from the three nations with devolved powers continue to decide on the health policies of the nation that has no devolved government.

It's time that English MPs voted on English matters.  Only then can the health priorities of England be truly, democratically addressed.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Happy New Year

A Happy New Year to everyone.

Here's hoping 2008 is a more prosperous, healthy and happy year for us all.