Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Housing Numbers

No sooner do I say that I'm finishing newsletters for the year than one of the big news stories that I mentioned breaks, and so I'm sending out an additional newsletter rather sooner than expected.

As regular readers will know one of the big issues for Broxtowe is the number of new houses that the council will permit to be built over the next 15 years.
Most of the councils in Greater Nottingham have worked together on this and as a result of those negotiations Broxtowe was given a figure of 6,150 houses to allocate, the lowest of any borough in the area.

Unfortunately there is not enough brownfield land available to build 6,150 houses and so this figure would mean that some greenbelt land would have to be used. No-one wants to do this but there is simply no other way to hit this target.

Our MP, Anna Soubry, and her colleagues in the Conservative Party have been campaigning against this, even though we are following the rules set by the Conservative Secretary of State. Anna's line consistently is that we should follow the example of the one authority in Greater Nottingham out of step with all the others, namely Rushcliffe. Rushcliffe have ignored the targets set by the Government and adopted by all the other authorities and simply tried to build the amount of houses that they think is appropriate. I have asked Anna how much housing she thinks should be allowed but she has chosen to ignore my emails.

Every council has to have it's strategy approved by an independent inspector at a public enquiry. The inspector appointed to conduct the enquiry for Rushcliffe has now written to them saying that their proposal is fundamentally flawed,

1) It doesn't comply with the regional plan, which set the figure of 6,150
2) It doesn’t comply with the National Planning policy Framework, the
new set of planning rules published by the Secretary of State earlier this year.
3) It doesn't allocate enough housing
4) It doesn't allocate enough affordable housing
5) It doesn't take into account the need across Greater Nottingham, and
just concentrates on Rushclffe. The inspector said that it is important that the needs of the wider area are considered.
6) They haven't fulfilled their duty to co-operate with other councils

As a result of these flaws the inspector has said that she is not even going to arrange a date for their public enquiry yet, as all this will need to be sorted first.

Rushcliffe have published the inspectors note to them about the problems with their strategy. To give them credit, they hid it very well. I can only find it on their web site as an attachment to a press release that was issued yesterday morning and which gives a wholly misleading picture of the inspectors comments.
They then immediately issued a whole load of other press releases so that this never appeared on the front page of their media centre, almost as though they were hoping no-one would see it. If you are interested in having a look this link will take you straight to it:

Where does this leave people as a result? Well for Rushcliffe Borough Council they are firmly up the creek without a paddle. They have no current plan and now no future plan. As a result it will be open season for developers there.
All their undeveloped land is now fair game for developers to try and build on.
It does raise very serious questions about the ability and judgement of their political leaders. This isn't just scare mongering on my part, the same thing is happening in Castle Point council in Essex, in Bude council in Cornwall and in Stratford Council in Warwickshire where a new housing estate is being developed right next to Anne Hatthaway's cottage.

Here in Broxtowe Anna Soubry is left with significant amounts of egg on her face. If we had taken the path that she was advocating, which she has been telling people for at least the past year was the right thing to do, then we would be in the same mess as Rushcliffe. No-one wants to build on the green belt but those of us running the council found ourselves in a position where we had no choice. To then have our MP launch an extremely nasty and vindictive campaign against us was extremely galling, and I do now feel completely vindicated. By being willing to consider sacrificing a small part of Broxtowe's green belt we have saved the rest of it from development.

I apologise if this sounds like gloating. It is not meant to, but I am highly relieved that no-one can now have any doubts that Broxtowe did the right thing by accepting the housing numbers proposed. The only question now still to be resolved is where exactly they should be built, and here there are genuine reasons to disagree as any site that is put forward will have it's supporters and it's critics I hope that we can engage with people in a constructive way over this question, now that the distraction of the overall numbers has been set aside.

Best wishes


Sunday, 9 December 2012

Broxtowe Enews 9th December 2012

Welcome to Broxtowe Enews, brought to you by the Liberal Democrats and edited by David Watts, the leader of the Lib-Dems on Broxtowe Borough Council. This will, I’m afraid, be the last scheduled edition for this year so may I wish everyone a very happy Christmas and a prosperous new year. This is quite a quiet news week this week as well so this is quite a short newsletter.

1. Stapleford Combined Services Fancy Dress Evening
Stapleford Combined Services club will be holding a fancy dress evening on Saturday, December 15th from 7-30pm until midnight, at The Chequers Inn at the Roach, Stapleford. Admission is free.

2. Book Launch & Exhibition
Local author Gill Morral will be launching her new book “Toton Revealed” at Coronation Hall in  Toton on Saturday 15th December together with an exhibition with the same title taking place between 10am and 1pm. Tea and biscuits are available.

3. Tram Jobs Drop In Session
The Borough Council have organised a jobs fair to highlight opportunities to work on the new tram scheme. This will take place at Eastwood Young Peoples Centre on Friday 14th December between 11am and 1pm. Space is limited and so advance booking on 0115 917 3618is recommended.

4. Drink Drive Campaign
Notts police have launched their annual drink drive campaign. In the first week they arrested 29 people for the offence. As a solicitor I’m well used to seeing the after effects on offenders in court, when the implications of a mandatory 12 month driving ban (at least) start to hit home. The only way to avoid a ban is simply to not drink and drive.

5. Rail Fare Increase
Rail Fares on East Midlands Trains will increase by an average of 4% on 2nd January next year. Under a system that has been in place for many years rail fares go up by the rate of inflation plus 2% to fund greater investment in services, but this year the government have restricted the increase to below that in recent years.

6. Winter Vomiting Bug
I caught this a couple of years ago and can confirm just how horrible it is. Figures just released show that last week 112,000 people in Notts caught the bug and are now suffering. The only way to really guard against this is to take extra care on personal hygiene issues.

7. Free Property Marking
Broxtowe residents can get their property marked with smart water for free in Eastwood on Wednesday. There will also be representatives from the council, the Fire Brigade, the police and the pensions service in attendance. The event will be at the Dora Phillips Hall on Wood Street between 11am and 1pm.

8. Arrests of Children
An interesting statistic that came out this week was that Notts Police arrested 4,460 children last year, which equates to 12 a day.  It is however significantly less than the peak year, 2008, when 7,008 children were arrested. The peak age for offending for both males and females is when they are in their teens, and so perhaps the figures should not come as a surprise. I still find them disappointing however.

9. Rare Birds in Chilwell
Bird watchers flocked to Chilwell (no pun intended) this week when 300 bohemian waxwings landed close to Attenborough nature Reserve. I have to say that it’s not a bird I have ever heard of before, but apparently they were stopping over on their flights north to Scandinavia.

10. Round Hill School
Congratulations to the staff, pupils and governors of Round Hill School in Beeston after they were graded as good by Ofsted inspectors. This is an improvement on the satisfactory rating that they had received previously.

As ever thank you for your support for this newsletter, and any feedback is gratefully received. As I mentioned at the start I’m not planning to do a further edition for this year, but there are two possible events which may occur this year that I will put a message out about should they happen. The first is if there is any significant news about housing proposals, and the second is if there is an announcement about the route of the HS2 railway line. The government did say earlier this year that they would announce the route before Christmas and if the route does affect Broxtowe, as it may, then I will send a message out.

Best wishes

Follow me on Twitter at @DavidWatts12.
Visit our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Broxtowe-Liberal-Democrats/78471665107
Email me at davidwatts@broxtoweliberaldemocrats.org.uk

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Broxtowe Enews 1st December 2012

Welcome to Broxtowe Enews, brought to you by the Liberal Democrats and edited by David Watts, the leader of the Lib Dems on Broxtowe Borough Council.

1. Tram Problems
Unfortunately work on the trams is causing major problems in Beeston at the moment. The proposal originally was that for 18 months Chilwell Road would be a one way street, but now the construction team want to close the road completely for 12 months. Despite this the City Council are refusing to offer any extra compensation. The problem for traders would not be so bad if the County Council had not pulled out of the scheme, but as they had there is no-one to speak for businesses outside of the city boundary. The borough council do what we can but we are not promoters of the scheme and so our influence is limited.

Better news on the tram is that the works at the Meadow Lane/Queens Road junction should finish in the next few days and so traffic should soon be flowing more freely through that junction.

2. Enterprise Zone
This week we had confirmation that agreements have been reached for work to start on the Enterprise Zone at the Boots site. This will hopefully lead to a significant number of new homes being built as well as new businesses and new infrastructure. The scheme has secured £25 million of investment.

3. Lottery Funding for Wandsworth Fields School
Wandsworth Fields Junior School in Stapleford has been awarded £10,000 in lottery funding to pay for an all-weather canopy for their playground.

4. Car Parking
Just a reminder as to something I mentioned last week. From now until Christmas all the borough owned car parks will be free on Saturday’s to encourage shoppers into our town centres.

5. Tram Drop In Sessions
NET will be holding two drop in sessions for people to see the latest proposals on the tram and to ask any questions they have. These will be at Eskdale Junior School, Chilwell on Tuesday 4th December from 5:30 to 8:00pm, and at Beeston Town Hall on Thursday 13th December from 5.30pm to 8.00pm.

6. Attenborough Nature Reserve
The Attenborough Nature Reserve launched it’s new Access, Community and Education scheme this week, a £560,000 investment aiming to improve the visitor experience whilst also protecting and enhancing the reserve. As a director of the reserve I was planning to attend the launch but my full time job got in the way at the last minute and I couldn’t make it. Given the amount of water that came down in the 24 hours beforehand I’m delighted that it went ahead.

7. Woodhouse Way Proposals Display
Also arranging a public display shortly are the developers who wish to build a
750 house housing estate at Woodhouse Way in Nuthall. This will be at the Belfrey Hotel on the A6002 on the 14th December from 2pm to 7pm.

8. Christmas Lights switch on
The Christmas lights will be switched on in Stapleford this Thursday, 6th December, at 6.15pm, and the Kimberley lights will be switched on Friday 7th December, also at 6.15pm, starting with a parade.

9. Christmas Carols at Montrose Court
On Saturday 8th December there will be Christmas Carols at Montrose Court, Stapleford from 6pm until 8pm, led by members of St Helen's Church. There will also be festive food and soft drinks.

10. Beeston Tesco Charity Collection
Tomorrow, Sunday 2nd December, Tesco in Beeston are holding a food bank collection in aid of Framework, the homelessness charity based in Nottingham.
Customers are being asked to buy one extra item and place it in the Framework Collecting Boxes. Whilst mentioning this may I congratulate the staff at the Stapleford Care Centre who collected more than 900 tins for the Nottingham Post’s Five Tons of Tins campaign.

11. Beeston Bus Station
Following a concern raised by a reader of this newsletter the council have this week changed some of the lighting in Beeston bus station to make it better lit at night.

12. Flood Defences
The one good thing about the rain this week was that we were able to see how well the flood defence scheme worked. The £50 million scheme was finished earlier this year and protects the whole of the left bank of the Trent through Nottingham, and as a result of it Attenborough and Beeston were protected from the flooding that would otherwise have affected them.

13. M1 Junction 25
The Highways Agency have announced that they will be carrying out work at Junction 25 of the M1 on 14th to 18th January and the 20th to 25th January. The junction will be closed between 8pm and 6am on each of those days and traffic will need to divert through junctions 24 or 26.

14. Beeston Shopmobility
Beeston shopmobility had to move into temporary accommodation earlier this year when the multi-storey car park closed, and most users agree that the current site is not very convenient. At a meeting on Friday the council’s budget working group agreed to offer them an alternative site at the old Beeston Market site. (We are looking at alternatives for the market to ensure that Beeston has a market again as soon as possible.)

As ever thank you for your support for this newsletter. Any feedback is very gratefully received.

Best wishes

Follow me on Twitter at @davidwatts12