Thursday, 17 November 2016

Time to Divide Houghton Hall Ward? - I say it's too big


Isn't it time for another review of ward boundaries in Houghton Regis, especially Houghton Hall?

I was a candidate in the recent by-election to elect ONE parish councillor for Houghton Hall Ward, of Houghton Regis Town Council. The ward ordinarily elects SIX town councillors every four years and TWO Central Bedfordshire councillors every five years.

Parkside and Tithe Farm each elect FOUR town councillors and ONE CBC councillor. It seems to me that it would be a simple matter to split the Houghton Hall Ward into two, allocating three parish councillors and one Central Bedfordshire councillor to each of the two new wards.

In a full election contest all SIX like minded candidates of a certain political persuasion can pool their resources to produce a leaflet for delivery to the electorate.  For an Independent person or persons, the possibility of combining resources with 5 other Independents is quite problematical and therefore anti-democratic.

In a by election to elect ONE person to the Town Council the cost of producing and delivering one leaflet is fairly prohibitive.

In the most recent by election:

  •  many people did not get a leaflet from any candidate. 
  •  the turn out was less than 10%. 
  •  there were spoilt ballot papers, at least one commenting that they had not had any information.
  •  four polling stations had to be open all day from 7am until 10pm at an estimated cost of £2,000 per polling station (ref 1)  

The ward is so large that it is impossible for a candidate to knock on all the doors during an election campaign. It stretches from Frogmore Road in the south east to Sewell in the north east.

Even in a full election contest, the issues of different parts of this very large ward are also very diverse.

The map above shows how the ward could logically be split into Houghton Hall East and Houghton Hall West, the names of the new ward aren't important. I have not gone into how the numbers of voters splits, that needs to be checked.

2011 Census ward profile: Houghton Hall.
Total population: 7,860.
Households: 3,210.
Dwellings: 3,290

2015 Central Bedfordshire Council. 2 Vacancies.
Declared  Electorate: 6,160
Ballot papers issued: 3,454
Turnout: 56%

2015, Town Council, 6 vacancies,
Declared Electorate 6160,
Ballot papers issued 3381,
Turnout 55%

2016 Town Council by-election, 1 vacancy
Declared Electorate: 6157
Ballot Papers Issued: 589
Turnout: 9.57%


Since the last review www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2011/162/contents/made Houghton Hall ward has grown. 'Houghton Hall East' now has extra homes at Frogmore Road, Balmoral Drive, Holyrood Drive. 'Houghton Hall West' now has extra homes at Lake View, Fieldstone, Limestone Grove, Alabaster Avenue, Whiting Square. Two further estate roads are currently being built off Bedford Road.

By 2030, developments in the east and north of Houghton Regis, will double the size of the town, and so the boundaries for this town need to be reviewed much more regularly than is the norm. We are already in the early exploration stages of building over 1,000 new homes that will fall into Parkside Ward.

To divide the Houghton Hall Ward as I describe, could produce a permanent solution for the 'Houghton Hall East' ward. To have a specific Central Bedfordshire Councillor allocated to each ward would be beneficial to the councillors in not needing to share local information so much, and beneficial to the electorate who may be unsure which councillor to ask for help from.


ref1.

 Cost of elections.  Information supplied to me by the Returning Officer, Oct 2017. "As a guideline we quote £2000 per polling station, which includes: 
Polling station staff
Count Staff
Hire of Polling Stations
Delivery and collection of Polling Booths
Issue and opening of postal votes
Printing of Poll Cards
Delivery of Poll cards
Postage
Ballot Box Stationery
Ballot paper Printing

Please comment below.
​​





Sunday, 6 November 2016

Louisa Johnson Masters Her Film Star Technique in “So Good” Music Video: Watch

Louisa Johnson is masterful in her “So Good” music video premiered on VEVO yesterday (Nov. 4).

The Louisa Johnson playlist that I put together doesn't feature this hit, as that only covers her time on The X Factor, where she was the youngest winner ever. Although the cinematography is great on this, I'm really hoping for some stronger songs than “So Good” for her, to catapult her higher up the charts.

The 18 year old is so feisty in this video. The track is featured on her first studio album.

What do you make of this new record?

 

Thursday, 3 November 2016

The Blue Badge scheme: rights and responsibilities in England

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/443225/blue-badge-rights-responsibilities.PDF


This car was driven by Mr Tim Welch, of  Houghton Regis Town Council. It does state in the blue badge handbook that cars using a blue badge are not permitted to park on the footpath and that to do so negates the blue badge.  This means that Parking Support Officers can enforce them in the same way as non blue badge holders.  If the user was in the vehicle at the time the Civil Enforcement Officer would inform the driver about the rule and advise them to move off the pavement.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

134 Versions of Slade's Merry Christmas Everybody - never fails to please


Play All

Last year I went a bit mad reviewing all the versions of Slade's 'Merry Christmas Everybody'  that I could find on YouTube, then organised them into a playlist. If played on Christmas Day, the listener/viewer can have a feast of 134 versions of the same song!

A year on, and it's pleasing to note that the playlist itself has now had 24,266 views. There's a couple of surprises, too. One of these was "Merry Xmas Everybody - Settle Style".




The homemade video is described as "A Christmas song from the Lord, Hayes and Bryant families". The added fun includes the granny that is up and rock and rolling with the rest.

Two years after it was published on 27 Dec 2013, when I found it on YouTube, it had had just 241 views.

I thought it was brilliant, and put it at number 2 on my playlist to hopefully get it more views. And I set about plugging it on various Slade forums. So I'm please to report that, as I write 11 months later, it has now had 8,710 views.

The other interesting and fun version is 'Merry Xmas Everybody (Slade in the style of The Wurzels)'. Published on 21 Dec 2014, it had had just 54 views when I first saw it, but since I put it on the playlist, the views have risen modestly to 1,136.





It's Christmas !

Are you hanging up your pitchfork on the wall?
It's the time when I can harvest bugger all,
Are you slaughtering your turkey?
Are you ready to play host?
Are you digging up potatoes for the roast?

So, here it is Merry Christmas everybody's getting drunk,
Look at my cider stash, the scrumpy's almost gone -

Are you waiting for the family to arrive?
Or will you greet them with a shotgun on the drive?
Does your granny always tell you,
Traditional farming techniques are best,
Then she's on the combine harvester when its time to thresh -

So here it is Merry Christmas everybody's on the mulled wine
Look at my fuchsias, they won't flower till July -

What will your Daddy do when he sees your Mummy kissing Santa Claus,
oo-arr-arrrr!
Are you putting all your tractors in the shed?
Are you making sure the cattle have all been fed?
Are you grinding up the wheat grain to make the flour for the food?
If you fall in that machinery you're screwed -

So here it is Merry Christmas everybody's getting drunk
Look at my cider stash, the scrumpy's almost gone

So here it is Merry Christmas everybody's on the mulled wine
Look at my fuchsias they won't flower till July


Saturday, 29 October 2016

Louisa Johnson X Factor 2015 Is Back on Sunday!

Play All  

According to the Mirror, today, Louisa Johnson, the 2015 X Factor winner,  "has admitted she hated her [X-Factor selected] winner’s song, a cover of Bob Dylan’s Forever Young, which only reached number nine in the charts."

Well, I must admit I never liked that song very much, either. She wasn't suited to it and she's worthy of much better songs than that.

Meanwhile, the YouTube Playlist that I put together of Louisa's time on X Factor has had 21,717 views, although some of the 47 videos that were once public, have since been moved to 'private' status. What remains, still is a worthy lasting record of her rise to fame in 2015.

Louisa Johnson will perform her newest song to a live studio audience on Sunday as she returns to the The X Factor stage.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Four Things For Thursday

Houghton Hall By-Election Houghton Regis Town Council Thursday 27th October


I am one of the three candidates. I am Independent.
Can anyone truly be independent?
Independent of party - yes.
Independent of political persuasion - probably not.

At local council level I think the most important thing is that the person elected should have a strong sense of their locality and their locality's needs, rather than an adherence to a political party machinery and policies decided at some remote party conference.

I had lived in Houghton Regis for just a few months when I was elected to the Town Council in 2007, but it was through the popularity of a local political party rather than any personal following, or personal knowledge of the town. I thought it was totally wrong.

 After 10 years of living here, knowing much more about its problems and aspirations, strongly advanced by my decision to start, and run, the Houghton Regis News Desk, I think am much more properly qualified to speak at meetings for any people I represent.

I spend a few hours every day looking into topical issues that affect the Town. Please take a few minutes on Thursday to support me with your vote.

My thoughts on some top issues (apart from the immediate traffic related issues!)

1. The present Houghton Regis cemetery is almost full. We need a new one. A site ideally needs to be settled on, and developed. Happy to entertain the option that the parish should NOT provide a new cemetery, and put the onus on Central Bedfordshire to come up with a location. Let's have that conversation. What do you think?

2. Windsor Drive Recreation Ground is in Central Bedfordshire Council ownership and has been identified as a potential site for building homes on. It was a site being considered by the Town Council for allotments and a cemetery. As a cemetery the land is quite close to the water table, so probably not practical. Happy to entertain the option for new housing, and a few neighbourhood shops to serve the area. What do you think?

3. Development Schemes - more are coming forward for Bidwell and Thorn areas, and town councillors will be able to comment on these. I set up a HRN2 Facebook information page for that.  I set up the Houghton Regis Central Page to pass on information about the development of the former Co-op site. There will be more sites coming forward for developments. There is a lot going on, so I set up this page to keep a check on the developments schemes. I want the best outcomes for Houghton Regis.

4. Houghton Regis Town Council levies the highest council tax for a Band D property than any other town in the Central Bedfordshire area. I should like to keep it down. Where there is a will, there is a way.

LINKS TO MY PAGES
Houghton Regis News Desk - https://www.facebook.com/houghtonregisnewsdesk/

HRN2 Bidwell West Info - https://www.facebook.com/groups/hrn2info/

Houghton Regis Central - https://www.facebook.com/groups/houghtonregiscentral/

My Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/AlanDWinter


As always, click to enlarge any images below.


https://twitter.com/alandwinter

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Anecdotal Evidence - Ashton Site Set To Go Ahead Despite Inadequate Parking

Ashton site : Proposed Parking Below CBC Regulated Standards 
In my teens we lived in a maisonette above a parade of shops in a town centre location. Dad used to park the shop's van outside much of the time, although overnight it would be parked in a private garage close by. Then Dad got his own car and permission was obtained from the private landlords to park vehicles at the rear of the maisonettes. Mum bought a Wartburg estate car so she could get all her camping stuff in,;she was Akela in a local cub pack. My brother bought a car, a Ford Zephyr as I recall, something to do with wanting a big American looking car. I bought a Ford Capri. I think we were influenced by American tv shows like Happy Days and the A team.

There was no thought given to why we needed the cars other than cruising around, or to pick up the chick, just like they did in Happy Days. Anyway, I digress. We parked the cars and van at the rear for a time, then one day the land was sold off for development. Mum sold her car off.  And we had to find somewhere else to park.

20 years before I lived here, parking outside the shops wasn't a problem.

Not to worry, there was still spaces to park in on the street in front of the shop. But that didn't last for long, as the dreaded yellow lines were extended, doubled, and parking became quite difficult. Sentries were posted to watch for the traffic wardens, and we'd quickly scramble for the keys to move the vehicles before a ticket was posted on the windscreens.

 The van and three cars were often parked up in public car parking spaces a couple of minutes walk away, beside the Town Hall. Before we knew it, the Council were bringing in parking for Council employees only during the  day time. So, we had to vacate those spaces or face daily fines. I began parking mine in a free underground car park under the town hall. That was, until the Council slapped a barrier on the car park so that it permitted their day time employees only.

From hereon we were restricted to driving around local residential streets hoping for a space to squeeze into.

The bottom line is that circumstances change,  and if you don't plan ahead, then you create a problem for the future. As Benjamin Franklin supposedly once said 'if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!'

And so, next week, Central Bedfordshire Council Development Management Committee meet to decide the future of the former Ashton Grammar School site in Dunstable's High Street North.  It is recommended for approval despite many concerns, not least parking.

The design and access statement (http://www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/portal/showimage.asp?j=CB/16/03188&index=671071 ) page 15 has many references to parking objections; these are nonchalantly dismissed by the developers with the statement, "Additional parking spaces are provided for the scheme. Any shortfall is believed to be justified  given the site's location and likely resident profile."

Well, I'm sorry but there is no way to predict likely resident profile. Anyone could end up living there. White van man whose van won't fit in the garage, lady of the house who can't use the garage because it's full of family paraphernalia, teenage daughter who parks awkwardly so that she takes up a neighbour's spot, too, and teenage son who can't find anywhere to park, so churns up the grass verge.

So, what are these additional spaces? I'm reading through the summary statement to Development Management councillors and I come across the remarks of the Principal Highways Engineer.  "I have made initial comments in relation to the planning performance submission and there have been various amendments of which I have given guidance." Call me cynical, but does that mean he's had his arm twisted?

He  writes that 177 spaces have been provided, whereas 241 are required under the authority's guidelines. That 177 includes garages (which I say will be full of family equipment, and rarely used by a vehicle) and visitor parking. At this point the words of Benjamin Franklin should start to be echoing around the minds of councillors deciding the future of Dunstable.

He then goes on to show how the number of off-site parking spaces adjacent to the site can be increased very slightly, by just 7. Bizarrely, he also mentions Union Street and Clifton Road which could increase the parking provision by between 3 and 6 spaces. He does his duty by pointing out the on-site parking deficiency, then justifies the short allocation of spaces by tweaking what could be done outside the development site. This is ridiculous, future requirements will override the reason these spaces are to be created.

Any sane person would recommend a reduction of the amount of properties on the site, and increase the number of parking spaces until the authority's standard is met.

BUT, this 241 spaces ruling can be overridden if there are 'exceptional circumstances' such as town centre locations with public car parks, bus services and immediate employment opportunity which could mean that some of the home owners will not need to have a car.  Central Bedfordshire Council have pretty wishy-washy ideas about how much the desired number of parking spaces can be reduced by. In April 2015 they permitted, under delegated powers, a scheme in High Street South to go through with just 6 parking spaces for 26 flats and none for retailers (http://dunstablenewsdesk.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/woolworths-old-shop-redevelopment-could.html).

A reduction of the number of properties would also help out the concerns of the tree officer who states, " 20 healthy trees are being felled to accommodate this development... Regrettably, the limited planting space being allowed in the new scheme has resulted in the use of smaller replacement species that would offer insufficient size, scale and proportion within the building layout... the site is being overdeveloped at the expense of sufficient areas being set aside for landscape planting. "
And the Green Infrastructure Officer, "The failure to design in multifunctional SuDS, and the lack of clear information about management and maintenance means that the proposals are not acceptable in terms of local and national policy."

If councillors don't call this correctly, they'll just be storing up problems for future councillors to be harangued about. Do us all a favour, chuck this proposal out, and start thinking more about keeping this site for educational use. There is a private educational use buyer waiting in the wings.

The meeting is due to be broadcast on Wednesday 12 Oct 2016 from 10.00 a.m
http://centralbedfordshire.public-i.tv/core/portal/home

>>My previous article: Houghton Regis - The Pressure's Cooking For Town Centre Parking

Meeting: http://centralbeds.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=631&MId=5193&Ver=4

Public Reports Pack: http://centralbeds.moderngov.co.uk/documents/g5218/Public%20reports%20pack%20Wednesday%2012-Oct-2016%2010.00%20DEVELOPMENT%20MANAGEMENT%20COMMITTEE.pdf?T=10

Plans: http://www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/portal/searchresult.asp?appnumber=CB/16/03188

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Houghton Regis - The Pressure's Cooking for Town Centre Parking



Town Council discussed the Houghton Central application a couple of weeks back. (see application links at bottom of page.)

I did address the meeting, and alerted our town councillors to making a strong case if they were in any doubt that the car parking provision was lacking. Over in Dunstable a development was allowed through, under officer delegated powers, for retail space plus 26 flats with only 6 parking spaces on High Street South (story). The officers qualified that by saying they were allowed to bypass laid down parking space criteria if there were exceptional circumstances like town centre bus services and public car parks nearby. (click below to enlarge)



Clearly, if our town councillors had any concerns about the level of provision for parking at Houghton Central they would have needed to bear in mind how the planning officers minds work, especially as the High Street area is well served by bus routes.

As it turned out, our town councillors never even mentioned the amount of parking provision in their deliberations. I know its a concern for Whitehouse Close residents, as they feel their street may become an easy target for parkers. They did query the Whitehouse Close entry door, to ensure it was not a permanent entry/exit point that would encourage unwanted parking. And they did mention that they wanted to protect nearby parts of The Green from construction traffic, which is all to the good, but they must keep well on top of that, otherwise parts of the green, especially closest to Clarke's Way, could become rather muddied up.

We're in for a pressure cooker time of it with regards to parking in the High Street. Houghton Central, itself, will come with an offering of shops that will in turn attract motorists to want to park as close to the front doors as possible. The Town Council only own one car park and that is in front of their Peel Street office. Even now you can often find it difficult to park in the 'church car park', or in 'the doctor's car park' which are both owned by the Bedford Square owner. In Tithe Farm Road, car parking spaces there must also be used by their tenants in the flats above Bedford Square shops, so they'd be reluctant to install time-controlled parking as a possible solution.

Queen Street, parking, set to grow with town growth.

As Houghton Central becomes a reality, and the town grows more and more, parking, and parking on the kerbs (as if it isn't already), will become the norm around the town centre, unless measures are taken to counter it.


Update 9 Nov 2016:
The Houghton Regis Central development was approved. The CBC decision meeting video should be available for the next 6 months.

CBC officer gave some reassurances that a car park 10 minutes walk away in council ownership was available during the construction period, and that parking in Whitehouse Close would be monitored, and measures would be taken should parking in that Close become an issue.


Parking aspect, transcript from the meeting:

CBC Officer, "At the moment there is no parking issue in Whitehouse Close. Clearly the anticipation is what if, ... during the construction we have identified a car park which is 10 minutes walking distance in council ownership...  CBC Officer, "The parking requirement is about 15% of a residential figure"

Chair, Cllr K Matthews: "Can I ask, Peter, to put up the slide that shows the frontage along the High Street. I presume that's where the retail units would be?"

Officer: "Correct."

Chair, Cllr K Matthews: "Ah, Is there any specific provision for parking for those retail units? I'm talking about shoppers. Are they expected to use the car park opposite which is Bedford Square car park, isn't it?"

Planning Officer: "There would be use made of the surrounding car parks within the town centre and not specific designation of spaces within the application site."

... interrruption of question raised about the phasing of building....

Cllr AJ Swain, "Thank you chair. Umm. I'd just perhaps ask for a bit of clarity on, on the parking  .. I think I've basically been on the understanding that the parking will be available for, um, people to use the, um, er, shopping areas and that lot in er, in er, in the, um, the building itself, and and sort of probably the Bedford Square shopping as well .."

Cllr C Maudlin: "The parking."

Officer: "My apologies, I've looked into it further, there would be 22 spaces on the site"

Cllr AJ Swain, "Thank you."

http://centralbedfordshire.public-i.tv/core/share/open/webcast/0/0/560/230359/0/0/start_time/12473000
Connected Links

More ... on Houghton Regis Central

CB/16/03378/FULL New Build  http://www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/portal/searchresult.asp?appnumber=CB%2F16%2F03378

and CB/16/03379/LB Listed Building Consent
http://www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/portal/searchresult.asp?appnumber=CB%2F16%2F03379

More developments in Houghton Regis see http://www.hrnd.co.uk/p/developments.html

>>My previous article: The Disregard for Bottle Bank

CBC document

4.2 It is proposed to provide up to 106 parking spaces as part of the development proposals. This will provide some 22 parking spaces that will be available for use by the public (associated with the retail / community uses) and for visitors to the residential units. The remainder will be associated with the independent living accommodation.
4.3 The proposed site layout is shown in the Masterplan attached in Appendix C.
4.6 To the south, an additional parking area will be provided for some 11 parking spaces. These will be accessed from a new driveway access onto Clarkes Way. This new car park access is shown in Drawing 5416-001.
4.9 To the east the existing service road will be stopped up at its junction with The Green, providing pedestrian and cycle access only. To the south the existing road will be used to serve 12 parking spaces. The existing access onto Clarkes Way will be maintained and unaltered.
4.12 However, the guidance states that a reduction in maximum parking space provision for retail purposes maybe implemented. Due to the site’s location in central Houghton Regis a primary discount of 10% may be discounted from the required amount of car parking spaces.
4.13 A further percentage reduction is suggested due to the sites local accessibility. The site has a high level of existing accessibility to non-car modes of transport. Due to the sites location in central Houghton Regis and its accessibility through walking, cycling and bus routes it is argued that the highest local accessibility discount of 25% is applied.
4.14 Therefore, due to the deductions described, the minimum number of car parking spaces required for the retail element of the development on this site is 19.
4.15 The development proposes to provide up to 22 parking spaces for shared use between the retail / community uses and for visitors to the residential element. Given the central town location and the existing parking provision within the town, this level of shared parking provision is considered to be acceptable.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

The Disregard For Bottle Bank Site

I popped down to our bottle bank / clothing bank / shoe bank this morning. This is the sight that greeted me. Despite all the boxes piled up next to the bottle bank bins, I was still able to post my bottles through the nylon brushes. I can't say it was easy, but I do have long arms.

Pure laziness is how I would describe those who dumped boxes with empty bottles there.

As for those that dumped white goods and a divan and boxes, I hope the CCTV camera has caught you out.

I have notified waste services.

Of course, this site is due to be developed once 'Houghton Central' gets its expected planning permission. I wonder where the new site will be, and if that will also be monitored by CCTV ?



Wednesday, 14 September 2016

The Wrangle of Parliamentary Boundaries - South Bedfordshire


Back in June we had three options. for how South Bedfordshire might be reshaped. I replied saying, just give us PR for Bedfordshire. Unfortunately that is not an option, and they went with option S3.

Potentially, I see this as creating a battle zone between Labour and Conservatives for Luton South, a safe Labour seat for "Luton South and Houghton" (although why can't it be "Luton North and Houghton Regis" ?) and a safe seat for Conservatives in the new South West Bedfordshire.

If S3 is adopted, locally, the proposed parliamentary constituencies would cover the council wards of:

Luton North and Houghton

Luton North and Houghton BC 71,188
Houghton Hall Central Bedfordshire 5,717
Parkside Central Bedfordshire 3,220
Tithe Farm Central Bedfordshire 2,994
Bramingham Luton 5,366
Challney Luton 8,227
Icknield Luton 5,614
Leagrave Luton 7,492
Lewsey Luton 8,207
Limbury Luton 5,530
Northwell Luton 4,966
Saints Luton 8,501
Sundon Park Luton 5,354

Luton South

Luton South BC 71,881
Caddington Central Bedfordshire 7,267
Barnfield Luton 5,295
Biscot Luton 8,351
Crawley Luton 4,696
Dallow Luton 8,243
Farley Luton 6,839
High Town Luton 4,206
Round Green Luton 7,566
South Luton 6,139
Stopsley Luton 5,294
Wigmore Luton 7,985

South West Bedfordshire

South West Bedfordshire CC 77,673
Aspley and Woburn Central Bedfordshire 3,681
Barton-le-Clay Central Bedfordshire 3,974
Dunstable-Central Central Bedfordshire 3,332
Dunstable-Icknield Central Bedfordshire 5,731
Dunstable-Manshead Central Bedfordshire 3,575
Dunstable-Northfields Central Bedfordshire 6,528
Dunstable-Watling Central Bedfordshire 7,402
Eaton Bray Central Bedfordshire 3,292
Heath and Reach Central Bedfordshire 3,426
Leighton Buzzard North Central Bedfordshire 10,881
Leighton Buzzard South Central Bedfordshire 9,303
Linslade Central Bedfordshire 9,108
Toddington Central Bedfordshire 7,440