Wednesday, 4 December 2013

When Freedom of Information Requests Go Too Far

I've often wondered about some of the Freedom of Information requests I've come across. Some people really are time-wasters, AND public expense wasters.  

But I love the response given in this request...

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Max Speed Limits

I keep hearing that if the speed limit is 50, then you shouldn't drive at anything less. Well, that's nonsense.

And if its 20mph, wear something bright at night, or some idiot will knock you down.

Further Comment of Facebook, Drive With Rob:

Or add your comment below.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Caddington ...

Studham, this weekend

A beautiful ward with a people of diverse incomes. It covers the Parishes of Caddington, Hyde, Kensworth, Slip End, Studham and Whipsnade. I have lived in places all around the edge of the ward though not actually in it, and driven through most of it at one time or another. It's also a very historical ward that once ran right down Blows Down, and like Houghton Regis has suffered land-loss to Dunstable.

At Church End, Kensworth on Saturday


Saturday, 2 November 2013

How Can Holywell, Studham, Fire Be Not Treated Suspiciously?

Remains of caravan after fire on 31/10/2013. Photo: A D Winter

HOLLYWELL: Was it so cold the other night that some bright spark thought they'd warm up by setting light to a caravan?

Perhaps they thought it was a fair target after a few cans of beer and watching yobbish programmes depicting destruction of caravans? 

It was set on fire and abandoned near Studham on October 31. Firemen attended Dunstable Road in Hollywell just before 8pm.

Apparently the police were also called but are reported to be not treating the incident as suspicious. What? Did it spontaneously combust, then? Really, it beggars me that these things are not treated more seriously. Today's abandoned caravan is tomorrow's farmhouse. 

Of course, it could have been a Romany funeral, but if so aren't those things attended by many of the clan?

If you have any information, call the police on 101 or call the Crimestoppers independent charity.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Make a Video, Help Save Lives, Win An iPad

I saw a useful initiative mentioned recently that will help to make people think about not drinking and driving, or not travelling with people who are drunk. After all these years of campaigning, it seems that some people never get the message, but we've got to keep trying.

To win an iPad, people need to make a video up to two minutes long. It need not be professional. You can even use your mobile phone to record it.  Just remember to highlight the don't drink and drive message.

In my younger years I can recall crowding obliviously into a mini with about 7 other people and being driven by a drunk from a disco in Kings Langley, back to my home in Hemel Hempstead. The driver went round sets of bollards the wrong way, drove fast, and irresponsibly. As I was in the back, and quite squashed my lots of flesh, there was not a lot I could do to get him to stop. Anyway, after driving around recklessly, various people were  dropped off, and then myself. Unbeknown to me, the driver then carried on through Hemel town centre, hit the brick wall in the central reservation, put himself and a colleague in hospital for several weeks. I had had a lucky escape. Lucky for the driver and other passengers no one was killed. 

So, anyway,  The Bedfordshire and Luton Casualty Reduction partnership are giving people the chance to win an iPad (sponsored by Autohome Assistance) by promoting the dangers of drink driving.

Once recorded, send your film, to or post it to Road Safety Team, Luton Borough Council, Town Hall, LU1 2BU.

Deadline for applications is 5pm on 22 November and all shortlisted films will be uploaded to a dedicated YouTube channel.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Growing Project blossoms at Houghton Regis Day Care Centre

A celebration event was held in Houghton Regis on Tuesday this week to mark the first season of a new growing project for people with a learning disability.

The gardening project has  been running since March 2013. Customers at the Townsend Day Centre have been involved in a weekly horticultural and therapeutic gardening session. Additionally the group improved their communication, socialisation and independent living skills.

Over the last 30 weeks, 15 customers from the Day Centre have each learnt about different aspects of gardening; maintaining soil, the importance of watering, sowing seeds, nurturing plants and harvesting crops.

The project received funding from Baily Thomas Charitable Trust, Central Bedfordshire Council, Houghton Regis Town Council, Tesco Charity Trust, Boots plc, and Mrs Karen Lara. The project was set up by Central Bedfordshire Council and local environmental charity Groundwork Luton & Bedfordshire.

If you’re interested in Groundwork running a growing project with you, or for more information about the project, please contact Natalie Sutterby at Groundwork – / 01582 720147 / 07887 867771.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Kindle Deal - Save £40!

Save £40 on the Kindle Fire HD from Amazon. With a stunning 7 HD display, Kindle Fire HD is ideal for video, apps, games, reading and more. 

Tuesday, 24 September 2013


I was at a Liberal Conference in Dundee in David Steel's time as leader, when I was first impressed by a "Stop Smoking Now" campaigner. Whoever he was, he stood outside in all weathers, including torrential rain, with very large banners and did his utmost to be in the background shots of all tv interviews that were broadcast outside.

So good luck to anyone planning to try and give up in Stoptober. Across Central Bedfordshire there are special clinics in Ampthill, Arlesey, Biggleswade, Dunstable, Flitwick, Houghton Regis, Leighton Buzzard, Sandy, Shefford and Stotfold. Appointments can be booked by calling  free on 0800 013 0553 and press 1 for Central Bedfordshire.

Additional support is available from the Stoptober website  They are providing smokers with a range of free support including a new stop smoking pack, a 28-day mobile phone app and text support with daily updates and quitting advice, detailed tools and tips for coping, as well as the encouragement and support from thousands of people quitting together through Stoptober social media.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Time to be a Tree Hugger?

I'm guessing that everyone has heard of ash dieback decease? But then I got to thinking about branches falling off trees near my own house, of neighbour's reporting part of dead trees overhanging into their gardens. This weekend I was reminded of a long running saga of a constituent's shed being clobbered by a falling branch, something which I have now escalated to the deputy leader of the Central Bedfordshire Council, since Highways are denying it has anything to do with them.

Trees do that, they're just plants, right? Well, maybe not. I delved a bit deeper. It seems there are a lot more things harming the trees than we might at first have  realised, so perhaps it's time to be a tree hugger or whatever. Certainly those in the know claim that government help is too little and too late.

So what is the challenge? Well here is a list of a few: Acute oak decline, Asian longhorn beetle, Ash dieback (Chalara), Chestnut blight, Dothistroma needle blight, Great spruce bark beetle (Dendroctonus micans), Horse chestnut leaf miner (Cameraria ohridella), Oak pinhole borer (Platypus cylindrus), Oak processionary moth (Thaumetopoea processionea), Phytophthora alni, Juniper dieback (Phytophthora austrocedrae), Phytophthora kernoviaem, Phytophthora lateralis, Phytophthora ramorum, Pine tree lappet moth. The list goes on.

But what can you do to help you may ask? As our woodlands are in full leaf and great places to cool off over the summer months, so is it a great time to help monitor their health and wellbeing. To do this Forestry Commission have set up their Tree Alert programme,  an interactive website where you can find out more about many of these pests and diseases, what they look like and how you can report suspected cases.

I am indebted to  Oliver Burke for the last two paragraphs.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Royal Baby

Nicholas Witchell you really are a waste of space . We've got the detail (the time and weight). You really have nothing to do. Get off the tv.  #bbcnews #witchell

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Wikipedia Asking For Donations

Used Wikipedia this morning. Up popped a begging letter,

"Dear Wikipedia readers: We are the small non-profit that runs the #5 website in the world. We have only 150 staff but serve 450 million users, and have costs like any other top site: servers, power, rent, programs, and staff. Wikipedia is something special. It is like a library or a public park. It is like a temple for the mind, a place we can all go to think and learn. To protect our independence, we'll never run ads. We take no government funds. We run on donations averaging about £20. If everyone reading this gave £3, our fundraiser would be done within an hour. If Wikipedia is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online another year. Please help us forget fundraising and get back to Wikipedia. Thank you."

Well, if they hadn't come along and put book encyclopedias out of business, ... Still, £3 isn't a bad price to pay for all that knowledge.

There are alternatives. offers premium service at just 96p a week.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

The Extra Cost of Attending Job Centres Caused by June Spending Review

In his Spending Review announcement the Chancellor announced that attendance at Job Centres would be changed to weekly instead of bi-weekly

In view of the Job Centre's policy of closing local Job Centres, in favour of forcing people to travel to their next town, (in my case, to Luton), I wondered if the Chancellor would also be increasing the allowances to redress the extra cost of travel? The cheapest current charge by Arriva is £4.20 for an all day ticket from Houghton Regis (to get to Luton), so for an unemployed person the cost of extra attendances required would amount to £8.40 a month.

I should also be interested in learning the additional cost of extra staffing requirements needed to deal with double the attendances. Is the Chancellor aware that those in receipt of JSA are required to complete by internet a record of their job searching? The records are available to the associate person working at the Job Centre to enable them to see that effort is being made to look for work. 

The measures announced are likely to increase bureaucracy, not cut it, and as such goes against the ideals I thought the Conservatives stood for.

Having written to my MP, Andrew Selous, I am now waiting for a response which is expected from Mark Hoban MP, the Employment Minister who is responsible for Job Centres.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

A Trip to the Isle of Wight - 2000

In 1974, when I went with my brother, Michael, in his Ford Zephyr, we always seemed to be in a traffic jam. The only jam this time was on the M3 - it delayed our arrival for the ferry by an hour. Not to worry.though, the ferry operators got us on the next ferry. The island in 2000 was now very quiet traffic-wise. But there was not much I remembered from the previous visit.

This time we stayed in a self-catering maisonette at St Lawrence just outside of Ventnor. On our doorstep we had the Rare Breeds and Wildfowl Centre, just next to Ventor Botanical Gardens (a must-do). Ten minutes away was Blackgang Chine - another must-do if you have children under the age of 10. East of Shanklin we visited the informative Tiger Centre, a small zoo featuring lemurs, monkeys, tigers, and small reptiles.

The pretty village of Godshill is quite a tourist attraction, so be prepared for crowds, get lashings of cream teas, and look out for artists. Godshill has a fascinating model village which has a model in the model in the model of the village, and so many cream scone and tea-rooms you are very spoilt for choice.

The visitors route around Osborne House, the former home of Queen Victoria, is now completely different. It is open to the public and well worth a visit. Our infants, enjoyed everything.

Alum Bay and The Needles is now The Needles Park featuring Children's World, a host of childrens' rides, as well as demonstrations on glass blowing and, sweet making (which we missed due to length of queues). We were fortunate enough to see the free Punch and Judy entertainment show. We gave the pricey chairlift and the many steps to the beach a miss, but we did venture along the windy coast towards the Old Battery which hides The Needles.
Steam Trains at Wootton, Isle of Wight, UK close to the timeshare resort.

The weather was very kind to us. Rain had been promised to us by the weathermen on several days, but they were wrong every time. It was only a few spots of rain that had us moving off for cover from Ventnor beach one afternoon. The tv weatherman had promised a deluge.
We picnicked most days, eating lunch in pretty locations, or even on a rug by the car. Al fresco eating seems to give the children a much bigger appetite.

You could never do everything on the Isle of Wight in one week, or even two come to that. But I think that is the beauty of it. You know you won't be disappointed when you go back the next time.
tennis ball hit his head!

feeding the goats

Have you visited The Isle of Wight?

Chessington World of Adventures - May 2000

A Trip to Chessington World of Adventures
May 2000

Ramesis Gets His Revenge!
Fancy a white knuckle ride? Try this at Chessington World of Adventures.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Would Turkish Builders Ever Be Allowed in The EU?

If a month in Turkey has taught me anything, it's that builders in Turkey don't give too hoots about health and safety. Here in the UK, we would expect them to wear hard hats. But although a sign indicates that these workers ought to wear them, I never saw one actually being worn. And apparently, the rules have been revised by the HSE so they may not even be compulsory here.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Clearing Rubbish From the Ward - Very Enjoyable!

Spent much of the day helping other volunteers to fill some 15 sacks of rubbish - mainly crisp packets, plastic bottles and fizzy drink cans - and we removed sundry larger items from an area of our Parkside ward in Houghton Regis. Apart from the fact I've scratched my hand, and been stung by nettles, I quite enjoyed doing it.

The project was lead by Parkside ward Town Councillors, Peter Carrington and myself, as part of the HOUGHTON REGIS TOWN COUNCIL VISION 2011 – 2015, part of which is to enhance public places by facilitating community litter picks. (Download the TC's Vision - pdf file -

The approximate area cleared was Brentwood Close, and Enfield Close, including a community garden by Sundon Road crossing, that had fallen into a dreadful state.

Now, if we can just start getting a few more volunteers to come forward. You know what they say, from little acorns grow large trees. So now I wait to hear from the townsfolk if there is an area of town they'd like to volunteer to help clear up.

Monday, 15 April 2013

You Can Live on £53 a Week Says BBC DJ #IDS #Benefits

Jonathan Vernon-Smith, a self styled consumer champion, is a radio presenter for the BBC. He took up Iain Duncan Smith's gauntlet when the  Secretary of State for Work and Pensions famously suggested that it was possible to live on £53 a week.  On his programme today, for BBC Three Counties Radio, JVS said he lived on that, and had £7 to spare. 

Iain Duncan Smith: photo: Wikipedia
On April Fools' Day 2013, Iain Duncan Smith claimed he could live on £53 per week as Work and Pensions Secretary, after a benefits claimant told the BBC he had £53 per week after housing costs. Subsequently a petition was started on for him to do so for a year; it reached 300,000 supporters by 7:30 P.M. the next day, with further names added that evening at a rate of 12,000 per hour. The petition was handed in one week later with 460 thousand signatures

Jonathan Vernon-Smith's breakdown was £18 a week for electricity and water based on 1/52 of his annual bills, £2 a week on cat biscuits (but queried if pets were not a luxury that should be discounted), £20 a week on food, £5 a week on  household and personal toiletries. This left him the remainder to fritter away on other luxuries that he famously craves, including his favourite wine, pinot grigio.

The reality was that he didn't actually live that sort of life. He was on his show every day that week, no doubt travelling around in his personal transport, enjoying heating supplied by the various offices he visits; he certainly wasn't slumming it at home.

I wondered if he factored in extra toilet flushes, extra loo roll, and extra heating costs, because he would have been spending more time at home consuming things like that, that the BBC provides for him while he's at work.

This lead me to wonder what else he'd left off? Is he planning to be buried at state expense? If not he'll need to keep up payments on insurance. I've paid £1.34 a month since I started earning, that will help with mine. Then there is insurance on home and contents to consider, unless he's hoping as a benefits person to get all that sorted for him, should a catastrophe arise.

Does he have gas? It's very important to factor in gas boiler maintenance, allow at least £3 a week to maintain that.

To the comment that he hadn't factored in clothing, he replied that people could buy clothes in charity shops. Fair do's. It still needs factoring in. I have purchased button up tee-shirts in the past from Age Concern, a third the cost of shop bought new, but you find they don't last - the collars go - so you would actually be replacing more frequently, so the longevity of such items is doubtful 

Maybe he was thinking of taking up knitting as a hobby, or making his own clothes rather than pay for shop bought ones. Fine. Just remember to factor in the cost of sewing machines, knitting needles, cotton, wool, and materials.

So, he's not going to listen to the BBC on radio or watch tv? I bet! Come on, add £3 a week. On the other hand, he won't have a car to sit in to listen to the radio, either, so with no tv or radio in the house he wouldn't actually need a tv licence. Besides, with all the time he'll save not watching or listening, he can bake (oops! up goes the electricity bill) a few scones to help eek out the food budget, and save for his non existent clothing budget. 

I'm still wondering how he's going to get around. He'll need to visit the library to use their internet service and computers as he won't be able to afford his own. His solution is to walk or use a bicycle. Nothing wrong with that. People walked everywhere before motorised transport was invented. Unless they were lucky enough to own a horse or ride on someone's cart, walking was the done thing. In fact, on my heritage blog I recall the story of a Houghton Regis lady who walked the 6 miles to Luton 6 days a week. But that was 160 years ago. But if you want a bicycle, JVS, you need to factor in the cost of buying that, even if it's second hand.

JVS on Facebook
JVS - show excerpt with Dame Anne Beg - audibo

Only 3% of DWP Budget Goes on Job Seekers Allowance

Only 3% of the benefits budget goes to people seeking work. Half the benefits budget goes on pensions. I had a look at the DWP source stats. You'll find a summary of those stats here.

Here's the pie chart I've drawn up from the data.
Click to enlarge.

Tip of the hat to Jon Leighton - his blog post was shared by thousands on Facebook. His chart is slightly different to mine.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Ding Dong!

I love this tune. If it's in the chart, the chart shows should play all of  it, but I hear the BBC is only planning to play a few seconds of it. Come on!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Parkside Litter Picking Tuesday 11 till 3

In Houghton Regis, Parkside town councillors are planning to lead a community litter picking session, next Tuesday. Depending on how successful this is, further community litter picking will be organised. Meeting in Brentwood Close from 11am to 3pm. Litter picking sticks will be available, if anyone has their own, fine. Helpers might also wear gardening gloves.
There's a lot of litter around. It's as good a place as any to make a start. Let's hope this generates a bit of pride in the area.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Thatcherism or Scargilism - No Choice, had to be Liberals

Thatcherism or Scargilism? No choice there as, frankly, I found them both mad, and both very divisive leaders. So I joined the Liberals in alliance with the newly formed SDP, two parties working together.

During the miners strike I provoked Barnsley folk to write to me, passed their letters round the pub and we had a little vote. Six one to the miners. And that from people living in Hertfordshire, well away from coal mines. But there again you had Scargill speeding up the motorway back to Barnsley to park in his driveway to try to outwit the police for speeding. That, and stirring up  moderate thinking miners with his Trotskyite rants.

Produced a Focus leaflet back in those days, running an article on mad cow disease. Surprising how many people told me that they had read the headline and thought it was going to be an item about Maggie Thatcher.

For all that, people somehow wanted to believe in her and show their appreciation of her stand on the Falkland Islands, so when the Dacorum Borough Council elections came along, and I was defending my seat with a bad back, some people pathetically told me they were voting for Mrs Thatcher. I told them she wasn't standing for DBC, and even though I increased my vote that year, the nearest Tory winning candidate just pipped me.

Of course, we now know that the Argentine's General Belgrano was sailing away from the Islands, and Maggie ordered it to be sunk against better advisers, causing the loss of over 300 lives. Had people known she was responsible for the loss of so many  before that election, my political life might have been very different.

She's died today. I'm neither happy or sad.

Proposed Temporary Road Closure- High Street, Houghton Regis

High Street, Houghton Regis

There is a Temporary Road Closure proposal at the above location to enable resurfacing works to be carried out in safety. Details are listed in the schedule below and having assessed the application the Streetworks Co-ordinator for Bedfordshire Highways is satisfied the request is justified.

An alternative route for this closure has been devised as below. The restrictions are to be in operation only when the necessary signs are erected on site. The Legal Order will be made to cover a four month period. Access may be allowed from time to time according to local signing.

If you have any observations you wish to make could you please let me know as soon as possible, so that I can pass them on for you.

Closure Dates

The closure is expected to take place for 8 Nights from

  • 8th to 10th May and 
  • 13th May to 17th May

between the hours of 21:00hrs and 07:00hrs. Access may be allowed from time to time according to local signing.

Alternative Route

Proceed along the High Street in an Easterly direction continuing on to East End. At roundabout take 3rd exit on to Park Road North. At first roundabout take second exit and continue along Park Road North. At second roundabout take second exit on to Poynters Road and continue to A505 roundabout, take third exit on to A505 and continue to A5 Junction. At crossroads turn right and continue along A5 to Houghton Road junction. At Traffic Lights turn right on to Houghton Road and continue on to site and vice versa.

Alternative Route Map Link

NB. The applicant will be responsible for taking down all Central Bedfordshire Council public notices immediately after the works requiring the Order have been completed.

Cllr Alan D Winter
Bedfordshire Highways Representative, Houghton Regis Town Council
Click here to write to me about this

Plymouth Brethren - Christian Religion or Secret Sect? (2013 article)

A Brethren Meeting Room, Bedford Rd, Houghton Regis

UPDATE 21 Nov 2013

A couple more comments added last night. If you don't have time to read all this, try this 4 minute youtube video

Please Sign This Petition!

== To save time, skip over this 8th April blog to read the Comments =======

Despite claiming a basic allowance for being a member of Central Bedfordshire Council, and another for being the "Executive Member for External Affairs", a post no one seems able to explain, Tory Councillor Richard Stay still finds time to post many blog posts almost exclusively about the The Exclusive Brethren.

To look through Cllr Stay's blog you could easily surmise that he is a man obsessed by the Exclusive Brethren. 

"Executive Member for External Affairs" is a role that does seem to have been created after he lost his position as leader of the council. "its so obvious that Cllr Richard Stay is a man of talent otherwise Central Bedfordshire Council wouldn’t have created a "job" at public expense when he failed for the second time to get the top job as Council Leader." wrote the Caddington Village News last year.

Exclusive Brethren, for all my passing interest can gleam from Richard's blabberings, is that it's a sinister religious sect with devious ways of defrauding the tax payer, with a bunch of people painted as crooks looking to line their own pockets through wealth creation. That, and the fact that members of the Brethren are trolling Richard's blog on a regular basis. (Oh, I do love trolls!)

Have you been affected by the Exclusive Brethren? Should the Charity Commission be looking into the question of whether the EB should retain their charity status and the tax concessions this brings them?

Does the EB destroy families? Tell me what you think.


Since starting to read Richard Stay's Blogs, its been quite a learning curve for me. I have received a steady stream of anecdotes, so many, and so varied that their authenticity could  not possibly be called into question. Read them below. And keep them coming.

UPDATE January 2016.
The premises are being sold.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Is it Important for Public Authorities to Spell Correctly?

Well, that's a question that Luton Borough Council are happy to answer "No" to.

Harriet wants a Work Programme

On the Marr show today the question was put to Harriet  Harman that 67% of people say the Welfare system  isn't working and by way of response she  launched into unemployed and people not having a work programme to go on. "You don't have a work programme, so that if people are offered a job and they don't take it, their benefits can be cut." And yet unemployed is just a fraction of the welfare state.

Says it all for me; she doesn't want to talk about other welfare issues. Why didn't she just say, that at the time Britain was engaging in an illegal nationally expensive war with Iraq, the Labour government was actively bribing the working poor to get their votes by increasing the size of the welfare state?

Harriet Harman wants a work programme and says after 2 years of being unemployed they will be provided one and they will have to take it or have their benefit cut. So, she wants the government to create public sector jobs and push up the national debt even more? What else could a work programme entail? I'm trying to have visions of a private sector company starting up to get unemployed people to pick litter from the countryside and sell it onto waste companies to turn into something new. But on the face of it it would not appear to make any sense unless she has those images of Indian folk doing just that in down town India,? But then they''re hardly making what we recognise as the minimum wage. Follow this through logically and you'll have politicians clamouring to scrap the minimum wage.

Governments don't create jobs; government is there to manage and govern. If the private sector can't find a way to make a job pay, then neither can government without it costing tax payers even more.

What is a "proper work programme" and how much would that add to the National Debt, now standing at over 18k per person?

Friday, 5 April 2013

New Busway Banner Provokes Lively Discussion

This picture of the busway in construction has provoked a lively discussion on the Facebook Busway News Page

I took the picture yesterday at the foot of Blows Down, Dunstable while I was out walking with a party from the Wildlife Trust . The occasion was the hand over of land to The Wildlife Trust to manage for wildlife habitats in compensation for land lost to the Luton Dunstable Busway.

This particular spot is close to the public footpath that runs through the middle of Jeans Way, Dunstable, and where I have always supposed the people living in that area might have had a bus stop. As it is at present, their nearest stop is going to be at White Lion Retail Park, which is a mile away, or almost 2 miles by car in the other direction to Toland Close.

The planned bus stops are:

  • Luton Airport
  • Napier Park
  • Luton Station
  • Clifton Road (LTFC)
  • Toland Close
  • White Lion Retail Park
  • Portland Ride

Any other stops would be off the busway.

The Wildlife Trust have put in a certain amount of wire fencing at their side. At about this spot on the Downs side, is a certain amount of wired picket fencing which I've been lead to believe will be removed. On the Downs side is a fairly wide "no man's land" between the Downs and the busway. My understanding is that that is likely to be left for walkers, and to facilitate access for any maintenance vehicles. The conversation on Facebook has raised the matter of loose dogs wandering through fencing, unless it is wired up, too.

Other concerns revolve around the loss of wildlife habitat, access for people on motorbikes, potential for rubbish dumping, whether or not anyone will actually need it or use it, about the cost of it all,  and suggesting that "they" should have built a tramway, a road, or just reinstated the trains.

Follow this conversation on Facebook, or comment below.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

IDS £53 A Week : 400,000 Have Signed Petition

I'm not sure how IDS is going to handle this one. One of his his lunch bill's probably costs him more than £53, before he's treated his guests.

Reporter JVS on BBC3CR says he's going to try living on £53 a week, next week. It's probably doable, but not long term without incurring a major depressive breakdown.

How Do You Make Shared Space Blind Person Friendly?

I think its a great shame that Shared Space was put in, in Court Drive, as the need for it was never clear. It didn't seem to be broke, so why fix it? I have noticed that for some lucky people living in Dunstable, the bus services can scoot through and undertake the traffic queue. But many other motorists cut across the hatched area into the bus lane to turn into Asda.

The scheme is installed, however, so what steps can we think of to improve it at minimal cost? Dogs for the blind can't distinguish tactile foot surfaces, so what about improving the surface for blind people's feet so they can recognise a safer place to cross? And what about having a pole, with a tactile surface on it, at hand height to reassure a blind person that its safer here? And what about painting those poles black and white or even illuminated, so that motorists are made more aware that pedestrians might try to cross here? And what about strong white whites painted where the kerb should be, so that a partially sighted person can steer themselves back onto the pedestrian area?

Rubbish Strewn Everywhere. Is This How People Treat Their Homes?

This is how modern HR rolls. Never mind that it's HR. It could be anywhere in this country. Took this image and reported for clearing up two days ago.. So sad.

There's even a dumped carpet behind the bush, centre.
You could walk down that path all the way into Luton and it is strewn with litter. Had a call from Amey this morning. They were going to take a look. Thanks guys. 

But really, I was brought up to treat outdoors like I treat my house; I guess some folks houses leave a lot to be desired. 

Friday, 29 March 2013

Wash and Squash, Stack and Pack

Are recycling bins too small for some families? With collecting being done every two weeks instead of weekly, and say if you have a family of six, the question is being asked, are these bins big enough?

It could be a case of people not squashing down there materials enough, so here's a few of my tips.

I have stood in my recycling bin several times, to squash it down, but of course it isn't practical or safe for everyone to do that. I certainly wouldn't want anyone to end up in hospital. Plastic bottles and cans can be crushed, but if you want to avoid cutting your hands or ruining your shoes, look for a mechanical device. 

There's some wonderful pneumatic or electric can crushers on Youtube at  if anyone fancies making one. There are many can crushers under a tenner on ebay.

Other tips:
- Wash and squash, flatten cereal boxes.
- Stack and pack, - some plastic pots will stack, the ones that won't write to the manufacturers and ask them to redesign their products.
- Tear cardboard down to magazine size.
- Don't put recycling in plastic bags - you just create more work in the sorting process.
- If there is a handy piece of hardboard cut to fit on top of the inside of the recycling bin, you could press down on that.

And this can crusher device is just fantastic ... I only wish I could make things like this. Maybe every neighbourhood centre should have one ... !

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Wasted Resources of Empty Garages

I wonder if anyone is looking for a garage in Houghton Regis? 

Two years ago I was told in a Freedom of Information request that Central Bedfordshire Council owned  1,016 garages in Houghton Regis, of which 565 of them were boarded up, and apparently a waiting list of only 25.

Is that not an appalling waste of resources? The ones left derelict seem to attract vandalism, or graffiti,  or worse.

A garage is certainly a safer place for a vehicle, than being left out in the street for all and sundry to tamper with. It's not a great place to leave valuable items unless they are bolted down, or chained to the walls. And police are often repeating crime reduction warnings to make garages more secure, and to secure the contents left in a garage. 

I've heard the argument that most of the garages were built for smaller cars, and are not designed for modern vehicles. Well, I used to park a Mondeo Estate in my Council sized garage, so I don't buy that argument, but it I suppose it all depends on your driving skills. And some have been constructed in awkward corners.

Anyway, main point: Too many unused garages. The Council should draw up plans to re-use these sites, or else refurbish and re-let the garages. If no one really wants them, then the space should be re-utilised to make affordable homes for local residents.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Those nuisance Calls

I had a call from a long distance sounding person this morning.
He said he was from the Windows servicing company and he was going to sort out my computer problem.
I don't have a computer, I said.
Oh, I understand, maybe you have an Apple?
Yes, and a banana or two in the fruit dish.
Well, do not worry, we are the Apple servicing company.
You said you were Windows. Make your mind up.
We do it all Sir.
What is the name of your company?
Yes. We are technical company for Apple.
Oh good, I said, because when I rang you yesterday you said you were coming round to fix it. What time are you coming round?
That is all right Sir, we are going to fix it now.
I could drive it round to you this morning.
We are fixing the problem.
Oh. okay. Are you driving round this morning or this afternoon?
We are fixing it now.  But first I need your card details.
What card details?
In order to get the servicing details You need to pay us ninety pounds.
Are you sure you're aware of my computer problem? It won't switch on.
Our technical servicing will be coming on now to fix it, but in order to get the service we need the card details.
Ok, hold on. I will have to go and find  my cards. Can you call back in ten minutes?
No problem, we will wait. We will stay on the line.
... left him waiting awhile.
Gave him false numbers, for the card, several times.
A technical guy came on the phone, asking me what I could see on the screen. It's all black, I said. The problem is I can't switch it on.
Don't worry, we will fix it now, he said. Can you see the cursor?
Well this nonsense went on awhile.
The first man came on again wanting to recheck my card numbers. More pallava over the  fiticious sequence of numbers.
Then he wanted my date of birth.
Why do you need my date of  birth?
Because I am telling you all the servicing details that will be coming to you for the paperwork need to have your name and details on.
I asked him for his date of birth, if he had a girlfriend, what time it was there, what could he see out of his window, what time he was finishing, suggested he could buy an icecream and have a good old lick, and wasn't he really ringing me because he fancied me...

... This could have gone all day, I suppose, but eventually I told him to get a life and hung up.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Shared Space and Blind People

Shared Space presents difficulties for blind people because the schemes rely on eye to eye contact between road users. Where there is no kerb, a blind person does not know for sure where the footpath ends and the road starts. Dogs for the blind and long cane users are trained to wait at a kerb. Tactile surfaces are not recognised by dogs for the blind.

A study carried out in 2009 by University College London recommended that a kerb of 60mm or greater would be needed in order to be detected when stepping up and stepping down and induced the greatest confidence in what they were and what they signified.(Effective Kerb Heights for Blind and Partially Sighted People

Tactile signage could help to indicate safest places to cross, for example, at a courtesy crossing.

The differentiation of areas by colour on shared surface streets is seen as useful for those who are partially sighted. 

Instead of a kerb, a textured area may be introduced, between the shared space and the safe space. If a guide dog went into this area, the person steering the dog might recognise the change in surface and decide to steer themselves back to the safe zone.(Ramb├śll Nyvig Report pdf)

BBC Discussion indicates tactile safe surface is a success.

twt fbk

Thursday, 7 March 2013

New Signs For Quarry Edge

Invited to attend with CBC councillors Jones and Mrs Goodchild, two local residents, a CBC officer, a chap from the quarry owners (St Francis Group), and two guys from Stevenage Signs, this morning. Met top of Millers Way, waited an hour for the Signage guys to get there (!) ... eventually we sorted out some locations for the warning signs, and left the sign guys to put them up. 

I suppose the main point to make is that the pathway is not adopted, so is not the responsibility of Central Beds Council. The CBC officer was merely there to facilitate a meeting between residents and the site owners.

"Beware of falling off the cliff edge"

The Quarry, Houghton Regis.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Funding Gap for Luton Dunstable Busway

The Luton Dunstable busway has a £5.2 million funding gap. Councillors will discuss figures on Tuesday this week. Luton and Central Bedfordshire Councils are supposed to be paying £9.83m towards the overall cost of the project which is predominantly being paid for by Central Government. But they still have to find more than £5m.

Liberal Democrat Leader at Luton Borough Council, David Franks, is quoted in today's Luton on Sunday, as saying "It is no surprise to me that the busway looks like leaving a £9.3m headache. The scandal is that none of the senior Labour councillors seems to have seen it coming and they are still denying it's a problem. What they will not say is where the money is going to come from, my guess is that they will end up borrowing it which will lead to more problems with interest charges and repayments."

The busway is due to open later than planned in the middle of 2013.


Friday, 22 February 2013

Fuel Prices: We're Too High in The UK !

Fuel costs hit everyone's budget. And effects prices in the shops. VAT is added to Duty. Tax on tax. It's not right. It's not fair.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

PhotoSpot: Landpark Wood

At Landpark Wood B4540/B4541, Bedfordshire 2013/2/13. Pathways very muddy in places. Not good for "silly shoes". Stout footwear, boots or wellies a must. Some of these images are available as quality prints. Check out my Pro-Prints.

Location Map, Bedfordshire, UK
From the free car park near the roundabout, there is a gate through to a meadow.  A littler bin and dog poo bin are available close by. Immediately ahead is a tarmacadamed path leading to a picnic table. The meadow is ideal for dogs to run around on. The meadow has a picnic table. Dirt paths run off at several points from the meadow. The paths are uneven and not suitable for people with walking difficulties. Great for a ramble and for exploring.

Thank you for looking. For pro-prints visit

adw snow bedfordshire wood whipsnade dog meadow woodland

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Things ARE Improving in Town!

On one of my rare journeys out to the west of Houghton Regis today I noticed that

  • Morrisons fly-post signs had come down
  • A new dual purpose recycling/ordinary rubbish bin has replaced a rusty bin at the bottom of Mill Road
  •  A dumped bus stop post lying in an alleyway had been removed
There's probably a few more things improved, but I think I'll chalk my earlier post up as having a successful outcome!

Now all I, and all other motorists want, is those wretched temporary road humps removed, and the rest of the road works in the town centre over and done with. All in good time.

hrnd adw

Monday, 11 February 2013

HRN1 Comments: More Needs Doing to Decrease Car Dependency

The Town Council Planning and Licensing Committee tonight made comments on the soundness of the overview plans for HRN1, the major site north of Houghton Regis which is expected to deliver up to 5150 homes of the 7000 total new homes Central Bedfordshire want to build around the north of the town.

I made several comments around the need to encourage less dependency on the motor car. In the many documents for review several mentions are made of walking routes and cycling routes, which is all well and good, but if we are to seriously encourage less use of the motor car then more needs to be done. Yes, the busway will help to get people into Dunstable and Luton for shopping, and possibly to railway stations, but even more can be done.

I asked that the developers look to encourage a car pool scheme especially around higher density areas, and also at provision of a shuttle bus service to Leagrave railway station. The former Kodak building in Hemel Hempstead town centre operates such a scheme, and if the HRN1 team are impressed, then such offerings would surely be useful selling points, as well as helpful to the environment.

More a critique of the overall development planning for the whole of Central Beds, I also asked for consideration of a park and ride scheme. The location at the to-be constructed M1 junction 11a, ought to be a suitable location for a park and ride scheme that would encourage local people to use long distance coaches rather than cars, for making those sort of journeys. Equally, incoming people might also be disuaded from clogging up the whole Luton- Dunstable- Houghton Regis conurbation when they visit for social, retail, and recreation purposes if they had somewhere to park before using good local public transport.

I requested that like for like alternative roads were provided around shopping centres so that if road works became essential, traffic could still negociate the area without making big detours.

Concern was raised by others about the lack of inclusion of land for a cemetery to which I added, land for place or places of worship had also been overlooked. The cash generating schemes like a car showroom and a supermarket had been specifically mentioned at this early stage. Isn't it telling that a loss making thing like a chapel or a cemetery, is too far down the developers thinking to be included at this stage?

Whilst other councillors made other comments or otherwise supported my suggestions, it would be improper by the rules of the council, for me to mention them here. The collected comments will be available from the Town Council when approved in due course.

To make a comment, support or object:

At the foot of the page, click "Submit a Public Online Comment", and then click If you do not have a reference number click here"

posted from Bloggeroid

Edit/ letter to CBC:
 I write to raise my concerns to the planning application CBC/12/03613 .

In respect of Floorspace and Landuse there is a lack of acknowledgement of the need to provide space for places of worship and places for the respectful consideration of the deceased. With the proposed number of new dwellings should be a calculation of landspace required to meet the minimum number of deaths occurring, I would suggest, in at least a 100 year period. In respect of accommodating places of worship, I would suggest that land multiplied by two, based on such places as the total floorspace of the Baptist Church in Hammersmith Gardens, and the Meeting House in Lowry Drive, in Houghton Regis is allocated.

I have concerns about the Illustrative Masterplan. The primary vehicular road through Zones H, G, F and E is depicted with homes facing onto the primary route. As this is just depicted as a single road, should roadworks be ever required after scheme completion, traffic would need an alternative route on a like for like road, and therefore could give rise to lengthy detours. A trivial, but nevertheless a potential problem when houses front a primary road, might be that weekly congestion occurs when dustbin lorries collect, witnessed weekly in Poynters Road, Dunstable.

The scheme makes mention of walking and cycling routes; a scenario mentioned in an online study for HRN1 puts the case for someone cycling around the entire area of Houghton Regis, including going as far as cycling through Houghton Hall Park. The case is flawed as cycling is not permitted in that Park. Whilst emphasis on cycling is welcomed, for most new home occupiers there will continue to be dependency on a motor vehicle for transport. The scheme encourages routes for buses, but I feel that even more could be done to discourage dependency on motor cars.

Long distance coach travel out of the area could be encouraged by the provision of a long distance coach stop with associated local long term parking. That same long term parking could also act as a place for people coming into the Luton / Dunstable / Houghton Regis conurbation to park up and transfer onto local public transport for shopping, business and cultural visits, thereby freeing up congested roads in those towns.

Where there is a high concentration of dwellings within the scheme area, a car-pool sharing scheme might be offered to make a vehicle available to residents when required. At the same time, an associated scheme might offer a shuttle bus service to the local railway station at Leagrave, for those residents reducing the need for additional parking provision at the railway station. Such a combination of schemes might gain favour in terms of reducing the overall normal requirement for parking spaces per dwelling unit. Such a scheme would help promote community bonding and ought to be a useful additional marketing strategy for such a development. For an example look at, the KD Tower, in Hemel Hempstead.

The bus transportation companies should be encouraged to run a service direct from Houghton Regis to Leagrave Station.

Tags: hrn1 development car

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Hemel Hempstead: Labour Waste Public Money on a By-Election


Labour Councillor Keith White who represented Adeyfield West has resigned his seat as a Dacorum Borough Councillor.  With local elections planned on 2nd May the by-election could have been delayed however it has been called early, BY LABOUR.

Residents in Adeyfield West ward will now have to go to the polls twice, once on Thursday 21st March and again six weeks later on Thursday 2nd May.

Details can be found on the Dacorum Council Website


Zebra Crossings: My Passion for Central Refuges

This week I had correspondence with the Highway Authority for Bedfordshire,  and with Central Bedfordshire Council Development Control officials. Copying in various CBC councillors. I was concerned about the impending works due to start tomorrow in Houghton Regis High Street.

When complete, the scheme, a Section 278 agreement, for road works in conjunction with Morrison's new large supermarket, will provide 8 new zebra crossings, where previously there had been just 3 pelican crossings. Part of the scheme is illustrated here.

Looking back to the record of the Planning and Licensing committee of the Town Council in October 2010, I can see that we recorded concern at the proximity of some of the 'pelican' crossings to roundabouts. Where 'pelican' came from, I'm not sure, because the scheme shows zebra's. For myself, I do recall commenting that they were zebra crossings.

At the time we probably concentrated a lot more on the plethora of paper work to do with the store, the car park, and the access points. Nevertheless, the point was made about crossings being too close to roundabouts.  But, I think, whatever sort of crossing, there was an unquestioned belief that central refuge's would also be provided with these crossings. After all, as with the present pelican crossing below, we already had a refuge. Why would this new scheme offer less protection to pedestrians?

Pelican crossing with central refuge is due to be replaced with a zebra and no refuge.
The Bedford Road, Houghton Regis, was converted to a zebra late last year. The old central refuge was removed, the zebra installed a bit further back from the roundabout than previous position, but without a central refuge. There was an instant outcry from the public saying it was too close to the roundabout for such a long crossing. Check my Houghton Regis News Desk Facebook page. And newspapers have twice reported knock-downs of pedestrians since then, in Bedford Road.

CBC's Development Control apparently asked for  the crossing to be moved even further back from the roundabout "before Christmas". But nothing appeared to happen. The revised plan I was privvy to seemed to call for the zebra to be removed back down the road about 3/4 the width of the crossing. Maybe it was, or is being moved. But I don't think people will spot that it's been moved. So we're still likely to have an outcry. 

The width of this road in Houghton Regis is due to get a zebra crossing without a central refuge.
Somewhere near the keep left sign above, a crossing is due to be installed, without a central refuge. I am very concerned that when traffic comes off this roundabout that they will not have a clear view of a pedestrian standing over on the right hand side of the road. Traffic will emerge from Bedford Road (on the right of this picture above) and will not necessarily have a good sight line to pedestrians. In the picture below, looking from the other direction, you could try to make your own estimation of sight, on perhaps a dull, wet day with rain lashing at the windscreen.

Orange arrows indicate locations for TWO zebra crossings. High Street, Houghton Regis
This is a view of the same crossing from the other direction. As you can see from above, maybe there should not be two crossings so close together, but that is a secondary issue to the one of providing a pedestrian refuge. 

Can I tell you, dear reader, I'm currently being advised by Highways that in Houghton Regis the road is not too wide, and therefore people do not need a refuge. So why am I so passionately in favour of refuges? 

Here's why. When I lived in Hemel Hempstead for over 30 years, the local zebra crossing in Queensway close to a roundabout, had a refuge, and still has. A fairly narrow road, taking a significant amount of traffic, but IT HAS A REFUGE that 
  • gives pedestrians a safety zone if someone coming off the roundabout misses them, 
  • gives pedestrians confidence to cross.
  • helps to reduce the chance of accidents.

Queensway, Hemel Hempstead. Busy road, zebra crossing, AND a central refuge.

Closer to home there are dozens of examples where central refuges are provided. Here's one in West Street Dunstable:

So, why can't we have refuges, too, in Houghton Regis?