Westbury Road Car Park – an innovative idea?

JosephPatisserie01Candle_Factory_and_Shopbutcher

Remember the Butcher, the Baker & the Candlestick maker?  Wouldn’t we like to see these sort of independent traders back to the town?

The Accord administration is looking far in to the future of Brentwood and sometimes this means floating brave new ideas.  That’s just what we are doing with the council-owned and under-utilised Westbury Road Car Park – bringing an idea for debate and out-in-the-open discussion.

To be crystal clear – there are no current plans and we aren’t forcing this on residents.  We would fully consult with residents in the area for sure.

The general idea is to use some space at the front of the High Street-facing side to, potentially, create a run-on from Bennetts to include:

  • Six shops, with three subsidised for independent traders who would not otherwise afford rents of £70-£80K per year.
  • Some flats above
  • Drop off/pick up point out the front
  • Retain much of the car parking

The objective being to establish some viable businesses at the west end of the High Street that is currently very quiet with several businesses closing down.

Now, I am broadly supportive of the objective here BUT there are issues that I need ironed out before I will support it:

  1. The current entrance to the car park is in the wrong place and will cause mayhem in Westbury Road – I would hope this would be an opportunity to re-design it for the benefit of residents and possibly take out the ugly barriers.
  2. The car park is under-used, but I would need to be assured that the cars that are there are not displaced.
  3. I would want assurance that the drop off spaces would be used for just that.
  4. I would want assurance that current residents are not over-shadowed by another Tower of Greed and that this is sympathetic to the older buildings that are already there.
  5. Most importantly, I would want assurance that residents are fully consulted and their views taken in to account.

I am more than happy for residents to get in touch with their thoughts on the principle of this project.

William Hunter Way consultation – a reminder

whw sign

 

Over the weekend, each household will receive a letter addressed to whoever is on the council tax account about the William Hunter Way consultation and here’s why…

On 1st September 2014, after the failure of the former Tory administration’s town centre development (along with eight wasted years and hundreds of thousands of pounds) the Accord administration launched a very genuine consultation – developed in consultation with local residents – that would go to every household in the borough.  It was initially launched online with a paper consultation planned to go through every door.

All was going to plan until a couple of weeks ago when we started to get calls and emails from residents to say they hadn’t received the consultation paper – what’s worse is that this was in areas very close to the site such as Wellesley Road, Weald Road, Gerrard Crescent and huge areas in Warley.

We hoped this would right itself but, with a week to go until the consultation ends in the past week we were still hearing this from our residents and a lengthy conversation on www.streetlife.com confirmed our worst fears.

On Saturday Cllr Russell Quirk, chair of the William Hunter Way Working Group (WHWWG), called an urgent meeting of this group tonight (6th October).  Councillors Quirk, Baker, Mynott, Sapwell and I met with officers at 7pm to discuss how this was going to be sorted out.

And sort it we did.

  • The deadline for the consultation is to be extended to 5th November 2014.
  • Every resident on the council tax register will now receive a letter reminding/informing them to complete this important survey
  • They will be able to complete it on line or have a survey sent to them
  • We will ask for further help from the Brentwood Gazette, Brentwood Weekly News and Phoenix FM (which may include taking out advertisements)

 

I am so pleased that we have been able to find a way to promote this consultation further at this late stage.  What’s better is that these “belt and braces” actions still keep us well within budget for the consultation project and assures residents that we have done everything we can to make sure every one of them has an opportunity to give us their views on the future of their town.

Make no mistake – this is important as it is about the long term future of the town which is why we are not taking it lightly.”

However, even with this unfortunate series of – now solved – problems, officers have confirmed that with well over 2,000 responses already this is the best response for a Brentwood resident consultation since records began.

Where’s my polling station?

So, it’s nearly time to vote! If you don’t know where to vote on Thursday 22nd May, here’s my guide:

There are four polling stations in Brentwood West, they will be on your polling card, but just in case, here’s a map for each:

Victoria Court, Victoria Road (Polling card numbers starting CA)
Holly Trees School, Vaughan Williams Way (Polling card numbers starting CB)
South Weald Parish Hall, London Road (Polling card numbers starting CC)
Baptist Church, Kings Chase (Polling card numbers starting CD)

If you are unsure which polling district you are in, need to return a postal vote on the day or have any other queries, just call me on 07774 248362.

I have also listed all the roads in the ward along with the polling station:

ROAD POLLING STATION
Ashford Avenue South Weald Parish Hall, London Road
Batemans Mews Holly Trees School, Vaughan Williams Way
Belvedere Road South Weald Parish Hall, London Road
Brook Road South Weald Parish Hall, London Road
Burntwood Baptist Church, Kings Chase
Chase Road Baptist Church, Kings Chase
Crescent Road Victoria Court, Victoria Road
Cromwell Road Victoria Court, Victoria Road
Deans Road Victoria Court, Victoria Road
Downsland Drive Baptist Church, Kings Chase
Drover’s Mead Holly Trees School, Vaughan Williams Way
Elm Way South Weald Parish Hall, London Road
Fairfield Road Baptist Church, Kings Chase
Fantasia Court Holly Trees School, Vaughan Williams Way
Firsgrove Crescent Victoria Court, Victoria Road
Firsgrove Road Victoria Court, Victoria Road
Gerrard Crescent Baptist Church, Kings Chase
Greensleeves Drive Holly Trees School, Vaughan Williams Way
Halfhides Victoria Court, Victoria Road
Hanover Place Holly Trees School, Vaughan Williams Way
High Street Baptist Church, Kings Chase
Hill Road South Weald Parish Hall, London Road
Hillside Walk South Weald Parish Hall, London Road
Hive Close South Weald Parish Hall, London Road
Honeypot Lane South Weald Parish Hall, London Road
Hospital Cottages Victoria Court, Victoria Road
Junction Road Victoria Court, Victoria Road
Kavanaghs Road South Weald Parish Hall, London Road
Kavanaghs Terrace South Weald Parish Hall, London Road
Kings Chase Baptist Church, Kings Chase
Kings Road Baptist Church, Kings Chase
Kipling Close Holly Trees School, Vaughan Williams Way
La Plata Grove Baptist Church, Kings Chase
Langley Drive South Weald Parish Hall, London Road
Lark Close Holly Trees School, Vaughan Williams Way
Link Way Road South Weald Parish Hall, London Road
London Road South Weald Parish Hall, London Road
Lorne Road Victoria Court, Victoria Road
Manor Way South Weald Parish Hall, London Road
Milton Road Victoria Court, Victoria Road
Oldfields Victoria Court, Victoria Road
Osborne Heights Holly Trees School, Vaughan Williams Way
Pastoral Way Holly Trees School, Vaughan Williams Way
Pennyfields Victoria Court, Victoria Road
Potiphar Place Holly Trees School, Vaughan Williams Way
Railway Square Baptist Church, Kings Chase
Red Road Victoria Court, Victoria Road
Rhapsody Crescent Holly Trees School, Vaughan Williams Way
Rollason Way Baptist Church, Kings Chase
Selwood Road South Weald Parish Hall, London Road
Sir Francis Way Baptist Church, Kings Chase
South Weald Road South Weald Parish Hall, London Road
Spital Lane (nos 41-51) South Weald Parish Hall, London Road
St. James Road Baptist Church, Kings Chase
St. Peter’s Road Victoria Court, Victoria Road
Sussex Road Victoria Court, Victoria Road
Talbrook South Weald Parish Hall, London Road
Tallis Way Holly Trees School, Vaughan Williams Way
The Beeches Baptist Church, Kings Chase
The Chase, Cromwell Road Victoria Court, Victoria Road
The Mount Baptist Church, Kings Chase
The Terlings South Weald Parish Hall, London Road
Tower Hill Baptist Church, Kings Chase
Vaughan Williams Way Holly Trees School, Vaughan Williams Way
Victoria Road Victoria Court, Victoria Road
Wansford Close South Weald Parish Hall, London Road
Warley Hill Victoria Court, Victoria Road
Warleywoods Crescent Victoria Court, Victoria Road
Weald Close South Weald Parish Hall, London Road
Weald Road Baptist Church, Kings Chase
West Park Hill South Weald Parish Hall, London Road
Westbury Drive Baptist Church, Kings Chase
Westbury Road Baptist Church, Kings Chase
Westway South Weald Parish Hall, London Road
Westwood Avenue South Weald Parish Hall, London Road
Wharf Road Baptist Church, Kings Chase

Injury woes!

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You’ll know that I have mentioned that I had a couple of accidents over the past few months and I’ve thanked many people for bearing with me.  Of course, Cllr Roger Hirst and his Tory chums weren’t so kind and decided subjecting someone hardly able to breathe and leaning heavily on a walking stick to two hours of bullying is what you elected them to do. How lovely! (see what happened here)

Well, it is now clear that I did some considerable damage to my shoulders and I am probably going to have to have them both operated on in the coming months.

That means that I certainly need your help in electing John Newberry on 22nd May so I have a teammate to work alongside me as I recover!!!!

Soapbox this week: Twitter

photo (30)

 

 

Every week in the @gazetteseries there’s a soapbox section, for all parties from the Brentwood council chamber to have their say.  As a rule, it’s either Cllr Barry Aspinell or Cllr Graeme Clarke, our leader and deputy leader, who feature but, on occasion, because it’s a subject close to our hearts or on which we are well versed, the soap box is safely packaged and given to one of us.

This week, it was my turn – the subject…….TWITTER!

In full:

It seems bizarre these days, with 650M tweeters and 9,000 tweets a second, to be discussing its existence still – to me it’s as bizarre as discussing the existence of the telephone!

As a rule, it’s a positive thing that means a great communication tool, new friends, new insights, new business, useful information and laughs.  But, as with any form of communication, it has its pitfalls.  The main issue is “internet trolls” – especially anonymous ones who use this method to insult, upset and harass people. But, people are wising up to dealing with them and their “trolling” says more about them than it does twitter – invent something else and they’d find a way to spoil that too!

It was disappointing to find people saying such unkind things about a tragic death.  Did those people really mean it?  They very possibly did not, in the cold light of day and in the face of worldwide exposure.  I hope an apology is forthcoming from many of them.

Internet media needs to be used sensibly – Facebook is like having a chat with your family at dinner whilst Twitter is like pitching up at Speaker’s Corner.

For Brentwood, Twitter has been a positive thing with Tweet-Ups, supportive networks and information sharing (i.e. traffic hold ups) and, I hope on balance, that’s what we see.

As a Twitter-loving councillor, it allows me to messages and information out speedily – such as a lost dog – and for residents to talk to me directly about issues affecting them.

Tower Hill Natural Pond: the pothole documentary

pothole channel 5

 

So, the pothole at the apex of Sir Francis Way, Tower Hill and Weald Road DID make it on to national TV!  You can watch the clip here!

Isn’t it odd, that of all the potholes in Brentwood they managed to fill this one in – just before the original planned air date in November?  It didn’t actually air until 17th December 2013.

Even though the attraction had to close when Essex County Council repaired it (badly) with a lump of tarmac rather than putting the bricks back, you can revisit it here on its Facebook page.  It is safe, for now, but the workmanship is questionable at best!

Councillors behaving badly….

…well, we are rather used to it here in Brentwood but, anyhow, I get a little mention in the Independent on Sunday today due to this post from November 2013:

 

I am, according to Cllr Keith Parker (Tory), an “Ugly Sister”.

ugly sistersThis was a comment he made to me last night at the meeting of Brentwood Council.  It’s hardly “treating each other with respect” as is demanded by the code of conduct we all sign up to.

Residents and councillors from both sides were pretty appalled by this behaviour of someone who is supposed to be representing them and it is not the first time Councillor Parker has done this.  No apology has been made.

He was censured in 2011 for making a derogatory remark abouthomosexuals and, I still maintain, victims of domestic violence and, last year, called me a tw*t.

A real Prince Charming.

I have made a complaint this morning, not because he upset me (I can cope and I am used to it) but because I owe it to the residents who are rightly appalled that their representatives can be so lacking in good contact, good grace and politeness but first class misogynists, bigots and serial offenders.

With William Hague MP calling a female MP a “stupid woman” I would say a theme is emerging here.

“Improve Cromwell Road Play Area? Shouldn’t those children be up chimneys?” say Brentwood Tories

Final Chimney Sweep Concept

 

 

Cast your mind back to Friday 1st October 2012, I was there on a cold, rainy morning at 9am with a council officer and my ward colleagues discussing a number of things following us saving Cromwell Road Play Area from the hands of greedy developers.

It was a good meeting – we were to look into an additional site, improving the current area and adding some educational play boards.

cromwell road play area

Has anything happened since.  Nope.  Despite me chasing it up on a regular basis.

This is a record that I see with the Tories – keep talking about these things but never actually committing to anything or moving things along.  So, after 14 months of zero activity I asked Tory Cllr Jan Pound to put it on her agenda, so it could be agree by councillors and actioned ASAP.

Yet again another flurry of words from me that you may have seen before on two previous posts:

“I received a reply this morning telling me that wasn’t going to happen because it wasn’t in the budget for 2013/14 and it will have to go in to next year’s committee agenda.  Once again, stalling tactics hoping that I will forget or they’ll see me off at a future election (because, this happened before and projects came to a crashing halt).

This doesn’t make sense because to be agreed for the 2014/15 budget then it needs to have been agreed so funding can be found for it – the budget setting meeting is just two months away.  Not doing this means that it is kicked on until 2015/16 at the earliest – but they haven’t actually been able to pull on their big girl/boy panties once again (see previous related post) and make a decision.

But there’s a curious angle to this one – the officer concerned says there is no budget available and yet, there jolly well is.  There are tens of thousands in Section 106 agreement monies generated from the developments in Rollason Way and St James Road.  They are ring fenced for play area provision and, I do believe, that any need in Brentwood West should be met before these are spent in any other area of the borough.  This could easily fund what we are proposing here.

When I was chair of Overview & Scrutiny before the Tories decided to have my head on a plate on spurious and evil grounds, I asked for a report on all the S106 monies.  I was expecting this report in June and yet, by October it had still not materialised (even though I had seen a rough draft) due to a number of odd reasons…..is this where the bodies were buried?

Are the Tories planning another pet project elsewhere to bolster their chances of electoral success?  Remember, last year an amount of £165,000 was found and shoved in the budget with no discussion, debate or council decision because the Tories wanted to make sure they kept hold of their Hutton seats.  Yet apparently they cannot find, or even discuss at the relevant committee, the use of £3,000 to improve play provision after all the disruption that Brentwood West and Warley residents have had to put up with in the last ten years of construction.

So, it seems, as far as the Tories are concerned, the children who live in my ward can go whistle…..while they work!

ENJOY!

 

 

Criminal Record Checks

CRB-Logo

For years, Cllr Vicky Davies and I  have campaigned to have all Brentwood councillors checked by the home office in case they came into contact with children or vulnerable people (which we do, a lot), but for some odd reason, this has been refused by the Tory Leader.

Well, I am glad to say that I have, through my employer and because I occasionally deal with children, now been checked and passed (it costs about £50 and my check was back within 24 hours).

Can’t imagine anyone with nothing to hide ever refusing this.

 

A BIG WIN for residents in #BrentwoodWest

Download 6 nov 13 005 Download 6 nov 13 006 Download 6 nov 13 008 Download 6 nov 13 010

 

A very impressive resident-led campaign against back garden development in South Weald Road saw the planning application REFUSED last night!

Around 100 residents armed with posters and FIFTY reasons to reject the application and two excellent speakers fighting their cause saw a unanimous decision to refuse the application to cram four huge houses in the back garden of a property and drive a road between two houses in South Weald Road.

I am staggered that this was ever up for approval by officers because the evidence was overwhelming on grounds for refusal.

I have picked out some highlights from the webcast below but really I want to say a massive well done.

Residents launched a huge campaign as you can see from the photos and bombarded councillors with emails, letters and information packs – they really fought for their community.

One good thing to come out of this, is a possibility that the Homesteads could be designated a Conservation Area in time for its centenery in 2015 – I am working with them on this and nothing would make me happier than preserving this wonderful Brentwood estate.

People Power – you can’t beat it!

Webcasts below:

Resident Niall Kelly

South Hill Resident Association Chair Joe Carr

Me

The whole shabang