Our meeting with the Police Commissioner; local oak and ash trees under threat; and more

May 2013

Police and Crime Commissioner
We met with Martyn Underhill with a view to gaining an understanding of his role and looking to establish a mutually beneficial relationship. The fact that we met and had such a frank discussion is in itself progress. Trying to meet with and influence senior police officers has never been easy.

In amongst a number of key initiatives we learned that Martyn is pursuing the introduction of community speed watch to tackle speeding motorists. He is also unhappy at the gridlock that results from bad traffic accidents. He feels that both the police and DCC (who we learned are in part to blame for what happens) could learn a good deal from the Met on this score.  We intend to take this up with DCC.

A full account of our meeting is worth a read and can be found at www.wcresidents.co.uk  then click on latest updates

DCC Elections
Councillor Spenser Flower has been appointed Leader of Dorset Council. This is good news. He will be leading a council which for the first time includes a UKIP councillor.

We have been dealing with Cllr Flower since he stepped into the struggle we were having with DCC Officers and their plans to build a white elephant waste processing plant at Hurn – where he was instrumental in putting a stop to what would have been a colossal waste of tax payer’s money. Since then Cllr Flower has saved a further £54 million of our hard earned money. However, that can’t be the end of the story. DCC still needs to save a further £40 million in overheads as well as looking to its service standards.

With a new Leader and a new Chief Executive it’s possible we may at last see a better standard of service from DCC

In Commons Ward (old name for West Christchurch) we elected Councillor Margaret Phipps, who is also well known to us and with whom we have worked in the past. She replaced David Fox OBE who stood down after 37 years. Neither we nor Margaret can let that pass without a vote of thanks to David who was always a good friend to your Association. She tells us that she is very much looking forward to working with us, as well as our Ward Councillors, to look at any issues of concern which need to be dealt with at County level. Her contact details are on the website.
Christchurch Dial-A-Bus
The Dial-A-Bus service is open to anyone of any age, who finds it difficult to use public transport (because of the distance they live from the buses for example) or is disabled and lives within the BH23 postcode. A specially adapted bus and ROSPA trained staff collect them from their door for shopping trips and excursions. For more details or to make a booking call in to or phone the Christchurch Information Centre on 01202 471-780.

If you have an elderly neighbour who may well not receive these Newsletters but who could benefit from this service please take a moment to let them know.
Navitus Bay
We believe there is a good deal of ‘misinformation’ around regarding the proposed wind farm at the moment. The West Christchurch Residents’ Association, along with other local residents’ associations, is opposed to the wind farm as currently proposed. We also believe, however, that it is important that all parties report the FACTS when either supporting or opposing the wind farm, so that residents can make informed decisions based on FACT rather than opinion or emotion.
Attempts to clarify some of the statements that were made at the Royal Bath public meeting with Bournemouth Borough Council proved fairly fruitless, but we were happy to have made the effort in the interests of a balanced debate.
There is a meeting coming up of the Poole and Christchurch Bays Association (PCBA) on Thursday May 23rd. The PCBA aims to provide an area wide response for the residents’ associations opposing the proposal and the meeting is aimed to update associations on what has been done so far, what is planned and to agree actions going forward. The WCRA will be represented at the meeting.
We have also offered to help CBC with its impact assessment, but have not heard anything from them at this stage. One of our committee members, Steve Roberts, has written a 2nd article about the wind farm, which is to be published soon in issue 5 of “Purbeck” magazine.
The Growth and Infrastructure Bill
A local resident has forwarded to us a letter from our local MP Chris Chope dealing with this controversial piece of legislation.
The original proposal aimed to make it easier for homeowners and businesses to extend their properties without going through the checks and balances of the planning system. That would have meant neighbours having very little say in what such developments might mean to them. Clearly Government Ministers have never lived next door to some people we can think of in our little community.
As a result of successful lobbying the bill has now been amended to include a consultative process for neighbours and the involvement of Ward Councillors and CBC Planning.
Hospital Merger
With work hoped to start on Christchurch Hospital in September 2013 we can now turn our attention to Bournemouth Hospital. As you probably know, Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals and Poole Hospital foundation trusts are planning to merge.  They claim this is essential to ensure continued provision of quality services in our area.  But the Competition Commission has decided to review the plans and could block them.
Some might think that this bureaucratic exercise appears to be another waste of taxpayers’ money. The proposed merger is the first between two NHS organizations to be reviewed by the Office of Fair Trading, and therefore the first to be referred to the Commission which means the decisions taken in this case will have implications for other trusts planning to merge.
With both sides in uncharted territory no-one is certain of what the outcome will be at this stage. However, unless it radically changes its approach to competition in the NHS, it seems unlikely the commission will simply wave the merger through without conditions.  The commission is due to make a decision by 24 June 2013.
Local Ash and Oak Trees Under Threat
Given the number of protected oaks in this area and prompted by a local resident we wondered what attempts are being made locally to detect, monitor and if necessary treat any outbreaks of the destructive moth that is killing oak trees.  We asked Margaret Phipps, our new DCC Councillor, to investigate and she elicited a very prompt reply from CBC:
This pest was first identified in the country in the summer of 2006. It probably came in on imported nursery stock. (WCRA Comment – why is the UK importing oak trees?)
The outbreaks are confined to a small number of sites in London and one in Pangbourne, Berkshire. The government has announced a £1.5 million mitigation project. The Forestry Commission have been working on it along with London Boroughs. Hopefully the pest’s possible spread will be controlled and will remain confined to the areas where it is presently.
CBC is aware of it however and if any signs are seen we’ll report sightings to the Forestry Commission immediately.
Followed by one from DCC:
Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, the UK is experiencing a large surge in new pests and diseases. The range of pests and diseases entering the UK has grown by 20% in the last 10 years. There will no doubt be challenging times ahead and we will endeavour, within reducing budgets, to
deal with any serious issues.

We are currently waiting for Ash trees to come into leaf so that we can see if we have any Ash Die-back (chalara fraxinea) in the County. DEFRA and the Forestry Commission have given up all hope of eradication and are instead focusing on containment and re-populating with disease resistant stock. Fortunately, Ash is a great coloniser and will quickly re-establish itself.
As far as the Oak Moth is concerned, we know that some aerial spraying is to be tried in a Berkshire but clearly large scale spraying in urban areas is not possible. Small scale spraying has been tried and whilst it is successful in killing the caterpillars, there is an unquantified risk to humans. We are aware of several pressure groups complaining about the spraying in populated areas.
We will naturally be vigilant and if an outbreak is spotted we will act quickly to deal with it. We regularly receive pest and disease updates from DEFRA and the Forestry Commission as well as attending seminars related to the topic. In addition, we share information with colleagues in other parts of the country as well as being members of the Arboricultural Association and the National Association of Tree Officers.

It may well fall to us local residents to spot the first outbreak and we hope to give you an update on exactly what to look for next month

Suffolk Avenue / Bronte Avenue / Marsh Lane Traffic Calming
Dorset County Council has confirmed that traffic / speed counts have been arranged for three locations somewhere in the ‘rat run’ comprising Suffolk Avenue, Marsh Lane and Bronte Avenue. These counts are expected to take place sometime during May and will last one week. We have suggested to DCC that they try to avoid doing the count during the half-term holiday.
May Ball
Ballroom dancing to music you can sing along to on Saturday 25th May at The Hall on the Hill, Marlow Drive. 7.30pm to 10.30pm to include supper. Tickets £7.50 each from the Launderette next to The Hall
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