Buses; Trees on St Cats Hill; Druitt Hall and much more

December 2013

Trees On St Catherine’s Hill

December 2013 marks the end of your correspondent’s first 10 years on the WCRA Committee and thus the imminent 10th anniversary of the start of the fight to stop the mass felling of thousands of trees on St Catherine’s Hill.

To mark the occasion we have added three documents to the archive on the website: our original document of protest that, along with the petition and TV coverage, was key in getting CBC Councillors and our MP to support us; our objection to the first, dangerously misleading, hydrology report; our written submission to the Forestry Commission made jointly with Hurn Parish Council before we both appeared at the formal hearing.  They’re all easy reading.

If you want to read them go to www.wcresidents.co.uk and click on Environment then St Catherine’s Hill then the links to the documents are under a heading 2004 Documents on the left hand side of the screen just below and to the left of the picture of Sandy Lane

The Hill is now managed by a Steering Group of which we are members that seeks to implement a 10 year plan that was adopted following full public consultation. The first obvious sign of their activity was the creation of dip-wells to monitor the flows of water in sensitive areas. This monitoring will continue throughout the 10 year period.  The first results are now available along with a commentary by the hydrologist and can be seen on the website www.wcresidents.co.uk and click on latest updates – 2013 – hydrology update. They are not the easiest things to read and in summary the hydrologist is satisfied with what has been done so far.

The main land managers on the site (Christchurch Borough Council, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation and Sembcorp Bournemouth Water) have recently submitted felling licence applications to the Forestry Commission in line with the agreed management plan.  This follows several months of discussion both on and off site by members of the Steering Group.  
Part of the process has involved prioritising areas on site where selective felling is required.  Priority has been given to areas where: early recovery is required to allow further works; or trees are in poor condition; or to enable later access to adjacent areas. You may have noticed blue paint marks at the base of some of the trees. These refer to individual trees that the Steering Group feel should be retained in the medium term at least
On the website a map shows the areas where works are planned to take place during the first work season (between 1 January and 31 March 2014). Again go to www.wcresidents.co.uk and click on latest updates– 2013 – hydrology update – management proposals year 1
Finally, our thanks go to a resident who saw four youths near the water towers. As she got closer she could smell fresh paint in the air and immediately called the Police to report that graffiti was being produced. One youth was detained as the other three made off, but all have all been identified and are currently in the police jargon “under investigation”.

The No. 21 Bus
Dorset County Councillor Margaret Phipps reports:
The County Council proposal was to save £800,000 in bus subsidies across the County, by cutting the amount they contribute to bus services from £2.8 million to £2 million.  One of the casualties was to be the No. 21 bus from Christchurch to Bournemouth which runs through St. Catherine’s and River Way.  I am sure you are all aware that residents and Councillors have been opposing this proposed cut.
I have attended 2 County Council Cabinet meetings in Dorchester, one in November and another on December 4th 2013, when I spoke at both, on behalf of residents, in support of retaining the much valued No. 21 service running from Christchurch via Fairmile/St. Catherine’s/River Way to Bournemouth Hospital. I have also been in constant touch with County Officers and spoken direct with Yellow Buses in my efforts to stop this service being cut.
I am very pleased to report that at the County Council meeting on 4th December, the Cabinet agreed to retain the No. 21 day time service, Monday to Saturday inclusive, to run Burton/Christchurch/St. Catherine’s/River Way/Bournemouth Hospital return.  This should run on a 70 minute cycle throughout the day, and a timetable will be published in due course.
The current service will continue until April, when the new service will commence.  I am still in discussions regarding retaining some evening services, and I am hopeful that I will soon also have some news about that.  This has been extremely difficult, as buses are being cut all over Dorset in an effort to save money, and from April some areas will have no service at all.  Whilst the new No. 21 service may be a little less frequent than the current one, we must realise that the initial plan was to cut the service through St. Catherine’s completely, so I think we have achieved great success in retaining this bus.
Margaret’s full report, that also deals with Superfast Broadband and The Dorset Nature Partnership, can be read at www.wcresidents.co.uk and click on Council Affairs Home

Christchurch Council

We met with the Chief Executive and his strategic directors. The full report of the meeting can be read at www.wcresidents.co.uk and click on ACRA Home.

One development that intrigued us was the withdrawal of Purbeck (PDC) from talks about merging their administration in with CBC-EDDC administration, giving as an excuse that "the time was not right" even though the investigation had cost council tax payers money and showed substantial potential savings are available.  That both puzzled and irritated us - they had previously talked to Weymouth about a similar venture and left them at the altar - and anyway when is the time "right" for such a venture.

A little research reveals that PDC is one of only a few Councils that still elects one-third of its councillors every year. This means that business is conducted in a perpetual atmosphere of electioneering which in turn makes long term planning and commitment to fundamental change difficult - they always have one eye on an election. It is possible that this rather unstable environment contributed to their action. They plan to switch to the more usual four year basis from 2015, following which it is possible that they may wish negotiations to recommence.

In the commercial world that would put them at quite a disadvantage - not sure about the full ramifications here but we trust that CBC-EDDC will be a bit tougher on getting our costs refunded if a similar occurrence comes to pass next time.

Those Supermarkets

The Bailey Bridge development gave a lot of publicity to their planned community fund. It is not entirely clear to us to what extent the creation of this fund will depend upon what happens at Stony Lane and The Meteor Centre. We will keep in touch with Quantum.

Consideration by the Planning Committee of the Stony Lane submission was deferred yet again. Any suggestion that Meteor threatened legal action if their application was not considered at the same meeting as Stony Lane must surely be ill-informed speculation.

The Co-Op plans to convert the empty Fairmile pub next to the Texaco garage into a largish food store for which apparently they need only a change of use and no planning permission. Since such a store would likely: put other local stores out of business; create some traffic problems; inconvenience local residents with late night and early morning deliveries; and rob us of an ideal site for affordable housing for the local Hospital and Fire Station staff; it appears that the planning laws have once again been found to be wanting.

Druitt Hall

We attended a meeting at which members of Druitt Hall Association Ltd. (DHAL) gave a presentation, outlining the sequence of events and their negotiations with Christchurch Borough Council during the previous 12 months.

The main purpose of the evening was to tell those attending that as far as DHAL was concerned; the battle with CBC had been lost. DHAL were unable to accept the terms of a three year lease on the Hall with its associated commitment of funds, the only offer on the table, and would convey this to CBC.

The members of DHAL have resigned with immediate effect. The decision was given as irrevocable. Members of DHAL would give all the information they had to any new grouping which might wish to continue.  Therefore, unless such a new body appears, the matter will now presumably be considered by the Resources Committee of CBC in January, for them to decide on the future actions over Druitt Hall.

There was a warm vote of thanks for those who had worked so hard to achieve what they saw as a successful outcome. There was some criticism of mixed signals from Officers of the Council, but the main attack from the floor was reserved for the Conservative Group of Councillors and their Leader.
Bits and Pieces

Dorset Waste Partnership has a new web-based service:
Check if your rubbish or recycling collections are affected by the weather or if your local household recycling centre is open.

CBC-EDDC has been asked by the Planning Inspectorate to make changes to their Core Strategy and these changes are open to public consultation.
The key documents to view in relation to this consultation can all be found on the Councils’ website at www.dorsetforyou.com/348323 and at the Council Offices at Bridge Street, Christchurch, BH23 1AZ or at Furzehill, Wimborne, BH21 4HN during normal office hours (Monday – Thursday 8.45am – 5.15pm, and Friday 8.45am – 4.45pm).

Collections Finished.

Our collectors have all reported back and our membership for 2013 exceeds 1,850 homes. That represents a superb effort by our volunteers – our thanks to all of them.
 Have a happy Christmas everyone.
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