Hedge End residents contributed to a well-attended and lively inaugural meeting of the Hedge End Society on Monday evening.
Four of Hedge Ends Town Councillors, Cllr Keith Day, Cllr Jane Welsh, Cllr Sheila Baynes and Cllr Cynthia Garton attended. Conservative and independent campaigners were also present.
Trying to identify who was who and establish what political interests they had proved an awkward way of starting the meeting, which had been promoted as non-political.
Once that tricky business was out of the way, the meeting moved on to discuss specific issues of concern to the residents. That section of the meeting was more successful in allowing a number of issues to be raised and discussed, without party politics getting seriously in the way.
Speeding and other traffic issues were the matters that were of greatest concern. The proposed new housing developments were also raised, but discussion of new housing tended to drift back to traffic issues, with concerns raised about the additional traffic problems caused by all the extra vehicles these new homes would bring.
Conservative campaigner Paul Redding mentioned the Hampshire Community Speedwatch group that he is working to establish in Hedge End. One of the residents at the meeting agreed to join that group, happy to be able to work with Paul to do something to solve a local problem that they were both concerned about.
Most residents were already aware of the consultation on the draft local plan and the exhibition being held on Hedge End Village Hall on 15th November. Ray Turner advised that the consultation ran until the 3rd of January and that there were other ways of contacting the Council with comments on the draft plan, either online or via a letter perhaps.
The Lib Dem Councillors were listening carefully to all the concerns raised, Cllr Welsh reported to the meeting that she has contacted the Police many times about speeding and parked cars, but the Police’s response is often that “parked cars help to reduce speed”…
Speaking after the meeting, one of the organisers – Eastleigh News contributor Ray Turner – said:
We thought it best to be open about who the politicians were in this meeting. We wanted to be transparent. Some residents and Councillors thought this process made the meeting political, perhaps it did for a while, but if we hadn’t done this we would have been open to the charge that politicians were attending the meeting incognito.
When the meeting eventually got going, we saw Lib Dem, Conservative and independent politicians all in the same room listening to Hedge End residents. None of the politicians kicked each other. I’m not sure how many people realised that something unusual was happening. I was pleased to see it.
The group clearly needs to sharpen-up and focus on the issues more effectively next time, but I feel that this first meeting was a success.
see also: Hedge End gets new discussion group