Rare Strategy Meeting in Hedge End

Image: Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A rare meeting of Hedge End Town Council’s Strategy Committee looked to the future this evening.

The Strategy Committee includes all of Hedge End’s Town Councillors, but is chaired by Cllr Keith House, leader of Eastleigh Borough Council, instead of by the leader of Hedge End Town Council, Cllr Louise Bloom. 

Although this evenings meeting should have included all of the Town Councillors, only half of them were present this evening. Nevertheless, the meeting was productive. Cllr House chaired the meeting well, focussed on the future and drew a clear line between the operational matters that are currently being dealt with by the other committees (Highways & Planing, Finance & Administration, Community & Culture, Recreation & Amenities) and the emerging new business that will need to be tackled by those same committees over the next five years, to 2017.

No decisions were taken by the Councillors this evening, the meeting was just about identifying the things that needed to be considered in future and assigning tasks to committees, but this was the first opportunity for members of public and the opposition parties to see what is going to be on the agenda in Hedge End over the coming months and years.

Sadly, there were no other members of the public and no representatives from the main opposition parties in the public gallery this evening. Just Eastleigh News…

Although the Strategy Committee meeting was publicised on the Hedge End Town Council website, it was not listed on the back of the latest Hedge End Gazettee with the dates of all the other committee meetings that are scheduled for the next few months.

Despite the lack of public scrutiny, or perhaps even because of it, the Town Councillors were heard to ask some unusually controversial questions this evening, such as;

If the Borough Council can invest heavily in the Ageas Bowl, why can’t it also invest in additional outpatient facilities locally, a new Walk-in Centre perhaps, to serve the needs of the expanding population of Hedge End…?

The answer, as Cllr House explained, was

With any investment there has to be a clear business case. With the Ageas Bowl, the Council will receive an income that exceeds the cost of the Council’s investment. The business case for that investment has been made.

If the Council were to invest in additional health facilities, there would be a cost to the Council, but no income. A business case could not be made for the Borough Council to provide that sort of additional health facility. 

The feeling that Hedge End needed additional health facilities was nevertheless shared by all of the Councillors. Cllr Louise Bloom, Chairman of the Community & Culture committee was therefore tasked to open a dialogue with the appropriate agencies within the NHS, to explore what could be done.

Other major projects that were identified this evening, but only as ideas to be taken forward rather than as definite decisions/promises, include;

  1. Constructing a second paddling pool to better serve the northern part of Hedge End and reduce the pressure on the existing pool in the St Johns Road Recreation Ground.
  2. Improving the Village Centre, particularly the problematical brick planters, with thought also to be given to the future of the Public Conveniences.  
  3. Establishing the new sports facilities that are integral to the Woodhouse Lane development in the local plan, with consideration to be given to the impact on existing sports facilities around Hedge End and the extent to which the Town Council should invest further in those facilities.
  4. Encouraging more volunteering in Hedge End, particularly establishing a pool of volunteers to help with various projects around the Town.
  5. Setting up a directory of local businesses on the Hedge End Town Council website.
  6. Consider the need for boundary changes in the light of new housing developments, particularly at Pylands Lane. The argument put forward this evening was that as the new residents will use the facilities in Hedge End, perhaps those new homes should become part of Hedge End rather than remain in Bursledon…?

One item that generated a lot of discussion, but which was ultimately deferred, was a long-standing proposal that Hedge End Town Council should cut the grass verges within its own boundaries. The task is currently carried out by Eastleigh Borough Council, on behalf of Hampshire County Council, but some of the Town Councillors are concerned that the job was not being done properly by the Borough Council.

The Town Clerk reported to the meeting that;

Such a change would need a very strong business case. Furthermore, the County Council is concerned that removing Hedge End from the Borough’s grass-cutting rota would impact the Borough’s ability to cut grass elsewhere across the Borough.   

Cllr Keith House summed-up the debate by saying;

Large parts of the Borough are doing as well with the grass-cutting as anywhere else in Southern Hampshire. Hedge End should continue to do what we do well and encourage others to do likewise. Making sure that they do is an operational matter, rather than a strategic one. The consensus seems to be that we should get the new Groundsmans store operational and revisit this issue in a years time. 

The only other item that was deferred for the time being was planning for a new cemetery.  Cllr Welsh reported to the meeting that pressure on the existing cemetery has eased, with more people opting for cremations rather than burials. The new cemetery would not be needed within the five year period being considered by this meeting…

Amusingly, the Sundays Hill bypass was raised during the “Any Other Business” part of the meeting, with Cllr Corben reporting that she had been told that the majority of the residents of Hedge End were against the bypass. Under cross-examination from Cllr House, it emerged that this snippet of information had actually been received from one of the local Conservative campaigners. Cllr House then killed any further debate on that subject, referring to the many other residents of Hedge End who can’t wait for the bypass, and advising;

“Always be aware of politicians making claims”

The meeting concluded with an agreement that the the Strategy Committee would meet again in six months time.

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