Local Chalfont St Peter Consultation for Housing

This was my response to the local proposed housing developments.  I’d thought about it for a while, but as usual left it to the last minute so maybe not quite a coherent as it should have been:

In principle, I am in favour of building new homes in the local area, although contentious, we have a surging population that needs to be housed properly and it is only right Chiltern Disctrict takes its fair share.

There are a few points though that I would like to raise in regards Chalfont St Peter (CSP) in particular as my local village as part of the broader scheme of things.

Councillors and the Council have known about these housing targets for a very long time, so I’m concerned that there hasn’t been a more long term plan with regards building these houses.  My focus is drawn to the brown field sites that have been built on or given planning permission in CSP.  We had an abundance of these sites which if maximised properly could have been used to meet our housing criteria, and probably Chalfont St Giles’s too.

Newland Park – I went to college there and still play hockey there.  This site could easily have sustained a 1,000 dwellings, it is huge instead of the 300 odd that CDC knocked them down to.  Gorelands Lane could easily be widened to cope with the increased traffic to Nightingales Lane (I believe on one side of the  road, the houses have in their deeds that the road could be widened and they must give up the land in the front garden) and also good access links to J17 of the M25 and Old Shire Lane upgraded to be made into a convenient walk / cycle path to Chorleywood train station.  No spades have been put in the ground yet by Comer Homes and CDC should re-open negotiations or compulsorily purchase

NSE – this is a most bizarre one – the councillors fought hard against the NSE over a decade ago and someone must have known about the housing quotas then?  I also think their original plan was better as we’ve just ended up with very expensive older people’s homes and care homes – none of which particularly contribute to the vibrancy of the village replacing the student economy that left when BCUC closed Newland Park above.  They have also built huge three storey buildings which in the original plans were fought vigorously.  The NSE though is a sensible option for building on and will provide them with valuable revenue to continue their medical research and care – though they can only sell the land once of course.

Denham Lane – again seems fairly logical, however this will be the third big development in Chalfont St Peter along this road.  Again, this area brings up the question of why if we have such steep figures to hit for housing, did the local councillors not allow the development of Winkers as they originally proposed and knocked them down on the number of houses to be developed.  That site could easily sustain a close of 20 houses rather than the 8 that was granted.

Holy Cross – why weren’t the villages told by local councillors that if they knocked down the total here from 400+ to 180 another 200+ would still have to be built in the village – a huge wasted opportunity and detrimental to our village.

Instead of the Denham Lane development, a much better solution would be to build more homes on Mumfords Lane and widen that down to the A40 – that is the only lane that is usable in the mornings.  It is also walking distance to CCC.

 

I posed this question about brownfield sites being wasted in the village and thus having to release green field sites at the exhibition and the attitude seems to be, that we’d still have to build on green field even if we’d maximised brown field because Aylesbury would insist on it??  This seems completed absurd, corrupt and someone needs to get hold of the situation and planning this County wide rather than our little individual fiefdoms.  If brownfield has been wasted county wide as it has in just CSP then there has been a staggering wasted opportunity.

 

With regards whether the village and Chiltern as a whole can sustain these developments, I was very disappointed to only see notes about added play areas and other meaningless gestures.  I was hoping I would be shown a district plan for coping with the roads and rail, education, health and more (if I missed this my apologies but I wasn’t directed to anything at the exhibition).

CCC is already huge and appears to be full to capacity and with other South Bucks villages including Iver in particular hugely expanding their population, another secondary school will have to be built there or the one that was closed re-opened.  I’d also assume Amersham School will be hugely expanding its capacity and catchment area. I’m not so concerned about infant or middle school capacity (which is directly opposing the Holy Cross arguments) as Robertswood take a lot of students from outside area so have capacity I would suggest.  They could also split into two sites on Denham Lane either side of West Hyde Lane and provide much better facilities at the same time.

Of course, if CDC / Bucks CC were to be very bold, they could purchase Newland Park and move CCC to that site for improved facilities, maybe capacity and more community housing and also build on the existing CCC site.  This would also provide CDC with ongoing revenue as Wycombe Council is doing with their land bank.

A major concern would be the transport infrastructure.  The A413 is already gridlocked most mornings and evenings at peak times.  With the increased population in the whole of CDC it will fall over?  What are the plans for this?  Another reason why Newland Park is so attractive to develop instead is that there are multiple exits.  The extra load from the NSE (unless it is all retirement properties and care homes – I hope not) and Denham Lane will be too much for Joiners / Copthall and Rickmansworth Lane. In a wider context, with these extra ‘000’s of new homes, there is no way the existing infrastructure can cope – what are the plans?  Will the A413 be widened to be dual carriageway from Aylesbury to Denham – a solution first proposed in the 60’s but would have a massively detrimental effect on the landscape of all the villages it goes through if done properly?

What are the plans for trains?  There is standing room only on the Chiltern Line already?  The Met Line isn’t flush with capacity either?

I couldn’t see any discussions about health provisions– it is already difficult to get an appointment with a GP and emergency services are I believe already stretched at Wexham and Stoke Mandeville?  I suggest CSP hospital is re-opened properly as a drop in health centre like Mount Vernon which is superb and where I normally travel to.  (Yes I know about the asbestos but that is easily fixed with will power and resource).  The two GP surgeries could then re-locate into the hospital and a one stop service provided at lower cost.

 

hs2 Train Steve Baker Blog Page

HS2 My Opinion

The new High Speed 2 rail network was first proposed by the Labour government in 2009 as a means of introducing additional capacity to an allegedly creaking rail network.

My original opinion was that it wasn’t required and there was plenty of capacity on existing networks and there are plenty of decent projects that could be implemented before HS2.

Since its inception seven years ago, I am resigned to the project going ahead after reading how congested existing networks now are, not least the fact we are growing our population by around a 1/3 of a million people every year we need to invest in all infrastructure.  Saying ‘we invest’ is not quite strictly true of course as the Chinese will be investing a substantial sum of money which in turn will pay for NI and salary taxes paying for the vast majority of the rest of the spend (though the Chinese will sensibly want a guaranteed return on their money whether or not a single passenger boards the trains and hence be profitable). I always read the argument of spending more on NHS nurses by cancelling HS2, capital project vs cash flow running costs isn’t going to happen (though buying out the absurdly expensive PFI hospital contracts might be sensible).

HS2 will be running a few hundred yards away from our house, with a tunnel shaft being put in place to allow the air to be flushed out as trains push through. As a result, there will be a huge amount of disruption to the local area with new roads being put in to take away spoil and many of the local footpaths being closed.  I would imagine there will also be a huge increase in the number lorries in the local area too.

There are a few things that are annoying me now, the most frustrating is the sheer amount of time this project seems to be taking to get to putting an actual spade in the ground.  The local politicians are out in full force in the local area spending valuable local government resource on protesting HS2 with pretty much zero chance of overturning the decision – if it is cancelled it will not be through their vocal opposition, more likely if the Chinese pull out.  Sure, let local people have their say, but seven years down the line? Really? The opposition means that costs escalate and where the line affects people, creates more uncertainty for those living there, particularly if they need to sell up through circumstances beyond their control.

Other things that annoy me about the project is why it doesn’t connect with Heathrow and why it stops at Euston rather than go straight through to HS1 at Waterloo.

Dropping back though to the point about local opposition, I was considering the amount of money being spent and that Bucks CC is crying huge poverty.  With my business ideas hat on, if I was Bucks, I would be lobbying very hard for a station at Aylesbury.  The county town of Buckinghamshire is growing rapidly to accommodate the population increase that is overtaking the country via successive governments.  If there was a stop at Aylesbury, it would create an incredible case for business and economic growth in Aylesbury. I can easily envisage financial businesses wanting to be located within a short 10 minutes train journey from the centre of London?  Just imagine the prestige for County Councillors who could secure a station at Aylesbury with the local population then being able to hop on the train in Aylesbury and be in France or Belgium within a couple of hours – absolutely brilliant (though with the obvious massive flaw of the line finishing at Euston and not being joined up with HS1)

This new station and economic revitalisation would in turn create a huge increase in business rates revenue for Bucks and Aylesbury Vale District Council.  This is important as if you build houses for population increases, the council also has to spend and provide services for education, health and general infrastructure (I’d be interested to know the correlation between the spends and increase in revenue). However, if you build offices and warehouses, the council receives a huge amount of money (my warehouse in High Wycombe donates a huge amount of cash to Wycombe DC) for absolutely nothing in return ie pure profit for their strapped coffers.  I’m planning another post about local planning and councils being short of money in the near future so won’t digress too much.

Going back to HS2, and my thoughts drift towards the house prices and population increase in London.  I feel sorry for the immigrants that have come to this country and are then forced to live in poverty in hovels around London – as well of course of not having enough dwellings to house the existing population (indigenous – not sure we have an indigenous profile any more do we?).  So what to do and how could HS2 help?  HS2 won’t help, maybe putting the odd commuter in London.  What ‘they’ should do is to look at the Brighton example.  As far as I’m aware, the Brighton line into London has been updated several times over the decades and a quick Google search shows that the fastest trains now take only 52 minutes with a couple of stops in between.  Brighton has subsequently become a hot spot of inward investment and creativity on the South coast and shining example of what could be achieved.

Therefore, surely a much better exercise for the South East would be to upgrade all of the lines to the South Coast towns such as Hastings, Margate, Ramsgate, Dover etc all of whom have over the years become run down and requiring substantial inward investment.  People could then commute into London from there, bringing much needed commuter money whilst also easing the over population problems of London.

First things first though, can local government stop wasting cash fighting it if you are so hard up and second, can we just get on with it – why take so long and be such a laughing stock.

If I have any facts wrong, please just let me know.

BBC License Fee

BBC License Fee Irrelevant

I was thinking about upgrading our TV the other day from our perfectly adequate 12 year old plasma TV to a much more energy efficient LED Ultra 4k HD (and other buzzwords which I need to research further) when I started to consider our usage in the house and what we actually need.  I then also thought about the BBC scrapping BBC3 and my thoughts veered towards the fact that the BBC licence fee is completely irrelevant in this modern era and should be ‘scrapped’

We only watch a fairly limited amount of television in the house these days, primarily it is tuned to Disney channel or if I throw a big enough tantrum, I get to watch the football.  However, what generally happens is that I invariably ‘watch’ the football on my dual screen set up whilst working on my other screen.  If the Tivo card is removed, the kids simply switch to YouTube and their devices to watch what they want – invariably though they watch YouTube whilst also having the TV on in the background.

So all in all, we actually watch very little BBC content and even the radio I listen to is usually non BBC stations.  However, when I do tune into TMS or 6Music, quite often they have texts / emails etc from listeners who contact them from various locations across the world.  Which also got me thinking as to why can they do that, probably not have to pay their license fee and subsidised by a compulsory tax on UK residents, except the over 75’s.  Many of my friends live abroad these days and simply bypass the BBC’s geo restrictions via VPN and don’t pay the license but watch and listen to the content anyway.

With my commercial head on, I was wondering why on earth this system is still in place and that the BBC should change its role in broadcasting.  The media industry is now global and local rather than by country.  It has a magnificent brand across the world, why not sell the content globally as a content provider rather than the outdated UK only content provider.

As an example, Amazon has purchased Top Gear (not the brand, but the essential branded content) and is basing its business model for Amazon Video at a cost of £79 / year (yes I know it includes other things as well) on this content.  The BBC has a huge bank of content it could put on demand to compete with Amazon, Netflix, Sky and everyone and still make the license fee optional with a large number of people taking it up not just in the UK but across the world.  I’m sure it could then also bid for sports again and other events by scrapping the flat rate everyone has to pay into a tiered model, basically doing what Sky and BT are doing.

I’m amazed that the BBC isn’t pushing to do this (the fear of change i’m sure) and wanting to move from a 60 million customer base to a 6 billion customer base and delivering multiple content channels across traditional broadcasting and on-line mediums thus boosting its revenue from the current £5 billion or so (similar to Sky who have a lot less content).

Scrap GP’s

Chalfont HospitalI don’t have a huge amount to do with our NHS and health care system, I am under a specialist for my Arthritis and in between bouts of hockey retirement, I pop to Mount Vernon in Northwood for the odd break or pain.  This amount of usage though is considerably more than my friends who have often gone years without visiting their local GP and have to re-register to get an appointment.

The service at Mount Vernon is amazing as you pop in, practically no one else is there as they are all visiting the local A & E for their blocked nose, you are seen by a knowledgeable nurse who then refers you to an X-ray straight away and subsequent treatment.

If you visit a GP now, they are of course extremely pleasant and helpful, but all they do is refer you to someone else, basically the same as a triage nurse but with a several week delay follow up and layers of admin (cost).

Calcot HospitalIt strikes me as increasingly bizarre that if you need a blood test, despite the Chalfont’s Hospital being just over the road and the medical centre having a nurse (surely the GP has the skills), you have to go back home, try and phone for an appointment a few weeks later (the phone lines are also always engaged since they outsourced it), then go back or chase them for the results (unless something is wrong and they are very good indeed and phone of course).  It is also frustrating trying to make an appointment with your GP as the secretary seems to go for lunch for two hours, just as you want to make the appointment.

I’m not sure of Mount Vernon’s blood testing arrangements as I’ve never used it, but it seems bizarre that you have a whole layer of admin processes simply to book a blood test.  The same I assume is also true for an Xray which is also available at the Chalfont Hospital.

Surely it would make more sense for the local GP surgeries to be closed down (GX, CSP & CSG) and merge them into the hospital which has only a fraction of its space used (yes I know it has a load of asbestos but that can be sorted)  – probably losing a few GPs along the way saving further money and making money by selling the existing GP sites.

The vast majority of people don’t need to see the same GP so just turning up to a health clinic like Mount Vernon and waiting for an appointment makes absolute sense.  It could also open from 6am to Midnight meaning you’d take pressure off the A & E at Wexham or save patients having to make the long haul to Stoke Mandeville.

I this is incredibly simplistic and the easiest response is to say no to change, but surely this is the way forward and could be readily replicated across the regions. I know not all areas are lucky enough to have their own historical hospital to hand but this system would save layers of admin, create a quicker more responsive service all at lower cost and efficiency?

Renewable energy and the future

I’ve been monitoring renewable energies for a few years now – initially having my interest sparked by the blogs and other on-line communications of Robert Llewellyn. I subsequently invested in a 4kwh solar panel installation on my house last year and genuinelly belive that renewable energy is going to have a profound effect on the uk population, its finances and economic efficiency.

Solar Panels

When I first encountered the Internet back in 1993 i immediately saw the huge potential for it to shake our lives up (i included it in my channels to market dissertation at the time) and i believe renewable energy will have an equally profound effect in years to come.

I have read some amusing commentary about how we are never going to run out of fossil fuels – something I find quite incredible as it is a finite resource.  Of course, as the price goes up (except for the most recent aberration which is something to do with geo-politics I suspect and forcing the US to stop its high cost shale production) we are able to drill for increasingly hard to reach oil and so the supply carries on.

However, I firmly believe that alternative energies of solar, wind and geothermal should and will be harnessed in substantially greater volume.  The technologies of solar for example have exponentially improved over the years (driven by Germany some would say) and is now a viable low cost source of electricity for domestic users.  At the top end, solar farms and wind farms can produce volume of electricity for a large slice of daily generated electricity.  This is an interesting web site which shows how much wind electricity is contributing to the energy mix of the UK – http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/ interestingly, this doesn’t show solar either industrial or domestic supply.

What I believe will be the real game changer for the alternative market is the ability to store the electricity.  At a national level, the consistent flow of electricity is key to the national grid to be able to supply according to known peaks and troughs of the day, but obviously solar and wind is not a technology that can deliver this.  At the bottom end of the generation market, domestic supply is either used at point of source during the day (when most people are out at work) or sent to the local sub station and back out to local users.  This I believe is a problem in itself as the grid was designed to only supply power one way and not both ways and will eventually if local micro generation continues to grow will require the grid to become a two way smart grid, local generating and locally re-routing to consumers.

As the price of producing a kWh via solar power comes down as it is rapidly at the moment, it is inevitable that the majority of people who have a roof will end up with solar power to supply their domestic electricity requirements and make money by selling excess kWh back to the grid.  The low cost storage batteries that should be on the market (by low cost I think sub £1,000 for 25-30kWh – the Nissan Leaf has a storage capacity of 24kWh) within a couple of years will revolutionise the whole market.  I believe that this isn’t fantasy as there is a demand at all levels of the consumer and generation market :

  • Generation / utility – domestic, community and solar farms
  • Battery usage – mobile phones, electric cars and industrial on demand battery storage

The reduction of reliance on fossil fuels will not only revolutionise the generation market, but will also improve the economics of the country.  The UK currently has a huge trade deficit in oil / fuels and domestic generation of renewables will help improve the economy – so not only good for the green lobby but good for our basic economics.

Whenever someone starts me on this subject, I can go on for ages about it, but I genuinely believe that power generation will profoundly affect many of the ways we live today almost as much as the Internet has done in the last 20 years.

Mushrooms October 2013

Autumnal Mushrooms

Living next to the countryside we are lucky with our wildlife and tranquility.  Throughout the year we have many mushrooms appearing in the lawn before disappearing.  Here’s are few photos of the October variety:

Mushrooms October 2013 Mushrooms October 2013 Mushrooms October 2013

Almost end of Summer Term

Wow, its almost a full school year since I last blogged.  Jamie today went to his graduation to Key Stage 2 and Rebecca will be moving up into year 5 and coming up to her 9th birthday.  Time is elapsing at such a scary pace.

Had a good weekend with a bar-b-q and some friends round and Martin’s 40th over at Ley Hill – the vodka ice was hilarious.  ‘Unfortunately’ I couldn’t drink as I was on anti-biotics for my head after having a lump removed earlier in the day.

Friday night was also very good, went out with the team at Cater For You to celebrate last year’s record and the last quarter’s record sales.  It is a great team of people there, I hardly ever pop in there any more and leave them to it, concentrating on my web site design business instead.

Walk in the Woods – Buzzard

Half term this week, and I was lucky enough to have today off to be with Rebecca and Jamie.  Whilst lying in bed, I was wondering what to do with them today, however, when I finally hauled myself out and downstairs, R & J had already decided – “Can we go on a wildlife walk Daddy”.  Blimey.

So we trundled off down Chesham Lane and to one of the footpaths that go towards Rowands Nursery.  As soon as we came off the main road (which was pleasant but I was surprised how much litter there is at the side of the road) and into a field, Rebecca spotted flocks of Pigeons flying off and thinking it was us Rebecca then pointed out a much larger pigeon – or on closer inspection, a Common Buzzard – what a majestic bird.  Fortunately it came to rest and I was able to take a photo of it with my camera on full zoom and sat still for a few minutes for us to appreciate it.

Common Buzzard

Common Buzzard

Off to watch the hockey

Off with the usual suspects to watch some semi final hockey at the olympics today … Sadly not the GB team. I’ve arrived at chalfont and latimer station rather early so thought i’d write another blog on my phone…

Yesterday was another great day with r and j, we spent most of the day doing some gardening tidying up and planting lots of grass seed. They then went for a swimming lesson at amersham then the family hockey at newlands.

Jamie is really taking to hockey still he surprised me last night by doing a double spin with the ball last night – i cant even get that low to do it. I’m still feeling my hamstring too its gone about four of the last three seasons … Despite lots of physio visits. Also played with a few of the other youngsters who are moving through the club and they look very competent indeed.

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Denham Country Park

Checked the weather forecast today and it said fine until 2pm this afternoon, so decided to explore Denham Country Park.  I’d never been there before and knew very little about it except for what is available on the web site.  It is a sister park to Black Park which we went to last week for a rather nice afternoon out (though it was packed).

First of all was finding it – Google thinks it is on the A412 (which it isn’t at all) but it is on the mini roundabout just before you get on the A40 to London and the turn off for the Buckinghamshire Golf Club.

Tree Climbing

Tree Climbing

An empty car park awaited at 10am (though still cost £2.50 – thanks Bucks CC) and we went out and explored.  After a brief distraction with some excellent climbing trees, we went across a field / meadow which R & J renamed as slug field and was very boggy and marshy.  We soon ended up at the Grand Union Canal which we wandered along for a short while again, past Denham Deep Lock and then over a bridge to a couple of beautiful lakes with superb scenery…. the perfect location to test out my marginally upgraded camera (out with the Tamron lens in with the Canon).

The Swans and Cygnets

The Swans and Cygnets

I remembered to take some bread along and at the River Colne we fed a Moor Hen and  Coot and then at the lake we fed some swans / cygnets.  The most popular part of the day though was playing pooh sticks – great fun.

Pooh Sticks Denham

Pooh Sticks – Good job their heads didn’t get stuck

I also discovered that there is a quick way from our house to the Canal down Denham Lane, a quick right then left into Denham Village Road you can quickly tie up with a bridlepath and cycle down to the Canal safely.  So I’m now looking at my next little excursion on the bike as down to there then see how far into London you can get on the canal tow path.

Heron and Cormorant

Heron and Cormorant

The Heron the other side of the lake

The Heron the other side of the lake