YTFC Yellow lines a success, pushing for more

IMG_0274A big team effort by councillors at Parish, District and County level has finally prevailed and we were able to secure proper enforceable parking restrictions that now mean the local roads function better during football matches. Buses run, traffic flows and children can see and be seen at junctions.

Unfortunately some visiting fans still seem willing to “fling the car down and pay a fine” (it’s only £2 to park at YTFC guys, why not help the club?). There is also a little misapprehension regarding “waiting” by parents during the school run, but things are generally better.

We still have major problems with residential access through Thorne Lane/Balls Hill. These will be properly resolved by the new junction at Western Avenue (2016?), but SSDC is doing some things with verges/hedges which we hope will help temporarily.

Reporting back: Alvington, Houndstone and Lufton

The main issue raised on the doorstep in past years has been traffic congestion and road safety. As well as regular jams at ASDA – which frustrate motorists, there have also been concerns about crossing to get to school and other facilities and about speeding.

Your local Liberal Democrat team has been working hard to try to improve the situation. You may already be aware that after a long campaign we secured a mix of government and developer funding to increase the capacity at junctions and to provide safe crossings. There was a well-attended public consultation and, after some delay, the County Council has decided to start the land purchases required and we expect the scheme to take about 2 years to deliver. Because the key problem is ASDA’s entrance, Cllr Seib initiated discussions between SSDC, SCC, ASDA and Palmers to see if access off the Palmer’s roundabout can be achieved. These are still on-going a key issue seems to be that ASDA are already trading at maximum and would not see any more profit from improvements.

You may also be aware that the County Council has now run out of primary school places (despite our warnings)! The good news is that this means an earlier delivery of the Primary School at Lufton Key Site (open 2016) and the associated infrastructure. This part of Yeovil will finally get its long-planned community facilities which will include; local shops, a meeting room and a shared hall; as well as a MUGA and facilities for the for the older kids.

During the last Council, we were very pleased to have been able to get a Conservation Area created in the original Alvington hamlet because it meant that Alvington Fields and Highmere would be to a much higher standard, indeed the houses fronting into the hamlet are actually faced with stone recovered from the original derelict barn – recycled and a perfect match!

Another good piece of news is that we were able to get an Airfield Protection Zone designated in the South Somerset Local Plan which will permanently prevent the land south of the A3088 from becoming housing on air safety gounds. We were also able to show how wrong it would be to grow Yeovil to the North-West again (despite a strong, politically-motivated campaign by a certain East Coker resident!). The Local Plan should be adopted in the New Year.

Remember our attempt to reform elections


Australian Electoral CommissionI wish I had known of this web-site back in 2011 when we were contesting the AV referendum. Whilst AV was not the voters’ choice, I spent a lot of time listening to people saying that voting should be made compulsory “like it is in Australia”. Many other people just thought putting votes into a preference order was “too complex”. I argued that it would do away with some of the “us and them” politicking, because I would be unlikely to get second preference votes from the supporters of an opponent I had just attacked. Anyway, click here to see the Australian system in its full and varied glory.


Christmas and New Year 2013/14 – SWP

Usual collection day Revised collection day
Monday 23 December 13 No change, usual collections
Tuesday 24 December 13 No change, usual collections
Wednesday 25 December 13 Friday 27 December 13
Thursday 26 December 13 Saturday 28 December 13
Friday 27 December 13 Sunday 29 December 13
Monday 30 December 13 No change, usual collections
Tuesday 31 December 13 No change, usual collections
Wednesday 1 January 14 Thursday 2 January 2014
Thursday 2 January 14 Friday 3 January 2014
Friday 3 January 14 Saturday 4 January 2014


Conservative PPC votes against Jobs!

Wicked … or just not up to the job?

It’s not often you’ll find me quoting from a Tory Press Release, but this one beggars belief!! Three local Conservative councillors, including their candidate for the 2015 election, claim that there has been a £13m give-away robbing Yeovil people.


The truth is that Lib Dems have acted swiftly to save local jobs and to get the Lyde Road estate finished in a difficult market. The Council re-negotiated what’s called a “Section 106” planning agreement to ensure that work did not stop at Lyde Road, that the school and shops could be built and that local tradesmen, suppliers, drivers, etc. did not lose their jobs.

The problem was that the developer would have lost a lot of money on the site if he continued on the old deal, so he had to stop work. We checked his books in detail and verified this. So did the District Valuer. The original agreement included handing over profits which had been projected in the “heady days” before the banking crisis and the recession. In the current market, the site make a big loss, £13m, under that deal.

The new deal we have agreed is to allow more “open market” housing (one in 5 houses at Lyde Road are still “social” housing, so we’ve done well). It also lets the developer off paying for specific extra off-site sports facilities (the site has already paid for some) … unless the site makes more profit than we all expect, in which case a claw-back process can take us back to the original deal. A fuller explanation has been released by Ric Pallister but that document doesn’t mention a key fact: although councils were recently compelled by a Conservative Minister to do deals like this, I had introduced a policy to re-examine our Section 106 deals a long time ago … and it was adopted with cross-party support.

Liberal Democrats work hard to understand the economy and we know the importance of jobs and housing (often form personal experience).

We used to say “you can’t trust Labour with the economy” and “you can’t trust the Conservatives to be fair”. Now it seems we can’t trust the Tories with the economy either!

Our campaign to get Yeovil going …

Ric Pallister at the Preston Road roundabout

You may have seen SSDC’s LibDem Leader, Ric Pallister on the front page of the Gazette this week. If so, you will already know that we have put in a substantial bid to upgrade the road junctions in western Yeovil to cope with the traffic which comes from growth in this area. A key part of the plan is strengthening the options for pedestrians and cyclists … for years it has been very difficult to cross near the ASDA and Bluebell roundabouts and the plan is to fix this so that kids can get to school. Other crossings will give people the option of walking safely to work. Our hope is that we will get every front door within a few yards of a safe off-road network.

For my part, I sent last Saturday lobbying Norman Baker, our excellent Transport Minister to make sure that the “pich point” funding stream would get enough money to do our scheme because, in common with many other bids, it pays for itself very quickly in savings to business (as well as kick-starting the Lufton and Brimsmoor sites which are much needed).

This is yet another example of Yeovil’s Liberal Democrats working together at all levels of government to put Yeovil on the national agenda. It’s also a good example of hard work and close co-operation by officers at SSDC and the County council. Let’s be clear, it’s not the officers at County who are dragging their heels!

Coker Protest divides communities – updated

April”s meeting of South Somerset District Council was unusual. More than 60 members of the public asked to speak on the development plan for the district, almost exclusively on the plans to set a new direction of growth for the town of Yeovil. A long, well-publicised campaign by the East Coker Preservation Trust was attempting to prevent the direction being south and west, towards East and North Coker (and, potentially, towards Barwick).

Unfortunately for them an early East Coker campaign tactic, to push for a North West direction of growth, backfired spectacularly in the meeting with villagers from Chilthorne Domer, Montacute, Odcombe, Thorne Coffin and Lufton turning up to praise the Council, the methods it had used in making the plan and to refute, one-by-one, the arguments which the Coker campaign had relied upon.

The actual farmers involved pointed out that a NW option would mean much greater food production losses than for the Coker option. They refuted ECPT’s claim that Grade 1 land allowed double-cropping and criticised the way land had been managed to the south.

Historians pointed out that there were twice as many heritage assets in the NW direction and that Montacute and Ham Hill were of considerably greater value to the local economy than some ashes. Indeed in a poetic twist, Thomas Hardy’s words about the beauty of Vagg Hollow was contrasted with T.S. Elliot’s lines recognising development (specifically in East Coker) as a necessary thing.

For each “transport expert” who stood up and talked about the difficulties of Hendford Hill, an accredited transport consultant living in the NW stood up and pointed out that the NW option (and other options such as the “string of pearls”) would be even worse.

Business leaders spoke about the need for a positive plan, especially the attractions to potential inward investors of setting out a credible agenda. Church leaders spoke on the opportunity for community support and facilities. Engineers spoke on the advantages for controlling flooding, and so-on. Members of the public even praised the planning team (surely a first!).

Of course, for each of these an equally valid counter-claim was made but my point is that pure NIMBY-ism polarised the communities. It was only after 3 hours of this well-informed public speech-making that the Council’s own officers stood. The effect of the public debate had been profound, obviating the need to repeat many points and shortening the Council’s meeting (a second day had been anticipated). Furthermore, it was seen that the public engagement had clearly won over some opposition politicians (against a Conservative 3 line whip) and firmed up support among the Independents.

It was interesting to review the press coverage this morning. Although the coverage was carefully edited to avoid legal challenges, it was clearly trying to follow the “unfair plan” line of earlier coverage and ITV in particular have a single (protestor) interview on their web-site. They seem to have missed the 2 bigger stories: a NIMBY campaign resulted in pitching village against village and Chard, working a community-led, economically-driven plan right through the process and into the Local Plan, exactly what we all aspire to.

I hope that the public now engage in a similar way during the final public consultation on the deposit draft Local Plan, so that the inspector has evidence in front of him from all sides.

Working to get the economy going … Unlike the Tories!!

I thought that with Cameron taking an axe to all that protects South Somerset I would do a blog on planning again.

Percentage of Major Planning Applications Decided in 13 Weeks (2011)

A constant accusations made by tories is that South Somerset’s Lib Dems are useless at running the council and love to spend your tax money recklessly. They also accuse us of the “politics of jealousy” and say we’re lovers of “red tape” (especially EU tape) and always getting in the way of “wealth creators”. All this is clap-trap!

I happened to be doing some comparisons the other day using the “sparse” database, which lets me compare performance in my Portfolio with the performance of other, similar councils. I thought the above chart was very interesting. It compares our planner’s performance with all Districts, with councils in the Sparse group, with a group of 50 rural councils, with a small “family” of very similar councils and with the other Somerset Districts. Of course, in the most recent local government elections, the Lib Dems took a pasting and nearly all of the comparisons here are with TORY-run councils!

We even beat (Tory-run) East Devon.

If you check elsewhere in the Sparse database (publicly available, as are most local government figures), you’ll also find that we cost the South Somerset taxpayer less than the tory councils for this better performance.

Finally, if you were a fly on the wall at one of our regular meetings with local small builders and agents, you’d know they prefer to deal with South Somerset because they know where they stand (and we help them deal with any objections in a fair way).

So two points to remember.

(1)    Lib Dems are more business-friendly than tories

(2)    Lib Dems run councils better than tories.

The 2011 Census is out

This comparison of the local age distribution with the national picture shows a “waist” as young people move away to study or to find work followed by a bulge further up where they return with their families, and they stay until old age. The 2011 Census also shows that as a nation we’re living much longer: 16.4 per centof the population is aged 65 and over, that is one in six people in the population was 65 and over. There were 430,000 residents aged 90 and over in 2011 (compared with 340,000 in 2001 and 13,000 in 1911).

The slight surprise in these “actual count” Census numbers is that they’re higher than the “population estimates” that government has been using for planning purposes. This confirms the need for the growth in the proposed South Somerset Local Plan, which is currently out to public consultation until 10th August. Fortunately, the plan was designed to be flexible, so that if growth was higher than expected, control would not be lost and the plan would still be coherent.

No matter what “The Sun” says, this increase in population is isn’t caused by “Eastern European Immigrants” (though they are mixed in), the trend has been going on for more than a hundred years.

The ONS have also produced some fantastic Census visualisation tools such as this interactive chart which shows how the two World Wars affected the population distribution (just look at the “notches” as you slide the slider). Another chart shows the internal migration to and from South Somerset. Finally, take a look at the fertility rates over the years. Things are not going to get better!