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!

Yeovil Urban Extension – Site Visit

By now, everyone will have realised that an american poet’s ashes are in the church of St Michael and All Saints and that John Craven can see Yeovil from the top of the church tower.

Those with a deeper interest in the evidence will know that within the next 20 years, Yeovil will have to grow beyond its current boundaries if our children and grand-children are to have homes to live in. Fortunately, we live in some of the finest countryside in England, surrounded by fantastic heritage and served by a fragile road system. Unfortunately that makes growth without pain impossible. Councillors are faced with the difficult decision of choosing a “least worst” option.

Cllr Oakes within the southern option site

On Tuesday 8th November a number of councillors carried out a site visit to areas within the two growth directions still being considered, south/southwest and northwest.

Whilst there are maps being published by campaigners showing more specific detail, ignore them. Most are fakes or older working drafts and all are irrelevant. Only the broad direction has to be decided now, the draft maps were produced to prove to Councillors (and the Planning Inspector) that these directions are viable options. The actual form of any growth will be decided by locals, much later in the planning process.

Councillors at Windmill Lane, Montacute

The visit involved travelling around the edges of the two areas being considered and also looking at them from key vantage points such as the ridge south of the Cokers and Ham Hill Country Park.

We also walked out into the sites to look at the lay of the land, its current uses and its relationship with neighbouring areas.
One of the many difficulties with any growth near Yeovil is the loss of agricultural land, the settings of the many historic sites, listed buildings and conservation areas. To be fair, this is true throughout South Somerset, we have 4,650 listed structures, 87 Conservation areas and 17 Historic Gardens! Click here to find out more.

Part of the North-West option

Many other factors have to be taken into account, including the effect on the road system in and around Yeovil and the effect on the A303, which is strategically important to the South-West peninsular. Transport choices will be particularly important in reducing congestion and in a world where oil and energy costs are rising.

Back in 2009, I initiated a study into whether the Urban Extension could be made to eco-town standards. Early indications are that this has a critical benefit in reducing the traffic throughout the rest of the town. It also means that fully 40% of any urban extension will be green-space, allowing high levels of protection to be provided for neighbouring areas, as well as securing quality in the new homes and employment.

On critical thing we must do is to ensure that all of the required infrastructure is delivered in a timely fashion and not piecemeal. Things like bin lorries and GP surgeries don’t just happen, someone has to pay. More studies have been started and we have decided to allow more time to complete those, putting the final decision on direction back into spring.

As you can probably tell from the serious faces in the pictures above, this will be a very difficult decision … but we will do our best.

We need a new Play Area!

The “Larkhill Open Space” is well used but the project is far from complete. I sometimes call it “shoestring park”, which seems to get more and more appropriate the way budgets are going.

Discussing the decaying infants play equipment with John

Back in 2005, the public consultation slated the small children’s play area off Akeman Close after much anti-social behaviour. It was removed.

If you look at the Parish notice board (by the lower bridge), you’ll see that the King Arthur Drive play area was then identified as needing to grow to cover all ages and the extra load from Percivale, etc.

The old "multi-play" unit

Although the KAD play area is heavily used, it provides fairly poor quality play – at times it’s little more than somewhere to “hang out”. Part of the problem is the equipment which is to an older design and in places, decaying. There also isn’t much variety and the area is having to cope with about three times the number of people it was designed for.

Although the adjoining woods provide some excellent “free play”, that is only really attractive for certain ages and only in spring/summer.

The kick-about area is kept fairly tidy but the surface slopes unevenly (it is the top of an old landfill which has settled over the years). It would be nice to improve the grass surface.

During the recent election campaign we heard a lot “on the doorstep” about anti-social behaviour in the Larkhill area, often reporting “bored youths and older children”. Of course, very little of this gets reported through formal systems, perhaps because people don’t like to bother the Police.

Getting the local perspective

John and I have been speaking to local residents to get their views. What we’re hoping to do at this stage is to arrange a detailed consultation later this year, with a view to refurbishment early next year. Of course, everything about the LOSP project is done in conjunction with Brympton Parish Council, who are a key funding partner and who normally take the lead on consultation. We all need to make sure that whatever is done is going to deliver attractive play without becoming a problem for neighbours.

All we have to do now is find the funding …

After the Election Part 2 – the way forward

Thursday 19th May saw the first meeting of South Somerset District Council.

We chose Ric Pallister to be Leader of the Council and he has made me a Cabinet member with the “Regulatory and Democratic Services” portfolio to look after. (The SSDC Press Release can be seen here and the full list of appointments is here).

John Richardson, your other Ward Councillor, was elected to the important Audit Committee. This committee makes sure that taxpayers money is spent wisely and that it is all accounted properly.

Of course, for both of us these are distractions from our primary task, which is to ensure that Brympton residents are looked after and that their voice is heard. That is the real honour, being elected as Brympton’s representatives.

After the Election …

You may have wondered what’s happening. After six weeks of non-stop door-stepping by John and I, accompanied by leaflets and papers galore, you’ve not heard a peep for days.
We’re currently busy forming the administration, confirming leadership and who will get various key jobs. This takes a little longer than it does at “Number 10” because we have no staff and many of your councillors have “day jobs”. Instead, we are doing this by phone, e-mail and informal meetings.
On the 19th you’ll see the Council AGM in my diary. This is the final stage of that process where the positions, such as the ten members of the Executive (or Cabinet), are formally confirmed by full Council. Watch this space.
Until then, officers of the Council are continuing to work for the existing team.