Category Archives: Community

My submission to Licensing Sub-committee on The Boileroom


Owner Dominique Frazer, Richard Wilson and Alex Wilks

Owner Dominique Frazer, Richard Wilson and Alex Wilks

Regular readers will be aware of the threat to The Boileroom, Guildford’s independent music and arts venue. It has been subjected to a review of its licence by (possibly) 2 nearby residents. After carefully researching the venue and the claims made against it, I decided to support the venue and write to Guildford Borough Council’s Licensing Team with my personal evidence.

You can read my submission here: Submission to Licensing sub-committee

If you would like to add your opinions, please email licensing@guildford.gov.uk

Click to enlarge to read the official notice

Click to enlarge to read the official notice

Save the Boileroom!


Yesterday, along with community activist Alex Wilks, I had the chance to look round The Boileroom, a small independent music venue in Guildford which is threatened with closure. The owner, Dominique Frazer, introduced us to the dedicated staff and showed us how they try to live in harmony with their neighbours.

Owner Dominique Frazer, Richard Wilson and Alex Wilks

Owner Dominique Frazer, Richard Wilson and Alex Wilks

I had heard about the threat to The Boileroom from friends on Facebook and through the local newspaper’s website. There is a massively popular petition to keep the venue open.

There are no other venues in Guildford, and very few in the South East, which provide opportunities for local aspiring independent musicians to develop their talent and play alongside more established acts. The Boileroom pays local bands to perform and is credited by the Musicians’ Union as being a vital part of the live music industry. The Boileroom is hosting the launch event for the Guildford Fringe next week. They put on events for schools, train future music industry staff and succeed despite their more commercial rivals receiving public money as subsidies. They have even won an award from the Noise Abatement Society!

Unfortunately, new neighbours arrived in the next-door house about 18 months ago and they are having a speculative attempt at closing the venue down.

One of the reasons given is that they are disturbed by noise from the venue. We had a demonstration of the sound-proofing yesterday. Inside, some very loud music was played on the speakers. We went outside, through heavy double-doors and it was almost inaudible right outside the door. In fact, the traffic on York Road is far louder and sometimes we had to wait for it to die down to be heard when talking. These doors do not allow enough sound through to be a nuisance. There is a locking system which prevents one door opening until the other one is closed, therefore it is impossible for both double-doors to be open at the same time. It was suggested to me that perhaps windows might be opened if it was too hot inside. However, none of the windows in the noise-protected part of the building open and there is powerful air conditioning so that is not necessary.

The list of alleged breaches of the licence seems to comprise smears and unprovable anecdotes. The suggestions of harm to children are totally made up. The complainants claim that there have been “allegations” that the venue was overcapacity when running an event for schoolchildren. There were no such allegations. Also, the claim that parents have difficulty crossing the road is untrue and the local school confirm this.

Unfortunately, the people who have made the complaint against The Boileroom may have committed an offence by knowingly supplying false information. The Licensing Act allows for high fines to be levied on complainants if they are not honest.

Click to enlarge to read the official notice

Click to enlarge to read the official notice

The Boileroom is a valued community hub. I spoke to a passing neighbour when we were outside on the pavement. He confirmed that Dominique and her team do everything possible to live in harmony with nearby residents. The huge number of signatures collected on their petition already shows what a strong following they have. It is a shame that the local LibDem councillor has not taken up the invitation, like we did, to look round the venue and see what a fantastic asset it is to the community.

It is very disappointing that selfish neighbours can launch this speculative application to review the licence and cause so much heart-ache to so many people. Regular readers of this blog will be reminded of the fight to gain planning permission for the Terry Jayne School of Dance in Lightwater. The Taleban try to stamp out singing and music, let’s stand up against their equivalent in Guildford!

Save the Boileroom!

Cookery Demonstration – Windlesham 20 May 2014


Cookery Demonstration

Who has taken Bagshot Library?


Confusion surrounds the current legal position of Bagshot’s small village library. Surrey County Council forced through its so-called Community Partnered Library policy against all public opinion. This means relying on groups of local volunteers to run the library after all paid staff are made redundant. The policy stated that if ‘volunteers’ could not be found then the library would close, so the new recruits would be forced to work for free to replace paid staff or face losing their village library. SCC admitted that this policy does not save any money, therefore it was clearly an ideological policy aimed at sacking public servants and then closing libraries.

There was a group of volunteers ready to take over the library. The Friends of Bagshot Library had been volunteering alongside the paid staff for years. Unfortunately, in 2011 and 2012 the then county councillor stopped all communication with the Friends. He also stopped attending council meetings after he lost his driving licence for an aggravated drink-driving offence.

In 2013 another Conservative was elected as the local county councillor. Instead of engaging with the Friends, he proceeded to undermine and sideline them. Local people were led to believe that Windlesham Parish Council was taking over as the so-called volunteer group. This turned out to be false. The new county councillor, Mike Goodman, is also chairman of Conservative-dominated Windlesham Parish Council and appears to have used their facilities for his personal project.

Surrey County Council cannot confirm the name of the new group of ‘volunteers’ which will be taking over the library from 7 December 2013. They also do not know the names of the directors or beneficiaries or their contact details. There is no official record of any decision being made to turn over the library to this group of persons unknown. There is now great concern that Bagshot Library is being appropriated by local Conservative councillors, acting outside the authority of the parish council and duping people into working for free for their own private enterprise. The councillors themselves are not thought to be library users.

Local resident and library campaigner Richard Wilson, who was the Labour candidate for Surrey County Council in May 2013 said, “It is now clear that the transition to a so-called Community Partnered Library must be halted until this legal uncertainty is resolved. At the election I pledged, if elected, to save Bagshot Library. I call on Cllr Goodman to tell SCC to remove Bagshot Library from its hitlist of libraries set to lose their librarians. Even at this late stage it is not too late to abandon this awful policy and save our library.”

Surrey County Council has already lost one judicial review due to this dire policy. They seem set to make further legal errors and risk losing a public asset which is more than valued, it is loved, by the people of Bagshot.

Invitation to Windlesham Society Meet & Greet 16 Nov


I’m looking forward to attending the Windlesham Society’s event on 16 Nov in my capacity as the Society’s Planning Officer. Everyone is welcome to come along and you can raise any planning issues, or anything else, with me, and the other committee members.

20131030-184745.jpg

Windlesham Field of Remembrance Fireworks Display 8 Nov 2013


It was great to hear about the Windlesham Fireworks Display at the meeting of the trustees of the Field of Remembrance this evening. It will take place, for the first time, at the Field on 8 November 2013 in collaboration with the Windlesham Village School.

The preparations sound amazing. The Field will be an ideal setting for the bonfire and fireworks and can cope with large numbers of people. The firm contracted to set off the fireworks have won awards and they are the best in the business. We will be providing marshals and could use some more volunteers. So, if you live in or near Windlesham and fancy helping out in any way, click here to get in touch to volunteer.

The money raised will be split between the school and the Field of Remembrance’s new pavilion fund. The fund is about 60% of the way there now. The demolition of the existing old pavilion will take place next spring/summer. The recent Carry On Camping event raised lots of money and other donations have given the fund a real boost.

Along with other committee members I will be going door-to-door in Windlesham until 16 Sept collecting for the annual maintenance of the Field. We discussed quite a few maintenance issues tonight like trimming tree branches over Kennel Lane, collecting dog mess, pond dredging and keeping the excellent play area safe and clean. My 3 year-old nephew visited recently and tried out the play park. It met with his unequivocal approval.

The Field of Remembrance committee are a dedicated enthusiastic group who are united in being focused on keeping this unique facility in great shape for the people of Windlesham, who jointly own it. I am the newest member of the committee but I can already see the Field is in safe hands. If you can spare an hour or two please volunteer to help out. If you can spare a quid or two please donate it to the Field (which is a registered charity) either for maintenance or towards the brilliant new pavilion. Remember: it’s your Field.

 

Windlesham Society Committee Meeting 12 August


The committee of the non-party political Windlesham Society met last night. Here are my personal opinions about a few of the points that caught my attention:

Membership Fees

I suggested keeping it at £1 for the next year but I was out-voted. It will rise to £3 per annum which is still great value. This will create a large annual surplus so we could use that for events and campaigning, I hope.

Planning

I’m the Society’s Planning Officer so I updated people about the withdrawal of the DERA North site planning application. Although well outside Windlesham, we discussed the Deepcut application too. A county councillor present said that a new roundabout will be built on the Red Road at Lightwater Road. This is an interesting development which was new to me. I really hope it won’t increase rat-running through Windlesham to get from Deepcut to the M3 and vice versa.

Former Doctors’ Surgery

The building that was used as a branch doctors’ surgery in the middle of Windlesham is now in use by two complementary businesses, a chiropractor and a masseur, I think. The building meets all the relevant access and safety requirements. This proves again what we already knew, Lightwater Surgery had no valid reason to close it down. Its closure has caused great worry and distress to many people and the only reason for it was the doctors’ personal advantage. Many of us still feel bitter about the misleading way our GP surgery was stolen from our village. I re-registered with another practice (which was very easy to do) for this reason.

Windlesham Field of Remembrance

As the Society’s representative on the Field’s committee, I updated everyone about the excellent progress being made with fundraising for the new pavilion. Door-to-door collections for the Field will be happening soon throughout the village. Also, the Carry On Camping event and fireworks display are coming up soon.

M3 Managed Motorway Scheme

There was a comprehensive update about the plans to turn the hard shoulder of the M3 into a running lane.

Any Other Business

We also discussed: the Neighbourhood Plan, the Arboretum, fracking, Windlesham Walks and various local planning applications.

Any Windlesham residents who would like my personal view about any other Windlesham Society matters are welcome to get in touch.

What a tangled briar we weave


Community buildings are really important. Wherever you live, residents need some communal spaces for joint activities. Whether it’s keep-fit classes, dog training, brownies, scouts, football or cricket, without a facility for these activities nearby neighbourhoods would be unsustainable.

Plan of Briars Centre, Lightwater. Click to enlarge.

Plan of Briars Centre, Lightwater. Click to enlarge.

The Lightwater West ward of Windlesham Parish has a community building (and grounds) called the Briars Centre. Such facilities cost money to run and it is unreasonable to expect them to be totally self-funding. The money must be raised from somewhere: fundraising events, charges to users or local councils. Since local councils can be expected to provide at least some funding, it is reasonable that they scrutinise where the money goes and what happens to it.

Letter obtained under FOI Act. Click to enlarge.

Letter obtained under FOI Act. Click to enlarge.

I attended a meeting of Windlesham Parish Council last November when funding for the Briars Centre was considered.

Letter from SHBC to WPC. Click to enlarge.

Letter from SHBC to WPC. Click to enlarge.

I listened carefully to the discussion and took notes. Some factual claims were made which were strongly contested and there was vagueness in much of the debate. I reported my impartial account of the meeting on a sadly now defunct local blog and was immediately attacked for being negative.

Disappointingly, the Briars Centre was caught up in Tory Party propaganda because the chairman of its management committee decided to stand as the Conservative Party candidate against me in a parish by-election on 6 December 2012. I forced the election to happen by collecting signatures when a previous Tory councillor resigned for ‘personal reasons’.

Since the Parish Council did not have undisputed facts available to base their funding decision on, I submitted a Freedom of Information request to Surrey Heath Borough Council on 10 December 2012 to attempt to clear up the confusion. Authorities have to answer such requests in 20 working days. SHBC took 6 months and 4 days to answer mine. I don’t believe that the officers of SHBC are incompetent and they didn’t forget about it because I reminded them several times. I think this information was potentially embarrassing and by delaying it any allegation of electoral malpractice against anyone would fade into history.

I’ll provide links to the relevant material but the main point is that Windlesham Parish Council was misled on two points:

1. They were told the lease between SHBC (who own the property) and the Briars

An extract from the lease obtained under FOI. Click to enlarge.

An extract from the lease obtained under FOI. Click to enlarge.

Centre Community Association was about to expire. In reality the 7-year lease had 4 and a half years remaining. It expires on 12 April 2017. It was presented to WPC that SHBC was being intransigent by not agreeing to extend the lease at that point. In reality SHBC were being a very sympathetic landlord, giving a £13,000 reduction in annual to rent to just £300pa and spending thousands of pounds per year on the building themselves. Recently they have given a further grant of £11,353 to the management committee.

2. WPC was told that the tenants were in compliance with the maintenance requirements of the lease. Documents from SHBC show they were not.

Official Windlesham Parish Council minutes dispute SHBC's claim about tenant's obligations.

Official Windlesham Parish Council minutes dispute SHBC’s claim about tenant’s obligations.

Windlesham Parish Council spend public money and it seems the decisions on what to spend it on are based on hearsay and what people wish was true. Obviously it would have influenced the imminent by-election if this information had emerged earlier.

Community buildings cost money to build and maintain. I don’t think the Briars Centre is overly-subsidised. I don’t think it is badly-run (although I did have to report the graffiti and state of the play area myself to get it sorted). However, organisations which receive public money should apply for it truthfully. That clearly didn’t happen in this case and it influenced a local election in the process.

Update from Windlesham Society committee meeting 10 June


Last night was the bi-monthly meeting of the Windlesham Society committee. There were about 12 of us there, as usual. Lots of interesting topics were discussed in this open forum. Here are a few which particularly grabbed my attention:

Last Month’s Election

Since two of us were candidates in the election, it had been mentioned in passing at previous meetings. I congratulated Mike Goodman on being elected and wished him luck in his term in office.

Windlesham Fête

We had a stall at the Windlesham Fête. Despite its unfortunate positioning beside the Tory Party stand (!), we did have lots of people joining up as members or buying raffle tickets. We raised some money, but more importantly raised awareness and listened to people’s concerns. About 300 households have signed up as members so far.

My Planning Updates

I’m the Society’s planning officer and there were quite a few updates since the last meeting I attended (I missed the April one). We talked about some planning applications which had come before SHBC Planning Committee:

The Windlesham Vets application was strongly supported by many on the committee.

The ‘publicly accessible parkland’ application near Snows Ride was rejected. We didn’t really have a consensus about this one, nobody felt particularly strongly. I attended SHBC when this was being discussed with an open mind. By the end of the debate I felt it would be an asset to the village but many nearby residents were against it. Anyway, I’m not a councillor so it wasn’t my decision, but I would have voted in favour.

We talked about the Site Allocations exhibition in April. I think it showed that there is an appetite for events where people can meet council officials and ask questions. I approve of more openness (which is probably why I’m writing this!). It turns out many houses didn’t receive the leaflet promoting the exhibitions. I live in a relatively dense area of Windlesham so I received one but many of my fellow committee members live in, ahem, less dense areas, so missed out.

The DERA site is always a subject of great interest at these meetings. A reminder of the petition on the RBC website to stop it being removed from Green Belt will be sent out to members soon. The closing date is 1 July. If we get to 1,500 signatures, this should be debated at Runnymede Borough Council on 18 July. The committee has voted to allow me to speak at the public examination of the RBC Local Plan next January.

My article in the May 2012 Windlesham Magazine. Click to enlarge.

My article in the May 2012 Windlesham Magazine. Click to enlarge.

There was a general discussion about how local people could have a say in shaping their community. I wrote an article about this for the Windlesham Magazine in May 2012. It had been on the Society’s website but was removed to prevent it influencing the election. Oh well, c’est la guerre.

I like what the West End Village Society have been doing with their Village Design Statement, which could be the way ahead for us. Chobham Parish Council are working on a Neighbourhood Plan which, if achieved, would be a very powerful way for people to participate in planning. NPs have to be driven by a parish or town council if there is one. Windlesham Parish Council would struggle to achieve this, for a number of reasons. Also, there is a ‘strong presumption’ that the NP would cover the entire parish area, ie including Bagshot and Lightwater. I think this could make it unwieldy and even less likely to be achieved. In the meantime, I would like to make representations on individual planning applications on behalf of the Society but only if we are unanimous on whether to object to or support them.

M3 Managed Motorway

We are still trying to work out why the public exhibitions were postponed. It was suggested that the Highways Agency haven’t completed a survey of the surface of the road yet which could completely change the plan depending on its results. I’ve written to the senior project manager but haven’t had a reply yet.

Membership

There are now, or shortly will be, five locations in the village where people can join or donate to the Windlesham Society: Ashleigh Martin’s Hair Salon, Windlesham Village Vets, Hillview Newsagents, the Post Office and the Half Moon.

We talked about what the membership fee should be. At the moment, it’s just £1 per household. I like this because there is little admin involved in collecting it and everyone can afford it. However, there are certain costs to cover, such as insurance, so it might be necessary to raise funds. We will discuss this further next time.

The Society has its own website, facebook page and twitter.

Lightwater Doctors’ Phone Number

It’s pleasing that, at long last, the Surgery have published a 01276 phone number. As usual, they have shown how not to deal with the public. Milking every penny out of their patients calling to make appointments for as long as they can will not endear them to local people. Now they need to remove their two premium numbers so that people do not ring them by mistake.

There has been significant media interest in this issue, including from national outlets. I think we need to confirm that the 01276 number works properly as a matter of priority.

Other committee members have tried to join their ‘Patients Participation Group’ and have been refused. There is a real impression that this practice act only in their own interests. I’ve already re-registered with another practice and encourage everyone who can to do the same. The Windlesham Society was re-formed last year due to the threat that this practice poses to our village. I hope we can find a way to have access to GPs in Windlesham again, from another practice of course.

Field of Remembrance

I’m the Windlesham Society’s representative on the committee of the Field of Remembrance. I updated people on their fundraising efforts, including the ‘buy a brick’ campaign where people can pledge £75 to have a brick in the new pavilion with their name and message on it. (I wonder what message I should pick for mine, any suggestions?).

I think there will be a fireworks display on the Field this autumn, which would be a great new tradition to start.

Rumours and News

There was a rumour that the dairy in the centre of Windlesham has been sold and will be redeveloped. I think this is potentially good news and could bring another service or facility to the village centre. I anticipate that whatever is proposed will meet with some objections, however.

We talked about the Windlesham Arboretum and the recent changes which have been made there. Hopefully we will be able to communicate residents’ opinions about this to those in charge.

If you live in Windlesham, feel free to get in touch with any issues you would like me to raise at the next committee meeting. In the meantime, don’t forget to join the Windlesham Society while it’s still just £1 per household.

Windlesham Fête 8 June 2013 – Can You Help?


fete

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