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Monday, 31 March 2008
Trolley

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Found: An abandoned trolley, apparently taken from the Sainsburys supermarket in Chertsey down a path, across the river and then across this field. Just before Free Prae Road the trolley is left in a corner of the field.

This land was bequested as a “playing field for boys” by Councillor John Tulk who lived in Ruxbury House, Chertsey, between the wars and made many generous bequests to the town in this period.  According to the The Best of Chertsey website:

Virtually all of his generous Trusts have now since been dissipated by sale or neglect.

Posted by bigblue on 31/03/2008 at 09:48 PM
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Saturday, 29 March 2008
Master Park Pano (recent snow)

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Here’s a photograph of Master Park, in Oxted, on the morning of the recent snow. The snow had already started to melt, as I said at the time.  Click on the photo above to enbiggen, or here for access to “original size” (Flickr link).

You can’t make out the vandalised bench/tables in this photograph but they are in the middle (between the two fields, along the line of trees).

Link: Master Park website.

Posted by bigblue on 29/03/2008 at 10:27 PM
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Friday, 28 March 2008
Oxted Green Belt Development

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This is another photo (taken in the opposite direction) of the Oxted field that is threatened with development.

Now, I live in an area that would elect a monkey to parliament if you stuck a blue rosette on it - with due respect to the current “monkey”, our esteemed local councillors and, of course, the burghers of Hartlepool who actually did elect a monkey (kind of) as mayor.  However it seems to me that the Conservative dominated Surrey County Council can have their cake and eat it. They can blame central government for the current situation where planning inspectors have the power to approve developments over the heads of local representatives, with a shrug (like Oxted Tory).  The fact is that these Councillors have a duty to represent the people who elected them. If they feel that they will lose money on court cases where they will be overruled by planning inspectors appointed by central government, then they should come back to their electorate. They could campaign and pressurise in other ways. They could engage in fund-raising to set up a legal fund to fight the most important cases. That they acquiesce so easily is not comforting, especially since it was only 3 years ago that the Tories promised to abandon their traditional defence of the Green Belt. Have they made up their minds yet? Do they have any convictions, or do they just say what they think will be most popular at the time? 

IMHO the Green Party are the only group who don’t equivocate on the environment.

One of the most intriguing recent stories of the Surrey County Council is the case of the Councillor who voted twice: a case demanding the attentions of Precious Ramotswa if ever there was one. Peter Ainsworth’s website explains the tale thus:

At a meeting of the Planning and Regulatory Committee yesterday, the Council accepted the recommendations of the officers at Surrey County Council and recorded a narrow vote in favour of allowing TARMAC planning permission to erect a Dry Silo Mortar plant at North Park Farm in Godstone.
....
- The initial vote count was 5 both for and against the application, which led to the Chair breaking the deadlock by voting in favour of the application

- However it emerged that one of the votes against the application had not been counted. After discussions with the legal team it was decide that the vote stood at 6 each, at which point the Chair again broke the deadlock by voting in favour of the application.

- The legal team’s judgement was that although there is a convention that the Chair does not vote in any initial decision, the Constitution itself allows the Chair to vote. As such legally the Chair was able to cast her vote twice.

The case also made Private Eye Magazine who explained it thus:

Surrey County Council has approved an application from Tarmac plc to build a mortar processing plant more than 110 ft tall in the middle of the green belt near Godstone. The vote in favour of the plant, which as attracted strong local opposition was 7-6. Quite a result, given that there were only 12 councillors present. On a show of hands the actual vote was 6-5 against the application but dimwitted Tory planning committee chair Pat Frost counted it as 5-5. She then used her casting vote to make it 6-5 for. When one of the councillors who had voted against protested that her vote had not been counted, Frost gave the result as 6-6 and then used a second casting vote to make it 7-6 in favour. Brilliant! Just don’t let that woman anywhere near the finance committee.

Now, according to the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England 84% of people oppose building on undeveloped land.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that the best way to protect the Green Belt is to stop building on it. There are enough brownfield sites to meet the required need. Caroline Lucas, Green Party MEP recently commented on this state of affairs (particularly in South East towns such as Milton Keynes) as follows:

This is completely unacceptable: green spaces in the South-East are vanishing before our very eyes thanks to the failure of planners - not just in Milton Keynes but across the region - to restrict development to brownfield sites and converting existing buildings.

Just a thought: Somewhere the Tandridge or Surrey Councils could start is the disused gas site in Oxted, which is completely under their control.  However perhaps there would be a cost in cleaning up this site for residential re-use? Would they actually have to put their (our!) money where their mouths are?

Posted by bigblue on 28/03/2008 at 10:21 PM
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Thursday, 27 March 2008
Asylum System ‘Marred by inhumanity’

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Today’s news that the UK asylum system is marred by inhumanity comes as no surprise to me.  (See also BBC coverage of this subject.

On 16 November 2007, at lunchtime, I witnessed the above scene - some officials from the “Immigration Police” raiding a kebab shop in London where some alleged illegal immigrants were alleged to be engaged in working, or possibly being asylum seekers who were living outside of a detention centre, or of not being legally in the country. The “Immigration Police” threw their weight around, threw a series of questions at the “suspects”, shut the shop for a day, verbally bullied and threatened the two men (pictured seated above), fingerprinted the men on the spot, and then carted them off somewhere.

I personally doubt if the two men were “guilty” of any of the accusations levelled at them - because they were back a few days later when I passed through!

Having lived in a country that was guilty of crimes against humanity and gross human rights abuses, it was not pleasant to witness such disrespectful behaviour here in the United Kingdom. 

In common with two thirds of Britons I believe that

Illegal immigrants who have been in the UK for more than four years and who work and pay taxes should be allowed to stay. The [2007] survey of 1,004 British adults also found two out of three people believe asylum seekers should be allowed to work.

Posted by bigblue on 27/03/2008 at 08:53 PM
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Wednesday, 26 March 2008
Threat to Oxted Green Belt

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If the company Village Developments get their way the field in this photograph will soon be covered in houses.

From an email that I recently received:

Developers are meeting with an Inspector from Central Government on April 3rd at 2.00pm at the council offices in Oxted to discuss building on your Green Belt. 400 homes are planned for the field at the end of Wheeler Avenue and 250 for the field behind Bluehouse Lane and Chichele Road. If you believe, like us, that Oxted needs its green spaces and that the schools, doctors and dentists are already over subscribed; that the roads and the parking are already an issue, then please come to the council offices at 2.00pm on April 3rd. We need to make sure that the Inspector hears from the people of Oxted and not just the developers who want to maximise their profits on our Green Belt.

Thursday April 3rd at 2.00pm at Council Offices, Oxted.

This is a public meeting and we urge you all to attend. We need to show the Inspector that we don’t want to lose our Green Belt fields and we don’t like developers manipulating the process. If we don’t make our views known there is little chance of saving Oxted & Limpsfield.

For details of the developers plans go to:
http://consult.tandridge.gov.uk/file/143616  and   http://consult.tandridge.gov.uk/file/143656.

The plans have been submitted by Village Developments to the council’s Core Strategy consultation – that’s its ten year development plan. The developers are using this planning process to attack the council’s policy and get a direct route through to the Inspector to persuade him to open up the Green Belt for building.

The Inspector has chosen who he wants to speak at the meeting and he has asked Village Developments to speak six times and Asprey Homes five times – far more than anyone else.

We hope you will be able to come along and show your support for keeping Green Belt fields in Oxted

From: The Threat Leaflet (Microsoft Word, 31 Kb). See also: Village Developments’ Scoping Report (PDF file, 930 Kb).

You can contact the Oxted and Limpsfield Residents’ Group as follows: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or post (PO Box 233, Oxted Post Office, Station Road West, Oxted, RH8 9EH).

I wonder how the meeting will go on 3 April. For an account of a Planning Committee meeting earlier this year (also dealing with the threat of inappropriate local development) read the following letter from a local resident which was published in the local free sheet (which is usually a loyal publicity organ for the local Council):

I attended the Tandridge District Council’s (TDC) Planning Committee meeting on Thursday February 21.

The meeting was attended by some 14 councillors and by about 80 local residents squeezed into the public gallery.

It was my first visit to such a meeting and was driven by the recent various planning applications to pull down six houses along Church Lane, Oxted, to build two large blocks of flats. The vast majority of local residents are passionately opposed to the plans and the intent was to articulate these feelings to the committee.

However, early on it became apparent that the TDC planning committee had little intention of letting local feeling get in the way of central government planning inspectors who are in the process of effectively overturning the council’s original rejection of the plans. In other words the TDC planning committee is acquiescing to the central government planning inspectors.

I viewed with much displeasure how totally ineffective the committee was and worse, but for a few notable exceptions (Councillors Connolly, Groves and Cannon) how lacking in substance and fortitude our local representative councillors were with one, Councillor Simon Morrow, even stating that when debating such planning issues ‘they’ (gesturing at those of us in the public gallery ) the local public did not matter’ - such crass arrogance from a locally elected councillor is not only highly illuminating but almost beyond belief. Indeed if I had not been there and heard it for myself I would not have believed it.

The TDC Planning Committee meeting was a total sham. It is an impotent group and worse has no will to ‘take on’ over-bearing central government. What is the point of local government if the wishes of the local community are so manifestly ignored like this? The winners in all of this are of course the developers who have no interest in Oxted other than profit. This result just underlines that developers can effectively do as they please, with no one to interdict with them and certainly no collective effort by our own locally elected representatives to fight.

But clearly, TDC should stand and fight as the consequences for Oxted (and other towns) could be appalling over-development without matching parallel development of local infrastructure. Surely this is where TDC (and any bullied local council) has an outstanding chance to score a victory against such ill-thought out central government planning. Planning applications such as the current Church Lane crop are flawed in that they only consider the building plans and give limited consideration to traffic and parking concerns and nothing else. However, such continuous development and related population growth has of course a major impact for local infrastructure.

What are the consequences for healthcare, education, refuse, environmental, utilities, policing, water provision and sewage?

Oxted already has major issues regarding traffic, car parking, stretched health & educational services, an acute litter problem, lack of policing and critically a growing sewage problem - just ask the residents along Gresham Road in Oxted as well as Church Lane. Given the lack of thought into the impact of such over development TDC surely has an outstanding opportunity to hit back and fight central government planning inspectors via the Courts and judicial review.
TDC could win and therefore should fight!

In the longer term there will likely be a change of government and with it, hopefully, a return of local power but in the interim we will suffer further over-development meaning Oxted and similar towns will lose ever more of their unique character.
However, one thing that the local community can do is to see that all of those gutless prima-donna councillors that voted in favour of not taking on the government planning inspectors (including those craven individuals who abstained in the vote) do not get re-elected.

David Doe, Oxted

Posted by bigblue on 26/03/2008 at 07:36 PM
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Tuesday, 25 March 2008
The Lunatics have taken over the Asylum

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These are “luxury apartments” in the building now (somewhat pretentiously) known as Royal Manor, but formerly known as The Earlswood Asylum for Idiots, Redhill, which has been described as:

undoubtedly the premier institution (at the very least in terms of its public profile) for `idiots’ and `imbeciles’ for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The first medical superintendent at Earlswood was Dr John Langdon Down who, while working at the asylum, identified the condition now known as Down’s Syndrome. 

The Asylum also became associated with intentional fabrication for several decades of the 20th Century, as two of the deceased Queen Mother’s nieces (Katherine Bowes-Lyon & Nerisssa Bowes-Lyon, first cousins of the Queen) were institutionalised there (without visits from the Royal family, having been declared dead by Buckingham Palace).

Another notable inmate was James Henry Pullen (1835–1916), an autistic savant who was also known as the Genius of Earlswood Asylum.

Pullen was alternatively aggressive or sullen. He could be reserved but also wrecked his workshop once in a fit of anger. He did not like to accept advice and wanted always to get his own way. Once he took a dislike of a certain member of the staff and built a guillotine-like contraption over his door. Luckily for the target, it went off too late. Once, when Pullen developed an obsession to marry a woman he fancied, the staff mollified him by giving him an admiral’s uniform instead.

Pullen’s masterpiece is a model ship, The Great Eastern, that he spent seven years building; Pullen made all the details, including 5,585 rivets, 13 lifeboats and interior furniture in miniature, himself. In its maiden voyage the ship sank for lack of buoyancy but Pullen repaired that flaw later. The ship was exhibited in the Crystal Palace.

Pullen also built a large mannequin in the middle of his workshop; he would sit inside it, manipulate its appendages and talk through a concealed bugle in its mouth.

After Pullen’s death in 1916, his workshop became a museum of his work until the Royal Earlswood Asylum was closed in 1997. It is now an apartment complex

Some of Pullens ship models, designs and art work can be seen on permanent display at the Belfry Shopping Center, High Street, Redhill.

For historical photographs of the institution, see here. For some more information about its history, see here.

Posted by bigblue on 25/03/2008 at 06:57 AM
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Monday, 24 March 2008
Neasden Temple

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This is the Neasden Temple, more properly known as the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London.

It is a Hindu temple in Neasden, in north-west London. It was Europe’s first traditional Hindu temple (as distinct from converted secular buildings) and is possibly the largest Hindu temple outside of India that is in current use.

Posted by bigblue on 24/03/2008 at 08:48 PM
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Sunday, 23 March 2008
Some Easter Snow

Master Park


It snowed this morning but it’s 2 degrees now and with some light rain it has all but melted. Perhaps there will be more tonight when the temperature drops again.

Posted by bigblue on 23/03/2008 at 12:41 PM
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