The role of a District Councillor is mainly about local stuff. Best value for Council Tax, chasing other organisations for road works or rubbish dumping issues, but also to be an ear to feedback issues to the parties we represent. One of the biggest issues I do hear about is Europe (European Court Of Human Rights, Immigration, Bailing out other countries etc).
I am not sure I know enough about Europe to debate the issues, and if asked ‘What would happen if we left the EU?’ I could not answer without bluffing. A lot.
I do recognise that being able to sell stuff to countries in Europe without customs and internal duties is good for us. It makes trade quicker, cheaper and easier for us, but, like you, I am also aghast that we can not rid ourselves of Abu Qatada because of our namby pambying niceness and following the rules. For once I admire the French whose approach is to just deport them and allow an appeal in their absence. Why don’t we do this here.
I am not certain that immigrants coming in from Eastern Europe are ‘taking all of our jobs’ as some of our idle unemployed need to get off their backsides and go out to earn a days wage and get them first, even if it is in a job that is beneath them and lowly paid (I started off at the bottom of a ladder and was grateful for the opportunity). This would reduce the supply of jobs, and reduce the influx of immigrants. I do agree that we need to control the influx of people into this country to people who can bring in skills and wealth we can use to build a stronger country and economy.
I am worried that we are in danger of making decisions on Europe in the future based on a selection of high profile issues that hit the press, and not fully understanding what Europe is for us. The current surge in support for UKIP does worry me as they are currently in the luxurious position of being able to make promises and policies they do not need to keep. That said, I am not a Europhile, but am not ready yet to be a complete Euroskeptic. Europe does need, however, to change, and if it can not, then our obligations and commitment to Europe must instead. I firmly believe it is important that whatever we do to change our relationship with Europe it must not affect the free trade and commerce that allows our businesses to sell across the continent freely or to operate business units in other countries. We must do nothing that is self harming.
So, I decided to find out more, and bought a copy of ‘Au Revoir, Europe: What if Britain left the EU?’.
A real corker of a page turner? Well… Erm, Yes. I am actually finding it very easy to read and am enjoying my progress through the book. If you would like to find out more, it is written by David Charter, a reporter for The Times who spent 5 years covering Brussels. My copy came off Ebay for £12.00. I do recommend it to you.
I have decided to summarise it here in blocks. Some bits of blatant plagiarism, and I hope the Author takes this as a compliment and accepts the suggestion to buy a copy as good promotion. It may take a while, but the first instalment (below) is How we got here. Future blogs will be on what the EU does for us, and what might happen if we left. If you would like to know the full story then I would strongly recommend the book. Dan Hannan MEP is also another writer on Europe who is well worth following and reading. A columnist for The Telegraph, he is another exceptional speaker and writer on the subject. My ramblings will be recognised as very inferior in comparison.
How we got here.
In 1957 6 countries signed The Treaty Of Rome to form The EEC (European Economic Community). These founding states were Belgium, France, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands and West Germany. Their ambition was to ‘lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe’. Unfortunately, despite the United Kingdom having sacrificed immense losses during two world wars to support France and Europe, Charles De Gaulle (Left) used France’s veto to block British entry for 12 years while this formative period was used to form a lucrative support system for its farmers and generally write rules in favour of the founding members.
The first post-war British Prime Minister, Clement Attlee stated “Know them all well. Very recently this country spent a great deal of blood and treasure rescuing four of ‘Em from attacks by the other two”. The strong feelings in post war Europe and exclusion from this new club did not bode well.
Britain’s membership was finally allowed in 1973 (after a change of leadership in France when President Pompidou (Right) replaced De Gaulle) and, along with Ireland and Denmark, we joined. At this point the established rules, regulations and objectives stood at 13,000 pages long. Take it, or leave it, there was to be no opportunity to review and redress. These documents, presented to Edward Heath as he signed, stood over a metre high tied, ironically, in red tape. Worse still, on realisation of the imminent admission of these 3 new sea-faring nations, the other 6 drew up and implemented The Common Fisheries Policy, a contentious and one sided document that did not require the friendly cooperation of the new states in its preparation, regardless of their coastal interests.
The tentacles for the EEC ran deep into international trading agreements, and enforcing the rules of Europe’s single market. Agriculture, The Environment, Industry, Health and Safety, Employment Law, Justice, Transport, International aid, Development and Sport were all now under the control of EEC rules. Areas controlled by individual member states included (essential) Sovereignty, Fiscal policy, Defence, Education, Law and Order, the NHS and Welfare.
In 1975, just a few years after joining, a referendum was held to ask if we should remain in the Common Market. This was preceded by a leaflet that was sent to every home setting out the debate as it was seen then. Here is a link to that leaflet: http://www.harvard-digital.co.uk/euro/pamphlet.htm The vote was for an overwhelming ‘Yes’.
As time marched on the Economic and Monetary Union was created. In 1989 the framework for its introduction in Europe was proposed and in 1989 the European Central Bank was formed and in 1999 The Euro was launched with a total of 17 countries now using The Euro (Estonia the most recent addition in 2011). A further 10 countries are currently heading towards this full integration of currency with Denmark and the UK the only two countries who have opted out.
The move for full integration into Europe is very strong in some countries with Polish leaders calling for the European Commission and the European Parliament to become the true government of the EU. Herman Von Rompuy, the President of the European Council, claims in September 2012 that “There is a genuine willingness amongst the EU leaders to address the systemic nature of the crisis. To finish a house half built… the leaders commit to themselves to bringing the Economics and Monetary Union to its solid and stable end state in the years ahead”. Strong Stuff.
While in the UK we greatly value our Sovereignty, Currency and identity, other countries are working hard for greater integration and assimilation with more control, not less.
Regardless of our views of recent governments, our position in Europe has not, however, been one of submission. John Major and David Cameron have opted out and vetoed policies and rules in acts which have irritated the other member states and these include the ‘Schengen borderless travel zones’, opposition to reform of the financial services industry, and rejection of deeper coordination of fiscal policy. While Tony Blair was a true Europhile, it is fair to note that Gordon Brown’s decisive ruling out or euro entry in June 2003 was as significant (and represented the view of over 80% of the population).
More recently, David Cameron’s EU Act of 2011 (which received Royal Ascent on July 2012) means that any further power sharing with Brussels must first be put to a referendum.
Our position in Europe, 26 miles off its shores with a different currency and belligerence against conformity is already irritating the rest of the member nations who see greater strength in unity while we heckle from the back of the class. Indeed, we as an electorate do not take Europe seriously using the European Elections as an opportunity to protest vote and send anti Europe MEP’s to the heart of the organisation.
We are now talking about a referendum on Europe, but the prospect of a simple ‘yes’ ‘no’ vote is surely too simplistic as we are currently most definitely not embracing the full values of Europe, and do not intend to. There has to be a third option to secure the best of the trade agreements and some common ideals, but not to allow further power to slip to Brussels. Currently the UK government is conducting a review of the balance of EU competencies and this is due to be reported back on in 2014. This will look at what powers we might wish to take back from Europe.
It is curious that our own core values are so different to other member states who do not value their own sovereignty and distinction as greatly as we do, and the thought of joining a currency used by Greece, Spain and other countries teetering on the brink must never get support in the UK?
To be continued…
Enlargement of The European Union – Source: Wikipedia
The Police advise that the spate of thefts from vehicles, especially vans with tools inside, continues. Two vans were broken into in the Clanfield area around the Coop on the 26th and 27th May.
Police advice is to keep tools out of the van at night and make sure it is locked up. But you know that already.
Have you thought about taking some camera phone pictures of the contents of your van including serial numbers, identifying marks etc so if the worst does happen you can list exactly what is missing and provide enough information to help with recovery?
There are also PIR activated flood lights that also take pictures for about £40. Is your van alarmed?
Please pass the warning on to anyone you know with vans who might not know.
One of the planning conditions for the Gales development was for an Archaeological survey to be carried out. This is usual in buildings with some long heritage that will be lost due to demolition, and as a part of the desktop study, the team working for Linden Homes came across some old photos. The top one is circa 1905, a good 9 years before World War 1, and compared with the one I took this evening on my iPhone (sorry, no plate camera handy) it is fascinating to see how the cottages have changed in the last 108 years.
It looks like there was an old thatched cottage on the left. Perhaps this was lost to a fire and was rebuilt set back from the road, the layout of which we are highly critical of, but in 1905 there was not even a footpath (nor busses and lorries to speed through the village). Porches and light columns have appeared and the Chimney line has changed with several being reduced or even removed. Even the iconic Gales Tower we seek to preserve has had a lot of work done on the roof, probably to improve against water ingress. In all about 20 major changes in a spot the difference competition that would keep kids (and adults) busy for hours.
On to more serious matters though, and this is the price of beer (wholesale) for the tied inns. In 1933 the list proudly shows dozens of awards for beers and ales long gone past, and a Barrel of XXXXX Ale would set you back by 153/- (153 Shillings). Australian wine was also on the offering (I wonder if this is where they got the brand XXXX in return?) and to place your order you would ask the operator for ‘Horndean No10’ a long way away from the 11 digit numbers we have now, or telegram ‘Gales, Horndean’.
Thank you to Linden Homes for kind permission to use these extracts from the Archaeological report.
In the last few months the government has put forward some changes to ‘Permitted Development’ in Planning. The first of these was that certain types of empty businesses (offices and the like) could be converted to flats without requiring planning permission. This would have jeopardised the changing face of our villages and lost some high street office space for ever. The second was that back garden single storey extensions could be increased from 3m (Semi Detached) or 4m (detached) to 6m and 8m respectively. Imagine your next door neighbour being able to build a 6m or 8m extension without permission.
Both of these are issues that we wrote to the planning Minister about to object to (along with a hundred other parties and organisations) and in the last weeks we have heard back on both.
Office to flat conversion: EHDC has been granted an exemption for permitted development to change from offices to flats in 10 of our Parishes, including Horndean, so these valuable business spaces can not just be cashed in as homes.
Extensions: Anyone planning on a larger extension will need to notify the Planning Authority of their intent, and the planning authority can treat this as a normal application if they feel it will unreasonably affect the neighbours.
These proposed changes would have been, we felt, very damaging to our communities and we are pleased to have been able to protect against them.
The recent County elections saw a 25% support for UKIP, and knocking at the door, while my true interest is about local issues, there were a lot of comments about Europe and UKIP, so I am going to dabble in Europe. Clearly I need to have a view. We need the strength of Europe for our trade, and common standards for product help to make this a simpler platform, but need to limit the amount of control Europe has over us. Reform is required, but not independence.
In the South East of England, we are represented by 10 MEP’s and I would like to let you know about just one of them.
Daniel Hannan is a 41 year old Journalist who is a Eurosceptic. Not quite a Sampson trying to bring down Europe from the inside, but who seeks genuine reform and is very critical of European Integration, and has even written several books on the subject. If you are looking for some good pragmatic common sense about Europe then visit his blog, and if possible, go and see him speak. He has an energy and passion that matches the logic and sense of his convictions.
To visit Dan’s Blog, click on this link: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/author/danielhannan/
To hear Dan’s speeches at the EU click on this link here: http://www.youtube.com/user/DanHannanMEP
Every local authority is required to have a ‘Local Plan’ for housing, and this has to be reviewed every few years to suit housing needs in our communities. EHDC are currently working on our Local Plan which is called the Joint Core Strategy which incorporates two planning authorities – South Downs National Park (inside East Hants) and East Hampshire District Council.
It looks like there will be an increase in the projected housing to meet our needs, and the next 3 months will see what this increase is, and where it will be allocated. This is a difficult task as the South Downs National Park has a protected status and some of their housing needs are likely to be spread North and South of the park.
It is up to the District Councillors South of Butser to do what we can to minimise the housing increase and preserve our Semi Rural feel, but then once the numbers are clear, to steer this to areas where they do not damage the local communities, and we can build the right facilities.
Updates will feature here as they come.
The Hindhead Tunnel opened on the 27th and 29th July 2011, and for those who commute into Surrey and beyond it has made a significant difference on the quality of life. There is much speculation as to whether it has had an impact on the traffic on our roads or not, affecting the quality of life in East Hants, so as we approach the second year anniversary I thought it would be interesting to see what the traffic flows have been like, and if it is possible to answer the question yet.
One Freedom of Information request later (including a stroppy email chasing a late reply) the data I asked for was sent to me. Well, some of it at least, and enough to do a bit of an assessment.
In 2012, the last full year of the ‘Old A3’ around Hindhead the daily traffic count was 19,076. In 2012, the first full year after opening, this had increased to 21,153, or an increase of 10.9%. Therefore, yes, the opening of the Hindhead Tunnel has resulted in an increase in traffic of about 11% through the tunnel compared to through the village.
So, does this affect us in Horndean, or does most of the increase come from Bordon, Petersfield and along the A272 etc? The Highways agency also provided a data sheet on the traffic flow along the A3M between our junctions so we can see what the impact is on us here.
Unsurprisingly, yes, we do have an increase in traffic but only half the increase in Hindhead, and this tails off the further down the A3 and A3M you go. Between Junctions 1,2 of the A3M (Horndean) there is a 5.3% increase pre and post tunnel. At the bottom of the A3M between junctions 4,5 (Bedhampton) the increase is only 1.7%
Was the tunnel worth it? For those who travel into Surrey or London by car, absolutely, yes. It has shortened the daily commute by a good half hour a day, maybe even more as well as massively cutting pollution from queues in Hindhead. Has there been an impact on other communities? Yes, but not as much as we might perceive.
Is this increase more or less than you would have thought? Let me know.
If you would like to see the raw data then click on this link and there are two files you can download: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/traffic_volume_pre_and_post_hind#incoming-388786