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Mud On the Road

Hello world - Happy New Year. Don’t cycle too close to the kerb.

Dear Councillor Gibson

Posted by Deborah Courtnell

Not In My Back Yard Please
 In which  I discover and expose my inner NIMBY and write my first letter to a politician.

Warning: this post contains  comment

    I'm taking a leaf out of Beloved Sister's book and writing to a politician.

     In this case it's Conservative County Councillor Cllr. Andrew Gibson, recently re-elected to Hampshire County Council, Test Valley Central.

     I'm going to write to Mr Gibson and ask him about the County Council's plans for the woods on the southern side of the graveyard. Both the woods and graveyard are on the rise to the side of us and therefore overlook our small house and garden.

     I'm going to tell Mr Gibson that, last week we awoke to the screech and tear of chainsaws chopping and hacking in the woods and this week we have been inundated by a tide of silent surveyors armed with their levellers and Theodolites and tripods.


     I've been up and spoken to the Chainsaw Man and the various surveyors. They each in turn say they know not what they are about, simply that they are carrying out work on behalf of Hampshire County Council.

     So that must mean they are being paid for by us, by the local tax payer.

      I'll say to Mr Gibson that we neighbours bordering the woods think they are chopping things down and measuring the road with a view to building a car park in the woods.

     The County Council owns part of the woods you see, – it's where, until about 1943,  the Victorian workhouse was sited. (See: The Workhouse)

     I expect Mr Gibson will be aware that a car park has been mooted in Stockbridge for some 18 months, triggering wave upon wave of questionnaires, reports, committees, sub-committees, meetings, minutes and doubtless enough paper to build a paper car park.

     Now it's all gone very quiet.

     And, despite living next door, we've had nothing formally in writing about the woods from anyone and certainly not from Hampshire County Council.

     I suppose they prefer spending our money on the chainsaws and surveyors instead. I expect it’s sexier than writing letters.

     We have only the wildfire of hint, speculation, hearsay, rumour and conjecture to go on.

     I should explain here that demand for extra parking has come from the competition for space on Stockbridge's broad flat High Street: local residents who do not have private, off-street parking of their own, must compete with the customers,  clients and traders of the 40 + businesses which flourish on a model of first come, first serve, free and unlimited parking for all.

    They all muddled along quite happily for decades. Now, suddenly, the same free parking set-up which makes Stockbridge so attractive to traders, residents, tourists, visitors, has become a victim of its own success.

     Now the traders, who themselves are taking up the very spaces - some 100 + per day - they would like their customers to have, worry that the thousands who flock here weekly to spend money in their shops, pubs and cafes, will stop coming if it gets too tricky to park. So the car park would be for the traders with their highly sociable 5 am delivery cycles.

     Personally, I think there's room for parking up the middle of the high street like you see on the continent and there’s certainly ample room on the wide, grass-verged A30 approach road, but apparently, people want additional parking provision for the High Street, out of sight of the High Street.

     In case, I guess,  the very cars which make the High Street what it is, a thriving, bustling commercial centre in the middle of the countryside, spoil the view!

*****

     There is no such thing as the perfect home. All homes come with a compromise or six built in. Ours has at least ten but the main one is a hefty one: it's the road at the front of our house.

     Traffic has increased year on year since 2006 when I moved here and routinely includes massive HGV's ploughing at speed up and down the hill, always straddling the central white line at the narrowest points, frequently forcing oncoming cars to stop and wait. I imagine theses juggernauts come to and from Southampton Docks, steered by their on-board satellite navigation systems.

     Certainly many of the drivers look confused and some look quite scared. But that might just be the sight of me putting the rubbish out at 8 am.

     It's dangerous to cross and there's no pavement.

     There's a blind spot. Oh yes and the cars speed between 50 mph signs perversely  placed, as if by some weird experimental road scientist sequestered in outer space, within mere yards of our homes.

     So the inhabitants and their hordes of visiting family and friends, have to walk in the road in order to get to their own cars parked at some distance away and dodge traffic hurtling down the hill towards them at 50 miles an hour.

     I once mentioned the aberration of the 50 mph signs in a phone call to a traffic expert at Test Valley Borough Council and he told me, yes, but at least the cars have good visibility coming down the hill so they can see the people in the road!

 ‘Before or after they’ve squished them?’ I wanted to ask. But I could tell I was on a losing wicket.

     And yet... I love living here.

     The road is the price we pay for having the best of the both worlds – local shops and the countryside.

     And our reward is that we don't have people walking right in front of our houses and at the back of the house it's peaceful.

     We look out over a tiny parcel of countryside uninterrupted by cars or people or houses: a bit of a field, the churchyard and, next to the churchyard, the woods: filled with songbirds and owls and buzzards and bats and all manner of small furry mammals from squirrels and stoats to hedgehogs and foxes and probably badgers and often deer. All of which has flourished and thrived in the 70 odd years since the workhouse was demolished and the site abandoned and in effect,  given back to nature.

      At night the engine noise recedes and we can sit out in the garden undisturbed, overlooked only by our immediate neighbours in the terrace of four houses and the woods.

     I like the woods. I don't want a car park for ten cars let alone 100 + cars built in the woods.

     At night we sleep with the windows wide open listening to the sounds of the wildlife in the woods.

     A car park would entail overhead lighting, 24/7 car noise: headlights, reversing sounds, car alarms, car stereos, doors slamming; people coming and going at all hours. Delivery vans and lorries at 5 am.

     A car park would make it almost impossible for us and our visitors to get to and from our front doors by doubling the amount of traffic up and down the hill.

     With only five houses in the immediate vicinity, I suspect our voices will be drowned out by the louder clamour and noisier, more ambitious and profit-driven claims from the High Street.
   
     But I'm going to write to Cllr. Gibson anyway and see how this local democracy thing really works.

09.05.2013

~~~~~



Surrey Hills
But, I Am Not A Mote
I Love the M3
I Love the M3
Situation vacant
Fantasy Pub Landlady
Eggs, by Floyd
The Good Workman 

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