July 2012

 Weekly Diary for week commencing 2 July 2012


Thursday 5 July 2012

At 2pm I attended the Task and Finish Group for Country Parks at County Hall to discuss the proposals for a new management company to be engaged in running and promoting Marsh Farm activity centre and country Park.

  Cllr Kendal & Cllr Aspinell          
  Cllr Kendal & Cllr Aspinell           Piglets at Marsh Farm


The Task and Finish group had visited Marsh Farm earlier in the year and had come to the conclusion that this was a valuable asset to the County and a wonderful experience for visitors. It is a definite educational aid to school children and others and could well be financially beneficial to the County, not just by breaking even and supporting itself, but also any revenue over and above the maintenance budget would be used to help finance our other wonderful Country Parks.


 Further details of this decision can be found using this link.


Further discussion during the meeting surrounded the Country Parks part of Marsh Farm which is a conservation area encompassing a large piece of land including marshland leading to our coastline. This is a much valued park used by many visitors from the bird watching fraternity; the Wildfowl Trust has a major interest in this site and we were informed that the area is also much beloved by local residents. We were also reliably informed that the previous decisions we took on the Marsh Farm site would not impinge upon or effect the serene aspect of the Country Park area.


At 7pm I was back at the Town Hall in Brentwood where a meeting of all members of the Council were invited to ask questions relating to the decisions made by Full Council for the future of the Town Hall. This followed, after investigation, the decision to retain the Town Hall in its present position, release space, by leasing it to the private sector and raise finances to enable to the Council to pay for its maintenance and future upkeep.


 Weekly Diary for week commencing 9 July 2012 

Monday 9 July

 7pm found me at Brentwood Town Hall for a Lib Dem group meeting to discuss the agenda for the Policy Committee for the coming Wednesday evening.


Tuesday10 July

 At 8.30am I was in County Hall for a group meeting with my County colleagues prior to the Full Council meeting which started at 10am. It was a busy meeting for me as I was seconding a motion to seek further clarity and explanation over the spend on procurement cards. Needless to say, the Lib Dem motion proposed by David Kendall, did not receive the support of the administration but concern was raised by the members opposite us about the details surrounding the procurement card authorisation. This full council meeting went on until 1pm and after a brief bowl of soup and yogurt I attended a Lib Dem group post Full Council meeting and left County Hall around 3pm.


I attended two residents’ houses in Pilgrims Hatch, Brentwood where problems regarding council maintenance was discussed. I promised I would follow these up at Brentwood and get back to them.


At 7pm that evening I had a Pilgrim’s Hatch ward meeting, along with my fellow colleagues of the Pilgrim’s Hatch Lib Dems, where I account for my actions carried out their behalf and on behalf of my residents.


Wednesday 11th July

 7pm saw me at the Town Hall in Brentwood for the policy meeting of the Council, details of which can be found through the Brentwood Council link.


Thursday 12th July

 11.30am found me at Kelvedon Park, head office of the Essex Fire Authority for a sub-committee that deals with the expansion and development of the site. I took the opportunity of clear weather to cycle to Kelvedon from Brentwood which was a good idea to start with but by the time I got back I wasn’t so sure.


The meeting announced to members that planning permission had been given by Braintree Borough Council for the new development plans which include training facilities for fire-fighters and other staff, including officers and control room staff. Built into this are several energy saving and energy renewing features and we look forward to providing the most up to date innovative training facility in the country.


7pm found me at the Town Hall, Brentwood again where the public had been invited to listen to a presentation by the Town Hall delivery group and to ask questions relating to the proposals and findings that had previously been presented to members.


Weekly Diary for week commencing 16 July 2012


Monday 16 July

 At 5pm I met at the Town Hall in Brentwood for a Youth Forum meeting with my fellow County members and officers of both Essex and Brentwood Councils and young members of the Youth Council for Brentwood to discuss many things youth related. Further information can be found on the Brentwood Website.


However, one of the most important announcements was that regrettably ECC had taken the decision to sell off the now closed Hermitage site. The Hermit Club next door, however is to remain and the well-used facility is to be managed by a private entrepreneur who is investing a great deal of his own money into the building for the future use of the youth of our town.


7pm sees me still at the Town Hall but now in my role as Deputy Leader of the Brentwood Lib Dems attending a group meeting to discuss Wednesday’s Full Council meeting.


Tuesday 17 July

 1pm: Tuesday morning saw me again doubting my sanity and cycling to Kelvedon Park (I have to lose the extra pounds I picked up in Thailand somehow!) for a meeting with the Chief Officer and his staff. They briefed the lead members on the current situation facing Essex during the period of the proposed Fire Brigade union’s strike action for the following day.


The Chief announced that although the union were proposing a 24 hour strike, the residents of Essex, regardless of personal feelings and politics were a prime concern and were to be protected to the very best of the fire brigade’s ability. The control room would be fully manned for the entire period and most of the retained fire stations would be fully operational. All major towns would be covered by fully crewed fire engines located at strategic points within the town allocated. With previous strikes, brigades around the country had to rely on Ministry of Defence Green Goddess Lorries which first saw service in World War II. Unfortunately, they are completely out of date for the current Fire and Rescue service they would be providing.


At this briefing we were pleased to be informed that the residents of Essex had never before been protected to the level that can now be provided within our own area. Over 40 fully manned front line appliances were available in addition to specialised units such as platform ladder, phone tenders, etc. We were also able to fulfil our obligations if needed to surrounding brigades and heaven forbid any COMAH (combined operation major accidents and hazards) incidents, should they arise.


Personally, as an ex fire-fighter, whilst having concern for the striking firemen and their families, I am grateful that I can reassure my residents that they were being protected to the very best of our ability.


7pm: I was at the Town Hall in Brentwood for a meeting with my Pilgrim’s Hatch ward colleagues, members of the Pilgrim’s Hatch Environmental Partnership and concerned parents of children who attend the Bentley School, Ashwells Road, Pilgrim’s Hatch.


A very fruitful and productive exchange of views was had regarding the horrific problems of vehicle parking outside the school which completely blocks the approach road to the entrance. Add to this mix a new motorway maintenance heavy goods yard which has opened up a few hundred yards away and there is a recipe for disaster looming. Various suggestions on solutions to this problem were put forward and we hope to report back later to the Pilgrim’s Hatch partnership and to both Essex and Brentwood councils.



Wednesday 18 July

 7pm: Town Hall Brentwood. This was a bench mark meeting for me as I was answering questions from members in my role as Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. I had nothing thrown at me; therefore I must have said and done something right!


I later asked the question of the Chairman of the local highways panel why I, as the County member for Shenfield, was not invited to a briefing meeting with Crossrail and local Borough members. I was told in no uncertain terms, as I was just a County member and did not represent the ward of Shenfield, my presence was not required. This led to some animated discussion on my behalf but to no avail, I was facing a shut-out. Later on in the diary you will see how this panned out.


Thursday 19 July

9am: Cllr David Kendall, my Lib Dem County colleague from Brentwood and I joined others for a site visit by the Economic Development Environment and Highways Policy & Scrutiny Committee who were undertaking a task and finish scrutiny of this particular COMAH (combined operation major accidents and hazards) to Foulness island.


In all the years I have lived in Essex, (which is my entire life), I have often thought of visiting Foulness Island. It has long been a place of mystery and secrecy. As a child I used to play on the sand with my brother and sisters listening to the loud reports of large guns and exploding shells that were frequently being tested beyond our gaze. A red flag flying prevented local seaside visitors to the beach at Shoebury venturing into this ‘secret’ garden but today was the day I had a look inside at what was going on.


This is of course a Ministry of Defence armament testing range and has been in constant use since the early 1800’s. Some of the original buildings are still on site and as an amateur historian I found the visit fascinating. QinetiQ is the management company running the site on behalf of the MOD.


After going through the security procedure, we travelled along the single spine road that connects Shoeburyness with the outlying villages in Foulness. I had a pre-conceived idea of what I was visiting which would have been something like the Country Park aspect of Marsh Farm with windswept reeds along mud splattered dykes in a lonesome-like scene from one of Dickens’ novels, but nothing further could have been from the truth. Foulness is quite a beautiful island, full of standing corn fields, rich and thick, well-kept roads (obviously not a lot of traffic), trees, farm-houses and homes, altogether an eye-opening experience.


The purpose of the visit was to form an opinion as to the management of one of Essex most secure sites and high-risk centres. I for one was impressed by the high level of security, accident prevention and the laid out plans in case disaster struck somewhere on the site or en route to it. All in all a well worthwhile visit and thanks to the time spent there, I can make a reasonable decision to the Committee and cabinet member regarding the capabilities of this COMAH site.


Saturday 21 July

10.30am Saturday morning I was joined by my three Brentwood North borough councillors at St Georges Church where we spent four hours meeting the residents of the Greenshaw and Costead Manor area. An amazing amount of casework inevitably was gathered by me and my colleagues, mainly highways and council house repair problems. It was very pleasant meeting so many of the residents that I used to represent as a Borough member for the Brentwood North ward six years ago.

Saturday afternoon was spent dog-walking and relaxing as this afternoon was one of the rare fine days of our very soggy summer.


Weekly Diary for week commencing 23 July

Monday 23 July

5pm: As is customary I had a meeting with a fellow County member in Costa Coffee in Shenfield to discuss urgent issues of the day and enjoy a skinny Americano -recommend it to anyone who requires a decent cup of coffee!

7pm in yet another ‘watering hole’, this time The Eagle public house in Kelvedon Hatch where the executive of the Brentwood and Ongar Liberal Democrats hold their meetings in the function suite.

Tuesday 24 July

2.30pm: The four County members for Brentwood met with four Borough members which constitutes the new local Highways Panel. The subject of the Agenda was going through a list of previously agreed highway improvements that had been on the books for up to 20 years without implementation and for us to decide whether or not they stayed as viable proposals.

The list consisted of some seventy schemes and as you can imagine, this took some time to go through which left very little opportunity to discuss new proposals. However, I did manage to persuade the panel to go forward with a puffin crossing valuation and assessment on the A128 Ongar Road, with its junctions with Ashwells Road and Mores Lane. This is a vital crossing but extremely dangerous; parents and children accessing Bentley School have to negotiate the Ongar Road at one of its busiest and fastest points. This can only be put in place with additional early warning signs in either direction that motorists were approaching a school crossing. This is one project, I hope, we can deliver in the very near future.

Wednesday 25 July

6pm back in Costa Coffee meeting up with my Shenfield borough councillor, Graham Clark to chat about the Shenfield Residents’ Environmental Partnership that was taking place at 7pm at the Shenfield Library. It was pleasing to see so many local residents attend from all over Shenfield who were committed enough to continue their involvement in establishing the partnership with the aim of enhancing the environment of their community.

It was decided to pursue two suggestions for obtaining funding from Brentwood Borough Council’s community fund. First, was to clean up and care for the rockery and flowerbed abutting the steps leading to the hunter Avenue car park from the Broadway. It was agreed that this was one of the first things people see when going to and from the car park and it needed to give a better impression than it currently does. The second suggestion was for additional cycle posts to be located outside the shops further up Broadway towards the Priests Lane area. A survey of shopkeeper’s views was to be undertaken by Committee members to report back at a later date. The meeting ended at 8.30pm.

Anyone wishing to know further information regarding the Shenfield Resident’s Environmental Partnership, please contact myself on any of the contact numbers listed on this website or Graham Clark on 07947 803743.

Thursday 26 July

4.30pm Epping High Street, dentist’s chair, 40minutes later after chipped tooth repair and a big hole in my pocket. The reason for mentioning is that my dentist is right opposite the fire station. I ran into the returning fire crew that had just attended a shout in the town and spent a very pleasant half hour chatting about the future of the Fire Authority, Epping Fire Station, the forthcoming Olympics and other matters of importance.

That happy coincidence helped me to fulfil one of my aims which is to visit all the fire stations within my area and speak to the officers and men, answering as many of their queries as possible.

Friday 27 July

At 1pm I met with County officers and County members to discuss the proposed Crossrail works to be carried out in my Division at Shenfield Station with members of the Crossrail team. The outcome of this meeting was that all previous plans and proposals for operating the works at Shenfield have been abandoned and a new set of plans and working procedures are being prepared and will be submitted to us at a later date. I put forward my concerns regarding any demolition and construction traffic routes through residential areas and the lack of car parking provided for commuters and shoppers to Shenfield alike during the construction period. Further talks are planned to discuss these items in greater detail.