News from British and Canadian Conservatives

Friday, July 21, 2006

Tackling school congestion

Last night I attended an extremely interesting presentation by Action for Communities in Rural Kent's Transport Officer. Despite the organisation's name, his responsibilities now include urban areas like Folkestone, as funding has been transferred from the Countryside Agency to the South Eastern Economic Development Agency - two hopeless and bureaucratic government QUANGOs (Quasi Autonomous Non Governmental Organisations also known as jobs for the boys).

Of particular interest to residents in the area around Morehall Primary and Pent Valley Technology College, was the information I obtained about school transport. All schools are now required to produce transport plans, and I will be doing my best to involve myself in this decision process, with the aim of bringing more walking buses to our area. There seems little point in hundreds of parents driving across the road to take their children to school, and walking buses offer advantages to parents, children and local residents all at once.

Kent County Council is also introducing free bus travel for teenagers, which may help to reduce the number of longer journeys to and from Pent Valley, which will be a welcome relief for residents around Surrenden Road and Harcourt Road, in particular.

Kent Association of Parish Councils

Last night's KAPC Shepway area committee elected Cllr Rodica Wheeler of Folkestone Town Council as one of the representatives on the Shepway Liaison Committee. I hope that this will help to strengthen Folkestone's influence and also help us to work more effectively with neighbouring parishes to create a better working relationship between the Parish and District councils.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tontine Street Performing Arts Centre

This evening I attended the Creative Foundation exhibition of the proposed Performing Arts and Business facility at the Dunk site in Tontine Street. The design of the building is very modern, and not particularly to my taste, but there is little architectural merit in the building that would be lost either. The potential benefits of such a facility could be enormous - it will be sound proofed, offering a much more suitable entertainment environment than many of the existing facilities in Tontine Street, providing entertainment space for the arts, cinema and even club nights. It will also offer conference facilities, offering the opportunity to really link Tontine Street in to the town centre business community, providing a renewed connection between the town and its seafront.

These conflicting thoughts will need to be weighed up during the planning process, to ensure that Folkestone maintains its unique charm but doesn't miss out on such a fantastic facility.

Empty Homes named and shamed

Empty homes in Folkestone have been named and shamed as part of the No Use Empty joint initiative between Shepway District Council and Kent County Council. The initiative aims to bring hundreds of empty and often dilapidated homes back into use, with the double benefits of providing much needed homes and improving the built environment. The councils are working with local landlords to provide advice on getting the homes back into use, and also have a budget to buy, refurbish and resell homes on the open market.

One house which has already been brought back in to use is in Broomfield Road, Morehall. If you want to report an empty home or are looking for advice, call the No Use Empty hotline on 0845 8247605, or visit

Monday, July 17, 2006

Morehall - Harcourt Merger update

The first consultation period on plans to merge Morehall and Harcourt primary schools has now closed. The Kent Education Board will consider the findings on 18th September, and will pass a recommendation to the Cabinet Member for Education.

Like many parents and residents of Chart Road and Surrenden Road, I am deeply concerned about the possible impact of the merger, both on the children and the locality of the schools. My letter of objection is copied below:

Dear Mr Adams,

The proposed amalgamation of Morehall Primary School with Harcourt Primary School raised a number of concerns, and I would urge reconsideration, given the potential for such actions to backfire. My concerns are outlined below:

1. Figures produced by the Area Education Office in July 2005 suggested that at no point over the next 4 years would all the pupils are Morehall and Harcourt fit into the Morehall School (see attached). In fact, around 480 pupils would be squeezed into a site designed for a maximum of 420.

2. In order that no class exceeds 30 pupils, as at present, 3 classes per year would be required for most years at time of merger. That would require roughly 18-20 classes, depending whether amalgamation takes place in 2007 or 2008. The Morehall site has 14 classes at present.

3. The roads around Morehall Primary are currently extremely congested and dangerous at the beginning and end of each day. Adding an extra 150 children to the school, many from further afield, will clearly lead to an increase in car journeys, worsening the situation for pupils, parents and residents alike. The school would house 60 more children than have ever been planned for the site, placing the already inadequate infrastructure under unsustainable pressure.

4. The two schools serve distinct communities. The consultation report demonstrates that clearly, showing the comparative levels of free meals in the two school, signifying considerable social differences. Merging such disparate communities could prove difficult and would be detrimental to the childrens’ education.

5. Part of the accommodation stock at Morehall Primary consists of temporary classrooms which are 30 years old. Surely eradication of such inappropriate buildings should be a key aim of the LEA, and the forecast reduction in pupil numbers presents a rare opportunity to achieve this. The amalgamation of these schools would do the opposite, prolonging the life of already out-dated “temporary” buildings for the foreseeable future.

6. The need for additional temporary accommodation at Morehall Primary was accepted by officers at the public consultation meetings. How long will these classrooms be

required? Given that the last temporary classrooms have lasted 30 years, I am particularly concerned that they may not turn out to be that temporary, and I don’t believe that anyone could definitively say that they won’t remain in situ for some considerable time. I draw on my own experience as a pupil and now Governor at Sandgate Primary School, which was amalgamated with the Sir John Moore School in 1988. A mobile classroom was required at the time, and mobiles have been on site ever since.

7. Harcourt Primary is a purpose built school. It seems inappropriate to replace such a building with temporary classrooms.

8. The forecasts of school rolls are, as stated at the public meeting, not reliable for individual schools. That is evident from the wild fluctuations between forecast rolls in the July 2005 statistics compared to the June 2006 statistics in this consultation. It is, therefore, unrealistic and bad management to base a schools strategy one just one set of figures. There is not statistical consensus to justify the proposed amalgamation and its associated reduction in school places in the Cheriton area.

9. The public consultation document contained no reference to the possible influx of Gurkhas, following the recent relaxation of rules regarding accompanying families. This is despite the original document to committee which pointed out that it may be necessary to abandon the amalgamation, as up to 400 places could be required locally. Given that the number of places required for the Nepalese children is still an unknown quantity, no reduction in places should be agreed until it is certain whether there are, in fact, surplus places to be removed.

I would ask that the committee rejects proposals to close Harcourt Primary. The school is needed and there is no consensus of school role forecasts to suggest that it will not be needed in the foreseeable future. The Morehall site is not suitable for expansion, and it is fundamentally wrong to close a purpose built school when the alternative is mobile classrooms.

Yours sincerely

Cllr Dan Hassett

Folkestone Town Council Conservatives

Kent Local Board

Tonight's local board meeting, which I attended, included a presentation and questions on the KCC Towards 2010 strategy, which is a very general document which tends to ignore the "how" to deal with problems.

That was followed by a presentation about efforts to help those in need to help themselves. This presentation was most informative. It's amazing to know that 45% of the working-age population in central Folkestone are on living off unemployment, disability or incapacity benefits. The aim is to address this shocking fact and bring people back into the workplace.

Finally, in the open questions section, I asked the County Councillors to take steps to remove Folkestone Harbour from the list of ports protected for the import of aggregates. It's use for shipping building materials was only ever intended as a temporary measure, to cease when the seafront regeneration (which port owner, Roger de Haan, is heavily involved in) became a reality. The land at the harbour is supposed to be available for a passenger ferry service, marina, university lecture hall and up market housing and leisure. Protecting the port for importing stones would scupper these plans and not be in the best interests of Folkestone. Excellent Conservative County Councillor Dick Pascoe (who preceded me as a Morehall Councillor when he was a Lib Dem) promised to urgently investigate and tackle the issue.

Cleaning up

The pigeons have, once again, made a terrible mess of the roads under the railway bridges in Risborough Lane and Beachborough Road. There is a thick layer of birds' mess mixed with feathers, and even a dead pigeon in the road. Man has played his/her part in making the mess too though - both sites are littered with food wrappers and graffiti. I have reported the matter and asked that they be cleaned up as soon as possible.

Sound Waves III

Free local music festival Sound Waves returns to Folkestone sea front on Saturday (22nd July), starting at 4.30pm. Following the success of last year's event in the amphitheatre, this year's event is to be held on the beach nearby. Now in its third year, organiser Cllr Lynne Smith hopes to extend the event further next year.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Charivari Success

Yesterday's Charivari Day event in Folkestone was a great success, with large crowds enjoying the spectacle in Folkestone Town Centre and on the Leas. The event, organised by Strange Cargo and part funded by Folkestone Town Council and Shepway District Council, included a parade of the East Kent Giants. After the event, bands played the crowd on the Leas, with a number of side shows also lining the promenade.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

King of the Litter Louts

Summer is upon us, and hand in hand comes the annual problem of empty Burger King food cartons littering Cherry Garden Lane and Morehall Rec. Legislation now permits that businesses responsible for producing the litter can be required to clean it up - so how about it Shepway?

While their about it, perhaps they could take McDonald's to task over the amount of their product strewn down the cliff adjacent to the Road of Remembrance.

Invicta 3 - 'Fleet 1

In today's second friendly of the close season, Folkestone Invicta overcame rivals Gravesend and Northfleet 3-1. This is an excellent achievement, as the 'Fleet play 2 divisions higher in the Conference. Invicta's scorers were Jone, Watson and Rainbow. Richard Murrill's match report is available on

Friday, July 14, 2006

Graffiti busting in Audley Road and Shorncliffe Road

Overnight, a large amount of particularly obtrusive graffiti has appeared on the walls and street furniture at the junction of Audley Road and Shorncliffe Road. Fortunately, Conservative Shepway District Council, Ashford Borough Council and Kent County have jointly purchased a graffiti and chewing gum buster machine. I have reported the graffiti and hope it will be removed swiftly, and will keep up the pressure to ensure that it is removed.

The machine, which is operated by offenders ordered to perform community service, is working its way around the district, dealing with the backlog of graffiti cases which have followed years of neglect, and I will be fighting hard to get the whole of Morehall cleaned up. Graffiti can be cleaned off any surface, including those in private ownership, so long as they can be safely accessed.

If you know of any graffiti which needs to be cleaned up, please let me know. Alternatively, you can contact the graffiti busters directly on 01303 858660 or

Damian Collins Selected

Tonight, the extraordinary general meeting of Folkestone & Hythe Conservative Association resolved that Damian Collins be selected as the Conservative Candidate for the constituency. He has committed himself to immediately move to Folkestone - initially he will be living in Sandgate, whilst looking for a property to buy in the area.

Damian is 32 and married. Their first baby is on its way.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Invicta 0 - Gills 2

Folkestone Invicta's first friendly match of the season saw the team succumb to local League One opponents Gillingham 2-0. Richard Murrill's match report is available at

Friday, July 07, 2006

Shorncliffe Road bus shelter

I have spoken with the director of services at Shepway District Council responsible for the maintenance of Bus Shelters about the over grown state of the bus shelter at the junction of Shorncliffe Road and Audley Road, who called me back today to arrange for maintenance workers to cut back the overgrowth. As a regular user of local bus services and resident of Shorncliffe Road, I am aware of the inconveniece caused by its inaccessibility and will keep working to ensure that it is properly maintained.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

And then there were 3

Following last night's Conservative Executive Meeting, a shortlist of 3 candidates has been drawn up for Michael's successor. All three of them performed very well in a strong field of candidates, and more than three of them were certainly up to the job! The names of the candidates have not been announced. I do wonder why the association doesn't just announce the candidates officially - we all know that the information will leak, and surely the candidates to be our future MP are of interest broader than just the membership of the local party? The final selection takes place on Thursday 13th July, with all paid up members entitled to vote.