Saturday, September 22, 2012

Park Hotel Building To Stay

The Park Hotel Today

For some years the Park Hotel in Shirley Road has been empty and boarded up, with local residents uncertain about the future of the building. Owners, Orchard Homes have been unable to reopen it as a pub and possible options for the site have included pulling it down and building a block of modern flats or a convenience store with flats above. Neither option is popular with local residents, nor is leaving the building empty, as it has become a bit of an eyesore. There was also a fire recently and there are concerns that it may happen again.

Residents and Councillors have met with directors from Orchard Homes on two occasions to see if an agreement could be reached about how the site might be redeveloped. The most popular choice was to see the building retained and converted to residential use and last week Orchard Homes presented some architects plans to the Freemantle Triangle Residents Association. The plans would see the outer walls and roof of the building retained and a second floor added to the single story part of the building fronting onto Shirley Road. 

As a local councillor I often find myself opposing inappropriate planning applications. It is a rare but welcome thing to have a developer making the effort not just to engage with the local community but also to come up with a design that is sympathetic to the neighbourhood and its heritage. 

My grandfather used to drink in the Park Hotel in the 1950s and 60s. It was managed for a while by my former colleague on the Council, Matthew Dean and I have spent many an evening there over the years. including helping clean it out when Matt first moved in. I think it would be a dreadful shame to see it bulldozed and I am very encouraged by the plans put forward by Orchard Homes. 

I found this old advert for the Park Hotel in a Southampton football programme from August 1963. It shows the old organ and the bar. I hope that the building can be saved and I will be supporting Orchard Homes' planning application when it is submitted. 

The Park Hotel 50 years ago (click to enlarge)
UPDATE: Orchard Homes have now submitted their planning application which can be seen here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Labour Announce 240 Council Job Cuts

Another broken Labour promise by Southampton's new Council Administration as a hit list of 240 jobs is revealed, ahead of the draft city budget announcement next month.

Labour went into the local elections in May saying there would be no council job cuts as a result of their new staff redeployment model based on one adopted in Sunderland. They renamed this approach the Solent model and described it as their plan B for the council. The scheme would have seen the staff redeployment period extended to 12 months. Immediately after the election this was watered down to 8 months and today the final scheme will be agreed by the Labour Cabinet - just 4 months. At the Council's Overview and Scrutiny Management panel meeting on Thursday Labour admitted that they hadn't researched the policy properly and upon taking control of the council they realised that it was totally unaffordable. They also admitted that the policy was only intended to last one year to get them through the election period and was then due to be scrapped anyway.

However the biggest bombshell was revealed at Full Council on Wednesday and then clarified at the Overview and Scrutiny panel meeting the day after. Labour has been working on a secret hit list of staff who will be axed - all council staff on fixed, short term temporary contracts. The list of staff includes over a dozen bin men, library staff, sure start and nursery workers. These staff will receive no redeployment. Labour say that the union bosses have been working hand in glove with them on the issue.  Not only is this a betrayal of City Council staff who Labour have misled it is very disrespectful and totally unprofessional for Labour to once again reveal job cuts in public before speaking with those involved. After leaking their summer mini budget to the media, Labour were rightly chastised for having Oaklands Swimming Pool staff first hear about their jobs on the radio. Now Labour have done it again, announcing 240 job cuts in the public meeting of the Full Council, before having the decency to speak with those affected, some of whom have been with the council for up to 7 years.

Labour are proving time again that they cannot be trusted in Southampton and that they were prepared to say anything before the elections in order to win power, but had no intention of keeping their promises once they got in. Will the the local union bosses do anything about it? No of course they won't because they are Labour Party people who represent their own interests and that of the Labour Party - jobs and services are not their priority and once again this is being shown to be true.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tougher Licencing Rules Needed Locally

Residents living in and off of Shirley Road are getting increasingly concerned about the amount of street drinking, the amount of bottles and cans dumped in the street and the numbers of licenced premises (shops and off licences) springing up in the area. I am getting more and more complaints and in recent years I believe that the situation has gotten out of hand. Action is need to curb the number of new licenced premises - enough is enough. 

I have written the Southampton District Police Commander and to the Chairman of the City Council's licencing panel calling for tougher licencing rules to be introduced. A few years ago the Council brought in a new licencing policy (called a Cumulative Impact Policy) in parts of the town centre, Bedford Place and Bevois Valley. This policy shifts the emphasis onto applicants for new alcohol licences, requiring them to demonstrate that they will not add to existing problems in the area. 

I am pleased to say that I have had encouraging feedback from the council's licencing department and the chairman of the licencing panel has agreed to work with the police to see if a tougher policy can be introduced locally. I will keep residents updated with any progress.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

New Play Park Needed for Lake Park

The Children's play area in Lake Park is in need of improvements, with play equipment in need of updating and the area surrounding it often waterlogged.

I have received a number of complaints from parents that use the park and I am pushing the council for an urgent upgrade. The City Council has funds available for improving play parks in the area. These funds have been paid over to the council by developers over recent years as part of planning requirements that new developments help support improvements in the area. So the council has the funds and in my view it needs to make Lake Park a priority.