Tuesday, 31 July 2012

More on Euroland

Thursday will be crunch day as the ECB decides what it is going to do to match the words of Draghi.







Article 121 of the Lisbon Treaty which limits the power of the ECB.  How will the ECB circumvent it and what will be the German position?



Monday, 30 July 2012

Spotlight on Spain and Italy.




Latest Wealden Line Campaign update

At least the DfT has not kicked the BML2 concept into touch.


Update: 21st August.

Interesting knockabout article.


Make your mind up time

After months of posturing, copious use of sticking plaster solutions and heads in the sand, it looks as though Euroland has woken up to the fact that muddling along will not save the euro. Action this day has to be the cry.  But are we in for more of what has gone before, or are we at last to see decisive action?





From yesterday:


Of course no progress is being made to resolve the inherent problems of the eurozone - lack of fiscal union, political and full central bank powers for the ECB.  Until this happens problems will persist in the soft under-belly of the eurozone and the citizenry of troubled nations will continue to suffer.  Germany has to make its mind up and understand that the advantages to it of  being in the eurozone have to be paid for.

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council: Civic Medallion

My aversion to awards in well-documented in posts on this blog.  Put simply, my opposition is based on the fact that for everyone who receives an award there are many others equally or more deserving who receive nothing by way of recognition . I do not begrudge those who receive awards and I have congratulated individuals who have received them.

Recently the Borough Council  agreed to award Civic Medallions to the late Kent County Councillor Kevin Lynes and the late Borough Councillor Peter Crawford whose deaths I commented on on this blog.  I knew both well and they are deserving recipients.  The third award is to Dr Philip Whitbourn, who is very much alive.  Whilst I disagree with his ideas on the future of certain buildings in the town, nevertheless he has been indefatigable in his endeavours to protect buildings and well deserves his award.

According to Borough Council documents, Councillor Victor Webb (UKIP) supported Dr Whitbourn's nomination but not those of the two councillors. I wonder why?

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Rusthall Parish Council update

It is some considerable time since I last commented on the deliberations of Rusthall Parish Council, but publication of the minutes of the April and May meetings on the council's website was delayed.

Meetings of the council are held at Rusthall United Reformed Church, but the minutes persist in calling it Rusthall United Reform Church.

This item from the May minutes caught my attention:

8.  Public Open Session – Mr Huxham voiced his disquiet with regards to the proposed plans for Cranwell flats. He said he was disappointed that not more residents, including him, were notified with regards to the proposed changes.  He felt that the Parish Council should have been more involved with the process. He requested that the Parish Council set up a planning forum.  Cllr Edwards replied, on behalf of the Parish Council.  He explained how a planning forum is set up, The Parish Council are not able to set it up. The residents have to obtain at least twenty five signatures from the public and submit it to the Planning Officer.  He then went on to explain that it was a lengthy procedure that then ended up with no decision but a summary of the issues raised. This should not be taken to express a view or decision. The minutes would then be circulated within five days, to the speakers at the meeting. The planning Officer would still have the final decision at the planning meeting.

The final sentence is correct if one is referring to delegated powers to officers.  However, planning officers do not have the the final decision at the planning meeting if what is being referred to is the planning committee.  A planning application which would normally be decided by officers under delegate powers can be called in, the effect of which is to transfer the decision making to councillors at a planning committee meeting.

I think Mr Huxham makes a valid point that the Parish Council should have been more involved with the process, but I disagree that a planning forum was the appropriate way forward.  The Parish Council may, if its so wishes, make comments on all planning applications in the village.  It could have been pro-active, seeking the views of residents of the Cranwell Road flats.  Some of the issues (decanting of residents) are not planning issues, but the Parish Council could have done more to engage with the housing association on matters of concern to residents and helped residents to articulate their concerns.  After all, parish councils exist inter alia to be a voice for residents.

Kent Police and Crime Commissioner election

The current chairman of Kent Police Authority, Ann Barnes, has announced she is standing as a candidate at the forthcoming Police and Crime Commissioner election. In the run up to the legislation being passed creating the role of commissioners and abolishing police authorities she campaigned vigorously against the proposed changes and expressed her personal opinions on the  taxpayer funded Kent Police Authority website.

I welcome the changes.  The Independent members of KPA are selected by an arcane appointment system, are not democratically accountable and 'represent' no-one. What Barnes was complaining about was the substitution of selection by election.

Despite her opposition she is entering the hustings.  The main thrust of her campaign is that political party candidates will be beholden to the whims of the political party they support.  I doubt if elected mayors feel beholden to the national political party machines - Boris Johnson is certainly no poodle of the Conservative Party.

My local newspaper The Courier had this to say in an editorial:

Ann Barnes has warned the people of Kent they are in danger of 'sleepwalking' into a position whereby the police are run by a politician.  We won't know until November whether the people agree with her concerns, but would appointing a politician be such a bad move?  After all, any politico worth his salt would have vetoed the force's refusal to police road closures for public events.


See also:


Hot air from Europe's leaders?

So the combined forces of Hollande, Merkel and Draghi will do what is necessary to save the euro.  Time will tell.  The Bundesbank is not amused.












Courier publishes letter

The local newspaper in Tunbridge Wells (The Courier) published today a letter I submitted on the future of the civic complex in Tunbridge Wells.  Based on this blog post:


The editor decided to omit the first paragraph.

My reason for submitting the letter is to generate a debate about the future of the civic complex in particular and more generally, about the development of leisure, cultural and educational activities in Tunbridge Wells.  the Town Plan Advisory Panel's report proposes that the citizens of Tunbridge Wells should make do with inferior facilities.  The debate should be about what is needed, not what can be achieved by upgrading existing buildings.

Canterbury City Council grasped the nettle: the existing theatre was demolished and replaced by a venue of which the people of the city may be proud.   Refurbishment and alterations to the Assembly Hall in Tunbridge Wells would leave the town saddled with a building markedly inferior to the new Marlowe Theatre.

It will not meet the declared objective of the Panel to:

Position the town as the cultural heart of West Kent and East Sussex (the west Kent 
equivalent to Canterbury in the East)

I acknowledge that a case can be made for retaining the facade at the main entrance to the Town Hall and the frescos on the other buildings which make up the civic complex, but as to the rest, sweep it away, let the demolition ball do its work.

What is needed is a debate on the future use of the site of the civic complex, not a  debate limited to the merits of the buildings.  There should be a debate about the activities that should be located on the site and the premises that will be needed to fulfil the aspiration of the Panel that the town should be 'the cultural heart of West Kent and East Sussex'.

The question needs to be asked: does the local population buy in to the cultural objective?  Are there other matters which need to be considered?  Obviously there are and I noted in today's Courier an editorial berating the Council for lack of joined up thinking on homelessness and its decision to evict the Soup Bowl.

I saw little, if anything,  in the Panel's deliberations concerning the needs of the poorer sections of the Tunbridge Wells community.  What is needed in Tunbridge Wells is a proper market, not just the farmers' market.  Some of the aspic brigade would be aghast at the very idea that provision should be made in the heart of Tunbridge Wells  for a market.

So, what are the drivers for change in Tunbridge Wells and how will the Council respond?   The views of all sections of the community should be heard, only then should decisions be taken on the buildings which are necessary to enable aspirations to be fulfilled.  

The political debate one hopes will not be conducted along the lines Harold Macmillan's observation:

Political argument is rarely hindered by ignorance.

So far the aspic brigade and its fellow-traveller councillors have made the running.  I await replies to my letter, but with little confidence that there will be a genuine debate.  My fear is that the pro inertia forces are well marshaled and will prevail.  At least I have put my head above the parapet.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

More from the Wealden Line Campaign

Interesting article on the franchise consultation:


Note this from the article:

The DfT warns that bidders cannot run any more services on the Brighton Line, saying: “The total number of trains on the predominantly two-track section between Balcombe Tunnel Junction (south of Three Bridges) and Keymer Junction (north of Burgess Hill) should not be increased as this would significantly increase the risk that the train service becomes unreliable.”

Instead, the DfT will specify the amount of [jam-packed] Brighton Line trains that will run, merely allowing the bidders to tinker with the stopping patterns. This effectively means there will be a cap on train travel between the Sussex Coast and London. We know that operators see a market to run more trains, but they can’t because the south’s rail network is inadequate. 

In regard to Gatwick the DfT is extremely weak and evidently lost for answers, it says: “The Government believes good connectivity with our major airports is essential.  If possible we would like to see improvements in these services. However, whether we can deliver such improvements depends on affordability and on striking the right balance between the needs of air passengers and those of commuters in relation to how we use limited capacity on lines which are amongst the busiest in the country.”

Only last week Gatwick bosses again urged the need for better rail links as they want more people to use public transport, whilst their plans to increase capacity are limited by the railway.

See also:


My submission:

I write as an individual living in Tunbridge Wells.  I am a regular traveller by rail to destinations including Ashford (Kent), London (London Bridge, Waterloo East, Charing Cross and Cannon Street), Chelmsford, Oxford, Cambridge, Coventry, Birmingham, Sheffield, Newcastle, Telford, Falmer and Brighton.

The Thameslink service from London Bridge to  Kings Cross/St Pancras is invaluable for my journeys from the latter two stations. The journey to Oxford requires changing to the Underground at Charing Cross, thence to Paddington. When the new line is opened to Oxford, via Bicester, it would be convenient if I could travel via Thameslink to West Hampstead and connect with a Marylebone-Oxford service.  Clearly this will require construction of platforms on the Chiltern Line at West Hampstead.  Should this be done (together with platforms on the Metropolitan line), it would make West Hampstead an even more important interchange hub and open up a wide range of new travel opportunities.

I think studies should be undertaken to determine the viability of re-opening the Bedford-Northampton line and extending Thameslink trains via this route to Rugby.

My journeys to Falmer and Brighton are usually undertaken by car, for the simple reason it is far quicker than the bus service or the three rail routes (via London Bridge, or St Leonards or the Tonbridge-Redhill route).  It takes two hours by public transport  to Brighton whichever mode or route is taken. The re-opening of the Uckfield-Lewes link and the line from Eridge to Tunbridge Wells would reduce the journey time considerably as well as opening up travel opportunities between West Kent and Brighton. A recent report on Tunbridge Wells town centre development recommended these lines be re-opened to support the economy of the town and doubtless Brighton would benefit from direct rail links to Uckfield, Crowborough,  Edenbridge, Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Sevenoaks and Orpington.  It does seem rather strange that the Uckfield line is not planned  to be re-opened, given it is a short section of line and the benefits it will provide, not least reduction of road journeys to Brighton and Falmer from a great swathe of East Sussex and West Kent.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012


The ongoing crisis in the eurozone shows no sign of abating.  Until (if ever) the nettles of fiscal and political union are grasped, along with central bank powers for the ECB, the crisis will continue.  We can only stand by and watch the shambles created by the European political elite drag on.


















Monday, 23 July 2012

Old Odeon Cinema

The history of the cinema may be read by following the link:


Closed in 2000, there has been a  number of false dawns as developers have come and gone.  The building is an eyesore in the heart of Tunbridge Wells.  When will it be demolished? The current Leader of Tunbridge Wells has published his own ideas for the Odeon site and there have been rumblings of compulsory purchase orders.  But, the building is still there, a silent witness to years of town hall hot air.

Pressure on Spain and Greece

The crisis within Euroland is taking a further turn for the worse as pressure mounts on Spain and Greece.  Cyprus is holding a second round of bailout talks with the ECB, IMF and EC.













A snippet concerning Italy:

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Tunbridge Wells Town Plan Advisory Panel (4)


The febrile frenzy within the Conservative Group leading up to the ousting of Roy Bullock as Leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council was followed by soporific stupor under his replacement, Bob Atwood.

The establishment of the Advisory Panel was intended to take the heat out of the civic complex debate.

One objective of the Town Plan should be to, according to the panel:

Position the town as the cultural heart of West Kent and East Sussex (the west Kent 
equivalent to Canterbury in the East)

Most laudable.  But how is this to be achieved?  In the context of the civic complex all that is proposed is to enhance the existing buildings.  In Canterbury, the Marlowe Theatre was demolished and a new theatre constructed.  All the panel could come up was refurbishment of the Assembly Hall along with a new back stage.  The phrase 'square pegs in round holes' comes to mind.

The suggestions to move the museum to the police station building and upgrade the library building again show a poverty of vision.  Recently I visited Ludlow,  a town of great character.  It has a modern library and museum resource centre.

In Tunbridge Wells, the aspic brigade is besotted with buildings.  The nettle must be grasped. Form should not dictate function.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Euroland gloom:

'Merkel is driving Europe into the abyss'.  See:


When will it all end?  

But see:


Then again....




Euroland updates
















Thursday, 19 July 2012

Wealden Line Campaign

More news (or non-news) from the front.


Tunbridge Wells Town Plan Advisory Panel (3)


The transport section of the report seeks to address a multitude of issues.

The Panel is to be congratulated on supporting the re-opening of the railway line between Uckfield and Lewes and Eridge and Tunbridge Wells (presumably the latter replacing the Spa Valley Railway).  The proposal to re-open these lines can be found by following this link:  http://www.wealdenline.co.uk/

I doubt the need for a High Brooms - Tunbridge Wells shuttle rail service.  There is after all a four trains per hour service between the two stations and the 281 bus route (twelve minute frequency) passes the two stations.  Possibly this idea has its roots in the barmy ideas in circulation a few years ago for a station in the old goods yard and a station in the tunnel with escalators to Fiveways.

The need to retain fast trains to London is mentioned, but not the fact that the Tonbridge-Orpington line is almost at full capacity and there is no plan to deal with this issue.

My personal preference is for pay on exit car parking, certainly in the multi-storey car parks.

The shared space concept is one which should be considered in more detail.  I have used such space in Ashford and have had no problem with it either as a pedestrian or as a motorist.

However, I am not convinced of the proposal to close Neville Street.   Motorists will seek out rat-runs through residential streets.  The Royal Oak crossroads in very congested already and matters will be made much worse should traffic be diverted along Forest Road.  The junctions at each end of Bunny Lane are dangerous and this could only be resolved by either traffic lights or roundabouts.

Stronger emphasis should have been made on the need for park and ride.

The idea of using the 281 and 277 bus services to provide a better shopper-hopper service is one I support.  What is needed is for the buses to be easily identified and for signage at bus stops to be improved significantly.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Tunbridge Wells Town Plan Advisory Panel (2)


The Local Government Act 2000 placed a responsibility on local authorities to publish community strategies (or community plans).  Guidance indicated that the strategies had to reflect the views of communities and not simply be a regurgitation of existing statutory bodies' policy documents.

In Tunbridge Wells the document published was entitled Tunbridge Wells Borough Community Plan.  Note it was not Tunbridge Wells Borough Council's Community Plan, although the document only received formal status on been approved by the Council.

In 2003 the Council established a steering group to produce the community plan.  Membership of the group was set by the Council.  At its first meeting I was elected chairman.  The task facing us was daunting.  Tunbridge Wells was well behind other local authorities in Kent in commencing the process and we had a very short time-scale.

The group published a draft report and I addressed a meeting of the full council prior to the council agreeing the document be put out to consultation.  We received comments from 50 organisations and over 160 individuals.  Each comment was discussed by the group and this led to many alterations to the draft report.
The amended report was approved by the full council.  Our task completed, we disbanded.

The group, well aware that its membership lacked a degree of legitimacy, insisted that within 12 months the plan be reviewed.

Tunbridge Wells Town Plan Advisory Group's membership was determined by the then Leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.  On his loss of his council seat he became chairman of the advisory group. The advisory group has no greater legitimacy that the community plan steering group and its report has not been subjected to public scrutiny and comment .prior to publication.  Nor has the advisory group disbanded.

It is important that the recommendations of the advisory group are not granted an enhanced status, given the background to its formation, its membership and that it is only the opinion of a consensus of a majority of the group.

Euroland time bombs ticking

Two articles which, if accurate analyses, point to a very worrying future.



See also:




the shape of things ro come....

Monday, 16 July 2012

Testing time

It will be interesting to see how the majority Conservative Group on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council reacts to the report of the Tunbridge Wells Town Plan Advisory Group.




The Council's website has the following:

Tunbridge Wells Town Plan Advisory Panel Report

The report presented by Tunbridge Wells Town Plan Advisory Panel to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council in July 2012 can be found here.
The Town Plan Panel was established in November 2011 by Bob Atwood, who was at that time, Leader of the council. The panel and its members are independent from the borough council.
Following publication of the report Leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council,  Councillor David Jukes, said: ‘I very much welcome the report of the Town Plan Advisory Panel, set up by my predecessor Bob Atwood.
‘It demonstrates a cohesive forward looking view of the town of Tunbridge Wells undertaken by people who work or live in the town and understand the problems that exist now and the challenges that face us in the future.
‘Their report will certainly be considered into our long term planning policies and I would like to thank all of those who volunteered their time to produce the final document.’

Tunbridge Wells Town Plan Advisory Panel (1)

The panel has published its report and recommendations.


I shall be commenting on the document in a number of posts.  Whilst there are some recommendations I support wholeheartedly, nevertheless the report overall is a curates' egg, oozes complacency and lacks vision.  Indeed it is the manifesto of the aspic brigade.  The formation of the panel was a political cop-out and is an example of reaping what you sow.  Some of the major recommendations will, should they come to fruition in planning policy, serve the town badly: in so doing it will appease the aspic brigade.

One can only hope that political self-interest of councillors will not triumph. This report will test their resolve.

See also: http://johnhopkinsonconservative.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/testing-time.html

Railway infrastructure boost

The government has announced major rail infrastructure improvements at a time when more passengers are being carried by rail than at any time since the 1920s.

The links take you to the detail:





It is a pity that HS2 has not been scrapped and the funding used instead to improve the existing network even further and re-open closed lines.

A number of points:

1. The Midland Mainline electrification ends at Sheffield.  Why not extend to Wakefield and Doncaster and also Derby to Birmingham?  This would enable through electric running between Southampton and  Newcastle by freight and passenger trains.

2.  The Midland route is not to be electrified through the Erewash Valley or between Chesterfield and Rotherham via Beighton, both of which are major freight routes.  Failure to electrify the Erewash Valley line (between Trowell and Trent) means that no fast Sheffield-London trains missing out Derby can be run.

3. The Uckfield line station platforms are to be lengthened to enable 10 carriage trains to be operated.  Sadly no mention of re-opening the Uckfield-Lewes line.  When this line was open more passengers travelled towards Lewes than towards London.

4. The Basingstoke-Southampton line already is electrified on the third-rail system.  The plan is to use overhead electrification and for this to be a guinea pig to determine the potential for dispensing with the third rail across the south-east!

5.  Sadly no mention of re-opening the Bedford-Northampton line, nor adding platforms to the Bakerloo and Chiltern lines at West Hampstead.

But let us not be unduly critical.  This is a massive injection of resources.  Let's hope it does happen!!


Sunday, 15 July 2012

Free School for Edenbridge

No mention of Edenbridge on this map:


Has the project died a death?


Euro update






Glasshouses and stones


Thursday, 12 July 2012

Railway travails

Yesterday was a bad day for commuters on the London Bridge-Tonbridge route.  Signal failure between Orpington and Sevenoaks and flooded track between Sevenoaks and Tonbridge.  Whilst the signal failure cause delays, the effect of the flooding was to bring the railway to a standstill: third rail electricity and water do not go together.

In such circumstances my reaction would have been to catch a train from London Bridge to Croydon and thence to Redhill to connect with the Redhill-Tonbridge service.  Before the Sevenoaks-Tonbridge line was built the South Eastern Railway was via Redhill and the route has been used as a diversionary route. In the days of British Rail I am sure efforts would have been made to divert services, but now we have a fragmented railway it is much harder for the railways to respond in such a way.

Passengers on the London-Brighton route are subjected to line blockages and for them there is no diversionary route, only the dreaded 'bustitution'.

The following article is timely:


Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Spanner in the works?



See also:






Ye gods!!









Sunday, 8 July 2012

Euro crisis simmers

I have been away for a few days.  No newspapers, television, radio, internet or telephone.  Sheer bliss.

On my return I note that Spanish and Italian debt costs are dangerously high, much as they were before the EU summit at the end of June.






Some interesting articles from Spiegel:


Well worth a read as it goes against the prevailing 'wisdom' following the EU summit.






Saturday, 7 July 2012

Latest news on Uckfield-Lewes campaign

The saga continues.....


Holiday ramble

We set off for Wales at 5.00AM. The plan was to get round the M25, along the M40 and  beyond Oxford before the City's rush hour.  Unfortunately an inauspicious start: the left rear tyre punctured in the vicinity of the Heathrow exit on the M25.  Help was at hand to replace the tyre in the form of a kind man from Tonbridge travelling to work in Richmond.

Onward to Oxford, thence to Worcester,Leominster and Ludlow.  A couple of hours in Ludlow followed by a drive to Welshpool.  The plan was to go on to Bala, unfortunately our route was barred by an overturned vehicle.  Retracing our steps and taking a diversionary route added 40 miles to our journey.

The return journey took us through two floods on the Leominster to Worcester road and we were hit by a rainstorm of monsoon proportions on the outskirts of Oxford.  The prospect of driving along the M40/M25 in driving rain  during the evening rush hour did not appeal.  The route we took was via Henley, Twyford, Sandhurst, Frimley and Guildford.