Sunday, 28 June 2009

Armed forces Big Day Out in Bracknell

Saturday was a busy day in Bracknell with a parade in town for our Armed Forces and a big day out festival at South Hill Park.

This was the first ever armed forces parade of any kind in Bracknell town. It was well attended and well organised with representation from Many Standards, Veterans, Gurkhas and Cadets. There were also a number of stalls, too many to mention. Veterans were presented with veteran badges by the Mayor of Bracknell after the parade.

Also on Saturday was Bracknell’s big day out festival which is held at South Hill Park and was well attended in the sun. There were many acts and plenty of activities to get involved in at this free event that catered well for families.

All in all a great sunny Saturday in Bracknell.

Please find here the official armed forces day web site

And the details of the Big Day out festival in Bracknell

I would also like to give my personal thanks to the veterans for what they did and continue to do to keep our country free. Thank you

Friday, 26 June 2009

Are the BNP making headway in Bracknell?

Over the last few months the BNP have been manning a stall in the Bracknell Town centre on a regular basis. The BNP believe they are getting a good response (See the BNP site here.)

This is a worrying sign for those that believe in an inclusive society. The BNP have been putting work into Bracknell and have been making headway. During the European elections the BNP gained 5.5 percent of the votes (1490).

Part of this increase in the BNP vote is due to Andy McBride the South East organiser who is very high up in the BNP party ranks, this has had an effect on the BNP campaign in Bracknell. He was on the South East list of BNP prospective MEPs and has stood in his local council ward of Priestwood Bracknell gaining 6% of the vote in 2007.

Of course the other great effects on the vote were the Andrew Mackay MP 2nd homes scandal which gave some extra fuel to the BNP locally and the lack of campaigning in the town centre by the main parties.

I’m often in Bracknell town and so far I have only seen the Lib Dems handing out leaflets when the BNP Stool is in town. There is not often a presence from the main parties and I would like to see them challenge the BNP more and get other views across.

Bracknell is not a high immigration town even thought I guess some people would believe it is. So I think the other reason why the BNP are doing well here is the BNP point that Bracknell town “has been effectively abandoned to us”.

Bracknell town centre does feel neglected if you stand in the Middle and examine the town centre (which is still awaiting its renewal). If only more renewal work was done to bring Bracknell back to life, like the new Bracknell and Wokingham College building which I believe should breathe some new life into the town centre.

I hope more is done to challenge the BNP in Bracknell otherwise I believe the BNP could win a seat on Bracknell’s council which would be very uncomfortable for all and will dent Bracknell’s imagine.

More BNP comments can be read here

Bracknell Standard report on the BNP here

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Bracknell Forest Council's housing strategy is not adequate

Bracknell Forest Council's has released its housing strategy for 2009-2014. It states ‘The overriding priority of this strategy is to enable the provision of the right homes for the communities of Bracknell Forest, in the right place and of the right quality to allow more choice for the residents of the Borough.’

But does it really mean the council are providing for the right number of homes at the right time. The Council intends to utilise the funds it receives from the transfer of its housing stock to Bracknell Forest Homes, however these funds were not high enough as they hardly begin to deal with the problems created by the growing housing crisis within the Borough.

The schemes introduced by the Council to encourage tenants to buy new homes and allow some to purchase shared ownership homes will benefit only a few. Since 1998 house prices have more than doubled within Bracknell Forest and first time buyers now need a household income of approx £38k per annum to buy a flat or maisonette.

The number of households on the Council's housing register has doubled in the past five years and to over 4500 seeking to move or gain access to social housing. A quick analysis of the housing register shows households have to wait on average of over 4 years before an affordable home is offered.

Demand is continuing to outstripping supply and the Council have admitted, in real terms, that it is only able to assist one household in every ten households who are registered for affordable rented homes. (Page 22 of the housing strategy document, here).

Bracknell Council need to provide more homes than this as the number of new affordable homes to be funded by the transfer of the housing stock has already been reduced from 250 to 166 over the next five years. The current plans of building 325 homes by 2014-15 are simply not enough.

There are other opportunities to build these homes in Bracknell for example I have been involved in the public consultation of Amen Corner (details here). Amen corner development currently includes some affordable home but no social housing, this is one issue I would have liked added). More social housing could also be included into the plans of the belated development of Bracknells Town centre.

The Bracknell Forest Council's housing strategy for 2009-2014 document

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Bracknell’s Beautiful Parks and the Litter! followup

I have been in contact with Windsor & Maidenhead Council Street Care Team. The council operate the Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) by:

The Council originally employed two Litter Enforcement Officers on 6-month temporary contracts.

Other Council staff were being trained to issue litter Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN), including Parking Wardens and Community Wardens.

The income from litter fixed penalty notices supplemented the officers, but did not cover all of the costs of employing them.

Adopt-a-Street was introduced around the same time. This has about 16 volunteered for the scheme to date, and a school. When any resident volunteers they are provided with health and safety training and provided with equipment that includes litter pickers, hi visibility jackets, gloves and sacks.

The scheme was advertised on the councils website and widely publicised in various publications as well as receiving press coverage, an example from the Windsor & Maidenhead Observer here.

The current scheme with regards to wardens appears to be very efficient as this gives a more flexible council workforce. It’s not a bad thing that the scheme is not fully funded by the FPN as this gives the wardens some discrepancy. There is a cost to this scheme although as its part funded it not as expensive as it could be. There could also be a saving made on reduced costs of picking up litter as street cleaning could become quicker.

It would be a good idea to adopt the warden scheme in Bracknell as having a presence reminds people that droppings litter is not allowed.

The Adopt-a-street scheme is in principal a good idea if you can get enough people interested. Although if 16 people are occupying 16 streets and are picking up litter on a regular basis then that is very worth while. It would be better if all schools can be involved. Perhaps a warden can visit a school and inform the pupils about the scheme. There is also no harm in educating kids as to why littering is wrong. For this to be more worthwhile however more people would be required.

I would like to suggest A clean the town day which could be introduced annually were people are encouraged to go around our local towns on mass (I know this is a bit of a dream but why not). I will be suggesting these ideas to the Bracknell Forest Council.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

New Build Housing Standards

I know of a few people who have moved into new flats in Bracknell both through the housing associations and for private rent. Some of them have had problems with their new homes for example with mould, fittings and central heating.

In mid May 09 the BBC reported on this nationally here. To quote the opening paragraph ‘Thousands of developers surplus new build homes in England are being rejected by housing associations as they are not of a high enough standard.’

In addition to these problems it is also reported here that the UK’s new homes are the smallest homes in the developed world. When compared to Holland where the average size is 115 square meters and even Japan where homes are known to be small are 92.5 square meters, while in the UK it is 76 square Meters.

I am concerned that these issues maybe affecting Bracknell residents simply because there has been a large home and flat building program in Bracknell over recent years, some of which is allocated to housing associations.

Both the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Chartered Institute of Housing believe the government should force all builds to have higher minimum standards.

Details of Bracknell Forest Housing Strategy can be found on this document attached. It also contains some very interesting Statistics on population trends.

Please comment and let me know if this issue has affected you, as I would like to investigate this further.