Friday, April 17, 2009

Highfield Resident's Association

Highfield House Hotel, venue of the Highfield Resident's Association Meeting
Speech delivered to the 33rd AGM of Highfield Resident's Association (well, near enough- I expanded on the bullet points and told a few more jokes!). It was a interesting night!
Thank-you Mr. Chairman for your kind invitation this evening.

To misquote a famous phrase, I see you are working on the premise

Last and least rather than last and not least

as you have heard the distinguished speakers who have addressed you before me tonight.

A few months ago, I had lunch with the author, broadcaster, entertainer and one-time Conservative MP Gyles Brandreth.

He said to me, “you know Matthew, as a politician you meet only two types of people; people with problems and people who are right”.

Well Mr Chairman, as the Cabinet Member for Environment & Transport, I have spent quite some time engaging with Highfield Resident’s Association and if I may say so, you happen to be quite unusual as you don’t shy away from sharing your problems and, an inconvenience for a minor elected politician, you also happen to almost always be RIGHT!

So 9 months as your Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport and one year into the new Conservative administration, perhaps this 33rd AGM of Highfield resident's Association is a good time for me to reflect on what the Council has achieved that is pertinent to your area and muse a little over what the Council needs to focus on in the immediate future.

So what have we done?

- Conservation Officer Team Leader

- Conservation Officer

- Local list

- Started to update character appraisals for Conservation Areas

- Oakmount Triangle Conservation Area

- Article 4 dedication of Portswood Gardens tightening up Development control requirements for this area

- Family housing policy
o Core strategy

- Parking
o –TROs, esp Brookvale Road

- Little Common- a serious clear up

- Saved the Number 7 bus!

- Appointed a permanent Head of Planning & Sustainability in Paul Nichols and it is great to see him in the audience here this evening

and I think shows you the level of commitment Officers have to both this area and the city.

I mentioned to Paul after a meeting this afternoon that I was speaking this evening and asked him if he knew any good Town Planning jokes- after all greater love hath no man than he who lays down his jokes for his colleagues.

Paul replied that planning jokes, like Development Control Enforcement Officers are sometimes a little short on the ground when you need them!

So what’s next Mr Chairman?

Big ticket items.

Firstly, to continue to lobby government RE HMOs and the use classes order so we have some proper planning rules that actually bite.

Secondly, lobby her majesty’s opposition to the same end. Without subjecting you to my political prejudices Chairman and despite the Minister of State’s assurances when we met him, I still believe there is a real chance that any new housing and planning bill could fail through lack of parliamentary time and we need to be alive of the consequences of a possible change of government following a general election.

Thirdly, to make it as easy as possible to facilitate the University and other institutions to build more Halls of Residence through the planning process and indeed, lobby them to do so.

Fourthly, to continue to pursue enforcement action where appropriate in areas like the unauthorised developments in Crofton Close

And finally,

To campaign for a fair government grant to fund local government for cities like Southampton. All of what we have spoken about this evening costs money Chairman and this council is not resourced appropriately.

Mr. Chairman, Lord Mancroft the businessman, politician and former heroin addict once said that a speech is like a love affair. Any fool can start it but to end it requires considerable skill.

Not in this case Mr. Mayor- who am I to keep you and your colleagues from that very tempting array of wine and nibbles over there?

It remains only for me, on behalf of the City Council to thank Highfield Residents Association for all you do for your area and the wider community.


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