Page04 - SureStart, Bungalow Munching

A sure start for the SureStart* programme

A public meeting was held on 30 July 2009 in the public library on Lower Road to discuss the proposed siting of a Sure Start centre in the library. lt was well attended with more than eighty people including Cllr Chris Hayward and seven Herts County Council representatives.

Whilst the general feeling appeared to be against the proposal, Cllr Hayward made it clear from the start that the decision had been taken to site the centre in the library and that it could not now be reversed whatever objections there were - begging the question as to why the public consultation meeting was held after the decision.

The centre would be manned 35 hours a week although off-site activities are planned. The service would cover everything to assist in the development of children up to the age of 5 years, physical and mental. lt would be a resource centre for mothers of young children with advice on everything they need to know including health, tinance, and child  development issues. The proposal is to site the children's centre in part ofthe space presently used as the front reading area. As one objector pointed out "it would reduce the reading area to a corridor"!

There was so much objection to the planned layout that the meeting voted to request the County Council to re-think the layout. possibly using the space the children's play area presently occupies. Unfortunately the librarian was not completely satisfied with this solution as this area is well used. The younger mothers present, of which there were many, did not raise any objections to the layout changes. 

Statistically the library is under-used for its size compared to other libraries in the county and an under-utilised asset is always vulnerable. Government guidelines state that a Sure Start Centre should not be opened unless 25 years of tenure is assured which favoured the choice of the library. Herts County Council had a statutory duty to open one for every 800 infants in an area. They examined many options including schools, Church halls, etc but the library was the only place that matched the criteria.

The younger mothers present were clearly in favour, the older residents less so, illustrating the changing demographics of Chorleywood. The opening of the Sure Start Centre is now a fait accompli. The only question that remains is whether or not the layout can be changed to meet the concerns of the library users. Hopefully Herts County Council will listen to those who attended the consultation and revise the layout. We hope so.

* Sure Start is the Governments programme to deliver the best start in life hir every child by bringing together early education, childcare. health and family support.

Bungalow Munching

For some years now there has been a steady stream of planning applications to demolish bungalows and replace with two storey houses. All too often these applications have been approved.

Chorleywood has many bungalows and in some instances they can wholly occupy a road. However if this demolition trend continues there could come a time when we actually have very few. Bungalows are desirable for first time buyers. They are also essential for the elderly and disabled since, of course, there are no stairs to climb. Earlier this year l contacted Ann Shaw at TRDC and her response was sympathetic and I quote "I know what you mean about bungalows being replaced by two-storey homes. lf we get an application in a row of bungalows we can try to retain the character of the road, or that part ofthe road, otherwise it is very difficult"

Anne was good enough to get the opinion of Geoff Muggeridge who is Head of Development Control at TRDC and his response was "I agree with your comments. It would be impossible to protect bungalows per se; the only arguments would be related to character where there is a run of similar style bungalows and amenity of neighbours if a larger two storey building would be obtrusive and over dominant if there was a bungalow remaining next door".

It would seem that there is a grey area where bungalows are concerned and there are currently no grounds for refusal if the application complies with existing rulings. Perhaps a ratio of houses to bungalows could be established so that applications could be refused if this ratio is threatened.

However the other possibility to try and stop such developments could be through objections from neighbours adjacent to these proposed changes.

If you are resident occupying a bungalow and faced with what you consider an undesirable or detrimental intrusion on the enjoyment of your home or environment then please contact your Residents Association without delay and we will take your complaint to TRDC.