Parentdish are campaigning against the higher cost of family holidays over the holiday periods. As a parent, and a grandparent, I am sympathetic. I cannot agree with parents who think it is OK to take children out of school in order to save a few hundred pounds -a decision which might affect their later examination results, career prospects etc. A decision to have a family should be taken in the clear knowledge that children are expensive -but are worth every penny.
I’d like to make few points from the perspective of a part-owner of a Furnished Holiday Let bungalow in Combe Martin, North Devon. My business partner is a lawyer; I’m an accountant; we were both keen walkers; we thought that we could create a little holiday-letting business in the fantastic walking area, close to Exmoor and the South West Coastal Path. Once the mortgage is paid off, the bungalow, (‘Carpenters’) , may contribute a small amount of income to our retirement pots.
In the meantime we still have the mortgage to pay – £7000 pa. Other costs (rates, light, heat, water, caretakers and cleaners, website, advertising and marketing, repairs, travel costs etc) total a further £6000 pa approximately. But for the fact that we handle our own bookings we would face the additional costs of agents fees. Then we have the capital costs of replacing furniture and equipment and keeping the property up to scratch. Visitors expect a couple of modern flat-screen televisions,etc. Last month we replaced the en-suite bathroom, put new carpets in the three bedrooms, replaced the bed in the double bedroom with a king sized bed, and replaced the tumble drier.
So we need letting income of approximately £13,000 pa minimum to cover the ‘revenue’ expenditure plus more lettings to cover the ‘capital’ costs. We’ve owned ‘Carpenters’ for twelve years and we expect to have to keep paying money into the business until the mortgage is repaid.
Sadly there are fifteen weeks or so in any year when people just do not want to visit North Devon. We use some of these dates to carry out maintenance etc. Just last week we experienced the spectacular, if (for some) devastating tides. Fortunately most of Combe Martin is nor affected by these freak events. Combe Martin is fantastic at any times of the year.
So we have to earn our income over – in a good year – thirty five weeks – which is not always achievable in view of the competition from other properties, hotels, caravan parks and holiday camps. Furthermore we know that there are only ten or so ‘banker’ weeks, when we have to earn almost half of our income.
Much as we’d like to charge £500 for this, the first week of February, we know that, in reality, anyone interested in booking ‘Carpenters’ would laugh at us.
Those are the facts of life. But do please have a look at our website (www.cottagesindevon.com) and our Facebook page and Twitter site. we need all the followers,friends and re-tweets that we can get
…………There! I knew that heading would make you look! Well; on this rainy windy morning my wife, Carol, picked me up from my appointment at FPH and she drove to Camberley, where Carol was hoping to buy some gloves at the wonderful HM Supplies on the slip road. Carol said we might park in the ‘Permit Holder Only’ bays for a couple of minutes, as they were sure to be empty, and it was unlikely that we’d bump into any traffic wardens on a morning like this, and for so short a time. Oh Yes? Carol got out of the driving seat and I opened the passenger door to get myself into the driving seat and move off to a legal parking area. However I was confronted by a lady who warned me not to even think about parking there as I’d get a ticket. I looked round and- guess what – the parking wardens were walking down the road putting tickets on windscreens. I though to myself are those wardens ever not on the slip road? The kind lady told me where she lived, said she was disgusted with the council, and would never vote Conservative again. I offered to pass on a message to her councillors if she would send me an email, but she refused, saying even thinking about the issue made her too cross.
Some weeks ago I discovered that elsewhere in Surrey, in Permit Holder Only zones, there are bigger signs, at a more readable height. We now have those signs on the slip road, yet people are still parking there! We are all creatures of habit; I confess that I don’t walk around an area where I’ve parked for many years looking for signs. Are the new signs sufficiently clear I ask?
Rev. Bruce Nicole’s petition, which closed on February 2nd after being on the SCC website for a month, attracted almost 900 supporters. The petition will be heard at the Surrey Heath SCC Local Area Committee meeting at Collingwood School on March 13th. Petitions are normally heard soon after 6-00pm.
What saddens me so much, as a councillor, is that people like me do a considerable amount of work for our residents, our community, the Borough and the County. SHBC and SCC on the whole do a pretty good job, under quite difficult circumstances. Yet the issue over the notice and signage of these newly created Permit Holder areas has caused an enormous amount of bad feeling against the councils and the councillors.
There are serious lessons to be learned. In the meantime I hope that this blog will save a few more people from an unwanted parking fine
… and I know much of it pretty well. My favourite stretches are through Wiltshire and the West Country. As for the rest of it – it is grossly over-used and can be a nightmare. This afternoon, driving (legally) down A30 Camberley in the much-hated Bus Lane I was almost side-wiped by a car in the centre lane. Why? He wanted to turn left into The Avenue. Clearly he had not seen a peak hour programme on National TV a couple of years ago which described the A30/Avenue junction as one of the most dangerous in the South of England. In December 2009 I arrived at this junction just after a bus had collided with the passenger door of a Ford Focus. The Focus driver was clearly making the same mistake as the driver who may well have collided with me – but fortunately I’m all too familiar with the perils of this accursed stretch of road, and a BLAST of my horn prevented the accident today. There have been many such accidents at this junction; there will be many more until the powers that be have the commonsense to rid us of this nightmare.
So what mistake was the other driver guilty of today? I’m pretty sure that he will be telling people about the idiot who today nearly caused an accident because he was driving in a bus lane. He probably does not know that the bus lane only operates on weekdays for a few hours in the morning and evening. He believes he cannot use it -so he turns straight off A30 from the middle lane into a side turning -regardless of who is on the bus lane -which may well have been a bus!
Shortly after becoming the county councillor for this area I had some white arrows painted on the bus lane to encourage people turning left into The Avenue to get into the bus lane before turning left. Few do it.
People, understandably, are very upset at being inconvenienced by the Bagshot A30 roadworks. Fortunately this should be all over by the Summer. But – consider this: the powers that be decided that a perfectly usable two lane stretch of A30 along the edge of Camberley should be reduced to one lane – to allow buses to reach their destination earlier. So if you are held up by the A30 Bagshot roadworks, do not expect sympathy from the poor working people who have to endure the traffic queues on the A30 approaching the Meadows Roundabout -every evening! And do not expect sympathy for the residents of The Avenue, Woodland Road etc. who have to endure rat-runners trying to get away from the A30 queues.
And take a look at who are occupying the buses – indeed when they are occupied. Schoolchildren and people of my age -probably not paying much of anything for their ride. And who are being inconvenienced by this political bus lane? The workers who are paying the taxes and contributing to the UK economy.
I have no problem with bus lanes in London. If I choose to drive in London I must accept being inconvenienced -there are enough trains and buses for me to use instead of my car. However, most of us who use our cars to and from Camberley do so because we have no choice. It is practically impossible and definitely impracticable for me to get to County Hall Kingston other than my car.
I hope we have the sense and courage to rid ourselves of the A30 bus lane. let’s follow the example of Liverpool!
I’ve not played since before Christmas. The weather has been dreadful! My family have had to deal with the illness and subsequent death of my 28 year-old niece , Samantha – she fell ill with the very rare Wegerers in November and she passed away on Christmas Eve. And then I’ve been ‘crusading’ along with several colleagues and residents, not least the excellent Rev. Bruce Nicole, to sort out the awful problem of unclear parking signs in the new Permit Holder Only areas. I believe that between Mid October and 31st December nearly 1400 people have broken the law on the London Road Slip Road – a stretch of road long enough for only about 35 cars. The Permit Holder only area has space for about 12 of those cars. 1400 offenders? This is beyond fiction!
So after a decent lunch at my Rotary Club (Farnborough) I drove through the downpour to meet my old mate Pete at Blackwater Golf Centre. We decided to drive a couple of buckets on the range, by when the rain had eased – so we tossed a coin and decided to slither round the waterlogged course. Two equally barmy people were ahead of us -we were the only four players using the course this afternoon.
For Pete and I we actually played pretty well! Peter potted an impossible put from the edge of one green; he lost one ball at the second but found two more -he remained in credit all the way round – very unlike us! Then we reached the short but difficult eighth -about 130 yards but narrow with a lake on one side and a ditch on the other; and the hole on a small raised plateau. Pete hooked left. I actually drove quite straight, using my six iron. Pete found his ball plus another one in the undergrowth -so drove them both. Then – wait for it…………….
…………I chipped my ball straight into the hole! A birdie!! I very rarely par this hole. Often I’ve lost so many balls in the trees on this hole that I give up in disgust.
We teed off on the ninth – it was almost dark -the heavens opened -we picked up our balls and left. A good afternoon!
However, people are still parking on the London Road Slip Road near the Old Thai House Restaurant, even though a small stretch of the road, long enough for approximately 12 cars, became a ‘Permit Holder Only’ Zone a few weeks ago. Hundreds -many hundreds of people have been penalized. I called in to the Dry Cleaners – 45 of their customers have received penalties -people who have been parking FREE and dropping in their clothes for cleaning for many years. Over the past few days I’ve heard similar stories from H&M supplies and the other nearby businesses.
Over the past month ago, since the complaints started coming my way, I’ve done some occasional lurking -not as much as the excellent Michael Edwards, who has moved on more than 100 people who were intending to park in the Permit Holder Only Zone.
Len Goodman would have been proud of me! How many people did I educate in just 10 minutes this afternoon? SEVEN! Most looked at me as if I were barmy, until I pointed at the new notices -above head height. Having reluctantly left the area I looked back, and saw two more cars pulling into the Zone to park.I felt guilty! Quite possibly the drivers are now £35 worse off now! Will they come back to Camberley to shop? Would you?
Rev. Bruce Nicole has published a petition on the Surrey County Council website. Details etc. can be seem on the Surrey Heath Residents website.
Please spread the word on this. I’ve no sympathy for people who park illegally on yellow lines etc and get tickets. The hundred who have been penalized on London Road are not blind? Not stupid? Something is not right here!
I well remember the day I was interviewed with a view to Fuller Spurling becoming the auditors of one of our best loved and respected local charities, Frimley Fuel Allotments. The interview took place at the home of the Treasurer, a delightful retired Brigadier; the Chairman was also present. Having been an accountant in practice for many years I was well used to ‘beauty parades’; however this particular interview is one that I’ll not forget.
To anyone who is not familiar with the history of FFA, what they do etc., might I suggest that you visit their website (www.frimleyfuelallotments.org.uk); also do listen to the podcast dated August 2nd 2013 between Cllr. Josephine Hawkins and the FFA Chairman Bill Andrews which can be found via the Surrey heath Residents’ website.
I satisfied my interviewers that I was familiar with FFA and that my firm were properly qualified to undertake the required role. Then came the leading question: did I have any experience of Charities? Of course I had, and I reeled them off; I was a Rotarian; a former Trustee of The Make-A-Wish Foundation UK etc. and – Oh Yes – I was on the board of trustees of The Ramblers Association, serving as Honorary Treasurer. In hindsight I should have perhaps been a little more sensitive; as it was I confess that the reaction surprised me. ‘THE RAMBLERS!!* was the explosive response. I then recalled of course the much publicised battle between Pine Ridge Golf Club, (situated on FFA land), who wanted to divert a footpath; and The Ramblers Association, who strive to retain our much -loved network of footpaths, some of which are hundreds of years old. I did of course remember that the associated legal fees at the time we not insubstantial.
Despite this ‘blemish’ on my CV I’m pleased to report that Fuller Spurling were appointed, and indeed remain in post.
As reported in Camberley News and Mail today, the current FFA Hon. Treasurer, Frank Smithen , is seeking to retire, at the rather premature age of 80. As Bill Andrews has stated, Frank will be a hard act to follow. He is a man after my own heart who believes that any of us with a particular skill or experience should endeavour to benefit the community in some way or other. (I only hope that I will have the health and energy to be able to emulate Frank).
So – do YOU know anyone out there who might be willing to take over from Frank? I can assure you that the role is interesting and rewarding. If anyone is interested and is reluctant to contact FFA directly in the first instance, please feel free to speak to me. I don’t want to be repeating this appeal on Franks 90th birthday!
The main debate over the dinner tables over Christmas period was ‘poverty’, with specific reference to food banks. The younger generation, idealistic as they should be, suggest that we should never have got into the state that we are in with with such a demand for food banks. Others, including me, believe that there has always been ‘hardship’ in UK, and food banks are one of the current ways of helping people. Had more food banks existed twenty or thirty years ago more people would probably have used them. Instead there were other forms of relief.
In 2014 I would like to see a wider acceptance that there is a difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’. We may all ‘want ‘ smart phones, but do we ‘need ‘ them. I would also like there to be more acceptance that ‘hardship’ is not ‘poverty’.
I heard a man of my generation on BBC Radio 4 yesterday saying that as a child he was not allowed to get down from the table until he’d finished what was on his plate. If there was any left-over food it would be fried up as a meal on the following day. Exactly! Last night we had guests dining with us and staying overnight. The left-over food which I scraped into the re-cycling bin would have provided a pretty adequate meal for us at lunchtime today! How many younger people today have ever heard of Bubble and Squeak, let alone cooked it or eaten it?
As a boy growing up after WW2 I regularly had to eat tripe and onions, or the cheaper cuts of meat. on occasions we had little food in the larder. Fortunately my Father kept an allotment and grew vegetables and fruit in our small garden. On rare, special days we had chicken
So far as I recall, the only ‘fast -food’ outlets were the fish and chip shops – but we could only afford that treat occasionally. Nowadays the High Streets are full of such food outlets -and they are not particularly cheap. For the price of a chicken, burger or pizza take-away meal my wife can provide a dinner for both of us for two days using a gammon joint with parsley sauce, plus mashed potatoes and a vegetable.
I hope, and suggest , that our politicians stop using ‘poverty’, ‘hardship’, food banks etc as political footballs. There are many reasons why we are where we are today; we cannot blame any particular government, or the bankers, or the EU for the situation. It has arisen as a result of a combination of factors. Politicians can argue and debate many issues including The EU, Defence, Health, Welfare, Transport, Education. Having been to a South African township and seen real ‘poverty’ I don’t accept that many people in UK are ‘poor’ or ‘below the breadline’. I do accept that many – too many – are experiencing hardship and have to make unacceptable choices as to how to spend their available money.
So I urge our politicians to agree to work in harmony in order to alleviate the hardship. I’m sure that by redirecting their energies and working with charities, churches, community groups etc. they can alleviate many of the problems we see and hear about today. Perhaps, by avoiding the unacceptable food wastage that doubtless exists, (Tesco’s wasted 30,000 tons of food in the first six months of 2013) , we can even eradicate the need for food banks, thereby permitting those praiseworthy volunteers who manage the food banks to re-direct their valuable efforts to other deserving causes.
Happy new Year to everyone
Over the years I’ve been involved in Christmas Street Collections as a member of Egham Round Table, and the Rotary Clubs of Chertsey, then Shepperton Aurora. Wanting to join a lunchtime Rotary club I transferred to Farnborough, and my first experience of one of their street collections was on Sunday! It was like a military operation. A dozen or so collectors were marshalled by one experienced Rotarian who knew every road on the route; our illuminated trailer blasting out carols and christmas music was towed by a Rotarian in his 4WD car – he must have been an expert in manouvering in and out of tight corners with a caravan in tow! Having knocked at a door and collected some money in my tin I found myself having to walk 100 yards or so to catch up! Santa, on foot, was everywhere! As soon a young children appeared on the doorstep there he was -and that – to me -is the sheer magic of taking part in these collections -seeing the wonderment in the eyes of youngsters when the meet the man who usually only comes down their chimney.
Nobody slammed the door in my face -something I experience when canvassing. Christmas brings out the best in people – and everyone seems to love Rotary.
Have YOU ever thought of joining? Ask me for information please.
Those of us who grew up in the years immediately following WW2 will know that the children of today receive so much more at Christmas than we did. Nevertheless Christmas was as wonderful and exiting than as it is for the children of today. The postman used to deliver parcels from my Aunties in Scotland -just the knock on the door was a cause for excitement. Nothing compared with the excitement of the night my Father lit the candles, (yes-real candles), on the Christmas Tree and they set the curtains on fire! Happy Days! My brothers and I shared one bedroom and how we looked forward to The Sunbury Rotarians coming round the streets, with Santa!
In due course I joined Egham Round Table; we had a wonderful old truck, painted red, which we called ‘The Runnymede Rocket’. At Christmas time we’d decorate it and do the rounds of the local streets with one of us dressed as Santa. Us young Tablers were welcomed by many of the young mums with perhaps a mince pie, perhaps a brandy, and perhaps -for Santa- even a kiss!
Later I joined the Rotary Club of Chertsey and, like most Rotary Clubs, we collected at Christmas. How I used to enjoy seeing the faces of the young children at their windows as we went by with Santa.
My experiences at Shepperton Aurora Rotary Club were similar. We were allowed to collect at Tescos and elsewhere, and on one night the Lady members toured the local pubs. One lady member was a curate at St Nicholas’s Church -she used to bring her Bassett hound on the street collections so that it had its evening walkie. I recall that one night we persuaded her to be Santa. Sadly one small boy was not fooled by her disguise! “You’re not Santa”, he yelled, “you’re Melanie”
And now I’m in the Farnborough Rotary Club, willing to collect, not so willing to play the part of Santa. Sadly, at our site in Farnborough yesterday, my two lady companions refused to be Santa – so I was lumbered. I’m afraid my grumpy old face and my reluctance to wear my beard (I have a cold) did not go down too well with them! No mince pies, brandy or kisses!
I did however have one memorable experience. A man came along with a younger person in a wheelchair who was clearly very disabled. The man asked if he could take a photograph of me with his companion. I duly stood behind the wheelchair and held onto the handles. The person in the chair took hold of my hand and pressed it against his face, where he held it for a few seconds. I imagine he could not speak – for me he didn’t need to speak at that moment. That brief experience reminded me that we don’t always need gifts, food or drink to make someone happy at Christmastime
Last Friday afternoon, (December 6th), Carol and I were walking to the Christmas Market in Park street at about 4-30 pm. We met a gentleman on the London Road Slip Road who seemed in a very agitated state and we saw that two parking wardens were on the scene. We also saw that several cars had parking penalty notices on their windscreens. The gentleman explained that he had already saved several people from getting penalty notices and that nobody realised that the parking arrangements had been changed. I told him that I was a Surrey County Councillor and I gave him my card. On the way back from the town Carol and I walked along the Slip Road – one warden was still present. I returned on Saturday December 7th -once again there were cars with penalty notices on their windscreens and a warden was in the road. I revisited the slip road on Wednesday late morning, December 11th; again a warden was in the road and cars had tickets.
Being extremely concerned about this situation I alerted all of my Surrey Heath county council colleague and sent information to groups, clubs, churches etc. trying to warn people about the new parking arrangements. I also used social media. I was pleased to hear that Rodney Bates had tabled a question on the matter at the SHBC full council meeting on December 12th.
Yesterday I had a telephone call from the gentleman Carol and I had met on Friday December 6th; he had decided to call me to explain what he was doing but after listening for a few minutes I asked him to please send me an email. This gentleman’s name is Michael Edwards and his email appears below -I have his consent to send it to whoever I want.
At the last count I gather that some 800 people had parked illegally in London Road Slip Road since the arrangements changed in Mid- October. Michael Edwards has ‘moved on’ another 100 potential victims. I can only agree with him, and many others, that the statutory public notice warning about these changes was inadequate. That being so I am firmly of the view that all penalties should be refunded for first time offenders, and that the process should start all over again. We are not infallible -we all make mistakes.
Please read Michael Edwards email -then tell me what you think,
From : Michael Edwards
Sent on : 13/12 13:17:45 GMT
Subject : Parking – London Road A30 – We met last Friday
Hello Mr Fuller
Thank you for our conversation this morning.
My experience , when we met, on Friday 6th December 2013 , and subsequently, has been, as follows:
-I was warning people not to park there as the traffic wardens are having a field day.
-My issue is that what they are doing is unfair – whilst legal – the signage is abysmal AND that there was no notice easily visible that this had changed – bearing in mind that also it gets dark early and people really cannot see these signs ontop of the poles.
-One person who was caught, put up some A4 flyers along the poster wall there, to say it had changed – the council took them down in a day – you try and get the council to move that fast when you want something.
-I was accosted by 1 warden, a black man of African appearance and dialect, who said what I was doing was illegal (warning people not to park or they would get a ticket) . I know that he was wrong (he could see his ticket count going down) and I stood my ground and told him that what he was doing was morally wrong – he got his walkie talkie and (unbeliveably) within 2 minutes – another 2 coloured men also of African appearance and accent appeared around the corner. They thought that the 3 of them would send me packing – it was the other way around.
They hid behind a large white van waiting for people to park – and then pounced.
-I know what they are doing is legal but its not right – Firstly – they should have painted “Resident’s Parking” on the ground along the white line – the same as they do for disabled. Also they should have put up – for some time a highly visible sign saying change of use.
Subsequent to the above:
-I had only got an acknowledgement E-Mail from the council and nothing further – after 2 weeks.
-I called last Friday – but their phones were not working -I have called them this morning – and spoken to various people and ended up with (Mr XXXX) who is one of the parking team (I believe a senior person) We had a frank and good conversation – I highlighed the above and what was it we can do – he was good in explaining that all signage must conform to the Highways Act – but that we can have temorary signage warning people not to park (Prevention is better than the cure in this case) He will E-Mail the sign to another department (how many are there!) and they will put them up – its not an exact science – so he is saying Monday / Tuesday – And I have said I will call Wednesday if there is nothing – persistence is the key.
So – my stance is as follows
1/. We do not have adequate signage – people have parked here for decades and do not know this has been altered / changed
2/. Traffic Wardens are not warning people – they are hiding / lying in wait and then pouncing
3/. The people they are catching are not criminals or chancers they just are not aware – and I feel my fellow residents should not be treated this way.
I hope the council will respond and do something – I do find the attitude should be different when doing this – the ticket count alone should have been enough for the council to realise they are doing something wrong – but putting profit over service and your own morals is a poor way to serve the community – who at the end of the day – pay your wages.
I have not had a ticket myself – I was lucky enough to see the flyers – so far I have warned and moved on about 100 motorists who could have received tickets.
Surrey Gu16 7JX