Firstly my thanks to everybody who braved a very chilly Thursday evening to come to my public meeting in Liss last week. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting everyone that attended. There were lots of new (to me) faces, plus some old, and lots of strong opinions!
I know a public meeting in a village hall may seem to some a bit old school but for me they are a great feature of local democracy. It’s a very useful way for me to get a sense of the local issues that are really bothering people and where I might be able to help and represent.
I won’t try and cover all that we discussed in this week's column (more next week!) - but I will touch on some of the highlights.
With public meetings you never know quite where the conversation will go. This time the discussion began with a question about litter, specifically how might we deal with the litter gathering on our grass verges by our major roads and highways.
I agree it's a blight. I talked about some of the challenges of collecting litter along higher-speed roads - and the need for lane closures for safety. Inevitably, with a lane closure comes traffic delays, which is also not what we want. This certainly isn’t a reason not to get this essential work done, but it is a complicating factor.
As you may know, EHDC runs an annual Spring Clean litter campaign, as well as litter-picks organised by groups including the Alton Society and Petersfield Society. You can also report a significant litter problem on the EHDC portal. At the meeting I also spoke about how people on probation can do litter-picking (and bigger clear-up jobs).
The next subject was Hampshire County Council’s consultation on the provision of future services, specifically the future of community tips (Household Waste Recycling Centres), which I covered in my column last week. There are genuine concerns about fly tipping as well as amenity. I support our local councillors in their work to retain these important facilities.
A question that we kept coming back to in the meeting was how to increase the pipeline of future builders, carpenters and other trades given the need to build houses, and the need for more and more accessible and affordable housing. We do need more people going into construction and related trades to meet both our overall housing targets and our greener home targets that will help get us to net zero.
It is here where I hope we will see greater numbers of apprenticeships; a subject I keep returning to I know. As I said to the gentleman who asked the question, we also need to encourage more retired tradespeople who may be able to teach - which could be part-time - the next generation and pass on their knowledge.