The A30 – anyone for a stroll?

Today’s photo is taken from this week’s local newspaper.  The paper reproduced a recent news release by the borough council announcing that four organisations had shown an interest in developing the London Road Block.

Back in May, we submitted a question to the council for one of its Facebook live broadcasts.  We asked whether the council really intended that it would become possible to stroll across the A30, as today’s illustration shows.  The Deputy Leader said that it was an old vision (presumably one that was now obsolete?), and the council Chief Executive said that the illustration was mainly to show the incorporation of the current A30 service road into a wide pavement, though it was hoped to calm the traffic along that stretch of road.  However, we find this ‘old’ illustration to be barely credible.

(The illustration also shows what we think is meant to be the entrance to the RMA, though to be accurate this should be shown in the far distance.  We’re not much fussed by this;  it’s an artist’s impression, not a photo.  But we’re less happy with the council’s often-repeated statement that the London Road Block is opposite the RMA.  That’s just plain wrong.  Does the council realise this?  And won’t potential developers find out the truth and wonder what other porkie pies the council might be telling?)

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It’s not long ago that the library was closed for months for renovation

Wasn’t it just eighteen months or so ago that the library was closed for some serious work on the building?  In which case, it’s a bit surprising to see scaffolding re-appearing a little while ago.  We wonder why.

Can graffiti ever be justified?

This message has been sprayed onto the pavement in various parts of the town centre.  Does it promote the cause it advertises, or does it do it a disservice?

If you want to know more about the campaign, it’s to promote ‘petrol’ which contains 10% ethanol.  As the ethanol is produced from renewable sources, overall its use (probably) produces less greenhouse gas than the petrol which it replaces.  You can find what the AA says about this HERE

(A quick internet search suggests that the effects on engine emissions overall are rather complicated.  It is difficult to separate subjective enthusiasm from impartial real measurements.  But one recent – apparently sound – report states “We measured the effect of using ethanol-gasoline blends on the power and torque generated, the fuel consumption and CO2, CO, NOx and unburned hydrocarbon emissions, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, benzene and 1,3-butadiene which are considered important ozone precursors. The obtained results showed statistically no significant differences in these variables when vehicles operate with a blend of 20% v/v ethanol and 80% v/v gasoline (E20) instead of gasoline.” However, E10 does fairly conclusively reduce particulate emissions: “The results in this work show that the addition of ethanol results in a consistent decrease in engine-out particulate proportional to ethanol content.”  So, on balance, the Eye would opt for E10!)

Parking will probably cost more….

In a couple of days’ time, the council’s Executive Committee will debate whether to raise the cost of parking in town.  These are the figures (Facebook readers may have to click on this post to read the full text in WordPress.)

The reality is that these charges aren’t particularly high.  Here is a photo of the tariff in Basingstoke’s Festival Place just a few weeks ago.

And here’s a parking ticket that we acquired in Shrewsbury earlier this month – £3.60 for two hours!

But parking charges are a highly emotive subject.  We expect lots of argument – and a loss of shoppers – if the increase in Camberley prices is approvedl

How many police officers came to Camberley ?

The social media are displaying lots of photographs of the aircraft and helicopters that provided security for President Trump’s visit to the RMA yesterday.  Getting rather less exposure is the substantial police presence along the A30.  They came from far and wide – this officer and her colleague told us that they had come from Cardiff for the day.How much did it all cost?

(Talking about cost, we were going to publish a post today about the council’s plans to raise parking charges in Camberley.  But a visit of the US president – whatever you think about him – is too important to ignore entirely.)

A couple of thoughts about skips!

A skip has been in the road outside The Entertainer in the High Street for a couple of days.  What first drew our attention to it was a borough council notice saying that parking had been suspended.  We don’t recall seeing such a notice before, though we’ve certainly seen skips ‘kerbside’ in that road before now.  Is this a new idea, or have we just been unobservant up ’till now?

Given our nerdish tendency, you might not be entirely surprised to learn that we tend to peer into skips……  This time is no exception.  What struck us was that the skip’s contents included electric heaters – which presumably must be recycled under the EU WEEE Directive

But the skip also contained plasterboard.  Plasterboard is non hazardous, but there are controls on its disposal.  If it ends up in landfill with biodegradable waste, it creates a stink – literally.  So special recycling measures are needed, which is why the county council charges £12 per sheet to dispose of the stuff at the council ‘tip’.

Which raises the obvious questions – how are the contents of the skip separated at its destination?  And wouldn’t it be better to segregate the waste at the outset?

Hoxon Bar and Kitchen appears to be for sale

Georgina has alerted us to a very recent ‘for sale’ advertisement on Facebook:

Following this up, we’ve discovered the following text:

“The business is offered for sale as a lease assignment with approximately 10 years remaining of this private ‘free of tie’ full repairing and insuring agreement. We are informed that the rent is currently £40,000 per annum with the next rent review due in 2023. There is a service charge of £9,360 per annum. We are advised that the restaurant benefits from all mains services with mains gas supplying the gas central heating (no services seen or tested). Business rates are advised as currently being approx. £23,000 payable per annum.

“The current owners have owned the business since 2003 and following a complete refurbishment in June 2017, the business has been rebranded as a stylish Bar & Restaurant. New owner operators will benefit from excellent fixtures and fittings and a growing business since the refurb. This offers an ideal opportunity for enthusiastic owner operators to acquire a unique high street property in an excellent location. We are advised that the turnover for y/e 06/18 is circa £400,000 (inc vat) with a trade split of 50% wet and 50% food trade”

Frankly, council, you’ve produced an abomination

The borough council recently posted an item on Facebook urging readers to respond to its Local Plan consultation.  The council said that it had received only twenty nine responses so far.  But the result was a small barrage of criticism.  We added our own thoughts, which we did so wearily, as we’ve made the same comments before.

The consultation is unnecessarily long and off-putting.  It has over 140 pages and it includes lots of references to other documents.  We suspect that it’s actually the full Local Plan in draft, rather than a focused resident-friendly consultation.  But what we’re concentrating on today is just one aspect;  is the document easy to read?  In our view, it categorically isn’t, but don’t just take our word for it.

In discussing previous council documents, we’ve mentioned the Flesch Reading Ease Test and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Levels.  These are well-established ways of finding out how easy a section of text is to read.  They’re so well-established that they’re part of Microsoft Word’s functionality.

A document’s Introduction is key in helping the reader to decide whether to read on, or to quit. So we took the second paragraph of the Introduction in the draft Local Plan and we asked Word what it made of it.   The paragraph is:

“The Surrey Heath Local Plan, once adopted, will replace the Council’s current adopted Local Plan which is the Core Strategy and Development Management Policies document, including saved policies from the 2000 Local Plan and the Camberley Town Centre Area Action Plan.”

This is what Word told us:

Look at the last two measures.  The Flesch Reading Ease score is 8.4.  Dig into the internet and you’ll find tables such as:

Flesch Reading Ease Score in English

  • 100 = The text is very easy to read and understand.
  • 65 = The text is relatively easy to understand.
  • 30 = The text is difficult to understand.
  • 0 = The text is very difficult to understand.

Conclusion:  The council’s introductory text is close to being ‘very difficult to understand’.  To put this in context, the following are said to be typical reading ease scores:

  • BBC Primary schools website (73);
  • Daily Star (66)
  • The Sun (60);
  • Guardian/Daily Mail (58.5)
  • Daily Telegraph (54.6)
  • Nature (34.6)

It appears that the council’s consultation is far more difficult to read than Nature, the learned scientific journal.

The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level is slightly harder to interpret, as it uses US school grades as its reference.  But, very approximately, it indicates the number of years of education needed in order to understand a piece of text.  A typical quote from the internet is “Text intended for readership by the general public should aim for a grade level of around 8.”  However, our sample of text is grade 22 – residents need something like ’22 years’ of education to understand the council’s Introduction.  Clearly, something is terribly wrong.

(Before we’re accused of ‘cherry-picking’, we’ll accept that our sample paragraph is worse than quite a lot of the document.  But the paragraph IS in the Introduction, so it’s particularly influential, and there’s more than enough other badly-written text to put readers off.)

There are two villains in this piece.  Firstly, the council – paid officers – for writing such an unsuitable document.  Secondly, and particularly, the council’s Executive Committee – elected representatives who ought to be able to identify with less-able residents – for approving the document for release.  The challenge is for them both to accept that a mistake has been made, and to withdraw the consultation in its current form.  If their leadership cannot achieve this, then new leaders are required.