Kingswood History – Second Millenium (Addendum)

Millennium History (Addendum) 2000 – 2009

Having been asked to update this by now getting on for ten year old effort I have read it through again and decided only to list a few developments; the rest stands. These items may well be considered “Social Comment” as opposed to actual history, but on the basis that the previous entries were mainly about people and their circumstances; rather than bricks and mortar in the shape of Roads, Way’s and Drives etc, it’s the best I can do. And of course if  the world survives a few more years they will become history.

A long battle, backed by the KRA was fought over the destruction of  hundreds of mature, trees in 1.7 acres of the woodland behind Fern Way to provide more burial spaces in North Watford Cemetery. The ground, belonging to the council, was apparently not subject to any conservancy or planning rulings and despite an investigation at the Town Hall by Her Majesty’s Inspector, the trees were chopped down. This resulted in the loss of habitat for some of the previously indigenous mammals. The bats disappeared and Badgers and Deer invaded local gardens with disastrous results for lawn and cultivated areas. The point was made that the same situation of  lack of burial space would inevitably crop up again in the reasonably near future and without action now, would result in even more trees and habitats being lost. H.M’s Inspector noted the fact and agreed that action should be taken sooner rather than later to prevent more losses; to the by now already meager woodlands in the area. Nothing has been reported as happening on this front to date. So it looks as thought the KRA may have another battle on their hands some time in the future.

Houses and their cost must be the most significant change noted. One extended property was offered at £319,000 during 2008! With an original new value of around £610 and even allowing for the extension, central heating and double glazing, the percentage increase is pretty impressive. On the subject of extensions, the latest idea is to build a complete new house on the end of an existing Semi-detached pair. How the other owner feels about being converted from owning a Semi to living in a terrace house; all without actually moving, can only be a matter of surmise.

A large section of one of our cul-de-sacs was under siege by developers to obtain planning permission for flats. Despite objections from the KRA and others it was always likely they would succeed as the Government has decreed that 3,000,000 more homes need to be provided to accommodate mass immigration and single parent families; the former resulting in an ever increasing population. The siege of  Bramble Close which lasted over five years resulted in a win for the developers following an appeal, after an original refusal. The Government Dept. overruled all objections. No great surprises there then!  By the look of things the original estimate of 3,000,000 additional homes was vastly lower than the now forecast increase in population will demand. Following a population increase of .4 million in 2009/10 the total is the highest ever in the UK standing currently at 61 million in 2010. And growing all the time.

Until last year a mortgage of a lot more than the salary of the buyer was not uncommon and subsequently a lot more houses are being repossessed when this figure turns out to be a figment of the imagination and the fact that with a lot more redundancy’s, one hundred plus percent of unemployment pay does not add up to a great deal.

This problem of course does not only effect Kingswood. The whole country; not to mention the prime movers, the  USA; who would appear to have been even more generous in their unrecoverable loans than the UK, are in the same boat. Banks have fallen on both sides of the Atlantic due to bad mortgage debts, and now the whole country has been allowed to share in their debt by virtue of a government bail out to save their ability to meet at least some of their liabilities. Is this yet another debt created with little fear of a pay back? The bank rate in mid 2009 is 0.5%, which helps a little with some repayments but does nothing for the people; mainly pensioners, who rely on a carefully conserved nest egg to bolster a very meager State pension. As of 2009 we are officially in a recession, named “Credit Crunch”; as this does not sound quite so bad!!

The very real threat and sometimes actual loss of jobs, plus the lack of available cash and a really awful foreign exchange rate has persuaded a lot of people to forego their holidays abroad in 2009. Early in the year the Met Office suggested a B.B.Q. summer which by the 10th August has yet to materialise; in fact we are all set for some more wetness records. (July was the wettest since 1914); even wetter in some cases than 2008; which was pretty damp! I read that the autumn bookings for the Costa del Sun are up 40%. This is about the time the sun will come out in the  UK and the hose pipe bans re-instated.

This year is not a good one financially for anyone on the estate or elsewhere in the country come to that! Your correspondent is not a born pessimist, but even he can see no way up in the immediate future.

Another significant change has been in the seemingly ever faster upward acceleration of the age profile of the estate residents. We are now seeing the second owners of properties reaching old age and the numbers of the remaining original ‘from new’ purchasers are now fairly low. This is sad, but inevitable. It have asked myself the question many times; what is the future of estates like ours? I have not come up with a plausible answer but it certainly can’t remain for very long in its current form. Demands will ensure that occupational density must increase. Again, not just in Kingswood.

One thing that the ageing residents profile means is that we have an influx of new people, and like the rest of the country are becoming multi cultural in our own little way. What this means in real terms is yet to be discovered. It is to be hoped that we will integrate, having broken down the reserve that some of the current residents seem to have to make the first move! The Residents Association has a significant role to play in this area with the call from their local Street Rep. possibly being the first real welcoming contact they make with the ‘locals’. The monthly Newsletter continues to be a vehicle for news and views whilst other similar publications in the vicinity have folded.

In addition to the rising purchase price of the properties, the cost of running them has increased by around 100% over the years since 2000. Gas and electricity contribute most to this rise with Council Tax doing its bit. The threat is for more increases in the Council tax, although this may be another of the General Election early thrusts.  What can’t be ignored is the £4bn deficit suffered by local councils due to the recession. (a.k.a. Credit Crunch).  Our local share of this problem will require some very special handling by our stewards and the results may well appear in later updates as significant events in the history of Kingswood.

Crime is not unheard of on the estate. Break-ins and distraction burglaries seemingly on the increase.  Of  late the favourite felony seems to be car theft from the drive or road after entering the premises to steal the keys, or fishing them of f the table though the letter box. Alcohol fueled vandalism, particularly in the late evening /early morning, is a continuing problem; which with the cinema complex achieving even later closing hours can only be expected to increase.

The KRA and others objected to Vue Cinemas plan for yet another extended late opening. After a 4 year battle, the Government Inspector set a trial period for objections from residents who considered they were affected, but no one seemed to suffer enough to bother to object; despite the pleas in the Newsletter, so new hours were granted automatically. This was a joint action taken by NORAG, who with the KRA have fought the project from its proposed inception. The Police, local councilors and Licensing Authorities also objected to the extension.

Neighborhood Watch was re-launched in the area in 2007 with some small success but a lot more effort is needed to really harness the latent power provided by the residents for their own good and protection. It would seem to the writer that a few officers are really committed to the concept, but with not a lot of backing or backup.

With help and advice from Neighborhood Watch and the local Community Police, an intense second campaign was carried out to get signatures for Stanborough to be registered as a “No Cold Calling Area”. Circa 750 households registered their need and support for such an arrangement; by far the most successful canvas made in the area on any subject. It was turned down by Trading Standards; who previously had seemed to approve the idea and had even asked for more names after the first survey. It would seem that the traders, or their Association, thought it unfair! Yet another cart and horse situation?

Subsequent to this refusal a meeting during July 2009 involving the KRA, the Police and Trading Standards and a representative of the Mayor of Watford, have come up with some counter proposals that will provide window stickers and lamp post signs. An offer by Kingswood to “Go it Alone” was put aside due to the ‘legal considerations and implications’. A subject I had best leave alone!!!!

It is your writers experience that older residents can; and have been taken in by scams initiated from the front door; being too polite to tell the callers No, and shut the door, for fear of being thought rude. In one case last year a nicety that cost one old lady just a few doors down the road £500.

A brighter spot in the safety and security of local residents is the combined efforts by the Police & Fire Services, Trading Standards and Watford Council under the title “Safer Watford Partnership”. This is providing one to one education via visits to every Stanborough household; (now designated a Partnership Protected Area), by the police who advise on general household security and can arrange for improvements for less than adequate locks etc; and the Fire service, who will again advise on such things as exit routes and test, or even supply and fit smoke alarms. A positive operation provided the resident takes notice! Stanborough Ward had been recommended as a pilot scheme due to its infrastructure.

We have also separately been offered advice on green travel, with information on bus & cycle routes together with timetables and maps. It has been suggested that bus passes may have to be cut back due to cost. Perhaps another election ploy. The local bus to the Supermarkets is seen as a necessity by some.

Joy of  joys! The local road surfaces are at last receiving a skim of something or other. The first attempt two years ago resulted in a load of spray paint markings that have in themselves deteriorated with the crumbling surfaces and an abortive effort to make repairs that resulted in a dangerous situation requiring intervention by the KRA amongst others. With threats of road closures later in August it would appear there is serious intent this time.

March of 2009 saw the end of a twelve year stint as Chairman of the Residents Association by Ken Emmons. As can be seen a lot of things have happened on the estate during that period and Ken has been involved in many of them. His contact with previous council colleagues has been invaluable and will make him a hard act to follow.

The new incumbent is a long time service ex policeman John Swain. I suspect this new enterprise will be quite an arresting one!

There is news of a much needed Neighborhood Watch overhaul in November 2009. Your correspondent will try to comment after the event!

Yet another pilot scheme has been awarded to Stanborough Ward. I hope all these pilots have a safe landing! Our Mayor Dorothy Thornhill, is reported as being a long standing supporter of the KRA, and tends towards the area as she knows things happen via the KRA. The detail of this latest initiative named “Safer Streets” is not to hand but your correspondent will give his opinion in due course.

I have no complaints regarding response from the various emergency authorities and am told that we maintain close contact with the Police and have a rapport that benefits both sides. It is to be hoped that this, together with the co-operation from the Town Hall is the way to go!

These are the latest thoughts of one of those ‘Second owners’. Long may we survive!!

Alan Orchard. September 2009

These are my interpretations of the facts as I see them and I am not the spokesman for the KRA or anyone else. Please do not publish this effort in part or as a whole without permission.

All correspondence should be sent via the “Contact Us” form.

Top   KRA Home   Contact Us