Sites Week – 30 Oct 16

About one fifth of the people are against everything all the time. Robert Kennedy

This week the Sites Consultation documentations was published on the TDC web-site. These will form the basis for a second stage of consultation. This second consultation will give residents an opportunity to comment on sites being assessed as part of the plan.

 

photo-16-10-2016-16-12-12Monday I suggested some tweaks to the TDC web-site so that residents in two clicks from the home page could find the sites consultation document. Each site contains two pages and the appendices at the back include overview maps for wards and the district.

Tuesday evening Resources committee was always going to be tricky. We are running along three different but parallel railways tracks and debate was always going to jump across from one to another.

  1. The medium term financial plan shows the need to find £1m of savings each year for the next three years. Five years ago government grant accounted for about 40% of our income with 60% coming from council tax. This has progressively changed so that in three years the split will be 10% government and 90% from council tax. Reassuringly KPMG, Tandridge District Council’s Auditors, last month stated “We have concluded that the Authority has made proper arrangements to ensure it took properly informed decisions and deployed resources to achieve planned and sustainable outcomes for taxpayers and local people and is well positioned to meet the tough financial environment expected in the medium term.”
  2. As part of the Local Plan process we need to review the sites which the Council owns. The Inspector when he reviews the Local Plan will expect us to have done this work. Officers reviewed 128 Council owned sites for development potential, put 12 forward in the Resources report and after considering evidence from Local ward members we removed two and made three others conditional so we now have 10 sites in the consultation.
  3. Statements were made we were selling off Green Belt for financial reasons. Exceptional circumstances is the only basis for changing the Green Belt boundaries and raising money is not one of them.  Therefore, this cannot, by definition, be the Council’s financial strategy. The Green Belt assessment has been carried out and apart from isolated sites such as Clacket Lane, Hobbs and Lambs Business Parks, the vast majority of our Green Belt meets at least one of the five purposes of the Green Belt which gives added protection and is good evidence to lay before an inspector.

We want to conserve the Green Belt and character of our area and not build houses on unsuitable sites. However the Local Plan process makes it clear that it has to be positively prepared on a strategy which seeks to meet objectively assessed development and infrastructure requirements.

Thursday I made a concerted effort to get my Facebook page and Blog ready to go live as I want to achieve this at the weekend. A friend gave me some much needed support and we managed to make the text wrap around the pictures. Still have not cracked how to stop my Facebook page grabbing a picture of Big Ben from the Blog and turning it on its side. It is surprising how much time can be spent trying to sort these type of problems.

On Friday I read that Guildford has put its Local Plan process back a year. They were about nine months ahead of us as they hoped to get their plan agreed this year ready for Inspection in 2017. I had met with Paul Spooner their leader in August and had discussed their strategy of pursing a number of new settlements linked to some big infrastructure improvements. I knew he was having trouble getting agreement to the A3, trunk road, upgraded as part of his infrastructure need. I was surprised to learn that Guildford Green Belt was 89% almost as high as ours at 94%. Guildford’s Objectively Assessed housing Need (OAN) is 13,860 compared to TDC 9,400.

I took to Paul who clearly had an excellent grasp of his Local Plan. He was quite open with his criticism of the whole bureaucratic, lengthy, contradictory process as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework 2012. (NPPF). It was Localism, until you went in front of a Government Inspector, and we are all only too aware of the Waverly experiences.

In March 2013 Waverly presented their Local Plan to the Inspector. It was rejected on the first day as not having a realistic OAN, not proper consultation and no Green Belt assessment! The result was loss of control over development and this district at the west end of Surrey experienced an open-season for unwanted development. They have now done a Green Belt assessment and have an OAN of 10,380 and await their next inspectors visit.

Paul described the whole process as “a shocking waste of public money” I asked him if I could quote him on this and his immediate response was Yes – so I have!

 

Tandridge District Council – Press Release 23 Oct 16

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Tandridge District Council Press Release 23.10.16

Local Plan second consultation papers released for committee

All the documents for the next stage of the Local Plan are now publically available. These will form the basis for a second stage of consultation once agreed by the Planning Policy Committee on 31 October.

This second consultation will give residents an opportunity to comment on sites being assessed as part of the plan. The Sites Consultation will last for eight weeks, starting on Friday 4 November and finishing on Friday 30 December.

Each site has been through a landscape, ecology and other assessments to look at whether it could be developed or not.

As a result sites have been identified which:

  • Could be realistically developed.
  • Cannot be recommended for development
  • Need more investigation before a decision can be made either way.

The Sites Consultation will include evidence which can be used to protect the Green Belt in the long term. It will:

  • Not allocate any land for development.
  • Not change the boundary of the Green Belt.

Drop in sessions

As part of the consultation drop in sessions will be held where planning staff will be available to talk about the consultation.

 

Tuesday 15 November South Godstone Sports and Community Association, Lagham Road, South Godstone RH9 8HN 2pm-7.30pm
Wednesday 16 November St John’s Church Hall, Eastbourne Road, Blindley Heath RH7 6JR 2pm -7.30pm
Thursday 17 November Lingfield & Dormansland Community Centre, High Street, Lingfield RH7 6AB 2pm -7.30pm
Monday 21 November Council Offices, Station Road East, Oxted RH8 0BT 2pm -7.30pm
Tuesday 22 November Soper Hall, Harestone Valley Road, Caterham CR3 6HY 2pm-7.30pm
Wednesday 23 November Centenary Hall (Outwood Room), Wheelers Lane, Smallfield RH6 9PT 2pm -7.30pm
Tuesday 29 November Warlingham Church Hall, 339 Limpsfield Road, Warlingham CR6 9HA 2pm -7.30pm
Wednesday 30 November Bletchingley Community Centre, 78 & 78A High Street RH 4PA 2pm -7.30pm

 

The Sites Consultation documents can be viewed on our website www.tandridge.gov.uk/localplan. Anyone can make comments by:

Piers Mason, Chief Planning Officer, said: “We are releasing a lot of documents, which relate to the Sites Consultation and the preparation of the Local Plan. We have taken all the sites that were part of the first stage consultation and assessed them against a range of evidence to decide on their suitability for development or not.

“Drawing up a local plan is a long and complex process set out by the government. We are working hard to provide the evidence we need to convince the Inspector the amount of housing which can be built is realistic, but unlikely to meet the population needs.

“We want you to feel you have been able to shape and influence the place you live, work or visit, so please take this opportunity to tell us what you think. The findings of this consultation will be taken into account when the next consultation is carried out in the autumn/winter of 2017.”

Notes to editors:

    1. The Local Plan is how we manage the future development of our district. It will set out where homes, jobs, community facilities, shops and infrastructures can be delivered and identify the areas that need to be protected.
    2. Tandridge District is 94% Green Belt.
    3. The Local Plan: Issues and Approaches Regulation 18 consultation took place from 18 December 2015 to 26 February 2016. Over 5,200 comments were received from more than 3,100 individuals.
    4. Timetable for the Local Plan: The timetable for the preparation of the Local Plan is given below:
      • Agenda and documents published for Planning Policy Committee: 24 October 2016.
      • Planning Policy Committee to agree next stage of consultation: 31 October 2016.
      • Sites Consultation (Regulation 18): 4 November to 30 December 2016 (more details will be released in the next few weeks).
      • Consultation on the Local Plan Preferred Strategy (Regulation 19): Autumn/Winter 2017.
      • Submission of Local Plan to the Planning Inspectorate (Regulation 22): Spring 2018.
      • Public Examination by the Planning Inspectorate (Regulation 24): Summer/Autumn 2018.
      • Adoption of a Local Plan (Regulation 26): Spring 2019.

Tandridge District Council – Press Release 26 Oct 16

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Tandridge District Council Press Release 23.10.16

Resources Committee discusses Council’s assets

Last night the Council’s Resources Committee, on behalf of the Council in its capacity as landowner, considered which council owned assets should be included in the Local Plan process for consideration as part of the Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (HELAA).

To meet the Council’s key objectives of providing much needed affordable housing for local people, regenerating its towns and villages and supporting its long term financial strategy the Resources Committee considered which council owned sites could be put forward for possible redevelopment.

A small number of sites considered by the Committee have the potential to support the redevelopment and regeneration of our town centres, as well as make a significant contribution to the Council’s income. The inclusion in the local plan process does not mean that the sites included will be developed. The Council will consult widely regarding any proposals before a final decision is made.

The sites will be included in the Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (HELAA) which forms part of the Local Plan. Some work has already been carried out to consider the development potential of the following sites:

  • The Council’s depot at Warren Lane, which needs modernisation.
  • Godstone Road Car Park in Whyteleafe, already been identified for new council homes.
  • Ellice Road, Oxted car park, but this will need to be considered as part of a district wide parking review that is taking place and in light of other proposals to improve Oxted Town Centre.
  • Boulthurst Way, Hurst Green.
  • Barnfield Way, Hurst Green, also identified for new council homes.

Councillors only agreed to include the Boulthurst Way (Hurst Green) Open Space in the HEELA consultation on the condition that any future proposals would take place on only part of the land and include retention of both the playground and a significant amount of open space. It was also agreed not to include the area known locally as the Bellway Strip (Caterham-on-the-Hill), or Tillingdown Copse, Caterham in the consultation.

No sites have been included which are designated as a King George V or Queen Elizabeth II field. These are protected from development.

Louise Round, Chief Executive, said: “The Committee’s decision to include land in the Local Plan consultation does not represent a decision to build on any particular site. Whatever decisions are made about our assets we will work hard to ensure any development brings additional benefits to the community, including more affordable housing for local people. We appreciate residents feel strongly about some of the sites.

“When we do have more detail about the future of our sites, we will consult widely before making any decision. As part of the Local Plan process and to reduce the pressure to build on Green Belt, we need to consider whether any Council land should be made available to for new housing. In addition, reduced government funding means we need to review our services and how they are currently delivered, as well as be innovative in finding new ways to reduce costs and generate income. Our overall aim is to continue providing services to a high standard and to always be available to support our more vulnerable residents.

Note to editors:

  1. Following their work on the Council’s budgets, in September 2016 the Council’s auditors, KPMG, made the following statement: “We have concluded that the Authority has made proper arrangements to ensure it took properly informed decisions and deployed resources to achieve planned and sustainable outcomes for taxpayers and local people and is well positioned to meet the tough financial environment expected in the medium term.”

 

 

A busy week – 23 Oct 16

At the Palace of Westminster this week and met briefly with Kevin Barwell Minister for Housing & Planning and Sam Gyimah our MP to discus the Local Plan. Sam later gave us a back stage tour of the Houses of Parliament, the Queens Room, the Commons, Members Lobby and Speakers Chamber. There are some magnificent statues and paintings, but also buckets placed to catch leaks! No wonder £3b needs spending on restoration works. This picture taken from the  Courtyard is the right way up in the blog but rotates on the Facebook page!

Last Monday I went to the Caterham Ward briefing on the next Local Plan: Sites Consultation. I have already been to my own ward briefing. All of these are advanced briefings for local councillors on the current progress on the Local Plan and in particular how the Green Belt site assessments have collected detailed evidence within our various wards. It is hoped these briefings will help councillors when they are asked questions about the Local Plan by residents.
All the documents and supporting evidence have now been released ready for the Planning Policy Committee on 31 October.

On Tuesday I met Nick Skellett to talk about how Surrey County Council and Tandridge could work better together. The direction of travel is towards more joint working and we agreed we would refresh the Local Committee, with a view to bringing a joint committee approach to Resources next year. Six district councillors and six county councillors meet to discuss and decide issues which relate to both councils.
In the evening I attended a finance meeting, which felt a bit odd as I was not chairing it! Simon Ainsworth who was previously my vice chairman is now in this pivotal role and has many strengths suited to the position. He formally worked for the Bank of England and recently moved into a senior role in the private sector. As with many councillors, he has to balance his role as a councillor with the demands of his professional career and raising a young family.
The presentations indicated the financial challenges to generate £1m in savings each year over the next three years due to government grant cuts.
We have a financial strategy to meet these challenges which revolves around changing the way we work, streamlining our processes and generating more income, while ensuring we continue to provide the quality of services our residents expect and protect the most vulnerable in our community.
photo-19-10-2016-21-10-47I was at the Palace of Westminster on Wednesday. Peter Bond, Keith Jecks and I, met Sam Gyimah our MP to discuss the Local Plan. We also met briefly with Gavin Barwell, Minister for Housing & Planning, who managed to fit us in between two ministerial meetings and a commons division! He certainly was well briefed on Tandridge and we spoke with some candour on current issues.
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We were lucky to be given a back stage tour of the Houses of Parliament, the Queens Room, the Commons, Members Lobby and Speakers Chamber. There are some magnificent statues and paintings, but also buckets placed to catch leaks! No wonder £3b needs spending on restoration works.
caterham-bid

It was off to Caterham on Thursday for the opening of the BID (Business Improvement District) vote. Over 90% of the business community who voted elected to form a BID for Caterham. Caterham businesses will now pay an additional amount, alongside their business rates, which creates a fund to be used to provide enhancements to the town centres. Congratulations to business leader Andrew Browne, BID manager Sue McGeown and one of our officers Belinda Purcell. This follows on from the successful BID process in Oxted last year, which has already seen some great initiatives as a result.

We gave a press briefing on the Local Plan: Sites Consultation on Friday to Kevin Black from County Border News and Julia Church from the Caterham Independent. They received the first part of the briefing given to ward members and we had a good hour of questions and answers. It was a really good exchange of views.
I left the hard working Planning Policy team working late finishing off the final pieces of the paperwork needed for the consultation, as I went up to Caterham for a local ward meeting to select our district candidate. Councillor Beverley Connolly is our very passionate Branch Chairman and we have selected local businessman, Paul Shipway, to be our candidate. He has a lot of local knowledge and his wife is on the Parish Council.
We heard from Sally Marks, the current Chairman of Surrey County Council, who is standing down next May as a Councillor, after many years of service to her local community. She will be replaced by Michael Cooper who has been doing good work chairing the Caterham Town centre group looking at revitalising the town centre.
And so back to the next stage of the Local Plan, which has just begun. We hope the Planning Policy meeting of 31 October will give the go-ahead to an 8 week long Sites Consultation. Each site has been through a landscape, ecology and other assessments to look at whether it could be developed or not. As a result sites have been identified which:
• Could be realistically developed.
• Cannot be recommended for development
• Need more investigation before a decision can be made either way.

The Sites Consultation will include evidence which can be used to protect the Green Belt in the long term. It will:

• Not allocate any land for development.
• Not change the boundary of the Green Belt.
To be kept up to date with the Local Plan preparations and consultation people can:

• Register on the consultation portal http://consult.tandridge.gov.uk/portal.
• Send their e-mail address to localplan@tandridge.gov.uk.
• Call 01883 722000 or write to Planning Policy, Council Offices, 8 Station Road East, Oxted RH8 0BT.

Martin Fisher – Press Release 23 Oct 16

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The interpretation given by OLRG concerning the documents being issued on the Local Plan is frankly misleading. Conservatives want to conserve the Green Belt and character of our area and not build houses on unsuitable sites.

I do agree with one comment made by OLRG that exceptional circumstances are the only basis for changing the Green Belt boundaries and raising money is not one of them. So that cannot, by definition, be the Council’s financial strategy.

The Local Plan is about gaining evidence to present to an Inspector. We are launching a sites consultation which is an opportunity for residents to comment on individual sites submitted to the Council for consideration.

One piece of work already completed is the Green Belt assessment. This has been carried out on the Green Belt in Tandridge and apart from isolated sites such as Clacket Lane, Hobbs and Lambs Business Parks, the vast majority of our Green Belt meets at least one of the five purposes of the Green Belt.

This gives added protection and is good evidence to lay before an inspector. On an individual sites basis this is demonstrated by a red ring around the site not the infill colour which relates to landscape and ecology.

Each site has now been through an initial landscape and ecology assessment, but we would particularly welcome measured comment or evidence on those sites which “need more investigation before a decision can be made either way”.

The Sites Consultation is underpinned by evidence which can be used to protect the Green Belt in the long term.

This consultation does not make any decisions about if and where land could be allocated for development and does not make decisions that alter the boundary of the Green Belt.

Work on our badly needed infrastructure requirement will commence once the sites assessment has been completed which is a logical approach.

Our Local Plan must be good enough to manage development up to 2033 and help us balance the urgent need for affordable housing, against preserving the character of the area and the Green Belt, which we know is so highly valued by the community.

It must reflect the needs and priorities of the local community and support an environment where people want to live, work and visit.

A week in review – 16 Oct 16

To lose one councillor may be considered a misfortune, to lose two looks like carelessness to plagiarise a quote from that great character of Oscar Wilde – Lady Bracknell.

We want to protect the Green Belt. We are concentrating our energies on providing the evidence we need to convince the Inspector the amount of housing which can be built is unlikely to meet the population needs, because it has to be appropriate for the district and supported by evidence.

Last Monday I prepared the annual accounts for the Oxted Community Hall, it’s great to see community bookings still going well. I just wish Crossroads was able to find a community organisation to occupy their part of the building. They moved out nearly a year ago to combine their operations in West Surrey.

I met Louise, our Chief Executive on Tuesday morning and we discussed our current financial position and our strategy to meet the challenges ahead. In addition we talked about the progress on the Caterham BID and the town centre improvement plans. I am very grateful Louise was able to meet me at 8am, so I have a fighting chance of getting into work before mid-morning!

On Wednesday I met the Leader of Woking with our respective Chief Executives. As usual in my meetings with other district leaders we compared notes on the Local Plan. Woking is a similar size to Tandridge and has an Objectively Assessed Need (OAN) figure of 10,098 compared to our 9,400.

The OAN is just a forecast of the number of people who might be living here in 20 years’ time. This needs assessment is something all councils are required to have by the government. But that forecast of need is absolutely not the same as the number of houses we are saying we will build.

However I did find Woking’s asset strategy interesting, as they are building social and affordable houses to rent on their own sites.

On Wednesday evening I was invited to Caterham Valley Parish Council to discuss current issues including the Local Plan, fly tipping, recycling, council house building and the well-being agenda.

In addition, we talked about my particular concerns about youth depression, as we have had three local suicides and a murder in the last two years in Oxted alone.

Thursday was the Limpsfield by-election. Sadly we lost our safest seat, only a week after losing Councillor Clive Manley, who has decided to leave the conservative group. To lose one councillor may be considered a misfortune, to lose two looks like carelessness to plagiarise a quote from that great character of Oscar Wilde – Lady Bracknell.

What made it particularly hard was that we had an excellent local candidate in Neil O’Brien, who could have brought some fresh thinking and energy to the team. But we hope he will be able to represent us at another election.

There is no doubt voters are rejecting us because, despite our track record of conserving the Green Belt and special character of our area, they believe we will build all over the Green Belt.

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This is absolutely not true. We want to protect the Green Belt. We are concentrating our energies on providing the evidence we need to convince the Inspector the amount of housing which can be built is unlikely to meet the population needs, because it has to be appropriate for the district and supported by evidence.
I and the team will just have to continue to demonstrate that we will achieve a robust local plan, which gives us control over future development and protects the character, openness of our area and the Green Belt, which is what makes the Tandridge district so special.

What we all need to consider is that we have to have some house building to meet the current and future needs of residents and their families. Otherwise the district will not be sustainable in the future. Not everyone who lives here now, was born here. We need new residents to replace those who move on to keep our economy vibrant. The Local Plan will help us in this by allowing us to control where and how much is built.

On Friday Jackie Wren and I, as ward councillors for Oxted North, received an advanced briefing on the current progress on the Local Plan and in particular how the Green Belt site assessments had collected detailed evidence within our ward. All the documents and supporting evidence will be released on Monday 24 October 2016.

Tandridge District Council – Press Release 14 Oct 16

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Tandridge District Council Press Release 14.10.16

Local Plan second consultation and key dates

The next stage of the Local Plan is about to get underway, with a second consultation which gives you an opportunity to comment on sites being considered as part of the plan.

The Sites Consultation will last for eight weeks, starting on Friday 4 November and finishing on Friday 30 December. Each site has been through a landscape, ecology and other assessments to look at whether it could be developed or not.

As a result sites have been identified which:

Could be realistically developed.

  • Cannot be recommended for development
  • Need more investigation before a decision can be made either way.

The Sites Consultation will include evidence which can be used to protect the Green Belt in the long term. It will:

Not allocate any land for development.

  • Not change the boundary of the Green Belt.

Timetable for the Local Plan

The timetable for the preparation of the Local Plan is given below:

 Agenda and documents published for Planning Policy Committee: 24 October 2016.

  • Planning Policy Committee to agree next stage of consultation: 31 October 2016.
  • Sites Consultation (Regulation 18): 4 November to 30 December 2016 (more details will be released in the next few weeks).
  • Consultation on the Local Plan Preferred Strategy (Regulation 19): Autumn/Winter 2017.
  • Submission of Local Plan to the Planning Inspectorate (Regulation 22): Spring 2018.
  • Public Examination by the Planning Inspectorate (Regulation 24): Summer/Autumn 2018.
  • Adoption of a Local Plan (Regulation 26): Spring 2019.

To be kept up to date with the Local Plan preparations and consultation people can:

Register on the consultation portal http://consult.tandridge.gov.uk/portal.

  • Send their e-mail address to localplan@tandridge.gov.uk.
  • Call 01883 722000 or write to Planning Policy, Council Offices, 8 Station Road East, Oxted RH8 0BT.

Councillor Peter Bond, Chairman of the Planning Policy Committee, said: “We know residents are concerned about the Green Belt. So is Tandridge District Council. People are also concerned about how much more development can take place without better and new infrastructure. No decisions have been made about the number of homes that can be built. What we’ve had to do is forecast how many people might be living here in 20 years and understand how many houses would be needed for them. This is not the same as the number of houses that will be built.

“Allegations that we just want to concrete over the Green Belt are just not true. It is the last thing we would choose to do. We want to protect the Green Belt. We are concentrating our energies on providing the evidence we need to convince the Inspector the amount of housing which can be built is unlikely to meet the population needs, because it has to be appropriate for the district and supported by evidence. We have to be realistic about providing homes for future generations and ensuring the economic vitality of the district. We desperately need more affordable housing and better infrastructure. As part of this plan, by working with infrastructure providers, we will aim to resolve, as far as is possible, the issues around school places, access to doctors, affordable housing and congestion.”

A week is a long time in politics – 9 Oct 16

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Said Harold Wilson and he was certainly right.

Monday started with a heated debate on social media about the Oxted Cinema and its Baby Club. Evidentially the Council was stopping the Baby Club watching Bridget Jones’ Baby.

All that had really happened was a licensing officer had talked to the cinema about whether it was appropriate to show that rating of film (15) to an audience that might include small children.

I have now asked for a policy to be agreed by the Licensing Sub-Committee to avoid this sort of situation in the future. No doubt we will debate when babies become toddlers and if there is any wriggle room within the law to support this great initiative and continue to show the type of film parents want to see.

Our aim as a council is to support local businesses, like the Oxted cinema, which is a great asset to our local community and a personal favourite of my family and I.

Louise, our Chief Executive, even took to BBC Surrey radio to explain the position. I popped in to the offices on Tuesday morning before work to find out how the interview went and discuss the issue with Louise.

Just as I thought Wednesday was coming to a close, I found out one of our members has left the Conservative group to become an Independent. I knew he had not been happy for some time, but I was really disappointed to find out from a local journalist and not from him personally.

One of the issues he is not happy about is the Local Plan and how he perceives the Council is handling this. What I would like to say is no decisions have been made about how many homes should be built and we are consulting widely before a final plan is drawn up, so please make sure you take part and have your say. Don’t forget our area is 94% Green Belt with creaking infrastructure and both of these will have to be taken into account before any final decisions are made.
customer-service-week
On Thursday I was back at the offices to spend time with Customers Services team. First I sat at the front desk with Jacob and Lauren, as they helped visitors coming into reception with a wide variety of enquiries. I then listened in on some phone calls answered by Tom. I came away impressed with their diverse knowledge of Tandridge and their excellent communication skills. Well done – they are a credit to the Council.

On Friday I decided I really needed to get better at using social media and spent a lot of time setting up accounts, including this one.

So please bear with me over the next few weeks, while I get to grips with Facebook and other sites. I am looking forward to talking to more of you online and having some meaningful discussions.