Quote of the week

Life isn't about finding yourself, it is about creating yourself'

George Bernard Shaw
If you cannot mould yourself entirely as you would wish, how can you expect other people to be entirely to your liking?
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/wish.html

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A change of tone

I have now received a communication from Babergh that my nomination paper is acceptable. I have to say that it was quite nerve-racking filling it all in correctly so as to comply with the rules.

It was nice to have the excuse to visit the ten people in the Ward who have been kind enough to sign the paper for me. Thank you all very much!

Since the battle is now imminent, despite the old adage that blue and green should never be seen, I have decided to change the colours on my blog to reflect those of the new Conservative logo.

I am also obliged by electoral law to display the name and address of my agent, Peter Burgoyne, for the duration of the campaign and you can see this addition to the right.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Infrastructure worries

I don’t think that I am the only person to have noticed that the traffic situation in Sudbury has got a lot worse in the last few years. Last week I sat for a long time trying to get into town, and it is often a problem leaving the Station car park. Just parking is difficult,at times, and the flow of juggernauts seems to be increasing. This is before much of the development planned in the area begins. There must be a concern that the infrastructure currently in place is simply insufficient to cope with future demand.

This is not a problem that is restricted to Babergh, as is evidenced by the picture above from Shropshire. The Royal Town Planning Institute (whose website is well worth a look for those interested in these things) considers that the United Kingdom as a whole has a ‘sustainable infrastructure gap’ which will in the short term lead to unacceptable congestion and inconvenience, and ultimately impede further economic growth.

But what are the local issues?

Support for the western by-pass for Sudbury is clearly stated in ‘Positive Action for Babergh’ the Conservatives’ Manifesto for the May election. The by-pass, if built, will greatly relieve the mediaeval centre of Sudbury. It is, however, unlikely to do much for outlying areas where traffic growth may in fact be encouraged by this improvement of road links in the area, creating new and damaging bottlenecks.

Power and water is also a concern. A recent article in the Times, ‘No power means no residents’, described how housing and regeneration projects are being jeopardised because of the failure of utility companies to keep up with demand. In the light of the proposed 90 or so houses at the Piggeries site, an activist in Great Waldingfield has been investigating the question of water supply and sewage in the area. Speaking to Anglian Water she has discovered real issues particularly in the area of sewage. The plant in Great Waldingfield which also serves Acton, Little Waldingfield and Newton, is already running to capacity. (If it hadn’t been for the U.S. forces in World War Two incidentally, it wouldn’t be there at all.)

Although measured development is healthy and essential, pressure from Central Government, adopting a ‘one size fits all’ and ‘plan and predict’ approach, seems to be resulting in a degree of development that many believe is running well ahead of the ability of the area to sustain it. At present I simply do not know to what extent Babergh District Council can resist further demands from the centre for more and more building, but I do know that if the area’s unique qualities are to be maintained an element of resistance is necessary!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Brief thoughts on the Budget, and a Russian Connection

I am absolutely astonished by Gordon Brown’s Budget. The Chancellor may or may not be like Stalin (pictured right in a fine poster from the 1930’s), although like the Great Leader he is likely shortly to be the only candidate in a leadership election!

Looking at the fine print now that the dust has settled it seems that Brown’s latest Budget has penalised the poorest taxpayers.

My work at Citizens Advice has taught me that the flawed Tax Credit system will not compensate many of those who will now be worse off. The take up rate of Tax Credits is a long way short of 100%, in part due to their complexity. In addition the rules are such that many, such as people under 25 without children, do not qualify.

Charities will also lose out since Gift Aid will now be worth less to them. This is also worrying at a time when the Olympics threaten to divert funds from many other causes.

In the late 1920’s Stalin triumphantly told a mass meeting ‘Life has become better! Life has become gayer!’ and it seems that he believed his own rhetoric despite a good deal of evidence to the contrary. The tone Gordon Brown’s triumphant announcement of 2 pence off income tax on Wednesday, which certainly fooled the Editor of the Sun, was equally deceptive.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Think Green? Vote Blue (and see red?)

We went to Edwardstone at lunchtime yesterday to see the official 'turning-on' of the wind turbine at the White Horse Pub. The turbine generates enough electricity for two houses, and will be part of a scheme aimed at running the business without any dependence on fossil fuels. The turbine is pictured right, with Carey Fraulo (prospective Conservative Candidate for Boxford) and family.

Small scale environmental schemes such as these must be a good thing, regardless of what you believe about man’s responsibility for global warming.
I like the turbine for three reasons:-

Firstly it must be right to conserve the earth’s finite resources. Using wind power certainly helps to do this, although I do have reservations about the economic viability of heavily subsidised large scale schemes, and misgivings about the appearance of turbines and associated pylons marching across some of the most beautiful parts of Britain. I can see no objections to small individual schemes such as this one however.

Secondly we do have to find ways of reducing dependency on oil and gas, which is not only growing scarcer, but is increasingly found in areas of dubious political stability such as Iran and Russia.

Thirdly, development of schemes such as this is good for British industry and exports. Because we have taken fossil fuel conservation seriously in Britain we are apparently among the world leaders in developing small scale generation schemes such as the one in place in Edwardstone.

Recycling of refuse is another way of conserving the earth’s scarce resources, and is also essential due to the problems of overfull landfill sites. Babergh has quite a good record in this respect, but the aim must be to recycle more if possible. It is also important to ensure that the waste is actually properly recycled when collected.

Controversy in this area lies ahead however. The government is to give Councils the right to charge for the removal of non-recyclable rubbish, and a ‘spy in the bin’ is threatened to make sure that we all put items in the appropriate place. I think that this latter idea could lead to quite a lot of anger and resentment. I am a believer in carrots rather than sticks where possible, and would prefer to see a scheme which promised rebates to good citizens rather than big-brother punishment for the careless (or busy!) ones.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

My running mate, Colin Spence.

The Days rattle by and it is time to start working on the paperwork for the election. I have managed to find ten people in Waldingfield Ward prepared to sign my nomination papers, which is a relief! Some purple prose is also required by the Conservative party for the election leaflet in which I feature with my running mate, Colin Spence. Colin, with whom I hope to be working at Babergh on your behalf after the election, is pictured right. Recently particularly active in the campaign to save the Walnuttree Hospital in Sudbury, Colin needs no introduction to many people, but those who don’t know him should read on!

Colin Spence has served the local Community as Babergh District Councillor for the Waldingfield Ward (Acton, Chilton, Great & Little Waldingfield) for the past 31 years. He is also your Suffolk County Councillor representing Sudbury East & Waldingfield Division since May 2005. He is also a County Council representative on the Suffolk Police Authority.

Colin endeavours to take a fair and positive attitude both when dealing with issues raised by individual constituents and when working with each of the four Parish Councils within the Ward. He always works hard to try and represent the views of those he represents and to resolve problems when they arise.

Colin’s long service in local government has earned him wide respect for his knowledge, hard work and commitment to all those he serves and he has made a very significant contribution to the management and political leadership of the District Council. He has held a number of senior positions over his many years of service and is currently the Conservative Group Leader on the District Council.

Colin’s roots are firmly established in Suffolk. He was born and educated in Sudbury and has continued to live in the area with his family all his life.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

First steps round Newmans Green

With less than two months to go to 3rd May I have started to collect e mail addresses from complete strangers! (rather than from the poor suckers that I know already who have been too polite to say no! Many thanks for your patience anyway....)

Not wanting to make my carbon footprint any bigger than necessary I have started here in Newmans Green. Of course a number of my neighbours are well known to me already but I am mainly on speaking terms with other dog walkers. The constant use of cars means that, particularly in winter, one doesn't see anyone else much out and about, which in itself is a pity.

However, as far as my first faltering steps in genuine door knocking are concerned I have found that everyone so far has been very polite, interested and tolerant. There is something a bit daunting about banging on strange doors, particularly when one discovers in addition to human beings in residence, huge hounds, or other exotic creatures the existence of which one was unaware!

What are the issues that primarily concern people here in Newmans Green? (Newmans Green for those of you who don't know the hamlet, is between Acton and the North of Sudbury).
Inevitably one main concern is the affect that the Chilton Woods development will have on the blessed peace and quiet we have enjoyed in this rather unexpected backwater. (In the case of a number of the cottages this peace has been enjoyed for hundreds of years!). At present, the lane through the village which runs up from the Long Melford by-pass remains almost as quiet as it has been since we moved here over 20 years ago. The exceptions to this are that the route is now used as a cut-through by people taking their children to school, which is noticable in term time, and, increasingly, large lost white vans with imaginative nav-sat equipment.

It is clear that all of us in Newmans Green should have a good look at the new road layout on the Chilton plan and make representations if we believe that it will make traffic volume worse. I personally am concerned that we may have problems due to the planned closure of Acton Lane, currently our route into Sudbury. Additionally, the plan seems to mean that in order to get to Tescos we will have to go right through the middle of the new settlement, causing congestion there, or go all the way round via the by-pass. Of course in a brave green new world we should be biking or walking on one of the new cycle paths, but have you tried carrying a case of wine home on your handlebars recently?

The idea of actually closing off the lane where it connects with the by-pass has been suggested to me by a number of residents. This idea was raised in the past when the by-pass was first built but rejected due to representations from those living further towards Long Melford who would have to make quite a wide detour to go anywhere much at all. I'm not sure that anything has changed in this respect, but perhaps closing it off further up towards Newmans Green might satisfy everyone?

Another concern is light pollution from the Chilton development. At present despite the proximity of Sudbury we can still more or less see the stars! I seem to recall that the Structure Plan called for light pollution to be kept to a minimum. With new technology I know that this can be done. This is something to question at the planning stage, and later monitor closely.

Incidentally it would save me a lot of shoe leather and some anxiety if any readers of the blog/people on my e mail list are able to let me have the e mail address of anyone in Waldingfield Ward who would be interested in knowing about the blog and receiving update alerts. If they dont enjoy the experience I will of course immediately delist them on request!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

In praise of footpaths, or an early encounter with Colin Spence

We are unbelievably lucky in the UK to have a network of footpaths that give us all free access to the open countryside. Sometimes when travelling abroad it is very frustrating that open fields and attractive places are firmly marked ‘private’ and are off limits. Even before the arrival of Rendle the Lurcher (Pictured right with husband Nick) and his need for daily exercise, Nick and I used to regularly get lost with our Ordnance Survey Maps in the corner of some foreign field not more than 5 miles from a pub car park in and around Suffolk. Rendle’s arrival has spurred us on to take an even keener interest in the footpath network, which is a national treasure that should be cherished.

All too often in the past the paths were ill signed and badly maintained. In some places in the UK I understand that serious access problems continue. I had lunch with an old friend yesterday who lives close to the South Downs. She told me that she has in the past spent Sunday afternoon with cutters and billhooks clearing a path across the land of Russian Oligarch, Roman Abramovich, whose estate near to her home is not only guarded by large dogs, but also (allegedly) by men with Kalashnikovs.

How unlike our experience in dear Acton! It is clear from the appearance of shiny new signs marking footpaths in the past couple of years or so that Suffolk County Council’s Rights of Way Improvement plan is having a positive impact. Additionally farmers who have signed up for the recently created EU Stewardship scheme, organised through the Rural Payments agency, now have an added incentive to keep paths unobstructed and in working order. In many places improvement to footpaths is certainly evident, as is an increase in wildlife due to other measures such as leaving wide grassy margins along the side of fields.

Constant vigilance is necessary however! Farmers are sometimes very slow to reinstate field paths after ploughing, the growth of summer grass and nettles sometimes mean that wellies are necessary in July, and bridges and other structures sometimes need repair. Budgetary constraints can cause footpath maintenance to be postponed or even suspended. One of the first contacts that I had with my running mate, Councillor Colin Spence, was when I wrote to him about the refusal of the County Council (due to lack of funds) to cut Footpath 7, which leads from Newmans Green to Ovens Green Kennels; a route that provides a pleasant alternative to walking the length of the main road leading to the bright lights and shopping facilities of Acton.

It goes without saying that Councillor Spence took rapid action to ensure that the path was quickly walkable once again, and it is worth noting that Suffolk County Council website has a form on which you can report any problems with rights of way that you have when you are out walking.