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

Friday, June 29, 2007

Handy hints for owners of special homes

One of the reasons that Nick and I like Suffolk so much is that everywhere you go you come across wonderful ancient buildings. The countryside in the county is very attractive, if somewhat spoilt by the impact of intensive farming over the years, but in our view what really makes the county outstanding is the quality of the built environment.

This week Colin and I had occasion to have a conversation with Michael Collins who is the Conservation Officer at Babergh . As you can imagine he, and his team, are very busy keeping up with planning applications related to conservation areas and alterations to listed buildings. Despite a heavy work load he is a very pleasant and helpful sort of person and he stressed to us the importance of early consultation with the planning department if one wants to make changes to properties that fall into his domain. It isn’t just buildings that are listed, or properties that fall into conservation areas that need special consideration. If your home is close to a listed building and alterations or building works might have an impact on this you also need to take special care to stay within planning guidelines. Failure to take time to find out what is possible can lead to frustration as applications are refused and money is wasted.

Babergh Web site, www.babergh.gov.uk is a good place to start to research this topic From the Home page, follow the links ‘Planning and Building Control – Planning information – Supplementary advice’, and you will find articles that give information on listed buildings and conservation areas.

In addition to discussing your plans with the Planning Department, it is a good idea to take care in choosing an architect. There are a number of architects in and around the county who specialise in working on old and listed buildings, and they have a good idea of what is and isn’t possible. While not able to make recommendations Babergh can supply a list of architects, and another place you could try for recommendations is the Suffolk Preservation Society in Lavenham. If you own a timber framed building and want to know more about it you also might like to get in touch with the Timber Frame Group, run by Paula and Barry Harber. Here you can learn a great deal about how to make sure that your house gets the loving care and attention it deserves, and members of the group have a lot of experience in negotiating the planning rules for buildings of this type.

Please e mail me if you want information about how to reach any of the organisations mentioned above.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Scenes from Gainsborough's House visit to Norfolk Churches.

Friends of Gainsborough's House went on a day trip to visit some of the outstanding Mediaeval churches in and aroung Kings Lynn last Thursday.

Some of the highlights of the trip are pictured above.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Unitary Ipswich - A muddle too far?

As far as I can see most of the matters with which the Council has been concerning itself since May 3 are not of immediate importance to people in Waldingfield Ward, although they could well have an impact on them in the longer term. Ipswich’s bid to become a unitary authority is a case in point.

Last week a special full Council meeting was held to consider Babergh’s response to Ipswich’s bid for unitary status. Unlike many of the other District Councils in Suffolk, Babergh is not opposed in principle to the concept of unitary local authorities (which combine the functions of the County and District Councils in one authority). However Councillors do believe that the Ipswich bid is deeply flawed for many reasons and have resolved to oppose it. (E mail me on antillj@btinternet.com if you want more information about this.)

If Ipswich does become a unitary authority it will be a political decision rather than one based on sound financial/organisational foundations, or on a surge of public enthusiasm. The Government cannot much like the sea of blue that currently characterises the political map in Suffolk. A unitary Ipswich is the one area that might actually occasionally add a patch of red. Moreover, few people in Ipswich itself, or in greater Suffolk, appear to have been asked their opinion. Those who have have largely expressed hostility or indifference. The only people who seem keen on the idea are Ipswich Borough Councillors and the Labour MP for Ipswich, Chris Mole.

Despite the fact that the proposed changes are highly likely to cost us all money in higher council tax rates, we in Suffolk have been rather muted in our response in comparison with other places in England. This could be because in our case no councils are actually going to be abolished although the County Council will lose some of its powers as its functions are duplicated in Ipswich. Elsewhere in Britain MP’s have been to see the PM to protest, and three councils, Harrogate, Congleton and Shrewsbury, have gone to the expense of mounting a legal challenge by way of judicial review.

Even before this latest turn of events, like so much else the Government has done, the reform of local government was a complete mess of fudge and half decision making Let’s hope that Gordon decides that this is a muddle too far and drops the issue for the time being.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Meeting Squadron 486

Nick, Rendle the Dog and I dodged the showers at lunchtime today to walk across the airfield to meet veterans from US squadron 486 and their families at the vintage rally taking place close to Great Waldingfield. A photo of some of the party is shown above, together with a picture of the main runway of the airfield as it is today.

The tent set aside for the visitors was full of interesting displays, maps and pictures of the area, not just as it was during 1944 when the bomber crews arrived, but also with plans for the new Chilton Woods development. This will edge a little way onto the airfield at the southern end. (It is not planned, as many seem to think, for development to penetrate far onto the area, which I hope will remain open and unspoilt). There are however plans to try to incorporate a permanent memorial somewhere prominent in the development to the Squadron who came to help Britain in its darkest hour.

The veterans had many interesting stories to tell. One told me how the air over Sudbury was known as ‘Buzz bomb alley’, and he said that he never ceased to be amazed at the hospitality and kindness he had received from people in Suffolk at a time when they were in danger and suffering from shortages and deprivation. Another, Burt, told me some interesting facts about the ship on which they sailed from New York (which I think was called (or renamed) the SS Ambassador). This was a converted Italian liner, which was requisitioned during the war for German troop movement. In 1943, presumably when Italy stopped fighting, the Italian crew took over the ship, disposed of the Germans, and sailed to America. It operated in the transatlantic convoys for the rest of the war. Burt commented that the ship had been very comfortable and the food excellent!

Altogether it was a very happy afternoon, with many local people coming to look at the exhibits and talk to the veterans to hear their stories and to meet their families. Many of the visitors had come to Suffolk several times. It is a pity that time has now marched on to such and extent that future visits are unlikely.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Success! first pothole filled!

Great excitement this morning! When passing my neighbour's house I noticed that the large pothold in the roadway outside his drive has been filled by the County Council after a request from me to Colin. It's nice to achieve something concrete!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Gossip from the forests

On my early morning dog walks I have been looking at the world with improved eyes for a day or so. This is because on Friday evening we went to the AGM of the Woodland BATS group in Sudbury. This organisation was set up last year with the aim of encouraging biodiversity around the town. (BATS stands for Biodiversity around Town Scheme; and while the creation and preservation of habitats for bats is probably included in the programme, general encouragement of the natural environment is the goal.)

The group has made good progress and now has a tree nursery in Chilton, close to the edge of the airfield where the Chilton Woods Development is planned. The community woodland which is intended to be part of the scheme will need community participation to develop and maintain it, and the group is certain to be involved with this. Close to the nursery Woodland BATS is also now caring for a large pond with the aim of supporting and encouraging related wildlife, and has discovered great crested newts living on the site.

One of the goals of Woodland BATS is the development of a circular bio-diversity trail around Sudbury which could run to 12 to 14 miles in length. I think that this is a great idea, which could give everyone in the town and the surrounding villages a real sense of ownership with regard to the green edges of the town which can as we know become litter strewn and uncared for.

After the business of the meeting there was a simply riveting talk with wonderful slides by conservation expert Peter Beale. This demonstrated how biodiversity is encouraged in established woodlands by thinning the canopy to allow light to penetrate. This assists the growth of plants, which may have been lying dormant in the dead earth under the trees, and insects, birds and mammals that need the plants for survival are able to live and flourish. Just one example of this is the Silver Washed Fritillary butterfly, pictured above with the violets which are the required source of food for its caterpillars.

If you want more information about the group, which I understand will welcome working and non-working support, you should contact the chairman Peter Clifford on 371798.

Meanwhile, in Great Waldingfield the Branchlines project continues to fund-raise very successfully with a view to establishing the Great Waldingfield Community Woodland. Unfortunately at present there has been no progress with regard to resolving the problem of archaeological remains in one potential site. Another field has been identified but there is now a problem reaching an agreement on price that is acceptable to the providers of grant money. At the time of writing the County Council, which is the owner of the land in question, is seeking a price way above that considered reasonable by the District Valuer. A way out of this impasse is being sought.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

No more cakes and ale

Don't misbehave! Poster by V. Govorkov Leningrad 1948.

Well I have made my first contribution to the discourse at Babergh District Council, having piped up during the Strategy Committee to question whether it was really necessary to forbid the residents of Stour House in Sudbury from smoking in the garden that adjoins the council owned centre for the homeless.

The reply, which was imbued with that aura of unanswerable virtue that surrounds any reference to children these days, was that the prohibition is indeed necessary since ‘the garden is small and children play there’. It does seem to me however that since residents at Stour House can smoke in their {often very small) rooms which are shared with their children, smoking outside in what is effectively the garden to their own homes must be preferable, and should be allowed. The council does not presume to stop council tenants from smoking in their gardens, (at least not yet), so why add an additional burden to individuals who are going through what I know from my experience at the CAB to be an extremely difficult period of their lives?

I must swiftly add that I have never been a smoker myself, and on the whole approve of much of the government’s recent legislation aimed at protecting people from passive smoking. I do however also believe that if we are not to encroach too far on individual freedom a person who wishes to continue to smoke despite the fact that she or he knows that it is bad for their health, then they should be allowed to do so in what amounts to their own home. It is absolutely none of anyone else’s business.

But individual freedom has never been more under attack by ‘the powers that be’, and this is of considerable concern. I firmly believe that wherever possible people should be LEFT ALONE TO GET ON WITH THEIR LIVES.

Now we read that those of us who like to have a drink at home in the evening are to be targeted for government action! What an impertinence! and what a waste of time and resources! Why not expend more effort combating anti social creatures such as the yobs busy making the lives of residents close to the Shawlands Retail Park a misery for example? The law abiding are much soft targets of course, and are much easier to tax.

I can do no better than draw your attention to a letter in the Times today which quotes Sir Toby Belch’s response to a high handed officer in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night:

Art any more than a steward? Dost thou think that, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?