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, November 28, 2007

Folly in Folly Road?

Babergh’s Development Committee today gave a very sympathetic hearing to Vince Humphries, Jean Misselbrook, Colin and me on the subject of the Piggeries Site but at the end of the day they felt obliged to give the go-ahead to the proposed development. Two Councillors actually voted against giving permission, but realistically it was unlikely that any other outcome could have been achieved.

The main problem is that since the principle of the development was included in the Local Plan, and the developer had jumped through all the hoops required by the officers in respect of landscaping, highways, building design etc. etc. a refusal at this stage would certainly have been reversed on appeal. This would have been very costly for Babergh (and thus for you and me as council tax payers).

The size of the development, traffic at the school and local infrastructure were raised and discussed at length. The ‘creep’ that had raised the number of houses from 40 in the original plan to 93 today was brought up, and it was quite clear looking around the room that a number of councillors felt uncomfortable with this. I am sure that this is only the first of many similar cases, and next time it may well be housing plans in their wards that are affected! With the benefit of hindsight it is possible to trace how the increase came about, but realistically only a real planning anorak might have predicted it. (Please give me a call if you really want chapter and verse).

I made clear that we felt that it was very misleading to leave the indicated number of 40 in the final version of the Local Plan after the Inspector had quite clearly stated that the housing density on the site as planned was too low. This effectively meant that the village was lulled into a false sense of security and did not take their opportunity to object at the most appropriate stage in proceedings.

What lessons can be learned from this? As I have said before, the key to planning is eternal and early vigilance. Babergh will shortly be moving on to the next strategic plan for the District. We must all keep our eyes open for anything that will affect Waldingfield Ward and attempt to take pre-emptive action where necessary.

On a brighter note, during the debate councillors’ attention was brought to the congestion issues at the School, and the question of whether improved parking might be arranged using land belonging to Babergh will now be investigated. This would be great, but please don't raise your hope s too much in this regard. Things of this nature, I have learned already, take time.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Site visit for Chilton Mineral Extraction

On a brilliant, but rather fresh morning, about thirty people assembled on Valley road yesterday to participate in the Suffolk County Council site visit to examine the proposals to extract gravel (plus some related industrial processes) from land between Chilton and Great Waldingfield.

Pictured above are the site itself, the group discussing the adjacent A134, local residents, Peter Clifford (in red) Chairman of Chilton Parish Council, and Viv Codd the officer from SCC with the Chairman of the SCC Development Committee. When I photographed the A134 the road was uncharacterisingly deserted, but luckily the usual flow of juggernaughts and speed merchants appeared in time for them to be fully appreciated by the County Councillors!

The site meeting was lead in an exemplary fashion by the Chairman of SCC Development Committee. The site was fully walked, and everyone present had a chance to have their say. I do feel that people in Great Waldingfield and Chilton should feel that most issues were adequately aired.

The matter comes up for discussion at Babergh, which is a consultee, on Wednesday 28th November and Colin Spence, District Councillor for Waldingfield and County Councillor for Sudbury East, will be making representations at that time.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A busy week ahead - feedback welcome!

Silence from the blog does not imply inactivity….rather the reverse!

In addition to going to a Members’ Seminar for Babergh Councillors this morning which will be the subject of a later post, I have been preparing to participate in several events next week. I would very much welcome feedback from blog readers on any of the items below.

On Tuesday 27th I will be appearing before the Independent Reconfiguration Panel to try to give voice to why people in Waldingfield Ward will be seriously inconvenienced by the destruction of Sudbury’s hospitals and their replacement by very little.

If anyone has first hand experiences of hardship already experienced due to having to travel to Bury for hospital services could you please e mail me on antillj@btinternet.com before Tuesday morning. I may well be able to include this material in my presentation.

One point that I want to make is that any savings made by the Health Authorities will be clearly offset by damage to the economic wellbeing of the Sudbury area. There is an economic cost involved when time is taken off work in order to take relatives to hospital a distance away, or to visit them when they are there. Sometimes people are obliged to arrange paid child care when a relative is ill so that they can visit, and travel is increasingly expensive both economically and environmentally. In addition there are the extortionate parking fees at the West Suffolk, which I believe are a disgrace. All this drains resources out of our area, and this is before one realises that assets developed many years ago by the community are apparently being sold off without any thought of compensation.

Another issue I will address is the amount of development anticipated in the Sudbury area in coming years. Surely this increase in population warrants careful consideration when thinking about the provision of hospital services?

This brings me on to the next subject because on Wednesday 28th the application to build 93 houses at the Piggeries site in Great Waldingfield finally reaches the Development Committee for consideration. I will be asking the Committee to take note of the concerns of residents, and echoing the representations of the Parish Council.

At the same meeting Babergh will be asked for comments on the proposal for gravel extraction at Chilton. There is to be a site visit tomorrow organised principally for County Councillors who will make the ultimate decision on this matter. Last time this issue arose Babergh urged that the scheme be turned down. As I wrote on the blog recently changes have now been made by the applicant, Brett Aggregates, which appear to address some of Babergh’s concerns. Whether this is in fact the case however is not entirely clear. More work to do on this one…..

Friday, November 16, 2007

Conserving Little Waldingfield

At the Strategy Committee Meeting yesterday I was very pleased to be able to propose a motion supporting a small enlargement of the Conservation Area in Little Waldingfield. I am happy to say that the measure was supported unanimously, together with similar proposals for Pin Mill and Bures St. Mary.

As many in Little Waldingfield know, there was a public meeting in September as part of a public consultation on the proposals at which 50 people were present. 18 people responded favourably in writing, and the Parish Council has also approved the plan.

Included in the plan initially was a proposal to re-plant an avenue of Lime trees north of the church. This proved controversial, possibly due to the fact that they might obscure country views, and so this has been included as a plan as a suggestion rather than a proposal.

Patrick Taylor, the Conservation Architect, from Babergh has produced an illustrated appraisal to support the scheme which is very interesting. It includes information about the Domesday survey of 1086 which lists two manors and one church for Waldingfield as a whole, but makes no distinction between Little and Great. The name of the village is reputed to mean the ‘open area (field) of the dwellers by the wold.

As far as the built environment is concerned Patrick notes that the village has examples of most of Suffolk’s local building materials that have been used through the ages. He comments in particular on the Church and the adjacent former almshouses. He also mentions Wood Hall (pictured above) and Malting farm and notes that there is also a listed K6 telephone kiosk on The Street.

I’m sure everyone in Little Waldingfield would like me to thank Patrick for his efforts on behalf of the village.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Liberal Democrats hold on to Hadleigh

Well we failed to dislodge the Liberal Democrats in Hadleigh.

When I found out yesterday I was preparing to write a piece deprecating the low level tactics employed by the opposition. However looking more closely at the detailed results I find that we actually did quite well increasing our share of the vote. (The turn out was dismal by the way, but that is another matter.)

The nature of the Ward meant that it was always going to be a bit of a struggle. The real problem however was that last time there was a Labour Party candidate, and this time there wasn't. This meant that while the vote was split last time, any Labour enthusiast in the 'anything but the Tories' camp voted Liberal Democrat this time, making it very difficult for our man, Peter Burgoyne to come through on top. He was however a very creditable second and should be pleased with his performance. He fought a strong and very clean campaign.

I WILL be writing that piece about low level tactics from the Liberal Democrats, since being the Chairman of the Committee (The Information Technology Task Group) whose activities they were attacking I know that their campaigning claims were complete rubbish. However, no time this morning!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Site visit blues

Given the fact that from time to time I find myself unable to keep cool when provoked I think that it is probably a good thing that at the time of the notorious site visit by members of the Development Committee to the Piggeries in Great Waldingfield I was several thousand miles away.

Being a beginner at Babergh I would have been completely ignorant of the nature of these visits, and would not have had a clue with regard to who was allowed to say what to whom. This may well have resulted in trouble.

It seems a pity firstly that Babergh doesn’t make sure that new members know the ropes in this regard so that they don’t inadvertently raise expectations, and secondly that the Council does not automatically send the protocol relating to site visits to all interested parties ahead of the event. This seems to be the practice of the County Council, who probably, in this way, manage to pre-empt a certain amount of misunderstanding.

However, I don’t think that the amount of distress caused to people in Great Waldingfield can entirely be written off as a misunderstanding, and this should be faced squarely by all concerned.

Despite the fact that Colin was present, I was the Ward Member who asked for the site visit, citing traffic concerns and the proximity of the school as the ‘planning reasons’ necessary for so doing. I therefore do not find it totally surprising that the Development Committee members did not choose to actually set foot on the development site although taking a few minutes to have a look around might have been useful given the development’s size and importance. The impression was given, whether rightly or wrongly, that other matters did not receive much close attention either. This is one thing that upset people, and would, had I been there, have upset me too. Unlike much that the Council does, Planning is a quasi-judicial activity, and in my view it is important that ‘justice is not only done, but that it is seen to be done’.

Then there is the issue of good manners. Speaking generally, we Councillors only hold our positions because of the votes cast by the general public. We serve the public, not the other way round. The public deserve to be treated with respect at all times. Sometimes events conspire to make this difficult, but we should not be surprised if people are upset if there are failures in this regard.

At the time of writing the best guess as to when a decision will be made by the Development Committee on the Piggeries site is Wednesday 28th November.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

News from the County Council about gravel pit plans

I set out below the text of an e mail that I have today received from Viv Codd at Suffolk County Council in respect of proposed gravel extraction at Chilton. Mr Codd writes:-

‘The application has now been amended, and in particular it embraces the following changes:

*The transfer and sorting of general wastes has been omitted from the application

*As a consequence of the above the number of daily HGV's has been reduced from 61 to 36, i.e. 72 movements

*It is proposed that some importation of inert soils be undertaken to achieve a satisfactory restoration at the 'lower level'

*The proposed means of access has been subject to more detailing and provides for the slight movement of the carriageway to the south and inclusion of additional land to provide for the realignment.

*A conveyor would be used in part to transport aggregate to the plant area;

*The boundaries of the site have been extended to embrace off site landscaping. This does not extend the area of extraction;

*Provision of a permissive footpath.

*Arrangements are in hand for the revisions to be subject to advertisement and public consultation for a period of 21 days. The relevant drawings and correspondence have been placed on the Council's web site.'

There is to be a site inspection on Friday 23rd November and the application is likely to be considered by the County Council Development Committee on Thursday January 24.

I haven’t yet had time to consider this closely but on the whole the proposals do seem to be something of an improvement on the previous plans, with fewer lorry movements, improved landscaping with an additional footpath, and the removal of the waste transfer activities. It seems that ‘bagging’ is going to continue (as far as I can see). The partial use of a conveyor belt rather than dumper trucks should reduce noise levels from the site.

What I believe must be guarded against at all costs however is the building of any ‘temporary’ industrial activity which could lead the land to be designated as ‘brownfield’ after the ten years extraction period, giving an excuse for housing development, or worse.

If anyone has any comments that I can pass on to Colin, who is our County Councillor and who I expect will be speaking at the meeting on 24th January please e mail me at jenny.antill@babergh.gov.uk or at antillj@btinternet.com.

Friday, November 2, 2007

False alarm over scam from Belize

Many thanks to a blog reader from Great Waldingfield who has drawn my attention to the fact that the scam referred to on the blog at the end of October is actually very old news.

If you visit the Phone Pay Plus website (they are the people who regulate premium rate numbers) on http://www.phonepayplus.org.uk you will see that they actually closed this particular operation down two years ago. The scam did originate in Belize, but it turns out that the claim that calls cost £15 was wrong, and that a call to the number in question would have only(!) cost you £9 if you had been on the line for the maximum 6 minutes.

I have passed this information on to Babergh and am sorry if I have caused concern to any of you!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Ties that blind - a new constitution for Babergh?

Out in the real world neck-ties seem to be going out of fashion somewhat. However in the world of politics they continue to be worn, and sometimes have a significance known only to the cognoscenti! It has been noted for example that Gordon Brown wore comforting blue or green ties throughout his non-campaign to be elected leader of the Labour Party. Ties are generally worn at Babergh, and I was struck at Tuesday’s full Council Meeting by a remarkable example.

An early item on the agenda was a motion to approve the setting up of a task group to look into changing the Constitution. Babergh is something of an anomaly in the world of councils in that it is a ‘Group Four’ type, headed by a Chairman, which makes its decisions by means of a structure of committees. There is a broad consensus between most of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats that it would be better to have a Leader and Cabinet structure. It is thought that this would speed up decision making, and also make individual councillors (the ‘cabinet members’) more accountable to the public for the Council’s activities and decisions. It also happens to be the structure adopted by the vast majority of other councils in the U.K.

The idea is not much supported by the Independent councillors, who realise that under this structure it is probable that they, together with other ‘backbenchers’ will have less to do and possibly less power.

Almost at the start of the debate a rock was thrown into the pool that threatened to submerge the whole process before it had started. Was it not possible, enquired Mr Clive Arthey, Member for North Cosford, a person of such singular opinion that he does not number himself even among the Independents, was it not possible for the task force to consider alternative forms of constitutional arrangement open to us while they were at it? Why restrict themselves to just looking at the Leader and Cabinet model? An amendment was moved!

Clive Arthey’s suggestion would have condemned the working group, and later the Council as a whole (working inexorably through its numerous committees) to additional hours of harmless fun!

A moment of gloomy silence greeted the proposal. Silence was followed by muted expostulation. My fellow councillors were clearly stupefied by the notion that the decision making process to speed up the decision making process could be high-jacked in this way. At last the confusion was brought to an end by the firm expression of a contrary opinion from Councillor Penny Clarke, Member for Berners Ward, a lady with many years experience of this sort of thing. The amendment was defeated.

I turned to look at Councillor Arthey who looked pretty unperturbed. He was however wearing a very fine tie! It depicted a flock of white sheep, with one black sheep gambolling happily in the middle I could have sworn that the black sheep winked at me.