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

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

First Appeal withdrawn by Bretts

News today from Peter Clifford, the Chairman of Chilton Parish Council that Brett Aggregates have withdrawn their appeal with regard to the first refusal of their Quarry plans.

This is really good news, but it does NOT mean that the second application, heard just before Christmas, will not go to appeal. Brett’s have five months to decide whether to do so.

The Chilton site remains in the County’s Minerals Master Plan however, and the aim now must be to try to get it removed. A new Plan was introduced recently, and during discussions at the County Council, Colin Spence tried to get the site excluded. Since the site was ‘subject to a live planning application’ this proved to be impossible. However, the possibility of doing so if planning permission was refused was explicitly left open.

This makes the Chairman of Brett’s recent comment in the Sudbury Free Press that the site was ‘in the County’s Plan’ rather disingenuous since it is arguable that it is only there due to a technicality. Things have moved on in the area since the site was identified many years ago. At that time life in the Sudbury area was relatively tranquil and the nightmare that is the A134 a thing of the future. However, it has been successfully argued twice in recent months at the County Council Development Committee, that ‘times have changed’.

I took the photograph above, taken just before Christmas in Newmans Green, hoping that it might come in useful in the future. I am surprised to be using it so soon! It represents a Mexican stand-off between a Brett’s lorry and a farmer attempting to harvest his sugar beet.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Greetings

This picture of the Nativity was taken on our trip to central Spain in September.

Poor Joseph looks as though he is rather fed up with the number of visitors!

It is a detail from the late 12th century tomb of San Vicente, the martyr, in the Basilica of San Vicente in Avila. Avila, which is 66 miles north west of Madrid, is best known as the City of St. Teresa

This will probably be my last ‘post’ before 2009, so I hope that all readers of the blog have a good Christmas and as prosperous and cheerful New Year as possible.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas country pleasures

In general I am rather unsympathetic towards those who live in the country and complain about essential features of rural life such as crowing cockerels or mud on the road. However in recent days I have been brought to the end of my tether (which is short in the days before Christmas in any event) by the goings on in the road outside our house in Newmans Green.
Suffolk County Council has, in its wisdom, chosen this week to close the road in order to fill in potholes between Acton Lane and the Long Melford by pass. In one way this is great because the road was becoming quite tricky in places and local residents had started to complain. Unfortunately the work has coincided with our local farmer taking the last part of his sugar beet crop off the adjacent fields. This, plus a bit of building works here and there, has caused not just frustration for drivers trying to do a bit of Christmas shopping, but also a Somme like mud situation and much angst for us dog walkers.
Today Rendle the Lurcher met one of his best mates and they skittered off across the countryside at speed, returning to their owners sporting thick, chocolate coloured tide marks. The kitchen floor is now covered with mud and Rendle has started to expect a nice warm bath every time he comes in from his walk!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Carol Concert for Success after Stroke

On Thursday evening I went to a candlelit carol concert in Holy Trinity Church, Long Melford. As most readers of the blog know, Holy Trinity is a huge, and exceptionally lovely building which has the feel of a small cathedral. The church looked wonderful in candlelight, and was absolutely packed for the occasion. Funds raised by the concert were going to the local charity, Success after Stroke, which describes itself as ‘a thriving self-help stroke group, formed over 8 years ago to help survivors after they have left hospital.’

I was lucky enough to hear more about the charity from its founder. She discovered when her husband had a stroke some years ago that there was absolutely no support in the Sudbury area for stroke sufferers once they are discharged from hospital. This was true even though the ability of sufferers from strokes to recover and get on with their lives depends heavily on support from professionals such as physiotherapists and speech therapists. It is also important for them to socialise and maintain interest in life, and the company of fellow stroke sufferers can often be of great help.

I was very pleased both to be able to enjoy myself and also to be able to support such a worthwhile cause. I found the story of how the group has developed from a small start at the Bridge Project to its current situation, operating four days a week from the Stephenson Centre in Great Cornard, very inspiring. There are currently more than sixty members attending regularly. I will certainly try to support the charity's future fundraising activities if I can.

The Concert was first rate, with a choir from King’s College Cambridge and solos from Steven Varcoe and the soprano Esen Thorley. The latter bravely delivered the challenging aria ‘Regnava nel Silenzio’ from Donizetti’s opera Lucia di Lammermore. I don’t think I would have chosen to sing this particular number on a rather chilly evening but she managed very well. There were the usual Christmas readings and some less usual, two from members of the Success after Stroke Group itself.

SAS can be contacted by telephone on 01787 280753 or 01206 265954 or by e mail on successafterstroke@tiscali.co.uk.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Next year's Council tax? Increase below 3.5% (probably)

It is unlikely that Council Tax raised for Babergh for the 2009/10 financial year will be more than 3.5% higher than this year’s number. This is the message that came out of this morning’s joint meeting of both Babergh Overview and Scrutiny Committees which met to consider next year’s budget.
The anticipated rapid fall in inflation is not much help to Babergh since the nature of the Council’s costs are rather different from the components of the RPI. A pay rise for staff of 3% for the period in question is already committed. There may however be some respite from lower energy costs which impact on our gardening and waste disposal contracts.
In fact looking ahead at present is more than usually difficult, and it has to be said that there remains scope for nasty surprises. Fees for Land Charge Searches and Planning applications are already down, reflecting the economic situation, and these areas are unlikely to pick up before 2010. As has been seen in the Press, the prices for recycled waste are at rock bottom which affect the finances of our waste activities (although we have managed to mitigate this to some extent in the short term due to the nature of our contracts). The bottom line is that there is a large funding gap looming which will mean that the Council will be obliged, as was already expected, to eat into reserves.
Even were Babergh not committed to trying to keep Council Tax rises in line with inflation it would be difficult to fund this gap by increasing Council Tax. The rise would need to be disproportionately high. It is not generally known that in a 1% increase in Council Tax for Babergh does not produce very much money, only £40,000 or so, which is small considering the fact that the net budget is c.£10m, and the gross budget four times this number.
It has occurred to me, and to a few others, that, in the light of the forthcoming demise of Babergh, since the sum of money raised by an increase in Council Tax is so small, it might be a noble gesture to our hard pressed taxpayers to go for a 0% increase this year. It is a seductive idea, but one which is unlikely to attract the more conservative councillor (with a small C!) However, if 0% proves impossible, I would, (as a Conservative councillor with a big C), prefer to see a 2 rather than a 3 as the ‘big figure’ of the increase.
People should however bear in mind that a 0% rise would in reality merely be a gesture (although to my mind there is nothing wrong with gestures, particularly of the ‘farewell’ nature). Babergh’s share of total Council Tax paid is very small, the County and the Police absorbing a far larger share. The difference between 0% and 3.5% would only represent a few pounds per household.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas starts here

For the past two years Christmas has started for me with the Carol Service at St Mary’s Church, Chilton, which took place yesterday afternoon.

There is no electricity in the church and so heating has to be provided with a generator. Lighting is supplied by candles. However all was very much brighter yesterday due to the fact that the grimy old polycarbonate windows are currently being replaced with beautiful steel and glass ones. It was a frosty but sunny afternoon and as a result the church was flooded with sunlight. The church really feels part of the countryside now as it is now possible to see the trees outside.

The dimensions and aspect of the interior of the church now look very different. The work is not yet quite complete and the replacement window in the vestry, when installed shortly, is expected to be very impressive.

Three services a year have been held at St. Mary’s in recent times at Rogation, Harvest and Christmas. It is hoped, under the auspices of the new rector of Sudbury, to hold a few more than this in 2009. There are a number of very interesting memorials in the church and the services there have a great atmosphere, possibly because people from Chilton and beyond want to see the church kept alive even though in theory it is ‘redundant’. I will try to give advance notice of some of the services on the blog next year so you can come along and see for yourselves.