Wednesday, September 17, 2008
I am happy to report that Babergh’s Development Committee once again voted unanimously this morning to oppose the application by Bretts to open a quarry, extract gravel, and undertake other related works at Chilton. This was the second application from the company. However it was in all respects identical to the first, apart from the fact that it is now proposed to build a roundabout on the A134 at the entrance to the site, presumably in order to address road safety concerns.
Speaking against the application as Ward member I made three points.
Firstly I highlighted the wide ranging environmental damage that will be caused by the large number of lorry movements generated by the quarry. I made particular reference to Sudbury town centre, which could be subject to 26 additional movements a day (at worst), implying yet more nuisance of all sorts from juggernaughts rumbling through the mediaeval heart of the town.
Secondly I made the point that the new proposed roundabout may improve safety at the entrance to the site but will do nothing to help road safety elsewhere on the lethal bends and narrows of the A134.
Finally I talked about the implications of building a permanent structure such as a roundabout to serve what is supposed to be a temporary quarry. The existence of the roundabout in my view would make it highly likely that industrial activities would continue on the site after the 10 years life of the quarry is up. This is a use of the land that, at present at least, is certainly not envisaged in the Babergh Local Plan!
I have no idea how the debate developed, since, as I was actually sitting as a member of the Committee as a substitute, I was obliged to leave the meeting having had my say. The reason for this is that I was ‘predetermined’, having already made up my mind what I thought about the issue ahead of the event. I was therefore unable to vote, and had to leave in case my presence infected other members of the Committee! However, I am aware that even those councillors who appeared minded at the beginning of the session to believe that the roundabout answered Babergh’s previously expressed concerns changed their minds during the course of the debate.
So what comes next? Best information is that the matter will be determined by the County Council at their Development Committee Meeting on 23rd October, although this may be postponed.
Watch the blog for further developments.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
It is a good thing that the weather has improved because this weekend is proving to be rather action packed. Great Waldingfield Horticultural Show took place yesterday afternoon and yesterday evening there was a Spanish Evening in aid of the Conservatives in Little Waldingfield (with live music and evocative continual slide projection of Spanish ladies, bulls, guitars etc.) This afternoon it is Harvest Festival at Chilton Church (at 3 p.m.), one of the three services a year held at this venue.
Thanks to temporary flooring it was possible to hold the Horticultural Show in the Village Hall. The hard working Secretary of the show, John Hughes, is pictured above with Sheila Dunnett, who carried off one or two of the trophies!
Despite difficult growing conditions this year there was a good range of entries. As usual there were some beautiful flower arrangements, plus a giant prize marrow and some impressive pumpkins. Also, I was interested to see (and to be allowed to taste) some excellent country wines. Having had some small success creating six bottles of a very passable tangerine wine in the early 1970’s I have long harboured some enthusiasm for having another go, so was very pleased to make the acquaintance of Alan Awscott of the Acton Wine Circle, who may be able to point me in the right direction.
I was very honoured to be asked to present the trophies. This really took me back to my childhood in Warwickshire in the 1950’s, where the annual flower show was quite an event.
A large marquee was erected in the orchard of one of the larger houses in the village street, there was a local band, a dog show and a children’s fancy dress competition, and a local notable was imported to ‘do the honours’. On one occasion I remember that the prize-giver was the author Ursula Bloom (who remembers her now!), and on another the Chief Guide. My mother, who was a Councillor on Stratford upon Avon RDC, probably performed the duty too, but I can’t say I really remember this. There was a large army camp nearby, and there seemed to be a lot of people milling around in uniform! The show must have been held at about this time of the year because I remember the apples falling onto the roof of the tent, and the danger of wasps to the unwary! I have to say I never thought that it would be me giving the prizes.
With everything in life changing so rapidly it was good to be involved with an event that maintains continuity with village life from the past. I am determined to try to enter something myself next year since it is vital that the tradition is kept going!
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
On Monday evening, as part of the process of public consultation, Acton Parish Council held an excellent discussion on the pros. and cons. of the Boundary Committee’s proposals with regard to Local Government Reform in Suffolk.
Vice Chairman of the Council, Jayne Cole, gave a presentation (with large maps) outlining what has been suggested and then the floor was thrown open to the few members of the public present, and also to Colin and myself.
One thing that came out very clearly from the wide ranging debate was the fact that the devolution of power to Parish and Town Councils will not be a cost free exercise! It is very likely that Parish Clerks will have to put in additional (paid) time, and Parish Councillors, who by and large now give their time for nothing, may well feel that they have to claim at least a proportion of the allowances to which they are entitled.
After an hour or so of discussion the Councillors came down almost unanimously in favour of the One Suffolk option. This was principally, I think, on the basis of affordability (to the extent that it is possible to assess this in the absence of any numbers). However, Councillors were also aware of the logistical problems that would arise in splitting County Council services in two, and were also concerned about the viability of Suffolk Police were Lowestoft to be excluded from the County.
A letter was drafted at the meeting which will go off to the Boundary Committee shortly.
I took my son Thomas, who was visiting us, down to the village hall to observe local democracy in action! He was impressed as I was at the quality of the debate, the speed of decision making and the general good sense displayed by the Parish Council.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Communication from Babergh has slowed to a trickle as the distraction of Local Government reorganisation seems to have brought other proceedings to a halt. This is just as well in one way since I have been kept busy by goings on at Gainsborough’s House over the past week and expect to be there again for a few hours today producing the latest newsletter.
There have been some personnel changes at the museum recently, which is always the excuse for a farewell party, (and then a welcoming party for the next incumbent). Despite grim weather we gave Glynis Wash, who has been the Chairman of the Friends Committee for the past nine years, a good send off on Friday night. Under her leadership the group has raised around £150,000 for the work of the House, which is a marvellous record and a hard act to follow.
While at the gallery I was reminded that there is a very appealing exhibition on at present if you like contemporary, colourful and striking paintings! It showcases recent work by the Scottish painter and Royal Academician, John Bellany, and is certainly worth a look. I noticed that some of the very attractive stationery in the shop that was been specially purchased for the show has been reduced in price...a good Christmas present for someone I think!
The show finishes on 20 September, so there is still time to visit. Don’t forget that the museum is free to visitors on Tuesday afternoons and there are two Tuesdays left . Of course it is great if visitors choose to donate something towards the House when visiting on free days. Gainsborough’s House gets relatively little public funding, and I am sure is worth its weight in gold in attracting people to Sudbury.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
I am very sad to say that we will be losing Lucy our brilliant Police Community Support Officer , who has been accepted for training as a 'proper' police officer, and who will therefore be leaving the Sudbury team. Happily, she expects to be back in the area as a fully fledged policeman in due course.
I have to say when they were introduced I was very sceptical about how much good PCSO's could do, seeing them as camouflage for the fact that there are fewer and fewer fully trained police officers out and about on the streets. My initial suspicions about how much PCSO's can actually achieve have been to some extent confirmed by the fact that Lucy herself admits that she has found the lack of real power to tackle more serious problems in the area frustrating.
An illustration of this is that when using the speed gun to trap speeding motorists , she is unable to issue a parking ticket herself and has to send for an officer from Sudbury to do so.
This is by no means to say that Lucy has not been effective in many ways. She has done a great deal of good work in the area. She is often to be seen out and about, and has rapidly become a well known local figure. Problems of anti social behaviour in the area of McDonalds appear to have been dealt with due to Lucy's recent efforts. Additionally she caught a lot of people speeding in Church Road last week, including a few vans from the Royal Mail Depot!
I am pleased to have received many copies of letters to the County Council and to Babergh in respect of the proposed Chilton Quarry. If you haven’t yet written please don’t forget to do so!
The police have come out strongly against the application. Paul Crick the Sudbury District Inspector writes that the police object on three grounds (and I quote)
1. Increased HGV traffic on relatively minor country roads, which are already struggling with peak time volume.
2. Increased risk by volume to road traffic accidents
3. Interruption of traffic flow in and out of Sudbury either by numbers of heavy goods vehicles entering the site or indeed by roundabout.
Inspector Crick continues:-
Over the past twelve months there have been 38 road traffic accidents on the A1071 (main road to the proposed site from Ipswich), one of which was a fatality. There were 13 accidents on the A134 between Chilton and the A1071 junction, again one of which was sadly a fatality. It is difficult to attribute accidents to any one factor because many things play a part, the only common denominator being vehicles themselves. The two main roads providing access to the proposed site are not dueled nor likely to be and indeed a long stretch of the A134 is a 30mph limit through small villages.
The very nature of these roads means, that inevitably accidents do occur, and when this happens the road often becomes completely closed. This in turn necessitates officers being tied up for long periods of time managing both accidents and indeed diversions through villages, which are even less able to cope with volume.
Both the A1071 and, in particular, the A134, albeit not dueled or particularly wide are major commuter routes between Sudbury, Colchester and Ipswich. As such at peak times they are congested with long tailbacks into Sudbury and onto the A134 from the A1071. It is my opinion that the proposed increase in lorries will further congest both areas and impede traffic flow even further as well as increase the risk of accidents. I consider this to be true, whether or not a new roundabout is put in place.
In closing, as a representative of Suffolk Police I tender my opposition to the application on the above grounds
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Nick, my husband, came with me to the council meeting today. He has never been to Babergh before and I thought that he had better come while we still have something of interest to discuss. He was very impressed at the friendly welcome from councillors both known to him and unknown. He was also gratified that an officer turned up the lighting behind him so that he could continue to read the newspaper!
Once the meeting got under way however I am not sure that he saw the Council in its best light. There was some confusion not least with regard to why we were actually there. It seemed that councillors were not, as many had anticipated, being invited to give their final opinion on Local Government Reorganisation, since apparently more facts will be available before the deadline for submissions to the Boundary Committee on 26th September, but once again to give the Strategy Committee a ‘steer’ with regard to the Committee’s proposal.
I must admit that the whole process seems to have been going on for so long, with so many ‘steers’ and straw polls having been required at various meetings that I have pretty well steered myself into the ditch. I confess that at the start I set off in one direction but have more recently changed tack, at least on the subject of the principal proposal regarding the number of unitary councils that should be set up in the county.
I am not much of an admirer of the tactics of the County Council with regard to their championship of One Suffolk, which I think have been a little over enthusiastic to say the least, but I have come round to the view that this option is the least bad of the two possibilities on offer. This is a decision that I have come to purely on the basis of cost; if cost were not an issue the proposal for two unitaries would, I think, be vastly preferable. However I simply cannot believe that dismantling the County Council, which is about ten times larger than Babergh, will result in anything but additional costs that will undermine savings from the process as a whole. This was not the opinion of the Council as a whole today, so it looks very probable that Babergh will support the two unitary option at the final vote on 23th September.
I have for some time opposed the idea of redrawing the boundaries of the North Haven Unitary to include Hadleigh. As I said at the meeting today, to remove what is essentially a market town with its satellite parishes from the ‘Rural Suffolk unitary’, would be to drive a coach and horses through the entire concept of one ‘fast growth urban’ and one ‘historically based rural’ council that is the visionary basis of the Boundary Committee’s proposals. This is actually rather a political issue, with Hadleigh Councillors split between the Liberal Democrats, who want to go with North Haven (where there are fewer Conservatives, at least at present), and our one Hadleigh Conservative Councillor, Brian Riley, who does not believe that the people of Hadleigh wish to be part of an Ipswich oriented authority.
I was pleased to be able to second a highly dubious amendment by Councillor Riley proposing the exclusion of Hadleigh from the proposal to move the boundary. This set the cat among the pigeons for at least half an hour and enabled the Hadleigh issue to be well and truly aired.
Sadly those in favour of no change to the boundary lost the final vote, but the vote was closer than many might have predicted! And of course, because the vote was ‘only a steer’ the argument is not yet lost!
A barbecue was held by Woodland B.A.T.S at their tree nursery in Chilton on Sunday.
The weather stayed fine just long enough for us to finish our delicious food and trek back across the airfield.
A good time was had by all, and the trees were looking very healthy!