Sunday, November 30, 2008
The message below has been brought to my attention by Peter Clifford, the Chairman of Chilton Parish Council. It is of particular importance to readers in Chilton, but residents elsewhere should take note too!
'Police officers would like to remind residents in the Newton, Chilton, Assington and Leavenheath areas to keep property secure after a spate of thefts and burglaries in villages along the A134.
Between the 6th of September and the 12th November there have been fifteen reported incidents, which include thefts from sheds, greenhouses, gardens and vehicles. Of these fifteen incidents less than half of the items had been left secure.
Please keep vehicles locked and remove valuables even if only leaving them for a short while. Keep tools and sheds secure with a good quality lock and consider the use of a shed alarm.
We rely heavily on information received from the public, not only are we asking people to be more vigilant about their security but we would also like to hear from anyone who notices suspicious activity around vehicles or properties.
Please use the following link to pass any useful information to Suffolk Police.
DO NOT USE THIS LINK IN AN EMERGENCY OR IN A SITUATION THAT REQUIRES AN IMMEDIATE POLICE RESPONSE WHEN YOU SHOULD RING 999.
Police Direct Team
Friday, November 28, 2008
Out on my walk with Rendle the Lurcher yesterday I met local farmer, Ken Chamberlain on his way to cut a Christmas Tree from his small grove in Newmans Green, Acton. The tree is for the Christmas Tree Festival that is taking place in St Peter's Church in Sudbury from Wednesday to Saturday of next week.
The Newmans Green Tree, pictured on the ground above, is to have pride of place in the Church, and, unlike the other trees, will be there over the Christmas period. I am told that it will be dressed with over seventy lights!
The Festival this year will raise money for Breast Cancer Research. It was a really lovely event last year and I am looking forward to visiting the church once again to see what clever people have done with all the different trees. I hope to get some inspiration for my own efforts in the tree decoration department, which I have to admit are generally rather uninspired.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
On Thursday evening Nick and I went along to the Gainsborough’s House 50th Anniversary Dinner at the Swan Hotel in Lavenham. The 50th Anniversary Celebrations are likely to continue for about three years since it took that length of time, following the purchase of Gainsborough’s House by the Trust in 1958, for the museum to actually open, so expect to see a steady procession of related events.
Ninety people or so attended the dinner at which the Director of the House, Diane Perkins, gave an overview of what the museum now looks like following its makeover in 2006. She also described some of the community and outreach work that is carried out by Liam, our marvellous Education Officer. The after dinner speaker was Mark Fisher, Member of Parliament for Stoke on Trent and author of a book on Museums which has a chapter on Gainsborough’s House. He was clearly very keen on the Sudbury collection and pointed out that Gainsborough’s House is the only artist’s birthplace museum in the country.
If you haven’t done so, do go down to the House before 15th December to see the temporary exhibition of early 20th century paintings from the collection at Boxted House in North Essex. There are many excellent works on show, including the one pictured above of Nathalie Bevan by Gertler, which I think is simply stunning!
Entry is free on Tuesday afternoons, and a cup of tea or coffee only costs £1. There are some lovely Christmas cards on sale in the shop, where all profits go towards the work of the House.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
I’m afraid that the calendar with regard to waste collection that you have all received with your Babergh Matters this week is incorrect. I am not entirely certain what is wrong with it, since the message, set out below, that Members have received from the relevant officer is not very clear to me, although it may make sense to you!
What is clear however is that we must all look out for ‘bin hangers’ on or around 15th December which will include a correct calendar.
The officer writes:
‘Please be advised that there are errors in the waste collection calendars that have recently been sent out in Babergh Matters. These include an additional digit in the contact telephone number, which means that a caller gets through to a fax line. Additionally, the recycling / residual collection weeks from first week in January are the wrong way round.
The correct number is 0845 606 6045
Because of the way that Christmas falls this year, we are having to move collection days FORWARD during the beginning of Christmas week. As this is so unusual and despite the fact that we have published details on the website and in Babergh Matters, we had always intended to reinforce the message by putting 'bin hangers' on bins week commencing 15th December advising next collection day. This will give us an opportunity to apologise to all customers and to include the correct calendar and contact number on the reverse side.’
You have been warned!
Thursday, November 20, 2008
The Belle Vue controversy and the ‘parking issue’ threatens to obscure many of the good things that Babergh has been doing in the recent past.
One has been highlighted in a press release today. Four years ago Babergh set a target to build or give planning permission for 700 affordable homes in the area by 2009, and this number has been well exceeded. This is the result of a great deal of effort by the councillors who work on the Housing Panel, and also by the relevant officers who are highly dedicated to the Council’s aim to provide decent housing for all in the area.
A harsher economic environment has now resulted in a problem however. 386 of these houses have been built, and another 80 or so are under construction, but the rest are ‘in the pipeline’, that is they have planning permission, but work on them has not yet started. Some of these will be developed by Parish Councils in co-operation with Babergh and housing associations, often on so called ‘exception sites’. However, the vast majority depend on the completion of private sector developments. At present the credit crunch means that development on new sites, even where planning permission has already been granted, has ground to a halt.
Furthermore, the prospect of adding more private sector-built homes to the pipeline looks bleak at present. In the case of Chilton Woods, for example, it was indicated by the developers at the last public meeting that planning permission for the first 14 or so houses would be applied for in September. It is now November and there is absolutely no sign of any application being made.
I am sure that this is a pattern that is being repeated all over the country. It seems clear to me that relying on the private sector to deliver public housing is only a policy that works during periods when housing markets are booming and the private sector can absorb what amounts to a hidden tax on its activities. One has to ask whether this is really a sustainable long term policy for the provision of social housing.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
The Conservative logo at the top of this post indicates that it contains content of a party political nature. This enables those uninterested in politics to look away now!
If, as has been rumoured, Local Government reorganisation in Norfolk and Suffolk, does not, after all, go ahead in the light of the worsening economic environment, County Council elections will take place in Suffolk on 4th June 2009. This is a month or so later than usual so that they can co-incide with the elections for the European Parliament.
With this in view, a large contingent from South Suffolk Conservative Association yesterday made their way(being careful to share transport where possible), to a conference marking the launch of Campaign 09 in the Eastern Region.
The day was good fun, not least because the venue at Chilford Hall Vineyard (barn pictured above) near Cambridge was very attractive, and easily accommodated the 300 or so people present.
During the course of the meeting some interesting facts emerged. East Anglia is in fact the most ‘Conservative’ (with a large C) area of the UK, with about 75% of parliamentary seats held by the Party. It is (very probably as a result of this) the most hard done by when it comes to central government funding- despite the fact that it is by no means the wealthiest. This fact probably explains our terrible transport infrastructure etc. etc. and is a very good reason for people in the area to actively work for a change of government at the next general election!
Eric Pickles, the Shadow Minister for Local Government reiterated the pledge I have heard him make on a previous occasion that a new Conservative Government would do away with what he called the ‘alphabet soup’ of unelected quangos that have proliferated at the rate of about one a month under this Labour Government. In the East of England alone these absorb literally billions of pounds, and from observation I can tell you that they often duplicate each other’s activities, spend a lot of time talking rather than doing, and usurp the powers of the elected representatives of the people.
If the Conservatives have their way power will be returned to local councils, which will mean that it will be even more important to elect the right people into office in the future! I expect that I will return to this subject at a later date.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
On Tuesday we went to the Parish Council Meeting at Chilton.
Although Chilton is one of the smaller of the four parishes that comprise Waldingfield Ward it is fair to say that it seems to see more than its fair share of activity. The reason of course is that the parish’s position on the edge of Sudbury means that it suffers from above average pressure from the problems of the urban fringe.
Among other matters that were discussed was the car washing service that miraculously appeared overnight (without planning permission) at the back of Homebase, the prospect of a renewed application from Prolog for a large development at the edge of the town, speeding postmen along Churchfield Road and of course further developments with regard to the application to site a quarry at Chilton.
The latest news on the quarry is that Bretts Aggregates have changed their second application. They have reluctantly removed activities, such as waste sorting and bagging, that were not directly related to the extraction of gravel. This would reduce lorry movements by around 20 percent. They have also said that if this outstanding application is accepted, then they will withdraw from the appeal relating to the one refused by the County Council some months ago.
Tactically this could be said to put objectors in a difficult position. The first application, which is subject to appeal, is now considerably less attractive to those who live in the vicinity than the second. If allowed on appeal there would be more lorry movements than the revised scheme would allow, and it also does not include the roundabout which might, perhaps, alleviate some of the safety concerns on the A134. Bretts clearly hope that these latest concessions, plus the roundabout, will be enough of a compromise to reduce the level of opposition to the scheme.
So should Bretts have their way? My personal feeling is that the fight should go on despite the risk that the outcome could be worse if they do. Once permission has been granted for the site there is nothing to stop Bretts from seeking to reinstate the ancilliary activities at a later date. Additionally, we all know how difficult it is to police activities on industrial sites and to enforce breaches of planning conditions. As far as the roundabout is concerned, there is no guarantee that this will do much to improve safety on this particularly dangerous stretch of road.
I really feel that, given all the excitement in the press, I have to make a comment about the hot potato that is the car parking situation in Sudbury.
The bottom line is that it is hard to escape the conclusion that this has not been Babergh’s finest hour.
In January I wrote about the meeting at which the introduction of these machines was contemplated:-
‘we were asked to approve the payment of £89,000 for ticket machines to be installed in car parks in Hadleigh and Sudbury. These, we were assured would not be for charging purposes, but to improve the productivity of the phantom traffic warden who allegedly haunts the streets of both towns.(Yes! There has been a very occasional sighting!)
‘I decided to abstain from voting for this proposal.
‘My reasons for this were twofold; firstly I felt that no sensible financial case had been made for the erection of these non-paying machines to assist the virtually non appearing traffic warden, and secondly I do believe that a debate about car parking should be an in depth and holistic discussion that examines all the issues. Erecting these machines now is seen by most people as a sly little measure that represents the thin edge of a predictable wedge.’
Well I was certainly wrong about the financial case! The traffic warden has appeared like magic and the machines have proved to be a fantastic money spinner for the council... a real financial success in these straightened times. A friend was sitting in the central car park in Sudbury the other day waiting for their wife and he saw in HALF an HOUR some five or six people receive tickets. Of course this predatory behaviour is disgraceful . It is clear that the public were insufficiently informed with regard to the introduction of the machines. No one deliberately, after all, fails to acquire a FREE ticket in order to avoid a fine.
In my opinion, when it became apparent that so many people were falling foul of the system the scheme should have been suspended while proper signage was put in place and further publicity undertaken. Instead we ploughed on with the scheme, and it is only in the last few days that mistakes have been admitted.
I know that there has been pressure from some councillors behind the scenes to make improvements to the scheme. Colin Spence was quickly on the case, recommending to officers that the signage needed to be significantly improved. I have to say that I find it frustrating that elected Members didn’t have more say in the formation and execution of the policy from the outset. We are not supposed to get down into the detail when it comes to this sort of thing, but more input from councillors at an early stage might have avoided what has resulted in a PR catastrophe for Babergh.
This is an example of how the Committee System at Babergh is unsatisfactory. Had there been a responsible portfolio holder an elected representative would have been held accountable. I guarantee that the scheme would have been more efficiently introduced, and if it hadn’t been the public would have known who to blame.
If Babergh does survive Local Government Reorganisation (and there are some faint hints this weekend that it may) then a Leader and Cabinet system should be introduced.