Tuesday, June 30, 2009
I don't often write about national politics, and would rightly lose some of my readership if I did, but my gentle walk this morning with Rendle the Lurcher was much disturbed by listening to Ed Balls being interviewed on the Today programme.
(Yes I do have my Roberts Radio with me on my morning constitutionals!)
Listening to the list of public spending commitments that Ed Balls was making I thought that he was in Cloud Cuckoo land. Then I saw the graph above on the Spectator's Coffee House Blog site.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Two items of news on the radio last week brought the policies that might be included in Babergh’s new Local Development Framework to mind.
By way of background I should say that Babergh has recently begun to review the strategic planning policies which at present are contained in the Babergh Local Plan. Inevitably the Government in its enthusiasm for meddling with absolutely everything has laid down new parameters for any future Plan which will now be called the ‘Local Development Framework’. One of the principal differences this time around is that the plan will not all completed in one go but will comprise a series of documents that will be incorporated into the Framework gradually.
Development is in my opinion one of the most important functions of the Council. Decisions made by the Development Committee really do affect the way the District looks and mistakes can lead to permanent blots on the landscape as many of us know to our cost.
It is not surprising therefore that Councillors become anxious and excitable if they feel that their preferences and opinions are not being translated into council policy and I am sure that I will be no exception.
The first radio report concerned housing in the countryside. Lack of affordable and smaller homes are causing a reduction in people likely to use village facilities and this is leading to an unprecendented rate of closure of village shops, pubs etc. Additionally, the countryside is turning into an enclave for the relatively wealthy with a preponderance of large houses.
In my opinion over restrictive planning policies in the countryside are to blame for these shortages. I know that this is a controversial view, but when the time comes I will be pressing for a limited amount of sensitive development to be allowed in rural areas. A few new houses here and there, preferably with planning restriction so that they cannot be overdeveloped into 4 bedroom executive palaces, would continue the gradual organic growth in smaller habitations that has been seen over the centuries and would help to keep rural areas alive.
The second report dwelt on the fact that the swift, a pair of which are shown above, is becoming an endangered species. This is due to over enthusiastic repair of the old barns and other buildings in which they nest. I would like to see much more active consideration given to preserving , enhancing and where appropriate creating a better environment for wild life when developing the relevant planning policies.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Well! I was horrified to read on Page 5 of the East Anglian Daily Times today that, in a survey of local authorities carried out for the Government, Babergh had come bottom of the list of Suffolk authorities when it came to customer satisfaction and value for money. This it appeared, was despite the fact that people thought that the area was a great place to live.
I was greatly relieved therefore when, on opening my e mails, I received one from Babergh saying that the survey had been full of errors. In fact the Council scored number one for value for money and number two for customer satisfaction, a very small way behind Suffolk Coastal. In addition on both measures Babergh was well above the national and regional averages.
Well that’s a relief. I didn’t think we were really making that much of a mess of running the council. Of course, one has to echo the Chairman of the Strategy Committee’s comments that we can’t be complacent, but it is nice to know that the efforts of Members and officers are appreciated.
It is thought that someone at the organisation doing the survey got in a bit of a muddle when it came to sending out the results. I think a correction from the EADT is in order.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
There is just time to visit the exhibition, Ann Desmet: Urban Evolution. This is one of a series of regular shows by leading contemporary British printmakers at Gainsborough's House in Sudbury.
The exhibition finishes on 4th July. Don’t forget that entrance to the museum is free on Tuesday afternoons (though a donation, however small, is always welcome!)
The name of the exhibition reflects the artist’s enduring concern with the built environment and cities, the multi-layered and complex nature of which have inspired her since a period spent on a scholarship in Rome in 1989/90. Almost half of the works on show is a series of images , created between 2004 and 2007, based on the deterioration and regeneration of Manchester Victoria Baths the winner of the first series BBC 2’s Restoration programme. Another recurring image is that of the Tower of Babel, and the exhibition includes a series of large collages based on this theme which were featured in the recent Babylon exhibition at the British Museum.
Ann Desmet concentrates on wood engraving, linocuts and collage. Her work, which pushes the boundaries of printmaking, is often complex and multi-dimensional, exhibiting her close attention to detail and repaying the close attention of viewers.
Born in Liverpool, Anne Desmet has exhibited widely and her work is represented in several major collections including the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the collection of Her Majesty the Queen. Desmet has received over 20 national and international prizes for her work and since 1990 she has exhibited at the Royal Academy almost every year. She is the editor of Printmaking Today and has written a number of publications on the art of printmaking.
The Exhibition was organised by the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, where it attracted over 33, 000 visitors. It is presented in association with Hart Gallery, London.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
While walking through the cemetery in Sudbury a little while ago, the Secretary of Great Waldingfield Horticultural Society, John Hughes, came across a heap of discarded benches. Not wanting to see them go to waste, John restored two of them. Now, on behalf of the Horticultural Society, he has kindly donated them to Branchlines for the new community woodland, Old School Wood, in Great Waldingfield. The benches were originally sited outside St Peter’s Church in Market Hill, Sudbury.
Yesterday local residents gathered at the wood for games, a picnic, and for the unveiling of the benches which have been beautifully refurbished and look very fine. John and Chris Francis, the Chairman of the Horticultural Society, are pictured above removing the rather theatrical velvet ceremonial covers that were supplied for the occasion.
As can be seen from the third photograph, Colin and I were quick to try the benches out, accompanied by the Chairman of Branchlines, Dr David Taylor, and Mrs Ann Francis.
Also seen above is a panoramic view over part of the new woodland. A good amount of rain since the trees were planted last year means that very few have died, and many are poking up with confidence above their protective sleeves. Even though the trees are still rather small a walk round the wood is a pleasant experience on a summer afternoon, with distant views of the church and the surrounding countryside to enjoy.
Friday, June 12, 2009
A quiet week was enlivened by the arrival of these pictures of the great ice storm that hit parts of the District on Sunday 7th June!
There was still ice on the roads on Monday morning.
Thanks to Mr. Rick Ridgeon of Little Waldingfield who sent me the shots.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
'They have stopped rearranging the deckchairs and are now agreeing the process by which the deckchairs will be rearranged in the future and deckchair users will be consulted....Meanwhile the Titanic steams on and an iceberg marked "June 2010" awaits'
The Report, which is now available on the County Council’s Web Site, basically ticks off the legislative requirements that the plan has to meet to be considered ‘sound’. The Inspector concedes that the Council’s practices in preparing the report might be improved in some areas, and she stresses the need for the plan to be updated to take into account the two planning applications that have been refused for the Chilton site. Nonetheless she effectively dismisses the objections that were raised by those working to have the Chilton Site removed from the list of allocated sites.
This is depressing, but not surprising. The Inspector, when making her judgement, is, like anyone exercising a judicial function, heavily restricted by rules and regulations. She not only has to follow strict guidelines in determining whether the plan is ‘sound’, she also has to assume that planning conditions will, when imposed by the planning authority, be obeyed by the users of the site. What she is effectively saying, as I read it, is that a quarry at Chilton is fine if the access is sorted out and operating conditions imposed.
The problem is that anyone with practical experience of planning enforcement knows from other cases that making sure that conditions are met is often an uphill struggle and sometimes impossible. This, in my view, is one of the greatest weaknesses of our planning system, and there seems little will to change this state of affairs.
All is not lost, although had the inspector found that Chilton should be excluded from the next County Council Site Allocation Plan, then the war would have been close to being won. There is still scope to argue that, despite the Inspector’s findings, two refusals of planning permission and strong local opposition are evidence that the site should be excluded in any event when the report is discussed at the County Council prior to its adoption.
It is also possible that any potential operator may not be keen to proceed given the difficulties that have been experienced to date in obtaining planning permission. It is also possible that changed economic circumstances may make the business case for a quarry less compelling.
Many people will know by now that Colin Spence, the Conservative candidate, was re-elected as the County Councillor for Waldingfield and Sudbury East on Thursday. He obtained almost 50% of the vote which was a pretty conclusive result. Leon Stedman from Great Waldingfield, the candidate for UKIP, came second, with a quite respectable count. The Liberals came third and Labour brought up the rear.
The turnout was not particularly wonderful at 37.4%. Observation at the polling stations implies that numbers were higher in Waldingfield than in Sudbury East.
We are not surprised that the other two ‘Main Parties’ did badly, since apart from a solitary Liberal Democrat Poster in Waldingfield Road, Sudbury, we did not see a sign of any canvassing or leafleting from them at all.
As usual I enjoyed the campaign, despite going down with a filthy cold towards the end of the period. It is enjoyable to get out and about and spend time talking to people, and to have the excuse to stand outside the village shops and gossip! However I am now pleased that things can return to normal and that I can catch up with the gardening.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
As always I have enjoyed campaigning over the past three weeks, although I must say after walking around yesterday in very high temperatures was pleased to take a day off today!
As usual there has been the chance to meet some friendly and some less friendly people. By and large the dogs have been welcoming, although the mutt in Great Waldingfield that ALWAYS eats whatever is put through the letterbox persisted in this frustrating habit. Apart from a bit of rain at the start of the campaign the weather has been great.
It is always interesting to have the opportunity to have a good look at the gardens of prospective voters!
I was so struck with the really stunning displays in Acton on Tuesday that I took the shots above.
The observant reader will notice that there is a photo for each party (apart from UKIP, whose strange magenta and mustard colours are, as far as I am aware not found in nature, and even if they are, were not to be found in Acton this week.)
On the whole I have to say I prefer the Nigellas, but whichever ones YOU prefer don’t forget to vote. You know it makes sense.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
On Monday morning I took a short break from tramping the streets in search of Conservative voters to visit the First Steps Playschool in Great Waldingfield. I enjoyed seeing children on their first day back after half term.
As regular readers will know the playschool was recently threatened with closure, or at best relocation. This was due to the fact that Great Waldingfield Primary School, in which the playschool is currently based, needs extra space due to higher demand from older children.
Playschool leader, Ann Stone, her assistants and a number of parents lobbied hard to get Suffolk County Council to agree to build new, purpose built, accommodation in the school grounds. County Councillor Colin Spence was also active in encouraging the Council not just to move but to move quickly, and the Playschool organisers managed to put together a viable business plan in record time.
As a result work will start on the new building next week. The site is illustrated in the photos above. I was lucky enough to have a look at the plans which are very impressive. A number of facilities that the playschool lacks at present are included, and in addition to a new outside play area there will be a wildlife area which will be shared with the school. I very much look forward to visiting the playschool again in early September when if all goes according to plan the new facility will open for business.
It is wonderful to see that local authorities can sometimes not only do the right thing, but also do it swiftly.