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

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Coming to a field near you? Police warn on illegal raves.

Suffolk Police, in conjunction with Norfolk Police, are cracking down on illegal raves in the countryside this halloween.

The police rightly make the point that the organisers of these events have little respect for health and safety regulations, or for the peace and quiet of local residents.

Chief Superintendent David McDonnell has sent out a strong message both to potential illegal rave organisers and to the public at large:

‘I want to warn anyone who is considering organising a rave, that they will face prosecution for holding such an event - we have successfully prosecuted people who have organised raves in Suffolk in the past. We will also seek to prosecute anyone attending a rave who commits other offences, such as damage.

I would also like to take the opportunity to appeal for the public’s help to tackle this issue. Early information from the public is critical if we are to prevent a rave from taking place. If we get reliable and timely information about where and when an event is being set up, generally we can get to the site, identify the organisers and seize sound and other equipment before the rave begins.’

Any suspicious activity which may be connected to an illegal rave should be
reported to police immediately, dialling 999 if necessary or 01473 613500.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

News from Old School Wood

Yesterday evening’s AGM for Branchlines, Great Waldingfield’s Community Woodland, was considerably enlivened by the news that a donation had been received from ‘one large anonymous donor’.
The size of the benefactors of the project aside, I am happy to report that all seems to be going well at Old School Wood. All of the trees have now been planted and, despite the very dry conditions seen recently, it seems that few have had to be replaced. Progress is now being made towards planting wild flowers and bulbs, and a special report at the meeting informed members that children at the school have already benefitted from learning opportunities connected with trips to the woodland that are enjoyed by all.
There are a number of ways to support the continuation of the project. The one that is, I have to confess, least attractive to me is to participate in one of the regular working parties that take place on the fourth Saturday of every month. Alternatively you might ‘adopt a plot’ by paying £25 towards the maintenance of a plot of your choice. There are 117 plots available, of which at the time of writing 25 have already been spoken for. Each plot is 10 metres by 10 metres and includes approximately 11 trees. In return for your generosity you receive membership of Branchlines for a year, plus a certificate showing the site of ‘your’ plot. Depending on where it is, you could celebrate your generosity by having a picnic under one of your ‘trees’. For more information about supporting Branchlines you should contact Brian or Shirley Rose on 01787 376499.
After the business of the meeting we heard a fascinating talk from Edward Martin of the Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service Conservation Team about ‘Woodland in the Suffolk Landscape’. I was very surprised to hear that as early as the time of the Doomsday Book most of the UK had been deforested, and only 15% of the woodland that originally covered the country was still in place. This process of deforestation has continued over the years, although recently the process has been reversed a little. Branchlines itself has made a small contribution to this trend.
I felt that it was an irony that we were hearing from Mr Martin, given the problems that ‘archaeology’ has caused to the Branchlines project in the past, but all is well that ends well!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Car parking debate continues

Yesterday’s Council Meeting at Babergh was an action packed affair.
Things got off to a rather sticky start however, and Councillors became rather grumpy as a result. This was because a paper aiming to improve the flow of information that Councillors receive about what is going on in their Wards was followed by another item which immediately highlighted the nature of this problem of communication. It appeared that a number of Members were entirely innocent of affordable housing proposals in their areas. These can be rather controversial schemes, so the irritation expressed was understandable. I am pleased to report however that Colin and I are aware of any schemes that are planned in Waldingfield Ward! (at least we think we are).
We then moved swiftly on to the issue of the Council’s difficult financial situation, about which I wrote last week. We were asked to consider the paper, already discussed by Strategy , in which an approach to setting the budget for the 2010/11 financial year was set out.
After a good deal of argy bargy, and despite the clear wish of many of the ‘powers that be’ to avoid it, an amendment was finally tabled that was aimed at removing the vexed issue of car parking charges from consideration by the SFP, the Committee that does the detailed work on the budget. This would have effectively put this matter to bed for the time being. By the time this happened however the assembled Councillors had been so cowed by threats of what might happen to them and to Babergh if they could not produce a credible budget that only the really die hard opponents of Car Parking Charges were prepared to support the amendment. A subsequent amendment was tabled by Martin Booth. He, like me, is very keen to make sure that if car parking charges ARE introduced in Sudbury, then arrangements for residents and others are fair and sensible. His amendment sought to ensure that the investigation by the Committee went beyond the purely financial issues and fully considered other consequences of the changes . The possibility of handing over the management (and the cost) of the carparks to Sudbury and Hadleigh Town Councils is also to be considered.
The budget, including the issue of car parking, will be fully debated at the December Council meeting (15th December) and nothing will be finally decided until that date. Further discussion could continue until February.
It is certain that hard choices are going to have to be made to make the books balance, and, in my view, it is right that nothing, however unpalatable, should be ruled out at present.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Local star performing at the Quay Theatre

Local diva, Elaine Henson, who lives in Great Waldingfield will be performing at the Quay theatre next week in Commedia ‘s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

The show runs from 22nd to 24th October and I am sure that it will be excellent. For anyone new to opera The Magic Flute is a good place to start. It appeals to people of all ages. I took my children to it when they were very young indeed and they were spellbound for the whole three hours. Be warned however; once you get bitten by the opera bug you never recover, a fact that I have learnt to my cost!

The Magic Flute was one of the last works that Mozart composed before he died and is full of marvellous tunes, drama, spectacle and comedy.

Hurry along to the Quay theatre and buy tickets before it is sold out!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

World War Two connections

It came as a surprise to me, although I am sure that many in Great Waldingfield are well aware, that the site that is scheduled to be developed as a housing estate in Folly Road (the Piggeries site) was once effectively the ‘town centre’ of the US Army Air Force’s camp towards the end of the Second World War. There are still a couple of buildings on the site, one of which served as the camp’s gym, cinema, social centre and church.

This fact has been brought to my attention by Mr. Norman Wells of Pebmarsh in Essex, who recently gave a talk to the Sudbury History Society about Chilton Airfield. He has suggested that, when trying to think up names for the roads in the new development, the Parish Council bear its historic connections in mind! At Monday’s Parish Council Meeting councillors seemed to be receptive to the idea which I also think is a good one. It was felt that perhaps some of the veterans, who still meet regularly in the US, might be asked for some suggestions.

According to Valerie Herbert, who as a trustee of the Sudbury Museum, has been much involved with the documenting and recording of Chilton and Sudbury’s wartime connections, ‘The squadrons had boring numbers but also zodiac names such as Scorpio’. When it comes to naming roads this could be a rich seam to mine.

She also tells me that the part of the Museum Trust website dedicated to Chilton Airfield has just gone live. (To access this go to : sudburysuffolk.co.uk/photoarchive (then click on the Americans button). There is actually a picture of the Folly Road site in the archive which is reproduced below.

Those of you who would like to learn more about Sudbury and District during the war might be interested in buying a copy of Valerie’s new book that has recently been published by the Sudbury Museum Trust. Pre launch copies of the book, No Glorious Dead: the impact of war on Sudbury – a Suffolk market town, are available for sale at a discount price at the Visions of Sudbury Exhibition that is currently taking place at St Peter’s Church. The exhibition continues until Saturday and is open from 10 am until 4 pm.

The book has more than 245 illustrations and includes a map of Chilton airfield. Proceeds from sale of the book will be shared between the Sudbury and District Royal British Legion and Sudbury Museum Trust.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hard Times mean hard choices

After the Chairman of Babergh Strategy Committee, Nick Ridley, had finished introducing the paper with the deceptively low key name ‘Interim Report on the 2009/2010 Strategic and Financial Planning Process’, his words were greeted with a stunned silence and for a moment it seemed that no comment would be forthcoming.

The Committee's response was not entirely surprising because it is clear that, in common with many other Councils, Babergh finds itself in a very tricky financial position at the present time. Areas such as Land Charges and Building Control, from which the organisation derives an income have fallen away due to the recession while demand for services remains the same or have increased. Many contracts are long term and cannot be altered, there is little left in reserves and the prospect for raking in much in council tax in a low inflation environment look rather limited. Additionally Babergh has limited scope for manoeuvre since it already runs on a comparatively lean cost base (as a recent benchmarking exercise proves) and has not milked Council Tax payers in the past.

Given the Council’s financial problems it is unsurprising that the hot potato topic, parking charges, has once again found its way onto the agenda. It is the one remaining area that Babergh could legally exploit to increase its income, and increase it quite substantially. The inflammatory nature of this issue was however clearly reflected in the headline of today’s Sudbury Free Press!

The Report (which can be read on Babergh’s website under Council and Committee Papers) purported to set out ‘approaches and specific actions to seek to meet the savings and efficiency targets in order to achieve a balanced 2010/11 Budget’. The Strategy Committee was being asked to endorse these ‘approaches’ ahead of similar endorsement by Full Council on 20 October.

I should make it clear that at this stage all measures are in theory simply being ‘discussed’ and the final spending decisions will be made in February when the Budget for the year is approved. However, re-opening the budget calculations at that late stage in any significant way may not be really practical. Allowing an issue to go forward for 'discussion' therefore could be seen as tantamount to approving it.

I have two problems with the process, one relating to the way that the Report itself has been presented, and the other with regard to the practicalities related to the rapid introduction of parking charges.

As far as the Report is concerned, inevitably perhaps, because work on the budget has barely begun, the Committee was being asked to focus on a few specific measures (car parking charges and staff redundancies), while others such as the reduction of non-statutory services were only sketchily mentioned. It was like looking a half finished picture and being asked to judge those few bits that have been completed without knowing what the rest is going to look like. This seems a strange, and not very acceptable, way of setting financial priorities. Unless there are some changes in the paper’s presentation by October 20 the Full Council will be in the same position.

Then one has to confront the Car Parking charges issue itself. It seems that what is proposed is the imposition of long term charges. Short term parking will remain free. In principle, unlike a number of other Members, I am not totally opposed to this idea but I am very concerned that an over-rapid implementation of such a scheme would lead to the sort of unintended consequences that we saw when the ticket machines were installed in the short term car parks earlier this year. The requirements of Sudbury residents and also of those who work in Sudbury need to be carefully thought out. Should there be season tickets for example? And isn’t four hours a more appropriate period for short term parking than the current three?

I am not yet sure how I will be voting on 20 October, and at present have an open mind, but, for the reasons set out above, I do not feel particularly comfortable with endorsing the Interim Report as it stands.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Glum Councillors

Despite inauspicious beginnings I have grown to rather like Twitter. In addition to following Babergh’s news on the site, and also Boris Johnson (who recently described himself as ‘a toenail on the body politic’), plus Conservative Home and the Los Angeles Times, I have recently started to follow a wonderful website called ‘Glum Councillors’.
Their aim is to find and publish pictures of Councillors looking glum while investigating evils of society such as holes in the road, noisy neighbours, or, as in the picture above, bad smells.
It must be the aim of all elected representatives to avoid appearing on this site! If you want to have a laugh at councillors’ expense go to:

Chilton Quarry...still in the County's Plan

I was sorry to see on my return from holiday that, despite the efforts of our County Councillor, Colin Spence, Suffolk County Council appear to have missed an opportunity to remove the Chilton site from their Minerals Plan.
I know that Colin has consistently over recent years argued for the site to be excluded. His first attempt, a year or so ago, was thwarted because at the time of the debate the site was subject to a live planning application. This meant that the site could not be removed.
It was to be hoped that this time round, when two attempts by Brett Aggregates to get planning permission to open the site have failed for very good reasons, common sense might be allowed to prevail. Sadly, despite what was by all accounts an impassioned and cogent representation from Colin, technicalities won out over reason.
The plan as a whole was recently declared ‘sound’ by a Government Inspector. As a result it appears that removal of the Chilton site from the Plan at this stage could be challenged legally and result in the document being called in by the Secretary of State.
At first sight this seems rather hard to believe. It is another example of how we are bounded by so many rules that we live in a kafkaesque world where the coils of bureaucracy render action impossible. Moreover it demonstrates yet again that, despite lip service being paid to local democracy,central government exercises far too much control over local government bodies.
Or perhaps the County Council is choosing to hide behind these rules because, despite the obvious dangers to the public that a quarry on this site would involve, it is reluctant to give up the potential profit that will accrue from the development.
I’m not really clever enough to judge, but Colin did get quite a good level of support for his cause from across the political spectrum. It seems that there are at least some County Councillors who understand when a development is appropriate and when it is not.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Back from holiday

As some of you may have guessed the blog has gone quiet for a couple of weeks while we have been away on holiday.

We took a boat trip from Athens to Istanbul, via the Black Sea, and it was really very exciting. It has taken me a couple of days to come down to earth and get used to being back in Suffolk, where it is rather wetter and chillier!

I took a lot of pictures and It is difficult to know which ones to post to give a flavour of the trip. Pictured above are 1. Our Ship, Minerva, standing off the Greek Island of Skyros, 2. Wheelie bins in Bulgaria, 3. The Potemkin steps in Odessa (not quite as seen in the Eisenstein film Battleship Potemkin) and 4. A shot of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.

Below is the best picture of all from my perspective, an image from a day at sea! Next year I think we will try the Greek ferries if the bank balance can cope.