Thursday, November 26, 2009
On Tuesday afternoon the Chairman of Babergh, Councillor Jennie Jenkins, cut the ribbon to open a 'self help' advice kiosk at Babergh's offices. This is the latest step in a long term partnership between Babergh and the Bureau.
The kiosk, which is supplied by Sudbury CAB, aims to help people who need information and who, for whatever reason, prefer not to make the trip to the Bureau at Belle Vue House. Many issues dealt with by advisors can be resolved by looking at the internet, but this is not always an option for people. According to research 30 percent of households have no internet access, and this facility should be particularly useful for them. Not every problem can be resolved in this way, but a client can often get a long away and at least receive some sort of suggestion regarding the next step.
The kiosk is particularly useful because it offers access to sites that have been chosen because they offer reliable and safe sources of information. It can be dangerous to go on line to resolve problems, particularly those related to money matters and debt, since many websites are commercial operations masquerading as information sites.
I went along in two capacities really. Firstly I have been working with Bob Southgate of Babergh, who is pictured third from the right in the picture above, to try to improve access to Babergh's services through the internet, and the kiosk certainly ticks a number of boxes in this respect.
Secondly I am a Director/Trustee of the Sudbury CAB and we are anxious to disseminate our services beyond the bureau in Sudbury and into the rest of the District.
In addition to Bob, the picture above shows a number of other Babergh officers who have been instrumental in organising the installation, including Mike Hammond, Deputy Chief executive of Babergh, (second from the left), Jennie Jenkins (seated at the terminal), the Chairman and Manager of the CAB, Jeremy Osborne and Ann Furlonger (standing immediately behind Jennie) and John Sayers and Nigel Bennett who are Suffolk County Council and Babergh's Trustee representatives on the CAB Board.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
On arrival the scene was strange and mysterious. A stream of muffled figures walked through the blustery night towards the remote barn. The door, open just a crack, threw a shaft of dim light onto the muddy ground. A burly man stood inside checking credentials. It felt like a scene from a novel about the Russian Revolution (apart of course from the steady stream of people carriers and shiny cars coming down the driveway).
Once inside the barn however it was clear that it was just a public meeting, the second held by the Groton Pylon Alliance which has been formed to try to co-ordinate responses to National Grid’s plans to march pylons across the countryside of South Suffolk.
Some 240 people were present, many of whom who had not gone to the previous gathering of the Group. There were representatives present from around 20 villages, 13 of whom have signed up to the Alliance. Representatives from Little Waldingfield and Great Waldingfield Parish Councils were there, as was Jeremy Pembroke, the Leader of Suffolk County Council (in a personal rather than official capacity). There too were representatives from other local groups, the Suffolk Preservation Society and also from ‘Suffolk Underground’, a group committed to the routing underground of electrical wiring.
The Alliance, which sees itself as a conservation group, is keen to be a constructive rather than nimbyish organisation. The aim is to try to present the electricity company with a united view about what is best for Suffolk. Jeremy Pembroke claimed that this is also the aim of the County, which, despite only being a consultee in the process, are taking a group of interested Councillors on a bus to see the four potential options for themselves. Representatives from the area around Dedham Vale, which is affected by routes 1 and 2, were also present and it seems that they themselves favour Route 2, with the important proviso that the wires that affect the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty are hidden underground- an expensive option. This seems the favoured option of all present, who do not wish to see ‘virgin countryside’ destroyed by intrusive objects.
The planning authority is the new Government quango recently set up to decide large infrastructure issues, and, I notice, currently advertising for highly paid staff. In common with the County Council, Babergh is only a consultee. I was the only Babergh Councillor present, and heard Jeremy Pembroke call for the District and the County to co-operate in trying to form a combined view. I will be passing his message onto relevant people at Corks Lane. Unity is strength in these matters!
It is important that those who feel strongly put pen to paper and write to National Power. The Groton Pylon Alliance is urging people to do so, and also, if possible, to make a donation to the Alliance to help to hire legal and technical experts to assist with the campaign.
Further information can be found on the National Power website and also on
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Many of you will have seen our local PCSO’s around and about in the village. The acronym stands for Police Community Support Officer.
The West Babergh Safer Neighbourhood Team of which these officers form a part has made a real step forward in community communications in recent weeks by throwing open its monthly Tasking Meetings to the general public. In order to make the process more community lead I have been asked to take the chair of these meetings, which at present take place at the police station in Sudbury, but which may well move to more ‘neutral’ territory in due course.
The aim of the Tasking meetings is to hear from members of the community about the problems on which they feel that the Safer Neighbourhood Teams should be focussing, and then to set an action plan by prioritising these concerns. Progress made on previous actions is also reviewed.
There has been a lot of hostile comment about the PCSO’s since they were created some years ago. Some characterise them as ‘police-lite’ or claim that they represent ‘policing on the cheap’. People point to the fact that they have no powers of arrest and believe therefore that therefore that they can have no real value.
This, I think, massively misses the point. The Safer Neighbourhood personnel, some of whom are in fact police constables and sergeants with full police powers, are not the same policemen who respond to calls about crime, and they have a different function to perform. Their aim is not to run around arresting people but to try to prevent crime and anti social behaviour by working in the community. Listening to the concerns of local people, they try to engage with potential troublemakers at an early stage, and to make sure that existing troublemakers know that someone is keeping an eye on them. They are also involved in encouraging the Community Speedwatch programme, and concern themselves with issues such as under-age drinking, littering and drug taking. All of these matters are things that the public, when asked in surveys, claim to want to see addressed. The walk around Acton described on the blog recently was a Safer Neighbourhood initiative, and there will be another similar event in Great Waldingfield in early December.
The police are not the only people involved in the Safer Neighbourhood exercise. Babergh has community support officers who also attend the Tasking Meetings, as do representatives from the Fire Service and youth workers. It is already possible to point to some success stories in areas that have been prioritised and targeted by the Team.
The Babergh West Safer Neighbourhood Team covers 36 individual parishes around Sudbury, but does not include Sudbury and Cornard. I am hoping that representatives from the parish councils will come along to the meetings as often as they can, but the meeting is open to any member of the public who has a local problem that they wish to bring to the attention of the Team.
More information about Safer Neighbourhood Teams and future meetings and events can be found on the Suffolk Constabulary Website. Or go to:
The first site gives information about Safer Neighbourhood Teams in general and the second information about the West Babergh team in particular.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Founded some 40 years ago by a mother who lived at Hole Farm, the Pre-school has gone from strength to strength. It could be said to have been the victim of its own success when it was asked to vacate the classroom at the school in January. The eviction was due to pressure on space from school age children, a good many of whom had come up from the nursery itself.
In a stupendous joint effort from the pre school's Leader, Ann Stone and staff, the County Council, builders,architects and others, the facility opened for business in early September, only eight or so months since notice to quit the school was received. The speed shown by everyone concerned can be illustrated by the fact that the architect submitted a planning application only two weeks after the first time he visited the site.
I wrote about the new building on the blog some weeks ago, but visiting again last week I was once again really impressed with it. The external grassed area has now also taken shape, and the whole structure is a perfect venue for the 43 children currently making their first friends and starting out on the wonderful journey that is education!
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Yesterday I acted as a substitute on the Development Committee which I always find interesting. However, on this occasion, the meeting was really quite exciting due to the fact that the Committee was due to reach a decision on reserved matters (that is the detailed plans) for the HMS Ganges site at the tip of the Shotley peninsula. Outline planning permission for the site was granted several years ago.
The history of the Ganges site is very interesting, since, as its name would suggest, it was a training school for navy cadets for many years, and later a police training college. Its planning history is interesting too and not uncontroversial. At least two applications for outline planning permission have been submitted over the years and one decision by Babergh was rejected on appeal.
The site is at the end of a long and winding B road, and is also in a stunningly beautiful position surrounded by the habitat for rare species and overwintering birds. It is understandable therefore that the idea of building 400 or so houses and a nursing home here is controversial locally. However, as a ‘brown field site’ it is, theoretically, an acceptable place to build. Indeed it would be wrong to leave it in its current dilapidated state, so something needs to be done with it. Many residents from the villages of the Shotley peninsula were in the Council Chamber to observe, or to participate in, the proceedings. Many more had written letters objecting to the latest proposals and remarkably not one letter had been received in support of the scheme! Local Members from the Peninsula made impassioned speeches supporting local opposition.
The paperwork relating to the case was extensive and, having ploughed through this, I accompanied other Councillors last Thursday on a site visit to enable us to make a better-informed decision. The photographs above show the ceremonial mast, a relic of the naval era and now in a sad state of repair, the police station (much overgrown by buddleia) and the old officers’ mess and club.
In the event, having listened to all the reasons why the application should be rejected, legal issues too complex to expand on here, meant that proceedings were deferred while elucidation was sought from Babergh’s legal counsel. This means that my efforts to get on top of the complexities of the case were probably in vain since, unless the Committee Member for whom I was standing in is unable to make the next meeting, it will be he and not I who makes the final decision.
However, I was fascinated to be able to visit this historic site and also to observe a well orchestrated campaign of community opposition in action.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
A second public meeting has been announced this morning by the Groton Pylon Alliance as part of its campaign to challenge National Grid’s proposal to build a new 400kV overhead power line in south Suffolk.
The purpose of the meeting will be to:-
• update the public on the expansion of the GPA
• explain what the GPA has achieved since its first public meeting
• articulate the strategy of the GPA for the next phase of the campaign
The meeting will be held at Dove Barn, Castlings Hall, Groton, Suffolk C010 5ET at 7.30 pm on Monday 23rd November.
For further details and directions see the GPA’s website at www.groton-pylon-alliance.co.uk
The GPA can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Well! Our visit to English National Opera to see Duke Bluebeard's Castle and the Rite of Spring yesterday evening was very enjoyable and both productions of these early 20th century masterpieces were really first rate.
I have to admit I was rather concerned since the critics, while on the whole complimentary, had made it clear that the audience was not in for a conventional evening out. One commentator implied that the two different producers were vying with one another to shock, and this can sometimes result in a rather uncomfortable audience experience.
I remember one evening some years ago at the ENO when I went alone to see Verdi's Masked Ball. Before the performance started I got talking to a very nice respectable man sitting next to me. The production was VERY explicit, and I found it cringeingly embarrassing sharing the experience with a total stranger!
Anyway, I had no worries this time. Although some aspects of the show were shocking and/or strange, as might be guessed from the men wearing dog's heads in the image from the Rite of Spring, above, I felt that there was nothing that was not justified by the nature of the underlying works.
I think that the most electrifying moment for the audience was when one of the cast lit a cigarette on the stage in the Rite of Spring. She was swiftly copied by most of the cast and clouds of smoke enveloped the first few rows of the stalls. In our new smoke free world this seemed exceptionally shocking and I came out of the theatre wondering whether smoking is now the new great taboo.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
At yesterday evening’s Parish Council in Acton councillors expressed the view that the Village Walkabout, was held in the village last Thursday morning, had been a useful exercise.
Those who were out and about might have seen a troop of us marching round the village with representatives of the local police and Babergh District Council on a clear and sunny morning last week. The general idea was to have a look at problem areas in the village with a view to taking rapid action to resolve any outstanding issues.
On the whole Acton came out very well, looking spick and span and graffiti free in the November sunshine. However, discarded crisp packets were quite ubiquitous, and there was a trail of detritus across the playing field and leading round the back of the village hall. It was good to see that the dog bin in Coblers Way has been moved at last, and a Babergh community warden was on hand to remove a television that had been discarded in the bottom of a hedge in Jennens Way.
The vexed question of parking at the school was considered. This is a problem in many places as anyone who has gone past All Saints Middle School or Great Waldingfield School at around 3 pm will know. However, it seems that the no parking chevrons do extend too far, so it may be possible to create a little more legal parking space in Lambert Drive.
While we were walking round, Chris Moss, the Chairman of the Parish Council, was able to try out a speedwatch camera in the High Street. It seems that his luminous yellow jacket was something of a giveaway, since the fastest motorist clocked was only travelling at 37 mph! The Parish is joining up with other villages locally to purchase their own speed recording device which it is hoped will act as a deterrent to those who persist in racing along in 30 mph areas.
It is hoped to repeat the walkabout exercise on a regular basis.
Friday, November 6, 2009
On Wednesday afternoon I attended a Trustees Meeting of the Braithwaite Trust. As many of you know the Trust looks after the allotments in Great Waldingfield and I am happy to report that on the whole Trust’s position, both financial and operational, remains good.
At the beginning of the meeting we were addressed by Siobhan Hemmett, our Police Community Support Officer and a colleague who is involved with the organisation of neighbourhood watch schemes and the like. They suggested that the Board consider setting up an ‘Allotment Watch’ scheme with their help. Apparently thefts from allotments have become more common recently and raising awareness may prevent further crimes.
In the summer, some of the Trustees and young members of their families worked hard to fill a skip with rubbish that was dumped on the drove road off Ten Tree Road that is owned by the Trust. In addition to waste that could be disposed of by skip, they were faced with a large number of propane gas cylinders which are less easy to dispose of safely and legally. David Floyd has spent a good deal of time and effort reuniting cylinders with their original owners at various gas companies, but is still somewhat perplexed by what to do with a cylinder of german extraction!
Horses have now taken over from the six alpacas in Mill Field, and although I am sorry to see these very attractive animals go, allotment owners have been very pleased to be able to take advantage of the horses’ ‘by products’ .
Demand for allotments remains good, but not unmanageable. In the past it has been difficult to find takers for all the plots available but this is no longer the case. It will be interesting to see whether the new fashion for ‘grow your own’ is just a passing fad or whether there has really been a change in people’s behaviour.
Finally we are all looking forward to introducing the new vicar to the joys of membership of the Board of Trustees. I am sure that she will keep us all on the straight and narrow!
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I am rather less sanguine than I was about the prospect of huge pylons marching close to Great and Little Waldingfield.
I hear on the grapevine that a strong challenge is being mounted against the two routes that run south of here. I have up to now felt that it goes against common sense and also against economic sense to do anything other than follow the existing route with a new line and I still feel this. However, I am less confident than I was.
John Fensom from Great Waldingfield has drawn an interesting website to my attention which has been set up by opponents to the northern routes. I feel that perhaps it is time to start more active opposition to ‘Route Four’ and I will be urging Parish Councils in Great Waldingfield and Little Waldingfield to consider joining the wider campaign. Individuals can get involved too.
To see the website go to: