Saturday, August 28, 2010
The agenda and supporting papers for Tuesday’s Council meeting dropped with a heavier than usual thump on the mat earlier in the week. There are several matters of significance to debate, including whether to proceed further in investigating the viability of closer co-operation, or a merger, with Mid Suffolk DC. I notice however that no sandwiches are being provided, so it is expected that we will get through everything by one p.m.
Our new Labour colleague, Tony Bavington, is already making his presence felt. He has given notice of his intention to move a Motion at the meeting. Firstly he is proposing that during the hot summer months black bin household waste be collected weekly (rather than fortnightly), and secondly that Babergh plan to introduce weekly collection of food waste (separate from other residual waste) for compost.
I am not sure exactly whether these issues will come to a vote, and of course I will be open minded and listen carefully to Councillor Bavington’s arguments in favour of his ideas. However, he will have to be very persuasive in the face of some well known hard facts. The objections to some degree come down to affordability, since it has been estimated that the additional work would cost around £110,000 (an additional 2% or so on Council tax). It would also however have an adverse impact on Babergh’s excellent level of recycling under the current system since less recycled material could be collected due to lack of capacity to collect both blue and black bins in one week.
As far as weekly food waste collection is concerned, this was looked at a couple of years ago by Babergh, and is, I believe, still an aspiration, but the additional collection vehicles that would be necessary were deemed to be unaffordable at the time. Given our current financial situation I doubt if this has changed. This is a pity, but it is still possible for many residents to obtain a cut price composting bin from Babergh and start to produce their own compost. I have noticed personally that doing this dramatically reduces the amount that I throw into my black bin, and also provides lovely stuff for the garden.
I posted a comment on the blog when the bin arrived on 14th July 2007,and republish the picture that accompanied it below:
Thursday, August 26, 2010
At the weekend we went up to Stratford upon Avon to see King Lear, which must be the most depressing of all Shakespeare’s plays.
Despite this dose of relatively uplifting misery we had a good time. On the way we took in the site of the battle of Naseby. (The King's Head in Naseby village is recommended for lunch!). We were also able to see the work in progress at the main Theatre, pictured here. The building has been undergoing major restoration and it will be open for business again towards the end of the year.
We visited Keith and Jeanne, some friends who live in nearby Welford on Avon, where, many years ago I sat on the Parish Council. Keith, who is now 86, has been suffering for some time from a balance problem which means that he topples over occasionally. He found that the lifting gadgets provided through the usual channels were not very stable and so he has created the device pictured below. This works on a manual ratchet and, I understand, does the job fine. It’s clear that the part of Keith’s brain that covers invention and creativity is as sharp as ever.
Friday, August 20, 2010
I really like harvest time. The fields are suddenly busy with tractors, people and dogs. I am even generally happy to sit behind slow moving farm implements, regarding it as all part of living in the country.
The harvest this year has seemed to be more frenetic than usual. This is due, I think, to the difficult weather conditions and also the need to bale up as much straw as possible. The hay harvest was not good, and animal feed is in short supply.
Almost overnight great towers of straw have sprung up all around the house, looking like fortifications and making the fields seem strangely geometric.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
More volunteers are needed to support the Community Speedwatch Scheme in Acton, Great and Little Waldingfield. This was the message that Little Waldingfield Parish Council received at its monthly meeting yesterday evening. Support is good from residents in Chilton and Newton, but the number of people turning out elsewhere has been less encouraging. The scheme is likely to fail if more helpers are not found, so if you are willing to help please get in touch with your Parish Council.
People complain a good deal about motorists who drive too fast through villages, and research has shown that lower speeds mean fewer fatalities. It seems strange therefore that more volunteers cannot be found to spend just an hour or so a month supporting the scheme.
However, it is not just the Speedwatch scheme that is in trouble. I was one of a small team of people who organised a fundraising barbecue at the weekend. Some 50 people bought tickets and the evening was a success. However, I fear that we may not be able to repeat the exercise in the future. We were simply too few (and dare I say it, a little too old) to put up the tents, move the tables, cook the food and then clear it all up again. Perhaps it was a little ambitious in any event, but no new, younger, bodies are coming through to help us and the whole business was just too much work for a few volunteers. Many hands do make light work in these circumstances, and organising events can be great fun and a good way of getting to meet new people. However, when it becomes too much of a grind volunteering loses its allure!
There is a hard core of people in all the communities in Waldingfield Ward who get out and about and are visible at most of the events that take place, selling raffle tickets, cooking food, manning stalls etc. etc. But they are always the same people! Many of them are the recipients of this blog.
However, where is everyone else? Of course many are working hard trying to earn a living, and this must take priority. However, we do have a higher than average number of retired people in the area. I was alarmed to read recently that on average people in the UK watch something like 5 to 6 hours of television every day. Most of the busy people that I know don’t spend their time like this however which implies that others must be glued to their chairs like limpets.
This is rather a depressing picture.
However, as those who were manning the speedwatch camera on the day of ‘the Acton Streaker’ will tell you, it is so much more interesting to get out and about and engage with the real soap opera of life!
Thursday, August 12, 2010
This is very good news. There are similar schemes in other villages in Suffolk, including Glemsford and Long Melford, which I understand work well. The idea is to put people who need help with all sorts of different tasks in touch with others in the community who can provide it free of charge. Some schemes also also arrange transport, to hospitals etc. (at an appropriate rate to compensate the driver.)
I have contacted Glemsford and Long Melford in the past hoping to encourage those with computer skills to support others who are not on line, and I will be urging the Acton group to consider including this area in their 'help available' list.
More news on the project will appear in due course.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
A new environmental group, C.H.A.N.C.E has been formed to fight to preserve wildlife habitats both locally and further afield throughout East Anglia. Their aims and aspirations can be read in their introductory letter below:-
‘We are a group of local people concerned about the ongoing destruction of the flora and fauna with which we share this planet. We have united this summer under the banner C.H.A.N.C.E. (Concern for Habitats: Active Nature Conservation Experts). Our aim is to be actively involved in habitat creation,protection and maintenance and to educate and help others in these endeavours.
Many of you know that the activities of our species (Humans) are the major cause of declines and extinctions in most species of wildlife. These declines, and the extinction rate is set to accelerate over the first half of this century. The desire for what we perceive as tidiness encourages people to constantly battle with nature. The harsh cutting of hedges and trees at this point in the year destroys many active bird nests, this is not only cruel, but is an offence in law for which our local police seem reluctant to act - I guess because insufficient people care or bother to make a fuss.
Mature readers, and I hope the more sensitive and observant members of younger generations will have noted serious declines affecting many, if not most species of flora and fauna. Who would have guessed the common House Sparrow would be a RED LISTED, endangered species by the year 2000; also, about three years ago three species of bee were declared extinct in Britain - very serious indeed!
Due to habitat loss by constant mowing of almost all amenity grassland, our grassland butterflies are in serious decline and other invertebrates and small mammals and reptiles are absent from these mown areas. The loss of these food sources has had an impact on many species of birds including owls and Kestrels. Butterflies are noticed by many people and it is sad note the Common Blue is now anything but common, the Wall Brown was declared extinct locally a few years ago. I could ramble sadly on and create quite a list, but it is positive action on the ground, and education that will make the difference. This fact was the inspiration behind our new conservation group.
Our current projects include the establishment of a management plan for Shawlands Wood and roadside bank as requested by Gt.Cornard P.C. We will be actively involved with work parties to bring the plan to fruition, to preserve the existing diverse range of flora and fauna, and increase the biodiversity. Other projects, already underway, include the creation of three butterfly meadows and reptile habitats to replace those lost to development over the last decade.
We need information, especially from long term residents, about wildlife you have observed past and present. This is a voluntary group - no membership fee - so please join us and stop the decline and destruction.
Michele Frances, Sue Lees and George Millins.
Contact details, George Millins mobile; 07534 263629 landline: 01787 374874
Thursday, August 5, 2010
A group has been formed to try to improve Chilton Airfield.
The sad state of the Airfield has been of concern to me since I became a regular dog walker there some six years ago. Since I have become a District Councillor I have realised that I am not alone.
The airfield is a unique and historic place with a strange beauty of its own in parts. Its sky is huge. It enjoys its own range of bird and plant-life; and it is distressing to see the patches of neglect that exist within it.
The situation has not been improved over the years by the fact that where there has been development this has been unplanned and piecemeal. There is now a need for environmental improvements to screen some of the unsightly industrial units and associated activities.
Further damage has been caused, by a number of different people. Firstly there are the hopelessly anti-social characters who persist in using the place as a huge rubbish tip. Secondly there are those who insist on bringing unauthorised motorised vehicles onto the site. I don’t just mean the boy racers and motorcyclist who make the life of nearby residents a misery at weekends; there are also those who take their dogs for walks by driving in front of them! Then there are the visitors to the waste disposal facilities, who, finding them closed, decide to dump their stuff outside.
In the past the owner of much of the land, Suffolk County Council, has struggled to cope with all these issues. Some measures have been taken such as the employment of security guards for a limited period to try to deal with boy racers. and signs have been erected at the entrances to the site, but clearly more needs to be done. It is good therefore to be able to report that action is now being taken by the County Council working with representatives of the local community. There is perhaps recognition that the County is unable to resolve these matters alone.
This morning Colin Spence and I met with an officer from the County Council along with the Chairmen and Clerk of Chilton and Great Waldingfield Parish Councils, some of the adjacent land owners and owners of industrial concerns on the airfield. The meeting was constructive . It was agreed that resolution of all of the outstanding issues will be complex and challenging, but it was also agreed that some small measures, such as tree and hedge planting, the blocking of potential dumping sites, working with existing CCTV cameras etc. could make a significant difference.
It is hoped to get Babergh District Council and also the local Safer Neighbourhood Team involved with the project and a further meeting will be held in three months time to review progress. It is hoped that this will be a good example of the community working together to get things done!
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
The wife of the owner of Jimmy’s Farm, who is I believe called Michaela, went into premature labour this morning. The reason that I know this ‘hot off the press’ snippet of celebrity gossip was that Jimmy himself sent his apologies to today’s meeting of the Babergh Development Committee.
Jimmy’s company was seeking permission to extend the hours of its new restaurant at the Farm from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
The enterprise has of course been a very high profile success since its rather shaky inception some years ago and it is only natural that there is a desire to continue expansion. Permission was granted, contrary to the recommendation of the planning officer, since eight out of the fourteen Members present, and the local Ward Members, felt that benefits to the local economy were sufficient to override other planning considerations
I was a substitute on the committee and I am afraid that I, along with six others, took a contrary view.
I said that I found it hard to escape the feeling that if a farmer outside Acton wanted to open a restaurant in the evening, in the middle of the countryside, he was unlikely to be permitted to do so. The venue would be ruled out as ‘not sustainable’. I have to say I am happy about this because, unlike Jimmy’s neighbours, we will not have traffic constantly passing by our doors through the early evening, but nonetheless to allow one and not the other appears unfair.
It also seemed to me that the extent of restrictions and limitations necessary to make the extension of hours acceptable suggested that the fundamental idea was flawed.
A further concern was the proximity of a Grade 2 listed building, Pannington Hall. This, which is only 100 meters from the restaurant, is currently unoccupied and in a state of some dilapidation. Traffic noise and other likely night-time disturbance makes it almost certain in my view that the building will be blighted indefinitely, unless of course Jimmy ploughs some of the profits from his commercial ventures back into its restoration!
Planning decisions are seldom straightforward, the rules often conflict and different people have different priorities. This means that it is very possible to take opposing views when coming to decisions. However, in this case I personally found it hard to escape the view that the aura of celebrity had played a part in the outcome.
Despite these misgivings, however, I look forward to visiting the restaurant in due course.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
My talk about Peter the Great, St Petersburg, floods and Pushkin at Chilton Church went well, with a reasonable audience and no technical problems.
Chilton Church has no electricity, so showing the pictures did present some challenges. However, these were overcome thanks to Peter Clifford’s heroic cross country power cabling efforts. In the event the supply came from nearby industrial premises through the hedge, over the ditch, and across the churchyard. Many thanks to Sean Cook who donated the plug and the power!
My next Russian Talk will be on The Russian Soul (a challenging subject) in aid of Gainsborough’s House on Thursday October 28th. Tickets are on sale at Reception. The talk, which is a new creation, had its first outing on Tuesday of last week at the Russian Summer School at UEA in Norwich. There was not too much quibbling from the Russians in the audience so it must have been more or less accurate.