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

Monday, October 31, 2011

A visit to Stratford

Last week Nick and I went over to Stratford upon Avon to see a play in the newly refurbished Royal Shakespeare Theatre.  The renewed exterior of the building is shown below.

We unexpectedly met some old friends as we arrived and so did not get much further than the bar.  This means that I am unable to report on most of the new parts of the theatre, although the 'in the round' auditorium is a great improvement on the 1950's one from the point of view of both comfort and sight lines.

I spent my childhood in Stratford and so always enjoy going back to revisit friends and old haunts.

Prints on view and for sale at Gainsborough's House

The current temporary exhibition at Gainsborough’s House celebrates the success of the Gainsborough’s House Print Workshop.   The workshop, which has been in existence for over 30 years, has grown in fame and stature and is now, I understand, considered by those who know about these things to be one of the leading facilities of its kind in the country.

I spent a good deal of Saturday at Gainsborough’s House, and was able to admire the wide variety of prints on display.  All manner of different techniques are represented.  In addition to the artworks there are glass cases showing some of the tools of the printmaker’s trade so it is possible to learn quite a lot about how different prints are created.

The works on the walls have been selected by a group of distinguished art professionals.  Works are included not only from experienced members of the Workshop enjoying national reputations, but also from artists who are just beginning their careers.

In addition to the exhibited works, a selection of unframed original prints can be viewed in large racks.  Most of the works are for sale, and offer the opportunity to purchase an original work of art, in most cases for a relatively reasonable sum.

The exhibition runs until 17th December.  At present entrance to the Museum is free on Tuesday afternoons.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Health Centre Planning application; decision due on Wednesday

Blue, not red, NHS tape!
The Planning Application for the new Sudbury Health facility is due to come before the Development Committee on Wednesday.

The site in Church Field Road is actually in Chilton and it has therefore been the task of Chilton Parish Council to scrutinise the plans and to voice concerns about aspects of the scheme.

This it has done with a high level of diligence and attention to detail.  Although in favour of the scheme as a whole, the Council has been keen to ensure that the quality of life of local residents is respected, particularly from the point of view of light pollution and noise, both during and after the construction period.

I have been impressed by the innovative and attractive design of the building, which, once built, will I think prove a positive rather than a negative feature in the area.  I hope it will prove that not all new development has to be a blot on the landscape.  Having listened to requests to keep the building's height at a reasonable 9 metres, the developer has been sensitive to the wishes of local people which is very cheering.

One issue that does concern me is that the facility is a little way out of town.  It does have a car park, but not everyone has a car.  Let's just hope that the bus services which run close to the site can be maintained, or even improved, in the years to come.  The current situation with bus services elsewhere in the County, where cuts have been the order of the day, does not give an encouraging precedent.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The sugar beet campaign

I always enjoy watching the sugar beet harvest around Newmans Green.

The mud on the roads is a bit of a pain, although it has not been too bad this year due to the dry weather.

I do like to see the great heaps of sugar beet, waiting for the lorry to transport the crop off to the factory at Bury St Edmunds, the steam from which can be seen from our garden on a clear day.  It must be about 12 miles distant, if not more.

This year the beets are stacked on either side of the road leading down to Long Melford and look particularly impressive!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The new development framework - an attempt to revive dying settlements.

I attended Thursday evening's workshop on the Babergh Development Framework in Bildeston because I am unable to go to the one in Acton on 3rd November owing to a prior engagement.

The Bildeston event was attended largely by people from villages, rather than from the market towns, which made a difference to the conversation.

Away from the controversies with regard to the number of houses that Sudbury and Hadleigh are going to be obliged to accommodate, the main issue in the villages is whether or not some development is acceptable in order to keep communities alive and, yes, sustainable.

A succession of recent local plans have put a virtual veto on any development in those more remote places. They were not considered  to be 'core' settlements and only a very limited amount of building has been permitted.  The predictable result has been that pubs and shops have closed., bus routes have been discontinued and as small cottages have been extended, the villages have become the preserve of the better off.

Allowing a limited amount of new housing to meet the needs of younger people cannot, I fear, save the facilities that have been lost, but there will be two major benefits.  Firstly there is a chance that those brought up in the village may be able to find a home close to their families, and secondly, a house or two built in every settlement in Babergh would relieve some of  the very real  pressure on the urban fringe sites.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

News from Branchlines AGM

On Friday evening a select band attended the Branchlines Annual General Meeting at Great Waldingfield School.

We learnt about the progress that has been made at the community woodland over the past year.  The most significant news is the completion of the pond, which, it is hoped will fill up naturally with rainwater over the coming winter.  Struggles with ragwort continue, and a number of unexpected species of plants have appeared on the site.  Children from the school have enjoyed a number of visits over the year.

After the formal proceedings were completed we heard from George Millins, our local wildlife champion, who has been attempting to introduce lizards to the site with some success.  In addition to pictures of the lizards we also enjoyed some fine pictures of native and ‘migrant’ butterflies. George was able to inform us about the plants on which they feed. and also the relative robustness of each type in the face of the challenges of modern life and farming techniques.

So many creatures are under threat due to the selfishness of humankind.  George always points out that we are all part of one huge chain of mutual support, so that the loss of any species is a loss to ourselves that we are often too blind or greedy to realise.

We worry about the financial legacy we are leaving for our children and grandchildren.  We should spend more time being concerned about the level of biodiversity too.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Why short term parking charges may have to 'plug the gap'

It is an interesting co-incidence that the level of Babergh’s estimated budget shortfall for the 2012/13 financial year is around the same level as the amount of money that would have been saved by the full constitutional merger of the Council with Mid Suffolk.

Of course the merger would not have taken place until 2013/14, but had the associated savings been on the horizon, it would have been easier, I think, to justify taking some money out of our rather depleted reserves, or using the new homes bonus money recently received from the Government to make up next year’s shortfall.

As readers will remember a good deal of misinformation about the proposed merger was put about by Liberal Democrat and Labour politicians ahead of the poll, and as a result, and as predicted, we now have to look elsewhere to ‘plug the gap’, as John Sayers so elegantly put it in the Suffolk Free Press this week.

Since we are doing all we can with regard to generating savings from integration with Mid Suffolk (stopping short of a full merger), and  since these savings will not be sufficient to produce a balanced budget, we are having to look elsewhere for funds.

And this brings us to the knotty problem of short term car parking charges.

One of the misleading statements put about before the poll in May was that, were the merger to go ahead, car parking charges would be inevitable since some areas of Mid Suffolk already levy them.  I wrote at the time* that, due to the urgent need to find savings, failure to merge would be more likely to herald their introduction.  This may well prove to be the case.

At present we are looking at all the options (of which there are not many, and all unpleasant).

*See post for 1st May this year ‘A daft claim from the Liberal Democrats’

Monday, October 10, 2011

Christmas comes but once a year...but lasts for months and months

I don’t think I can bear it!

At today’s Great Waldingfield ‘Drop in’ there were Christmas Cards for sale!

When I got home Waitrose was in my inbox inviting me to ‘get ahead of the rush’ and book my Christmas delivery slot.

For goodness sake! It’s only the 10th October.

Bah humbug!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Refurbished Hall officially opens.

On Friday Great Waldingfield’s refurbished Village Hall was reopened, following major renovation works.
The hall looks fantastic as can be seen from the photo, and what is more it now has great environmental credentials!  From the outside the only visible change is the new porch, but inside the hall and kitchen have been completely refurbished.  The floor, which gave signs of rotting from within in 2008, is now as smooth as a billiard table, and is clad in lovely pale wood.  Energy for the hall is now generated by solar panels and an underground heat pump.  Surplus power is being fed back into the grid, generating useful funds towards the upkeep of the hall.

Energy control box showing power generated
Nearly £160,000 has been raised from a number of different bodies, including Babergh, to pay for the project.  The form filling and bureaucracy involved was very onerous and the completion of the project is a credit to all involved.

A good deal of the burden has been shouldered by John Steele, the Chairman of Great Waldingfield Parish Council, to whom should go special congratulations and thanks!  John is pictured above with Caroline Hallett, The Rector of Great Waldingfield and Acton.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Integration news: Top officer selection and a new Joint Housing Panel

 Integration of operations at Babergh and Mid Suffolk continues apace.

Now that our joint Chief Executive, Charlie Adan, has settled in, next week interviews will be taking place to select the team of senior officers who will oversee the work of both organisations.  This is a difficult process, since not everyone will come out with what they want, but I do know that all of the people involved have received, and will continue to receive, professional support to help them make the best of the challenge they face.

In the meantime at yesterday’s Strategy Committee we approved proposals to set up a Joint Housing Board for Mid Suffolk and Babergh.  Three Councillors from Babergh and three from Mid Suffolk will sit on the new body, which will also include tenants’ representatives.   Shortly a single officer to oversee Housing at both councils will be appointed, and this ensures that the management and governance of the area as a whole is put on a sound footing.

This is not a small enterprise! Between them Babergh and Mid Suffolk have 7000 council houses, which takes us into the top quartile in terms of size in the Eastern Region. Economies of scale should result, and better ways of working together should effect a transformation of how we deliver this service.

The Board will set policy for the day to day administration and management of the housing stock . The Strategy Committee/Cabinet of each council will continue to make decisions on housing finance, rent levels etc.  Clearly however there will have to be a good deal of interaction to ensure that the joint operations work efficiently and fairly.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Learn to love your computer

Once again those who find working with computers challenging, or who wish to improve their skills, can receive help and support by signing up with the Cockfield Computer Circle.  Courses start again on October 24th.

Sessions are free of charge and are held at Cockfield Hall on Monday afternoons.  A wide range of subjects are covered, and complete beginners are catered for.

I can forward interested parties an e mail with details of dates and the subjects to be covered, but
For further information and to sign up for specific sessions, please contact Neil Ashton, neilka@btopenworld.com Tel: 01284 827238 or 07900 880 888.