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, May 28, 2012

Little Waldingfield Jubilee Celebrations

I have now received full details of the Little Waldingfield  Diamond Jubilee Celebrations.

These will commence on Monday 4th June with a Jubilee Breakfast in the Parish Rooms.  I understand that the tickets for this event have now all been sold.

However, from 12 noon on the playing fields there will be a family picnic with children's games, a tombola, various displays and other entertainments, including children's fancy dress and children's 'Best Crown Competition'.

The village beacon will be lit at 10 p.m. at which time punch will be served!

Everyone is welcome to take part.

Backstage tours at the Theatre Royal

Set for 'Black Eyed Susan'
 This summer The Theatre Royal in Bury has revamped its backstage tours and now there is lots more to see and do.

Nick and I were lucky enough to be invited to sample a tour yesterday afternoon and we had a very fascinating time looking all over this wonderfully historic theatre that was built in the early years of the 19th century.   It is amazing how, even today, the theatre manages to stage shows with few of the modern conveniences enjoyed by many venues.

In addition to taking a guided tour, one can wander around alone and look at the informative exhibits on show, including historic costumes and boxes that reproduce the smells of an early 19th century auditorium.  The old bar has been recreated as one typical of the Edwardian era, and there is a 1960's office which harks back to the period when the theatre was re-opened, having been a barrel store for Green King for many years.

In one of the dressing room you can try on some theatrical garments (including several from the pantomime!) and when you are tired there are teas available.  All in all a fascinating afternoon out.
Office from the 1960's

Double vision in Folly Road

Picture from the Daily Mail
Great to see Great Waldingfield making the national, as well as the local, press. (Thanks to Councillor Lawrenson for the link here!).

The two signs shown are, of course, currently informing motorists using the junction between Lavenham Road and Folly Road.

I'm afraid that lack of joined up government, whatever the explanation, is always something of an open goal for the commentariat!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Chilton under seige

Chilton Annual Meeting on Tuesday evening was very well attended.

In my address to the meeting, I said that I felt that Chilton was feeling under siege at present. This is due not only to the anticipated impact on the community of Chilton Woods but also the sad result of the recent Prolog planning application.  One small victory last year however was the success of the campaign to stop the car wash at Home Base from extending its working hours on a Sunday.  Also on the plus side the new health facility is likely to be a plus for the parish.

 Redrow gave a presentation about Chilton Woods.  Their much travelled roadshow now attempts to explain the complications that have been created by their decision to consult at the same time as the Babergh Development Framework is going through its adoption process.  However it seems that uncertainty still remains, at least in the developer’s mind, with regard to where the boundaries of the development will ultimately be drawn.  Perhaps things will become clearer next week at the second meeting of the Steering Group.

Details of Chilton’s celebrations to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee were given by Peter Clifford.  These will take place on Saturday 2 June.  There will be a cream tea (funded by the Parish Council!) in St Mary’s Church at 4.30 p.m.  The event will include a quiz.  I hope that as a non-resident I will be allowed to attend since I am fond of both cream teas and quizzes.

Moving on, but also on the subject of Chilton,   I was pleased to see Val Herbert’s spirited defence of our heritage assets in the Free Press on Thursday. (We are stewards of old buildings). How right she is!  Like Jack Owen and a number of other people, she is suspicious of the quality of the jobs that will be created at the new giant facility.  Her message is clear: ‘even if it (the development) had promised 1000 jobs, it would still be on the wrong site’.  

On the same page I was dismayed to see the article on Chilton written by journalist, Catherine McMillan.  It was terribly ill informed and I am contemplating a riposte.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Floods, NEETs and Community Safety

Flooding in Sudbury, not such a threat.
I have recently moved from the Strategy Committee at Babergh to the Overview and Scrutiny Community Services Committee.

The first meeting of the new Council Year was held today and there were three interesting papers up for discussion.   

Two out of the three demonstrated, I think, that ‘joined up government’ remains a thing of the future, although we are all much more aware of the need to work together to achieve the right outcomes. The successes outlined in the third paper however demonstrate that partnership working can work well.

The first was about Flood Risk Management arrangements across the County.  The number of people actually under threat of flooding in Babergh is lower than I had thought. Apparently a good deal of work has been done on the River Stour, for example,  to make sure that its flow rate can keep up with whatever nature throws at it.   However the representative from the County Council, Jane Burch, making the presentation, made the point that it is important that new development does not exacerbate the situation.  Problems can be caused by having too many hard surfaces, and installing sustainable drainage systems (SUDS).  She expressed disappointment that government bodies are not looking at the problems of water in a more holistic way, since conserving water is just as important as making sure that it is contained by risk management.

A task group has been looking at what Babergh can do to help young people (aged between 16 to 18) who are not in education or employment (NEETS).  This will mainly be achieved by encouraging apprenticeships and work placements.   A scheme is being worked on by officers that will enable the council to become a co-ordinating agency between employers, voluntary groups and the young workless.  I think that this is obviously a good idea in the current circumstances, but hope that the result will prove to offer real value for money and tangible outcomes.  There seem to be a number of other agencies working in this field already.  Will we be able to ‘join them up’ or will people continue to work in their individual silos?  Alternatively is it better to leave this particular area of activity to them?  Is there a better place for Babergh to put its money?

Finally the Babergh Community Safety Partnership, of which I am the Chairman, gave its annual report to the committee. This showed encouraging trends in our four areas of focus:  the night time economy, domestic violence, anti-social behaviour, and reducing people’s fear of crime. 

The Babergh Partnership are increasingly co-operating with the West Suffolk Community Safety Partnership, which comprises Forest Heath, St Edmundsbury and Mid Suffolk.  A merger with them  is likely in due course.  This is important because the new Police Commissioner, who arrives in November, will not want to have to deal with too many separate bodies that he, rather than central government, will have to fund in future.

I enjoyed my first meeting on the committee and the Chairman, James Long, and all the members were very welcoming.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Horses for courses?

I am reminded reading my colleague Brian Riley's blog that a number of us were well ahead of the game in suggesting that none of Babergh's money should be deposited in Spanish Banks.

Scorn was heaped on us at the time, but we were proved right remarkably quickly as can be read here.

The truth of the matter was that a number of us were well aware, because of our previous work experience, that the countries that
comprised the 'PIIGS' (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain) were about to hit the buffers. We were ignored at first because 'consultants' to the council thought differently.

Councils are remarkably slow to take advantage of the life skills that many councillors have accumulated before they become members.  This at best leads to frustration and disaffection, and, at worst, some questionable decision making.

To meet the challenges that an organisation faces, Trustee Boards are increasingly subjected to 'skills audits' to ensure that the membership is well balanced and that jobs are distributed sensibly.   A similar process could be undertaken at councils perhaps?

Of course political parties, and later the voters, do not necessarily choose candidates on the basis of such matters.   However once individuals are elected,  it seems sensible to me that those with the knowledge, and even wisdom, acquired from 'real world' experience should receive some recognition and respect.

Sadly, for some reason, this does not always happen.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Monster warehouses coming to a field near you.

'By giving planning permission to this development today you will be giving the green light to an act of vandalism.  You will be bowing to short term demands which will destroy for ever an environment that has been developed over many centuries.

This does not have to happen.  There is a better way.'

The claims of economic growth and heritage assets – are they really incompatible?  I think not.

However this is the only conclusion that can be drawn from the very sad decision made by Babergh’s Development Committee today to approve Prolog’s application to build two vast warehouses on land adjacent to Chilton Hall and Chilton Church.
Moated Chilton Hall

Frankly, little attention was paid by the majority of the committee to the importance of the historical buildings.  They were clearly of the opinion that the need for jobs in the area is so overwhelming that all other considerations are of minor importance.  Their views were not shared by a number of organisations, both local (Suffolk Preservation Society and Sudbury Society) and national (including English Heritage), all of whom wrote strong objections to the plans.

The decision, which is of questionable legality, sets an unfortunate precedent and in my opinion sends the wrong message with regard to how the council values our built environment, a built environment which, incidentally, is among the most outstanding in England.

In addition to Frank Lawrenson and me, Peter Clifford, Val Hart and a representative from the Suffolk Preservation Society spoke against the application.

In my speech, reproduced on a separate ‘tab’ above, I tried to point out that jobs could still be accommodated if a less obtrusive development were presented, or if Prolog were to locate their buildings on the far less sensitive site at Chilton Woods.

Frank Lawrenson also spoke eloquently, making the excellent point that tourism is one of the largest employers in Suffolk.  If we continue to compromise our historical assets however, there will be nothing left to visit.

Everyone else made a good showing too, but it was impossible to shake the conviction of those who believed, wrongly in my opinion, that a vote against the plans was a vote against jobs and the prosperity of the area.
The Cranes sleep on in Chilton Church in happy oblivion

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Saturday at Gainsborough's House

Picture yourself here!
I am doing my monthly 'duty manager day' at Gainsborough's House today.  I really enjoy it.  The Museum is really buzzing at the moment!

As I write there is a life drawing class going on in the Hills Room, 'Artsmart' for children in the Print Workshop and some large brawny men are delivering 60 chairs for a concert in the exhibition gallery this evening.

At 3 o'clock we are expecting a newly married couple to come and have their photographs taken in the garden following their ceremony at the Registry Office just down the road.  This is a first for us and we would be very happy to encourage others to come along and do the same.  An appropriate donation is all that is required.

On Thursday I went to a 'Museum Muster' run by Suffolk County Council at Sutton Hoo.  It was very interesting to meet representatives from museums all over Suffolk, including the National Horseracing Museum and the Aldeburgh Town Museum.

We were told to expect a lot more visitors from the UK this year as many people are choosing to stay in England rather than venture abroad this year.  This would seem to be borne out by the number of bookings that we have for coach tours, all of whom will be welcomed with a talk and a cup of tea or coffee and biscuits in the Hills Room.

We don't just welcome groups from far away.  If you are a member of a local group that would like the 'full works' at reasonable cost do let me know.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Workers of the world unite....

I read in the Moscow Times that Pravda, the organ of the Soviet Government, which struggles on in a much reduced form today, is celebrating its 100th birthday.

Described as the 'probably the dullest newspaper in the world' the newspaper, whose name means 'truth',  was first published on 5th May 2012 in St Petersburg.  In a play on its name along with that of the daily paper Izvestia, which means 'news', Russians used to say that there was no truth in Pravda and no news in Izvestia.

The excerpt below comes courtesy of the Moscow Times, an English language newspaper that is a must for all Russia watchers.

"In a secretive country where news was hard to come by for Soviet citizens, and often censored, Pravda would occasionally announce major developments such as the death of leaders.

One joke told how every morning a man would come up to a newspaper stand, buy Pravda, look at the front page and then toss it angrily into the bin. The newspaper seller, intrigued, eventually asked why he did this.

"I'm only interested in the front page. I'm looking out for an obituary," the man says.

When the newspaper seller points out that obituaries only appeared on the back page, the man says: "I assure you, the obituary I'm looking for will be on the front page."

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The ghosts of Chilton Past

Many thanks to Val Herbert for the contribution below:

The names of ‘ghosts’ from Chilton’s past are recalled  in a new book from Sudbury Museum Trust. They appear in What’s in a name? Origins of Sudbury Street Names as a result of boundary changes in 1988.

This was when Sudbury took over the south eastern fringes of Chilton resulting in half the electorate being ‘moved’ into Sudbury along with much of the 100-acre Chilton Industrial Estate and the homes of about 450 residents in Cats Lane.

Angry parish councillors won the right to name streets in the new Sudbury territory to commemorate Chilton personalities from the past. Hence their origins being included in Anthony Wheeler’s book, which sells at £5 from Kestrel and Bookends bookshops, the Tourist office in the Library and Gainsborough‘s House.

The industrial Addison Road was named after a prominent Chilton family in the 18th and 19th centuries. John Addison farmed at Chilton Hall for many years, and Major General Thomas Fenn Addison lived at Chilton Lodge which stood at the junction of Cats Lane and Cornard Road. In 1852 the veteran soldier travelled to London to attend the state funeral of the Duke of Wellington, despite being in his 80s. He might well have fought under the hero of Waterloo. The following morning the Major General was found dead in his overnight lodgings.

Milner Road, on the opposite side of the Northern Road, also appears in the book. It commemorates the autocratic Rev. John Milner, former chaplain to the Sudbury Workhouse, who had been Rector of Chilton for 50 years when he died in 1949. He was the last to hold St Mary’s as a single living and the rectory was sold after his death.

Three other streets in the annexed territory also feature in the new book including Aubrey Drive, named after Aubrey Herbert, who lived at nearby Chilton Hall. He was a county councillor for more than 20 years and a founder of both Gainsborough’s House Museum and the Quay Theatre. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Two maps and no masters? Consultation confusion at Chilton Woods

'We should face the fact that the whole process is totally flawed.  All parties should now step back and allow the new Babergh Development Framework to make its way to adoption in an orderly way.  After that, more detailed consultation should resume.'

What is going on at Chilton Woods?  This scheme, which it is hoped will deliver some 1050 additional homes to the north of Sudbury, is the most important change that will affect our area in the years to come.

It is unfortunate therefore that the current situation can only be described as a complete mess.

I have been up to my neck in this issue for several weeks, and despite this I find the situation complex and hard to explain.  However it is very important for all who live locally that the planning process is clear and open.   The future of the area depends on it.  So please take time to read this article.

In the current Local Plan for the area, adopted in 2006, a site for 700 homes was designated to the north of Sudbury, largely in Chilton.  None of these houses have yet been built. The new Local Development Framework, which is likely to be approved later this year, plans for 800 additional houses in the Sudbury area. It is expected that 350 of these will be situated in the Chilton Woods area, making a total of 1050 houses in all. 

The key debate is where these additional houses should be placed?  Should they be accommodated by expanding the area of the existing land allocation to the north?  Or should they be placed on land to the west of Tesco adjacent to the main roads?

At the time of writing we have two different maps of the site, prepared by two different bodies, with two different agendas and timescales.  

The first map, prepared by Redrow, the developers, appointed by the County Council who own much of the land, was made public in March.  It was this plan that was seen at the Acton Annual Parish Meeting, which caused much distress, and about which I wrote on this site in a post on Friday April 20th. link here  This, the Redrow Plan, is superficially quite well worked out, and shows the new development being accommodated to the north of the current land allocation, extending over the Acton boundary and further out into open countryside and Chilton airfield.

It is a plan which, in my view, optimises profitability for the developer and also the return for Suffolk County Council.

The other, let’s call it ‘The Babergh Plan’, was published last week after a process of informal stakeholder consultation in March.  It is a land allocation map that forms part of the Local Development Framework for the District.  This map, along with a very weighty document covering the whole of Babergh, will, subject to Member agreement, go out to public consultation for 6 weeks from the beginning of June.( map here at the very end of the document ) It is clear that, despite initial signals to the contrary, the officers have listened to what local people have said to them, and allocated land for additional development along the northern Sudbury by-pass west of Tesco.  The northern boundary of the development remains unchanged. It is only an outline on a map at this stage but it is quite different in scope from the Redrow plan.

For some weeks now Redrow has been consulting about its plan. Despite its bright colours and apparent solidity, it has not been made sufficiently clear that its scheme is little more than a kite flying exercise. Because the Babergh Development Framework is still under consideration, the additional land needed under the Redrow plan has not been allocated. Indeed, the papers published by Babergh last week suggest that land will be allocated elsewhere instead.  Nevertheless, undaunted, Redrow continue to propose holding a number of public consultation meetings on their scheme next week.   Following representations from Babergh, the company is, I understand, now proposing to include a board on which the Babergh proposals will be outlined, but being realistic this is more likely to confuse the public than to clarify the situation.

Three parties are involved here, Babergh, Suffolk County Council and Redrow.  A number of questions need to be answered, including:

Why did Redrow not wait until the allocation of land under the Babergh Core Strategy was known before commencing its own consultation? (I am told that Babergh asked them to hold back.)

Has Redrow come under pressure to make its pre-emptive strike?

Redrow and Babergh have been in pre-planning application discussions on Chilton Woods for some time.  Did Babergh encourage Redrow to plan to build to the north, but then at the eleventh hour, and due to public pressure, change their mind with regard to where additional land should be allocated?

Why, when challenged, did Babergh claim that at a consultation meeting stakeholders regarded the location of the additional development land as unimportant?

Why have Babergh Members, particularly those likely to be involved in considering any ultimate 
planning application, not been warned, as they generally are, against attending meetings hosted by a developer?

In short, what is going on here? Much ado about nothing, A comedy of errors, or a tragedy with a more sinister plot? Since all three players tell a different tale, it is hard for the audience to judge.

At a time when ‘localism’ is supposed to be the name of the game and local people are being asked to shape the places where they live; in a new era of transparency and clarity, the people of Sudbury and beyond are being presented with a muddle of competing schemes, the most energetically promoted of which is of doubtful legitimacy.  How valid are any opinions given under such circumstances?    I would suggest that consultation undertaken against this background is pretty worthless.

We should face the fact that the whole process is totally flawed.  All parties should now step back and allow the new Babergh Development Framework to make its way to adoption in an orderly way.  After that, more detailed consultation should resume.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Little Waldingfield Litter Pick by Brian Tora

Litter piled up at the Parish Rooms
Back towards the end of March our village conducted a litter pick. This is at least the third year we have carried out this exercise and I am delighted to report that, as before, we had no shortage of volunteers to don the High Viz jackets and, armed with stout gloves, bin liners and litter picking implements, venture out on the highways and byways surrounding our village.

Unfortunately, there was no shortage of litter to be collected either. Each year we tentatively hope the message has got across and there will be less strewn around the verges. Each year we suffer the same disappointment. Why do people do it? Some of the rubbish we collected must have necessitated a specific trip to dump the detritus. A suitcase (empty, fortunately), the front fork of a bicycle, several large, metal framed windows – all were left for our sturdy bunch to remove.

In the end the pile of bin liners almost filled the entrance to our Parish Room. We accumulated at least as much as in previous years. On every occasion there are items collected that defy the imagination. A single, perfectly sound, boot. A freezer load of meat. Items of intimate clothing. But, of course, it is the discarded food packaging, plastic bottles and other personal waste that depresses me.

Just as dog waste continues to be raised as an item on the parish council’s agenda (and not just here, either) so the perennial problem of man’s lack of consideration to man constantly reminds us that we are not a very caring race. It is surely not too much to ask drivers to take their rubbish home. We do. Indeed, my wife is regularly adding to the rubbish she collects when taking our dogs for a walk by removing other people’s waste from the side of the road, presumably thrown out by unthinking drivers.

Some years ago, Radio Suffolk launched a campaign to discourage litter dropping. Borrowed from Australia, where apparently one of Mark Murphy’s friends had spotted the slogan, Suffolk residents were exhorted not to drop litter by the phrase with the all too clear double meaning – “Don’t be a Tosser!” So successful has the media campaign been that it has been adopted by adjacent counties and even received a mention on Radio 2 recently.

But, without wishing to take away anything from Mark and his colleagues at Radio Suffolk, I gain the impression that the main result has been to encourage little groups like ours all around the county to clean up their communities. Recently, while driving to the West Midlands, we came across a village task force out in some strength to tidy up their roadsides. While I am sure such initiatives are far from new, it strikes me that Mark’s campaign has put fresh impetus into clearing up after inconsiderate litter droppers.

It would all be so much easier if people just observed some simple rules and remembered that we all benefit from a cleaner environment. Much the same approach applies to dog dirt as well. I’m not holding my breath, though. Next year, when I’m sure a similar exercise will take place, I’ll bet we have just as many bags for the district council to cart away. In the meantime, my sincere thanks to those who helped in this year’s litter pick.

Brian Tora is Chairman of Little Waldingfield Parish Council.    

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bloggers beware

I see from my inbox that the Joint Standards Committee of Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils has send out a set of guidelines for users of social networking sites, including bloggers.

I don't know if this somewhat belated initiative is the result of any 'unfortunate incidents' arising from innappropriate blogging, or if it is just a precautionary measure. I believe that it is true to say however that, by and large, government agencies are uncomfortable about the fact that it is hard to control these new instruments through which elected members can reach out to their electorates and beyond.

I do hope that the e mail has not been sent out because one or two quite controversial planning related matters are likely to hit the headlines soon.  Such matters always raise the level of of community's collective blood pressure!

This blog has now been running for some five and a half years, and I think, to date, I have only once, in the very early days, fallen foul of the thought police.  The rules about confidentiality are clear, and it is sensible to stick to them.

Anyway, all can rest assured, that I will be sure to express any unpalatable opinions in open meetings, before repeating them on my blog!