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

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Suffolk County Council Elections, an announcement.

County Council elections will be held on Thursday May 2nd.  Many readers of this site already know that I will be standing as the Conservative Candidate for the Cosford Division..

Why did I make this decision?

I have very much enjoyed the last six years working as a District Councillor at Babergh on behalf of people in Waldingfield Ward. (Acton, Great Waldingfield, Little Waldingfield and Chilton).  I find the challenge of helping to run the council very interesting, but most of all I enjoy working with individual residents, parish councils, and organisations within the Ward to resolve their problems and improve their lives.

Accordingly when the opportunity came to do more of the same as a County Councillor I found it impossible to resist.

The Cosford Divison, which comprises some 18 parishes and runs from Cockfield to the North to Wattisham in the East and Aldham and Kersey in the South, is one of the most beautiful in the whole of the UK with regard to its countryside and also its heritage assets.  Those who know me are aware of my enthusiasm for supporting a prosperous future for Suffolk. This, I believe, can best be attained by working to protect our outstanding natural and built environment.  Cosford is a marvellous place in which to redouble my efforts in this area.

Additionally the areas of social activity that the County Council embraces, particularly education, adult care and community safety, are of great interest to me, touching as they do on the lives of all of us.  This is a further, equally important, reason to take this step.

I would like to conclude this post by sending a message of reassurance to residents of Waldingfield. 
I do not deny that, if I am elected, it will not be easy to combine the role of a District and County Councillor. I do however intend to reduce the level of my other, non-council-related, interests.  Additionally I have a promise of support from my fellow Waldingfield Ward Member, Frank Lawrenson and I will enjoy an increased level of co-operation with your County Councillor, Colin Spence.  In short, I am determined to continue to work hard on your behalf over the remaining two years of my term.

At the end of that time, if elected to the County Council,  I will be standing down from the District Council, but I have already identified at least one experienced and able person who is keen to stand for election in May 2015 with a view to taking on the role.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A meeting with Mark Bills

To Gainsborough's House this morning to meet the new Director, Mark Bills.  Our discussion was very wide ranging.  Having been a trustee over the past two years when we were without a Director, it is something of a relief to have a real professional in charge once again.

Mark, who has come from the Watts Gallery in Guildford,  is settling down well in Suffolk, and has enjoyed his first weeks at the Museum.  He has some ambitious plans for the future which should really enhance the experience of people who visit the House, whether coming from nearby or from afar.

We discussed the importance of Gainsborough's House to the local community.  I note that Mark is quoted in the Free Press this week in connection with the Visit Suffolk, Curious County Campaign.  It seems that we were too late to be involved with the project by the time he had arrived.   This may be a blessing in disguise however since I share the misgivings of others about the appropriateness of the Curious Suffolk slogan. I am also pretty sure  from previous experience that money spent on participation may well not have been worth the outlay, although I have no idea of what the fee would have been.

What is certain however is that the museum already contributes to the viability of the town centre, attracting around 20,000 visitors a year from overseas as well as other parts of the country.  If we can increase the footfall by making its attractions more widely desireable it could really contribute to the current efforts that are being made to revitalise Sudbury.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Press regulation....bloggers free for now!

I understand that the Government has just tabled an amendment to the bill that relates to the regulation of the press. This is shortly to be discussed in the House of Lords.

'Small scale bloggers', of which I assume I am one, will be exempt from the rules apparently.

That's a relief!  But I wonder how many 'hits' one needs to become a medium sized blogger?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Are we Nimby's in Babergh?

The Guardian today states that ‘Nimby Tories are ready to defy Osborne on housebuilding’ , implying that local councillors are standing in the way of necessary development.

I do not think that this is the case here in South Suffolk. In fact,  I am reasonably impressed by the way that Babergh councillors and officers have approached the difficult task of accommodating housing need while trying to keep the community on board.  There are some contentious applications in the local news at present, but often they are opposed for reasons other than pure ‘nimbyism’.

In Lavenham for example development at the Armorex site is supported in principle by the Parish Council, but there are serious reservations about aspects of the proposed scheme.  These include reasonable concerns about the density, parking arrangements, the height of some of the properties and also, perhaps most fundamentally, the low number of affordable houses proposed on the site.  Lavenham needs to be able to accommodate some young people and maintain a balanced social mix.  35% of residents in the village are over 65, and the special nature of the parish means that many houses are too expensive for local people. Negotiations with regard to this site are ongoing.

The recent application for houses at Carsons Drive in Great Cornard, which was turned down by the Development Committee on Wednesday, is another example.  Some Development will doubtless take place on the site in the end, but the low quality design of the scheme submitted by Persimmon was regarded as unacceptable, and there are also concerns about the ability of infrastructure, physical and social to cope with the number of houses envisaged.  I was delighted to see the committee express concern about the adjacent heritage asset, Abbas Hall, and hope that this marks a fresh approach that will benefit those of us who are continuing to campaign for preservation of the environment around Chilton Church and Hall in my Ward.

And then we come to Chilton Woods. 

I was disappointed at the ignorance shown by the writer of a letter criticising the scheme in the Free Press this week.  In addition to scaremongering about its eventual size, she demonstrates complete unawareness of the amount of work that has been done by elected members and local residents to ensure that the development is sustainable, generally acceptable to local people, ecologically friendly, and incorporating public transport and other traffic schemes that make it practical for car owners and non-car owners alike.   She also seems to be unaware that the aim is to develop a good proportion of the land for employment, including small workshops for business start-ups and craft workshops.

The fact that there has been little objection (no nimbyism in fact) to what is, admittedly, a major scheme shows that the community has been carefully consulted through the design and planning process.

Oh, and on the question of size, the effect of the development will not make Sudbury grow by 60% as stated in the Free Press letter.   It is hoped that Chilton Woods, and other development in and round Sudbury, will supply 60% of Babergh’s housing need in the 30 year period covered by the next Development Framework.  Not quite the same thing.

Conservatives at Babergh understand that the beautiful environment in which we live needs to be preserved, but at the same time also know that there will be a need for more housing in the years to come.  The key is to take time to reach consensus, to insist on high quality schemes,  and  to achieve the right balance.

Friday, March 22, 2013

MEP Vicky Ford visits Newton Green

Vicky Ford
Yesterday the South Suffolk Conservative Women's Committee held its AGM at Newton Green Golf Club and the Guest Speaker was one of our Conservative MEP's. for the East of England, Vicky Ford.

As usual Vicky gave some fascinating insights into life in Brussels, explaining how difficult negotiations between different countries can be behind the scenes.  She illustrated for example the problems that arise when individual countries try to solve their domestic problems by introducing legislation in Brussels that would be better enacted locally.

Inevitably a number of lunch guests asked Vicky questions that expressed their disatisfaction with our membership of the EU.

It is clear that, like many Conservatives, Vicky sees her job as working within a system that she does not very much like.  She obviously believes that David Cameron's stance on Europe, moving towards a renegotiated position and then holding a referendum, is the right one. 

I think that, if possible,  she would prefer to see an 'In/Out' referendum before the next election, but this would simply not be tolerated by the Liberal Democrats.  In any event, it will take some time to untangle and redefine our relationship with the EU.  This is now an easier task, since members of the Eurozone have already moved closer together in the face of financial pressures, leaving other countries needing to clarify their position.

Vicky commented that she was disappointed at the absence of UKIP from many of the sessions of the European Parliament, and also from important committees.  Instead of standing up for Britain's interests like other UK MEP's, it seems that they would rather be propping up one of the many bars around the Grand Place!

All in all it was a very interesting session and one that encouraged me to think that the EU's influence in the UK may well be on the wane, which is encouraging.

Not the best day for.......

Changing the windows!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A crime filled day

On the Spot Van in Haverhill

My day has been dominated by community safety issues.

This morning I went to Mildenhall for the quarterly meeting of the West Suffolk Community Safety Partnership. Among the items on the agenda was a bid for funding for a project called On the Spot that aims to prevent behavioural and other problems among older children and young adults in Haverhill Town Centre.  The scheme uses an adapted bus that is taken out by trained youth workers on a Friday evening.

On the Spot has been operating since June 2010. During this time the project has become well established with young people locally as a place to receive advice and guidance as well as gaining access to a warm and inviting positive environment, The project has made a significant difference to youth related anti-social behaviour (ASB) on Friday evenings in the town and is something that those present felt could usefully be introduced in other towns in Suffolk,

As usual the Partnership looked at the most recent crime statistics for West Suffolk. The level of reported crime has been falling for some time, but now a reverse in the trend is being seen in the area of domestic burglaries which are significantly up year on year. Thefts from oil tanks also remain a persistent problem, and there have also been a number of break-ins at schools, which, it seems, are not very good at securing their premises.

Many of these issues were raised by the West Babergh Safer Neighbourhood Team at this evening’s priority setting meeting in Glemsford.  Currently police in the area are concentrating on crime prevention measures aimed at emphasising the increased need for vigilance and the meeting decided that this activity should remain a priority for the next two months.

Most of the current problems raised by residents in Glemsford related to matters such as dog poo and car parking.  These are of course irritating for those who are affected, but not of earth shattering importance in the overall scheme of things.   On a positive note, it was good to hear that the activities of the local PCSO, Hannah Partington, have had the effect of significantly reducing incidents of ASB in the village.  People were quick to criticise PCSO’s when they were introduced.  I believe that over recent years they have made a real difference in our community, and Hannah is just one example of this

If you want to do something positive in your area, do not already have a Neighbourhood Watch Scheme, or have a Scheme that needs refreshing, Sudbury now has a new Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator, Joanna Moore, who can be reached by ringing 101.

The Police Station is currently selling various security items, including property marking pens, 24 hour timer switches, personal attack alarms and shed alarms, all at very reasonable prices!

The next Safer Neighbourhood Meeting will be in Cockfield  Village Hall on 21st May at 6 p.m.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Eurocrats? Coming to a lamp post near you?

Lamp post in La Paz from which President Villaroel was hung in 1946.

I wonder if I was the only person who was quite shocked to hear yesterday evening  that luminaries at the European Community intend  to dip their fingers into the bank accounts of people in Cyprus as part of a rescue package for the country.

Of course it is arguable that if the measure is not taken then there could be a run on the banks which would lose depositors ALL their savings (think Russia in 1998).

Nonetheless at a visceral level the action feels like theft and is bound to cause deep resentment.  It also sets a terrifying precedent:  Italy or Spain tomorrow perhaps?  and then who else might wake up one morning to find that the Government has decided to put its sticky fingers into what one thought was one’s own?

Matts Persson, the Director of the think tank Open Europe can put it much better than I can, so I quote from his blog in the Telegraph today

‘All bailouts are unfair – the people who screwed up almost never pay – but this is in a league of its own. Seventeen Eurozone finance ministers locked themselves in a room and decided that every Cypriot depositor – whether super-wealthy or dirt-poor – will, out of the blue, see part of their hard-earned money seized. Remember, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades explicitly promised in his election campaign, only a few weeks ago, that depositors were safe. The Cypriot electorate now faces losses on deposits as well as years of austerity (under the bailout loan). What’s worse, deposits under €100,000 are supposed to be protected by EU law, not raided by EU leaders. And Cypriot banks have frozen close to €5.8bn, i.e. imposed capital controls which is meant to be illegal under EU single market rules. This is political dynamite.’

Whenever I read about Government overstepping the mark in this way I am reminded of the Plaza Murillo in downtown La Paz.  Nick and I went there on our honeymoon and were interested to learn from our guide about the lampposts under which various politicians had been hung during public insurrections in the past.

Time to erect a few suitable models for future use?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Bombs Away in Little Waldingfield

A view of the airfield c. 1945

Thanks to Andy Sheppard as usual for the contribution below:

Little Waldingfield History Society was incredibly fortunate and delighted to welcome Malcolm “Ozzie” Osborn to our Parish Room, on what turned out to be another very cold night. This did not however dampen the spirits, as Ozzie regaled us with an astonishing display of 300 or so photos depicting the entire history of the 486th Bombardment Group who were based at Sudbury (now known as Chilton) airfield from 1944 to 1945.

This was not just a picture show however, as Ozzie demonstrated an incredible knowledge and understanding of the pictures: what they meant, when they were taken and the circumstances prevailing at the time; his love of the subject and his feeling towards these brave men, what they did and what it meant to all of us clearly shone through over the whole evening.

The presentation covered all aspects of the 486th’s history: initial training in the States and set up in the UK, the first operation and daily life in Sudbury, interaction with the locals (who clearly loved having Americans close to hand), the planes themselves, nose-art, later operations, their daily life on the airfield (and off it when possible), the horrendous number of crashes and other mishaps, the appalling injuries and worse, and finally their quite sudden departure, which left such a huge hole in the daily life of locals.

Amazingly, more than 90 minutes of absorbing presentation flashed by in an instant, with all present enthralled from start to finish; gratifyingly, members of the audience were able to identify a number of buildings, places, people and events, plainly demonstrating the lasting value of people like Ozzie and of local history societies such as LWHS, who collect and document such details before they are lost in the myths and mists of time.

We are most grateful to Ozzie for his generosity in freely giving of his time, expertise, humour and passion to a subject of such great interest to so many people, which was visibly demonstrated by the record turnout that came very very close to exceeding our capacity.

 For the record, Ozzie has been researching US Army Air Force (AAF) stations in the East of England since 1971, particularly Nuthampstead and the 398th, and he was one of the founder members of FOTE (Friends of the Eighth) in 1973.

He is a recognised expert on the subject, having amassed thousands of photos taken by US airmen, colleagues, friends and locals. He has also just published a “Photo History of the 486th Bombardment Group (H)”, a copy of which the Society will purchase to assist in our own research of Little Waldingfield during this most significant part of our shared common heritage.

Our next event, at 7.30 pm on 10th April in the Little Waldingfield Parish Room, will be a talk by Jo Caruth entitled “Time Flyers” - An insiders view of the making of a TV archaeology programme.