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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Proceeds of Village History presented to Church

Andy Sheppard from Little Waldingfield writes:

Following the very successful launch of their updated history of Little Waldingfield, proud History Society trustees presented the first tranche of book sale proceeds to St Lawrence Church at the carol service just before Christmas.

The total raised so far amounted to £5,178.00, an incredible sum for such a small village, with monies donated specifically allocated to the future preservation of the fabric of the church. As Rev’d Judith Sweetman said at the time 'We are thrilled and delighted to receive this cheque and congratulate everyone who has been involved with the book. We have just had some essential repairs to the church costed at about £10,000.00, and to have half of it paid for already is a real Christmas present'. 

As for the History Society itself, trustees observed that sales of the book had far exceeded expectations and had generated considerable ongoing interest in the history of the village and its people ‘which was a credit to this small community’. As their chairman Susan Moore said ‘Writing the book has been an amazing life changing experience for us all, and to know that proceeds will really benefit our beautiful church whilst stimulating further interest in our shared history is a truly wonderful thing’. Book sales continue apace, and whilst the society achieves sales without going through any external agency, 100% of sale proceeds will go to the church.

By general agreement the book, which has been widely touted as the model for future local histories, is a delight to read; as trustees wryly commented, the book does make for a very nice Christmas present for anyone with even the slightest connection with Little Waldingfield.

Copies of ‘Little Waldingfield Suffolk, Our Village History From 1840 to 2014’ are priced at £18.00 for 352 sumptuous pages with over 500 glorious colour photos, and may be purchased from the following:
·       Andy and Sue Sheppard, School House, Church Road, LW on 01787 247980 or
·       Di Langford, Pitt Cottage, The Street, LW on 01787 248298

Jenny Writes:

Although now a little late for Christmas, the book, which was very favourably reviewed on this site a little while ago, has been described as 'a model for future local histories'.  It is a delight to read and would make a fine gift at any time of the year for anyone remotely connected with the village, or indeed, for anyone interested in our rural past. 

With Andy's help I hope to continue to cover the History Society's events in the coming year.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Car Wars

Market Hill, Sudbury, a contested area

 Is there no end to the number of people who seem to think that they need to jump into the debate about traffic in Sudbury Town Centre?

This week I see that UKIP have decided to throw their hat into what is an already very overcrowded ring.

It does occur to me that progress of any sort is unlikely when so many voices, many claiming to be the ‘true voice of the people’, add to the cacophony of suggestions. (In recent years different people have proposed the following:  a by-pass, no by-pass, a Southern relief road, a 20 mph limit, a traffic ban in Market Hill, traffic sharing in Market Hill, no parking in Market Hill, less parking in Market Hill, a bus station, no bus station, making Friar Street one way, etc, etc. etc.)

I have to say I have some sympathy with the frustration felt by members of the Sudbury Steering Group, which has been working hard  trying to resolve a number of issues concerning the centre of the town in a holistic and measured way for some years now.  It seems that just as they are about to reach some sort of consensus, based on what is possible, another voice bellows forth, simultaneously offering its own solutions.  Generally this is accompanied by an offer to hold a public meeting, at which the owner of the new voice will feature prominently, and where a good deal of heat and little light will be generated.

Of course it is very tempting for those who are hoping to make their mark ahead of the Parliamentary election in May 2015 to jump onto this particular bandwagon.  A MORI poll commissioned by the County Council’s administration last year found, unsurprisingly, that roads and road related issues are at the very top of people’s priorities, leaving the, arguably most important subjects of Adult Care and Education a long way behind.  We tend to value what we most use.

Having spent quite a lot of time in other parts of the south of England where congestion is much more of a problem, I do think that some people do protest too much.  Many of our market towns have a real problem with regard to the impact of heavy lorries, mainly due to a lack of appropriate major trunk roads, and I do think that this is a major matter for concern.  However, were the towns to be created today, rather than developed over hundreds of years, they would no doubt be configured somewhat differently.  That they are not particularly convenient for the modern age is the price we pay for their beauty and charm.

The view that our traffic problems are relatively small would seem to be supported by the recent quality of life survey in which the Babergh District area was named as among the top 50 places to live in the UK (and also the happiest!).  In the Sudbury Free Press for Thursday 25 December (page 4) I read ‘The district scored particularly well in terms of a low level of crime rate (sic) and a low traffic flow.)

Those were the days.....Travellers passing through a village by Thomas Gainsborough (1727 to 1788)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Greetings

With the help of this Italian 'Babbo Natale' (Father Christmas), photographed outside a Pizza Restaurant in Rome,  
 I would like to wish all readers of this website, regular or occasional, a very Happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous 2015.

Property Report 2014

West Suffolk House, property shared with St Edmundsbury BC, and others.

At Thursday’s full Council meeting it fell to me to present the Suffolk County Council Annual Property Report for 2014.

The County Council owns and manages almost 1000 properties across the county.  Many are operational facilities such as schools and fire stations.  There are also offices such as Endeavour House and West Suffolk House which increasingly we try to share with other bodies to make best use of the space.

The Council has around 50 properties at present, some 5% of the total,  which are considered to be surplus to requirements.  A good deal of time is spent working out how best to dispose of these.  In contrast with a commercial property company, these disposals can often take time since the transactions are generally hedged about with legislative difficulty.  A redundant school cannot be sold off, for example, without the permission of the Secretary of State, and even if this is obtained, there is more red tape to unwind if we wish to sell the playing fields off too.

Although the Council is obliged to try to get the best price for its properties, in many cases we can also unlock some value for the local community, whether by way of a grant or land transfer.  We have to balance the needs of the community with those of the residents of Suffolk as a whole, and also make sure that the purpose for which the grant is made is both sustainable and in line with our strategic priorities.  Negotiating this sort of arrangement takes up a lot of officer time, and adds to the erroneous impression that we are sitting on a lot of empty property for no reason.

Then there is the 12,000 acre County Farm Estate.  This was originally acquired after the First World War to provide land for returning soldiers.  After the Second World War the holdings were increased by the transfer to the Farms of military airfields, such as the one here at Chilton.  Many people question the wisdom of continuing to hold the farms, but at present the (increasing) rental income offers a better return than we would achieve if the money were on deposit in the bank.  In addition there are a number of valuable sites on the edge of towns, such as Sudbury, which will ultimately be used for development, raising valuable capital receipts for Suffolk taxpayers.

If you are interested in reading more about the County Council’s property activities the full report for the current year can be found here.

You need to click on Agenda item 8 . 

Pictures from Rome

We only returned from our short trip to Rome a week or so ago, but it seems like a dream now!

I managed to take plenty of photographs since the weather was very good.  We stayed in the Trastevere area of the City, on the left bank of the Tiber, a former working area, now becoming gentrified.

Here are some pictures.

Lots to do...even an audience with the Pope!

The Tiber, with St Peter's in the distance
The Ampitheatre at Ostia Antica

A street in the Trastevere

'Our' local market

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

More blows to 'localism'

On the today programme today a councillor from Devon, who stood as an Independent because she was distressed at planning decisions being made by the local council, stated that she has now decided to stand for Parliament.

The reason for her decision is that having become a councillor she now ‘feels rather sorry for the council’ because she realises how little power local authorities in the UK currently have.  She realises that the only way to do something about this is to try to change things at the centre.  She is right, and I wish her well!

Today two pieces of news demonstrate the control freakery from the centre that makes life very difficult for those of us battling on against the tide in Local Government.

Firstly I read in a number of papers the Communities and Local Government Committee will today urge central government to tighten up the rules with regard to planning.  Currently, particularly where local plans have not been approved, there is real concern that councils are powerless to prevent real threat to unsuitable development in villages and the green belt. Top down ‘plan and provide’ housing targets were supposed to have been scrapped, along with the Regional Development Agencies that created them. Councils could make up their own minds with regard to plance planning we were told.  However there is a real suspicion that, in their relentless pursuit of growth at any price, the Government is reintroducing ambitious housing targets by guiding inspectors to fail any local plan which does not demonstrate a high level of housing delivery.The result is a free for all among speculators.

Secondly there is a report that Eric Pickles, who spends a lot of time paying lip service to localism and doing the opposite, is planning to force councils to hold an expensive referendum if they propose a council tax rise of more than 1%.  Currently the limit is 2%.  Of course Suffolk County Council has pledged not to increase tax at all over the next three years, but surely it is ultimately the right of councils to levy taxes if they feel they need to.  They can always be voted out if residents do not approve!

One size does not fit all.  The case for proper devolution of power to local authorities grows by the day,

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Home again and problems resolved

We have just come back from a short trip to Rome.

I hoped to blog when I got there but forgot the password for the account, and then managed to get myself locked out. I think that Google thought I was an italian hacker.

Google have now forced me to create a new password of terrifying complexity, which no doubt I will forget again.

In any event once I have unpacked, replied to the several hundred e mails on my council account, fought throught the Christmas crush to buy something to eat etc, etc.  I hope to put up some  pictures of the eternal city, and then get into the Christmas spirit.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Road marking confusion

I was amused today to read in the EADT about this mistake on a road near Bury St Edmunds in today's paper.

If 'Slom' were changed to 'Slon' it would be the Russian word  for elephant..........

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Energy from Waste Plant completed on time and on budget.

Enough electricity for 30,000 thousand homes and the scope to heat glasshouses for tomato cultivation are two of the outcomes from the new energy from waste plant at Great Blakenham which has been completed today.

In addition, of course, it will burn almost 200,000 tons of waste, which otherwise would go into landfill.  The taxes saved will benefit Suffolk taxpayers some £8m a year.

The commissioning period, which commenced in the summer, has gone quite well, with few hold ups and glitches.  The facility has today been handed over to SITA UK, a specialist waste management company, who will run it on behalf of the County Council for the next 25 years.

The visitor centre at the site will be opening soon and will not just focus on the operations of the site itself, but other environmental aspects of the subject of waste and recycling.  Any groups or schools interested in a visit should call Emily Pike on 01473 836812 or e mail suffolkefw@sita.co.uk. I understand that visits will commence in the New Year and that a waiting list is being created.