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

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Gainsborough's House on the rise.

Current Exhibition by photographer, Anne Purkiss

I have just received the latest Annual Report from Gainsborough’s House.

It is a really beautifully produced publication, and shows the great strides that the museum is making under the leadership of Director Mark Bills. 

Visits to the Museum by schools have increased by one third, and income has risen from  £159,000 in 2012/13 to £209,000 in the year under review.  The number of Friends of the Museum has risen, and a new sort of Patron, prepared to pledge a little more to the cause, has been created.  I understand that there are now 14 of these. 

Mark has been successful in attracting offers of help in kind too.  I know that Lord Andrew Phillips paid for the restoration of a historic map of Sudbury last year, and that John Beale, the founder of the Early Learning Centre and Past Times, voluntarily designed the new shop, and gave staff training and advice on appropriate stocking and shop management.

Paying visitors to the Museum increased by 14% last year, and the experience of groups has been improved by the fact that there are now several members of staff able to give guided tours and informative talks.

It is estimated that The House brings some 20,000 people to the Sudbury area every year.  The money generated by these visits equates to £600,000 or so spent in the local community.  An exciting capital project is currently being planned which it is hoped will expand the scope of the museum  and really put Sudbury on the map.

Local people are not being forgotten.  In addition to regular classes and outreach activities, a series of social events continues to be held at the House.  The most recent, a Flamenco evening with wine and tapas, was much enjoyed by the sell-out audience.  Gainsborough’s House recently won an EADT award for its community activities, and it is this aspect of the museum that as a Trustee I for one want to continue to emphasise.

There has never been a better time to get involved at Gainsborough’s House.  There is something happening  there for everyone.  Drop in to reception between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday or 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays to find out about events, exhitibions,  how to become a Friend or a volunteer.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Rubbish, a growing problem.

 Yesterday morning I went down to Acton to encourage Margaret Maybury (pictured to the right of the picture on the left)  and some of her 18 helpers who were working hard on a litter pick in the village.   

 Regular readers of this site will know that Margaret regularly organises these events. She, along with David Johnson who at last week's Annual Parish Meeting announced his retirement from his very regular litter picking activities, has been responsible for Acton being a much cleaner place than it otherwise would be.  We owe them both, and their helpers, a big thank you.

Margaret tells me that on Saturday over 320 bottles of various sorts were collected, together with over 30 bags of rubbish.  Margaret would like to extend thanks to all who took part.

The problem of litter in the countryside seems to have become worse in recent years.  In a radio programme a few weeks ago the broadcaster, David Sedaris commenting on the problem, remarked: ‘Why should everyone have to live in a teenager’s bedroom? ' Why indeed!

Sedaris was quoted by MP’s recently at the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, which was looking at the problems of litter in the countryside,  The report makes interesting reading and can be found here..  One problem is that a number of different agencies have responsibility for rubbish clear up. Many of the larger ones such as the District Councils and the Highways Agency only have limited resources with which to tackle the problem.  

Following the receipt of a letter on the subject from an irate resident recently, I raised the matter with the Head of Environment at Babergh, Chris Fry.  Chris acknowledged that over the last four years the amount of rubbish collected has increased by 10 percent year on year, rising from some 71,480 tonnes in 2011/12 to an estimated 102,000 tons in 2014/15.

This is in part due to more communities getting involved with their own litter picking activities, which Babergh is keen to support.  If you want to organise a litter pick full details about how to go about it, and who to contact for help,  are on the Babergh website.

It seems difficult to get the Government to take the issue of every increasing litter seriously. Many believe that education is the answer, but I think that, while a good idea, this will take a long time to bear fruit.  It is hard to escape noticing that around Sudbury a lot of the rubbish on the verges emanates from the fast food outlets around the town.  It is possible to ask these organisations to clear up on a one off basis under existing legislation.  I believe however that a levy should be paid on every item to pay for more workers to clear up the debris on a regular basis.  It is a blight on the landscape and often a danger to wildlife.  Community action and personal effort can make a difference, but the commercial activities that are the source of the rubbish should also have to pick up the tab.

Make the polluter pay!
Acton litter pickers

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Events at St Mary's Chilton in 2015

The Crane Memorial, St Mary's Church, Chilton.

The Friends of St Mary’s Church in Chilton, just to the North of Sudbury,  have planned a programme of events over the rest of 2015.

Although now looked after by the Churches Conservation Trust, services are still held at the Grade 1 listed church and a number of fund raising events are also planned. 

On April 19th at 3 p.m. Richard Crighton will performThe Summoning of Everyman, which is described as ‘an interactive mediaeval morality play’, and on 19th July at 3 p.m. there will be concert by Stour Winds.

In the church there is a memorial to a Chilton resident who was killed at Gallipoli, and, fittingly therefore there will be a commemorative event to mark the campaign in the Dardenelles one hundred years ago on August 25th at 3 p.m.

In September Harvest Festival will take place on 13th of the month at 3p.m. and on 19th at 7 p.m. another of the popular quiz nights (lit by hurricane lamp and candles) will be held.  The Church will also be open on 12th September for the annual Historic Church’s bike ride.

In December there will be a concert by the Trinity Singers on 12th and the Carol Service will be held on 13th.

The church is also open on selected Sunday afternoons through the rest of the year, including 5th and 19th April and 3rd and 17th May.  The church has much of interest in its small interior including the stunning memorials to the Crane family, pictured above.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Big Debate on Health in Sudbury next Friday

The notice below comes from Sudbury Watch:

FRIDAY 20th March 2015 at 7.00pm
Entrance: Free of Charge
Sudbury WATCH has organised an “Any Questions” style panel to discuss the many conflicting needs and problems within the NHS and how we may resolve these, particularly in relation to the local area.

Those taking part will include NHS executives, those with health expertise and the prospective South Suffolk candidates for the forthcoming General Election.
Members of the audience will be asked to provide questions on arrival. Everyone is welcome.

While we do not want, or would allow this to turn into a political broadcast, we are interested in hearing all views on the current situation within the NHS and the panellists’ vision for the future. Sudbury WATCH (Working and Acting Together for Community Health - 01787 371798)

Plans for the County Farms

Suffolk County Council owns some 12,000 acres of farmland, including of course much of the former Chilton airfield just down the road.  In my capacity as Cabinet Member for Resource Management, oversight of the estate comes within my portfolio.

Much of the County Farm land was acquired after the First World War in order to provide holdings for returning soldiers. Parts were also transferred to the council after World War Two as military airfields were handed back.  Today some people believe that it should not be the role of a council to own farms, and I am regularly urged to sell them off.  It would not be sensible to do this immediately all in one go, because almost all of the farms are tenanted, sometimes on a long term basis.  To maximise value a long term strategy of consolidation and divestment would need to be put in place.  In the future this may be the most appropriate course of action.

At present there are no plans to divest the farms and indeed the council is in need of revenue rather than capital receipts.  It is therefore a more appropriate strategy to try to increase the average yield that we receive from the land holdings and see whether we can put the land to better, more profitable, use by finding development opportunities or adopting more innovative, or socially useful, approaches to the use of the land.

In this connection last week I attended a meeting to discuss the current state of the Grow your Future initiative, which has been developed in co-operation with the Country Landowners Association and Otley College.  This scheme, which is led by Councillor James Finch, is aimed at encouraging young entrepreneurs into farming and country based enterprises.  The idea is to release a small amount of the estate for rent to those who can come up with a credible business plan.  We hope to be able to help those who are keen to develop their ideas and take the first steps towards building a rural based enterprise.  The first applicants are currently working up their schemes with the help of business experts.  A panel hopes to have reached a decision on the granting of tenancies by the end of April. 

It is hoped that the level of rental that the county council will be able to achieve from these properties will be higher than that seen if we simply rented them out for traditional farming purposes.  Evaluation of the outcomes down the line will enable us to see if this actually happens, but in the meantime we hope to be able to support some fledgling enterprises along the way.

There are other plans in the air to try to help young people into more traditional farming.  The idea of share farming was introduced at the meeting.  This is a scheme whereby a landowner goes into partnership with an aspiring young farmer, helping him to get is foot on the farming ladder at a time when land purchase is beyond the means of many.  We need to go away and do some more work on this idea.  Since it would be higher risk than simply renting out the land, we would need to be sure of a higher level of return from our share of the profits of the joint enterprise.

The County Farms remain an interesting opportunity for the council in many ways.  It would be good to be able to run them more proactively, obtain a better return in the future for Suffolk taxpayers, fulfil a number of the council's social priorties, while at the same time supporting our tenants, traditional and less traditional.
Suffolk County Council County Farms across the county.

Ambridge needed an Emergency Plan.

Listening to the omnibus edition of the Archers this morning it did occur to me that, although everyone in Ambridge is doing all they can to pull together and help others in the face of the devastating flood that has hit the village, the community would have fared better had it had an Emergency Plan in place.
Floods in Bewdley, Worcestershire,  reputedly not far from the site of 'Ambridge'

At the height of the chaos, one of the characters complained about the absence of any of the usual emergency services, commenting that ‘they must be busy elsewhere’.  This was almost certainly the case because, although many agencies such as the fire service, police and local authority will be involved in the initial response, in the case of a major incident such as the one on the programme, it is hard for them to be everywhere at once. 

Where a community has an Emergency Plan local people can be part of this initial response by being aware in advance what resources are available locally to assist when trouble strikes.  For example, information would be held about contact details for local medical personnel, first aiders, and people able to provide useful equipment and even hot meals, and a plan to coordinate communication would be in place.

A number of communities already have Emergency Plans but others do not.  Once the Parish Council elections in May are over, perhaps it might be worth finding out how your community would respond in the case of an emergency?  If no plan is available, this could be a worthwhile early task for the new council.

Help can be obtained from the Suffolk Emergency Planning Unit who will be able to provide all necessary support.They can be reached via this link.