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, June 28, 2015

Whatfield and Bildeston Schools win silver road safety awards

The Junior Road Safety Officers at two schools in my Division, Bildeston and Whatfield, have won silver awards for their efforts in promoting good road safety practice.

On Friday afternoon I attended the awards ceremony held at Endeavour House to see the children receive their certificates.  Proceedings were presided over by the new Cabinet Member for Highways, James Finch, and I must say he made a very good job of engaging the children, and the rest of us, in thinking about safety on the roads.

We all learned about a number of ways in which we can all improve road safety.  In addition two of the schools present made excellent presentations about safe cycling to school.  There was also a question and answer session where road safety officers and a representative from the police gave us the benefit of their knowledge and experience.

The Junior Road Safety Officer scheme, which is promoted by the County Council, is a great way to engage children with this important topic.  The children concerned also learn other skills, not least how to promote a campaign to their fellow students. Please get in touch with me if you want to know how your local school can look into participating.

And yes, cycling on the pavement IS a criminal offence!
Pupils from Bildeston School with their certificates.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A visit to Worcestershire

Angela's magic flower garden

We spent last weekend in Worcestershire with old friends Michael and Angela.

In addition to being a pillar of her parish council, Angela, who I met in the 1980's when we both worked in banking, has created the most amazing garden at her home which looks over the Teme Valley near Tenbury Wells.  She also looks after five ageing racehorses!

These pictures give some idea of what she has achieved.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Working together

Yesterday evening I met Will Shropshire who is the new Babergh Councillor for Lavenham.

We discussed how we can best work together as District and County Councillors, alongside our new Member of Parliament, James Cartlidge.  Together we hope to help to resolve problems for individuals where possible to do so,  and also move forward some of the outstanding issues in the area. 

Many people are unaware of what particular functions fall within our respective areas of responsibility, and it has to be said that, particularly in respect of the two local authorities, the divisions can be pretty arbitrary.   The District tends to interest itself in matters of place and the County with matters relating to people.  Thus planning is one of the District’s principal interests and the County is concerned with Social Care and Education.   However the division is not that clear cut.  We both for example have responsibility for Waste (the District collects and the County disposes), housing issues are the remit of the District, and the County Council of course has responsibility for highways.

Most people when they have a problem don’t much care about these divisions of labour and so we aim to co-operate and to signpost residents to the right person to resolve individual issues.  We will also be working together on broader, more general concerns.

Our contact details can be found on the respective councils’ websites, or in my case you can use the contact details on this site.   James Cartlidge can be found care of the House of Commons!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Great art in Suffolk Museums

The latest exhibition at Gainsborough’s House offers a chance to see some of the great works of art that are owned by other museums in the county.

Great Art in Suffolk Museums brings together masterpieces from Christchurch Mansion in Ipswich, Moyse’s Hall in Bury St Edmunds, The National Horseracing Museum in Newmarket, The Red House in Aldeburgh and Gainsborough’s House in Sudbury, in what can only be described as  an impressive display which also has much of interest.

Included in the show is one of my favourite Gainsborough portraits, that of William Wollaston (1731 – 1797) who was MP for Ipswich between 1768 and 1784.  In the picture, which is shown above, Wollaston is holding his flute which reflects his love of music.  This was a passion that he shared with the artist.  It is important to note that Wollaston is not playing the instrument.  No gentleman would be seen doing so at the time.  

This portrait was painted by Gainsborough in c. 1759 during the time that he lived in Ipswich just before he moved to Bath.  I think it is one of the first Gainsborough portraits that rival his later works.  The wooden figures of the ‘conversation piece’ are a thing of the past and Wollaston is revealed as a fully rounded character, not devoid of humour and a love for life.  The family seat was Finborough Hall, which Wollaston was obliged to sell in 1794 as a result of gambling debts.

There are many other interesting pictures in the show.  Portraits of Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears from Red House are characteristically evocative, and the contributions from the National Horseracing Museum will have wide appeal for visitors.  There is also a chance to see for the first time a recently acquired landscape by Gainsborough which has been granted to Gainsborough’s House in lieu of inheritance taxes.

Great Art in Suffolk Museums runs at Gainsborough’s House in Sudbury until 18th October 2015.  Gainsborough’s House is open every day of the week.  Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Become a Friend and get in free!

Friday, June 12, 2015

A concert in the car park

 I was rather startled to find the message below in my County Council inbox yesterday evening!

'This weekend Endeavour House car park will be turned into a concert hall, complete with a 60-piece symphony orchestra and 100-strong choir.

The event can only go ahead if there are no cars in the car park therefore if you plan to leave your car over the weekend (13 -14 June) please park in Constantine House car park instead. 

The Endeavour House car park must be vacated by 8 p.m. on Friday.  This event is part of the Aldeburgh Festival 2015 running June 12 -28.'

The musicians taking over the car park are used to this sort of thing.  The promoter of the event is 'Multi Story' an organisation that takes music out of the concert hall and into less usual places, aiming to attract a new audience along the way.

The concert will be 45 minutes long and include Aaron Copeland's Apallachian Spring! Many of the tickets have been allocated free to Ipswich residents but when I looked there were some standing places available.

Multi Story at a previous gig.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A fair, if inconvenient, decision.

Sometimes people are critical of the fact that the County Council (and indeed the District Council from time to time) can be judge and jury in their own case when it comes to planning applications.

The impartiality of the County Council's  Development Control Committee showed no signs of weakness this week when members decided to refuse permission for a new secondary school on the Moreton Hall Estate.  This facility is needed as part of the schools reorganisation which is going through its final stage in the Bury area at present.  The time scale for building the school is tight, and any disruption of the process is likely to be inconvenient.

The case reminds me of the only time that I have spoken at a County Council Development Committee meeting.  This was at the end of 2007 when I had just become a District Councillor for Waldingfield.  Bretts Aggregates wanted to open up a quarry on County Council land in Chilton on the edge of Great Waldingfield.  A concerted campaign to stop this had been organised, and this was covered in some detail on this blog.    We campaigners were uncertain of success however due to the fact that it was not in the County's interest to turn down the application, and, indeed the site was clearly designated in its own minerals plan. (Indeed it still is, sadly.)

The application was however thrown out for very good reasons related to road safety on the A 134. At that time the impartiality of the committee impressed me.  I am pleased that almost 8 years later the Committee continues to make fair decisions when the county council's own interests are at stake.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Pictures from Lavenham Hidden Gardens

Rendle's Run

To Monks Eleigh Fete and dog show yesterday afternoon.

It was a perfect day for the event, not too hot and a nice breeze.  I managed to pick up some bargains on the second hand stall, and also a couple of Monks Eleigh commemorative mugs.  It was good to meet some friends old and new.

The highlight of the afternoon  was  undoubtedly Rendle the Lurcher's performance in the dog steeplechase event.  He was allowed two attempts, and it has to be said the first trip across the hay bales was not a great success.  He did not really know what he was supposed to be doing, and at the grand old age of 11 his eyesight is not what it was.  He therefore probably found it hard to see Nick, with an encouraging biscuit, at the other end of the run.

However, the second round was a triumph! Having understood what was required, the hairy hound took off at great speed and halved his time, completing the course in a very creditable 6 seconds. Not enough to win, but he certainly held his own against a strong field!
The heroic hound with his 'handler'

Book Sale in Elmsett

Crawford and Angela Allen with some of the 1500 books

The lure of over 1500 books for sale drew me down to Elmsett Village Hall on Saturday morning.

I am pleased to say that I managed to take away fewer books than I contributed, but it was a close run thing!

The two day event was in aid of the Church, with refreshment sales on Saturday supporting the village hall.  I met a number of residents from whom I was interested to hear about the 'non connecting' bus service to Ipswich.

I will be raising this with the Council, but am not sure to what extent we can interfere with a commercial service.  However it seems a bit daft that the morning bus from Elmsett arrives in Hadleigh just after the one to Ipswich leaves, a guarantee that few people will use the service I would have thought.

Rural exception sites and the right to buy.

At Whatfield Parish Council meeting on Wednesday some concern was expressed about the Government's plans, announced just before the election, to allow housing association tenants to buy their own homes at a discount.

Interest was expressed because at present a small estate of affordable homes is being built in the village under the auspices of a housing association.   These are being developed on what is known as a 'rural exception site'.  Under normal circumstances development would not be allowed there, since it is outside the village envelope,  but the fact that the houses are for local people means that an exception can be made.

The plans did not meet with universal acclaim in the village at the time of the application. Many people however recognised the need to provide affordable homes for local people, particularly the young, who may be forced to leave because of high house prices and the lack of appropriate rented accommodation. 

But under the recently announced government plans what will happen to houses on such sites in the future?  It is perhaps a good thing that some lucky local people will not just be able to rent, or part own these houses, but also have the right to buy outright at a discount.   However what will happen if they choose to sell the houses on?   Will sales be restricted to local people only?  I suspect not, but, if not the underlying rationale of local homes for local people will be totally undermined.

The policy was announced during the white heat of electioneering and we have not yet seen any detail.    I hope that the government will take time to consult properly and also consider whether extending the right to rural exception sites is the right thing to do.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Another attack on our heritage assets

Grade 1 listed Abbas Hall

 It really grieves me to see that, despite the fact that we have a new District council, there appears to be no sign of any change in the attitude of Babergh’s  Planning Committee when it comes to the preservation of heritage assets, both built and natural.

Following the experience that the council has had with the Prolog site (see full story and related posts above),  it might have been thought that members and officers would take more care when it came to the consideration of the recent application by Persimmon to build 160 ‘poorly designed’ homes at Carsons Drive, a controversial site in Great Cornard.  The houses will not only be close to Grade 1 listed Abbas Hall, but their construction could compromise the view of land immortalised in the renowned early Gainsborough masterpiece Cornard Wood.*

The Carsons Drive application has already been refused once, a decision upheld on appeal.  However a revised scheme was passed by the Committee this time.  Of course the composition of the Planning Committee has been radically changed by the election.  I am afraid that I do not believe that it is an accident that the developer waited to have another go when a brand new committee was in place.  He was applying to a committee that now contains a number of new and inexperienced members understandably unwilling to stick their necks out at their first meeting.

If the Sudbury Free Press is to be believed it appears that due regard to the claim of heritage assets was once again downplayed.  Committee Chairman, Peter Beer’s comment, that the views of local people had been ‘balanced’ with the need to make the future of the district ‘sustainable’ was, given the extent of public opposition,  frankly risible.  Moreover if we are to accept the representative of Persimmon’s comments as reported, then housing and development will always trump the demands of the natural and historic environment.  Replication of this decision elsewhere would be a disastrous outcome for South Suffolk as a whole.

Thomas Gainsborough RA, Cornard Wood, 1748,  Oil on Canvas, National Gallery, London.

*Gainsborough scholars debate the extent to which the artist depicted real scenes, and to what extent he created idealised landscapes in his studio in the fashion of the Dutch landscape masters that he emulated.  Generally it is believed that he took the latter course in most instances. Cornard Wood is however a very early picture, painted when the artist returned to Sudbury from London following his early marriage, and it is not inconceivable therefore that this was a scene from life.