Baroness Scott urges government to let parish councils set their precept without interference

My thanks to Mark Valladares for bringing this recent House of Lords speech by Baroness Scott to my attention:

@BaronessRos responds to the consultation on the Local Government Finance Settlement 2015/16…

Mark writes: It gives me great pleasure to publish here Ros’s thoughts on local government finance and, more generally, on the Conservative Party’s view on localism and accountability…

I am writing in response to consultation on the Local Government Finance Settlement 2015/16 and the statement from the Local Government Minister Kris Hopkins MP on council tax and parishes.

The Minister has invited views on “whether the highest spending parishes should be subject to the same referendum principle as the rest of local government” and “whether town and parish councils whose failings have been highlighted in a Public Interest Report should be included”.

As a Liberal Democrat it is my strong belief that far too much power remains concentrated in Westminster; ours is one of the most centralised countries in the Western world and that has to change. Only by returning power to the communities, villages, towns, cities and regions of England can we drive growth, improve public services and give people the freedom to run their own lives.

To this end parish and town councils are an important part of our local democracy and I was heartened to see the Minister reiterate this in his statement. Much has been done by the Coalition Government over the course of this Parliament to empower communities and parishes and I want to see this continue.

However I simply do not believe any parish or town council, irrespective of size, location, budget or activity should be required to hold a referendum on increases to their precept.

This is unnecessary interference by Government and only serves to convey a lack of faith and trust in those people elected to serve on parish councils to improve their area and make locally accountable decisions. From my own experience parishes are closer to local issues than anyone, and work hard to engage with local people about how they can improve their area using the precept, communicating and justifying any (usually small and modest) increases accordingly. Indeed I remain supportive of removing the requirement to hold local referenda for council tax changes completely.

I also cannot support the notion of applying referenda principles to parishes with a Public Interest Report. I would much rather see a system whereby the parish sector takes the lead in helping parishes who have experienced difficulties, with action by Government as an absolute last resort. I would urge you to explore how this might be achieved with bodies such as the National Association of Local Councils, who I know are committed to high standards of governance and financial accountability and sector-led improvement.

I also wanted to comment on the situation regarding council tax support funding, which I know is causing real problems for parish councils up and down the country.

It simply cannot be acceptable that funding being provided by Government to parishes, via billing authorities, is not passed on to them. I would strongly urge the Minister to step up his efforts to resolve this issue as I know the number of councils not passing on funding to parishes is increasing.

This is likely to have an inevitable knock-on effect on local services and the parish precept, which I am sure the Minister does not want to see happen. I am also concerned about the overall impact such funding shortfalls will have on localism and community empowerment, especially at a time when Government and principal councils are encouraging more partnership working within local government, as well as devolution of services to the local level and parishes.

In conclusion I do not support the extension of referenda principles to parishes and urge more action to ensure council tax support funding is passed on to parishes.

Ros Scott Baroness Scott of Needham Market

Report to Mid Samford parishes January 2015

Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard, Babergh District Councillors

Happy New Year! Here is the report to Mid Samford parishes, comprising Capel St. Mary, Holton St. Mary, Stratford St. Mary and Little and Great Wenham.

In this issue:

  • Wind turbine proposal turned down at Wherstead
  • Tackling debt
  • Tackling waste
  • News on social housing
  • Network Rail public consultation

Wind turbine proposal turned down at Wherstead

Babergh’s planning committee unanimously refused permission for a 130m high wind turbine on land at Wherstead. This is a landmark decision for the council. Many people felt that the scale and environmental impact of this single wind turbine was not justified.

English Heritage objected saying “English Heritage considers that there would be harm to the significance of the churches at Wherstead, Belstead and Copdock and to Bentley Old Hall and Freston Tower.” In addition there were objections from the Dedham Vale Society, Suffolk Preservation Society, Suffolk Coast and Heaths, parish councils and many individuals. There were 644 letters or emails with representation, with 639 of those objecting to the proposals.

The Ministry of Defence said that the turbine would “cause unacceptable interference to the ATC (Air Traffic Control) radar at RAF Honington”.

The maximum power output from this turbine would be 2.5MW. Compare this with the Greater Gabbard offshore wind-farm near Lowestoft which has a maximum output of 504MW with a further extension planned, generating another 504MW. Offshore wind-farms do not seem to generate the same level of opposition as onshore turbines in high visibility locations, as in this case.

The applicant, Partnership for Renewables, is likely to appeal.

Tackling debt

At this time of year there are so many bills to pay. People on low incomes may be tempted to take out expensive loans for essential items like cookers and washing machines. It is shocking to see TV advertisements offering “payday loans” with interest rates of up to 1,000%.

Many people don’t realise that they can borrow money from the Credit Union in Suffolk at very reasonable rates. Recently renamed “Eastern Savings and Loans” they have opened premises in Ipswich at 58 Westgate Street. Their website gives details of their opening hours: http://www.eslcu.co.uk/. Last July we reported that a survey of council tenants in Babergh revealed that hundreds felt they need advice and information about dealing with household expenses, as well as ensuring that they are receiving the right amount of benefit.

Babergh and Mid Suffolk are sharing the costs of employing two people on fixed term contracts to help tackle some of these issues with people on low incomes. There will be pilot schemes in the Shotley Peninsula and Sudbury and Cornard. The scheme will then be available across the two Districts.

Tackling waste

As the song says Christmas may be “the most wonderful time of the year” but it is also the most wasteful. The cost of the food we throw away over the Christmas period is estimated at £64m – including 74 million mince pies (source Unilever).

Baroness Ros Scott, who lives in Suffolk, chairs an influential House of Lords EU Scrutiny Committee. The Committee recently published a report showing that the average household in the UK is throwing away the equivalent of 6 meals worth of food every week, at an approximate cost of £20. That’s more than a thousand pounds a year. Supermarkets are also throwing out food that does not meet the size or colour standards they have set. The organisation WRAP has more information on how we can all reduce food waste.

News on social housing

Following a bid submitted to the Government’s Additional Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Borrowing Programme, Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils have been granted approval to borrow a further £5.5m, above our Housing Revenue Account borrowing limits. They are among just 21 councils nationwide to have been successful in gaining this extra borrowing power. For us this means that by the end of 2017 Mid Suffolk and Babergh councils will be able to build 60, much needed, homes for rent. The councils have been working closely with Suffolk County Council to use sites they own and need to develop. There will be more detailed plans in the New Year including the locations, proposed plans and timescales.

Network Rail public consultation

Rail users may want to add their views to the current consultation taking place about the Anglia rail routes. This can be found here.  We understand there are proposals that might particularly affect users of the Peterborough/Ely services.

Contact: Sue Carpendale sue.carpendale@babergh.gov.uk

Kathy Pollard kathy.pollard@babergh.gov.uk

A12 Roadworks update

Here is an update from Anna Graham of the Highways Agency (more details also in the December parish report:

A12 J31 – J33 improvement works

I am writing to inform you that we will be carrying out works to improve the road network on the A12 between junction 31 (Four Sisters Interchange) and junction 33 (Copdock Interchange). The works are part of essential maintenance to ensure that the A12 remains in a safe and serviceable condition.

There are a number of phases to the works:

•    Phase 1 – Work to build cross over locations to enable the use of contraflow is expected to begin, subject to weather conditions, overnight on 8 December for two weeks, finishing on 19 December. The work will be carried out by closing one lane in each direction with a reduced speed limit from 10pm to 6 am. The works may create delays in getting to and from your business for your staff and customers, for which we apologise.

•    Phase 2 – The main work to resurface the carriageway is anticipated to start in the New Year for approximately 8 weeks, subject to weather conditions. This work is to be carried out using overnight contraflow between the hours of 10pm and 6 am. A reduced speed limit will be in operation 24 hours a day for the safety of both road users and the workforce. During the day the A12 will operate at its current capacity.

•    Phase 3 – The installation of cross over gates and finishing works are due to take place following the completion of the contraflow phase. It may be necessary to close the carriageway overnight between 10pm and 6 am for up to two weeks in order to undertake the work. A clearly signed diversion route will be in place, including a dedicated HGV diversion route. More details will follow.

Drivers will be diverted to exit at junction 31 (Four Sisters Interchange) and then onto the B1070, A137 and A14 to re-join A12 at junction 33 (Copdock) and vice versa. Lorries will be advised to follow A133, A137 and A14.

I will write to you again in the New Year with a further update regarding the next stage of the works.

We will do our utmost to complete the works as quickly as possible, avoiding disturbance and keeping noise to a minimum. Once complete, the work will reduce the need for future maintenance at this location. If you have any enquiries please contact the Highways Agency Information Line (HAIL) on 0300 123 5000, or by email to: ha_info@highways.gsi.gov.uk.

Yours faithfully,

Anna Graham
Highways Agency

December report to Mid Samford parishes

Monthly report for December 2014 from District Councillors Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard

In this report:

  • Local housing development
  • Food Standards Agency Audit
  • Food businesses and allergen information
  • Resurfacing works on the A12

Local housing development

We have been aware for some time that larger villages like Capel St. Mary may be approached by developers to build housing on Greenfield sites around the perimeter of the village. We have previously reported that under Babergh’s new local development plan we may expect an additional 100 houses over the next 20 years. However that number is not a maximum. We provide an attractive location, being reasonably close to railway stations and larger shopping centres, with “good” road links. We also have a wide range of facilities already available in the village – shops, school, library, GP and dental surgeries, etc.

We cannot stop planning applications being lodged, but we can try to ensure that you are fully involved and informed about the detail of any development. We will always work with the parish council to ensure this happens. Babergh District council is currently encouraging developers to come forward with suggestions for development. We and the parish council have already been approached by an “intermediary” seeking out our views on suitable sites in Capel. We ensured that a planning officer was present from Babergh council to advise us and made the “intermediary” aware that we were unable to recommend any site to them.

Food Standards Agency Audit

The Food Standards Agency has recently carried out an audit of the work of the food standards team at Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils. The team carry out important work ensuring that all catering and retail food premises meet the required food hygiene standards.

There are more than 2,000 catering and retail food businesses in Babergh and Mid Suffolk. This includes a high number of home businesses. In addition there are a number of national and international food manufacturers including a sushi manufacturer as well as regular farmers markets.

The audit report states:

“It was clear from inspection records that officers were knowledgeable and experienced in identifying food safety hazards in businesses. Inspections were consistently focused on potential risks and the Authority was able to demonstrate a well-established emphasis on achieving business compliance, supporting and assisting local food businesses to meet legal standards.”

The issues highlighted for improvement by the audit team were fairly minor. They included improvements to the recording of decisions on the follow up actions the councils require from businesses after an inspection and the documentation of procedures.

The full report is available here

Food businesses and allergen information

Currently when supermarket bakeries, delis, cafes and restaurants sell loose foods they don’t have to provide information to customers about food allergens, but from 13 December 2014 all food businesses will need to verbally explain or signpost allergenic information for the food they sell or provide. Food allergies can cause life-threatening reactions and the numbers of people with this condition are growing. A reaction can occur within minutes following the consumption of food and symptoms can include itching, pain, diarrhoea and even, in severe cases, anaphylaxis.

The primary cause of food allergy deaths in the UK is due to allergic reactions when food is consumed outside the home where allergenic ingredients have not been declared. The new rules will mean that all food businesses will need to inform customers if any of 14 allergenic ingredients are present in the food they make or service. This can be communicated to customers in writing on menus, verbally through explanations by staff or signposted to where or how more information can be found. Although the new EU rules are coming into force in December 2014, they were published in October 2011, to give food businesses three years to get ready for the new provisions.

Resurfacing works on the A12

We attended a briefing meeting by the Highways Agency on December 1st, which aimed to inform parishes and local councillors about the resurfacing works due to be carried out in the New Year.

Here are the main points:

  • The resurfacing works will be between the B1070 (junction 31) and Copdock Mill (junction 33). It is a £5m scheme and will be carried out in January and February – weather permitting. All work will be carried out between 10pm and 6am. The slip roads will also be resurfaced. During the roadworks a contact number will be displayed should there be any accidents or other problems along the route.
  • There will be 2 weeks preparatory work to install cross over points. This work will start on December 8th. No work will be carried out between 23rd December and January 2nd.
  • There will be contraflow overnight with a 40mph limit, enforced by average speed cameras. The speed limit will be in force 24 hours a day while the resurfacing is carried out. CCTV will also be used to spot any problems and there will be free breakdown recovery.
  • During the day traffic will flow as normal on both carriageways but with speed restrictions and an overtaking ban.
  • Whilst the resurfacing is being carried out the contractors will also take the opportunity to renew road signs, drainage and safety barriers and to carry out maintenance on lighting, tree management and gully clearing.
  • The existing top layer of tarmac will be partially removed with a fine milling machine and traffic will run on this temporary surface. We were assured that the grip is good and that it will be safe for motorbikes. The new surface will then be laid on top. This method has been used successfully on the A421 in Bedfordshire and we were told it will save hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money.
  • Following completion of the road resurfacing there will be a further two weeks night-time work to install permanent “crossing gates”. This is so the contraflow can be set up more easily in the future e.g. for resurfacing or if there is an accident or any other maintenance requiring carriage closure.
  • Diversion routes may be required overnight when the crossing gates are being installed. HGVs will be diverted either from Colchester or East Bergholt along the A137 to the A14 Wherstead interchange. Light traffic will be diverted along the old A12 at Copdock. Sat navs should be able to pick up the diversions.
  • They are hoping that the promised average speed cameras between East Bergholt and the Essex border will be installed at the same time.

sue.carpendale@babergh.gov.uk 

kathy.pollard@babergh.gov.uk

Capel Post Office move – consultation deadline 4th December

A quick reminder that the deadline is fast approaching for your comments on the transfer of Capel St. Mary Post Office to the Coop supermarket. All comments must be received by 4th December.

  • More details in the attached pdf document PO flyer
  • There is also a letter available at Capel Post Office with proposed opening times, etc.
  • You can comment online at postofficeviews.co.uk entering the code 06313099 for the Capel PO branch
  • email: comments@postoffice.co.uk
  • FREEPOST Your comments (yes that is the whole address!)

Report to Mid Samford parishes November 2014

From Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard, Babergh District Councillors

In this edition:

  • Relocation of post office services in Capel St Mary
  • New recycling service coming to Suffolk
  • Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)
  • Renewable energy workshop
  • Changes to English Heritage
  • Community heroes
  • MyGo – youth employment centre

Relocation of post office services in Capel St Mary

We were recently alerted to a six-week consultation period on moving the Capel Post Office branch to the Co-operative Food Store in the shopping precinct. The consultation closes on 4th December, so we have made every effort to promote the news to residents. The move has the agreement of the Postmaster and is part of a programme to see 8000 branches modernised. Post Office services will be offered from two tills on the retail counter, with longer opening hours and most of the Post Office products will still be available. We are aware that business is increasingly challenging for sub-post offices, with many closures. This move should protect the service for local residents. You can pick up a leaflet at the Post Office with information, also, on how to comment.

There have been a number of concerns and useful points raised about the service being delivered in the new location and many points have already been submitted by us to the Post Office. Chief of these are issues of privacy, space, queues and security. We hope to be working through these once the consultation is concluded. Meetings have been arranged with the Senior Stakeholder manager for Post Office Ltd to clarify matters. The Co-op is a preferred supplier to the Post Office and has a lot of experience in running these services.

New recycling service coming to Suffolk

A new service, designed to make recycling even easier, went live from 3rd November with Suffolk residents being given the chance to recycle more items at home. We can now put food and drink cartons, aerosol cans, books and metal pots, pans and trays into the recycling bin. These new materials will be collected alongside the usual items; paper, card, cans, foil and plastic bottles, tubs and trays. We can also recycle textiles in the recycling bin as long as they are in the special bags provided by the council. People in Suffolk are amongst the top performers in the country with 53% of our waste already being recycled. The Suffolk Waste Partnership estimates that more than 18,000 tonnes of material that could be recycled from home gets thrown away costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds. When people put recyclable items in their black bin it costs approximately £80 more per tonne for the council to collect and dispose of it, totalling £1.4 million every year. Please make sure your recycle items are clean, dry and loose when placed in the recycling bins.

Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)

Babergh has begun a second consultation stage for the charging schedule proposed for new build in the District. Comments from the first stage have been reviewed and noted. When finally agreed by Council, the schedule will still be subject to Examination. Our Strategic sites – large-scale developments in the Ipswich, Sudbury and Hadleigh areas – will still secure infrastructure through S106 agreements and therefore have a zero (£0) charge CIL rate, as will office and industrial development, but (with the exclusion of “assisted living” housing) new dwellings in this area will be charged £115 per square metre. Parishes without a Neighbourhood Plan will receive 15% of the CIL monies, capped at £100 per existing home; with a plan, they will receive 25% and no cap. Parishes have greater flexibility in how they can use this money as long as they can demonstrate that its use relieves the pressure of growth. Full details can be seen on Babergh’s website, Paper P67.

Recent workshop: “renewable energy” – defined as naturally replenished on a human time scale, is being promoted again by Government. This time the focus is on devices such as air source and ground source heat pumps. There are loans available which attach to the property rather than the individual, over a long time span, but their practicality and adoption is often a matter of circumstances, especially for existing properties. However, we were given some interesting figures, particularly about fuel poverty and rising energy costs. Over 19% of the population spend more than 10% of their income on heating – the UK tops the fuel poverty league. Approximately 80.6% of global energy consumption is still from fossil fuels, renewable 16.7% and nuclear 2.7%. According to Age UK, people in cold homes are three times more likely to die from heart attack or stroke than those in a warm home. As winter approaches we need to be alert to people who may be vulnerable as there is help and advice available. Suffolk Energy Action is a good source of information.

Changes to English Heritage

Government intends to form two separate organisations to manage the Nation’s heritage.  From April 2015 Historic England will be responsible for the provision of advice to local authorities while English Heritage, which is now a widely recognised name, will become a charitable body responsible for looking after historic properties. The English Heritage Charity will be responsible, under an operating licence from Historic England, for the care of the National Heritage Collection.  Whilst all of its properties will remain in public ownership, it will be able to make the most of commercial and philanthropic opportunities.

Community heroes – we are again invited to nominate for a Community Achievement Award, people who are active in Babergh, work in the local community on an unpaid or voluntary basis, and who the community feel should be recognised for their contribution.

MyGo – youth employment centre

This new centre opens in Princes Street, Ipswich in November, offering a complete jobs service to all-comers aged between 16 and 24 – whether employed or not, on benefits or not. It is part of the Greater Ipswich City Deal and the first of its type, being dedicated solely to young people. It’s modern, clean, light, comfortable, friendly and well equipped with IT and internet – you can even drop in for a chat and a coffee if you’re the right age! Every young person needs to know about this facility.

October 2014 Report to Mid Samford parishes

Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard, Babergh District Councillors
sue.carpendale@babergh.gov.uk kathy.pollard@babergh.gov.uk

In this month’s report:

  • Planning and development in the villages
  • Renewable energy – can you help?
  • Government consults on minimum standards for floor space in homes
  • The annual “lullaby” concerts and music workshops
  • Should there be an extra tax on large stores and supermarkets?
  • Sky lanterns and helium filled balloons
  • Empty homes policy
  • Thanks and best wishes to Pauline, as Capel greengrocers closes its doors

Planning and development in the villages
Approval has been given to an outline application for up to 24 homes on land next to Pine Dell and Ashcroft on London Road, Capel St. Mary.  This is potentially a positive addition to the smaller housing stock in the village with some “affordables” for social rent. The matter was referred from the September committee at Babergh for further responses regarding road safety improvements on the A12 slip road and at the London Road junction.  Comments from highways varied from no comment, to: the developer could be asked to consider a safety audit to assess whether the existing road layout was safe for additional traffic, including the safety points raised by us (more and better signage, road markings, an extension to the speed limit and better maintenance and verge trimming to keep signs clear and ensure road visibility.) This was rejected by the applicant.  As highways cannot insist on this, they later said it was all safe.

It was agreed at the meeting that we would set up a forum to work with Babergh planners, highways, the parish council, local district ward councillors and a resident of London Road to determine how road safety could be improved in this area.

At the September meeting of the political group leaders, officers made it clear that the Local Plan’s intention to distribute some 1050 homes to “rural areas” – these being the core and hinterland villages – was in fact a minimum target, with no upper limit.  The estimate of 100 or so homes for each of the ten villages should not be regarded as a guide figure.  There is no attempt to identify potential sites for development.  Provided applications meet certain criteria, the National Planning Policy Framework will presume in favour of development.  This causes us some concern, but it is important that we raise awareness of this possibility.

Renewable energy – can you help?
Have you had solar photovoltaic panels installed or do you have any specialist knowledge of renewable technologies or energy efficiency measures? We are aiming to run an information day for local people in the New Year and would love it if you could share your experiences or can help in any other way. Please get in touch with us with your ideas and views at either of the email addresses above. Alternatively you can phone us: Sue 01473 311513 Kathy 01473 311384 or drop us a note: Sue – 53 Thorney Road, Capel St. Mary, Ipswich, IP9 2XH; Kathy – 19 The Street, Capel St. Mary, Ipswich IP9 2EE.

Government consults on minimum standards for floor space in homes
Some newspaper headlines have recently referred to “Rabbit Hutch Britain” when talking about the size of properties in the UK. In mainland Europe room sizes are frequently more generous. In response to this national Government has launched a consultation on a set of minimum space standards for new dwellings. Many London authorities have already adopted these. In Babergh we already have minimum standards for social housing, but not for private housing.  Research has shown that small properties lead to lack of privacy and even illness. Also there is frequently no room to store possessions. We would be interested in hearing your views on this.  Also: “DCLG Housing Standards Review” consultation, August 2013; and “Affordable Housing” Supplementary Planning Document, Babergh Local Plan, February 2014.

A report by Shelter states:

“Shamefully, we build the smallest homes in Western
Europe. In 2011, average new homes in Denmark
were 80% bigger than those in the UK. Even new
homes in Japan were 21% bigger.”

The annual “lullaby” concerts and music workshops
For five years, musicians from the world-class City of London Sinfonia have been delivering a series of workshops at nurseries and pre-schools across Babergh and Mid Suffolk. In total 18 workshops have taken place across both districts including Boxford Primary School, St Mary’s Primary School, Hadleigh and Hadleigh Primary School.  The workshops enable children aged two to five years old to see and hear orchestral instruments in their local community. The workshops lead up to a series of ten Lullaby Concerts in five locations across Suffolk, taking place during October half-term. For further details of the concerts, locations and how to buy tickets are available on the Babergh website.

Should there be an extra tax on large stores and supermarkets?
At the September Council, there was a motion requesting a move to add a levy of up to 8.5% of their rateable value on supermarkets and large retail outlets in the area with a rateable annual value not less than £500,000 and for the revenue to be retained by local authorities in order to be used to help improve their local communities.  This could affect five stores in Babergh.  The matter has been referred to the Strategy committee for consideration at a later date as there was no information about how or where in the District such money could be used. We would be interested to hear your views.

Sky lanterns and helium filled balloons
Babergh Council has voted that where possible, and as a matter of urgency, the launching of lighted sky lanterns and helium filled balloons from all council owned land and property, should be banned. This will also affect event licensing terms.  There is increasing concern about release of these lanterns and helium filled latex balloons because of the impacts these can have on the environment, on animal welfare, the fire risk to buildings, property and crops, risk to aviation and impacts on emergency services on land and sea.  Helium is a crucial ingredient in MRI machines, wafer manufacture, welding and other processes but is a diminishing and finite resource facing shortages, which also drive up the price.

Empty homes policy
Babergh’s Strategic Plan includes a desired outcome to improve the quality and use of existing private sector housing which we will do by bringing as many of our long term empty homes (greater than 6 months) back into use. Properties become empty for a number of reasons and most are reoccupied within a short period of time. However across Babergh and Mid Suffolk in April 2014 there were 1,100 properties which had been empty for a period of at least 6 months. Many will be empty for longer than they need to be or will not be brought back into use without the provision of advice, support or enforcement action. The Councils have set a target to reduce the number of empty homes by 400 between June 2014 and March 2017. There is a large need and demand for housing in Babergh and Mid Suffolk and empty properties which could otherwise be made available for sale or rent are a wasted resource. In April 2014 there were 2,114 active applications on the housing registers for Babergh and Mid Suffolk. In many cases, the longer a property is left empty the more money it will cost to bring it back into use as the condition of the property deteriorates, making it increasingly difficult for some owners to be able to afford to bring a property back into use and so the property remains empty and continues to deteriorate. The Councils will, through this Policy, offer advice and support to owners of empty homes to enable the properties to be brought back into use. Where owners do not work with the Councils to bring their properties back into use in a reasonable period, enforcement action will be considered.

Thanks and best wishes to Pauline, as Capel greengrocers closes its doors
We would like to express our thanks for the many years of hard work Pauline has put into to serving the community of Capel St Mary and surrounding villages.  We wish her a long and happy retirement.

September report to Mid Samford parishes

Posting this rather late, due to holidays: this month’s post from Councillor Sue Carpendale and myself.

The “open” Electoral Register

We have previously mentioned the change to the way in which we all now register to vote: for many years the “head of the household” was responsible for listing everyone in the house over the age of 18. That has changed and now it is up to each of us as individuals to ensure that we are registered.

As part of this change a letter was sent out from Babergh to all registered voters which perhaps contained some rather confusing information. Many people had previously indicated that they did not wish their names to be visible on the public version of the electoral register – this is one that can be sold for commercial purposes. The letter sent by Babergh should have reassured people that their previous preference would be carried out under the new arrangements, but it didn’t. So if you have previously asked for your name to be removed, that request still stands and you need take no further action. If you do want to have your name removed from the “open” version, tell Babergh by phone – 01473-825713 or by email – electoral@babergh.gov.uk

Don’t forget that the General, District and Parish council elections will take place on Thursday May 7th 2015. If you are likely to be away on business, holiday or have difficulty getting to the polling station – or would simply prefer to vote by post, you can apply to Babergh for a permanent postal vote. You can apply online at: http://www.babergh.gov.uk/council-business/elections-and-voting/how-do-i-vote/ or contact Babergh by phone 01473 825713. If you are likely to be away on holiday when the postal votes are sent out you can alternatively apply for a proxy vote. This means that you nominate someone else to vote on your behalf – for example a friend or family member.

New planning applications

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is designed to make planning simpler and faster. It’s about sustainable development and positive growth – with economic, environmental and social roles. There are some key changes, including for example, that village “envelopes” or built-up area boundaries are no longer sacrosanct and there is a presumption in favour of development.

An outline application for up to 24 homes off London Road in Capel St Mary was before the Planning Committee on 3rd September, on land which is outside the boundary. We do need smaller homes in the village so that younger people can get onto the housing ladder and older people have options for downsizing. There could also be up to eight “affordable” homes (i.e. for social rent) in such a development. However, there are concerns about the location and access to this site, largely on account of the tricky junction with the A12 slip road. It is already difficult, as vehicles accessing the A12 expect to be able to accelerate to merge with fast moving traffic, but may find they are following someone slowing down to make a left turn – or indeed exiting London Road with limited visibility and limited time to manoeuvre. More homes would more than double the potential for accidents.

We therefore requested that safety measures and road improvements at this junction be in place before approval of the application. It will need to return to committee at a future date if the conditions cannot be met, and again at a later date if and when a full and detailed application is submitted.

Babergh’s Local Plan identifies Capel St Mary as a core village where there will be housing growth. There are no sites earmarked for this which means there could be any number of speculative applications. The community as a whole needs to be involved in influencing how this develops.

Greater Ipswich City Deal

Babergh is within the area covered by this major initiative. The project will drive forward economic growth in this region where we have major development potential in key industrial sectors including energy, ICT, financial services, advanced manufacturing, logistics, biotechnology and agri-tech. Other important sectors include tourism and agriculture. A key component of the Deal is the development of a local skills system that is responsive to the needs of employers and supports economic growth. To complement this, a business growth service will be established to provide enhanced support for innovation, improved access to finance and more targeted business support.

Over its lifetime, it is predicted the Deal will deliver: over 3,500 young people supported into work, including 2,200 into sustained work; £10 million new local investment in skills; 5,000 new Apprenticeships; 3,000 new high value jobs; 400 new businesses and £100m private sector investment. The EADT has recently featured the apprenticeship scheme. The key element of this Deal is the Youth Guarantee. The Ipswich area has had worse than national average youth unemployment for many years – it is a deep-rooted problem. Therefore there will be significant investment in helping all young people into work, training, further education or career-shift with more support for careers advice, information and guidance.

Open and transparent council meetings?

Babergh is about to adopt a new protocol, prompted by the Dept of Communities and Local Government, for members of the public who wish to record, film or take photographs at council meetings. You don’t have to tell the council in advance but it would be helpful, and any activity must not interfere with business or misrepresent proceedings.

Campaigning for A12 improvements in South Suffolk

From Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard, District Councillors

There are constant reports in the press of delays due to accidents on the A12. Apart from the human misery this causes, there is a knock on effect to the economy. The A12 is, of course, part of the strategic route to the East Coast ports. We have been involved with campaigns to improve safety on the A12 for more than 30 years. Three years ago we compiled a report with the help of Bill Davies, Chair of Stratford St. Mary parish council, and Lorraine Clark, a local resident. This highlighted the high numbers of accidents between the Essex border and Copdock Mill interchange and made suggestions for improvements, including average speed cameras.

With the upturn in the national economy, traffic has begun to increase again. Tailbacks at Copdock Mill roundabout are becoming more frequent and the likelihood of accidents along the A12 is rising. We felt it was time to set up another meeting with the Highways Agency to seek further action. This meeting took place at the Stratford Institutute on July 30th. We had invited every parish council along the route to send a representative and most attended. District and County Councillors were also invited.

Funding of road improvements has been reduced in the last few years, due to austerity measures, but there is better news for the next 5 year period with big increases in the roads budget. The regional A12 route management strategy has ackowledged the same safety issues we raised in our earlier report in 2011, for example the dangerously short slip roads at Stratford St. Mary and East Bergholt and the winding nature of the A12 between those two villages. In addition there are clusters of accidents all along the A12 and “shunts” on the approach to the Copdock Mill roundabout. Virtually the whole road is substandard from the Essex border up to the Copdock Mill junction.

Issues discussed at the meeting with the Highways Agency on July 30th included:

  1. Capel underpass flooding
    The Highways Agency representatives admitted that there had been a reporting problem when the Capel underpass flooded. It is their responsibility and repair works have now been carried out to the pumps. There was also no information about the underpass closure on the overhead gantry signs and no diversion signs had been set up. We also asked about maintenance as the paintwork is looking very shabby and rust is showing through.
  2. Average speed cameras between the Essex border and East Bergholt
    The installation of these has been delayed until January 2015. The Highways Agency are anticipating the saving of three personal injury accidents each year following installation. The speed limit will remain at 70mph. Speed measurements along this stretch showed that 15% of motorists were travelling above 74mph.
  3. Resurfacing work
    A major programme of resurfacing will be carried out next year between Copdock Mill interchange and the B1070 (East Bergholt) junction. There will be an opportunity to improve drainage, barriers and signage at the same time. Work will be carried out at night.
  4. Noise from the A12
    The Highways Agency was asked what was being done to reduce noise from the A12 as it has become an increasing problem over the years. The response was that nothing specific is being planned at present, but that the new surface should be a little quieter.
  5. Copdock Interchange improvements
    As well as the increase in queuing traffic, there were also complaints about poor and confusing lane marking on the roundabout. Lane swapping is also an issue. Suffolk County Council are currently putting together some options for improvements.
  6. Other safety issues
    The short slip road at the entrance and exit from the garage on the Southbound carriageway at Capel St. Mary was mentioned as an accident risk.
  7. Closure of Hughes Corner right turn to Higham/Stoke by Nayland
    Although accidents have reduced on the A12 near this junction, closure of the Hughes Corner right turn has had a major impact on traffic through Higham and Stratford St. Mary.
  8. Setting up of an A12 Forum
    The Highways Agency representatives suggest that we set up a forum to lobby for improvements and that a further meeting should take place in September/October. With this in mind we will explore further dates with them and invite parish, district and county representatives.

sue.carpendale@babergh.gov.uk  kathy.pollard@babergh.gov.uk

Get online with free training sessions on August 11th at Suffolk One

A group of summer Interns from Mid Suffolk and Babergh District Councils are holding free workshops to help people who have trouble using computer technology.
The Beginners’ Internet and Technology Skills workshops, each lasting two hours, will be held at Suffolk One Sixth Form College on August 11th from 10am and 1pm. Student volunteers from the sixth form college will also be joining the interns to help on the day.
The idea for these workshops came from Babergh and Mid Suffolk’s four summer interns, who are spending 13 weeks with the councils to gain experience of what it is like working in a district council. Their internship comes under Suffolk County Council’s Raising The Bar initiative, which aims to raise educational attainment levels within Suffolk.
Robert Carmichael, Management Support Intern at Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils, said: “We came up with the community project of a computer and internet workshop for beginners from our work within both councils. We had become aware that there is a skills gap between those that can use the internet and those that can’t. After seeing this we wanted to do something to help so we created this workshop.
“With the world becoming ever more digitalised this session will help those people who are keen to learn but are currently struggling to get online for one reason or another. We can take up to 30 people at each workshop and it would be fantastic if we can fill these places and help even more people enjoy the benefits the internet can bring.”
The free workshops are open to anyone and will include:
•    Setting up email an address
•    Skype- video and instant messaging
•    Internet Searches- understanding what to look for and how to look for it.
•    And any other general queries that attendees wish to discuss about technology that they have encountered or own.
Babergh and Mid Suffolk are committed to helping to provide stronger communities and part of their strategic priorities are based around enabling people to develop skills and assets which help themselves and their communities.
If you, or someone you know, would like to attend either of the sessions, which are being held at 10am and 1pm on August 11th, or have any questions, then please contact Annabel Larter, Environmental Health Intern, on: 01449 724709, email Annabel.Larter@midsuffolk.gov.uk or Emma Seymour, Communities Intern, on 01449 724926.