Adieu, adieu, auf wiedersehen, goodbye

Thanks to the 1104 people who voted for me in Thursday’s local elections. Unfortunately not quite enough to re-elect me. Congratulations to my friend and colleague Sue Carpendale who was re-elected with 1196 votes and good luck to the Conservative who didn’t even put out a leaflet and stood as a favour to the Conservative agent. She got 1145 votes and was elected. Democracy is a blunt instrument – especially when you have local elections on the same day as a General Election.

In my 28 years as a local councillor I hope I have made a difference. In that time I have campaigned on a huge range of issues from retaining the Bury Road Park and Ride site, to preventing the Conservative proposals to close all but 8 of Suffolk’s 43 libraries, retaining the student travel discount card and fighting against the closure of the County’s middle schools.

Road safety has always been a major concern for me and I began by campaigning with Sue Carpendale for a road underpass in Capel St. Mary more than 30 years ago. We even sent a giant Christmas card to the then Transport minister, Peter Bottomley. It had the slogan “All we want for Christmas is our underpass” with a cartoon of Father Christmas and his sleigh trying to cross the A12. Mr. Bottomley was most amused and gave the go ahead. The underpass opened in 1990.

A12 safety issues are an ongoing concern. More recently Sue Carpendale and I wrote a report on the state of the A12, including accident data and submitted it to the Department for Transport. This has resulted in the installation of permanent speed cameras on the A12 between the Essex border and East Bergholt and the closure of the right turn at Hughes Corner. We have also highlighted many times the problems with the short slip roads at Stratford St. Mary and East Bergholt, where there is a high accident record. Lately we have fielded numerous complaints about the A12 roadworks and nighttime diversions.

When I was first elected as a County Councillor in 1993 there had been a political earthquake in local government across the UK. For 12 years we ran the County Council in coalition with Labour. In that time I was County Council chairman and then for a time I was the councillor responsible for roads and transport. Amongst other issue I campaigned for a Western bypass for Sudbury. It was my former Lib Dem colleague and then Transport Chairman, Peter Monk, who had the idea of introducing 30mph limits to all our villages 20 years ago. We take them for granted now, but prior to that many villages had only the 60mph national limit. It has made our communities much safer, although speeding is still a big issue.

When the Conservatives took back control of Suffolk in 2005 we handed on a council which had been given an Excellent rating, with our schools in the top 25% in England. Social care also had the top rating. Since then the Conservatives have outsourced care homes to Care UK, privatised road maintenance and dragged Suffolk’s schools to the bottom of the English league table. Last year’s Ofsted report condemned the council for failing to support less well performing schools. The Care Quality Commission also criticised the council for failing to employ enough staff to properly manage the Care UK contract.

In these elections we have lost many hard working councillors who have been champions for their community for a very long time. I am sad that Dave Wood, Tony Roberts and Dr. Mike Bamford have lost their seats. A number of valued colleagues also stood down this time, including David Grutchfield who served Hadleigh so well for nearly 30 years. Also Nigel Bennett, Sudbury South councillor for 12 years, Trot Ward, John Deacon and Mary Munson. Congratulations to Sue Carpendale, Dave Busby and Bryn Hurren who have retained their seats and commiserations to all our great candidates who failed to get elected. In Shotley people even elected a Conservative from Colchester! What were they thinking?

My thanks also to the staff of Babergh (and Mid Suffolk) District council. It has been a tough time for them too in the last few years, with huge cuts in funding and staff losses. My best wishes to them for the future. Life will continue to be tough under an unfettered national Conservative government as we claw our way out of austerity.

Au revoir.

March report to Mid Samford parishes

Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard, Babergh District Councillors

In this report

  • Developing information from the 2014 Suffolk Housing Survey
  • A new Planning Enforcement Plan
  • Change to parking space guidance on new developments
  • Work inspiration for schools

Developing information from the 2014 Suffolk Housing Survey
Good quality housing has an important role in improving the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities. Housing is a big national agenda, and Suffolk shares in this. To understand current and future needs the Suffolk Housing Survey was carried out with other local authorities and Public Health. The responses from our residents have provided evidence about people’s expectations and aspirations. The data collected will now be used to develop Babergh’s priorities. These include:

  • The building of new council housing
  • A review of existing sheltered housing,
  • The delivery of strategic development sites in the district (Sudbury, Hadleigh and Ipswich fringe)
  • How we deal with empty homes,
  • The Health and Wellbeing Strategy, and
  • An overall strategy for investment and development.

The information gathered will help to identify the areas of highest need across the district, but this may also require additional Local Needs Surveys. This work is currently carried out by Community Action Suffolk (and usually commissioned by parish councils.) Some of our sheltered schemes are out of date and in low demand. Older people want a choice about the type of housing and where they want to live. Newly formed households – for example young couples and people who are divorced and separated – are increasing. Many are looking to the private rented sector to meet their needs.

A new Planning Enforcement Plan
A new planning enforcement plan is being developed which will cover both Babergh and Mid Suffolk. The aim of the planning enforcement function is to discourage unauthorised development, and where planning breaches occur, to take proportionate action to remedy any harm to amenity or to the built or natural environment. This plan sets out what people should expect from the council and how it will prioritise and undertake investigations. This can be a vexatious issue for people, frustrated on the one hand by what can seem like petty rules, but on the other by an apparent lack of urgency or clout in the face of evident breaches of permissions and conditions.

Compliance with planning law is regarded as a top priority. However – many breaches, though unlawful, do not constitute a criminal offence unless there is non-compliance with an enforcement notice. Officers must use their discretion about whether enforcement action is reasonable and expedient. The key issue is whether there is an adverse impact on public amenity, or on the existing use of land or buildings, or it is contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework or the Development Plan.

Some types of development are “permitted development” and don’t need planning permission. “Express permission” is granted following an application to the council. Planning legislation specifically allows for retrospective applications, which then get treated in the same manner as a prospective one; more often than not, unauthorised developments are regularised that way, especially where it is likely that permission would be granted. A breach of control becomes immune from enforcement if no action has been taken within certain time limits – four years or ten years, depending on the nature of the breach.

 

Change to parking space guidance on new developments
In the recent past planning policy has restricted the level of parking provision, particularly in new residential developments. The aim was to promote less reliance on cars and a move to more sustainable and healthy methods of travel, particularly for shorter journeys.

This approach has had some success in city centres across England where public transport provision is good, the distance to important community services is short and plenty of local shopping is available. However, in rural communities where mobility is more reliant on access to a car, many residential developments have suffered from limited parking space.

Since 2010 government has placed a new emphasis on local decisions and a move in policy attitude towards adequate parking provision – which means that local councils can now take decisions better suited to local circumstances.

Work inspiration for schools
Currently there is a focus in the media on young people’s skills, together with commentary about how our schools don’t always provide them with an awareness of work. Like everywhere in the public sector, schools are under pressure, tight on resource but driven to deliver their statutory programme. It is understandable then that when it comes to work related learning, with little support behind it, schools can’t always do as much of this as they may want to. In the same way that professionals and managers are not teachers, teachers are not trained accountants, chefs, planners, engineers, community officers, and the rest. So, it’s not always easy for them to talk about other roles and working environments. With that in mind, the Work Inspiration Brokerage has been set up as a great mechanism for linking with young people at school.

Several colleagues from Babergh and Mid Suffolk have joined this initiative, going into both high schools and primary schools to take part in a range of events. This has included CV workshops, Dragon’s Den style panels and project planning and maths in the work place. These are all designed to underpin the employability skills that are so essential to adult life but not necessarily highlighted by the school curriculum.

Babergh has also co-operated with other councils across Suffolk to set up the MyGo centre in Ipswich. The aim is to give advice and support to 16 to 24 year olds. It is the first of its kind in the UK and has been extremely successful so far, even though it has only been open a few months. The service is also available online: http://www.its-mygo.co.uk/

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

February report to Mid Samford parishes: Capel, Stratford, Holton and the Wenhams

From Councillors Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard

In this edition

  • Village Hall roof fund gets a boost
  • Capel Post Office move to Co-op store
  • Babergh plans for no council tax increase
  • New consultation on future plans for housing and business sites in Babergh
  • Scrutinising health issues including winter stresses on local hospitals
  • Message from the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) re speeding in towns and villages

Village Hall roof fund gets a boost
We are very pleased that Babergh District Council has been able to give a grant of £19,000 towards the replacement roof for Capel Village Hall.

Capel Post Office move to Co-op store
The Post Office has now confirmed the transfer of Capel Post Office branch to the Co-op supermarket in the village. They seem to have addressed people’s concerns about security and queuing. The move is likely to take place in the June.

Babergh plans for no council tax increase
Decreasing Government grants are challenging local councils who either have to innovate and reduce costs or cut services. Over the past year the council has started installing solar panels on council houses. This will give a guaranteed income as well as providing free electricity to tenants. There may also be an opportunity to extend this scheme to private homes in the future. We’d be interested to hear your views on this.
Council house rents are going up slightly. The budget for council house repairs and new council properties is “ring fenced”. This means that, for example, rental income can’t be used to subsidise other council services. The planned rent increases will be used to build new council homes as well as to maintain existing properties.

New consultation on future plans for housing and business sites in Babergh
Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils are consulting on a joint Local Plan for the two Districts. This is a chance for residents and businesses in both council areas to have their say on future planning. The recently adopted planning blueprint for Babergh has identified that 300 new homes should be built each year to fulfil demand across the District council’s area. Most of that development is scheduled to take place in the more urban areas – on the fringes of Ipswich and in Hadleigh and Sudbury, with larger villages also taking some development.
In Babergh there is an opportunity for people to comment on a range of issues including:
•    The redundant Brett Works site in Hadleigh, which has been the subject of a number of unsuccessful planning applications for a supermarket. Ideas for the future of the site are now being sought.
•    Unallocated land to the East of Sudbury, which is not currently part of the Chilton development plans
•    New policies on renewable energy sources like solar farms and on-shore wind turbines
•    Whether hamlets and small villages which are currently not permitted to have new dwellings should be allowed some small scale development where there is identified housing need.
The consultation is open until March 31st and is available at www.babergh.gov.uk/jointlocalplan

Scrutinising health issues
One of the tasks of local councils is to scrutinise health provision across Suffolk via the “Health Scrutiny Committee”.  Here are a few of the issues discussed at a recent meeting.

•    Hospitals under stress
Last summer plans were developed by health and social care providers in the County in order to cope with the pressure that arises in the winter due to increased levels of illness.
This year large numbers of older people are being admitted to hospital with chest infections, including pneumonia. Because of the age of the patients they frequently have other conditions as well. There can then be delays in discharging patients from hospital for a number of reasons. Over the years the number of beds in community hospitals has decreased with rooms instead being allocated in care homes for convalescence before patients return home. However these beds are not always available. In addition it is not always easy to reinstate home visits from carers after people come out of hospital. All this leads to extra time spent in acute hospitals like Ipswich and West Suffolk.
One of the problems this year is that the level of demand has led to a shortage of available convalescent beds in West Suffolk, in particular. With increasing numbers of older people should we be building more dedicated convalescent homes?

•    Community Health contract out to tender
Services such as District nursing and Occupational Therapy are currently being run by Serco. They are not intending to bid for the new contract. There are bids from East and West Suffolk hospital Trusts and a rival bid from Norfolk and Suffolk Mental Health Trust.

•    Care Quality Commission inspection of homes run by Care UK in Suffolk
In December 2012 Care UK took over the running of Suffolk County Council’s 16 care homes and 8 community wellbeing centres. They were required to replace these with 10 new care homes and 10 new community wellbeing centres.
Mildenhall Lodge opened in June last year. Just a few weeks later the council suspended new admission. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspected the home and declared that it was not complying with the required standards. This has meant that no new residents can be admitted. In July 2014 Asterbury Place opened on the Chantry estate in Ipswich. This replaced Angel Court in Hadleigh and the Hawthorn Drive care home. The council suspended new admissions to this home in October last year. The Scrutiny committee was told by Care UK that they were addressing the issues raised by the CQC and we await the outcome of subsequent inspections.
The committee was also told that only a third of the recommended number of staff had been employed by Suffolk County council to oversee the performance of the Care UK contract.

•    Role of Healthwatch Suffolk
Healthwatch Suffolk is a watchdog organisation which seeks to find out the views of Suffolk people about local health providers. This includes GP services. Their recent survey found that people wanted quicker access to GP appointments.  Their website is here:
If you would like to comment on local health services please contact them.

Message from the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) re speeding in towns and villages
Speeding remains a significant concern for local residents, evidence by a return of over 2000 responses to a recent survey. As a result there have been changes in speed enforcement procedures by the Police. Suffolk’s PCC Tim Passmore has asked us to publicise his wish that members of the public wanting to report speeding concerns should do so in the first instance to their local Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT), but they can also contact the PCC via his office and their concerns will be forwarded to the Constabulary. The SNT are already the point of contact for the Community Speed Watch which is an important initiative in relation to casualty reduction in areas that would not initially warrant police enforcement due to lack of Killed or Serious Incident (KSI) data.

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

Published and promoted by E Da Costa on behalf of the Liberal Democrats all at 16 Two Acres, Capel St. Mary, Ipswich IP9 2XP

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

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.

July report to parishes for Mid Samford ward

 

Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard, Babergh District Councillors

In this edition:

  • Helping people who are less well off
  •  Application to build 24-houses on land behind London Road, Capel St. Mary (B/14/00100/OUT)
  •  A12 Safety
  •  Capel Community Trust meeting
  •  Changes to the way you register to vote
  • Campaign to reduce food waste

Helping people who are less well off

A recent survey of council tenants in Babergh revealed that hundreds felt they need advice and information about:

  • dealing with household expenses,
  • help with ensuring they receive the right amount of benefit, and
  • help in moving, swapping or downsizing their homes.

Many people on low incomes – including pensioners – are enticed into taking out expensive loans for essential items like cookers and washing machines. Less than one if five of those surveyed had heard of the Suffolk Credit Union, which offers low interest loans. They may also be paying well over the odds for their energy via prepayment meters. Welfare reforms have also had an impact and for some managing their everyday living expenses is not an easy task.

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.

Application to build 24-houses on land behind London Road, Capel St. Mary (B/14/00100/OUT)

We have received a number of enquiries about the progress of this planning application, but as we write it has still not been scheduled into the planning committee cycle. We have asked for a site inspection so that planning committee members can see the site for themselves before a decision is made.

Capel St. Mary Parish Council discussed this back in March and recommended refusal.

We are aware of a number of concerns about the plans including density, access, ecology and other environmental issues.

The plans are outline (ie in principle) only at this stage. The site is on land to the West of Pine Dell and Ashcroft, London Road. It is an area of open ground behind the houses on London Road and is bounded by hedges and a few mature trees on two sides. A public footpath runs along the perimeter on the third side between London Road and Butchers Lane. The application can be viewed on the Babergh website here

A12 Safety

High numbers of accidents on the A12 between Copdock Mill roundabout and the Essex border continue to cause disruption, delay and human misery for any who use this road on a regular basis. We have organised a meeting with the Highways Agency on July 30th at which we can discuss some of the causes of these accidents and possible remedies. Parish council and District and County representatives have been invited.

 Capel Community Trust meeting

We attended the open meeting held by the Community Trust on June 30th in the Vine Lounge. There was a good attendance from village clubs and organizations as well as individuals. Trust members clearly have a mammoth task in managing the Village Hall complex and Playing Field.

The most pressing challenge is the replacement of the village hall roof at an estimated cost of £100k. We were impressed by the openness of Trust members to new ideas. They want to tap into the many and varied talents – and goodwill – of village residents. I’m sure we all want to see fit for purpose facilities in our village and if you can offer help in any way they would be pleased to hear from you. They are setting up a number of sub-groups: fundraising, property, finance and special purposes, events, community and village liaison and business strategy development. Details of meetings appear in Capel Capers and there is an open forum for members of the public.

HGVs in Holton St. Mary

We have been dealing with complaints from Holton residents about HGVs travelling through the village to Notley Enterprise Park at some speed early in the morning. This is being investigated by Babergh’s enforcement officers and some improvements have been noticed but we will continue to keep up the pressure.

Changes to the way you register to vote

At present there is one registration form which has to be filled in for each eligible adult in a household. New applications will include the need to provide a National Insurance number. You may not need to take any action if you are already registered to vote at your current address, although Babergh may write to you to ask you for additional information. More details are available here

Campaign to reduce food waste

The Suffolk Waste partnership has recently launched this campaign. On average every household throws away 20% of the food we buy at a cost of £700 per year. More details: http://www.suffolkrecycling.org.uk

June report to Mid Samford parishes

Posting this a little later than usual – after my return from holiday. In this edition:

  • Suffolk Growth Hub
  • The Tip-off
  • Careers help for young people
  • Council’s strategic plan
  • New build programme

Suffolk Growth Hub
Babergh has been working with the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (NALEP) to develop the support available to businesses.  One key area of this work is the new Growth Hub, launched recently at the Suffolk Show, which will provide Norfolk and Suffolk businesses with a “no wrong door” route for accessing business support.  The Growth Hub team will provide a first point of contact for any business and give easier access to local and national programmes and initiatives, including a small grants fund, an innovation readiness programme, innovation vouchers and business start-up help.  There will be face-to-face support, advice and workshops, access to funding, business mentoring and help for social enterprise development.  Web resources are already available: http://www.businessgrowthhub.com/ and there’s a telephone support line: 0300 456 3565.

The Tip-off
The Suffolk Waste Partnership recently and successfully bid for national DEFRA pilot project funding to prevent fly-tipping.  The Suffolk Fly Tipping Action Group (STAG) were awarded £28K.  The project was aimed at anyone acting as a waste carrier, including the “man in a van”, with messages also aimed at householders who must take responsibility for disposal of waste from their premises.  It is an offence to “give waste away”.  All carriers must be licensed, though licenses are free to smaller businesses and tradespeople such as plumbers.  Many unlicensed workers operate on social media and word-of-mouth. The Council can and does take enforcement action.  Working with the police, 46 vehicles were stopped and searched.  Advice can be given at the roadside, but there were some notable prosecutions brought against offenders resulting in fines, costs and many hours of unpaid community work. More information at: http://www.greensuffolk.org/recycling/fly-tipping/

“Showcasing the local economy” – careers help for young people
The effectiveness of careers information, advice and guidance (IAG) for young people is a key component in raising aspirations and attainment across the whole age range of children.  There is a worrying disconnect between the needs of business, the aspirations of young people and educational provision.  Babergh will be committing to support the development and maintenance of an online careers platform, alongside the other local authorities in Suffolk. Considerable research and consultations have been carried out, including work by University Campus Suffolk, with young people, educators and over 130 employers, regarding the concept and technical specification of the platform.  This is an example of the partnership approach being adopted throughout the county, and is at the core of Raising the Bar and the Greater Ipswich City Deal.  The platform is being designed for ease of access in a variety of formats, free of charge from home or school, via internet and mobile devices.

Council’s Strategic Plan
The Council’s blueprint for the next few years sets out how we – and the communities Babergh serves – can shape the future, albeit in very uncertain times.  The aim is to set a shared sense of direction, reflecting both reducing resources in local government and our aspirations to be a flexible, quick-moving and responsive organisation to both residents and businesses.  The three main priorities identified some time ago remain as housing, the economy balanced with the environment, and communities that are strong, healthy and more self-reliant.  The document is available on Babergh’s website under the Strategy agenda for 12th June, P20.

New build programme
Babergh has the opportunity to bid for funds from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) to enable new affordable homes to be built.  To do this the council must meet some conditions which include introducing new and higher rents to some new tenancies when stock becomes empty.  Known as “rent conversion”, this would mean a small percentage of new rents rising to 80% of the private rental market level.  Existing tenancies would not be affected.  The additional rent contributions, together with the HCA grant bid would enable new homes to be built, initially five in this first bidding round.  New homes will not only raise the council tax base but will also generate new homes bonus and help with economic growth.

Contact: sue.carpendale@babergh.gov.uk, kathy.pollard@babergh.gov.uk

October report to Mid Samford parishes

From District Councillors Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard

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

A14 Tolling

Babergh District councillors recently debated the issue of tolling on the A14 near Huntingdon. The Highways Agency have been consulting on the issue, but there was a tight deadline for responses by October 13th. More details of the proposed scheme are available on the Highways Agency website

Improvements to the route will cost £1.5bn, and the consultation suggests that motorists should contribute towards these costs by introducing tolls.  Recently announced road improvements elsewhere in England do NOT include tolls. Suffolk’s Chamber of Commerce point out that an A14 toll would be a major departure from current practice. Until now there have only been tolls on river crossings or the M6, where there is a clear alternative for all traffic. Details of their “No Toll Tax on Suffolk” campaign are on their website

There will be much needed improvements to the Girton interchange on the Cambridge Northern Bypass. The toll would be imposed on the new section of the A14 near Huntingdon and the proposal is to use automatic number plate recognition. We are unclear about how this will work with foreign vehicles.

The majority of Babergh councillors supported the view that vehicles should not be tolled. The campaign against tolling is being led by Suffolk Chamber of Commerce and has the support of all councils in the County as well as many commercial organisations. A fuller account is available on Kathy’s blog (see address above), but here are some extracts:

  • Tolls on the A14 would be discriminatory, adding costs to businesses in the East of England.
  • Many heavy goods haulage firms have a policy of not paying tolls. Tolls on the A14 will lead to traffic diverting onto less suitable alternative routes leading to an increase in congestion and accidents on those routes.

Textile recycling

Don’t forget that you can recycle textiles including shoes and handbags in the special bags provided. These should be tied up and placed inside the blue bin on top of your other recycling. However the bags are not being replaced automatically and to order replacements you have to ring 0845 603 9412, or email:  textiles@suffolk.gov.uk or call in at the library.

Please continue to give good quality items to charity shops and other good causes. The textile recycling service is really for items that would otherwise go in your black bin and be sent to landfill.

More information at www.greensuffolk.org/recycling/textiles-recycling/

Better Broadband initiative

Suffolk currently has some of the poorest broadband coverage in England, with no coverage at all in some parts of the County.  Suffolk councils have agreed to allocate investment to a maximum of £11.68m, which is matched by a further £11.68m from national Government. BT were awarded the contract to carry out the improvements.

  • The average broadband speed currently experienced by Suffolk’s consumers and small businesses is under 5Mbps (Megabits per second).
  • This average masks wide variations in speeds across the County; around a quarter get between 2Mbps and 4Mbps, and nearly one fifth (60,000 premises) get less than 2Mbps, with some parts of Suffolk unable to receive any broadband service at all.

The vision for Suffolk’s Better Broadband Programme is to deliver Superfast Broadband, offering typical speeds of 100Mbps, to everyone (100% of homes and small business) in Suffolk by 2020.  The interim objective is to get faster, more reliable broadband services to everyone in Suffolk by 2015.

However there will still be “black holes” in the coverage in sparsely populated rural areas and an alternative technology “fix” will be needed there.

Once deployment is completed in October 2015, 90% of Suffolk will have fibre broadband (85% of which with access speeds of at least 24Mbps), with the remaining 10% accessing speeds between 2Mbps and 24Mbps via a range of technologies.

To check the rollout of the programme in your area please look at the website: www.betterbroadbandsuffolk.com

Suffolk County Council’s Scrutiny committee looked at this issue at their meeting on Sep 26th and the above information is taken from the report which is available here

Babergh District Council meeting 19th Sep

The following items were discussed at the meeting:

  • A14 tolling (details included in this report)
  • Annual Treasury Management Report 2012/13
  • Scrap Metal Dealers Act
  • Statement of Accounts for the year 2012/13
  • Terms of reference for joint committees of Babergh and Mid Suffolk
  • Allocation of lead member roles to councillors: Kathy is the lead member for Public Access

Further details available on the Babergh website

Ipswich wind turbines exhibition

The plans for the proposed two wind turbines in the Belstead/Wherstead area were on view today at Belstead Brook Manor Hotel in Ipswich. They will be at Belstead Village Hall tomorrow (Tuesday 29th Jan) from 1pm to 7pm.

I previously posted on this issue back in October. My views have not changed. The proposed turbines are far too close to residential areas. Not only will they be visible from Belstead and Wherstead villages, but they will also be seen from large parts of Ipswich and Pinewood – and even from villages like Copdock and Washbrook.

The turbine towers, at 80 metres high will themselves be higher than the Orwell Bridge. Add to that the rotor blade span of 50 metres to give a total height of 130 metres. The proposals, along with the map can be found on the Partnership for Renewables website

Latest estimates suggest the planning application will be submitted in late Spring/early Summer. Babergh District Council will decide on the application. Whilst national guidance is out of date and fairly weak, councils like Milton Keynes have produced their own planning guidance, which states that turbines over 100 metres in height must be at least 1km from the nearest properties. This is being challenged in court and we await the outcome with more than a little interest! An article here gives more detail.

The Stop Ipswich Turbines website is an excellent source of up to date information.