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.

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:

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: 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:

“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.


May report to Mid Samford parishes

May 2014 report to Mid Samford parishes from District Councillors Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard

In this report

  • Food Safety and Health and Safety plans for the Babergh area
  • Changes to the eligibility criteria for community projects paid for by developer (s106) contributions
  • New developments and the Community Infrastructure Levy
  • Transformation agenda and headquarters review

Food Safety and Health and Safety plans for the Babergh area

The council has just adopted the service plans for 2014/15 for food safety and health and safety in Babergh District. The food safety service includes inspections of food premises, sampling of food and private water supplies; investigating and controlling outbreaks of food poisoning/infectious diseases and the issue of export certificates. Food safety training is also carried out for food handlers on a cost-neutral basis. In 2013/14 there were more than 257 food advice requests, many of which related to small business start ups.

Health and Safety advice is mainly given on a reactive basis. Babergh has regulatory responsibility for more than 1500 business premises in the District. The council responds to events such as accidents, complaints or business enquiries as well as locally identified priorities like catering gas safety, legionella and laser treatments.

Changes to the eligibility criteria for community projects paid for by developer (s106) contributions

A number of parishes have complained about the tight restrictions resulting from Babergh’s policy on what are called section 106 developer contributions for recreational facilities. The criteria have now been relaxed to include replacement of existing play equipment, routine repairs and maintenance of public open space facilities and indoor play facilities e.g. badminton courts. It will also now allow repairs, maintenance or adaptation of village halls or community centres, where this relates to recreational activities. Upgrading access to these recreational facilities, for example by improving or installing footpaths, will not be restricted just to access required under the Disability Discrimination Act. It can therefore be widened to access for the general public.

There is currently more than £500,000 of section 106 contributions waiting to be spent in the Babergh area. This money is held by the District council and we hope that the relaxation in the criteria will enable at least a proportion of this to be spent on recreation projects in the various towns and villages.

New developments and the Community Infrastructure Levy

The new Community Infrastructure Levy comes into force in April 2015. It will sit alongside the Section 106 system, rather than replacing it. An initial consultation document has been produced by Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils which sets out the proposed charging regime for developers.  The council must strike a balance between the desire to fund infrastructure from the levy and endangering the economic viability of any development. A number of developments will be exempt, including those by charitable bodies. The levy will provide additional funding for the local authority to carry out a wide range of projects that support growth and benefit the local community. Local Town and Parish councils will receive 15% of the amount received by the District Council, unless they have a Neighbourhood Plan, in which case they will receive 25%.

A list of spending priorities must be published by the council. It is a complex area and more details will be discussed at the scheduled Parish and Town council liaison meetings. The current consultation period is 6 weeks and this will be followed by a further 12 week consultation in late Summer. The schedule will then be put before an Inspector at an Examination in Public.

Transformation agenda and headquarters review

The two councils are looking to consolidate their use of office accommodation, partly to facilitate more effective working of the single management team and also to make further necessary savings. A consultant has been appointed to carry out research and an options review to determine the most suitable accommodation, and then to produce a business plan once the two councils have considered their report. The cost of the consultancy is in the region of £24K. Cost efficiencies are important but it is also about enabling work processes and service delivery. Our position as your councillors is that public access for Babergh residents is also a priority and we believe many options should be considered including alternative uses for existing premises, income generation from the site, collaboration both with other public sector organisations and also local businesses and start-ups. We hope to have further information during the summer months.

More details on the Babergh website

April 2014 Report to Mid Samford parishes

From Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard, Babergh District Councillors

Mid Samford covers the villages of Capel St. Mary, Holton St. Mary, Stratford St. Mary, Little and Great Wenham

In this report:

  • Renewable energy technologies
  • Suffolk’s energy-from-waste site
  • Development of planning policy
  • New Anglia’s Strategic Economic Plan
  • Community Land Trusts
  • 2014 Housing Needs Survey

Renewable energy technologies

Generating energy from renewables is key to the Council’s intention of reducing its carbon emissions.  The first phase of a programme to deliver this is the installation of solar photovoltaic panels on suitable council housing.  Further phases might include other council owned buildings and private and community buildings.  We hope to approve the business case shortly to install an average array of 10 standard, photovoltaic panels on appropriate properties, beginning in June this year. Some 1,250 homes in Babergh are thought to be suitable, and 900 in Mid Suffolk.  Including all borrowing costs and maintenance, a 20-year surplus of £7.5m is predicted for the two councils.  Tenants’ bills could also reduce by up to £150 per property. 57% of council properties house people in receipt of Housing Benefit – a proxy indicator of known financial issues.  Based on currently available figures the scheme could result in a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions of 1,950 tonnes per year.

 Suffolk’s energy-from-waste site has been judged among the best construction sites in the country – winning a silver award under the national Considerate Constructors Scheme.

Under the scheme registered sites are regularly inspected and are rated in five categories. Those who score highly are shortlisted for national recognition – with bronze, silver and gold awards being presented to the top performing 7.5% of sites in the country.  Since picking up the silver award in March, the Suffolk site has had another unannounced inspection and again scored highly. It was described as ‘exceptional’ for safety – the site has now clocked up over a million working hours without a reportable accident – protecting the environment and respecting the community; ‘excellent’ for appearance; and ‘very good’ for valuing the workforce.

Development of planning policy

Having approved the Local Plan recently Babergh is now looking to review its planning policy framework to understand how it can deliver the required growth in a timely manner. Of relevance to this Ward, will be how the siting and development of some 1,050 homes in rural areas will come forward and be managed.

New Anglia’s Strategic Economic Plan

A full copy of the plan is available here. Government will be offering £2bn a year funding for six years, available through a “competitive pot” – the Local Growth Fund.  The Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) can bid for a share of these funds to target their growth priorities.  The New Anglia LEP, which covers Suffolk and Norfolk, also has to show how it intends to use the £94m allocated to the area from European Structural Funds.  This is now published in New Anglia’s Strategic Economic Plan – “more jobs, more businesses and more prosperity” focusing particularly on those sectors with the greatest potential for economic growth.

We have some world class capabilities, great natural assets and competitive advantage in our location. The five top sectors with key assets but where growth would not occur “naturally” are: energy – including low carbon; advanced manufacturing and engineering; food and agri-tech; life sciences; and ICT and digital creative.  The challenges to be dealt with include an ageing transport network, poor broadband and mobile coverage, slow business growth rates with low productivity and low skills levels.  Jobs and homes are strongly linked, with the A14 seen as the most significant growth corridor.  New Anglia are bidding for £413m to carry out a range of activity to support the drive for growth.  Infrastructure local to us will be major improvements to the A12/A14 interchange at Copdock and improvements to the A12 south of Capel St Mary.

Community Land Trusts

How can communities provide homes which will meet the future needs of their village? Until recently there have been a number of approaches to building new homes including:

  • Wait for a developer to come forward with speculative developments – which often has resulted in larger properties which do not meet the needs either of young families or people who want to downsize, say to a bungalow or flat.
  • Carry out an extensive housing needs survey in order to assess whether rented accommodation is needed. This would then be followed up by an approach to a housing association who would build the required number of units. Schemes are currently underway or are being built in nearby villages like Copdock and Hintlesham using this approach.

An alternative is for the community to acquire land via a Community Land Trust. The community can then decide what will be built. The basic principles are that the trust will:

  • Be a non profit organisation, led and run by local volunteers
  • Lock in community assets in perpetuity
  • Provide housing for local people

More details can be found on the Community Land Trust website

There is also a national website.

A scheme is currently progressing in Lavenham which aims to provide affordable housing for local people as well as meeting the property needs of older people.

2014 Housing Needs Survey

For the first time local authorities in Suffolk are taking a collaborative approach to a housing needs survey. This will provide information about the factors that influence householder housing choices, and will identify in general terms the need for specialist housing e.g. for disabled residents and those with long term conditions requiring care.

A sample of around 25% of households will be targeted in each area. There will also be an opportunity for anyone to complete the questionnaire online. The printed survey will be sent to over 80,000 households across Suffolk and will include a prepaid envelope.

If you haven’t received a survey and would like to take part then click here.

March 2014 report to Mid Samford parishes

Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard, Babergh District Councillors

In this report:

  • Babergh Budget and Council Tax freeze
  • Housing Revenue account and rents
  • Babergh adopts its 20 year Planning Blueprint
  • Shared Ownership and Affordable Housing Events – Stowmarket and Hadleigh
  •  Supporting Futures – careers guidance for schools
  • Babergh Community Achievement awards

Babergh Budget and Council Tax freeze

The council has voted not to raise the council tax again this year. Over the past two years Babergh has had a big cut in core funding from Government and this is reducing by a further 12.3% in 2014/15. The council will spend £10.051m in the next financial year – a £90,000 increase on the current year.  This assumes income from: a further £325,000 of savings; £2.256m rate support grant; £1.9m business rates; £4.554m council tax and the use of £1.215m from the New Homes Bonus. £187,000 is being made available in grants to parishes for local council tax relief.  There are some additional small grants to Babergh including £49,000 from Government which is the equivalent of a 1% council tax rise.  General reserves at the end of March 2015 are estimated at £1.143m.

Because of additional grants and finance from the New Homes Bonus, overall spending power has only reduced by 1.9%.  Looking ahead to 2015/16, the Government’s indication is that funding for Babergh will reduce by a further 15.4% and over the next four years is likely to drop to zero. This is a very volatile situation for the Council.  Many fear that failure to raise council tax within the 2% limit each year, could prove very costly in the next few years.  The impact of such a rise would be around 5p a week for a Band D property.  Current forecasts are that Babergh will need to save, generate income or produce a return on investments of around £5.4m over the next 4 years to meet the forecast budget gap within the General Fund.  The key to making up this shortfall is economic growth – both through attracting new businesses and building new homes

Housing Revenue account and rents

On 1st April 2012 the council’s Housing Revenue Account became self financing. Previously national government had provided grants for council housing repairs, etc and “creamed off” surpluses in income from housing rents. This made long term planning difficult for local councils. So councils have been forced to effectively buy back their own council housing, and they’ve had to borrow in order to do this. In Babergh’s case this has meant long term borrowing of £89.6m. Any reductions in projected rent income will cause a loss to the council and affect its business plan.  Risks include: Government changes to the rent increase formula, the impact on income levels as a result of the Government’s Welfare Reforms and increased levels of Right to Buy sales. In June 2013 Government changed the formula guidance, which will have a detrimental impact on rental income in the longer term. Welfare changes are also impacting on revenue. We need to safeguard income, and enable us to build more social housing – currently there are 1183 people on the social housing waiting list in the Babergh area. Rents this year have increased by more than we would have wished, but the intention is to stabilise revenue in the future.  There will however be a fund to assist tenants as appropriate.


Babergh adopts its 20 year Planning Blueprint

Babergh has finally been able to adopt its planning “Core Strategy” which lasts until 2031. The recent delay was caused by a change to proposals for Brantham, which required additional work by the Planning Inspectorate.  Work began in earnest on the new Core Strategy early in 2009.  Since then a number of major planning changes have occurred at national level and the draft strategy had to be modified accordingly.  The Mid Samford ward (comprising Capel St. Mary, Stratford St. Mary, Holton St. Mary and Little and Great Wenham) is deemed to relate to two “functional clusters” – Capel St Mary and East Bergholt.  Policy CS6, Strategy for Development in Core and Hinterland Villages, is particularly relevant to this ward, since 40% of new development in Babergh is proposed to be in these more rural areas.  In addition to planning permissions already granted, for example at Chilton near Sudbury, and a “windfall” figure of 750 homes for the second half of the plan period (2021 – 2031) provision will also be made for 2,500 new dwellings to be built across Babergh District. “Windfall” dwellings include infill on existing housing plots, conversion of, for example, former agricultural buildings and housing built on redundant industrial land.

Information about the process so far can be found here. The Core Strategy document should appear on the website shortly.

Shared Ownership and Affordable Housing Events – Stowmarket and Hadleigh

The Strategic Housing officers for Babergh and Mid Suffolk have been holding shared ownership and affordable housing drop in events for the local community in Stowmarket and Hadleigh. The event in Hadleigh takes place on March 20th at Hadleigh Town Hall and is for people who would like to buy a house but can’t afford to get onto the housing ladder. Contact Louise Barker 01449 724787.

Supporting Futures – careers guidance for schools

Babergh and Mid Suffolk recently held a morning’s workshop for teachers, careers advisers, councillors and expert speakers with a view to improving the careers education, information, advice and guidance presently available to children in our schools. Employers are being asked to become much more involved in helping young people so they can develop employability skills and make successful career choices. Key messages from the workshop included: careers guidance should be offered through from the ages of 13 to 18 – as well as engaging with children at primary school to introduce them to new fields and work options; work experience is not working effectively and needs revision; the demise of the Saturday job has robbed many children of opportunities to develop skills and attitudes of great future value; parents  need help to lobby schools for greater provision and to support their children in preparing them for the world of work.  Needless to say – the lack of resource, and the already heavy burden on schools, are a source of concern, as is the rural nature of our county and the lack of transport and access to training opportunities.

Babergh Community Achievement awards

Babergh’s award scheme, which has been running for over 20 years, aims to highlight the work of those individuals and groups who make a real difference by giving up their time for the benefit of their local schools and communities. All winners have been notified and invited to a special awards ceremony to celebrate their achievement, and to receive their awards on Thursday 3 April 2014.  Mid Samford’s winner this time in the category “selfless service by an individual (over 18) to a voluntary body or to the community” is Mr Donald Umfreville of Stratford St Mary. For the past 30 years Don has volunteered for and supported several community groups in Stratford St Mary. He was Church Warden for several years and was a founder member of both the Ramblers Club & Bowls Club.  And even though he is now 80 years old he still helps out at the Carpet Bowls Club, Ramblers Club and is chairman of the Parish Room Committee and newly formed First Responders Group.

February report to Mid Samford parishes

From District Councillors: Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard

Babergh’s 20 year planning blueprint ready for approval

Babergh’s “Core Strategy” document is now ready to be adopted by the council after it was approved by the Planning Inspectorate. Within the document, which covers the period 2011 -2031, there is a commitment that development in rural villages must be proportionate to the current size of each settlement. Sixty percent of the development will be in urban areas, namely Sudbury, Hadleigh and Pinewood, with the rest spread around larger villages in the District.

A working group is to be set up to look at additional planning policy documents which will be needed to supplement the Core strategy. These will include design guidelines for housing development, affordable housing, rural growth, sustainability, gypsy and traveller transit/short stay provision and design guidance and policies on wind turbines and solar farms. Plans will also need to be developed for strategic sites like the former sugar beet factory at Sproughton and industrial land at Brantham.

National planning guidance also requires that adjacent authorities must cooperate with each other on planning issues. For example Babergh council has recently agreed to appoint councillors to an Ipswich policy area board, as development in and around Ipswich affects Babergh, Mid Suffolk and Suffolk Coastal Districts.

The delay in bringing the Core Strategy to Council for adoption was largely caused by the application for development at Brantham. A further inspection was required.  We have now received the Inspector’s report, which confirms that the Core Strategy, as modified, provides an appropriate basis for the District’s planning over the next 20 years.

Recent major planning applications:

(a) HMS Ganges – Further progress can now be made towards granting of planning permission for a mixed-use development  on the HMS Ganges site, in Shotley, after a Government ‘stop’ on the issue of any planning permission has been lifted. Developer Haylink Ltd had its planning application approved by Babergh District Council’s Planning Committee in November last year (subject to the completion of the legal agreement). The scheme seeks to regenerate the area by building 285 homes, a 60-bed nursing home and a hotel, as well as retail and commercial buildings. But, in December last year, Babergh was advised by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG)  that no planning permission could be issued until the Department had completed its consideration of the matter and  issued its decision about whether to “call in” the application for determination by the Secretary of State.  We now know that there will be no “call in” and Babergh will be able to determine this matter locally.  The former HMS Ganges site has been the subject of numerous planning applications over the years whilst the condition of buildings on the site has deteriorated. There is now a real opportunity for a mixed-use development to take place here, which could do much to improve the condition of the site and its buildings, and would also help to improve housing supply and the local economy.

However, there are significant caveats and very real local concerns about access and traffic through all the villages along the route to Wherstead. Local opposition is strong. Challenges have also been made, based on the fact that a development on this scale appears to be in direct contradiction to the policy not to develop hinterland villages and provides no affordable housing. The development of this site remains highly controversial and contested.

(b) Prolog, Sudbury – A long running application for a large development in Sudbury of a key employer has now been approved and could provide up to 500 new jobs. There was local opposition to the development and representations from Consultees but Members carefully considered that the public benefits of job creation outweighed  the harm to the setting of Listed Buildings and the environment.

Solar power initiative for council properties

Despite what you may have read in the East Anglian Daily Times (EADT), whilst Babergh is investigating the possibility of installing solar photovoltaic (PV) panels to its council housing stock, we are some way yet from any firm proposals. There are a great many issues to be considered, but we will keep you posted as and when there is any progress.

Council Headquarters

Also in the EADT, and equally misleading, an item based on two separate interviews with council leaders Jennie Jenkins (Babergh and Derrick Haley (Mid Suffolk) regarding the process and long-term options for meeting the councils’ changing accommodation needs. Whilst most of the reporting was fine, a rogue opening paragraph seemed to suggest that Cllr Jenkins was actively calling for a location for any future headquarters to be by the A14. The attempt to summarise the issue was done badly and inaccurately.

Women’s Cycle Tour

On Sunday 11th May, Stage 5 of the Women’s Cycle Tour will be coming through this area. The race will be starting in Harwich and finishing in Bury St Edmunds, passing through Holton St Mary.  The Tour is a five day women’s elite International stage race with Suffolk having been chosen to host the final stage. This event will be attracting the very best riders in the world including: Olympic and World champions, spearheaded by our British Olympic champions – Laura Trott, Joanna Rowsell, Dani King and Lizzie Armitstead. The event will be televised nationally.

The Women’s Tour brings with it some significant local benefits which could include:

  • A unique free-to-attend event for the host villages and towns on route.
  • A significant impact on the local economy and businesses.
  • Increased Tourist days.
  • Promotion and marketing to Regional and National audiences.
  • A key platform to promote cycling as a ‘green’ sport and mode of transport, complimenting existing physical activity and cycling event programmes.
  • An opportunity to engage communities, schools and businesses in pre-event / on the day programmes.

Further, confirmed details will be available nearer the time but schools, communities and businesses may want to take advantage of this advanced notice to think about possible responses locally.

Babergh’s performance against targets

Babergh’s strategy committee has recently discussed the half year performance figures from April to September 2013. The following targets are being met:

  • Collection of business rates
  • Percentage of major planning applications determined within 13 weeks
  • Percentage of household waste collected, recycled and composted (43%)
  • Increase the number of garden collection (brown bin) customers. Target 20% but this has been exceeded as one on 4 households now have a brown bin.
  • Average time to re-let council houses

The following targets are not being met:

  • Percentage of minor planning applications determined within 8 weeks, but this is improving and there is only a small difference between the target and the actual outcome
  • Average time taken to process new housing and council tax benefit claims. This has been caused mainly by changes to the benefits scheme introduced in April 2013. Applicants don’t always supply the required information which is causing delays. Online applications, on the other hand, are being dealt with immediately, as all the required information is supplied.

Report on Health Scrutiny committee Jan 14th 2014

The Health Scrutiny committee is made up of councillors from Suffolk County Council and each of the 7 District and Borough councils in the County. The papers are available here

At its last meeting there were three major items on the agenda:

  • Radical redesign of Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk

Norfolk and Suffolk Mental Health Trust has hit the headlines in recent days as the union Unison has lodged an official complaint about the “radical reorganisation” of services which is currently underway.

The Trust provides a range of mental health services including alcohol treatment, learning disability and eating disorder services. Due to growing demand and financial constraints – it has to make savings of £40m by 2016 – the Trust has had to look in a radical way at how it delivers its services.

In a story in the East Anglian Daily Times in late December Chairman of the Trust Gary Page commented on the changes:

“Gary Page did accept that some of the changes introduced by the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust had caused unforeseen problems – and were being partially reversed.”

Health Scrutiny committee members were very concerned about this radical redesign of services when they first looked at the issue last year. The new bodies responsible for commissioning mental health services in Suffolk are also keeping a close watch on the performance of the Mental Health Trust. Here are links to some of the recent stories, including a website dedicated to highlighting the problems, which is run by a group of volunteers.

East Anglian Daily Times


Suffolk and Norfolk  website campaigning against changes

  • Suffolk Community Healthcare

On October 1st 2012 Serco took over as the new provider of community healthcare services in Suffolk. This is a three year contract. The contract is managed by the Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning group (CCG) and West Suffolk CCG. These two bodies are the successors to NHS Suffolk, which was abolished in April 2013.

When Health Scrutiny first looked, in 2012, at the changes to be brought in by the new provider of community health services there were a number of concerns about reductions in the number of district nurses and occupational therapists. Serco seem to have taken these concerns on board and performance looks better – at least on paper!

The community equipment service is also experiencing problems with delays in providing equipment. This service is jointly provided by Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Community Health. We hope that the delays are now being addressed.

A representative from the West Suffolk CCG commented that Serco had taken over a poorly performing service. However  in December 2013 Suffolk Community Healthcare had met all its response time targets and views of patients were positive. Staff morale is still low – as it is across the rest of the NHS. Suffolk Community Healthcare employ 924 people and have now partnered with Bromley Healthcare, a social enterprise which is highly rated by staff.

  • Proposals for Liver Resection Services

NHS England (East Anglia) has been working on a project to implement a single specialist surgical centre for patients with liver metastases (secondary cancer of the liver). This centre would cover people living in Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and north Bedfordshire.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence recommends that a liver metastases service should cover a population base of at least 2 million people. This is to ensure that sufficient expertise is built up by the team involved. Reorganisation of such services is always controversial as it means that patients (and their relatives) have to travel further for treatment.