Ipswich Railway Station to get facelift

I am delighted to hear that Ipswich Station is at last to get lifts. Since the barriers were installed at the station it has no longer been possible for my spouse to carry my suitcase across the footbridge for me. As I get older, and now with a dodgy hip, these issues become more important. It’s also tricky for people carrying bikes, so it will be a welcome addition.

Now all we need are some decent trains with usable toilets; trains that connect with each other; an hourly service to Peterborough, ditto Lowestoft; and shorter queues for tickets!

http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/ipswich_railway_station_to_get_facelift_1_535568

Pinewood parking restrictions – Rights of Way committee decision

Suffolk County Council’s Rights of Way committee met today to discuss the proposed parking restrictions within Pinewood Parish – or at least those being dealt with by the County Council. They were very unhappy with the restrictions on residential streets and suggested their deferral until Suffolk One has been up and running for some months. They did, however, suggest approval for the twenty four hour restrictions on Scrivener and Shepherd Drives, the A1071, Poplar Lane, Ward Road and Laburnum Close. They also approved the 8am to 6pm restriction on Cottingham Road.

These recommendations will now go to the Cabinet meeting on July 20th. Caroline Page, the Lib Dem councillor for Woodbridge and a member of the committee, pointed out that there was too little parking on site – this is what I and the parish council, and the vast majority of residents have been saying from the start. As an enthusiastic cyclist Caroline recognises that, although the aspiration may be that everyone comes by bus, bike or on foot, the reality will be far different.

There will be more than 2200 students and 350 staff when the college is fully operational. Yet there are only 155 car parking spaces for staff. 25% of staff are expected to arrive by means other than the car and the rest are to car share. There will be no car parking spaces for students, but there will be spaces for bikes and mopeds, as well as a drop off area for parents.

Ipswich residents are equally exercised about the parking restrictions on their streets. The consultation for that finishes tomorrow, but neither I nor the parish council have been consulted about the area they cover within Pinewood parish, which includes half of Sprites Lane and roads off Hawthorn Drive. As we are statutory consultees this surely makes their consultation invalid?

Whilst I am sure that Suffolk One will be an excellent educational facility, residents in the area are getting a very raw deal and the process of consultation on the parking restrictions has left a lot to be desired. We must now wait to see what happens at the Cabinet meeting in July.

Suffolk Head of Comms update

I could hardly believe my eyes when I read an email sent to all Suffolk County Councillors about the total amount being paid to the new Head of Comms – £650 a day plus £150 a day agency fees. Heaven only knows what planet the Tories are living on at the council. If they had identified £500,000 in savings why on earth didn’t they get on and implement them instead of employing someone on an astronomical salary to do it for them. Here is the statement from the email:

“Jill Rawlins has been appointed as our new Head of Communications and will start on 14 June 2010. She will be with us for six months and will be paid a daily rate of £650, which equates to £84,500 for the time she will be at Suffolk (plus £150 a day in agency fees). Jill is a highly experienced communications expert who has been employed to implement the recommendations within a report written by Giles Roca whilst on secondment from Essex County Council.

The report makes an honest and frank assessment of where improvements should be made to the council’s communications, core to which is rationalising all communications and marketing activity (and staff) into a central function. Currently, there are 15 staff posts within the central Communications Team and a further 18 staff engaged in a variety of communications-related activities in the service areas. The communications budget is £0.838m.

However, the report looks wider than just the core team for efficiencies and we will also be reviewing the advertising budgets for: recruitment (£1.414m); public notices (£0.876m) and other public information activities (£0.781m). Also included will be spend on design, print and publications (£2.3m). This work will lead to significant savings both through rationalising structures and by making significant efficiencies around the wider activities. We believe savings of around £500,000 to be viable.

We are facing unprecedented reductions in our budget and we will need to drive out savings quickly if we are to offset the strain on front-line services. To do this, we need someone to deliver, quickly, the recommendations within the report.”

New Head of Communications at Suffolk County Council

The appointment of a new Head of Communications at Suffolk County Council is causing quite a storm in the media. The pay is between £400 and £700 a day and at the upper end equates to just over £180,000 a year – which is more than the Prime Minister.

Yesterday the story appeared in the East Anglian Daily Times. Today it’s in the Daily Mail and Telegraph with my comments. It beggars belief that a council which is trying to save money is spending these sums. The council has also paid out substantial sums in gagging orders to comms staff with whom they have parted company.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1284586/Tory-councils-spin-doctor-Jill-Rawlins-182k-year–40k-PM.html http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/7807912/Conservative-councils-press-officer-to-earn-more-than-David-Cameron.html http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/politics/council_spin_doctor_will_earn_up_to_700_a_day_1_403953

Bramford to Twinstead pylons latest

Last week I attended a briefing for councillors who represent areas affected by the four possible corridors for £400kv overhead power lines. It is hard not to be cynical that the consultations don’t really make any difference. Cost is the main consideration, we keep being told. The environment is clearly a minor consideration. And this from a company which made £2.2 bn profit last year and is aiming to raise a further £3.2bn from shareholders to spend on “adapting the UK’s power networks for renewable sources of energy”. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/10129932.stm

Both here and in Somerset National Grid have been told they must give more details of the costings for options other than overhead lines. This means they will not be able to announce a preferred corridor until the Autumn of this year. If Corridor 2 is chosen then there will be further consultation on options 2a, 2b or 2c.

They told us that undergrounding through the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty would cost £52.75m for 2.4km. That, they said, is 14.6 times more expensive than overhead cables. By comparison they gave the total cost of the overhead line as £45m. This is approximately £1.5m per kilometre. I gained the distinct impression that undergrounding would only be considered under duress. For example they had a section of overhead line turned down in North Yorkshire by the planning inspector. They then had to underground that section. It seems unlikely therefore that they will only underground lines under duress, even in the most sensitive landscape areas.

They also gave details of costings for an undersea option. They had looked at a connection between Sizewell and Rayleigh. The maximum capacity cable is 1000 megawatts and they would need several of them. Converter stations would be required at each end at £800m each. These converter stations are apparently the same size as a B&Q store. The circuits themselves would each cost £200m. Also there are no circuit breakers yet in existence for High Voltage DC. These costs and technical constraints seem to rule out an undersea option in the short term. However no doubt costs will fall and technology will improve – but not in time for this upgrade, unfortunately.

When they asked if they were designing in enough capacity for the 7.2GW of offshore licences which have been granted they said they assumed that not all would go ahead. If they did all go ahead there would be insufficient capacity. So we could be looking at even more power lines within the next 10 to 20 years.

Details of upcoming events below:

Meeting for Parish Councils 9th June Hadleigh 

Public Information events  15th June Hadleigh, 16th June Bildeston, 7th July Hintlesham

Leaflets will be distributed by National Grid throughout the area.

Sizewell Dry Fuel Store

The problem of what to do with nuclear waste raised its ugly head at Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet meeting today. The ponds which house spent fuel rods at Sizewell are reaching capacity and there is still no long term site for nuclear waste disposal, so the waste must be stored locally. Spent rods are to be encased in concrete and housed in a secure building at least 5 metres above sea level. This is to ensure the site is not flooded within the next 10,000 years!

And that is the nub of the nuclear legacy. Decommissioning and the management of spent fuel rods and other radioactive waste has already cost the UK £73bn according to some reports (see

http://www.i-sis.org.uk/The_Real_Cost_of_Nuclear_Power.php). The management of Sellafield alone costs the nation £3bn per year. That is a huge financial commitment and is part of the reason why my party is anti nuclear power. The public has paid out massive subsidies to the nuclear power industry over many years.

Those who are opposed to windpower may be surprised to learn that the Greater Gabbard windfarm off Lowestoft will have more generating capacity than the proposed new twin nuclear reactors at Sizewell. And windfarms will not leave a deadly legacy.

The Cabinet’s decision on the fuel store will now be determined by the new Secretary of State, Lib Dem Chris Huhne. We want to ensure that if this does go ahead, the community benefits for the foreseeable future. We will be writing to Chris Huhne and Suffolk County Council with our suggestions.

Speeding in Belstead

The issue of speeding was raised again at Belstead’s Annual Parish Meeting last week. Unacceptable speeds coupled with increasing traffic volumes, no pedestrian footpaths and narrow roads make life difficult and dangerous for those who still like to walk or cycle in the area. It’s a tough problem to solve.

The parish council and the few local villagers present were told by the County Council officer, Brian Lomax, that the flashing “Slow Down” signs only work for a limited time. They have been used extensively in Norfolk where speeds reduced slightly at first, but then went back up again after a few months. Physical measures like speed humps are effective in slowing traffic but often produce unacceptable noise levels to local properties, especially at night.

Although speed  checks have been carried out in Belstead on various dates (and thanks to PC Gary Austin et al for this) they would specifically like speed checks at 8am and 5pm. The gateway treatment on the three main approaches to the village are not perceived as being effective in slowing down traffic.

More recently local people have been offered the opportunity to purchase and use their own speed gun, after training by the police. In the Mid Suffolk area this community speed watch initiative is being compared for its effectiveness with other methods like greater policing or vehicle activated signs. The outcomes will be monitored and reported back.

The Brave New World of coalition

Well who’d have thought a week ago that the Liberal Democrats would now be in Government? It’s  been an extraordinary few days. However what is new for us in the UK at national government level has been a practical reality in many local councils for some time – and of course in the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. It is also the norm in much of Europe. The public actually like the idea of parties working together for the common good.

It was amusing to see the 24 hour news media spinning on their own axes whilst the negotiations were in progress. And the stock market did not fall apart because the negotiations were not complete by Monday. I have no doubt there will be tensions, but actually there are more checks and balances when two parties have to work together. Neither party can get all its own way and people have to talk things through and make convincing arguments. I have no doubt there will be difficult times ahead, not least because of the need to cut public spending. However there seems to be goodwill on both sides and the desire to make the coalition work for the good of the country. There also seems to be a groundswell of opinion that our current voting system is unfair and outdated. If the country does approve a system of proportional representation, then we can look forward to parties working together for the foreseeable future. Surely that must be a good thing?

Bus service changes

There will be changes to some of the bus services operating in my Division from August this year. I have no further details at present but the services affected are listed below:

90

Ipswich – Hadleigh Existing Sunday and evening service is maintained. Please note that weekday daytime service is commercial operated by Constable Coaches.
93, 93A Ipswich – Colchester Existing service to be maintained but with possible timetable amendments. 
94 Hadleigh –

Capel St

Mary –

Ipswich
Existing service to be maintained but with possible timetable amendments. 
95 Ipswich

Capel St

Mary

Existing Sunday and evening service is maintained. Please note that the weekday daytime service is commercial operated by Carters Coach Services, however the company has indicated an intention to withdraw the service from the same date. 
96 Ipswich – East Bergholt – Manningtree Existing service maintained but journeys will terminate at Manningtree rather than Mistley.Some timetable alterations possible. 

Result of parking surveys in Pinewood

We have now analysed the results of the parking restriction surveys in Bramblewood, Broad Meadow, Cherry Blossom Close and the area of Sprites Lane which is in Pinewood parish. These are the roads which are proposed to have the most severe parking restrictions as they are closest to the new Suffolk One college. The vast majority of those who responded want Suffolk County Council to provide space for students to park cars on the site.

It’s also clear that the majority of residents in Broad Meadow and Cherry Blossom Close do not have enough space for their vehicles either on their own drive or in garages. Many of the developments built since the 1980s have limited parking and it is a real problem now. Vehicles parked all over the streets makes it less safe for pedestrians, especially small children. It also makes it more difficult for emergency vehicles.

Some people felt that the County Council should have waited until the college was open to see how bad the parking problem was before putting in parking restrictions on local roads. The fact that these restrictions will be in place all through school holidays will also inconvenience residents.

People who have day time visitors face the prospect of paving over their front gardens at their own expense to provide additional parking space.

Sprites Lane (8 respondents)

The parking restrictions on this road are being dealt with by Ipswich Borough Council. The original proposal was for a mixture of double and single yellow lines. This has now been changed to a restriction from 9 to 10am and 2 to 3pm. This found favour with the majority of residents.

Bramblewood (33 respondents)

Some sections of double yellow lines are being proposed on the corners of this road. The majority are against (81%), but neither is there a clear consensus on an alternative 9am to 10am and 2pm to 3pm restriction, but more were in favour (57%) than against.

Broad Meadow (38 respondents)

Here there was a majority in favour (58%) of the proposed 9am to 5pm restriction. However that is by no means a resounding endorsement. Only 31% said they would prefer no waiting from 9am to 10am and 2pm to 3pm. Most significant was that 94% said they did not have space to park their vehicles on their drive or in a garage.

Cherry Blossom Close (24 respondents)

Again there was a mixed picture here. Whilst 12 of the residents were in favour of the 9am to 5pm restrictions, 10 were not. Eight would prefer 9am to 10am and 2pm to 3pm but the majority (15) were not. Again 16 of those who responded to the question about space for parking said they did not have enough room to park their cars on their drives or in garages.

What happens next?

The County Council’s Rights of Way committee meets on June 8th and their decision will go before the Cabinet on July 20th for a final decision.

Reviews of the parking restrictions have been promised at Easter 2011 and again in December 2011. Working with the parish council we will keep up the pressure for on site car parking for students.