Excessive Development – Can We Cope?

Growth is a key strategic priority – encouraged by financial rewards from Central Government – but can the infrastructure cope? Our roads are already at bursting point, especially at rush hour. If you live in Pinewood there are limited exit points – the Holiday Inn junction and the roundabout at Tescos. In the morning it can take 20 to 30 minutes to get out of the Parish, so what will the impact be of planned new developments and should there be a point at which we say enough is enough?

After years of inactivity – Suffolk One was the last major development – we are now faced with a glut of applications:

> Chantry Vale (on land behind the Holiday Inn) – 350 houses and 70 businesses with exits opposite the Hadleigh Road traffic lights on the A1071;

> Belstead House and Meadows – 155 houses and a 65 bedroom care home;

> Belstead School – doubling in size;

> ‘Fred Olsen’ site – 200 to 300 office block;

> 24 hour veterinary unit;

> Aldi store next to Suffolk One;

> Sugar Beet site – possibly hundreds of houses and many businesses.

If all of these go ahead we could be looking at an additional 4,000 vehicle movements per day – mainly at the busy periods. Surely this is madness and we have to start saying no to some of those developments listed above. Is it right that the last one(s) to apply should be penalised? This could be a problem as the likely latest ones are already in our Strategic Plan. Surely we have to be more proactive than that but will we get the support for this approach from the Inspectors should any refused application be refused. You would like to think so but I just don’t think that we are good at seeing the bigger picture.

Watch the ever shrinking space!

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Local Politics For the 21st Century

Time for a change? I believe so. Would someone please tell me what the benefits are of keeping politics in local government? Oh yes I know it helps to group people behind a decision but do we really want sheep leading us? If a decision or strategy is best for the people then won’t independent minds come to that conclusion without being ‘whipped’? Isn’t it more important to represent your constituents rather than comply with a group view? But how would people know who to vote for, I hear you ask? Do they now, or is that all  important cross placed in a box largely based on the political  party next to it? Does anyone know the difference in policies of the local parties? Many questions but what are the answers? Lets start with a clean sheet of paper.

Those standing would each produce a CV outlining their experience and qualities – this would need to be underwritten by a couple of guarantors. The other side of the A5 sheet would outline their aims and objectives (policies) for the district / county. Each candidates paper would be sent to every elector by the electoral body along with the voting card. On the ballot sheet everyone would just be listed by name, but a political allegiance could be stated in the CV if the candidate felt it important.

The leader of the council would be selected by the members who would then be selected to posts within the council, by the leader, presumably reflecting the members’ background, aims and objectives. More important than the political persuasion is the geographical split and groups could be formed around this – so for county their would be groups based on district. It would then make more sense if these county councillors were also the members on the district. This would work towards a more ‘joined up’ approach and save a heap of money. It must be better than the confusion that exists in the public’s mind now. To me it makes a sensible step towards a single tier local government. But what do you think?picture of suffolk

Regionalunitaridevolutionism

Predictable – when you promise one of your siblings a box of presents all of the others want to know what they are going to get. Its even trickled down to the nieces and nephews i.e the regions and counties. Of course what everyone conveniently overlooks is that, as the box of financial toys is fixed, for every winner there has to be a loser. Can power be passed down without money to go with it?

Despite recent cutbacks we are still spending far too much on the public sector. It is too stodgy and unresponsive – transformation programmes taking years and only delivering efficiency savings at best or a reduced service at worst. Is the unitary option the only logical way to go? Certainly from Joe Public’s point of view, the ‘Council’ is singular, but how do you divi up the area so that you can achieve maximum efficiency savings without losing touch with the parishes?

Can we learn from business where they periodically go through the centralise / decentralise cycle? Each change brings early benefits but are they sustainable – presumably not or the cycle would be broken at some point. Businesses have target customers and can design a delivery model to suit their demographic but councils have to reach everyone and each service we provide should be considered independently – education, health, adult care, housing, highways, businesses, etc.

Personally I think we should be seen as ‘the sail beneath the wings’, enabling communities to thrive and be largely self-sufficient but we are being driven by a ‘growth’ agenda from Central Government which is at odds with what many communities want or can cope with. Highway infrastructure has been inherited from a bygone age, narrow single carriageways, no cycle paths and a public transport system that allows massive over competition on certain lucrative routes and ignores others. I love Suffolk for what it is but are we in danger of morphing into an extension of Essex or losing our identity altogether?

So how would you vote – single unitary based on Suffolk as a whole; 2 or 3 unitaries (west, north, south-east) or to stay as we are and pull up the drawbridge?

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Pinewood – A Pivotal Month

September looks like being a pivotal month in the ‘life’ of Pinewood. Two controversial planning applications are likely to hit the decks. One is common knowledge – the wind turbine – the other may come as a surprise and shock – Belstead House & Meadows.

Pfr have chosen to leave the original wind turbine application on the table despite some 700 people complaining but more surprisingly without dealing with the MOD issues. In my opinion this is a good sign for those opposed to the project. Had Pfr re-applied with a slightly modified application – say a 10% reduction in the height – then the objectors’ slate would have been wiped clean and more costs would have to be incurred.

I wonder if Pfr think that their application is going to fail and have decided to go down the cheapest route out. We will see soon enough – it looks as though there will be a site visit on the 10th September and the Planning Committee will meet soon after that.

 

Picture - Belstead MeadowsBelstead House, previously owned by Suffolk County Council and used as a conference centre, has been in the hands of a developer for the last 12 months or so. It would appear that his design process is over and a plan has been formulated for the house, cottages and meadow. This plan is likely to unite the nearby residents in their opposition. Whilst there are many interesting aspects to the plan – the design and community priced housing – replacing meadows with 100+ houses and care home is not likely to be popular.

I believe the application will be presented to the Planning Dept. in the next few days – once I have the details I will give you a link to the papers.

Civic Reception

 

Amazing – how can you drive passed a place thousands of times and not know what is behind the hedge? Priory Hall on Benton Street in Hadleigh is that place. We were there for Babergh District Council’s new chairman’s reception and before anyone asks, yes we had to pay for the tickets + we raised £800 for his charities.

James Long, the new Chairman, is certainly a natural orator – he could talk for England – giving an interesting ‘presentation’ on the wines being served ….. well he is in the wine trade!

Enjoy your year James.

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Hot Air

It is bad enough having to sit and listen to the best part of 80 councillors yack on and on in the County Council meetings but when the Council Chamber is airless with temperatures nudging 90 it really is unbearable. Do the conditions affect the decisions made – unlikely as they have all been ‘cooked’ up in political group meetings that precede Full Council.

When does consultation mean selling a decision already made and when does it mean listening to views that could / should affect the decision? Well consultation on whether to keep Monks Eleigh school open obviously fell into the former category as despite 120 people being against the closure it will close. So when you hear that the Council are conducting a consultation exercise on its 42 children’s centres it must be a worrying time for parents, children and workers alike – especially where the ‘C’ word has already been discussed. I will be keeping a close eye on this ‘consultation’.