District Councillors for this year only have a £5,000 budget to deploy in their wards to fund projects by community groups. They must of course align with Mid-Suffolk’s objectives. Forms to request grants of £250+ are available and your councillors will make final decisions by early January.
As a County Councillor, I also have my locality budget available and about £12,000 remains, after providing support for a Vehicle Activated Sign (VAS) in Henley and Hemingstone, pond refurbishment at Henley Primary and LED floodlights for Bramford Football Club.
I would like to support local community organisations to meet the needs of local residents, ideally but not exclusively, where county money leverages in funds from other bodies. Further VAS might be an idea.
The planning meeting this month considered the application to increase the number of houses to be built at Blakenham Fields by using the land once set aside for employment and a school. This increase allowed the District and County Councils to negotiate developer funding for the shop, education and early years and sports facilities overcoming the “viability” issues the developer claims to have with the original agreement. As this occurred the minister, Brendan Lewis, appears to have backtracked on his decisions to allow developers to escape from commitments using the viability argument under pressure from London authorities.
I opened my presentation to the committee by saying “I am convinced we are dumping developments in Gt Blakenham to the detriment of the population. We appear to have made a lot of concessions to get the site completed but there are a lot of unfinished issues.
The local residents are incensed that they have gained little to mitigate their problems. They face crowded doctor’s surgeries, oversubscribed pre-school provision, lack of primary school capacity, no village centre shop, daytime only public transport, congested roads and lack of local community facilities.”
And finished “The development has got too large for this location. I believe we should not grant planning permission until Early Years, Primary School, Highways and Primary Care issues are resolved to the state where they can be clearly communicated and agreed by the community and until the heads of agreement leave a minimum opportunity for future confusion and failed delivery.” (The full text is on my www site)
Although many councillors appeared to accept my arguments and those of Michael Blakenham, the majority eventually voted to approve the plans.
That leaves me with the need to get these problems addressed or evidence produced that they are less than people fear. I have started by getting the County officers to make face to face contact with the school heads to ensure both parties understand the issues and use the available finance to good purpose. They have also promised to carry the lack of early years provision forward with vigour.
At Mid Suffolk District Council , we are integrating the Mid Suffolk and Babergh teams, reducing senior management and we hope “empowering” middle management and the front line people. This is all to reduce costs but also to improve the service you get.
All councillors and senior officers are involved in “Community Engagement” asking you what the council does well and what it could do better. What services you value and which you would be happy to go without. So far Great Blakenham and Little Blakenham Parishes have given their views and Branford is on the list but we intend to get to Cherryfields, the WI and Businesses soon.
I am involved with the transformation of the planning service to make it more responsive and more efficient. The Councillor team believe you want professional high quality decisions made quickly that encourage development but preserve the qualities of Suffolk that make it such a good place to live. We also want the planning service to be a good place to work.
If we are wrong please let me know.