County & District Councillor’s Report
SCC Scrutiny-Highways Contract
We looked at progress with our recommendations from May last year. Significant progress has been made but needs to accelerate. Last year’s backlog of minor repairs like potholes will be fixed by the year-end and new defects are fixed as they appear.
You can now report defects online. Search for “report-a-highways-problem-in-Suffolk.” This system works rapidly and is efficient, feeding straight to a technician who schedules the work for an immediate, 48 hour five day, or two-week response depending on the risk the problem presents.
A large number of small jobs that don’t need an emergency response or need highway closures are scheduled to take up to 14 weeks. A system to allow us all to see the schedule is being developed but progress appears slow. It is essential to get this in place soon.
Kier and Highways have simplified the process to reduce unnecessary costs and speed things up. They no longer try to cost the tiny amounts of material used in each repair! However, a lean systems review of the work in the Highways Area Offices is only just about to start with a pilot in Babergh. This must push forward rapidly. The Kier contract has been in operation for some 18 months and we are still not getting the basics right.
Call in of Children’s Centre Closure decision
Cabinet decided that our concerns about their decision were unfounded and that the closure of a number of children’s centres will go ahead.
Ipswich Local Plan
The County’s view is that obviously increased housing and employment will bring increased traffic in already congested areas. We must understand the likely effects on journey times and the road infrastructure improved to cope wherever possible. Public transport, cycling and walking routes all have important roles to play and must be provided.
New schools will be essential with three new primary and one secondary needed to meet demand. The funds for these will have to come from developers.
MSDC Community Infrastructure Levy.
Three rounds of consultation have been completed and the final document approved to go forward to the planning inspectorate for examination. The proposed charges are for 1 to 10 dwellings £165 per sq m, 11 or more dwellings £115 per sq m. in Mid Suffolk except for Needham Market and Stowmarket where they are £125 and £75. Parishes will get 15% of this levy capped at £100 x the number of existing houses in the parish.
Councils have to maintain through their plans a five-year supply of land where development would be acceptable. Without this, the construction of new houses would stall.
In Mid-Suffolk we have always been assured that we meet the requirement but we have just been told that the latest calculations show there is only 4.3 years supply.
The problem is that to avoid the stall the current rules allow developers to propose sites wherever they think is suitable, whatever the district plans say. We might be unable to avoid developments we don’t want.
This is driving intense activity to correct the shortfall.