What’s happening in Woodbridge (& Suffolk) – November 2016

Woodbridge has wanted 20 mph zoning for years but my work over the last year has been required to make it possible
Woodbridge has  been asking for  20 mph zoning for years .

Speed calming and the Thoroughfare have been top issues for Woodbridge  over the last weeks as I’ve been working with like-minded people  from a number of fields to try and produce a global scheme to calm and improve traffic conditions across the town.  Other issues of importance include Suffolk Norfold Devolution, now about to got to a final yea or nay vote,  and the throrny question of the new telecoms boxes at the Sandy Lane junction,

Proposed 20mph zone & Thoroughfare calming in Woodbridge   I have recently been working on initial – ambitious – proposals for speed calming in Woodbridge. These include :

  1. a) the outline of the whole-town speed calming and 20mph zoning which Woodbridge Town Council will be discussing later this evening and which will hopefully be the foundation of a document that can finally be put before Suffolk County Council’s Speed Limits Panel and
  2. b) the reforming of the Thoroughfare Working Party to try and tackle the continuing issue of the Thoroughfare, in relation to the roads around it.

I am grateful for the assistance and expertise of Nigel Barratt in examining the roads usage round the town in order to work on these issues.

I am hoping that the ‘Walkers are Welcome Woodbridge’ initiative will be supported by these proposals, and that they might link in with issues as diverse as the air quality work at Melton Hill, the passage of school children to school,  and the rat-running from Wilford Bridge along the Ipswich Road – producing really joined up planning for traffic and tourism.

Conservatives lose their majority on Suffolk County Council  With a LibDem win at the Hadleigh byelection last month, the Conservatives finally lost their precarious hold on Suffolk County council and are now a minority administration. The balance of power is now:

Conservative 37 – Labour 15;  LibDem 8; UKIP 10; Green 2; Independent  3

Suffolk County Council’s vote on devolution deal – 23 November  Suffolk County Council – together with all district councils – will be voting on the Suffolk Norfolk devolution deal at the end of the month.  For the county council, this is:

  • The extraordinary County Council on 2pm 23rd November
  • The extraordinary Cabinet on 5.30pm 23rd November (or following the extraordinary Council meeting if later)

with the orders currently scheduled to be laid before Parliament on 24th of November.

The deal requires the 2017 election of a Norfolk & Suffolk Mayor, and the formation of a “super-authority” in which all councils from both counties  would be represented equally.

This authority would have a budget of £100m to spend on an inflated governmental requirement for  240,000 new homes ( far more than required locally so presumably aimed at London overspill)  for the next five years and would have new powers (but little new funds) to fund the required  infrastructure programmes needed to support the development the deal requires.

Although Suffolk’s County Council and all its district & borough councils backed the principle of this devolution deal in the summer, in  Norfolk the reaction was much less positive – four of the county’s seven districts (including Norwich City Council) voted to reject the deal .

New Telecoms boxes update   After I raised the issue of the 5 telecoms boxes in Sandy Lane on both social media and BBC Suffolk, EE finally got in contact with the Suffolk Highways Officers. We are now in hope that the issue can be rectified  without legal proceedings becoming necessary.

Parents urged to Have Their Say on New School Admissions Policy Suffolk County Council is seeking views from parents and carers on the proposed school admissions policy for the 2018/2019 academic year. There are proposals to make minor changes to the admission arrangements for schools in Suffolk and the policy aims to ensure school places are offered to children in a fair way.  The consultation will run until Tuesday 13 December 2016.

Dutch Kitchenware Cold Callers   Suffolk Trading Standards warn that they have had reports about (specifically Dutch) salesmen cold-calling door-to-door in Suffolk. They say these appear to be people who have targeted other areas in Britain.

The caller is typically a man selling knives, saucepans and cutlery sets that he claims that he has had left over from a trade fair. His story is that he needs to get rid of the products quickly because he is returning to Holland later in the day and cannot take them back through customs.

Although the products are described as being reasonable quality, trading standards are concerned that consumers may be paying over the odds and there are no customer rights. As ever they are concerned that undue pressure is put on elderly and vulnerable people.

Suffolk Trading standards ask that if anyone becomes aware of these (or other) salesmen operating in their area,  to please contact  via 03454 040506. They also remind Suffolk residents of the door stickers they supply to discourage cold callers.

Firebreak training in Hollesley Bay    In late October I spent an afternoon at a ‘Firebreak’ passing-out parade at Hollesley Bay prison. This is a practical but inspirational programme taught by the fire brigade (Essex, not Suffolk, on this occasion) – and the first time ever this programme has been delivered in a prison!!

Outcomes were outstanding: 12 hard-to-reach prisoners of very different ages and backgrounds had worked together to become a team, learned the cooperative and practical skills needed in firefighting, got a serious qualification, and all reported they have gained a lot from the course.

This was resoundingly echoed by guards and instructors. I very much enjoyed watching the presentation drill, and talking to the participants and instructors afterwards.

Most interesting of all, the training started to introduce the subject of ‘restorative justice’ and met with such success that the team was returning to the prison to run some sessions specifically on this, with the same prisoners.

Huge plaudits all round: to the Shaw Trust for funding it, Essex Fire Brigade for delivering it, and of course, Hollesley Bay for having confidence to go ahead with this pioneering training in the first place

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New Telecoms Cabinets in Sandy Lane – and Twitter!

The 5 new Telecoms cabinets blocking the sightline at Sandy Lane junction. As you can see , some are as tall as I am. Under the Telecoms Act, such cabinets count as ‘permitted development’ but telecoms companies are supposed to consult with local highways authorities. SCC did not approve these installations – and would not have done so if they had been consulted!

 

New telecoms cabinets installed on the corner of Sandy Lane and Ipswich Road have been causing  anxiety to Woodbridge residents and Suffolk Highways officers alike since they were  unexpectedly installed over the summer.

Drivers report that visibility to the right coming out of Sandy Lane has been severely affected.  The eastern cabinet is also far too close to the road edge and to passing traffic, could cause cyclists to be squeezed between cabinet and vehicle – and indeed may get hit by something if left as it is.

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A screen grab from Google Maps shows what the junction looked like until the new cabinets were installed in August.

For the last month it has  been impossible to get any response from EE and TMobile (who Highways inform me are the principal companies concerned) so yesterday I took to Twitter to  give the matter the oxygen of publicity and today I spoke about the cabinets on Radio Suffolk’s Breakfast Programme.

Interestingly, this seems to be was what was needed to get things going. EE are now in communication – and tell me they are ‘investigating the matter with the company who installed the cabinets.’

I am  hoping the matter can now be satisfactorily resolved.  Woodbridge residents shouldn’t be expected to have to choose between road safety and a 4G signal

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Blue Plaques for Woodbridge Women?

On Saturday, I was fortunate enough to be invited to see 4 blue plaques to famous women unveiled in Ipswich: illustrator Margaret Tempest; archaeologist Nina Layard; suffragette Constance Andrews; and socialist and Mayor, Mary Whitmore. These additions mean that now Ipswich has 17 blue plaques commemorating men and 6 for women. Not gender balance – but better than the previous 17-2 ratio.

Coming home I wondered anew why we in Woodbridge  have no blue plaques at all to commemorate any  famous, inspirational  or unusual women with a Woodbridge connection? The Woodbridge Society has put up 8 – but all to men. Surely it is time to start redressing the balance?

I would like to nominate:

Margaret Agnes Rope, the famous Arts & Crafts stained glass artists trained at Birmingham School of Art, and was taught by Henry Payne. She initially worked in Shrewsbury, but in 1911 went work at the Glass House in Fulham. In 1923 she took the veil, entering the Carmelite nunnery in Woodbridge, Suffolk.  A feisty woman who rode around England on a motorbike in 1918, smoking cigars and getting herself arrested, Margaret was one of the first women to make her living from art. After becoming a Carmelite she continued to work as stained glass artist, and supporting her nunnery through her stained glass window-making thereafter – both in Woodbridge, and when her order moved from there in 1939. Her greatest work is considered to be the Shrewsbury Cathedral west window. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Agnes_Rope

Archivist and preserver of local records Lilian Jane Redstone (1885-1955), Born in Woodbridge, Lilian Redstone was the first Ipswich and East Suffolk Joint Archivist, adviser to academics world-wide and author of numerous publications. She received an MBE in 1919 for her work during WW1 in the Historical Records Section at the Ministry of Munitions. During WW2 she worked to salvage and preserve documents moving them to places of safety. Her life work is now considered to be the foundation of the Suffolk Records Office. http://ipswichwomeninhistory.co.uk/1800s/lilian-jane-redstone/

Enid Blyton 1897-1968 Bestselling children’s author.  Due to attend the Guildhall School of Music, it was while  staying with  friends at Seckford Hall that Blyton changed her mind. The hall with its ‘haunted’ bedroom, secret passage and surrounding farmland was a source of great delight and inspiration. After helping her friend Ida Hunt at Woodbridge Congregational Sunday School, Enid decided on a career in teaching, trained as a primary school teacher in Ipswich, started writing – and the rest is history. http://www.enidblytonsociety.co.uk/chronology.php

Anne Knight –1792 – 1860. Quaker children’s writer and educationalist.  Eldest child of Woodbridge leather-cutter Jonathan Waspe, she married a London, returning to Woodbridge after his early death to keep a school in Woodbridge. She was a friend of the poet Bernard Barton, who lodged with her and her sisters. She is therefore mentioned several times in letters to him from Charles Lamb. Anne Knight was the author of several children’s books, including School-Room Lyrics (1846), and probably Poetic Gleanings (1827), Mornings in the Library (London, c. 1828, with an introductory poem by Bernard Barton), Mary Gray. A tale for little girls (also including a Barton verse, London, 1831), and Lyriques français: pour la jeunesse. Morceaux choisis par A. K. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Knight_(children%27s_writer)

Finally, there’s the wonderful Elizabeth With – about whom I am trying to find out more, than this glorious snippet:

elizabethwith
Details about Elizabeth WIth of Woodbridge and her book ‘Elizabeth Fools Warning’ – a rare, blow-by-blow depiction of the breakdown of a seventeenth century marriage

These are women that come to mind – I’m sure there must be plenty more. Nominations, anyone?

 

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Cycle-paths die in Suffolk’s free market

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It is impossible to cycle along this cyclepath. SCC has not maintained it for 2 years

Since Conservative-run Suffolk County Council divested its Highways maintenance services to the efficiencies of the private sector , its not only the roads that are in bad repair. Cycle paths abutting the A12 are in a  disgraceful state of disrepair, and many can no longer be used for cycling. This forces vulnerable cyclists back on the A12 amidst the fast traffic and HGVs – a situation the cycle-paths were specifically created to remedy.

Last week  I discovered for myself that the A12 cycle path between  Woodbridge and the Ufford turnoff is not only overgrown, but in places it has actually disappeared.

Travel was a choice between walking our bikes on the ‘cycle path’ or cycling on the A12. We chose the former as safer – but the damage to my own bicyle’s inner tube and front tyre was irreparable because of the thorns and brambles across the path.

Unfortunately we will  have no option but to cycle this route tomorrow. Does my disabled companion – who has catastrophic epilepsy – take her chance on the A12, or add an extra half-hour to an hour to her thirty-minute journey  battling through the jungle where a cycle path used to be?

It is not a choice Suffolk Highways should be offering her, me, or any other cyclist, in this, the self-described ‘Greenest County.’

I have  written to the Cabinet member for Highways and the Deputy Director of Highways Operations asking for their assurance that they should abandon this policy of wilful neglect and restore these paths to a usable condition immediately.

Not only is the path overgrown, somebody has kindly left an enormous pile of thorns across it. Gee, thanks
Not only is the cycle path overgrown, somebody has kindly left an enormous pile of thorns across it. Gee, thanks
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‘No Cold-calling Zone’ in Morley Avenue

Last Thursday, Lee Nunn from Suffolk Trading Standards and I visited every home in Morley Avenue to talk to residents about their experiences with cold callers,  to set up a ‘No Cold-Calling zone’ in the Avenue, and to supply “No Cold Calling” door stickers advertising this.  For residents displaying a no cold calling door sticker  it is now a criminal offence for traders to call at their door, although things like collecting for local charities, local newspaper deliveries and the like are fine. No Cold Calling street signage will be fixed in the road to further identify that residents in the road do not welcome uninvited doorstep callers and it will be a criminal offence for traders to cold call on any properties in the road.

Rogue traders cold-calling prey quite ruthlessly on people – particularly if they are vulnerable and on their own. Lee Nunn said he was surprised at the sheer level of cold-calling activity taking place  in Morley Avenue compared with other areas he had visited.

These have included fish salesmen,  people suggesting they were from the Probation board, selling household goods at inflated prices, and  young  men selling torches etc ‘in order to get into the army.’

Fortunately Morley Avenue is a tightknit community with a lot of good neighbours. However a resident has recently been talked into buying an extremely large quantity of fish at a very high price. (You can find more details about rogue fish sellers here)

If you’re not sure don’t open the door,”advises Lee Nunn,

In addition he  suggests:

  • Use a door chain to check who is calling
  • Don’t trade on the door step
  • Ask a trusted friend or family member for advice on reputable traders
  • Display a “No Cold Calling “ sticker on your door. Available free from Suffolk Trading Standards on 01473 264859 or via TradingStandards@suffolk.gov.uk
  • Always report any  suspicions cold-calling activity immediately to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 040506

 

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Caroline Page, County Councillor for Woodbridge