SCC predicts financial shortfall Last week, SCC admitted that it is not managing to control spending against the budget agreed by councillors in February 2018. Projections show the council will overspend by £8.6 million this financial year unless it is successful in reducing costs and making savings between now and 31 March 2019. This would mean that the council would have to dip into its reserves to balance the books.
We are told that rising demand for services and increased costs in Children and Young People’s Services account for almost £5 million of the projected overspend. This includes services for looked-after children, specialist social care for children and home-to-school transport. It is hard to see how any further savings can be made in statutory responsibilities.
There are also smaller, but significant, overspends in other council departments, including Adult Care and Corporate Services. Staff have been told by the new CEO that while SCC is committed to the pay and reward agreement agreed in April, it is currently at risk unless creative ways can be found to save money.
SCC agrees costed five-year cycling plan – but not ringfenced money! At the Suffolk County Council full council meeting on 19 July, I seconded two motions asking for a commitment to investing in Suffolk’s cycling infrastructure.
The first motion asked the council to set up a cross-party group tasked with drawing up a costed five-year cycling plan, whilst the second motion asked the council to commit to ring-fencing at least 5% of its annual Integrated Transport Block for cycling infrastructure. In total 896 emails were sent from residents to councillors in support of this motion – which is apparently a phenomenal amount for a local authority area! (To put it in perspective, In Warwickshire, with a similar motion, 420 emails were sent). There were, unsurprisingly a significant number from Woodbridge.
Whilst there was unanimous support for motion 1, the administration would not support a commitment of funding for cycling infrastructure, and so unfortunately motion 2 was rejected.
Although the two motions were voted on separately, they are intrinsically linked: without a minor commitment of council funding, any future bids to the Department for Transport are likely to be unsuccessful. This has been the case for the past seven years, during which Suffolk has missed out on five opportunities to receive funding for cycling from the DfT. Currently, SCC spends approximately 10% of its Integrated Transport Block on cycling infrastructure, so the motion was not asking for additional money – just a firm commitment that a minimal level of funding would be available each year.
We are awaiting further information regarding the cross-party group that will draw up a cycling plan, and will keep you updated as this progresses.
Additional £6m borrowed to improve recycling centres Suffolk’s administration has decided to borrow an additional £6m to fund improvement works for four of Suffolk’s recycling centres. The priority works are to:
• Deliver urgent improvements to the Foxhall (estimated cost £3 million) and Haverhill (estimated cost £1 million) recycling centres; and
• Secure sites for replacement recycling centres for Ipswich (estimated cost £1 million) and Stowmarket (estimated cost £1 million).
I have had contact from various residents unhappy with operations at the Foxhall site. My group has highlighted to the cabinet member responsible for waste services the importance of working with local councillors and residents when attempting to improve recycling centres.
Melton Hill ‘Cheesewedge’ development withdrawn, resubmitted After my blog piece of 24 July articulating the benefit to the proposed erstwhile SCDC Melton Hill developer of replacing affordable housing with comparatively nugatory commutated payments – they withdrew their application to develop the site. It was swiftly replaced with another proposal , reducing affordable housing units from 33 to 15 on the spurious grounds of Vacant Building Credit. As you know, I spoke against this at the Woodbridge TC planning committee meeting of 4 Sept, and have written to the District articulating my concerns (attached). I would advise all interested individuals to do the same.
“Staying Close” scheme launched to support Suffolk care leavers Suffolk County Council have been awarded funding by the Department of Education for a three-year pilot scheme to support young people leaving care in Suffolk. The “Staying Close” scheme intends to young people to start planning for independent living with the assistance and support of residential care workers from the age of 15.
Up till now, planning has often been left until close to the time a young person is due to move out, causing anxiety and distress. Early intervention and detailed planning from a younger age should help to alleviate this. Young people will then also continue to receive emotional and practical support from their children’s home and residential workers after they have moved out and started living independently.
The pilot scheme is being delivered in partnership with The Ryes Children’s Home in Sudbury, to test how this move-on care can be provided for young people who want to remain living close to their home.
Reduction in recycling rates harm “Greenest County” ambitions Recycling rates in Suffolk have dropped over the past 4 years, from 51% in 2013 to just 47% in 2017. Meanwhile, over 50% of waste in Suffolk is incinerated – much higher than the national average of 38%.
Although incineration may be a better option than landfill, it is still less environmentally-friendly than other methods of waste disposal. Furthermore, there are concerns that the level of harmful particles released by incinerators could pose a serious threat to public health.
The Suffolk Waste Partnership, as part of the Greenest County Partnership, set a target of recycling at least 60% of municipal waste by 2020. These latest figures suggest we are moving further away from this target. If Suffolk County Council truly wants Suffolk to be the “greenest county”, we need to start focusing on environmentally-friendly methods of waste disposal and ways to increase recycling levels in the county.
Jetty Lane Planning Application submitted The planning application for Jetty Lane Community Youth and Arts Centre has been submitted successfully. Community consultation takes place until 17 September.
It is not listed as Jetty Lane, but as,
DC/18/3456/FUL | Ground, Mezzanine and First floor Community centre and carparking. (Including accommodation for Art Studios / Art Exhibition Hall (Kingston Hall), Scout facilities (scout hall- Deben Hall and ancillary accommodation, Co-working office
It is not listed as Jetty Lane, but as,
DC/18/3456/FUL | Ground, Mezzanine and First floor Community centre and carparking. (Including accommodation for Art Studios / Art Exhibition Hall (Kingston Hall), Scout facilities (scout hall- Deben Hall and ancillary accommodation, Co-working office accommodation on the upper floor to generate revenue to sustain the other facilities offered to the community. Carparking, Vehicle crossover (existing location) | Woodbridge Community Resource Youth Centre The Avenue Woodbridge Suffolk
Please support this application and encourage others to do the same before 17 September, either via the district planning portal https://publicaccess.eastsuffolk.gov.uk/online-applications/ (and search for DC/18/3456/FUL)
Or by emailing comments directly to firstname.lastname@example.org making sure DC/18/3456/FUL is in the subject line
Appendix: My Letter to Suffolk Coastal re latest Melton Hill Development Application
Philip Ridley Head of Planning Services
Suffolk Coastal District Council
East Suffolk House
Councillor for Woodbridge
117 Ipswich Road
Date: 8 September 2018
Dear Mr Ridley,
Re: Planning Application DC/18/3424/FUL – Former Council Offices, Melton Hill, Melton
I am writing as County Councillor for Woodbridge to comment on the above planning application to develop the former Council Offices, Melton Hill.
I wish to reiterate all my previous objections to this application as articulated in my letter of 24 July 2017 regarding the previous planning application for this site (DC/17/2840/FUL). These were briefly:
• Adverse impact on historic skylines and views;
• the huge and unexplained difference of the application’s ‘vision’ from the 2016 ‘Community Consensus Masterplan‘;
• the plan’s increase in number of proposed properties from the original proposal : 100 housing units on an area this size is a much higher density than Suffolk Coastal recommends
• The impact of the planned development ion the traffic in the town. At 99 parking places for the 100 units there is not enough parking allocated to allow a single car for each of the residential units planned, let alone any for visitors, care workers, deliveries, workman etc. How can overspill parking in surrounding roads be avoided? Woodbridge has an ongoing parking problem. Suffolk Coastal used traditionally to open its 200-place Melton Hill carpark to the public for events in Woodbridge at the weekend. This development is creating a de facto public parking loss.
• The impact on the community of all additional traffic caused by Melton Hill’s transition from a residential to a a workplace development. This area has significant and so far insoluble traffic air quality problems.
• the proposed 5 and 6 storey residential blocks – suitable for an urban setting – are not designed to be in character with the town, and the piazza format is a significant break from the surrounding architectural ‘look’ at a significant entrance to the town
• the fact this design will dwarf the town and overlook all neighbouring housing creating a significant loss of amenity to neighbours in Thoroughfare, Deben Road and Old Maltings, as well as impacting adversely on National Trust’s historic views of the riverside and town from Sutton Hoo .
• The planned removal of all trees from the area, which – apart from the issues of their removal – will therefore not screen this development from the neighbours
However, in particular, I want to reiterate my extreme concern as to the impact of this planned development on Woodbridge and its surrounding district. As I wrote last year, local people desperately need housing – but not the housing that is being provided by this application.
Local people need starter homes, affordable family homes, homes for the disabled and downsizers. Last year, the developer’s excuse for increasing the proposed number of units on the Melton Hill site from 70 to 100 was in order to provide 32 units of much-needed social housing. This new plan reduces this number to only 15 ‘social’ units – while offering 85 units at market price.
On the current planning application Suffolk Coastal are listed as owners of the site. I would like to remind the District Council that Melton Hill is held in trust for the people of Suffolk Coastal by our elected and appointed servants. And ‘us’ means each and every one of us, rich and poor alike. I am therefore asking the district council and its planning committee to respond to local need – not corporate greed.
I want to put on record my concerns at the propriety of the district council seeking to monetise the Melton Hill site instead of looking at the legacy benefits of providing for local need. Woodbridge relies on retained firefighters, care workers, shop assistants, young families, the teachers who can’t afford to live near our 8 schools, the working twenty-somethings who can’t afford to leave home, nurses, police, paramedics. Yet in the last decades the town has lost more and more of the key rental sector stock that it needs to support key workers.
In order to survive as a working town, Woodbridge needs significant amount of housing at social rental. Suffolk Coastal’s continuing failure to provide this housing is having a cumulatively poor effect on the town’s running, its economy and on traffic and congestion in the area. Development of the Melton Hill site could increase the problem (as it will with this proposed application) or it could provide a strategic, longterm solution. I urge you to look to the latter.
In view of all the concerns outlined above I call on the District to reject application DC/18/3424/FUL – Former Council offices, Melton Hill, Melton. Going forward, I ask that it re-evaluate its priorities as to how this site should be developed to address the needs of local residents.
County Councillor, Woodbridge