All posts by Caroline Page

Lib Dem County Councillor for Woodbridge, Suffolk; Elected 2008, 2009,2013; LD spokesman, Transport; Vice-Chair Education Transport Appeals; Speed Limit Panel member ; Campaigns for Rural Transport, Buses, Rail, Cycling, Young People, Libraries, Disability, Epilepsy & Carers

What happened in Suffolk in September – my report

Library Reading Scheme presentations  On 17 September I presented awards to all those children who successfully completed the Woodbridge Library Reading Challenge 2017. This year 212 children completed, to gain certificates and medals. I also funded  a poster competition and a magic show from my locality budget.

Suffolk’s Cabinet decision on controversial school transport policy changes called-in by LDGI Group A decision made by Cabinet on 12 September, to go to public consultation on proposed changes to SCC’s school transport policy, was ‘called-in’ to scrutiny by opposition councillors from the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group (of whom I was one).

The call-in cited several problems with the report that informed Cabinet’s decision, and argued that to go to public consultation without a comprehensive impact assessment would be premature. The councillors questioned the expected savings and stressed the need to fully research how changes might impact on educational attainment, increased car use, and school viability.

The call-in was examined by the Scrutiny Committee on 28 September, who determined determined that the subject should be referred  back to Cabinet again. Watch this space!

Consultation on Woodbridge Thoroughfare  September 25- 1October saw the Thoroughfare Working Group’s public consultation in Woodbridge Library on changing the Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) in the Thoroughfare. A stall was staffed in Woodbridge Library for a full 7 days (I personally worked 44 hours staffing it).

The consultation is to ensure it more accurately reflects current usage and to make the provisions more enforceable. Three options were provided. Approximately 600 questionnaires have been received, and the information will now analysed and used to establish the basis of a new TRO.

Impact of Woods Lane development on A1438  The astonishing and unacceptable closure of Woods Lane for a prolonged period ( 3 weeks shortly and then three months in early 2017) to install utilities for the 180 house Bloor Homes development will divert heavy traffic between the A12 and Wilford to the B1438 (Ipswich Road) in the south and the Old Yarmouth Road through Melton to the north. I am one of many lobbying to ameliorate this situation, not least because of the number of schools and sheltered housing along the route. When I recently was able to secure permission for 20mph zoning in Woodbridge, a significant rationale was the impact of heavy traffic on our medieval town , the number of pedestrians and cyclists inconvenienced or endangered, ­­­­and to discourage rat-running on the B1438 instead of A12/Woods Lane usage.

This diversion now underlines why the scheme is necessary. I am very concerned on the impact this will have on Woodbridge’s traders, students, and residents

Search for a new SCC Chief Executive continues  A full day of interviews and assessments took place on Monday 11 September in the search for a new Chief Executive for Suffolk County Council to succeed Deborah Cadman. The interview panel included five councillors from across the three main Groups. (3 Conservative, 1 Labour, 1 LDGI)

Although the field of candidates was strong it was decided that there was no clear candidate that met the expectations for the role. Therefore no appointment was made, and the recruitment process will begin again in the coming months. In the mean time Sue Cook will contine as interim Chief Executive, supported by other members of the corporate management team.

PCC ‘not pursuing’ plans to take control of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service   Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore, has announced that he will not be pursuing plans to take control of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Services.

Earlier this year the PCC commissioned PA Consulting to undertake an options appraisal to consider the future governance of the Fire and Rescue Service and a potential shift of governance from the County Council to the PCC. This review concluded that there is insufficient evidence to suggest that a governance change would be clearly in the interests of economy, efficiency, and effectiveness; or public safety.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service launches ‘escape plan’ campaign The Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service has launched a new safety campaign and website highlighting the importance of fire escape plans. The campaign addresses the fact that every year there are 40,000 accidental house fires in the UK. Having an escape plan will allow Suffolk residents to escape the fire quickly and safely. Please

Visitors to the campaign website will be able to:

  • Take a quiz to test how prepared they are to escape a fire
  • Create their own escape plan for everyone in their household

The ‘escape plan’ fire campaign will run until 31 October 2017. More information can be found at fire.suffolk.gov.uk.

October Surgery Cancellation  I will be cancelling my monthly surgery this month (21 October) because of family commitments on the other side of the world. The remaining surgeries for 2017 are:

  • 18 November 2017
  • 16 December 2017

 

 

Open Letter: Bloor Development diversion at Woods Lane -a solution

Bloor Homes – the start of the Woods Lane works

Sent to: Therese Coffey MP, Suffolk Coastal District Council Planning Chair and Officer, Suffolk County Council Member for Highways, Woodbridge Town Council, Choose Woodbridge, EADT

I’m writing to express my surprise and alarm at the series of unfortunate events relating to the Bloor Homes development at the western (A12) end of Woods Lane, Melton. This has led to Bloor’s requirement to close a section of Woods Lane for a prolongued period of time. I would also like to offer a solution.

The (unacceptable) proposal is to reroute the heavy traffic that travels along Woods Lane between the A12 and Wilford  – north via Melton and south via Woodbridge for the duration of the works. These are estimated to be a matter of months.

Woodbridge-Melton, as well as being a bustling retail centre, houses eight infant/primary/secondary schools with a large catchment area, plus a significant number of nursing and sheltered homes whose care staff cannot afford to live locally and have to commute. The local firestation is staffed by retained firefighters  who need immediate access. My list goes on….

Although this diversion will impact heavily on Woodbridge residents, this development is not within my division. I was therefore not made aware of the proposed lengthy road closures with their inevitable impact on the local economy and local residents until a couple of weeks ago – the same time as it was made public.

It is almost as if this unacceptable decision to divert was to be a fait accompli.

I challenge this.

We seem to be living in a world without joined-up thinking and where the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing. Suffolk Coastal District Council is responsible for planning. The district council has been fully aware of the Bloor development for a long time. It cannot be news to a single person in the planning department that drainage etc will need to be put in place for a development of that size – or that, located as it is – in a greenfield site on the other side of a busy road from a busy town, that the chances are that there will be problems in linking up utilities.

The location makes it clear that there would inevitably be major issues – yet the district council now seems unduly surprised when these issues arise and obscurely feels that somehow the County Council Highways department (who have a statutory responsibility to facilitate this development) should be held responsible.

We need to ask the SCDC planning Committee, did the planning department have a different strategy for getting the Bloor drains put in? And what was it?

Bloor is a private company. Its primary aim is to make money for its shareholders. Why has Suffolk Coastal’s District Council planning department not looked at the propriety of Bloor disadvantaging our entire community in its endeavour to make the greatest possible private profit? It is not our problem, that of the residents of Woodbridge and Melton. It is Bloor’s. The company should shoulder the lion’s share of the solution

Surely it should have been possible  – should still be possible – for SCDC to require Bloor to make a temporary roadway through their development land to take the Woods Lane traffic,  while utilities are placed under Woods Lane?

An additional point. Woodbridge has recently agreed a 20mph zone and additional calming for the entire town. One of the principle rationales was the impact of heavy traffic on our medieval town and to discourage rat-running on the B1438 which separates the town from the riverside. This diversion only underlines why the scheme is needed. The scheme however needs funding.  I would therefore urge SCDC and SCC Highways to work together, using development money earnarked for community benefit, to benefit that community most harmed by these works – ie Woodbridge itself

Sincerely

Caroline Page
County Councillor for Woodbridge

 

Update: I have heard it argued  over the last weeks that because the Secretary of State overturned SCDC’s decision regarding the Bloor development, SCDC can somehow wash their hands of this development. We can only succeed in  persuading  everyone of the value of my argument if all local bodies join forces 

Woods Lane development: Woodbridge suffers impact without benefits

Feelings are running high in Woodbridge over Bloor Homes’ proposed closure of Woods Lane “as agreed with Suffolk Coastal local authority”.

And while neither development nor road is in Woodbridge,  Woodbridge will get the congestion without any benefits. We are told our Woodbridge through road will be the artery for diverted traffic for months.

Thus – yet again – the unintended consequences of untrammelled development without strategic planning.

I have some sympathy with the  District Council:  caught between the rock of governmental pressure to build houses and a ‘market will decide’ mentality that has no care whether these houses are homes – or second homes. However this is their party, their policy. They must not turn their backs on responsibility for it because it is not only unpopular but uworkable and unjust.

There is no doubt homes are needed but not these ones. Property hotspot Woodbridge lacks housing for the lowpaid hard workers on whom the town relies: retained firefighters, care workers, teachers, nurses, police, paramedics. And we need them to live here, not commute in.

Reports of the Bloor development mention it will deliver an unspecified number of (the laughably misnamed) ‘affordable housing’ units, priced at 80% of market rate. This will not help any care worker, or teacher  to get a foot on the property ladder – yet the road closure will certainly prevent them from arriving at their essential place of work on time.

What tragic irony!

Woodbridge does need housing at social rent (that’s 65% of market rent) for those we rely on and who can’t afford to live here. Sadly, I can find  no suggestion that any of the housing build by Bloor will be of this type.

What to do? In the short term I hope some solution can be found to this outrageous imposition on the general public by a company set up for private profit.  It should not be beyond the wit of man – or woman either. Bloor could create a temporary bypass across its own development land maybe? I will be writing to suggest this to Bloor, county and district councils and our MP.

I also urge Suffolk Coastal – who agreed this closure – and Suffolk County who will enforce it to dig deep in their pockets and fund projects to ameliorate the problems caused by this closure. I am thinking here specifically of the Woodbridge 20mph and associated traffic calming scheme

Join the CONSULTATION & improve the THOROUGHFARE

thumbnail of Thoroughfare Consultation 2017 Sign Options
Woodbridge Thoroughfare Consultation’s three options for signs. Click to download full details

Come to Woodbridge Library, 25th September to 1 October 2017, and help decide the best way forward for  Woodbridge’s Thoroughfare.

The Thoroughfare – Woodbridge’s vibrant retail heart – has had increasing problems with traffic and parking in recent years. Residents, visitors, shoppers and traders have all expressed concern

Our Problem: is that both access to and parking in Woodbridge Thoroughfare is governed by a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO). It’s complicated, years out of date, and no longer fit for purpose. The traffic signs we can put up are legally prescribed by the TRO. This means they are very complicated too.

The TRO no longer reflects the needs and usage of people in the Thoroughfare. 

The Solution:  We need to simplify the Thoroughfare TRO and make sure it reflects the current needs of people in Woodbridge.
We can then have simpler signs.

The Thoroughfare Working Group has worked hard for ten months looking at the needs and requirements of traders, residents, visitors and shoppers. We have come up with three options:

thumbnail of Thoroughfare Consultation 2017 Questionnaire
Consultation Questionnaire. Click to download. When finished, either a) drop it in at library before Sunday 1 Oct b) scan or photograph and email  to Caroline.page@suffolk.gov.uk  or c) post to Caroline Page, 117 Ipswich Rd, Woodbridge IP12 4BY

Now we want you to fill in a questionnaire to tell us which option  you think will work best for everyone who uses the Woodbridge Thoroughfare. (Remember, at the moment, we are interested in which option you prefer.  We will get to enforcement later.)

So, this is a lot of work. Why not just leave things as they are?   This is not an option:

  • Many people say, “All we need’s a Traffic Warden”. Traffic wardens were abolished THIRTEEN YEARS ago under the Traffic Management Act 2004, which passed the responsibility for enforcing on-street violations to the police.
  • Off-street parking in Woodbridge carparks is enforced by parking attendants employed by SCDC. Many people confuse these with traffic wardens, but SCDC parking attendants could only tackle on-street violations if and when  our District Council decriminalises parking and takes responsibility for it
  • Suffolk Coastal will finally be taking over responsibility for on-street parking in 2019
  • However, if Woodbridge does not make changes to the current Thoroughfare TRO, the current level of non-enforcement will not continue. Unless we decide changes, the current TRO lines etc will just be repainted and all the current regulations will be enforced as they currently stand by SCDC when it takes over from the police.
  • SCDC will not be able to cherry-pick the dead or unnecessary regulations. As the TRO is significantly out of date this could cause major problems.

There are other considerations that need to be looked at in any decision-making:

ACCESS: Research by the TWG has discovered that a significant number of residential homes and retail properties only have accessfrom the Thoroughfare.

CHANGING DELIVERY/RETAIL PATTERNS: when the current TRO was designed, there were no Tesco/Ocado/Amazon deliveries. Retailers would receive weekly deliveries from large lorries. When it cameinto force, Woodbridge had a  Wednesday half-day. Now many traders open 7 days  a week,

DISABLED ACCESS: a summer 2017 survey by the Suffolk Coastal Disability Forum disclosed that the access lost to disabled people by on-street parking in the Thoroughfare outweighed the access gained by disabled on-street parking

WIDTH of PARKING BAYS: one marked bay in the Thoroughfare (the ex-Sant-Studio bay ) is too narrow for modern vehicles

INCREASE IN SIZE of VEHICLES: modern cars are very much wider than cars were two or three decades ago. This means that parking has greater impact on pedestrians and other traffic

 

Housing Day : what Suffolk needs

Today is #HousingDay.

Do you know people desperate for to find or afford somewhere to live?   In this county – with new built estates rising everywhere – I know plenty.

The answer? Simple. We need to stop pandaring to the free market -which is creating ever more homes and second homes for the affluent – and start planning and building the housing that everyday people need.

Purpose-built council housing. For those starting out,  for young families, the disabled, the low waged (public sector workers for example) , those that need to downsize.

Abolish that strangest of all supposed human rights  – the ‘right to buy.’ Replace it with “the right to have a truly affordable roof over your head.” (And don’t let those weasel words ‘affordable housing‘ con you. It means 80% of market rates. In an area where houses cost £1m to buy, thousands per month to rent ‘affordable housing’ is, what? We need social housing because that alone is truly affordable).

And we must stop mouthing all this ‘let the market decide’ malarkey. The market consists of builders who – given the choice – want to build high end executive homes because they make the best profit. What do we need? Homes for the young, the young families, the disabled, the low waged, the elderly. Homes for everyone who makes up our society – or we lose it.

Not necessarily homes to own. One of the reasons ‘social housing’ sometimes gets such a bad press is that there is now so little of it keft that it may be more likely to be let to people with the most significant problems or needs – and thus give it an unfair reputation.

Yet why shouldn’t many more people live this way? It happens elsewhere without difficulty. It used to be the way of life here.

Home ownership was an anomaly of the second half of the twentieth century

When I was young, lots of low-waged people were able to live in the centre of towns and cities. In solid Victorian terraced council houses now sold off under right to buy, worth a million or so, and maybe not even lived in full time by those that now own them. Even at rental income, way outside the pockets of your average working family.

And the people who our towns and cities need and rely on (teachers, nurses, carers, firefighters, young workers etc) sofa-surf, commute incredible distances or plain give up.

An end to laissez faire, say I. Let’s constrain the free market and go back to the politics of common sense – and have a solid practical unflashy homes policy built on the needs of the people rather than what companies and organizations want to build!