Category Archives: Pedestrians and Walkers

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

Winter Pavement Gritting in Woodbridge – Volunteers needed!

It is now five years since the Woodbridge Volunteer Winter Pavement Gritting Scheme was first set up at my instigation in the winter of 2010  with a  locality grant  for grit bins. (Over the past 5 years I have  made grants of over £5000 to keep this scheme going).

Can I please reiterate what I’ve said in the past,  – slippery footways are an issue not for some imaginary ‘them’ but for all of us.  Lets face it, we can easily grit a local pavement or two when we see the need. When it is icy, the people who run the gritting lorries are out day and night trying to keep as much of the thousands of miles of Suffolk roads passable as possible.

However, on that basis for the last 5 years  I have been the only councillor in Woodbridge to be out on every icy day as a gritting volunteer. This is no light thing. Every icy day over the last five years I have shovelled and gritted the whole of California, and the Ipswich road path down to John Grose – sometimes down to the Notcutts roundabout – well over a mile of ice and grit every time.

Astonishingly  I have often been approached by residents – often much younger –  unwilling to help grit communal paths, but wanting to  use the grit for their own driveways!

I’m tough but I am middle-aged and my health is not what it was. Other long-term  volunteers are in the same boat.If the scheme is to continue we need more volunteers. There are many able bodied people in Woodbridge who should be able – and probably will be willing – to help.

Woodbridge is a town of vulnerable pedestrians, narrow paths and steep hills. Before I instituted the gritbin scheme, many people were housebound every time the weather was icy.  We must not return to this.

So what are we to do? I would suggest Woodbridge Town Council puts a well-worded notice on each bin asking for local volunteers.

The Highways department tells me today that ice is is not expected ‘before the end of October’. Not so cheering, considering it is the 27th today!

Martlesham Creek footpath survey

Regular walkers are delighted that the footpath round Martlesham Creek is once more up and running after a long time out of action. For the last couple of months we walkers have been able to enjoy the views  again. Its a lovely walk.

The river wall, and the footpath that runs along it, were damaged in the December 2013 storm surge.  The landowners have repaired the river wall, which now incorporates two lower sections, which are designed to allow water to overtop in extreme tides in a controlled way so as not to damage the walls.  The water will then drain back into the river at low tide through sluices. This will hopefully prevent such a breach occurring again.

I walked back last night after giving my monthly report at Martlesham Parish Council, and the midsummer evening highlighted clearly the four different surfaces they are trialling here. In addition to Crushed Concrete and Hoggin, the AONB are trialling two novel surfaces, Tenax and Ankalok, on the low sections. They are interested  to hear how the public think these new surfaces perform alongside the two surfaces that are most usually used via this survey.

If you use the footpath, do fill in the survey and and give your views. I did.

(I also lost a lovely pair of hornrimmed specs walking between Martlesham Parishe Hall -and Woodbridge. I walked along Dr Brittans path, across the fields to Old Martlesham church, round the churchyard and down to Martlesham Creek,  around the creek path and up into Woodbridge via Kyson Point, Broomheath and California. If anyone picks them up… )

Incentivised to drive: Suffolk’s County Councillors

crocyclist

As I mentioned recently, this year’s Public Health Report for Suffolk (Moving Forward? travel and health in Suffolk) aims to get more people out of the car and into more healthy means of travel. This is essential  for reasons ranging from health, through congestion, to potholes.

And yet, far from encouraging  county councillors to leave their cars at home,  SCC’s  current system of  councillor travel expenses is positively encouraging them to remain behind the wheel.  Lets look at the dilemma of a fictional county councillor living in my division,  Woodbridge. (I say fictional because, as we all know, I cycle or bus and don’t claim expenses anyway.)

It is an 18 mile-round cycle trip from Woodbridge to Endeavour House and back.  Assuming non-concessionary travel at morning peak (which gives the most expensive public transport fares)  the costs this councillor could legitimately claim for travel  vary as follows

  • Car ( 45p per mile): £8.10
  • Rail (return ticket):  £5.80
  • Bus (return ticket): £5.60
  • Cycle (15p per mile): £2.70
  • *Pedestrian: nothing

In other words, the amount of money claimable is in inverse proportion to the exercise undertaken.  Although the 18 miles -100 mins – cycling is the most healthy, all methods apart from  the car include some element of exercise. For rail one must walk, in my case,  1mile to the Woodbridge rail station, and a short distance at the other end to Endeavour house; for the bus I have to walk 20 mins from Tower Ramparts to Endeavour House -though one can also use the shuttle bus.

It seems totally anomalous that the claimable 15p per mile for cyclists (who are keeping fit, clearing the roads, preventing damage to the road surface  and saving taxpayers money in so many different ways) should contrast so starkly with the excessively generous 45p per mile currently accorded to those councillors who elect to save themselves effort and become health-riskers, air polluters and traffic jammers  – in short, drivers – at the expense of the taxpayer.  A show of hands in full council last week suggests these are the majority.

This is not just a matter of personal health and setting a good example. The number of such car-bound councillors MUST have a direct bearing on the number prepared to fight for a decent rural bus service – because they will not have experienced the difficulties of travelling by our currently poor, constantly changing and often unreliable rural buses. Indeed the lack of bus usage by elected members may actually provide some explanation for our poor rural bus services – ‘services’ that prevent so many people being able to rely on public transport . Councillors  might be personally motivated to challenge this state of affairs if they all got out of their cars and relied on the buses themselves.

In light of the Suffolk 2013 Public health report this seems particularly depressing.

At Full Council last Thursday  I asked the following question of Leader, Mark Bee

 “ as you have made it a council commitment that Suffolk should be ” the greenest county” and that we should  ”strive to improve the health, lifechances  and life expectancy of our residents”,  will you now commit to a reduction of the extremely generous mileage allowance Suffolk County councillors get if they use their own cars for transport on county council business – and instead to incentivise county councillors  to set a good example  to the residents of Suffolk by travelling by public transport or bicycle?

In response he promised to bring my question to the attention of the independent remuneration committee. I very much hope he will do so!

 

* I have made this journey by foot on a few occasions, but even I am prepared to say this is an unsustainable method of transport on a daily basis – as it takes five or six hours for the return trip!