Substance of my letter to Jamie Burles, Managing Director, Greater Anglia, 20 Feb
I’m writing to you in great concern in your role as Greater Anglia’s Managing Director, having been forwarded worrying correspondence from a constituent.
As you will see, he wrote to Greater Anglia about your recent installation of anti-bird wires at the station, and reminded Greater Anglia of the damage this would do to the families of hirondelles (swallows/swifts/martins) who nest at the Woodbridge station. These are not a huge number, but the birds return to their nesting sites year after year.
My constituent offered to point out the places where the wires could be removed in order that these wonderful, and increasingly endangered birds could continue their blameless existence
Disappointingly, his offer was met with a response from customer services at Greater Anglia, that was terse, not to say rude and extraordinarily authoritarian in tone. It was also extremely ignorant of the habits of the birds in question:
The anti-bird wires have been placed at the station to prevent damage to the station and will not be removed.
I do hope that house martins find more suitable nesting sites and I am sorry that you will not get to see them with their chicks this year.
Mr Burles – perhaps Greater Anglia might bear in mind that Woodbridge Station has been in place since 1859! I would imagine that hirondelles have been nesting here all this time (they return to the same nesting places year after year). They have done no damage in the 160 years the station has been opened. Why on earth should Greater Anglia claim they do so now? And why should Greater Anglia claim other sites as being ‘more suitable’? For whom?
As all long-term residents of the town are aware, these birds are one of the delights of Woodbridge station. They make us heart-soaringly happy every spring and summer whatever the weather. Their arrival is a long-anticipated tradition.
Very unfortunately Greater Anglia repainted the station ceiling in 2017 at seemingly the moment the swallows/martins were about to nest. In consequence last season’s hirondelle nests vanished and the regular commuters of Woodbridge (of whom I am one) lost the joy of watching the little families appear. This would seem to be in contravention to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
When GA wrote “I am sorry that you will not get to see them with their chicks this year” you seem unaware that Greater Anglia was instrumental in this happening last year too!
Because the swift-flying, joyous swallows and martins were displaced, pigeons moved in to Woodbridge station last summer – and they do cause damage. This is presumably why Greater Anglia has suddenly installed bird wires. Talk about unintended consequences.
If the swallows and martins were allowed to nest again in their traditional sites I would imagine the pigeons would vanish. They never nested at the station before.
Can I just add that this matter is time-sensitive. Hirondelles are summer visitors.These amazing – and increasingly endangered – little birds are likely to be already on the wing, making their long journey back from Africa to nest at our station sometime in March.
Bearing this in mind, and knowing that Greater Anglia did not have the full details when you first wrote to my constituent, I am writing to you, as Managing Director, in the hope that Greater Anglia will change its mind and remove the bird wires, if only from around the hirondelle nesting sites in the corners of Woodbridge station. Not that they seem effective in stopping the pigeons from nesting.
Doing so would not only immeasurably improve quality of life (for both the hirondelles and the commuters who watch them), it would also place Greater Anglia in a very good light, as a company that is suitably responsive to issues that are very important to local people.
This month’s main issues have been devolution, government proposals to close most of Suffolk’s courts, the poor deal for Suffolk rail travellers in the new rail franchised invitation to tender, and a couple of pieces of good news(Woodbridge Youth club and the Drummer Boy)
Potential devolution of Suffolk The devolution agenda continues. It now seems that the government will welcome a combined bid from Norfolk and Suffolk but neither severally. Currently very little emphasis has been placed on transport – which is something that might really benefit from the increased per capita funding and re-regulatory approach we might go for with devolution. On 22nd September leaders from all Suffolk and Norfolk councils, and representatives of the New Anglia LEP agreed a ‘framework document’ highlighting the key areas to be devolved. They will meet again on 14 October to continue discussions.
20mph, other traffic calming – and Woodbridge After the year of work by myself and colleagues on the Transport policy development panel last year, creating speed limits frameworks and criteria, Suffolk County Council have trained up a panel and have starting looking at individual speed limits cases. The Speed Limits Panel is a panel of four councillors – one from each main party. Cases are looked at by officers and if the case cannot be decided simply, it is brought in front of the panel. There are no witnesses – but the local County Councillor represents the case.
Woodbridge has expressed a longstanding desire to lower speed limits since first I became County Councillor, but has not yet articulated to me or to the Highways team the exact areas it would like to have calmed. It is useful if this evidence comes from a wide variety of sources – as this suggests that the desire is widespread.
I therefore have asked various groups who have contacted me on this matter to start collecting evidence, including the Transport strand of the Neighbourhood plan. I hope Woodbridge Town Council Highways Committee will take part in this exercise
Woodbridge Youth Centre now Asset of Community Value The application by Just 42, and supported by me, for the Woodbridge Youth Centre to be registered as an Asset of Community Value was approved on 30th of September, after the statutory 8 week consultation process. While this does not protect it completely, it does give us some time to marshal a defence, should there be any unexpected move to sell it off.
East Anglian Rail Franchise – Invitation to Tender The invitation to tender for the next Rail Franchise came out on 17 September, and the detail is disappointing. Sadly the DfT has taken no notice of the various voices (including my own) calling loudly and clearly for better rail services East to West and to Peterborough. As the DfT have refused to act – suggesting that the pressure was for better and faster Norwich to London services (which it certainly wasn’t from SCC, or myself, let alone from local pressure groups) it looks as if passengers will have to endure the same poor service for years to come unless our local MPs can exert some pressure on the DfT. This is a shame as there is not only a lot of potential on these routes, but developing them would actually take much-needed pressure off the London line and provide easy means of transport to work to eg Cambridge with its ever-increasing housing prices.
MoJ’s Consultation on closing Suffolk Law Courts The Ministry of Justice has just concluded a consultation on proposals to close all law courts in Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft leaving the whole of Suffolk with just the courts in Ipswich.
This is an issue that will obviously concern everyone – as even residents in places like Woodbridge (which might deem themselves to be ‘unaffected’) will be badly affected by the inevitable queues and waiting that will occur when two thirds of the current provision for family courts, small claims courts, magistrates courts, trading standards etc etc disappears. All of us who know Suffolk magistrates will know how much of a bottle-neck has occurred in the judicial process already since the last round of closures in the 90s.
In brief, the Ministry of Justice proposes that Lowestoft Magistrates’ Court, County Court and Family Court and Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court and Family Court and Bury St Edmunds Crown Court are closed (full details) All this to save £600,000 a year.
Putting aside anxieties about ‘trial by video , it would seem particularly ironic that Suffolk’s legal representation is in danger of being reduced to one single court with all the difficulties of access from the west, mid-Suffolk, and the north of the county, in this iconic Magna Carta anniversary year.
With rural public transport as it is, there are also human rights issues for anyone having to attend courts as witness, defendant or appellant, or as a juror or any number of other situations. The Ministry of Justice are talking about trial by video links. That will not be a substitute for face to face justice!
The County Council debated the issue last month and reached cross-party unanimity that this was a bad idea, and replied accordingly.
I have also responded as your councillor and as Suffolk County’s LibDem spokesman on Transport . My personal view is that transport issues are key to why these proposals are flawed and need to be rejected.
I copied all links and information to both Martlesham Parish and Woodbridge Town clerks in case you wished to reply, because Martlesham Parish councillors (to whom I reported last week) specifically asked how they could respond to these proposals and intended to do so.
The ‘Drummer Boy’ statue As a delighted reader of Kipling’s short stories, I’ve long been pleased that Woodbridge houses the only statue seemingly ever made of Jakin and Lew, “a brace of the most finished little fiends that ever banged drum or tootled fife in the Band of The Fore and Fit Princess Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen-Anspach’s Merther-Tydfilshire Own Royal Loyal Light Infantry, Regimental District 329A” – which, today, we in Woodbridge are pleased to call for short, The Drummer Boy or The Drums of the Fore and Aft.
When I heard of the possible move of the Drummer Boy from Woodbridge to Girdlestones, I immediately offered £1,500 from my locality budget towards relocating the statue within town. I am glad that it seems as if the Woodbridge Heritage Group’s arguments have prevailed, and we will keep Kipling’s ‘bold bad’ brave Drummer Boys in the town.