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.
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
Though these last few weeks have been dominated by the national Referendum and the Norfolk and Suffolk Devolution debates, other things have – of course – been happening on the domestic front. The big issues in SCC have been a new plan for maintaining Suffolk’s Highways and the future of the Ipswich Park and Ride, not to mention the political stability of the Conservative administration, while locally,there has been continuing work to secure the future of the Woodbridge Youth Centre
A new Highway Maintenance Operational Plan SCC’s Cabinet has just approved Suffolk’s new Highway Maintenance Operational Plan.
Basically they had little option because the past Highways Maintenance plans have been a disaster, criticised by everyone, regardless of party affiliation. (And anyway, this Plan has been running (‘trialled’) without Cabinet consent since early May.)
The good news is that it concedes that the previous way of Highways Maintenance working was unwieldy and inefficient, as county, town and district councillors across Suffolk can testify. There will now be a much more unified and strategic way of working between SCC and contractors Kier to try and make things work more efficiently than they have (with clear matrices for action for all eventualities). This may mean that the Highways small schemes backlog may clear at long, long last.
The bad news is that the mantra of ‘you’ve got to pay the market price for the work you get’ is very much to the fore, so there is no suggestion of many highways schemes being affordable any more. (An example was given of how a simple Highways marking job where the paint cost £49 would be charged out at £1989.) Unfortunately this seems to be the inevitable result of a market driven solution. Small towns like Woodbridge will no longer be able to rely on their County Councillors’ Highways budgets. Currently these are half what they were at best (mine is £6660 this year). Yet jobs will be many times more expensive.
At the Cabinet meeting I asked whether this was not a case of the ‘tail wagging the dog’? That this newly designed Highways Maintenance Operational Plan (the second one in a year!) had been constructed to fit the contractor because the contractor had been unable to stick to the agreed plan?(This was loudly rejected – but with little evidence).
In particular I pointed out the anomaly of a private organisation uttering the ‘you’ve got to pay the market price for the work you get’ mantra whilst
having no competition to ensure that they are offering good value for money
charging for the time worked by SCC officers on projects (when these officers have already been paid by SCC) when billing councillors for these projects and
failing to recognise the principle of counter-charge that ought to apply when the contractor wastes the time of County Councillors – who they rely on heavily for advocacy and intermediary work.
Surely these charges must be reciprocal? I suggested. Surely a free market model will not be wholly accurate unless the councillors too have a market rate set against the work they do? For equity, a charge for councillors’ work ought to be introduced which could then be levied against excessive charges and the incompetence of the contractor. Why should local highways budgets suffer from inflated charges without any redress?
Naturally this is far too sensible and logical a suggestion to be accepted by the SCC administration, but I am recording it to ensure you are aware that the suggestion was made by me, in defence of local councillors’ highways budgets.
For the rest, we will have to wait to see how this will pan out.
SCC’s Conservative majority on a knife-edge After a Conservative Carlford win Suffolk County Council continues to be led by a technical minority administration, with the following political make-up:
Conservative 37 – Labour 15; LibDem 7; UKIP 10; Green 2; Independent 4 (eg a technical opposition of 38)
However, one of the Independents remains the notorious Hadleigh councillor, ex-Conservative Brian Reilly, who will insist on holding onto his council seat although disgracefully he has lived in North Carolina for a long time now. In Cllr Riley’s absence this makes the vote 37:37. On the rare occasions he graces the chamber with his presence, he votes with the Conservatives (this presumably being why they have been so reluctant to take constructive steps to get him removed).
Future of the Ipswich Park & Ride SCC’s administration’s plans to make the Park & Ride service self-supporting by getting the bus companies that operate alongside it to take over its services were looked at by the Suffolk CC’s Scrutiny committee who were not satisfied with what they saw and voted to send the plans back to Cabinet. These were reassessed and once again passed.
In a slightly rewritten proposal the ultimate future of the P&R will not hang immediately on the success of this scheme. If it fails, the plan will have to go back to Cabinet for reassessment before any thought of closure. However, Woodbridge and Martlesham residents will be concerned to discover there is as yet no clarity as to which First buses will be operating at the Martlesham end. This obviously makes a difference – both to the P&R service AND to the service it operates within.
(I had been told by officers very clearly that it would NOT be the Martlesham-terminating 66, but our less circuitous 63, 64, 65 will become Park and Ride buses. The Labour spokesperson has been equally clearly informed it will be the 66. I asked Cabinet Member James Finch for disambiguation at the previous Cabinet meeting. Unfortunately he had no idea whatsoever.)
I have been promised that once the scheme has been passed we will get confirmation as to which of these two options will be in operation.
I remain unsure how successfully this service will work. It seemed to me that the best way to make the P&R more income-generating would be to make it more responsive to unmet demand – and that would be to provide a good service for London commuters. This our local buses does not do.
Indeed at the moment I cannot see any very compelling reason why people should now drive to the P&R from Woodbridge rather than getting on the same bus in Woodbridge – especially as they will be able to use their bus passes in Woodbridge but will pay to sit on the same bus if they board it at the Park & Ride! We will wait and see as more details emerge.
I have written with the significant concerns I have regarding the outline planning application proposed for the land east of Bridge Farm, Top Street, Martlesham – the impact of which would fall within the Woodbridge division.
While we all recognise the desperate need for affordable housing in oue area, I would be very concerned if permission for this particular development were to go ahead (particularly as the proposed development of 2000 houses at Martlesham Adastral Park still remains under consideration).
Apart from the fact that this is the last piece of greenfield separating Woodbridge from Martlesham – a fact which holds great significance for both communities – my principal concerns deal with transport:
The application proposes vehicular access. Proposed access for residents’ cars is onto
i) a narrow uphill section of Top Street just after a railway bridge and
ii) a wider, but heavily used and equally uphill section of B1438 (here called Ipswich Road ) which is heavily used, being the main access road through Woodbridge.
Neither seem to be adequate or appropriate exits onto the roads in question. There appear to be no other viable options.
The ‘proposed public open space footpath route’ as labelled on the Gladman plan (see left – click to enlarge: an open corridor that leads from Sandy Lane, at a place that has no pavement towards Woodbridge or ongoing footpath without a risky walk around a blind bend under the railway bridge, to a part of Top Street which has no pavement or ongoing footpath) is misleading. It is in fact the corridor through which the EA One underground high tension cabling is due to be routed. And on which restrictive covenants will remain in place afterwards preventing building and planting (further details here ) This is therefore not a ‘proposed public open space footpath route’but a guaranteed space along which it is not possible to build or plant, which leads to nowhere substantive – and for which any developer needs to find an explanation.
I do not know what the planning guidance is on EMFs (Electro magnetic fields) and health when planning a new development – particularly one housing young families, and most particularly when there is a proposed children’s play area right next to buried high voltage lines? The location causes me considerable disquiet.
Planning development with affordable housing will help house young families who cannot afford local prices. Sadly this development would not encourage children to walk to school or socialise in Woodbridge, or indeed encourage any residents to walk to Woodbridge, or young parents with buggies to walk anywhere as the ‘footpath’ debouches onto two pieces of road without footways. If the primary catchment is Kyson (as Kyson’s catchment map suggests) there will be no safe means to walk to the school, unless a crossing is built across the Ipswich Road. Apart from expense, this which would cause congestion and possible accidents in rush hour as the B1438 is the principal exit route for Woodbridge commuters.
However, without a crossing, the County Council will potentially face a large and ongoing bill for education transport on ‘safety of the route’ grounds.
The other great need for affordable housing is amongst the older downsizers. These may often have the same requirements for pedestrian access as young families. And again these are not met.
In short, if a housing development – and specifically one with a significant affordable element – is proposed, it needs to be placed where it is safe and convenient for people to live and where they find safe and convenient ways to get to work, to education and to socialise. The location of this proposed development does not provide for this
Recent coverage in the EADT of Woodbridge Town Council’s deliberations on a 20mph zone failed completely to acknowledge the work I have been putting in, both as your councillor, and as longstanding member of the Suffolk transport policy development panel, to get the issue on the map and solve it.
I have been attempting to get speeding restrictions in Woodbridge since I became a county councillor, but had been stymied by a lack of standardisation across the county – an ad hoc muddle which came to an abrupt halt a few years back when a previous SCC Cabinet member declared he would allow no more traffic restrictions. The county had enough of them, he said! (Talk about treating the county as a personal fiefdom!)
As founder member of the Suffolk cross-party Transport and Highways policy development panel which was set up under the last SCC Leader, Mark Bee , I was one of the councillors who developed a standard framework for Suffolk to assess and agree 20mph zones. This was to replace the chaos which existed before.
As County Councillor, I also ensured that Woodbridge was then placed on the list for assessment for 20mph zoning in fulfilment of its longstanding and oft-articulated desire for this . Woodbridge has been on this list since last September. The reason it has not progressed is made clear below.
All of this was clearly summarised in my annual Report to Woodbridge Town Council of a couple of months ago, and posted on my blog, for both Woodbridge Town Council and the EADT to refer to!
This letter I wrote on the subject appeared in yesterdays EADT (22/07/2015).
Last week you reported Woodbridge Town Council’s deliberations over speeding and a local community appeal for a 20mph zone. However there was no mention in your report that Woodbridge has been on the SCC waiting-list to be assessed for 20mph status since last September!
Over the last couple of years the County Council had established a successful cross-party ‘policy development panel’(PDP) – of I was a founder member – to make sure that Suffolk’s transport and highways policy in areas such as speed limits was finally standardised to benefit the whole county equally via a joined-up approach.
Woodbridge, which has long needed a 20mph limit, was due to benefit from this refreshingly practical system.
Unfortunately since Suffolk’s mid-term change of leadership, this extremely useful and proactive panel’s scheduled regular meetings have been cancelled at a few hours’ notice. I wrote to ask the reason and for conformation as to whether this productive and hardworking PDP would continue to meet in the future. In reply we were told, “I hope to have a clear future policy on these groups before too long!”
The group was halfway through various pieces of work, continuing the clear benefits to Suffolk that the work of the PDP has shown from the start. If valuable work and joined-up policy-making are to be put to one side because of SCC’s mid-term change of leadership it is to the disbenefit of all Suffolk residents, including my constituents in Woodbridge, still waiting patiently for their long-needed lower speed limit
Good news for Woodbridge residents. Dates for repairing these roads have been finalised. And they are still – just– in this financial year as promised – although disgracefully right at the last moment, finishing within a week of the end of the financial year. Any more ‘slippage’ KMG and you’d be over the edge and fail to meet your promised target!
Warwick Avenue is due to be resurfaced on 24th March 2015, over 4 days. Haugh Lane will be resurfaced on 23rd March, over 4 days.
Both roads are old concrete slab roads which have severely deteriorated. SCC Highways had previously considered in-situ recycling but it turned out that the slabs contained steel reinforcement, making this impossible. (This explains the delay to work which had been scheduled for November. ) SCC’s contractor KMG are bringing in a specialist surfacing contractor who will remove any asphalt overlay, repair the joints between the slabs, repair any damaged concrete and then overlay with a high strength asphalt overlay.
Let us hope this is a satisfactory end to several years of lobbying- by myself and the residents of Warwick Avenue and Haugh Lane!