Category Archives: Roads

Whats up in Suffolk June to July 2016

Caroline Page, Woodbridge County Councillor (Phot: Toby Gray Photography)
Caroline Page, Woodbridge County Councillor (Phot: Toby Gray Photography)

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

  1. having no competition to ensure that they are offering good value for money
  2. 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
  3. 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.

 

Proposed Gladman development on Woodbridge fringe

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.
  • Sandy Lane Gladman plan detailThe  ‘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

Woodbridge 20mph limit – what you may have missed!

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 but it needed a change of policy from SCC – and all the work I and other policy panel members have put in over the last year to make it possible

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).

Dear Sir

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

Let us see what now transpires!

Warwick Avenue and Haugh Lane repairs: dates finalised

Warwick AveGood 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!

Whats happening in Suffolk Nov 2014

Care UK   There is serious concern at the way Care Uk is running some of the care homes in Suffolk. Councillor Alan Murray has been challenged as to what the council is doing to rectify these problems. The firm took over SCC’s 16 care homes in 2012 and is in the process of building 10 purpose-built replacements

A CQC inspection last month found Mildenhall Lodge below standard in four of five categories while a safeguarding inspection raised concerns about another home, Asterbury Place.

We’ve been told that “Care UK have committed additional support to both Mildenhall Lodge and Asterbury Place in Ipswich until all of the improvements are completed.  SCC officers continue to monitor improvements…  and will continue to have regular contact with any relatives who wish to discuss any concern whilst final improvements are made in both homes”.

SCC Health Scrutiny looked at current arrangements for ensuring the quality of care in residential homes in Suffolk in October concluded that:

a)        It was not fully satisfied that lessons had been learned from the findings of the recent CQC inspection of Mildenhall Lodge. Further, that the Committee was not yet satisfied that all the appropriate steps had been taken to improve the quality of care at Mildenhall Lodge and in the other Suffolk homes run by Care UK.

b)         that at its meeting on 20 January 2015 it wished to receive a further report, providing an update and including detailed evidence about:

i)          what had been done to ensure that all Suffolk homes run by Care UK were meeting the essential standards monitored by the CQC;

ii)         the current ratings of all Suffolk homes run by Care UK;

iii)        the views of residents and their families, gathered in a systematic way;

iv)        what steps had been taken within the County Council to strengthen contract management arrangements within Adult and Community Services;

v)         the findings of a recent ADASS (Association of Directors of Adult Social Services)  national benchmarking exercise in relation to contract management arrangements in neighbouring authorities and how Suffolk compared

Civil Parking Enforcement  SCC Cabinet are looking to extend an agreement with Ipswich Borough Council to enable IBC to continue undertaking Civil Parking Enforcement in Ipswich for another 5 years. ALthoough this is Ipswich-specific, it is interesting because the arrangement has been in place for 9 years and  the key benefits, perceived at the start are still held to be true today.

These are:

  • Most cost effective  management of on- and off-street parking enforcement
  • Safer traffic conditions and improved traffic floe
  • More locally accountable

The suggestion is that CPE may be extended beyond Ipswich. Officers make the point that it will always be an easier option in an urban than a rural setting.

Revised Guidance for Parking  Suffolk County Council Cabinet is looking today at adopting a revised “Suffolk Guidance for Parking’. It has been updated to support the next generation of green transport, eg supporting electric vehicle charging points, minimum bicycle parking requirements and priority Car Club parking spaces in planning decisions. A rather more contentious section states:

“In line with national policy, the guidance includes a minimum of car parking spaces for new residences to replace the maximum limit contained in the previous standards. The absence of such a minimum standard has led to many cases of inadequate residential parking on new developments leading to unsightly and unsafe on-street parking congestion. The implementation of a minimum standard provides an opportunity to provide an appropriate level of parking that meets the day-to-day needs of occupiers.” It also gives specific minimum dimensions for car parking spaces.

Although the 2011 Census revealed that 14% of households in Suffolk Coastal were carless, it also revealed there were 3% of households with 4 cars or more!

If this policy is adopted centrally, it would be up to Suffolk Coastal District Council to adopt this policy although SCC recommends that they adopt it as a supplementary planning policy.

Recommendations on parking design are also made in an appendix, to ameliorate the ugliness of parking areas. Again, whether individual district councils sign up to this is individual!

0345 numbers for Suffolk County Council

From last month the county council has changed all of its 0845 telephone numbers to 0345. The remaining seven digits of the telephone numbers are remaining exactly the same. This includes the telephone numbers for people wanting to apply for a school place for their child, reporting a pothole or road defect and the Families Information Service.

Calls to 0345 numbers from landlines and mobiles are included in free call packages. For customers with these packages, it will mean calling the council on these numbers, does not incur any additional costs. For people not on free call packages, a call to a 0345 number costs no more than a geographical number (eg: 01284, 01787 and 01473).

Existing 0845 numbers are not being switched off overnight. There will be a period of time where the 0845 number, and its replacement 0345 number, will both be live. This is to ensure people can still access the services they need whilst getting used to the new numbers. It will also mean the county council only replaces printed materials and liveries when current stocks run out.

All Freephone numbers starting 0800 will also remain unchanged.

Childrens Centres There was an attempt to halt the current consultation and possible closures, but unfortunately this failed. The results of the consultation will be presented to SCC cabinet on 9th December.

Surgery  My surgery is on the third Saturday of the month, as ever. 10-12, in Woodbridge Library