Woodbridge Town Council report: February 2010

Boundary Committee update

I can almost not bear to continue  more or less repeating the same old mantra. The deadline for responses to the Secretary of State’s proposals has passed. Now, as we know, the Secretary of state has a number of options to choose from including:

  1. Select a new structure of local government in Suffolk, consisting of a whole Suffolk Unitary, their preferred option for a new structure.
  2. Select an alternative new structure of local government for Suffolk, consisting of a North Haven Unitary comprising of Ipswich and Felixstowe, and a Rural Suffolk unitary.
  3. Refer back to the original proposal, of a sole Ipswich Unitary.
  4. Take no action.
Don't we live in a lovely town! You can see all of Woodbridge from Sutton Hoo

So…

We now carry on waiting to hear what the Secretary of State will decide; however, there is still no set date for announcement . There is recess from tomorrow to 22 February, so unless they’re announcing it now, it is not likely to be until late February or early March, which could make elections this year extremely difficult.

Parking in Woodbridge I have just been contacted today by the  Sub Team Leader, Integrated Transport (East) about Suffolk Coastal’s proposal to introduce Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday charges for parking at the Avenue, Woodbridge. She is minded to reject this proposal because “This car park is currently well used during these above times as it is adjacent to the recreation area, tennis courts, riverside recreation area. You will be aware that the recreation ground is widely used for football matches on Saturdays and Sundays, as such even with the car park free at these times, overflow vehicles park on nearby adjacent roads, restricting the parking available for residents. Introducing charges will exacerbate the problem as drivers will seek free parking first on the residential roads. This will again cause problems for the residents of these roads and will increase the number of roads and consequently residents affected.” If Woodbridge Town Council have opposing reasons and see merit in introducing charges, perhaps they could contact Ms Rapley urgently. The Woodbridge proposed TROs (parking) are now being written up before being put before bothe Woodbridge Town Council and the public for final consultation. Rail Services The railway between Ipswich and Lowestoft via Saxmundham is known as the East Suffolk line. Once a double track main line, it was reduced to two sections of single track in the early 1980’s, which is why the train service is generally of a two hourly interval. However in recent years there has been a renaissance on the route with passenger numbers increasing by around 16% each year An hourly interval service will operate between Ipswich and Saxmundham from December 2010 and when a passing loop is built at Beccles, there will be an hourly interval service between Ipswich and Lowestoft from December 2012. The East Suffolk Line Development Group (ESLDG) has been formed consisting of officers from Suffolk County Council, Ipswich Borough Council, Suffolk Coastal District Council, Waveney District Council, Network Rail, National Express East Anglia (NXEA) and members of the East Suffolk Lines Community Rail Partnership. The ESDLG has published the Draft East Suffolk Line Stations Investment Plan. The document describes the method used to audit facilities at each station plus the Felixstowe branch line and contains opportunities to improve facilities at each of these stations. The East Suffolk Line Stations Investment Plan can be viewed by using the following link: http://www.suffolkonboard.com/rail/east_suffolk_line_stations_investment_plan. There is also a comments form should you wish to respond to this consultation. The closing date for responses is 29th March 2010. Comments received from this consultation will be taken into consideration when an Action Plan for investment on the East Suffolk Line stations is produced later in 2010.

Budget The County Council announced that the Council Tax would be increased by 2.4% over the next year. Areas that are being prioritised for extra spending include:

  • £1.5m as a one-off payment for roads maintenance to help deal with the effects of the particularly harsh winter
  • £1.7m to continue the investment in social workers to help support vulnerable children and their families
  • £1.6m to pay for the additional numbers and more complex placements of young people coming into the care system
  • £4m to help care for older people who most need specialist support
  • £1.6m to pay for extra landfill tax

There are still areas within the budget that are overspent, including Children and Young Persons by £2m, mainly due to the increasing cost for Home to School Transport and for Adult and Community Services by £1.7m due to the increasing demographic. In addition to this within the capital budget, SOR will be costing over £100m The budget will be approved at a special meeting on the 18th February. The particularly worrying bit from my point of view.is that the budget appears to suggest a gradual transfer of subsidised rural bus services from regular services to demand-responsive, booked-in-advance services without adequate consultation. Despite huge budgetary pressure, I notice a very large sum (£1,269,000) is allocated in the Environment and Transport Capital Programme 2010-11 for the “Demand Responsive Transport project”). I questioned this at the pre-budget Council meeting and was told “The £1.269M in the budget proposals will introduce a new system for booking, planning and managing demand responsive transport, with benefits to users from increased “opening times” to take bookings, and bookings able to be made closer to the time of travel.” All rural parish councils north and west of Woodbridge as far north as Aldringham and Sternfield are being surveyed. Unfortunately replacing scheduled bus services here will impact severely on the services – all of which pass through Woodbridge. I’m thinking here of the 62a and b, the 64 and the 65 services. These are represent almost all the buses that serve Woodbridge, which could potentially become the end of the line, rather than a stop on the way to multiple destinations. This would inevitably lead to a reduction for our residents.. I’m calling on Woodbridge Town Councillors and relevant district councillors of all political parties to join with me to look at this problem urgently.

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Woodbridge train services

The trains ( timetable http://www.carlberry.co.uk/rfnshowr.asp?RN=BR011J)

have been fairly reliable in recent years but suffers from there being a two hour wait between trains whether travelling north to Lowestoft or South to Saxmundham. From December 2010 there should be an hourly service between Ipswich and Saxmundham, but we are likely to pay for this with the discomfort of no longer having direct London trains.

I am on the Rail Travel policy group and am pressing to have a couple of these through trains retained if possible at peak times.

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Woodbridge bus timetables

http://www.firstgroup.com/ukbus/easterncounties/easterncounties/timetables/index.php?operator=22&page=5&redirect=no

This link gets you through to the First Eastern Counties bus timetables. You need to be aware that at the moment the bus timetables are changing with very little reference to their passengers.

One Monday morning in November, I was standing at a Woodbridge bus stop, waiting for a bus that would get me to a 9am meeting in Ipswich. Well it would have, if it hadn’t been cut by First  Eastern Counties without any warning the day before. How to ruin a Monday morning quickly and efficiently, eh?

now, when I say without any warning, they certainly hadn’t warned me as a passenger – oh no.  Why they hadn’t even changed the timetables. They also hadn’t informed me, as the County Councillor. And they certainly hadn’t alerted me as spokesperson for Highways and Transport.

Did they think that nobody would notice?

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The way things are

Things are not looking good for the bus services in Woodbridge. From a ‘high’ of 4 Ipswich buses an hour back in the heady mid-nineties, we are now making do with 2 which come fairly reliably as long as you don’t wish to travel in the evenings or on Sundays and public holidays.  As if, eh?

And, to be fair,  travel to Ipswich hospital remains possible within working hours Monday to Saturday just  as long as you don’t mind a half mile walk to South wards. Although the new Garrett Anderson block incorporates   a bus  turning circle , no Woodbridge buses pass near that way. It adds too long to the timetable, explained the operator’s Suffolk County Council apologist. I wonder if they realise  that the bus timetable is meant to serve the public’s needs rather than the other way round.

This is, of course, in work times.  If you wish to visit the hospital in the severely restricted evening visiting hour be resigned to the fact that there is NO BUS AT ALL that goes anywhere near.  Woodbridge’s evening, Sunday and bank holiday bus  the 62a/b  – the one subsidised by Suffolk County Council – doesn’t follow the  daytime routes of the 63,64 and 65. Instead it makes its way from the Buttermarket in Ipswich,  along the Nacton Road and manages to avoid the hospital completely. You could almost think it was happening on purpose..

A cynic might suggest that the 62a/b is travelling THE  least populated route because it will make  it easier to cut the service in future… (after all, if it doesn’t pass the hospital it can’t be counted an essential service, can it?)

Remember folks, when it comes to buses its use it or lose it. Its fine to disregard them when you have a car – but there are times when people can’t – or can’t afford to – drive. And where is your bus then? We are reaching a Beeching situation with local buses – if we lose them now we may never get them back.

On a brighter note, we’re having better news with the rail service locally, in that – twenty years after it was first announced – it looks as if we may finally have an hourly service to and from Ipswich at the end of 2010.

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Woodbridge Town Council Report January 2010

Urgent: Gritting local roads and pavements

As you will have all seen the weather over the past few weeks has been extremely icy, and the Council has been sending its gritters out on a regular basis to keep the roads running and the county moving. Roads are salted and snow cleared according to a system of 4 priorities, with priority 1 being  all A and B class roads, and the busiest bus and commuter routes on other roads (treated on any occasion ice or snow is forecast to be a hazard) and priority 2,  Other significant bus routes and other commuter routes (treated if snow or ice is forecast to persist for much of the day, or shorter term conditions will be severe, e.g. rain turning to ice);

Foot: the only way to go up Ipswich Road on 17 December

Town and Parish Councils are able to ask for grit from Suffolk County Council to clear the pavements in their local areas.  The supply of grit can then be distributed around by a team of listed volunteers to help clear the pavements of ice.

I contacted Woodbridge Town Council  and Martlesham parish council last week to remind them  that Suffolk County Council provide roadside grit heaps / bins on request from town parish councils so local people can treat local trouble spots, which otherwise would not be treated. This is under the following conditions:

  • grit heaps / bins are generally placed in locations such as, the bottom of hills, junctions on minor roads which are on lower priority routes for gritting;
  • the grit from these heaps / bins must only be used on the public highway (which is, both the road surface – the carriageway, and the pavement – the footway)
  • requests for heaps / bins are only accepted from a town or parish council;
  • the location of the grit heaps / bins must be agreed by SCC
  • SCC does not purchase the bins; these must be provided by the Town or Parish Council
  • bins cost approximately between £150 and £450, depending on the type
  • grit heaps / bins will be replenished at the start of the gritting season and afterwards on request by contacting CSD call centre 0845 606 6171. (Under normal circumstances it can take 2 weeks to top up heaps as it is normally uneconomic to top up one heap in isolation);
  • SCC will not charge for the grit.
  • Town and Parish Councils are responsible for keeping the list of volunteers to spread the grit;
  • named volunteers for spreading grit or clearing snow can be insured through the county council’s insurance.

I also volunteered to help spread grit if necessary and to cover the cost of grit bins from my Locality Budget.

As Woodbridge has a larger than average older population this would seem a useful arrangement.  This scheme is working well in many parts of the county, but as far as I know, Woodbridge Town Council has not so far made use of these arrangements.

In February the issue of gritting will be covered by the Roads and Transport scrutiny committee. I am happy to take any comments to the meeting.

Additionally, the severe frost has damaged many recent repairs to the road surface across Suffolk. I talked to Derek Oldham at the Eastern Area Highways team today. They are acutely aware of these and will be planning to repair as soon as the weather gets better . For particularly dangerous spots they will do a temporary repair to last till then.  The Easter Area Highways team are asking people to report any recently appearing holes in the road surface.

Temporary Closure of Angel Lane Woodbridge

Angel Lane, Woodbridge will be closed 25 January to 5 February to enable works to construct a kerb build out.  Access will be open for pedestrians and cyclists.

The diversion route will be via Bredfield Road – North Hill – Pytches Road – B1438 Melton Hill – Lime Kiln Quay Road – Quayside – Quay Street – Church Street – Market Hill.

This is not as reported in the Evening Star, which gave different dates and suggested that the lane might be closed for as long as 18 months

County Council Forward Items

The New Year is a busy time for the County Council as the annual budget is set at the February meeting. This is one of the most important meetings of the year, particularly as economies will have to be made.  I will keep you updated on news regarding the budget.

In addition to this the County Council may well  get the news that structural change will be put in  place, and it will then need to prepare for that.

Suffolk County Council School Admissions Policy

Suffolk County Council wants to hear your views on its admissions policy for 2011-12.  Between Monday the 4th of January and Friday the 26th of February, Suffolk CC is asking to hear people’s opinions about its proposed admissions policy for the 2011/12 school year.  The policies are designed to ensure that school places are offered in a fair way.

A description of the admissions policies for schools and for more information about how to respond to the consultation, can be found on the SCC website at http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/EducationAndLearning/Schools/AdmissionsToSchools/School+AdmissionsConsultation201112.htm

Stars of Suffolk Awards

The 2010 Stars of Suffolk awards launched in December aiming to find your local hero.  Now in its second year, the awards, run by S.C.C and the Evening Star are looking for nominations for 13 categories, as well as two special categories, Overall Winner and Special Recognition.  The winners will then receive their award at a gala evening in Endeavour House later in the year.

Nominations for a Star of Suffolk award will close on the 1st of February at 1pm.

To nominate an individual you can go to http://www.onesuffolk.co.uk/starsofsuffolk/ or alternatively call 01473 264387 and an application pack will be sent out to you.

Suffolk County Council campaign for faster internet

Suffolk County Council is attempting to gain funding for faster broadband across the  the county, especially in rural areas.  The webpage http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/News/BreakingNews/SpeedUpSuffolkCampaign.htm explains some of the reasons for increasing the speed of the internet in rural areas, but also information on how to vote to try and secure funding to improve telecommunications across the county.

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Caroline Page, County Councillor for Woodbridge