local issues important to you
Babergh Hits Five-Year Housing Supply Target
Wednesday, June 11, 12.00
A brake is set to be applied to speculative planning applications after Babergh hit its house building target.
Latest figures released show Babergh District Council now has a 6.7 year land supply, ahead of the
Government’s five-year land supply requirement.
Since April last year the council was unable to show it was building enough homes and that meant its local policies carried less weight in planning considerations, and the National Planning Policy Framework, took precedence.
However, 331 dwellings were built in Babergh last year, 102% of its target of 325, while, up to April 1, 2018, 4,377 planning permissions were outstanding, which means the council can calculate it has a core strategy based land supply of 6.7 years.
Now that Babergh can demonstrate a five- year Housing Land Supply, the council will have greater control to implement the local policies District Councillors have previously endorsed, and puts the council in a stronger position to refuse inappropriate proposals.
Cllr Nick Ridley, Babergh District Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning, said: “The scale of the housing challenge in the UK is clear: a great many local planning authorities do not have a five-year Housing Land Supply as demand for housing rises.
“Thanks to the tough choices taken at Babergh, both by our Planning Committee and by the Cabinet, Babergh is now one of the authorities who can demonstrate a supply.
“This will give us more room to shape housing delivery within the district and ensure we build the housing our communities need, with as much local influence over developments within the district.”
Derek Davis, district councilor for Berners ward on the peninsula, which covers, Shotley, Chelmondiston, Erwarton, Woolverstone and Freston, said: “This is an important development and should be good news for protecting and conserving areas on the peninsula, and indeed the wider district.
”There have been times when we as planning committee members have dealt with applications local residents were very unhappy with but we had to be mindful of the over-riding national policies.
“While not quite open season for developers, it certainly made it easier for them to put forward applications they may not have considered doing so a couple of years ago.
“Applications will still come forward, and we still need some housing, but we will be better placed to ensure what is approved is the right sort of homes, in the right places, in line with our own policies.”
Alton ward councillor Alastair McCraw, who represents Brantham, Stutton and Tattingstone, said: "This is absolutely huge news. The important thing is that with more than six years ,we rise above a 20% buffer that is applied.
"Our own policies can now be applied as opposed to the automatic presumption that we must grant planning permission. Now, however, we still need to maintain that five-year Housing Land Supply."
Parishes are still being encouraged to put forward their own Neighbourhood Development plans, to ensure they have greater influence on development in their area.
Chelmondiston were recently awarded a grant of more than £8,000 to start work on producing its plan, while Woolverstone is working towards starting on theirs.
Babergh's full Annual Monitoring Report is available online at:
Open Invite To Housing Needs Information Morning
Tuesday, June 26, 13.00
Babergh is marking Rural Housing week by inviting residents and community groups interested in local housing needs and affordable home to meet up with experts from Community Action Suffolk and Hastoe Housing Association.
Rural Housing week is a national, annual celebration aiming to highlight rural housing issues and showcase innovative solutions for tackling them.
It’s an excellent opportunity to shine a spotlight on successful developments that offer a lifeline to local people in our market towns and villages, and to explain how housing is vital for the survival of rural communities and services.
Babergh's event in Lavenham will consist of a morning of information on and discussion of rural housing issues affecting all areas, including the peninsula.
The issues on the agenda include:
- Learning about Local Needs Housing Surveys
- Hearing more about the progress of the Community-led Housing Scheme under construction in Lavenham
- Learning more about the Planning Process for rural schemes
- Finding out how councils and partner organisations can help deliver local schemes
- Learning about the Community Housing Fund
The morning begins at 10am on Wednesday, July 4, at Lavenham Village Hall, Church Street, Lavenham, CO10 9QT.
The discussions will be followed by a chance for attendees to meet each other and share their experiences of housing provision in Suffolk at a networking lunch.
Cllr Jan Osborne, Babergh District Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “Housing shortages are rarely out of the news, and Rural Housing Week is an opportunity not only to talk about how this shortage affects rural areas, but also to shout about the excellent work communities themselves can do and are doing to address the problem. Here in Lavenham we have an incredible example in the Lavenham Community Land Trust, and I hope many more communities will be inspired to follow their example and deliver the housing that is right for them.”
Attendance is free and anyone interested can contact Elizabeth Ling, Community Housing Enabling Officer, on 07808 201 939 or via firstname.lastname@example.org
Babergh Trailblazing Developer Contribution Database Pilot
Thursday, June 14, 17.00
Residents and those in the development industry will be able to see how money collected from developers as part of planning agreements is being spent on providing infrastructure for local communities when a new database goes online.
Babergh is working with the software provider Exacom as part of a pilot exercise involving two other local authorities to hone this innovative, new database which will transform the way that information is held for developer contributions paid for by legal agreements and the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).
Babergh District Council's Section 106 and CIL data will be used by the software provider in the launch of the Planning Obligations Public Facing Module across the country. This will be hosted on the Councils’ websites later in the summer and will enable people to search for information by district, ward, parish or infrastructure type with details of where monies are collected, allocated and spent. It will also allow people to see legal agreements secured as part of the planning process. The information will be updated daily.
Babergh expect to be able to host this database on their websites in the summer. Today, their data was used as part of the national launch of the database by Exacom.
The Public Facing Module, comprising of information on infrastructure funding in Babergh and Mid Suffolk can be viewed online at: http://pfm.exacom.co.uk/midsuffolkbabergh/index.php
Ralph Taylor and Geoff Kirby, Directors of Exacom, said: “We believe that this is a revolution in planning obligation transparency and will set the future standard in planning obligation transparency for the rest of the UK. We would like to thank Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Council for their assistance in launching this project with their planning obligation data”.
Babergh District Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning, Councillor Nick Ridley, said: “This is ground breaking technology and we are sure that residents across the district will be interested to see how contributions secured from developers as part of planning applications are benefiting their local communities. We are proud to be the first local authorities in the country to demonstrate this database.
Community Self Help Groups Warning
Wednesday, May 9, 07.00
Proposals to encourage peninsula parish councils to pay community groups to help sort out low level highways issues, including cleaning road signs, have been met with caution.
Suffolk County Council want parish councils to get villagers to do a raft of jobs that they are no longer able to carry out due to budget cuts.
These include cleaning road signs, trimming back hedges which are obstructing sight lines at junctions. But it does not include filling in pot holes.
Highways bosses have admitted that due to an increased number of reported pot holes they are operating with almost 30% of the budget they need to carry out the needed highways work.
Figures published by Suffolk Highways said that revenue funding had dropped by 40% over the last eight years and pointed to its sign maintenance budget – just £112,000 to look after the county’s 102,000 signs – as indicative of the funding squeeze.
Guidelines are currently being put together and expected to be launched in June with the process allowing peninsula parish councils to effectively hire, then train, a crew to carry out work
A survey sent to town and parish councils resulted in 152 responses, with 63% reporting that they already did low level works such as snow clearing, sign cleaning and vegetation clearance.
A Highways spokesman said: “This is not about communities undertaking work that we are able to and do undertake, but about how communities can add to and undertake more, on top of what we provide.”
Alastair McCraw Babergh district council for Alton ward, said: "For those parishes that want to do these things it will be nice to have permission and training. But some parishes will feel that they're being asked to do Suffolk County Councils job.
"Of course, we still can't fix the massive number of damaged or fallen signs or tackle the big problems."
Berners ward district councillor Derek Davis is concerned about an inequity in volunteers could leave some villages smartening up, while others would remain shabby.
Cllr Davis said: "There are some excellent examples of community groups and individuals that do excellent work in their particular area. However, other villages are not so blessed for a variety of reasons.
"It is all very well cutting budgets and following an austerity programme but when services are not being delivered then it shows the policies are not working.
"It is a shame county councils are being put into these situations mainly through a lack of support from central government."
Independent Given Rare Cabinet Position
Tuesday, April 10, 21.00
An Independent councillor from the peninsula has been given a position on the previously Conservative-only Babergh cabinet.
Derek Davis, district councillor for Berners ward, which comprises of Shotley, Erwarton, Chelmondiston, Woolverstone and Freston, was given the Organisational Delivery portfolio by leader John Ward, in the latest cabinet reshuffle.
Cllr Davis becomes the first and only non-Conservative member of the eight-person Babergh cabinet.
A former HMS Ganges trainee and a Shotley resident since 2001, Mr Davis was elected for the first time in May 2015 and is also a member of Babergh's planning committee.
John Ward vowed during his appointment as Babergh council leader he would be look to have a more inclusive cabinet and after discussions with Independent group leader Clive Arthey, approached councillor Davis to join the cabinet.
As an Independent Mr Davis will not be subject to the whip, meaning he will be free to vote as he sees fit, and voice his opinion without fear of party interference.
The organisational delivery portfolio includes looking to improve residents' interface experience with council officers, whether by telephone, the website and face to face, which has been severely criticised by members of the public.
Cllr Davis said: "Like many other councillors who are not party of the administration, or ruling party, I have been critical of how certain aspects of the council has been run.
"I have not agreed with many of the decisions and have not been backwards in saying so.
"However, it would be easy to continue sniping from the sidelines and not take this opportunity to try and make a positive difference.
"I want what is best for our council taxpayers, as I'm sure my colleagues do to.
"While I can't wave a magic wand and make everything perfect, as a cabinet member I can work with officers to find to how we can make improvements and try to provide a service we are all proud of."
Mr Davis is a freelance journalist by trade, and is the creator of Shotley Peninsula News and Features.com, he formerly worked for the Colchester Evening Gazette, Stoke Sentinel and was an award-winning sports journalist at the East Anglian Daily Times, before going freelance, writing for a number of national newspapers.
He also focusses on social media management and is instrumental in successfullypromoting businesses on the Shotley peninsula.
The full cabinet next meets on Thursday, 17.30, in Endeavour House, Ipswich.
Peninsula MP Votes To End Free School Meals For Millions
South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge has voted to end free school meals in England while doing deal with the DUP to keep them for children in Northern Ireland.
Mr Cartlidge was among 302 Tory MPS and nine DUP MPS that voted against an amendment to the act raising the threshold for children to receive a hot meal at school.
The cuts are part of the Conservative's flagship Universal Credit welfare policy, and means a million children from lower income families in England will miss out.
The new household earnings threshold now stands at £7,400 (apart from reception, and years one and two) while it is £14,000 in Northern Ireland, after the Conservatives struck a deal with the DUP.
According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies the number of children living in povertyin the UK is set to increase to 5.2million in the next five years, with 37% of children living in relative poverty - the highest figure since record began in 1961.
Mr Cartlidge has been approached for a comment but has not yet responded.
Berners To Get Bigger In Boundary Changes
Thursday, March 8, 07.00
Berners is set to become the largest Babergh ward geographically under new proposals by the Boundary Commission.
The latest boundary lines would make Berners a three-member ward, and would take in Wherstead, Belstead, Holbrook, Stutton, Tattingstone and Harkstead in addition to the current parishes of Shotley, Erwarton, Chelmondiston, Woolverstone and Freston, where is currently has two members.
The new boundary proposals for the south-east section of babergh, would make Brantham a single member ward, with the rest of Alton ward, along with the current Holbrook ward, joining with Berners.
Various suggestions were put forward, including having a Ganges ward comprising of Shotley, Erwarton and Harkstead as a single member ward, with the rest of Berners, including vilalges from alton a two-member ward, but the commission, did not accept the figures would be of good electoral quality, and to balance that out would mean splitting parishes.
The proposals would see district councilors for the peninsula reduced from five to four as part of the drive to reduce the Babergh council’s members from 43 to 32.
Previously the suggestion to make Shotley a single member ward incorporating Harkstead, while Chelmondiston would have been linked with Bentley.
However, district councilor Derek Davis backed the arguments made by Woolverstone, Bentley and Chelmondiston parish councils that this would not make any sense as there was no community identity that far apart.
It is also possible that the name Berners will not be kept on with suggestions for a new name for the ward being asked for, with the Peninsula ward a possibility.
The new look Berners ward would have an expected electorate of 6,975 by 2023.
Alton ward district councillor added: "Having spent a lot of time on this I’m pleased that the need for a Brantham single member ward has finally been accepted, but a three member ward for the rest of the entire peninsula is far too large and unwieldy. I don’t think that serves the communities best.
"There’s a case for another single member ward at Shotley and Erwarton, leaving a 2 member ward with Holbrook at the centre. It needs further study though."
It is anticipated Babergh’s electorate will rise from 71,668 in 2017 to 74,757 in 2023.
The consultation process is open until April 30 when the final recommendations will be made, with the publication date for those expected on August 7.
The consultation is open to everyone. For more information use this link. email@example.com
Non-Merged Councils Win Award As One
By Joe Harvey
Wednesday, March 7, 01.00
Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils were runners up in a Council of the Year award, despite officially still being two separate sovereign councils.
The two bodies, were also runners up in the ‘Working Together’ category, squeezed between winners Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service and third-placed Heddlu Gwent Police.
The iESE public sector transformation awards are aimed at public bodies that transform the way they serve their communities.
Babergh won silver in the best council category behind Bracknell Forest Council and just ahead of Winchester City Council.
Arthur Charvonia, chief executive of both councils, attended the awards ceremony at Church House in London last night.
Derek Davis, an Independent Babergh district councillor, said: "This is all very presumptuous and somewhat insensitive, given what is going on with a merger not yet decided one way or another."
Although the two councils have moved out of their districts, to the detriment of Hadleigh and Needham Market, the staff now work together in Endeavour House, Ipswich, paying rent to Vertas, who manage the building on behalf of Suffolk County Council
A referendum will be held to ask the 75,000 Babergh electorate if they want to now merge with Mid Suffolk, after rejecting the move in 2011. Mid-Suffolk councilors are now pushing that their electorate should be allowed a fresh referendum too.
Fresh Call For Merger Referendum
Friday, February 23, 17.00
Mid-Suffolk councilors have joined Babergh’s call for a referendum on a merger being pushed through by the ruling Conservative administrations.
Penny Otton, Leader of the Mid Suffolk Liberal Democrats, issued a statement on behalf of the group demanding a referendum for the people of Mid Suffolk, who have not been offered another opportunity to vote since the last referendum on the proposed merger back in 2011.
This follows Babergh residents being promised a second referendum after the election of the council’s new Leader John Ward in January, This came about after pressure from opposition group members, including Independent councilors representing wards on the peninsula, David Rose, Alastair McCraw and Derek Davis.
Ms Otton said: “We wish to have a referendum for residents of Mid Suffolk to have the opportunity to vote on the proposed merger with Babergh council. It seems illogical and un-democratic if Babergh residents are given the chance to have their say on a merger, but Mid Suffolk folk cannot. Therefore it is quite legitimate to set aside a sum to pay for it.
“How can any decision, either way, be democratic if only one side are given their oppion by a referendum and the rest of us cannot? This is such an important decision that must not just be left to officers and a few council leaders.”
Mid Suffolk residents voted in favour of a referendum back in 2011, while the people of Babergh voted against.
Alton Ward represnetiave Cllr McCraw said: “It always seemed strange that two councils elected in 2015, who had repeatedly committed to no merger, were prepared to change their minds before the next election in 2019.
“If Babergh had hoped that their electorate would have changed its mind, then Mid Suffolk should allow for the same possibility in theirs.
“A democratic vote in one should be matched with a democratic vote in the other. Otherwise, how could there ever be any unity in any future.
Andrew Stringer, Group Leader of the Green Party representatives at Suffolk County Council, said he agreed that a second referendum was necessary.
He said: “I believe that the electorate deserve another say on this, Things have changed since the 11% majority of the advisory poll [held in 2011]. Surely the public of Mid Suffolk deserve their voice to be taken seriously?
Cllr Ward said before he was elected in January that he would be holding a referendum before any attempt to merge Babergh council with Mid Suffolk.
Speaking after he was elected he said it was clear that the council wanted a referendum to be held, but he did not know of any timescale for a vote.
He said: “We will have to sit down and look at what happens next, but any merger is not going to happen before 2019 (when the next council elections are due)”.
The councils already share a single administration based in Suffolk County Council’s Endeavour House headquarters in Ipswich, which has been heavily critisised by members of both Mid Suffolk and Babergh, due to costings and remoteness of facilities for the electorate.
Residents living on the peninsula now to have travel to either Stowmarket or Sudbury if they want council matters dealt with in person.
Council Tax Rise
Babergh District Council this week voted a 3.25 per cent increase in Council Tax, as part of their new budget for 2018/19.
The budget was voted on this evening (20 February), comes into effect on 1 April this year and will see council tax rise by 3.25 per cent, this is another step towards bringing the amount of council tax paid is nearer to resident of Mid-Suffolk area doc plans to merge the two sovereign councils.
Councillors made the decision to increase Babergh’s part of the Council Tax precept by 3.25 percent ,equivalent to £5 per annum for a Band D property. The increase was voted through as Babergh faces further cuts in core funding from central government, which will drop to zero by 2019/20.
However, the council agreed in December 2017 that those most in need will not pay more than 5 per cent of their council tax bill under Babergh’s Council Tax Reduction Scheme.
The key highlights from the meeting are:
- An increase in Council Tax of 3.25 per cent, which will see the largest properties paying £10 more over the course of the year, with the smallest seeing an increase of just £3.33
- A decrease of 1per cent in Council House rents, equivalent to an average rent reduction of 90p a week
- Service charges increasing by £5 a week, which coupled with the removal of the Sheltered Housing Supported people charge of £3 a week will result in a net increase of £2 per week for tenants, which may be recoverable through Housing benefits depending on the tenant’s circumstances
- No increase in the Sheltered Housing utility charges
- No increase in garage rents
- No increased costs in light of the recent end of credit card charges, with the cost of future credit card transactions borne by the council
This follows a Babergh Full Council meeting in December 2017 at which the Council Tax reduction scheme was amended to ensure that the poorest residents pay just 5 per cent of their bill, down from a previous rate of 8.5 per cent.
Two Top Tories Defect From Group
Babergh's Conservative party were thrown into further disarray when two of its members defected from the group to join the Independent Conservatives.
Simon Barrett (pictured) and Alan Ferguson left the Tory group over dissatisfaction of the lack of leadership in the ruling group and differences in the approach to a referendum regarding potentially dissolving Babergh and forming a super council with Mid-Suffolk.
The duo joined Stephen Williams and John Hinton, who had already left the majority party to set up their own group after becoming disillusioned over the Tories' approach to housing, particularly in East Bergholt.
Cllr Barrett was recently suspended by the Conservative group after revealing Babergh Chief executive had told a group meeting he believed it would not be moral to force through a merger with full council voting on the proposal, rather just the Cabinet.
Cllr Ferguson was a popular choice among cross party members, including some Conservatives, to take over as council leader from Jennie Jenkins, who stepped down ahead of a motion of no confidence in her leadership, but John Ward eventually prevailed.
Victory In Referendum Battle
A cross party group have emerged victorious after securing the promise of referendum on whether to dissolve Babergh District Council and form a new, larger council with Mid Suffolk.
Newly elected Babergh council leader John Ward vowed the referendum would now be held after pressure from a number of councilors across all parties.
Cllr Ward was elected unopposed, by a vote of 22-16 with three abstentions following negotiations with rival Alan Ferguson who was being touted as a possible new leader.
The leadership election was called after Jennie Jenkins resigned ahead of a motion of no confidence last month after she and her cabinet, which included Cllr Ward, refused to agree to a fresh referendum.
Babergh residents voted 61%-39% against a merger with Mid-Suffolk in 2011 and a number of Independent councilors with support from both Labour councilors, the two Independent Conservatives and Liberal Democratic members, backed by a small number of Conservative Group members forced the U-turn.
Alastair McCraw, (pictured) an Independent councilor representing Brantham, Stutton and Tattingstone, welcomed the U-turn by the Cabinet but warned: “We have that promise, but the devil is always in the details. I'll be looking for those details.”
Independent Conservative Stephen Williams, who along with Labour’s Tony Bavington proposed the motion for the new leader to promise a referendum, added: “We have also obtained an undertaking to review the Constitution to acknowledge the views of all councillors going forward and is therefore a remarkable achievement.
“This is the first time since I was elected in 2015 that I have witnessed true democracy at work in Babergh District Council.
“This achievement is a tribute to Independent, Labour and Liberal Democrat Councillors alike without whose unfettered cooperation and diligence this would never have happened. A warm thanks to all of them.”
Derek Davis (Independent) said: “It is only right and proper that a full poll, or referendum, is carried out for the people of Babergh to decide the fate of their district council.
“It took a lot of doing, and it has cost Jennie Jenkins her position as leader, but at last common sense and democracy has prevailed.
“Let's hope John Ward sticks to his word.”
Cllr Bavington said: “We achieved what we set out to achieve when we called in the attempt by the Conservative cabinet to undo the result of the 2011 referendum result by a dubious telephone poll of only a few people.
“Now the democratic will of the Babergh public will be respected and only if our electors change their mind in another referendum held on the same basis as 2011 will dissolution of Babergh District Council and merger with Mid Suffolk District Council go ahead.
“This is as it always should have been.”
Lib Dem member Bryn Hurran is hoping new Leader Ward also keeps his promise to be more inclusive and said: “Councillor Ward said he would listen to views from the wider Babergh membership and would not be so isolated from constituents.
“Although, on the question of the only customer access point for the whole of Babergh being in Sudbury he would not be drawn on a way this could be rectified.”
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