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News from Caroline Page, Liberal Democrat County Councillor for Woodbridge

Caroline Page

The material on this page comes automatically from Caroline's newsfeed at:

  • Sep 19, 2017:
    • Housing Day : what Suffolk needs

      Today is #HousingDay.

      Do you know people desperate for to find or afford somewhere to live? In this county - with new built estates rising everywhere - I know plenty.

      The answer? Simple. We need to stop pandaring to the free market -which is creating ever more homes and second homes for the affluent - and start planning and building the housing that everyday people need.

      Purpose-built council housing. For those starting out, for young families, the disabled, the low waged (public sector workers for example) , those that need to downsize.

      Abolish that strangest of all supposed human rights - the 'right to buy.' Replace it with "the right to have a truly affordable roof over your head." (And don't let those weasel words 'affordable housing' con you. It means 80% of market rates. In an area where houses cost £1m to buy, thousands per month to rent 'affordable housing' is, what? We need social housing because that alone is truly affordable).

      And we must stop mouthing all this 'let the market decide' malarkey. The market consists of builders who - given the choice - want to build high end executive homes because they make the best profit. What do we need? Homes for the young, the young families, the disabled, the low waged, the elderly. Homes for everyone who makes up our society - or we lose it.

      Not necessarily homes to own. One of the reasons 'social housing' sometimes gets such a bad press is that there is now so little of it keft that it may be more likely to be let to people with the most significant problems or needs - and thus give it an unfair reputation.

      Yet why shouldn't many more people live this way? It happens elsewhere without difficulty. It used to be the way of life here.

      Home ownership was an anomaly of the second half of the twentieth century

      When I was young, lots of low-waged people were able to live in the centre of towns and cities. In solid Victorian terraced council houses now sold off under right to buy, worth a million or so, and maybe not even lived in full time by those that now own them. Even at rental income, way outside the pockets of your average working family.

      And the people who our towns and cities need and rely on (teachers, nurses, carers, firefighters, young workers etc) sofa-surf, commute incredible distances or plain give up.

      An end to laissez faire, say I. Let's constrain the free market and go back to the politics of common sense - and have a solid practical unflashy homes policy built on the needs of the people rather than what companies and organizations want to build!

  • Sep 17, 2017:
    • Moving the Goalposts: Suffolk's School Transport proposals

      This week Suffolk's cabinet decided to enter into formal consultation on worrying changes to our current Suffolk Home to School Transport arrangements.

      These changes are profound. Most importantly, the proposal is that free travel will only be provided where a qualifying school student attends their nearest school. Currently it is available for qualifying students attending their catchment school, nearest school, or transport priority area. Between the schools organisation review and the the advent of free schools, these may be three different schools in some areas. 'Not fair', according to the administration who oversaw this chaos.

      Such a decision will impact specifically on rural families, and those from families with single parents, limited incomes and few travel choices. Additionally, the last shreds of subsidised travel for 16-18 year olds will no longer be provided.

      If, after the consultation, the decision were made to adopt the proposal, it would be implemented for all students across Suffolk with effect from September 2019, without consideration for decisions made in good faith by families before this date.

      The intention is to make savings. However the preconsultation has been unable to identify any specific proposals or indeed the savings that might be intended to be made.

      And why are these changes being made? Simply, Suffolk can't afford the transport we have provided up till now. Costs - we are told sorrowfully- have gone up. But gosh, not our Council tax - which the leader is so proud of having not raised for seven, yes SEVEN, years. No wonder the county can't afford to provide the transport that rural Suffolk students need!

      To add insult to injury the proposals are being cynically marketed as "unlocking capacity to benefit Suffolk residents, not just the small proportion of school children" because the abolition of school-specific bus services 'may' allow private companies to come forward to offer services! (Not that any have to date. That was another question I asked.)

      So, having comprehensively annihilated scheduled rural bus services (because of the cost), Suffolk County council now complains that it has to rely on expensive closed buses and taxis to meet its statutory obligations to the students of this county - and expresses surprise that this provision is not open to the Suffolk residents it deprived of buses in the first place.

      I think the expression is No shit, Sherlock.

      Why on earth, ( I asked the Cabinet) having previously stopped funding various public and community bus services across the county on the grounds that they were 'not financially viable', are you now contending that there will be a market solution to the school transport budget problem?

      "Because we are getting rid of the closed buses that we replaced the cancelled scheduled services with", was the Topsy Turveyland reply. You couldn't make it up…

      The young people of Suffolk are worth investment. Instead of further penalising rural residents by moving the goalposts once again, I call on Suffolk County Council to make proper provision for the rural families of this county by once again subsidising rural bus services, retaining current Home School travel provision, and funding student travel right up to the new de facto statutory school age of 18 out of our ever-increasing reserves.

      You will be pleased to hear the LibDem, Green and Independent Group has 'called in' this Cabinet decision, which means it will now have to go to the Scrutiny Committee to be investigated properly before it can be implemented.

      Watch this space.

  • Sep 11, 2017:
    • Woodbridge Thoroughfare: have your say!
      Members of Thoroughfare Working Group by the current impossibly complicated sign:
      L to R: Jill Barratt (Choose Woodbridge, retailer); Rick Chapman (Choose Woodbridge, retailer, resident); Graeme Hawkes (SNT); Maggie Chapman (Choose Woodbridge, retailer, resident); Emma Greenhouse (disabled resident); Caroline Page (County Councillor); Julian Royle (resident); Geoff Holdcroft (Town & District Councillor). Absent: Eamonn O'Nolan (Town Councillor), Tony Buckingham (SCC Highways).

      Join the Community Consultation to make Woodbridge Thoroughfare better!

      Interested in helping decide how best to improve the Thoroughfare? Come to Woodbridge Library, 25th September to 1 October, and help define the best way forward.

      We all know that the Thoroughfare - Woodbridge's vibrant retail heart - has had increasing problems with traffic and parking in recent years. Residents, visitors, shoppers and traders have all expressed concern.

      We also know why.

      The underlying problem is that both access and parking is governed by a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) that's decades out of date and no longer fit for purpose. It no longer reflects the needs and usage of people in the Thoroughfare.

      So that's the problem. But how to solve it? Everyone has different needs, concerns and priorities. As a result, the issue has been going round in circles for years. To break this deadlock I brought together a group that represented all major players - clearly the only way to find a workable solution to these problems was by working together. We don't want to disadvantage anybody.

      And after ten months discussion, research and evidence-taking, we have managed to come up with three workable options.

      All the ideas are based around a simple, easy-to-understand sign which is what the current TRO doesn't allow for - but there are three different versions. We'll be showing these options, explaining the benefits and drawbacks of each - and asking for you to help us decide."

      The Woodbridge Thoroughfare Working group is cross-party, and involves Woodbridge councillors at county, district and town level, as well as local police, traders, residents and representatives from Suffolk County Council's Highway team.

      If you are not able to attend at the library you will be able to see and comment on the consultation documents online , in this blog from 25 September.

      Woodbridge Thoroughfare Community Consultation: Woodbridge Library, 25th September to 1 October 2017 (and online at this blog)

  • Jul 28, 2017:
  • Jul 26, 2017:
    • Melton Hill's Cheese Wedges: important unanswered questions
      Melton Hill: Who can tell us the route by which the Community Consensus Masterplan became the current - very different - plans?

      Two weeks ago I wrote to JTP, asking the named contact they gave these important questions about the process by which the Community Consensus Masterplan transformed itself into the very different plans submitted:

      JTP letter/email p1
      JTP letter/email p2

      "I've just been reading the email from JTP detailing the pre-application process leading to Active Urban's current application for planning permission to develop the Melton Hill site in Woodbridge.

      Your name has been given as a contact should I have any questions. I have several, which I would be grateful for you to answer. As follows:

      In this email you mention,

      • The creation of a "community vision"…

      My question a) What exactly were the requirements listed by the community for their "community vision"? Could you provide the full list of those requirements articulated by the community in their vision for the site ( the list you provide is cherrypicked). To what extent was the full list used in the development of the design that followed?

      • a pre-application process was set up and the design of the scheme evolved …"taking into consideration the Vision and outcomes from the Community Planning Weekend" and that "the strength of the initial concepts, ideas and feedback from the general public has remained intact throughout this process

      My question b) could you demonstrate how the vision and outcomes of the community planning weekend were taken into consideration, and explain how the strength of the initial concepts, ideas and feedback from the general public has remained intact throughout this process? It wuld be good to check off the outcomes against a full list of community requirements

      My question c) please could you provide the full membership by name, occupation and company of this Independent Design Review panel?

      • that "the Panel felt the scheme had great potential to make a positive contribution to the town and appreciated the ambition of both the client and architect.

      My question d) Can you explain why this first panel "appreciated the ambition of both the client (presumably the District Council rather than the local community) and the architect " yet the wishes of the community are not even mentioned? Can you demonstrate that the ambition of the client and architect is to represent the wishes of the ultimate owners or the local community? Could you articulate in what way it will make a positive contribution to the town?

      • that a second Design Review Panel with more developed designs was held on 2nd February 2017.

      My question e) please could you provide the full membership by name, occupation and company of this second Independent design review panel?

      My question f) Can you explain the exact status of these two Independent design review panels you have mentioned - (both the one that met on 3 Oct 2916 and that which met on 2 Feb 2017)? Their existence appears to constitute something of an anomaly: if a panel were wholly independent it might not be fully aware of local issues. If aware of local issues it would not be wholly independent.

      • and that "The Panel acknowledged the design changes and the significant amount of work undertaken in developing the design. The overall change of scale, removal of buildings and redesign to the Melton Hill streetscape was suggested as "showing a fantastic improvement".

      My question g) You quote from the conclusions of the second panel - a panel that seems quite content with a mass destruction of trees and buildings. Firstly 'a fantastic improvement' on what? The Community Vision? An unseen design? Secondly "overall change of scale, removal of buildings and redesign to the Melton Hill streetscape" - are these in context of the Community vision or from a second unseen design?

      Thirdly, who uttered these words? The people of Woodbridge absolutely need chapter and verse on the origin and relevance of every part of the last 22 word sentence, phrased so conveniently in the passive voice. If it is a quote, somebody said it - and we need to know who and in what context. Such destructive decision-makers need to be named (- and if happy with their decision will have no problem with being so named)!

      I await your speedy reply with interest

      I received a telephone call a few days later from the gentleman in question, who was eager to tell me that a) he could tell me about the destination of the Drummer Boy (not, note, a question I had asked); b) none of this was his personal responsibility and c) there was going to be affordable housing in the development but that as d) he was down in Winchester he would not be able to answer my full list of written questions in written form very fast, certainly not for several weeks.

      In the interests of transparency we need to know the answers to all these questions.

      I have therefore included them as "unanswered' in my submission to the District Council.