I apologise for there being no article last month. I was back from visiting my son in Washington DC but my brain was far too scrambled from the overnight journey to write anything sensible.
By the time you read this the new A46 will be open past East Bridgford, but still as only a 2 lane road. This means that we will no longer be able to get to Newark by turning left out of Butt Lane – which turn will only lead to Car Colston etc. Our main access to the A46 northbound will be from the new Margidunum roundabout, which will be our quickest route to Newark. The route via Kneeton Road to Red Lodge junction may look shorter, but believe me, it is very narrow for much of its length and much slower.
Also for the beginning of December Notts County Council will start saving energy and CO2 by turning off most street lights in East Bridgford between mid-night and 5:30am. Only lights at road junctions, on our internal footpaths and part of Main Street (east of Walnut Tree Lane) will remain on.
There is much activity from the Boundary Commission at present. Nationally scale there are proposals to go before parliament to reduce the number of MPs. That means some radical changes to constituencies. At the last change we were moved from Rushcliffe (and Ken Clarke) to Newark constituency. In the latest proposals Rushcliffe as a constituency is abolished. West Bridgford is to be joined into Nottingham South and rural areas from Cotgrave through Keyworth and East Leake to Sutton Bonnington will join with parts of Leicestershire to form a new Keyworth & Coalville seat. Shelford, Radcliffe, the Cropwells and all the villages east of the Fosse Way as far as Kinoulton and Hickling will join us in the Newark constituency, as does Burton Joyce. Some villages north of Newark move to the Sherwood seat.
The Borough of Rushcliffe is not affected by those changes and will remain as it is. However we too have a similar study going on a smaller scale to reduce the number of councillors, which means that ward boundaries have to be adjusted. There are no detailed proposals yet – all I know is that there will be fewer councillors (about 5 less) and consequently the ward East Bridgford is in will be bigger. I will try to ensure that the resulting changes respect our local connections and communities.
This is always a busy season at the Council offices. As usual next year’s budget is upper most in officers and councillors minds (yet more savings to find but perhaps not as desperate as last year) and we have many Scrutiny Committee meetings before the Christmas break. There is a significant focus on Leisure Centres and Community Facilities at present, which I will report more of in the New Year.
Until then, I wish you the season’s greetings.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
Follow me on Twitter @cllrnlawrence
Local news has been quite quiet of late. However some things continue. We are not yet free of the Rabbit Farm proposal. To recap, one landowner has modest plots of land at Fiskerton, Granby and East Bridgford (Kneeton Road), with a tree & shrub nursery and a small vineyard on each. , Initially he submitted very similar applications for sheds to intensive rear rabbits. After these were refused he submitted applications for polytunnels and large sheds which were to contain grain stores and hydroponic tanks to provide feed for (presumably) free range rabbits. RBC has refused the two applications in Rushcliffe and now Newark and Sherwood DC has refused a similar application in Fiskerton. We now wait for round three. You should understand that rabbit farming may well be considered to be legitimate agriculture. If it is and provided what is proposed is visually acceptable the rules regarding agricultural buildings may mean we are unable to refuse the application.
The imminent opening of the rebuilt A46 raises a new issue. The Highways Agency has refused to provide a sign on the new road pointing to our group of garages/ restaurant. These businesses need passing traffic to survive – and they represent nearly a quarter of the employment in Oak Ward. The HA have quoted a minor rule which they say means they cannot put up a “Local Services” sign. One of the garages has got up a petition for a sign, with nearly 4000 signatures. On Friday 9th our MP, Patrick Mercer, came to the garages to support the application for a sign. This generated interest from the press and he and I were photographed many times signing the petition. He will deliver the petition to the appropriate minister in the Department of Transport.
The issue of the changes to the planning laws is getting a lot of press at the moment, and bodies such as the National Trust, the Council for the Protection of Rural England, the RSPB and others are getting very vocal. It is being alleged the developers will be able to build “what they like where they like”. It is true, and always has been, that developers have the major say in what type of housing is built. We cannot make them build a certain type of house, but we can refuse seriously inappropriate developments. If we want a certain type of house (eg starter homes) we have to persuade them, or get a housing association involved. We have much more say about to where houses are built. Much of Rushcliffe is protected by being within the green belt, and the new rules will protect us when we refuse applications within that belt, or other green field land. The changes do mean that RBC must complete a Local Development Plan quickly. This states where we will allow housing, and how much. It is due for completion by Christmas, and the number of houses will be a lot less than the 16000 we once feared.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
Follow me on Twitter @cllrnlawrence
August is usually a quiet month for Councillors. Many Borough Council staff are on holiday so support for meetings is in short supply – hence we tend not to meet much. That has held true for this August, but on the planning front it has been busy, mainly with house extensions.
One site that is different is the land in the south corner of Kneeton Road and Old Hill Lane on which we received, and refused, an application for a rabbit breeding farm earlier this year. We have recently received, and refused, an application for a large barn and some poly-tunnels on the grounds that the barn was unreasonably high. In a newspaper interview the applicant stated that he would resubmit the application with a revised roof. He also indicated that he still hoped to put rabbits on the site, although he did not indicate what form of enclosure he had in mind. I await developments.
By the time you read this Butt Lane will be diverted onto its final route over the new bridge, following a three week closure. That should be the end of road closures for us. There will be more changes to our local routes when the A46 is diverted onto its final route on the new alignment under the bridge. At that point the old A46 will be closed northbound beyond the turning to Car Colston. To go to Newark we will then need to make our way to the new A6097 Bridge to join the A46 northbound. Butt lane will provide access to Car Colston and the Vale, Bingham and the A46 southbound.
Some of you may have seen press reports that the County Council is to sell Glebe Farm, EB (between Kneeton Road and the A46). It has owned the land since the end of First World War when the land was allocated to provide employment for returning soldiers. The same reports suggest that the land will be sold for development. However, like the rest of the parish it is within the Green Belt and Rushcliffe BC can be expected to try to prevent any development.
On a completely different topic, the new system for presenting electronic petitions to parliament is now active. Such publicity as it has had focussed on just two petitions, one for and one against the death penalty. In reality there are already about 1500 subjects you could decide to support covering many aspects of public life. Parliament must take note and debate any petition that collects more than 100,000 signatures. Topics that I noticed include Europe, taxation, the Human Rights Act, the Equalities Act, “secret justice”, libel, assisted suicide and much more. So, if you have strong views on any aspect of government, or society, log on and add your support, or possibly your own petition. The Web Site address is epetitions.direct.gov.uk or Google “epetitions”.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
Follow me on Twitter @cllrnlawrence
Summer seems to be flying by. For me August represents a break from meetings, I hope you all have a good holiday.
By now Butt Lane is closed again, this time to put in the connections to use the new bridge, and to create the new junction with the old A46. It is expected that the road will reopen “in the latter half of the August”. Once the new A46 is built under the bridge we will lose the opportunity to turn left out of Butt Lane towards Newark. We will have to turn right (easier as all traffic in the Newark direction will be on the new road) and go to the new roundabout, or leave the village via Kirk Hill. Left turns to Car Colston will remain possible.
Other recent developments include the approval by Rushcliffe BC of a planning application for a new Tesco store by the level crossing at Bingham. This was made subject to the construction of a footbridge over the railway connecting the store to Moor Lane and the town centre. This could be expensive, so we may hear more yet.
The scheme to charge for the Green bins is off to a good start, with nearly two thirds of residents signing up. It is not too late if you want to sign up.
Now I need your advice. It is time to think about nominations for the Rushcliffe Community Awards. These are to honour people who “make a difference” to community life. We have a lot of good things happen in East Bridgford, and a lot of good people or organisations that make it all happen. In previous years we have had several winners and shortlisted runners up, and I am sure we have good candidates for this year. The categories for awards are
• Making communities safer
For those who have worked to identify and deal with the causes and
consequences of crime or anti-social behaviour.
• Supporting the local economy
For individuals or a small business (of up to 20 employees) that have contributed
to business improvement in a local community.
• Enabling healthy lives
For those who have worked to encourage healthy lifestyles.
• Protecting and enhancing our environment
For those who have worked to protect environment
or promoted environmentally responsible attitudes and behaviour.
• Supporting children and young people
For those (young people included) who have made a difference to the
lives of children and young people.
• Building strong communities
For those that work for the benefit of others and who help improve the facilities and resources in their community.
• Young person of the year
For a young person who has made an outstanding contribution to projects or initiatives
in the community.
So, who should we nominate this year? Come to me with a proposal and we can work on it together. If you want to make your own nomination, contact Janet King at RBC (0115 981 9911).
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
Follow me on Twitter @cllrnlawrence
My apologies if you tried to contact me in the first two weeks of June – I was away on holiday. I hope you understand why I do not announce my absences in advance; having been burgled once I do not wish to repeat the experience. I now feel much refreshed; I confess to being tired after the effort of the election and the period afterwards when we decided how the Borough Council is to be run and who gets what jobs.
It may occur to some of you to wonder what I actually do down at the Civic Centre. For the last four years I have been the Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee that reviewed the arrangements and performance of the many and various partnerships Rushcliffe Borough has with other local authorities, public bodies and even the private sector. This year I have been elected Chairman of the Community Development Scrutiny Group. This group oversees the Borough’s relationships with Town and Parish Councils, the workings of public housing and housing allocation, leisure etc. It is likely that it will oversee the implementation of the Localism Bill – when we find out what is expected of us.
Locally, major planning issues will continue to dominate. The unit for intensively rearing rabbits on Kneeton Road has been withdrawn – for now. However, the applicant is talking publicly about free-range rabbits so we might see such a proposal. We still have our EB Wind Turbine proposal, though that may be affected by government announcements on feed-in tariffs. We will have to wait and see. Gunthorpe also have a wind turbine proposal (on British Waterways land by the lock). This will have to be tall to get up into the airstream – I hope you all went to the exhibition last week. I am assured that if a planning application is submitted to Newark & Sherwood DC then Rushcliffe BC, East Bridgford PC and Kneeton will all be consulted.
The major planning applications for 500+ houses at Newton, 1000 houses this side of the railway line at Bingham and Tesco continue slowly. The Highways Agency has expressed concern over traffic issues and has instructed RBC not to decide anything before September earliest. RBC has already announced its intention to consider all three together. Schools, community buildings and GP facilities are also major issues.
A final reminder on the Green Bin. If you have not informed Rushcliffe BC you want to have it emptied in future AND paid them the £25 then you have already had your last green waste collection (on 24 June). If you have overlooked this issue or changed your mind then it is not too late. Contact Rushcliffe on 0115 981 9911 or via the Web Site www.rushcliffe.gov.uk and they will restart when you have paid the fee (£25 pa). If you fancy a second (or third bin) they are only £10 per year.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
Follow me on Twitter @cllrnlawrence
Well, I am back, and you have got me for another 4 years. I would like to thank those of you who voted for me, and gave me such a handsome majority. For the record I received just on 75% of the vote. You should all be congratulated for the turnout of 57%, the second highest within the Borough.
I repeat the promise I made both 4 and 8 years ago – I will do my best to represent fairly everyone in the ward, regardless of your political views, or any other characteristic. In particular I am always happy to receive comment from you, or to take up a complaint. Just contact me using the phone number and email address at the bottom of the page. Please can I ask you to be brief? In the past few days I have received a 5 page letter and been subjected to a 55 minute phone call and, try as I might, I cannot handle many of those in a day.
Those both related to a planning application, and I often get asked how you can look them up on the Rushcliffe Web Site. It is easy. Go to www.Rushcliffe.gov.uk and follow the link to planning applications. Then insert the application number (if you know it) or search for using the village name and street name. Or in advanced search, just ask for all new applications.
Communication with you has been occupying my thoughts recently as I have found myself with information (eg on the recent Butt Lane closure) I need to get to you quickly and I have no way of doing so. It is surprisingly difficult to broadcast anything throughout the village quickly. Posters are only appropriate for some things and, good as the Village Magazine is, it takes too long to be useful for urgent news. It takes nearly 20 hours to deliver a leaflet to all houses.
What I plan to try is using the networking tool Twitter. Be assured, I am not intending to emulate Stephen Fry by broadcasting my thoughts every hour. What I will do is Tweet short pieces of urgent news which I feel are of general interest to villagers. Recent examples have included the Butt Lane closure (& resulting changes to the bus service) on which I had a few days notice – but no way to tell you. I will also use it to notify planning applications which are of interest to more villagers than just the neighbours. Recent examples have included the wind monitoring mast and the rabbit farm (subject of first Tweet), both on Kneeton Road.
If you wish to receive these notices you need to sign up to follow me. Go to the web site www.twitter.com, sign up if you have not already done so, and choose to follow @cllrnlawrence . Let us give it a try and see if it helps.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
Follow me on Twitter @cllrnlawrence
April & May 2011 - Election time.
It scarcely seems credible, but with elections approaching I am reaching the end of my second term as Borough Councillor. In reflection I see there have been three dominant themes in the eight years. The first is the high level of community activity, particularly involving East Bridgford. Even if I have not been directly involved the implications seem to come back to me, and often I have acted as a facilitator. It started with the Village Appraisal and Parish Plan, followed by all the action plans, most of which were successful. Recently there has been the Playground Renewal and now the Community Energy Wind Turbine project. I am not part of the latter group, but find myself involved in handling protests, explaining the procedures and any planning application submitted. I will do what I can to understand the issues and help people use the proper channels whichever way their inclinations lie. I sincerely hope that we have no more outbreaks of sabotage.
Planning issues have been another dominant theme. My ward, also including Kneeton, Screveton and Car Colston, generates 80 to 100 applications a year. Most applications are routine but we have a lot of conservation area or places of special merit (eg the Greens at Car Colston) where changes can arouse great passions. Amongst the planners we also have a reputation for odd-ball, or first of a kind, schemes. Examples that come to mind are replacement houses in the Green Belt (Fosse Farm), re-siting a wind powered water pump (A46 works), the power station on the weir, affordable housing in the Green Belt (Fosters Close) and lately the wind mast.
Lastly there is the continual battle at Rushcliffe to balance the budget whilst keeping taxes low. This year has been the worst, with the loss of £650,000 of central funding due to the cuts. The officers have done a good job in finding savings, and we councillors have cut nearly all the services we receive. Even so we have had to decide to withdraw some non-statutory services where we make a loss, and to start to charge for some things which were previously free. I am unhappy that we have had to do this, but I have had to support the changes because I cannot see a better alternative in the time available. We have set in train work to find or create more savings in coming years, but we also have to absorb more funding cuts.
I mentioned that it is nearly election time. I have decided to stand one more time. But what about you? Elsewhere in this issue is an article inviting you to stand for the Parish Council. They have vacancies. If you want to see younger councillors, or more women, if you are unhappy with the performance of the PC or simply want to make your voice heard, now is the time to put yourself forward. The article tells you how to go about it.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
One of my responsibilities at the Rushcliffe Borough Council is to chair the Partnership Delivery Group (PDG) – a committee of councillors who try to ensure that all the partnerships we enter into actually deliver the benefits we aim for. We have many. At the top there is the Rushcliffe Strategic Partnership, which includes all the public bodies working within Rushcliffe plus charities and businesses. This sets our Strategic Objectives and co-ordinates the efforts towards achieving them. Other partnerships cover operational issues, such as the collection of clinical waste (in partnership with Gedling) and the new Customer Service Centre in West Bridgford (with the police). Each partnership is subject to overview by the PDG.
One significant partnership we reviewed recently was the Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership which is responsible for all aspects of Community Safety and in which Rushcliffe works with Broxtoe, Gedling, the County Council, the Fire Service and the Police. There have been significant organisational changes in both the partnership and the police over the last year. It was very gratifying to learn that crime and disorder, which last year was at unacceptably high levels, had been drastically reduced during this year. The ongoing rate of serious crime (burglary, car crime, robbery) was 40% down, and in key areas (Central West Bridgford and Cotgrave) anti-social behaviour and disorder had been more than halved. The improvement came from various initiatives by the Partnership and revised, robust policing in West Bridgford. The annual figures may not reflect this until next year because of the bad start to this year.
At the same meeting we looked at our partnership with the County Cricket Club. This arose because the Borough lent the Cricket Club £1.2 million pounds at a favourable interest rate to help develop Trent Bridge so that it continues to attract Test matches (which have a major commercial value to the Borough). In return they agreed to contribute a package of community benefits. This includes cricket coaching for teachers and schools, development of cricket clubs and support for local groups. Less obvious is a programme (Positive Futures) to bring sport, not just cricket, to some of the more deprived youngsters in Cotgrave to provide an alternative outlet for their energy. This has proved to be a big success and a major contributor to the reduction in disorder in that village. We feel the effect here in EB.
Budget setting continues to be a major issue. Following this year’s financial settlement we have to find a further £600,000 reduction next year on top of the efficiency savings already planned. We want to keep council tax down to last year’s level, so we councillors are reviewing everything Rushcliffe Borough does to decide what are our priorities, what we continue to do, what we are prepared to cut back or charge for. Some hard decisions have to be made, but I regret to say that there are few alternatives. More next month when all is agreed.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
The year 2010 has gone and here we are staring 2011 in the face. I think it is going to be quite a serious year. We will see the impact of the cuts that Coalition Government has announced and they may yet announce more. Both the County Council and the NHS Primary Care Trust are due to announce significant job cuts, and whilst I still hope that we will avoid any serious cuts at Rushcliffe Borough, we will not survive untouched. I think in the case of the County, and particularly the NHS, we will see major changes during 2011 which may well have a positive impact on us here in Rushcliffe. I will try to keep you informed but watch the press.
In May there will be two elections and (probably) a referendum, all on the same day. Parish and Borough Councils are up for election. If you do not like how things are May will be the time to say so. If you feel you would like to get involved by standing in either election it is time to think seriously about it. To help you, on the morning of Monday 7th February Rushcliffe will hold a session to help prospective candidates understand what is involved in being a Parish or Borough Councillor, and how to go about standing. I am trying to get an evening or Saturday session arranged as well. Our Parish Clerk will have the details on how to be a Parish Councillor. If you wish to stand for the Borough for a political party contact the party association NOW, or if you want to stand as an Independent I suggest you register with Democratic Services at Rushcliffe.
The referendum will be on the proposal to change our voting system in General Elections from “First past the post” to a “Single Transferable Vote”. I do not fully understand the implications yet, but with only 4 months to go I expect to see a lot of debate in the press. Please take the opportunity to inform yourselves.
A more mundane issue which will affect us is Development Control (Planning Applications). The press in December has contained such headlines as “Give yourself planning permission”. As I look at the pile of nine applications requiring immediate attention and three more ongoing I could get keen on this. We do have already limited discretion in this way, but it does not apply to most of East Bridgford. Neither, I suspect, will the new initiatives since almost all the village is covered by the Conservation Area or the Green Belt. If you are in any doubt contact Development Control at Rushcliffe for advice – you do not need proper drawings. It is free for private citizens. If you do not need permission they will say so in writing so that, when you sell, you can prove to a buyer’s solicitor that your extension is legal.
I wish you a happy and prosperous 2011.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
Yet again the festive season has crept up on us – where did 2010 go? One of the regular events towards the end of the year is the Annual Rushcliffe Awards when the Rushcliffe Community Partnership and the Borough honour citizens who have done something special. You will remember that last year our Post Office won the award for “Supporting Local Business”. This year our Playground Renewal Group was nominated for the sterling work they have done to raise the money and get the new playground built (see elsewhere for the notice of the grand opening). Unfortunately they did not win, being beaten by the new Cropwell Bishop Scouts group. They were shortlisted, got a certificate of merit and were invited to the reception. However, we did have a winner in that Laurence Higgs of Main Street won the “Supporting the Local Economy” award for the work his business in Bingham does to bring together the local business community. Congratulations to them both.
More good news comes with the information that Rushcliffe Borough remains in the top 20 performers in the country when it comes to recycling. As officially measured we recycle over 53% of the refuse collected, which is a small increase on last year. You will also be pleased to hear that a significant part of our Grey bin waste goes to the Eastcroft incinerator in the city, where it helps to fuel a district heating scheme. We fear we are reaching the limit of the recyclable material local residents can put in the Blue/ Green bins, East Bridgford in particular is very good. Now it is up to you to reduce the amount of waste you have to put in the grey bin. Reducing residual waste gives us a double win – lower collection tonnage overall, and the recycled percentage goes up. Please take even more care to buy things with a minimum of packaging, and reduce food wastage.
We have two significant planning applications around which may interest all of you. The first relates to the proposed Wind Turbine project, and is for the erection of a 17 metre (55 feet) high mast to carry two anemometers to measure the power of the wind and assess whether a turbine would be worthwhile. The mast is just north of Manor Farm about 400 metres riverside of Kneeton Road. For reasons I do not understand the mast is already erected. However the planning application is not approved and is still open for comment – its number is 10/01752 – but please respond this week.
The other is for a new Tesco store next to the level crossing at Bingham (Sercon have just vacated the site) – planning number 10/01883 – comments promptly please. Details and drawings of both can be found through www.rushcliffe.gov.uk by following the “planning applications” link and quoting the planning numbers. Once there you can comment or object.
I give you all my best wishes for the festive season.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
Last month I reported I had been busy. One reason was trying to pack everything in before we took a short break. We are now back from a relaxing week in the Yorkshire Moors. Most of you already seem to know that on our return we discovered we had been burgled. We are very grateful to our neighbours who coped so well handling the police and securing the house. Unfortunately (or fortunately) mobile phone reception was so poor they were unable to contact us to tell us to come back early. Our house was left secure, but the thief smashed a rear window and climbed in. Our losses are not too great.
As mentioned last time, one of our big issues is next year’s budget. We have already had consultation meetings with councillors to look at priorities and what we are prepared to cut, and what we really want to continue. There will be two more rounds of consultation with councillors, a committee stage and a review with panels drawn from the public. That should result in a budget and set of savings that are properly considered and supported.
The good news is that the officers have already come up with some quite significant savings. On top of this, it looks as if the “formula grant” we get from central government will be maintained for this year – so things could be a lot worse. One area we must look at, because it represents such a high proportion of our costs, is recycling and street cleaning. Both services are excellent and we are reluctant to cut the service. One approach is to increase revenue by encouraging more people to take on a second green bin at £25 per year (see Rushcliffe Reports, or ring 0115 981 9911 if you want one). If things get really desperate over the next few years the most tempting target is to start to charge for the first green bin. I am not keen, but it is a lot of money. I would really welcome your views on what you would do if we introduced a small charge, say £25 per year.
I recently received an email from a local citizen praising the coalition for its plans to cut the cost of MPs, and asking why we do not do the same with councillors. It is not quite the same. MPs are quite expensive, although low cost compared to many countries. Rushcliffe councillors are so cheap they are hardly worth cutting. For the record we receive about £4,500 in basic allowance, telephone, our own computer etc and travel. What we are doing is cutting the cost of the management team. We have recently entered a partnership to share two departmental heads with a nearby authority, saving about £100,000. In all, we now have 5 partnerships either sharing costs or gaining economies of scale.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
Autumn is well and truly upon us. Everyone is now back at work/ school, and holidays are now a memory. We were away in early august, hence there was no article last month. We went on a cruise to Iceland, not ideal for topping up your sun tan but a very interesting and beautiful island.
In theory high summer is a quiet time for us councillors, but this year I have been quite busy. Planning activity has been high with many applications in East Bridgford and in Car Colston. Some of these have been contentious, including two on The Green in Car Colston and the Royal Oak refurbishment in East Bridgford. I fear that this level is going to continue for some while. I have also been involved in setting up training schemes for councillors, particularly the new ones who will be elected in May 2011. Locally, we have finally got the playground renewal started, and we are able to start claiming the grant monies.
The national political front has been busy with a stream of announcements from the Coalition to digest. I have a six page list of claimed achievements from the Coalition’s first 100 days. (If anyone would like to see these I can email them). What is becoming clear is that many of the announcements will prove to be more radical than people realise. I doubt we will see much change locally on education as we are currently well served. I think there will be radical changes to the local management of the NHS, but I expect few external changes affecting the Medical Centre.
For us “localism” and the “Big Society” appear to present significant opportunities for the borough and for Parish / Town councils to take responsibilities from central control and run them our own way. At the moment the big unknown is how much funding will come with the responsibilities. I will attempt to address this, and its impact on us, in more detail in future months.
Our job now is to look forward. Creating a new Local Structure Plan to indicate where development should take place is a major priority. So is budget setting for 2010/11. The cutbacks announced by central government will have an impact on Rushcliffe. We do not yet know how major these will be – but we do know savings are essential. So far we have put together a program to allow us councillors to set priorities, and to validate these against the views of focus groups of ordinary citizens.
The County Council have even bigger challenges. They have two consultations at present. One is about how they dispose, recycle or use our domestic refuse. Views on types of disposal are sought, and where. The “Big Budget” invites you to propose how you would save £69 million from the draft budget for 2010/11 – and that will mean accepting some reduction in services. You can access both via the front page of the NCC web site.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
No sooner than one election is over, than another one comes along. It is only 9 months to May 2011 when we will have three issues to vote on. It looks as if we will be voting on the question of proportional representation – of which more later when we get to know more about the options. Of more significance locally, the whole Parish Council is up for election, as am I in the Borough elections.
By custom we do not declare party affiliations at EB Parish Council and we all stand as independents. We are regularly told by the press, and by some residents, that we should have more female councillors, and more young people representing us. So – where are you? If you would like to play your part in helping to run this village, (irrespective of age or sex) now is the time to think about it. In the autumn the borough council will be running some introduction courses in what is involved in being a Parish Councillor. To get a feel for what is involved in East Bridgford just approach any of the existing councillors – you all have a flyer with our names, photos and phone numbers – or just come and have a chat with me. You could find being on the council quite rewarding, and less time consuming than you might fear.
All the political parties are actively recruiting candidates for the borough elections. There is not a vacancy in Oak Ward for a Conservative candidate – I have decided to stand for at least one more term (4 years), unless someone wants to challenge me. But we are recruiting candidates for other wards in the area so there are opportunities. In September Rushcliffe Borough will publish a brochure on what is involved in being a Borough Councillor, and again in the autumn there will be a session for prospective candidates. If you have any level of political ambition, this is a good place to start. If you are at all interested, give me a ring for a chat.
It is now time to nominate people or organisations for the annual Rushcliffe Awards. Last year the Post Office won the award for “Supporting the Local Economy” and EB junior Football Club was shortlisted in its category. Car Colston and Screveton Village Hall won Village Hall of the year. I would like to see at least one, if not two, nominations this year and I would appreciate your guidance on whom to honour. People nominated should have contributed to activities or initiatives which benefit the local area and directly involved other community members. Nominees should have worked in a voluntary capacity, or carried out work which is considered over and above their normal paid employment duties. The categories are; making communities safer, enabling healthy lives, protecting and enhancing our environment, supporting the local economy (business category), building strong communities, supporting children and young people and Young Person of the Year.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
Last month I promised to describe the proposals for 1000 houses at Bingham. By the time you read this the Crown Estates will have exhibited their plans at the East Bridgford Horticultural Show. So I will not waste space, but I will keep you updated on the proposals as they develop.
I also described the position we expected regarding the requirement to build large numbers of new houses in the Borough. In the last 3 weeks there have been several announcements from the Department of Communities and Local Government which change what I told you, and the planning process. Several of these are good news for this area.
1. Did you realise the garden of your house was classified as “brown field land”, putting it in the same category as derelict pitheads, factories etc as prime sites for houses? This was why we have had so many infill houses. We are told that this rule is to be abolished. It is unclear what rules apply when a developer buys a property for the land only and wants to put many houses to replace one (e.g. 8 flats on 68 Main St) , but I think it will be much more difficult to get permission for a building plot in your garden.
2. We expect the rule that says we must build high density housing everywhere (30 and 50 houses per hectare; 12 – 21 per acre) to be abolished, or relaxed. This has resulted in many small houses packed close together (look at Mill Hill in Bingham), and blocks of flats in unsuitable locations – just to get the numbers up.
3. The entire Regional Spatial Strategy has been abolished. This is where the ruling that we must build 16,000 houses came from, so that is gone as well.
4. We are promised that building on the Green Belt will normally not be allowed (the old regime was softening on that, and both major sites proposed near West Bridgford are on Greenbelt).
The greater protection of the Greenbelt is a two edged sword. All the land round West Bridgford is Greenbelt, so it will push the pressure for land onto genuine brown field sites (Cotgrave pithead, RAF Newton) and edge of Greenbelt towns such as Bingham. (East Bridgford and Radcliffe are within the Greenbelt.) The reduction in housing density required/ allowed will also affect those sites, and their financial viability.
Changes of this magnitude mean that the existing planning work becomes outdated, and we have to start the process again. Even though the edict that we must build lots of homes is gone, we cannot stop. The population is still rising, and people want homes. Many want to come and live in Rushcliffe. We were worried that under the old rules, Rushcliffe would become a less attractive place. We now feel that we can plan to retain and enhance the good aspects of the borough as a place to live.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
I am sure I am not alone in being tired of politics? The newspapers seem to have been full of it for weeks. However, we have had our election with a clear result locally. We have a government whose complexion nobody expected, but which seems to have inherited plenty of goodwill – let us hope it succeeds. It is encouraging that we have two members of the Cabinet living locally, so perhaps some understanding of the needs of rural communities will prevail.
Now that the “fun” of the election is over, it is back to the grind of planning matters. Rushcliffe is still faced with the requirement to build 16,600 homes by 2026, and we do not expect major changes to result from the election. We may see a slight reduction through a fairer distribution of building amongst the districts around the city. However as a nation we still need lots of new homes to house our growing population, and a lot of people want to live in Rushcliffe.
13,000 of these homes are supposed to be built next to the urban area (around West Bridgford) and we already have 1200 approved (at appeal) on the ring road behind the Wheatcroft garden centre. I attended the first presentation of the detail design last month. If we must have housing there, then the layout is quite good. There is a large green space around Sharphill Wood with some sports pitches and allotments, and 1200 houses quite densely packed, but with green lanes providing pedestrian routes through them. Facilities planned include shops, a community centre, primary school and a modest office/ techno park for employment.
I fear that most of the 3000+ houses in rural areas are coming in our direction. The detailed plans for the first 165 houses at Newton are published for consultation, and we expect the first planning application for the full development of another 550 soon. 750 Houses are proposed for the Cotgrave pithead site. A new proposal is for 1000+ houses at Bingham, north of the railway, coming up to the old A46 but not quite to Margidunum roundabout. The proposals also include some shops, sports & community facilities and a medium sized employment area. There was an exhibition in Bingham last month and I will describe these proposals next month.
You will have all received an offer to apply to Rushcliffe for a second “green bin” for £25 a year. The most environmentally friendly solution to your garden waste is to shred and compost it yourselves. But not all waste can be so treated. The next friendliest way is for Rushcliffe to take it direct to the county composting site. This uses a lot less fossil fuels than taking it in the car to Langar – from where the county take it to the composting site (north of here). For those of you who have recycled the Borough flyer, the number to ring is 0115 981 9911.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
May 2010 - General Election
When telling you about our struggles to produce a balanced budget for 2010/11 I have not so far indicated where we found the savings. First of all I should say that three-quarters were found, not by councillors, but by our officers as part of Rushcliffe’s never ending campaign to improve efficiency. We councillors then had to find/ prioritise the rest. There are a few cuts, but in the main the public should not notice (e.g. in the Mayor’s expenses and in Member training), the rest came from increases in revenue. A few of these savings/ increases are now becoming public.
One cut some of you will notice is in the concessionary bus passes for the over 60’s. You will continue to travel free on buses from 9:30 am to 11pm but will no longer be able to get half fares before 9:30, or on the late buses. Neither will you be able to get half fares on trains within Nottinghamshire. I have heard it commented that this will not save much because no-one takes advantage of these half fares. It is certainly true that the facility is not used much, but the saving was significant. Once the County Council had decided not to fund the concession it would have cost Rushcliffe an extra £43,000 per year in compensation to the bus companies. Alternatively we drop the half price concession, stick with the statutory free period, and save the £25,000 we paid last year – i.e. a total saving of £68,000 per year. With the low usage it was such poor value we could not resist. Note that you can also use your bus pass on the Nottingham tram between the same hours, but you might be charged half fare between 4 & 6pm.
You will have seen in the recent Rushcliffe Reports that you can have a second green bin for £25 per annum. This is a triple win – we offer an additional service, it will improve our refuse collection/ recycling statistics and we gain revenue. Sorry to those of you who already had a second bin – it will now cost £25. Your first green bin remains free. Other potential revenue earners are a £1 charge for using the car parks in West Bridgford between 6pm and midnight (following the example of Newark) and a flat charge of £1 for the car park at the Rushcliffe Country Park at Ruddington.
This will probably be my last article before the general election (I am likely to be restrained by electoral law next month) so let me remind you, one more time, we now vote in the Newark parliamentary constituency – not Rushcliffe. You will not be able to vote to re-elect or replace Ken Clarke, instead you will choose between three (or more) candidates for Newark. The sitting MP, who is standing again, is Patrick Mercer (Conservative). Your voting papers etc will come from Newark and Sherwood DC, but the voting arrangements in the village will be the same as usual.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
At last the debate over the 2010/11 budget is completed. The meetings and training courses associated with creating a Countywide partnership for training and development of councillors (for which I was “volunteered”) has also quietened down, so council work has significantly reduced. Now we can return to the thorny issue of agreeing the Local Development Plan (LDP).
As I have reported before, the key decision with the LDP is how many houses should be built in the borough by 2026, and where we should put them. We are part of the Greater Nottingham Housing Area and the Regional Spatial Strategy says we should allocate space for 15,000 homes, the majority next to the built-up area south of the city. But that land is all Green Belt. The number expected of us is far more than the other districts around the city. The Rushcliffe attitude is that, whilst we agree some houses are needed and we will help to accommodate population growth, we think it is wrong to put so many on the Green Belt when there are large “brown field” sites vacant to the west and north of the city.
The matter is now out to public consultation. We have already allocated space for about 2000. What is suggested is 5000+ homes next to the A453 south of Clifton with an extension of the tram and a large “Park & Ride”, another 5000+ alongside Gamston Lings Bar on Tollerton airfield, possibly with a new stadium for Nottingham Forest and a “Park & Ride”. Further out 1000+ houses at Cotgrave Colliery, 1000 at Newton and 1000+ this side of the railway at Bingham. Events where you can see the outline proposals and have your say will be at
• 11 March Bingham Market 8:30 – 2pm
• 16 March Grange Hall, Radcliffe 12 – 6pm
• 26 March Old Court House, Bingham 2 – 7pm
Please go to one of these events and record your view. The results of this consultation will have a major bearing on our efforts to reach a sensible plan. You can also look at the proposals and respond on the Internet
www.bigpicture-rushcliffe.com or for the full report
Council tax increases are likely to be low this year. NCC has decided on no increase. Rushcliffe are likely to confirm an increase of £2 per year (for an average house). EB PC have decided on no increase in the total precept, which equals about £40 (average). For interest, the big villages are expected to charge – Bingham £77, Cotgrave £98, East Leake £61, Keyworth £66, Radcliffe £84, Ruddington £99. Of the villages more our size Cropwell Bishop want £137 (paying for the new community centre), Gotham £56, Gamston £39, and Tollerton £34.
Of our neighbours, Aslockton will charge £28, Cropwell Butler £31, Flintham £52, Orston £38, Shelford £46, Whatton £30. As usual Kneeton, Car Colston, and Screveton are not charging anything. Langar & Barnstone have decided to save up for a new Community Centre and want £115.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
As I write this I can see that the ice and snow has just about gone – at last. Those of us who live on roads that do not get gritted have had a very slippery time of it. I hear that several villagers have fallen and injured themselves – my sympathies to them. Please spare a thought also for the other villages, Kneeton, Car Colston and Screveton who never saw any grit, and lost their bus service as well because the road was too slippery. At least the weather improvement has given my system the chance to throw off the cough that has plagued me since Christmas – my thanks to all those who sent good wishes.
December, January and February are always very busy months for Councillors (they think we have nothing better to do). It has been a long round of meetings on next year’s budget, the Local Development Plan (as I mentioned last month), and scrutinising the work of the Crime & Disorder Reduction Partnership (CDRP). Still to come are the launch of the new “Choice Based Letting” scheme for allocating Spirita homes (more on that next month), the Rushcliffe Climate Change Strategy and the new Nottinghamshire joint programme for training councillors (I have been appointed one of the Borough Champions).
There is some good news around. On the budget, the officers have found quite a few savings and we councillors have been going through and prioritising minor reductions in service, and ways to increase revenue. These have also been put before some “focus groups” made up of citizens, in three age groups. I am relieved to say that councillors and citizens agreed, so it looks as if we can nearly balance the budget. We will have to dip into the reserves we keep for “rainy days” but that should allow us to declare a Council Tax increase of no more than a few pounds a year.
The review of Crime and Disorder demonstrated that, across the borough as a whole crime is down for the third year running in most categories of crime, and overall. I am not sure that Oak Ward is feeling the full benefit of this (see article elsewhere in this magazine). However I am increasingly confident that the CDRP (police, borough, county etc) are becoming aware of the significance of our figures.
Before Christmas we attended a briefing about progress on the A46. You may well have seen the extensive report in the Bingham Advertiser, which indicated that they are on schedule. As far as we are concerned, they hope to erect the A6097 bridge girders in Jan/ Feb, and to start work on the Butt Lane bridge in Mar/ April. One area which will increasingly affect travel to Newark is the junction at Flintham. They have a difficult task to dig the new A46 into a cutting whilst at the same time building a new junction to maintain access to both the Coney Grey estate and the main village.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
2010 is upon us! We are through the “noughties” and on to the “teens” – where do the years go? As has become my practice, I will use this article to try to look ahead across the next twelve months.
One of the biggest events of the first half-year will be a General Election – which will entertain us (or blight our lives) for at least 4 months. Expect campaigning to start in mid-January. Can I remind you again that we, and Bingham, have been moved by the Electoral Commission and we will be voting in the Newark constituency at the next election. Patrick Mercer (Con), the sitting MP, will stand again. Ken Clarke will remain our MP up to Election Day, but thereafter it will be whoever wins the Newark seat. Whatever your political persuasion, if you intend to take an active part in the election you should get to know the association or branch of your party that covers Newark.
The recession is still with us, but there should be some good news. Council Tax will not rise by much – the County Council have already said there will no increase from them, and the Borough is aiming to do the same. Neither authority has any control over what the Police or Fire Service demand.
There will be more than the usual debate and controversy over “Planning”. The Borough is firming up its opposition to being made to build houses on the Greenbelt and we cannot see any evidence for as many as 15,000 by 2026. This would mean building at both Gamston (on Tollerton airfield), and south of Clifton alongside the A453. I suspect we will see a smaller number, but will have to build on one greenbelt site. Closer to East Bridgford, there are proposals for 1000 homes at Newton – see article in this magazine. You also may have seen in the Advertiser proposals to build 1000 homes at Bingham between the railway and the A46. This could join up with the Newton development. I have seen bigger numbers than that. Even in our village we seem to find infill space for about 10 homes per year. As a nation we need to build homes, but the pressure on Rushcliffe is disproportionate, and could, if we do not take care, turn us into a great urban sprawl.
For us locally, a key development should be the regeneration of the Children’s Play Park on Butt Close. The Parish Council has been looking towards this for 4 years; the volunteer group has put in an enormous amount of effort. It should all come to fruition this year; they have won us the money we need with grants from various sources, and are close to agreeing the final design. Once it is done we will owe them a huge vote of thanks.
May I wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year, and may you be able to keep all your New Year resolutions.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
It’s the end of another year. At the Borough Council we are looking forward, with not only the budget for next year, but also have four Strategies in development. The situation over the budget is horrid, largely caused by the financial crisis. We are looking for yet more savings, but we cannot go on absorbing the pressures. I foresee some cut backs in services (hopefully nothing too drastic) and having to dig deep into our reserves. With any luck we will not be forced to be quite so severe as County Hall.
I am involved in developing three of the Strategies. These are Housing – setting out our policies and plans for the next 10 years; Customer Insight – which covers Customer Services (when you contact us) and Customer Engagement (when we inform or consult you). The third is the Local Development Framework (which replaces the old Structure Plan). This covers all aspects of how the Borough might develop up to 2026, and in particular how many houses we need to build, how much land is needed for employment and where they are to be put. This is controversial because we are told we must provide land for 15,000 extra houses, and this means the Green Belt near West Bridgford/ Clifton is under threat.
This brings me back to consultation. To ensure we get these strategies right we need to know what you think. We have “The Big Picture” consultation running. The video consultation kiosks have been to EB twice and Car Colston once. If you missed them you can express your opinion on the Internet. Log on to hear about the changes in the offing, what the options are and get a chance to have your say. Go to www.thebigpicture-rushcliffe.com
One consultation I did earlier was about who to nominate for the annual Rushcliffe Awards, which honour people or groups who “make a difference” to the lives of others. I made two nominations on your behalf. I am delighted that the East Bridgford Post Office won the Rushcliffe award for “Supporting the Local Economy”. They go more than the extra mile to provide us with a friendly Post Office service, and a very useful village store. The help they give our “mature” residents is much appreciated.
The other nomination was for the EB Junior Football club for the brilliant work they do with over 70 youngsters, providing proper soccer training, and a real introduction to competitive sport. They were short listed in the “Supporting Children and Young People” category, but lost out to a very strong entry from Willoughby. Other local groups also did well. Car Colston and Screveton Village Hall won the “Best Run Village Hall” category, the lady who runs enquiry desk at Radcliffe Police Contact Point won “Making Communities Safer” and the team who run “The Coffee Pot” at Shelford on Mondays won the Mayor’s special award.
Finally, in case I do not see you before Christmas, the Season’s Greetings to you all.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
Advice often given to new councillors is “remember it is not just about getting the grass cut”. Well, thank goodness for that; because getting the grass cut has proved to be one of the most intractable issues we councillors have faced recently. When I first investigated I discovered East Bridgford had five bodies cutting our “communal” grass (parish, borough, Spirita, county highways and county education).
One particular issue arose over the grass (between the pavement & the road) on Cross Lane and Holloway Close. Until about 5 years ago this was cut by Rushcliffe BC on behalf of County Highways, and on the whole RBC did a good job of keeping it looking nice (though they did cut the daffodils down one year). Then County highways, as an economy measure, took the responsibility back and reduced the number of cuts a year from about thirty to only four. Before long we had knee high grass and my phone started ringing, as did those of councillors for about a dozen other villages which had enjoyed the same “improvement” in the service. About two year’s worth of pressure, and a small sum of money from RBC, persuaded the county that verges in village housing estates were not the same as country lanes and got the number of cuts increased to six a year.
Since then we councillors have put pressure on to get something done. Finally a solution has been found, and through a redistribution of work between borough and county, RBC is once again responsible for those areas. The cost to the tax payer means we cannot expect the high standards of the past, but you can look forward to the grass being cut more frequently, and shorter. We have already had one cut to the new standard.
Last month you will all have received a survey asking about the need for Affordable Housing in the village. It was prefaced with a letter from Garth Powell – chairman of EB PC – but is in fact being run for the borough. Eventually all villages will be surveyed. East Bridgford is the first village because we were the first to build some new houses, and therefore make obsolete our old survey information.
If the survey shows that we need still more affordable housing we will be invited to consider building another Rural Exception Scheme. Be assured that the Parish Council and I would be just as strict about “local connection” as we were last time. If you are not sure what “affordable housing” is, contact me and I will send you the definition. All Parish Councillors have received a copy.
Will the survey show a need? I really do not know. Last time I knew we had a major need, but about 15 “families with village connections” benefited from the building of Foster’s Close, and the subsequent reshuffle in other housing, so the need may be much lower this time.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
For many of us September is the time when everything restarts. Schools are all back and Universities will be back any day. Certainly the break in meetings we had at the council was all too brief, and we are now playing catch up. One thing I had dropped on me at short notice was hosting the “Big Picture” video kiosk for the Borough at the Garden Club Autumn Show.
“The Big Picture” is a new initiative by Rushcliffe, and is intended to help us get a better feel for what our residents want us to do for them, their communities and the borough over the next 10—20 years. It is intended to both disseminate information to the people of the Borough, to record information about how the Borough has changed in the past and to consult them as to how they would like to see the Borough develop in the future. A series of films have been made to show the way Rushcliffe has changed, and to indicate what some people think is good about it. The films also indicate some if the challenges facing us over the next 10-20 years. There will be events around the area to show you these, and to take your opinions.
An interesting new way of consulting you is the Video Kiosk. This about the size of a one-arm bandit (but you cannot play for money or prizes). Instead, it gives you a bit of background, gives the chance to view a couple of films about the issues, and gives you the opportunity to tell us what you think. It does this by asking three open ended questions, and then giving you the opportunity to speak your answers, in any wording you like. Your answer can be recorded on video or on sound only. The questions cover what you remember about changes in the past, how you would like to see Rushcliffe develop in the future, and what is really important to you. We want to know your feelings about East Bridgford, or the area around it, and about the Borough as a whole.
It is unfortunate that I was unable to warn you that the Kiosk was coming to East Bridgford. It was a case of take the opportunity whilst it was there – the Kiosk had arrived, was free and we had the Garden Club Show at the village hall that weekend. I will try to get it again with plenty of warning – so start thinking about what you want. In the meantime, if you see the Kiosk anywhere (it is quite obvious), go up to it and give it a piece of your mind. It all helps us understand “The Big Picture”.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
In July I reported that we had suffered problems in the Millennium Wood with groups of youngsters camping, indulging in underage drinking etc, and vandalising the area. The good news is that eventually one youth, from Bingham, came forward to admit he was involved. It turned out that, on the occasion he was involved, they were celebrating the end of exams, and were not the usual group. To his credit he offered to clear up the litter, which we accepted. Whatever else went on, I am pleased to report that the trouble has stopped, and the wood is recovering – though 8 trees no longer exist (out of 1000 we planted). The Woodland Trust has been a help to us, as has the Rushcliffe Community Officer – who provided the new signs.
There is more good news about public confidence in the huge upsurge in planning applications recently. It has been very quiet in the early part of the year, but in July and August it has really taken off. An officer I spoke to said “What is it about your Ward with all these unusual and difficult applications?” Difficult, well not really but including my responsibilities across the A46, we have had
four from listed properties (and 3 got the paperwork wrong the first time),
two for dwellings in the green belt. Normally such applications are refused outright as being against the principles of the Green Belt, but both of these were those rare exceptions that get approved (e.g. if road builders want to knock your house down, you are allowed to replace it – seems fair doesn’t it).
Six were in conservation areas and need a little more consideration.
Unusual? There is the usual array of porches, extensions, conservatories etc but I have also had a shed in a churchyard, a balcony on a windmill, a 4 metre high trellis, St Peters School, the Medical centre and somebody wants to raise the weir by 600mm (2 feet).
This is part of a planning application for a small hydro-power station on the Gunthorpe side of the weir, and has to be considered with Newark and Sherwood District. 600mm may not seem much, but if you live or work down by the river, it can have a big impact. It confirms that the British Waters Board supports a small specialist company on the project. It means our community project, which a team from the village has been working on, cannot go ahead (unless the current scheme fails, when they might get a second chance). Whatever we may think, Rushcliffe (and I) cannot object to a scheme on the grounds that we would prefer a different project. Each application has to be considered on its merits. On the plus side, the company claims to have the finance available, so it looks as if we are likely to see sustainable energy from the weir – if all the problems are overcome.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
By the time you read this I will have been on my summer holiday – ten days of culture from the comfort of a cruise ship. My apologies to anyone who failed to get hold of me during the early part of July. I am sure you appreciate why I do not advertise the fact that my house is going to be empty.
Before I went away I was able to fit in the latest exhibition on the A46 building program. A Government Minister came to dig the first spade-full, so it must be true it is going to happen. For those who could not get to the exhibition, the general plan is that they will be working simultaneously at many sites along the whole route. Their plan is to reduce the impact on road users by building one carriageway – usually the northbound one – alongside the existing road, and to then transfer all the traffic to that before starting the second carriageway. In our immediate locality they have a lot of archaeology to do before they can start building the new carriageways. They plan to build our two new bridges over the track of the new road to carry the A6097 and Butt Lane in the next 12 months, and then build the new road underneath them in 2010/11/12. So we might get to drive on new bits of road quite soon, but it will be 2012 before we see the grand opening and the full benefit.
May & June are the months for survey results and awards, and the borough has done well again. No doubt Rushcliffe Reports will give fuller details, here follows a summary. In the Annual Place Survey Rushcliffe yet again came first in the country for “satisfaction with how the council runs things”. This year we also came first amongst those who agree we provide “value for money”, and we were second best three times (out of more than 200) for treating the public with respect, keeping public land clear of litter, and sport/leisure facilities. In all we had 13 responses in the top 10, and only one in the bottom quarter. We must be doing something right.
We also appear to live in one of the healthiest parts of the country, according to the Public Health Observatory. The health of people living in Rushcliffe is generally better than the national average, and our life expectancy, both men and women, is significantly higher. This may well be because levels of drug and alcohol abuse are lower, and fewer than average smoke. The only black mark is the higher rate of road deaths and injuries, but that of course may simply reflect our dangerous roads. And at last, something is being done about that.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
This spring has seen a quite amazing level of political activity.
We have had the MPs expenses row, the resignation of the Speaker, more MPs expenses,
European Elections, County Council elections, challenges to the Prime Minister and most recently
elections for the new Speaker. Hopefully we will now get a couple of months break before the Party
conferences in September/ October. No doubt these will set off another bout of General Election speculation.
One result of this turmoil is a change of control of the County Council.
This may in the long run prove to be of benefit to our village.
Our own County Councillor, Cllr Kay Cutts, is leader of the new ruling group.
As I write the election of Leader of the County Council and the appointment of the Cabinet
is still to happen but it is already clear that County Councillors from Rushcliffe
will be very influential for the next 4 years.
The County Council provides many of our services, and many of the outstanding
issues we have are with those services. The state of our pavements, the surface of Main St,
street lighting, parking restrictions, and cutting of the grass on Cross lane and Holloway Close
are just some examples. I think it would be unrealistic to expect immediate action on all these issues.
I fear the new cabinet will find that the council will be a bit like a super tanker,
very cumbersome and very slow to turn. But whereas in the past we have felt a lack of political will
to help rural villages, perhaps we can hope for better in the future.
I am sorry to report recent trouble and vandalism in the Millennium Wood.
A few weeks ago a group of older teenagers camped overnight. An adult collected their equipment by car,
so they possibly had parental approval. However, a significant area of the wood was smashed down,
saplings were broken off for firewood and much litter remained. The adult presumably saw this, but did nothing.
Next week saw the damage widened, and more litter (5 bags worth) spread. Large amounts of alcohol are being consumed,
and the empty containers spread far and wide. So far we have 6 incidents, and frankly the patience of the volunteers
who clear up is being sorely tried – indeed one episode left so much I had to persuade the Borough to help.
PARENTS. What do you think your offspring are doing in the wood? Camping overnight is relatively harmless,
but smashing down large areas, destroying trees (11 so far), lighting fires and massive littering are not.
Do you appreciate how much alcohol is being consumed? One morning we found 28 cans/bottles of lager or cider,
two empty spirits bottles, 1ltr bottles of WKD and more.
We need to work together to address this. The RBC Anti-social behaviour team and the Woodland Trust are helping us,
as are the Police.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
This has been another quiet month on the Council front; this time because I have been out of action. Unbeknown to most, I had been suffering from a worsening condition, so in late April I underwent an operation to correct it. Most of May therefore was taken gently as I recuperated. My apologies to anyone who found me difficult to contact, and my thanks to those who sent good wishes. I am now fully recovered.
Indeed I started back at “work” with the Annual General Borough Council meeting on May 14th. As usual we elected a new Mayor – this year it is Peter McGowan who has served 28 years as a councillor for Ruddington. (Peter’s brother lives in Screveton). I am pleased to say I was re-elected to the role of Chairman of the Partnership Delivery Scrutiny Committee, and by extension vice-chairman of the county wide Joint Scrutiny Group for the Local Area Agreement partnership. I might try to explain what these do in future articles.
Whilst I am writing this the controversy over MP’s expenses has been raging for over a week; indeed I am tiring of it. It seems a shame that the whole of parliament should be brought into disrepute by the excesses of a few. What it has highlighted for me are the conflicts that arise from the situation we put MPs into by requiring them to be around and visible to us in their constituencies whilst actually working in London. Since everybody has different expectations of life, what is one person’s extravagance might seem normal to someone else. Let us hope that any new arrangements they come to are more effective. And let us hope that we see clear water between the majority and the very few who have actually been dishonest.
Yet another reminder! We have two elections this month, for both the County Council and the European Parliament – both on Thursday 4th. Your vote matters for both. According to the newspapers, there is a battle for control of the County Council so it is doubly important you express your view. Europe gets ever more important in our lives, whether we like it or not. In the East Midlands we elect six MEPs. Only two of those elected last time are standing again. Voting is by a system of proportional representation which is designed to ensure that every vote counts – but you cannot actually choose which MEP you vote for, only the party that they represent. However, even if your choice does not come first, they might get 5th or 6th seat. On the other hand if the party that comes first gets enough votes they might get 3 or even 4 seats. Whatever, your vote matters. If you have a postal vote – have you marked you choice and posted it. If not – do it now! If you do not have a postal vote – remember to go along on Thursday!
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
I seem to have been very busy recently, but in truth it has been a case of several
infrequent meetings on different topics all being scheduled into the same 3 weeks. At present there is very little activity on the planning applications front; no applications
to infill gardens with houses and few to add extensions.
This is almost certainly a reflection of the “credit crunch” and the lack of house sales.
I have little doubt the situation will change.
As so often, trees have become an issue again. A couple of recent incidents have highlighted that the “proper”
procedures are not as we thought they were. In particular there is not the level of public or Parish Council
consultation we expected. This lack of transparency has unfortunately caused upset, even though
Borough procedures have been followed properly. In my view the procedures, particularly where the tree in
question is on public view and in the Conservation Area, are not adequate and I have requested the Head of
Service to review them. In the meantime we must trust the judgement of the Tree Officer.
There are several bits of good news around. Work has started on the A46 at last – so all those who declared
it would not happen in their lifetimes will have to rethink. We have lost a few hedges so far,
but no more will go now until after the bird nesting season finishes. Then I am afraid we will lose a lot more.
There are still some changes to be made to the plans – the Inspector recommended that a new bridleway should be rerouted.
There is apparently no urgency to do this, and it may not happen until September.
Most of the moves arising out of the building of Foster’s Close, and the consequent changes within the Rushcliffe Homes,
are complete. A lot of locals have got new/ improved homes and I am pleased to hear that the number of EB (and local)
villagers on the waiting list is greatly reduced. This is so much so, that in some categories of accommodation,
new vacancies will have to be offered outside the village.
Finally, a reminder. We have two elections next month - both on June 5th. On that day we have to elect representatives
to both the County Council and the European Parliament. Our County Councillor has a direct influence on what happens in
East Bridgford so that choice is an important one. Europe I know is more controversial; but there is little doubt it
affects our lives. No matter what you feel about Europe, I would urge you to get out and vote.
If you are eligible, are you properly registered to vote here? Will you be here on polling day?
If not, have you arranged a postal vote? If you need to do either, ring 0115 981 9911.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
At this time of year it seems as if we are inundated with notification about awards the Borough has been nominated for (or even won). One that I feel is worth drawing to your attention is the annual “Value for Money” assessment done by the Audit Commission. Rushcliffe, yet again, was awarded a score of four – the maximum possible. When all are done they will publish a league table, and we can expect Rushcliffe to be well towards the top, possibility we could even get to number 1 (i.e. best value in the country).
Earlier in March I attended the first annual Parish and Town Council Conference hosted by Rushcliffe – I attended as your Ward Member and Garth Powell and David Meylan represented the Parish Council. It proved to be a glittering, and very useful, occasion. It was chaired by our MP (still) Ken Clarke and covered a lot of topics of interest to parishes. These covered Quality Parish Councils, Parish Plans (though we have completed ours), Affordable Housing (EB got an honourable mention), how to recruit & motivate councillors, “Greening” and more.
One item which struck a chord with all three of us was the “Greening Campaign”. This is a community lead scheme aimed at reducing carbon emissions and adapting to climate change. Unlike some of these campaigns, it appears to be quite pragmatic, and focuses on simple things we can do to reduce our energy usage (and save money). It looks like the sort of thing we might do as a village community. Material is available to get us started, and grants are available. I have arranged to go on a further briefing to collect material; and I will be presenting it briefly at the annual village meeting on April 20th.
I have, finally, managed to distribute all of the £500 available to me through the RBC Community Support Scheme. You will be interested to hear that it went as follows
Approximately half went to the East Bridgford Pre-School to buy indoor play equipment. The pre-School is a self funding village charity which provides a much needed facility 5 mornings a week in the WI Hut.
£100 went to St Peter’s School to support the annual DARE (Drugs Awareness) project. Anything that teaches the pupils about the hazards of drugs has to be a good thing.
The balance went to the EB Scout/ Guide movement to start the process of buying new furniture for their Hut, which is behind the Village Hall. About a hundred of our youngsters use the facility each week.
All three organisations make a massive contribution to the welfare of our children, and the life of our village and I am delighted I can route a small contribution from the Borough their way. I already have some applicants for the next tranche of money, but it is not too late to apply.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
East Bridgford Youth benefit from Rushcliffe Community Grants
Each year Rushcliffe Borough Councillors get £500 from the Rushcliffe Community Support scheme to distribute to community groups in their ward. In 2008/9 Cllr Nigel Lawrence of Oak Ward decided this should benefit young person’s organisations in his ward and the £500 has been distributed as follows:-
£100 to support the Dare
Project at St Peter’s Primary School. The Dare
project is run in conjunction with the police
and aims to make final year pupils aware of the
dangers of recreational drugs. The award paid
for the work books (East Bridgford Parish
Council also made a grant to support the
awards). St Peter’s School serves the local
community and is well known sparking off the
school meals revolution, and still wins awards
for the quality of its food. It is also known
for the sporting prowess of its pupils.
||£236 to East Bridgford Pre-School to buy indoor play equipment. EB Pres-School is a self funding charity providing places for approx. 25 local children. It is run by volunteers and operates out of EB WI Hall. It is fully registered with Ofsted
and achieves high ratings.
||£164 to the Shelford and East Bridgford Scout movement to assist with the purchase of new tables for the Scout Hut (which is behind the EB
Village Hall). The Scout Hut is used by 5 groups
serving 120-140 youngsters, of both sexes, from
the local group of villages.
All three groups make a valuable contribution to village life, and help make East Bridgford a good place to live.
Oak Ward comprises Car Colston, East Bridgford, Kneeton and Screveton.
In 2007/08 the £500 award was used to provide a new kitchen floor covering in Car Colston & Screveton Village Hall
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
I welcome comment on these monthly jottings. However I was surprised last month when I received comments from Hong Kong, and Auckland, New Zealand. It is flattering, both to me and to your magazine editors, to know that our publication reaches such distant places.
January & February are always busy months after a quieter December and there are always many key decisions to participate in.
For example, the Partnership Delivery Board, which I chair, needed to scrutinise progress on the new Library/ Community Hub in West Bridgford. This will consolidate the contact points for many services (RBC, NCC, Housing etc) in the library. We also reviewed the South Notts Crime & Disorder Reduction Partnership, which is making progress, and the new “First Lets” partnership which aims to match low income families at risk of becoming homeless with private landlords. Some of these partnerships may look a little obscure, but working jointly with other local authorities (mainly NCC, Gedling and Broxtowe) and other public bodies (Police/ NHS/ Ambulance etc) is a key way of improving the value we bring to the local community. We will see a lot more of it.
The Place Shaping Scrutiny Board, which I sit on, focuses on initiatives for working directly with the community, and with Town/ Parish Councils and Residents groups. That has to review the results of the trial Glass Recycling arrangements, its results, the survey results and public comment, and financial results. Then it has to recommend the way ahead.
This group also has to scrutinise the key decisions and policies relating to the 2009/10 budget. You will have seen in the press that, due to the Credit Crunch, it is difficult this year. That is an understatement. To put it into perspective a £1 Council Tax charge across the Borough raises £42,000. Due to the economic situation our income is down - less planning applications reduces revenue by £115,000. Similarly there are less Building Regulations inspections; more lost revenue. We have balances in the bank earning interest – for every 0.5% cut in the Bank Rate we lose £230,000pa. But costs are still going up. For the first 8 months of 2008 inflation was over 5%, and the LG staff pay settlement is based on that. The bad news goes on. We have identified at least £500,000 of savings, but that is not enough. We hope we can survive by drawing on our balances to maintain services and to give us time to find more savings next year. As a write, we still have to confirm this.
Last month I invited young people’s groups to bid for some of the £500 Community Support Grant I distribute. To my surprise I only got two. These applications are being processed and I will publish their names next month. It is not too late to apply – I get another £500 to give out in May. Just give me a ring or an email to discuss it.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence
I trust you all had a Happy Christmas, and you have my best wishes for the New Year. As in previous years I will use this January article to try to look ahead. There will be two elections, for the County Council and for the European Parliament, both on the same day in early June. If you believe the press we might get a General Election. Climate change will continue to top the agenda, and you will see more on the topic from Rushcliffe.
Work on the A46 might start this year. The government has confirmed that they will contribute £174million (about half the total cost) which is available in 2009/10. The East Midlands Region has to find £175million over the following years – which I am told is possible. We still do not know what route it will take past East Bridgford. The Highways Agency promises that the inspector’s report confirming this, and the rest of the project, will be published later in January 2009. Personally I doubt we will see much more than land purchases and perhaps archaeological studies this year.
At RBC we are deep into budget and council tax setting. The “credit crunch” is hitting Local Authorities hard. Cost inflation was very high earlier in 2008. It may now be reducing but the ongoing increase is significant. Our previous fixed rate contract for energy (gas, electricity etc) needs renewing and it looks as if the increase will be £440,000 a year – a massive amount when £1 on council tax brings in only £42,000. The reduction in bank rate also hits us hard – we have a lot of money on deposit at this time of year and we hoped for significant earnings. We have made major savings in recent years and there is not much fat left in the budget, so we may need to cut services. The good news is that we can avoid major cuts in services in 2009/10 by taking from our balances, thus gaining us time to find ways of making much bigger savings for 2010/11.
On a brighter note I again have £500 for deserving causes in my ward. Last year it went to Car Colston Village Hall. This year I would like the young people of East Bridgford to benefit. I have started with £100 for the DARE drugs awareness project at St Peter’s School. I need to see well defined causes or projects from young people’s organisations that I can justify giving the rest to. I cannot just give a subsidy to a group – I need to be able to show what the money will purchase. If you know of something – send me an email. It will go to those with the greatest need.
I apologise to anyone who has tried to send me an email in the last few weeks, and had it returned. We have had a serious problem with Eastbridgford.net addresses. Until we get it fixed, please use the address below.
Cllr Nigel Lawrence