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Parish Council Report

My Report to the March 2016 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

  1. South Cambridgeshire District Council decided at a full meeting of the council on 25 February to increase its council tax by £5 a year for the next 4 years – the maximum increase the Government is allowing. This still requires full year savings of £930,000.  It has been anticipated that Ermine Street Housing will deliver an income to the council of £600,000 but there is still £190,000 left to find at this time.  The Government’s 1% reduction in council rents over the life of the current Parliament has very badly damaged the Housing Revenue Account making it impossible to continue with its council house building programme.  It is anticipated by officers that it will be forced to sell some 100 to 150 council homes per year as they become vacant.
  1. Unless significantly amended he Housing and Planning Bill will have a profound effect on rented housing and those on low and middle incomes seeking to own their own home. Officers have briefed that due to South Cambridgeshire’s high house prices even with a 20% discount applicants for a Government “starter” home would require an income of £80,000.  The Bill intends that starter homes should be classified as affordable housing and that the affordable housing quota in developments on Crown land such as at Northstowe should only be starter homes.  This means there will be no social or housing association rented or share ownership properties in such developments.  Also the Bill does not exempt rural exception sites from the ability of occupiers of new affordable housing to buy after five years.  We have already a case where a land owner has withdrawn their offered to sell land at below market value to enable an exception site to go ahead; and of course it means that such homes cannot be guaranteed for the local community in perpetuity.
  1. In response to the proposed modifications to the submitted Local Plan South Cambridgeshire District Council and the City Council received 1037 representations from 222 individual respondents. There were 894 objections to the modifications. The delivery of a 5 year housing supply will be very challenging as developers once receiving permission are sitting on land because of the rising house price market in the Cambridge sub-region. The adoption of the Local Plan could well slip into 2018 and may even be overtaken by the City Board’s review of planning strategy due in 2018/19.
  1. You will know that the applicant for Barleyfields has gone to appeal on the grounds of non-determination by South Cambridgeshire District Council. The council is currently dealing with some 900 planning applicants.

My Report to the January 2016 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

  1. For South Cambs the Government revenue support grant reduces from £1.8m this year to £0.9m in 2016/17 and then £0.2m in 2017/18 then zero thereafter. There will be a small rural services grant increasing over the parliamentary term to £0.1m p.a.  We are told by officers that this is a slightly worse position than we had anticipated (in that the reductions happen earlier and therefore sharper than assumed; although we had forecasted a zero position in 2019). The New Homes Bonus (NHB) figures in the spending power analysis imply an increase for next year from £4.1m to £5.1m with this then falling back to £3.3m p.a. as the savings required for the funding of the Better Care Fund are implemented. This is a significantly better position than assumed. It is important to note though, that any additional resources from this source would be earmarked for infrastructure contributions most significantly into the City Deal pot so this would not necessarily help with the RSG reduction although Government will say that the Council’s overall spending power has increased as a result.
  1. The other significant issue is that South Cambs is a low tax/low spending authority (SCDC is in the lowest 15 in England) it will be subject to a £5 council tax increase referendum trigger rather than the default 2% limit. This is equivalent to a 4% limit in 2016/17. The Government has assumed the Council will implement this increase in its spending power assumptions so, in summary, it will quote South Cambs as having a 4% increase in spending power for 2016/17.
  1. In summary, South Cambs will need to find an additional £0.4m of savings p.a., above the £1.4m already targeted (on a net budget of £16.4m). Alternatively, we could do this by reallocating resources from NHB away from infrastructure funding or by increasing council tax by the full £5, or a combination of all 3 measures.
  1. The proposed modifications to the submitted Local Plan are now out to public consultation until 25 January 2016. For Fulbourn it is proposed to amend the Plan to reduce the extension of the Peterhouse Technology Park into the Green Belt to the Yarrow Road roundabout.  This follows a review of the Inner Green Belt which agreed with my objection that the original extension would have harmed the Green Belt between Fulbourn and Cherry Hinton.  I urge the parish council to respond to the consultation which closes on 25 January 2016.
  1. Fortnightly road sweeping has now returned to the High Street and having spoken to South Cambs environmental services it is hoped that surrounding roads will be covered too subject to the state of the High Street.
  1. South Cambs has refunded 21 pre app fees (just under £3000) having not been able to deliver the reports. Most officers are sitting on about 7 planning applications each. Five junior planners have been recruited.
  1. Sir Graham Bright the Police Comissioner has a ‘Youth Fund’ that can be applied too for one-off grants of up to £2,000 to support youth activities that positively engage young people, diverting them away from behaviour that can cause crime and disorder. I have passed this information to Alex Andrews.

 

My Report to the November 2015 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

  1. South Cambridgeshire District has now completed the reviews of the housing trajectory, Green Belt and Government policy to meet the concerns of the Local Plan inspector. The proposed amendments to the submission will now go before the full council for approval and if approved will then go out for public consultation over December/January in time for the restart of the inquiry in March.  Broadly the review suggests an additional 500 homes in South Cambs by 2031, confirmation of the Green Belt review (with some small changes) and the inclusion of all Government policy to date.  I expect this will not go down well with housing developers and I think the examination will have to be extended to give them time to produce evidence to rebuff the council’s evidence.  The Local Plan could then fall foul of the proposed Housing and Planning Act.  So it is by no means over and Government intervention is still a strong possibility.
  1. Back to more bread and butter matters, I have asked Stagecoach for a timetable for the new bus shelter in Fulbourn Road and it will be contacting the Clerk to gain access to the panel.
  1. Those seeking advice on planning matters must now make an appointment to receive the free pre-planning advice. New planning officers are being recruited but these officers are straight out of university and I’m concerned about the amount of time they will require from supporting senior staff.  There are over 600 outstanding applications.
  1. As reported last month the council has agreed to downsize to 45 councillors (from 57) and we are now looking at boundaries. This area east of Cambridge will need to lose one councillor.  There are three possible alternatives which are being considered between the political groups.  The objective is to try to present a united front to the Boundary Commission.

My Report to the September 2015 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

  1. South Cambridgeshire Chief Finance Officer has warned that the district council is heading into “a perfect storm” over affordable housing as it is hit by a triple whammy from the new government’s recent budget announcements. Firstly by having to give a 1% reduction in council rents over the next four years its council house building programme will have to be abandoned.  Secondly, the forced sell off of housing association properties involves the council being forced to sell its best housing stock as properties become empty to reimburse the housing associations.  And thirdly the council will still have the £205million loan to pay off which it took out to enable it to use rent money – previously given to the government – for council house building, now without the rents from the new build to offset it.  In addition to the above we are expecting to see many small landlords selling up as a result of the changes to the tax rules on “buy to let” properties.  Officers have warned that homelessness will rise in the district has a direct result of this government action.
  1. Meanwhile in addition to the housing issues, the council will also be hit by the introduction of the National Minimum Wage of £9 by 2020, the ending of contracting out on the Pension Scheme and changes to National Insurance contributions which will all put pressure on the council’s finances whilst the 1.9% council tax cap will restrict its ability to rise more income and we are having to find thousands of pounds to meet Business Rate appeals. There can only be one outcome – more drastic cuts in non-statutory services.
  1. The crisis in the planning department continues. With no sign of the staff shortages being resolved (with local officer pay increases being restricted to 1% by the government not helping) Huntingdon District Council is taking over some of the planning control workload.  This follows IT and the legal department which will now be run from Huntingdon and the City respectively.
  1. As to where we are with the Local Plan you will see from copies of correspondence recently sent you that the council has been knocked back on both its wish to have the joint housing supply accepted as sound by the Inquiry Inspector and for the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) upon which you will depend on future contributions from small housing developments taken out of the Local Plan Examination and dealt with separately. Clearly this is now a mess and what has come from the Inspector’s letter of 28 July is that the five year housing supply matter even if the principle of a joint trajectory is considered sound will not be settled until late next year at the earliest, leaving the door open for developers to appeal refusals made so far and for more speculative applications.
  1. Finally the full district council is due to meet on 24 September to determine the future number of councillors. The Boundary Commission has warned the council that in its opinion the council is much too big compared to other district councils with similar size electorates and is suggesting a council of around 40 to 45 members.    I believe the council is likely to accept 45 members (a reduction of 12) based on the size of the electorate of Histon and Impington, which with three councillors equates to just over 3,000 electorate per councillor.  This would require Fulbourn joining with either Teversham or the Wilbrahams to keep its current two seats (with the other parishes losing their single seats).  Fulbourn with the Beechwoods is too large for a single councillor).  Moreover the Boundary Commission will only permit a third of the council being elected every four years (as now) if all the wards consist of three councillors.  Continuing with the current mixture of one, two and three member wards would require the council to change to all up elections every four years (starting in 2018) to give electorate an equal opportunity of voting.  My position is that because of the vast size of three member wards in a rural area you would lose the local connection and it would be very much harder for independents to stand a chance of election, so I will be supporting all up elections.

My report to the June 2015 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

  1. At the annual meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council on Thursday 21 May I was reappointed to the council’s Corporate Governance Committee and to the Finance and Staffing Committee.
  1. As you will know the inspector examining the proposed Local Plan has suspended proceedings. She wants the councils to provide more evidence to support their housing forecasts and the methodology used, she has found fault with the Green Belt study and has pointed out that the Local Plan does not follow planning policy guidance nor takes account of ministerial written answers and their effect on planning rules. She wants more evidence to show that developing new settlements is more sustainable than expanding Cambridge into the Green Belt.  All of these matters were discussed in the work shops where we assured that they had been dealt with.  As you know I did not think the plan was ready and voted against its submission for examination.  The Lib Dem group wants a fresh pair of eyes to review the Local Plan but this has been rejected; however seeking independent advice on how to deal with the speculative applications now being submitted has been accepted.   The council has given itself to the 31 December to respond to the inspector.  Meanwhile existing LDF policies remain in force including that for the Green Belt.
  1. You will have noticed that whatever seed the cabling contractor sowed in Yarrow Road it wasn’t grass seed and I have asked the planning officer concerned to get it done properly along with having the verge beside the chicane in Cambridge Road reinstated properly.
  1. Officers have confirmed that the street cleansing and refuse department has been short of up to 20 staff since Christmas which has caused our streets to be un-swept for months which is affecting the county weed killing programme. Now we are in the new financial year I have been told that recruitment is starting again but it is difficult to find applicants because of the low unemployment rate in South Cambs.
  1. Following the April litter pick when I collect three bags of litter from the Beechwoods I have asked ARM and the MRC to ask their staff at the Peterhouse Technology Park to use the litter bins when walking back from Tesco eating lunch.
  1. I have asked that South Cambs consult with the county council over the surface water issues with the Teversham Road planning application as the county became a statutory consultee response for surface water in April, before the recent re-run of the consultation period caused by the applicant wrongly describing the application.
  1. The park and ride parking charge is being reviewed this summer. The drop off in usage has not recovered as yet – it remains about 12% down on the pre charge level.  The county council is altering the ticket machines to make them easier to use.
  1. The proposal to let a multi-national company that pays no tax in the UK to run an enterprise centre in the Central Library has been passed by one vote after councilors voted along party lines and the Conservatives voted for the proposal. The Lib Dem group is now seeking way to have this voted nullified as financial figures given to councillors were not complete and the alternatives were not fully investigated.
  1. With the introduction of tougher EU diesel emission laws next year the county council is reviewing its quality bus agreement and in partnership with Stagecoach is seeking funding to trial hybrid diesel/electric buses on Citi routes. Regrettably Whippet has declined to take part.
  1. You will have seen that the footpath in Hinton Road has been resurfaced and the road way will be done once the schools have broken up for the summer and there is less traffic about. This year footpaths in Haggis Gap, Caraway Road and the High Street end of Pierce Lane are also due to be seen to. We have a lot of catching up to do so please be patient.  I have asked that Impetts Lane and the Gazelle Way end of Fulbourn Old Drift be considered for micro asphalting next year given the success of the trial in Thurbourn Close Teversham.
  1. In trying to sort out inconsiderate parking and super fast broadband in roads on the Swifts estate I have found that these roads have either been adopted by the county temporarily or not at all because of a dispute between Accent and Anglian Water as to where the surface water goes. Accent believes it flows to the north of Cow Lane through a private culvert which Anglian Water is not prepared to maintain and until this is settled the county cannot adopt the roads. This did not arise with the previous Windmill Estate as its roads were unadopted.
  1. This year’s Local Transport Initiative Scheme has opened for bids. A review has been going on for next year to reduce the number of unsuccessful schemes by having highway officers work more closely with applicants to eliminate those that have little chance of succeeding. With further cuts planned by the new government on county highway budgets the LHI will in future be the only way minor highway schemes will be progressed.  However, the Lib Dem group is opposing a Conservative proposal to increase the PC contribution from 10% to 25%.  The decision will be made at the July meeting of the Highway and Community Infrastructure committee.
  1. The Boundary Comission has published for consultation its proposed new boundaries for the county council divisions in order to reduce the differences in the number of electors represented by each councilor. So far as the Fulbourn division is concerned it proposes that Fen Ditton village and Horningsea are transferred to the Waterbeach division – with the Wing half of Fen Ditton parish remaining inFulbourn. The Boundary Commission has made it known that it intends to review the South Cambs wards next with the intention of greatly reducing the number of councillors and this will certainly affect Fulbourn.
  1. Finally to end on a good note, the planning application for the proposed ice rink at the Newmarket Road park and ride is expected to be determined this summer.

My report to the November 2014 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

1. Since the October parish council meeting I have attended the Staffing and Finance portfolio holder’s meeting and a briefing on the possible council tax to be levied next year.

2. At the Staffing and Finance portfolio holder’s meeting I once again attempted to have South Cambridgeshire adopt the living wage as the minimum wage paid to council employees. This affects just 12 members of staff. But again it was rejected even though it was estimated to add just £2,400 to the council’s wage bill. Even Uttlesford District Council has adopted the living wage (hardly a red leaning council) and so too has Teversham Parish Council for its contractors.

3. As to next year’s council tax you will have received a letter providing you with the proposed precept tax base for next year so that you can let the council know if you think it is wrong. The council is expecting 800 to 1,000 new homes nett each year to increase council tax income, although the cost of the services for these new homes is estimated as being higher than the council tax income! It also assumes that New Homes Bonus will continue although this is uncertain given the likelihood of a new government in May. The council will be relying on income from its private property company to make up for the loss of government grant. Even so some £1.2 million worth of savings will be required with a 2% increase in council tax (the maximum that can be applied without a referendum) and the bulk of that will need to come from street refuse services as most other services have very little more to give in savings.

4. The Examination in Public of South Cambs’ submitted Local Plan started on 4 November and developers fought to have the Green Belt considered first so that it could be challenged and made available before the 5 year housing supply is examined in February; I am please to say that the Inspectorate kept to her guns. But this is going to be a very acrimonious inquiry with landowners and housing developers looking for every loop hole to build on the Green Belt around Cambridge.

5. Mary Drage and I met South Cambridgeshire officers to discuss the way forward for both the Ida Darwin and Teversham Road proposed housing developments (minutes are being tabled at the meeting). It appears the extra care facility has been dropped in favour of more housing and the Teversham Road application is having to be determined in February (and not later) because the applicant is prepared to appeal for non determination if it is not processed within the statutory maximum limit.

My District report to the September 2014 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

1. As you will know just before the summer break a planning inspector in upholding an appeal for housing development in Waterbeach considered that South Cambs did not have a five year housing supply and could not therefore refuse applications for housing developments except where it could be shown that the adverse impacts of the application outweigh the provision of new homes. As a result, our existing housing policies regarding village frameworks and rural centres currently cannot be used to determine applications. Moreover, the inspector considered that the emerging policies in the proposed Local Plan could not be given weight because of the number of objections lodged against it, which made it likely that it would be altered substantially by the Examination in Public. Therefore we cannot use the proposal to designate Local Green Space and other new policies contained in the new Local Plan to determine applications. However, he did say that Green Belt policy continues to apply. South Cambs considered a challenge to these views, but the inspector could not be faulted on the way in which he had come to these conclusions and so it was decided not to do this and potentially make matters worse ahead of the Examination in Public which will have to take into account the views he expressed.

The problem is that because the South Cambs Local Plan has been produced in tandem with the City Local Plan, our Plan allows for the majority of the housing development in the early years of both Local Plans to take place in the City, with South Cambs delivering the bulk of the housing in the latter years in the form of new settlements. As a result, while the City has a five year supply now, South Cambs does not. The Waterbeach inspector did not accept this as there is no precedent for two local planning authorities to work together in this way. South Cambs and the City are therefore producing a Memorandum of Understanding to put this arrangement on a legal footing to put before the Examination in Public.

The upshot of all of this is that the process of adopting the Local Plan will be delayed well into next year I suspect and meanwhile South Cambs will be open to attempts like that of Castlefield International to build houses on the former water company land to the north of Cow Lane. I hope that as the Examination in Public progresses emerging policy will be given weight as it is dealt with and that the proposed designation of Local Green Space and Fulbourn as a Minor Rural Centre will be able to be used in determining the application.

2. I also attended a Corporate Governance Committee meeting of South Scambs to discuss the implications of the City Deal on future planning policies. The intention is that the City Deal authority will in time be responsible for producing from 2019 a single Local Plan for all three councils, but without the democratic control of a unitary authority – the decisions resting with just three councillors each appointed by their authority. The Liberal Democrat group are extremely concerned about the way the City Deal is being used to create a “quango” type body which will include university and business interests that will have enormous control over the future of the Cambridge region, yet will be far removed from the electorate with limited scrutiny.

3. The outline planning application for the Marshall “Wing” development will be considered next month by a joint planning committee of South Cambs and the City. I understand the Heads of Terms for the S106 agreement has been agreed between the parties, although as an opposition councillor I have been excluded from knowing what this is before the papers are made public. However, I am told that it includes a proposal for an ice skating rink adjacent to the Newmarket Road P&R site which may have traffic implications for us.

My report to the July 2014 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

1. Last week a planning inspector upheld an appeal by two housing developers for permission to build houses between Waterbeach village and the former Waterbeach barracks. This affects us because the inspector in his decision considered that South Cambridgeshire District Council did not have a five year supply of housing land contrary to Government guidance and that the emerging Local Plan had so many objections against it that little weight could be given to it as emerging policy! The council had refused to grant permission on the grounds that the land was to be designated Green Belt to separate Waterbeach village from the proposed new town. The inspector considered that the housing land shortage was substantial based upon the new housing estimates produced for the proposed Local Plan (he estimated that we had in fact only 3.5 to 3.9 years worth of land), whereas the council also acknowledging it was tight had based its figure on the former housing figures contained in the existing Local Development Framework. This means that the current housing policies regarding village frameworks and village infrastructure are nil and void until the new Local Plan is adopted in the New Year. However the inspector did acknowledge that the Green Belt continued to be grounds for refusal – this did not apply to Waterbeach because the land had yet to be designated Green Belt. However, this ruling does have an implication for the former water works land north of Cow Lane because like the Waterbeach land it is currently unprotected and its proposed designation as a Local Green Space is hotly contested by housing developers and the inspector’s ruling suggests it cannot be given weight as emerging policy. However, I’m confident that the ecological assessment will support the designation and provide grounds for refusal. Clearly the Local Communities portfolio holder had no grip on what the officers were doing in preparing the Local Plan and of course the author of the plan has left the council.

2. A second major matter for us is the merging of the South Cambs and City waste services including kerbside collection. The new joint department will be based at the South Cambs depot at Waterbeach and provide considerable financial savings for both us and city residents through productivity improvements in staff and equipment. This is another function being shared with the City and with the formation of a Greater Cambridge joint authority for managing the City Deal funding it can only be a matter of time for Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire councils to be merged into a unitary authority. So come on be straight with people. Personally being both a district and county councillor I can see enormous benefits in there being a unitary authority like Peterborough for the Greater Cambridge region both for delivering strategy and the day to day provision of joined up services.

My District Councillor report to the May 2014 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

1. From next April the way in which the parish council receives money to offset the impacts of new housing will change. Instead of receiving Section 106 money for every development, parishes will be given part of a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), a tariff levied on housing developments of less than 200 dwellings based on the floor area of the buildings. If the parish has a Neighbourhood Plan it will received 25%, but if not (like Fulbourn) it will be 15%. In either case the amount will be much less than under the current S106. The CIL money has to be paid to the parish council within 6 months of being received by the local planning authority (LPA) and it has to be spent within 5 years. But it is paid only when the dwelling is occupied. The CIL can be used more widely than S106 money to “support the development of the area”. The LPA’s CIL money can only be spent on items previously identified under a Regulation 123 list held by it (in our case South Cambs). Being on the list precludes the item from future S106 money. So for example if the planned youth building is on the list, CIL money can be spent on it, but it cannot be included in any S106 agreement. There is also a requirement for parish councils to itemise and explain how the CIL money has been spent (or not) in its annual report. South Cambs is now asking parish councils for their items for the Regulation 123 list and Fulbourn needs to ensure it gets its wish list in. I would refer you to the latest planning brief from South Cambs.

2. I have been helping residents on the Swifts to deal with anti-social behaviour. The Accent Nene estate manager and our PCSOs have been involved which has involved letters and visits to the families concerned. It has been suggested that signs be erected either side of “the wall” artwork.

3. From 1 June Stagecoach will be running the 17 bus to Balsham Road to serve the Fulbourn Centre and White Hart and will be using the lay-by. I have asked county highways to deal with the potholes in the lay-by. I am also discussing the positioning of a bus stop in Home End with the county highways safety team.

4. Further to the Patients Participation Group’s presentation at the last parish council meeting I raised the matter of nursing support at the Health Centre at the full meeting of South Cambs council and I am pursuing it with the Cambridgeshire Health and Wellbeing Board.

5. Hinton Road and footpath have been included in the 2015/16 capital programme for resurfacing at a cost of nearly £200,000. The footpath in Haggis Gap by Swifts Corner is also to be resurfaced soon.

6. Over the summer South Cambs will be consulting on its decision to change collection rounds and reduce the green bin collection to once per month in December, January and February. The collection rounds are years old and need reviewing, but I have grave concerns on the cut to the green bins.

My report to the April 2014 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

  1. The South Cambs Local Plan was voted through by less than half its councillors, such was the widespread unease with it.  After weighing up the pros and cons I found it unsound and needing more work to pass the planning inspector unchanged.  I thought South Cambs was being pushed to keep pace with the City’s plan. While the plan keeps the Green Belt around the village and re-designates us as a Minor Rural Centre, one of its supporting documents trashes the Green Belt between Fulbourn and Teversham leaving the door open for future housing north of the railway when the plan is reviewed in 2019.  If the government inspector sends the plan back we will be in big trouble.  Also the council’s planning policy manager has left the council and won’t be there to argue the council’s case.
  2. I have taken up complaints about practice nursing cover at the health centre with the Cornford House general practice.  I am also backing the patient participation group in its efforts to get the health centre replaced given the poor state of the building.
  3. In line with council workers, Cambridgeshire and South Cambs councillors are receiving a 1% rise in their basic allowance – the first increase for four years.  You can see what I receive every month from both councils on my website under council expenses.
  4. Like the Bridges of Madison County the boundary fences on the Beechwoods Estate are made of wood and wood rots eventually.  Given most are now over 30 years old I have been investigating with Cambridgeshire and South Cambs as to who is responsible for their replacement and so far in all cases the fence has been on someone’s deeds.  The county council will remove a broken fence if it is endangering a public right of way, but its replacement (and the cost of removal by the council) will lie with a home owner.

My report to the March 2014 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

  1. You will know that South Cambridgeshire District Council is raising its element of council tax this year by 1.99%.  The council has based its budget on the possibility that government funding could cease from 2019 and that housing growth will be in line with that predicted in the proposed Local Plan.  Council tenants will also find their rents increased by above inflation.  I am very wary of these assumptions.  I said the council could regret budgeting for zero funding – and getting what it wished for; giving the government the ammunition to divert funds from South Cambs to other councils. So I voted against the budget.
  2. I also had to oppose the South Cambs corporate plan.  In meetings with officers over the setting up of a private company to buy and rent houses on the open market I had been told that the sole intention is for the company to deliver an income for the council to offset the loss of government grant (see above).  Yet the corporate plan I was asked to endorse at the full council meeting said that the private company would provide “affordable housing” itself.  Of course being a private company it cannot offer rents at social rent levels and could this be privatisation of the management of South Cambs’ housing stock by the back door contrary to the wishes of the tenants?  With cabinet members being unwilling to explain what this meant I could not support it.
  3. You will have heard that South Cambs is considering stopping the green bin collection in winter months.  The first opposition councillors knew about this was when it was reported in the Cambridge News!  There will be consultation later this year, but I suspect like many other things minds have already been made up.
  4. After months of waiting, following a further moan by me to South Cambs environmental health about the missing parish council litter bin in Lucerne Close it has been re-instated by South Cambs.
  5. I have been in touch with Tesco about the appalling amount of litter in the landscaping around the Fulbourn store car park and they have assured me that a litter pick is in hand.
  6. I am very concerned that South Cambs has admitted that the proposed planning brief for the Ida Darwin hospital redevelopment is a departure from Green Belt planning policy – driven by its interest in the extra care unit facility.  I fully support the parish council in its opposition to the redevelopment as currently proposed.
  7. South Cambs councillors meet tomorrow (March 13) to vote on the Local Plan submission.  There is wide spread concern that local members and the public’s views have been ignored by planning officers and the cabinet.

My report to the January 2014 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

1. First of all very best wishes for the New Year.

2. Following the application I prepared on behalf of the parish council to have a speed activated sign in Dogget Lane under the county council’s Minor Highways Initiative scheme, I am pleased to report that it has been short listed and that I shall be presenting our bid later this month to the panel.

3. Today (8 January) South Cambs is due to endorse a development brief for the Ida Darwin to help it determine the outline planning application.  I am supporting the parish council’s call to have this deferred until planning officers have met the working group to explain and discuss the contents of the brief and will be speaking at the meeting to this effect.  I am concerned that the officer report has misrepresented the views of the parish council and does not mention the working group nor the parish council’s letter to the Secretary of State.

4. The Marshall Group has submitted its application for outline planning permission for its “Wing” housing development on the north side of Newmarket Road.  Under pressure from me, the district council member for the Wilbrahams and Teversham PC it has dropped its plan to build industrial units on Green Belt land off Airport Way.  It has also accepted that it has to abide by South Cambs housing policy with regard to the allocation of the affordable homes element of the development.  This large development will have an impact on Fulbourn in terms of traffic, education and health provision and Fulbourn should respond to the consultation.

5. The bus working group has met since the last meeting to agree how to provide an alternative to the withdrawal of the day time service on the 17 between Fulbourn and Little Wilbraham – please see my county council report.

6. The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement made changes to the funding settlement for local government, particularly with regard to the New Homes Bonus.  Overall there is a 10% reduction in funding for local councils.  Once again it is offering additional money for freezing council tax, but it nowhere compensates for inflation and currently South Cambs is planning up to a 3.5% increase for next financial year the limit set by the Government for councils with low council tax rates.  South Cambs meets on 27 February to approve its budget for 2014/15 and set its council tax rate.

My report to the December 2013 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

1. Since the November parish council meeting I have attended the full council meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council and the Corporate Governance Committee both held on Thursday 28 November 2012.

2. At the full council meeting I proposed and it was accepted unanimously that the council reaffirms its support for the proposed Science Park Station at Chesterton Sidings.  This is needed to unlock the full potential of the Science Park site, providing employment and transport improvements which will benefit all of us in the Cambridge sub region.  I have argued that the extension to the Peterhouse Technology Park into Green Belt land is unnecessary because the Science Park offers sufficient development potential instead.

3. South Cambridgeshire District Council has issued the first of a monthly e-bulletin to Parish Councils giving up to date news about its activities which the councils can then include in websites.  The council will be producing it in pdf format too from this month.  I welcome this useful way of keeping Parish Councils and through them the public with regular updated news items about the District Council.

4. South Cambridgeshire is also asking residents and businesses in the district about what they think about its Corporate Plan and in consequence what it will be concentrating on in the forthcoming financial year and the level of council tax it will levy.  The budget being put forward by the ruling political group proposes a council tax increase of 3.5% – the maximum allowed under Government rules without a referendum for councils with very low tax rates such as South Cambs.  Go to the council website for details of how to respond.

5. There were over 7,000 responses to the proposed Local Plan submission documents.  The council is proposing to present the final document to full council in February/March with the intention to submit it for the Government Inspector to find it sound and fit for purpose by the summer.  We can then breathe a sigh of relief and start to review our Parish Plan to ensure it conforms to the new planning policies.  (And perhaps to produce a Neighbourhood Plan). Meanwhile the council has published its 5 year land bank to demonstrate that there is sufficient land for housing development over that time to keep the developers at bay whilest the Local Plan is submitted and determined.

My report to the November 2013 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

 1. Since the October parish council meeting I attended two South Cambridgeshire District Council workshops – one on next year’s budget and the possible council tax to be levied and the second about a proposal to set up a wholly owned private housing company to deliver income to the council.

2.  South Cambs continues to suffer from decisions taken in the 1990s to reduce council tax levels, which has resulted in the district receiving far less in government grant than comparable councils.  In 2010/11 the council received £7.8m, but for 2014/15 it will get £2.3m in government grant and could get nothing by 2019.   So next year the council will see its government grant reduced by a further 10% compared to this financial year at a time when inflation is predicted officially to rise by 2.4%, council staff have been awarded a 1% pay rise and pension costs will rise, refuse costs will rise, less money will be received from the government for housing benefit administration, the onus to repay council tax overpayments due to past overvaluation will fall on the council (estimated at £500,000) and 40% of the proportion of the New Homes Bonus to be received by South Cambs (which was to be available to offset the cost of new housing) will be top sliced by the government for the Local Enterprise Panels.  Also the retention of non domestic business rates is to be half that promised and what is left will be affected by the City Deal.  Against this the council will have a council tax rise cap of 3.5%.  All indications are that whoever wins the 2015 general election this squeeze on Cambridgeshire councils will continue.  So you can see that going forward the provision of non statutory services in our district will depend more and more on parish councils

3. In view of the above, South Cambs has been considering other ways of getting revenue income.  One proposal is for the council to set up a wholly owned limited company to let housing at full market rates.  The council will lend the company money at the commercial rate to buy property to let and make a profit on the interest charged, which can go to the general fund and supplement the council tax income.  The council could either lend the money from its reserves or borrow at a much lower interest rate from the Public Works Loan Board.  One issue I am concerned about is the potential for the council to be competing against first time buyers who are already struggling against buy to let competition.  The council is to be asked to approve a two year pilot project.

My report to the October 2013 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

1. Since the September parish council meeting I attended the full meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council on 26 September and the Corporate Governance Committee on 27 September.

2. At the full meeting of SCDC the council gave powers to the Housing Portfolio holder to dispose of council properties.  At the Corporate Governance Committee I asked and it was agreed to audit this as soon as practical.  The criteria does permit the gifting of property to a social housing provider in certain circumstances and there is concern that this could be used to transfer housing stock which would be against the wishes of tenants, who voted overwhelmingly some years ago against this.

3. At the Corporate Governance Committee meeting we had the opportunity to meet those administering the local government pension scheme for South Cambs and other councils in Cambridgeshire which is currently millions in the red and being supported by council tax payers.  We were concerned to learn that the pension fund board has no pension professional on it!  We are asking the council to express concern over this.

4. There continue to be worrying side effects with the Marshall’s proposed Wing development on the north side of Newmarket Road opposite the airport.  Following my challenge to Marshalls at the Fen Ditton PC AGM to say where it intends to relocate activity going on at its North Works, we now find not only does Marshalls want to build industrial units on Green Built land at the junction of Newmarket Road and Airport Way in order to relocate some of its North Works activity and its military vehicles division from Mildenhall, it now informs South Cambs that it wishes to relocate its car showrooms to the south side of the airfield along Airport Way.  Marshalls have been told by South Cambs that it cannot amend its proposed Local Plan for these proposals, but at this time Marshalls have indicated that they will be submitting planning applications nonetheless.  This, together with the 500 home development proposed by Marshalls on land to the north of Teversham Old Drift which is supported by the city council, will virtually join Teversham village to the city!

5. Finally, the public consultation on SCDC’s proposed submission for its Local Plan closes on October 14 and I have prepared a response for the parish council as well as objecting myself to the extension of the Peterhouse Technology Park which appears to go against other policies proposed by South Cambs.

My report to the September 2013 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

 

  1. The current public consultation for the Local Plan that will be put to the planning inspector has been extended until 5 pm on 14 October. Importantly, if you have already let South Cambridgeshire District Council  have your views in its previous consultations, they will not be included in the final plan submitted to the planning inspector.  Only responses to this consultation will count, so please resubmit if you want your previous views taken into account.  You can be sure there will be developers who will be counting on you not doing this!  You should write to: Jo Mills, Director of Planning and New Communities, South Cambridgeshire District Council, Cambourne Business Park, Cambridge CB23 6EA or go to:  www.scambs.gov.uk.
  2. As you know I have been supporting you in your opposition to the outline planning application submitted by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mental Health Trust because of its inappropriate affect on the Green Belt and I have prepared with help from David Cottee of Fulbourn Forum a letter for you to send to the secretary of state calling for the application to be called-in because it goes against government planning guidance.
  3. SCDC has closed its pest control unit.  The work of the unit had been run down because it could not compete with commercial businesses and it is more cost effective for the council to use them rather than have its own dedicated staff.
  4. SCDC is joining Peterborough UA and Cambridge City Council in providing an internal audit team for the three authorities.  This has no effect on SCDC staffing because internal audit had been contracted out.  The economies of scale will reduce the cost of the internal audit service. Also the SCDC payrolls team will merge with that for Cambridge City.  The effect of this on staff numbers is unclear.
  5. Over the coming six months a thousand more council homes will have solar panels, bringing the total to 2,000.  However, the way SCDC’s contractor has been dealing with Fulbourn tenants has caused some complaints which I am pursuing.
  6. Wearing both my district and county hats I am working with CCC and SCDC officers to overcome the confusing arrangement on the Beechwoods estate with regard to street maintenance with the intention of having one person being the contact point and managing the work of the five organisations in involved.

My report to the July 2013 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Counci 

  1. As you already know, the Cabinet of SCDC agreed the draft Local Plan that will be put to a further round of public consultation from 19 July to 30 September.  The draft proposes to retain the current Green Belt around the village and to designate the land between the village framework boundary and the Green Belt north of Cow Lane as a Local Green Space to protect it from development.  Also it proposes the village be re-designated a minor rural centre which will introduce development limits within the village framework and the requirement for a gypsy and traveller site at Ida Darwin has been dropped.  However, it proposes the extension of the Peterhouse Technology Park eastwards to the entrance of Fulbourn Hospital and building 450 homes either side of Worts Causeway.  Both schemes involve building on the Green Belt and the former also means building on land owned by the charity set up to maintain St Vigor’s church clock!  Because there are no new developments planned for the village the Cabinet decided not to hold an exhibition in Fulbourn, but there will be a joint one with the City council at Cherry Hinton Village Centre in Colville Road on 26 July to cover the Peterhouse and Worts Causeway proposals.  Peter Godber and I attended the Cabinet meeting to ensure there was no last minute change to the draft!  Following the consultation the draft will be submitted to an Examination in Public to ensure it is sound in planning terms.  However, unlike in the past the Inspector cannot alter the plan, only recommend changes to it.  Developers will respond to the consultation and the Examination in Public so it is important to not only object to those things you don’t like, but also support those things you agree with!
  2. Also, SCDC will be consulting on its implementation of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) which will replace Section 106 agreements for most developments from next year.  However, the largest developments such as the Marshall Wing scheme will be exempt and they will continue to have section 106 agreements. It is proposed that for most domestic developments the tariff will be £100 per square metre.
  3. I will be objecting to the Ida Darwin planning application on two planning grounds – that the three storey height of the Extra Care Facility building fails to meet Green Belt policy and that the area of the Green Wedge fails to provide compensatory enhancement and protect the Fulbourn Hospital conservation area in accordance with national and SCDC policies.
  4. Finally, I am trying to get some co-ordination between those who sweep the roads (SCDC) and those who weed them (CCC).  I’m concerned that the bi-month mechanical sweeping is a bit hit and miss (e.g. Cow Lane) and the weeding is made more difficult by the amount of silt that builds up in the gullies if the sweeping is not done to time.

My report to the June 2013 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

  1. At the annual meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council on Thursday 23 May I was reappointed to the council’s Corporate Governance Committee and to the Finance and Staffing Committee.
  2. As you will know South Cambridgeshire District Council has published the draft Local Plan that it intends to put out to public consultation from 19 July to 30 September.  Our request to retain the Green Belt around the village as it is (in accordance with the Parish Plan) has been met, with the additional designation of the land north of Cow Lane which lies between the village framework and Green Belt boundary as Local Green Space, giving it about the same protection as Green Belt land.  Fulbourn is also re-designated a Minor Rural Centre – restricting development within the village framework.  However, the draft does include the proposal to build houses on Worts Causeway and the extension of the Peterhouse Technology Park along Cambridge Road.  Developers can challenge this draft in the consultation so the council should respond to ensure its position continues to be made known.  The draft plan proposes that the bulk of the new housing be accommodated in new settlements, with about 900 new homes allocated to villages that have asked for such development.  The draft can be viewed on the South Cambridgeshire website.
  3. The Wadlow Wind Farm Community Fund has confirmed its financial support of £5,000 towards a Saturday service on the 16 bus to Newmarket.  The county council is now putting this out to tender, which includes the provision of a low floor bus to improve accessibility.  It expects the new timetable to start in September.
  4. The Marshall Group has hinted that it wants to build light industrial units in Airport Way near to Newmarket Road on Green Belt land that was previously earmarked for a park and ride site.  This is to enable it to vacant its North Works for housing as part of its Wing development.  I have asked that as it is part of the Wing project it should be included in the Environmental Impact Assessment. It is holding a public exhibition of its plans at the airport in the evening of July 4.  See the Wing website for details.
  5. I attended a 20 mph limit seminar at the Guildhall on 13 May and having heard that South Cambridgeshire declined to include Orchard Park in the City scheme, against the wishes of the parish council, I got the City Council to contact parish councils direct about the roll out of its 20 mph limit for residential streets across the city, so that where they wish they can piggy back on the City scheme, such as with the Beechwoods, where Cherry Hinton is due to have a 20 mph limit in 2015.
  6. Finally, one of the last acts of the out-gong South Cambridgeshire Environment portfolio holder was to reverse the promise to help parish councils retain street lights due to be removed or replaced under the county council PFI contract with Balfour Beatty, because it has been estimated that to include these lights in the existing maintenance contract it would cost the district council £40,000 – that’s about £400 per parish council.  Parish councils are now on their own if they wish to keep lights.

My District report to the May 2013 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

1. At the full meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council on 25 April 2013 Councillor Scarr and I asked that the council write to Network Rail to place on record its concern over the way cutting back the vegetation along the railway between Cherry Hinton and Six Mile Bottom was undertaken and to seek assurance that in future communities would be pre-warned and all steps would be taken to minimise the night time noise nuisance.  It came as a surprise to both of us to have this quite non political motion rejected by the controlling Conservative group!

2. Since the last meeting of the parish council there have been two South Cambridgeshire planning workshops on its proposed draft Local Plan.  The first one dealt with environmental matters, whilst the latter dealt with the SHLAA site to the west of Station Road and the proposals to build housing along Worts Causeway and extending the Peterhouse Technology Park.  It also considered continuing the special planning supplement for the Ida Darwin site.  I have been the only Fulbourn district councillor to attend these meetings, but I have nevertheless presented the parish council’s case for having all of the new Green Belt development proposals rejected and for the Ida Darwin scheme to be scaled down.  However, I fear that officers will recommend the Peterhouse extension to members and they still want to press on with a three storey extra care facility on the Ida Darwin site.  An interesting fact to come out of the questions I put to officers is that under the new National Planning Policy Framework there is now no special status for a developed site in the Green Belt and the new “openness” criteria will apply when replacing the existing Ida Darwin single storey buildings.  Will this be a test case?

3. I also attended a Finance and Staffing portfolio holder’s meeting in my role as opposition spokesperson on these matters and discussed changes to the Local Government Pension Scheme, the policy for granting discounts for Council Tax and the National Non-Domestic Rates Discretionary Relief Policy.

4. Finally, at a meeting of the Fulbourn Hospital problem solving group set up by the British Transport Police I as informed that Network Rail had installed new CCTV at the level crossings in Yarrow Road, Teversham Road and Station Road, which is activated automatically when a missing person call is made by Fulbourn Hospital to the British Transport Police.

My report to the March 2013 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

  1.  You will know that South Cambridgeshire District Council is raising its element of council tax this year by 4.3%.  Taken on its own the actual increase is small (although not for those already struggling to meet other increases in the cost of living), but the county council and police are also increasing their precepts. So I voted against this increase wanting instead for the council to freeze its tax and use its considerable reserves of over £7 million to fund the £300,000 short fall between the Government grant and the council’s budget for the coming year.  It was said the reserve is there for a rainy day and I would say the rain is here now.  We did discover that the council has committed itself to spend millions on the proposed A14 toll road from its New Homes Bonus – which is estimated will reach £10 million by 2018. So a double whammy for South Cambs residents – not only will we have to pay the toll to use the new road, we’re also be paying for it through our council tax whether we use it or not.  And we won’t have the money from the New Homes Bonus to spend in our communities as promised.
  2. I have attended two workshops at Cambourne to consider responses to the Issues and Options consultation on a wide range of matters such as building design, car parking provision, employment and affordable housing.
  3. I got an apology from Network Rail for the considerable nuisance caused to residents by the night time railway work removing vegetation along the line.  It admitted its consultation was unacceptable and that it would look with its contractors at minimising the noise in future, particularly the chipping machine.  The work finished on Friday.
  4. I have received many complaints about the height and colour of the sports centre roof given its sensitive position in the Green Belt and being adjacent to the Conservation Area.  I have asked the Chair of the Townley Trust to comment before taking this further, but have yet to receive a response.
  5. South Cambs tells me that the recycling bin in Teasel Way has been a success and that it will be replacing it with a larger one.  Also it appears that someone is using our bin in Teasel Way for household rubbish.  South Cambs is monitoring it to try to identify the culprit and is making a second collection when necessary.
  6. The Wadlow Wind Farm Community Fund has provisionally allocated £5,000 towards the cost of running a Saturday service on route 16 to Newmarket, subject to an application being made to the Cambridgeshire Community Transport, which I am now doing on behalf of the working group.
  7. I am in the process of collecting in the petition to have Haggis Gap resurfaced which I was asked to start by a couple of residents.  The number of signatures is in the hundreds and really does demonstrate the concern over the state of this main thoroughfare in the village, used by children cycling to school.

My report to the February 2013 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

  1. Since the January parish council meeting I have attended the full council meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council on 31 January.  As you may have read in the Cambridge News I spoke at the meeting against the council’s decision to pass on the 10% reduction in the council tax benefit grant received from central Government.  Some 40% of the council taxpayers currently having their payments covered 100% by benefit will be expected to pay at least 8.5% of it from April.  However, the amount of money is so small because of South Cambs low council tax rate, that the council could make up the difference if it wanted to. Those affected are working people earning the minimum wage who can ill afford even a small increase in their cost of living, yet the council will be obliged to chase them for any arrears, the cost of which will far outweigh the amount to be recovered.
  2. I know that parking on footpaths is a particular hate of some members and they will be pleased to know that Parkside community police have written to households in the Beechwoods Estate warning that the owners of vehicles parked on footpaths will be prosecuted by use of photographic evidence as part of a city wide campaign.  The parish council may wish to raise this with its PCSOs with regard to the village.
  3. Teversham Parish Council has declined to subsidise the Newmarket bus and has put the future of the 16 service in jeopardy.  I understand that this results from a survey of the village, which showed little support for the service.  A meeting is being arranged urgently with the county council officers.  The other parish councils have agreed to fund the service.
  4. Metropolitan Housing Trust has identified the cause of the flooding in Thomas Road.  The diameter of the pipe which drains water from the balancing tank into the Teversham Road ditch is too small for the volume of rain water now being experienced and as a result the water is backing up and flooding the roadway (and some residents’ gardens).  Metropolitan tell me they are treating this as urgent and are looking at alternative ways for draining the road surface water into the Teversham ditch.

My report to the January 2013 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

1. First of all very best wishes for the New Year.

2. Firstly, you will know that the Government has offered to increase its grant to local authorities for 2012/13 by 1% if the councils agree not to increase their council tax in return.  However, this increase is well below the current rate of inflation and as a result of the last two years of freezing council tax, South Cambridgeshire along with many other district councils had budgeted for a 3.5% rise for this coming financial year.  Therefore if it accepts the Government’s offer it will have to make even further savings.  As you know South Cambridgeshire council tax rate and level of spend is already nearly the lowest in England.  To increase above 3.5% would trigger a referendum under the new Localism Act.  I shall be attending a finance briefing on the 9th so will be able to update members at the meeting.

3. As a result of additional issues being raised by the Issues and Options consultation undertaken in the summer, SCDC is conducting more consultation on these issues from 7 January to 18 February with an exhibition at the Swifts today (9th January).  For Fulbourn the new proposals include designating the former Cambridge Water Company land and the piece of land beside the Fulbourn Centre in Home End as Local Green Space to prevent them being built on, but it also proposes developing farm land either side of Worts Causeway and extending the Peterhouse Technology Park eastwards to Yarrow Road.  The results of this consultation and that of the summer consultation will be considered together in March with the intention that a draft Local Plan will be put to consultation over the summer.  Goods news that the Gazelle Way proposal has been dropped by both the City council and SCDC.

4. The bus working group has met since the last meeting and Little and Great Wibraham parish council representatives confirmed that they were also prepared to precept for a contribution towards keeping the Newmarket bus going after April.  However, Teversham was not present at the meeting and minutes of its December meeting suggests that it has declined to support the service, so it is being asked to clarify its position.  The Cambridge Community Foundation has been approached to see if there is a suitable fund the parish councils can approach for support, but the only one suitable is the Wadlow Wind Farm one, but Teversham does not qualify for this fund.

5. I am told by the Co-operative Bank that an ATM will be located in the Fulbourn Co-op store just as soon as the electricity supply and BT connections have been laid on.

My report to the December 2012 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

1. Firstly, I apologise for not being at tonight’s meeting, but I am at Bottisham Village College’s Christmas Concert.

2. Since the November parish council meeting I have attended the full council meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council on Thursday 22 November 2012.

3. At the full council meeting I proposed that the council help residents reduce their energy bills by organising a reverse auction for electricity tariffs which has saved residents in South Lakeland District Council hundreds of pounds a year.  The council would invite residents to show an interest and electricity providers to enter an auction at which the one with lowest tariff would be able to offer it to these residents without obligation.  The result in South Lakeland shows that it not only produces lower bills for residents, but also gives an opportunity for smaller electricity providers to enter the market, particularly those offering electricity from renewable sources.  The council also receives a commission from the supplier for every resident signed up and this more than covers the cost of the scheme.  South Lakeland intends to organise another auction in the New Year.  Unfortunately, our Conservative colleagues could not get their heads around this scheme and voted it out.  But I suspect that once the idea sinks in it and officers have had a word with them it will come back on the table.

4. At the same meeting Conservative councillors voted to spend £45,000 on new furniture for the council chamber on the pretext that it will be used for conferences, whilst having proposed a cut the council’s grants budget by £382,000.  This cut will see most grants to the arts and sport activities abolished, particularly to the village colleges and for community activities; also support to the Citizen Advice Bureaux is being drastically reduced, to which the council refers people for financial advice.  Capital grants for social and sporting facilities will also be abolished.  These cuts will therefore have a serious impact on Fulbourn going forward.  This situation arises from the fact that the £300,000 shortfall in this year’s budget (which I did not vote for and was clearly impossible to meet in order to freeze the council tax) has not been met.  The Lib Dem group is vigorously opposing these cuts which will be put to the council at its budget making meeting in February.

5. In January South Cambridgeshire District Council will be consulting on the building of houses on Green Belt land either side of Worts Causeway and on extending (again in the Green Belt) the Peterhouse Technology Park in Cambridge Road.  The Issues and Options Report responses will be discussed in public at the Planning and Localism Portfolio holder’s meeting due to start at 10am at Cambourne on Thursday 10 December.  See the council website for the agenda.  Please attend if you can.

6. On a brighter note, following ongoing pestering of the Cooperative Bank you will be pleased to know that a replacement ATM is to be installed inside the shop.  It is not able to give me a confirmed date as I write this.

7. I had a very constructive meeting with Metropolitan Housing Trust to discuss its tenant/leaseholder scrutiny panel and regeneration policy and out of that came its interest to get involved with local youth projects, so I have given contact details to Mrs Andrews.  I have also passed contact details to South Cambs with regard to Exception Sites.

8. Having made contact with the newly appointed estates director for Addenbrooke’s University Hospitals NHS Trust, a maintenance schedule is being drawn up for the strip of land along Yarrow Road between Tesco and the Cambridge Road roundabout.  I am hopeful of persuading the Trust to open it up for community use, as originally intended when the Beechwoods was built.

9. Finally I have been in touch with Cambridge City council over its proposal to include all residential roads in the city in a 20mph zone, to see if the Beechwoods could be included in this (certainly Primrose Close will be included), given that some of the estate is in the city.  However, as some or all of the roads in question are outside the city boundary there are legal matters which may involve the Parish Council to enable this to happen.

My report to the November 2012 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

  1. I attended the Staffing and Finance Portfolio Holder’s meeting on 16 October and the South Cambs workshop for members on developing a revised Mid Term Financial Strategy for the council in the light of changes to the level of government funding to local councils and the new ability of the council to alter council tax levels for empty and second homes and discounts for council tax payers.  The government has announced a 2% cap on council tax rises and has offered to increase its general subsidy to local councils by 1% for two years if the council once again freezes its council tax for the 2013/14 financial year.  The council had budgeted for a 3.5% increase next year and if its sticks to this it could face a local referendum (this would be for the Secretary of State to decide following the council tax increase and would be paid for by the council).  South Cambridgeshire has the 12th lowest council tax so any single figure percentage increase would be counted in pennies per month.  For example the proposed 3.5% increase would have meant an 8p increase per week for band D households – the average band for the district.  Not going ahead with the 3.5% increase requires further cuts to avoid the council using up all its reserves by 2018.
  2. I also attended a meeting of the local bus service group on 25 October, chaired by Fulbourn Forum and made up of representatives of the five villages served by the 16 bus route.  As you will see elsewhere on the agenda, Cambridgeshire County Council has asked the parish councils to contribute £6,000 between them to keep the route going after April 2013.  Since the distribution of the timetable to every household in the villages concerned ridership has increased, but nearly all journeys are made by passengers with concessionary bus passes and the bus operator receives only £1.45 per journey from the county council for these passengers (this amount is applied to all routes across the county), considerably less than the actual cost of providing the service, and therefore it has to be subsidised.
  3. I have also had meetings with Metropolitan Housing Trust about a number of individual matters in Roberts Way, Thomas Road and Primrose Close and had a briefing on its tenants’ scrutiny panel.
  4. Finally I have taken up the loss of the village ATM with the Co-operative Bank and hope to have more information by the time of this parish council meeting.

My report to the October 2012 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

  1. Since the September parish council meeting I attended the full meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council on 27 September and the Corporate Governance Committee on 28 September.  I also attended a meeting of the Route 16 Steering Group on 6 September and Windmill Estate Steering Group on 18 September.
  2. At the full meeting of SCDC I seconded a motion reconfirming the council’s support for energy efficiency in commercial as well as domestic properties in line with its Climate Change Action policy.  I was disappointed that recent publications by planning control to help householders and businesses with their planning applications made no mention of the council’s desire to see the highest environmental standards applied to developments.  I was happy to accept an amendment by Cllr Scarr requesting that the council report progress on this annually, but while the original motion was accepted unanimously by the council the amendment was opposed by Conservative councillors and therefore not carried.
  3. At the Corporate Governance Committee meeting we had the opportunity to meet the Ernst and Young team replacing the Audit Commission as SCDC’s external auditors.  Although in accountancy terms the change should have little effect on the quality of the service as the rules remain the same and existing staff have been TUPED across, the cost of the service to SCDC has been cut by some 40%.  The previous Audit Commission fees have always been a bone of contention in the past.
  4. The Route 16 Steering Group (made up of representatives of the parishes served by route 16, Fulbourn Forum and Cambridgeshire County Council) approved a questionnaire which I helped deliver to households in the village, together with a timetable leaflet.  Unfortunately, the timetable frames on the bus stops are the property of Stagecoach and so far attempts to have the route 16 timetable displayed have been unsuccessful.  The questionnaire will be analysed for the next meeting of the steering group on 25 October.
  5. The Windmill Estate steering group went on a walkabout of the new Swifts estate and we were shown around a two bedroom house for rent and a three bedroom house for sale to the open market.  We also visited the children’s play area which is due to be opened on 11 October 2012 and we noted the lack of a bench in the open space.  Having received complaints about the overgrown state of some of the front gardens, I was told that the inappropriate wild plants and shrubs had to be planted as a planning condition.  However, having taken this up with the lead planning officer I discovered that this condition had been relaxed because of the problem and the agents for Accent Nene were notified.  Local Accent Nene management are now discussing the issue with SCDC.
  6. Finally, the public consultation on SCDC’s Issues and Options report for formulating its 2016-2031 Local Plan has closed and as a resident of Station Road, I and around 20 others have made representations against site option 28 (land to the west of Station Road) for about 190 dwellings.  I also supported the re-designation of Fulbourn as a Minor Rural Centre and objected to any change to the Green Belt around the village.  As you know, I have also objected to the city council’s proposal to build on land to the east of Gazelle Way which would reduce the green corridor between Fulbourn and Cherry Hinton and impact on The Firs.

My report to the September 2012 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

 I do not apologise for my report being rather political this month.

 You may have read in the Cambridge News that during the summer break the ruling Conservative cabinet for SCDC decided to freeze council staff pay for 2013/14 without warning to other councillors and council staff, despite the budget having provision for a 2.5% increase next year, following this year’s pay freeze.  The way in which this was done has been challenged by the Liberal Democrat opposition group and it is being investigated by Jean Hunter the Chief Executive.

From next April SCDC will take responsibility for handling Housing Benefit and has been told that the amount of money it will receive for this from the government will be £1 million less than the current cost for the district.  The reduction assumes a drop in the cost of benefit claims because of tighter rules and the Benefit Cap limit (see below); but if there is a shortfall it will have to be found by council taxpayers.

I think it useful to set out the complexity of this, so that you’ll understand why council officers and certainly Liberal Democrat councillors are fearful of the possible confusion and financial distress many of our residents could find themselves in and the possibility of errors being made by SCDC staff in the calculation of Housing Benefit, due to the government bringing this forward ahead of the Universal Credit scheme.

In addition to the effects of the Benefit Cap, the change to the way Housing Benefit is provided also affects council tenants and tenants of housing associations and housing trusts of working age in particular, because these claimants could get less Housing Benefit if their home has more bedrooms than the state deems necessary for their family circumstances.

The Benefit Cap will take account of a number of benefits received by people of working age to ensure that claimants are not given more in benefits than the average wage (after tax and national insurance).

The Benefit Cap will only apply to working age people (not people receiving state pension). This means people aged from 16 up to ‘pension age’, which is currently the state retirement age for women.  ‘Pension age’ is increasing from 60 to 65 between April 2010 and April 2020 and is currently around age 61.

Moreover, the current single person’s “single room” Housing Benefit (which is just over £74 a week and assumes the person can share accommodation) and which currents stops at 25 years will be extended to include those up to 35 years old in all property types.  This has already been introduced for private landlords, but the most vulnerable single people without dependents between the ages of 25 and 35 in social housing and currently receiving Housing Benefit will see a big drop in their benefit payment.

As a result of the Benefit Cap for single people with no dependents the limit on total benefits will be  £350 a week, while the limit is £500 a week if you’re a couple, with or without dependent children or a lone parent with dependent children

To achieve these limits the following benefits will have to be taken into account by SCDC staff when assessing Housing Benefit because they all count towards the Benefit Cap whatever the circumstances of the claimant:

Bereavement Allowance; Carer’s Allowance; Child Benefit; Child Tax Credit; Employment and Support Allowance (except where it includes the support component); Guardian’s Allowance;  Incapacity Benefit; Income Support; Jobseeker’s Allowance; Maternity Allowance; Severe Disablement  Allowance; Widowed Parent’s Allowance; Widowed Mother’s Allowance; Widow’s Pension; Widow’s Pension (age-related).

However, the Benefit Cap won’t apply if the claimant or partner qualify for Working Tax Credit or if they get any of the following benefits, so these will not be taken into account by SCDC:

Attendance Allowance;  Disability Living Allowance (this is replaced by Personal Independence Payment from April 2013); Employment and Support Allowance (if it includes the support component); Industrial Injuries Benefits: Personal Independence Payment (from April 2013); War Widow’s or War Widower’s Pension.

The Benefit Cap does not apply for 39 weeks from the date someone claims benefit if the claimant or partner have been working continuously for the previous 12 months and have lost their job through no fault of their own.

 

My report to the July 2012 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

1.  South Cambridgeshire has to have a new Local Plan from 2016 to replace the current Local Development Framework.  The council is asking your opinion on the issues and options it feels should be tackled in the Local Plan, including its forecasts for future housing and employment to 2031, the future of the Cambridge Green Belt and the SHLAA housing sites it considers are worthy of further consideration.  After consultation closes in September it will produce a draft Local Plan for further consultation next year. So if you have views on this you need to respond.  So far as Fulbourn is concerned only the SHLAA site west of Station Road has been put forward for further consideration.  A review of rural centre status has also shown that Fulbourn scores below the threshold to be rural centre and the council asks should we be demoted to a minor rural centre, which puts constraints on future development.  Should there be changes proposed to the Green Belt, these will be consulted on this autumn, so that any subsequent change can be incorporated into the draft Local Plan.

2. Meanwhile, I have made the following response to Cambridge City Council’s Issues and Options Report which puts forward the idea of removing the farm land to the east of Gazelle Way and to the north of Fulbourn Old Drift from the Green Belt to enable it to be used for a large scale housing development.  As you can see, I have objected to this option which not only impacts on The Firs, but also destroys the green corridor between Fulbourn and the city.  I have written:

As South Cambridgeshire district councillor and parish councillor representing Fulbourn I write to respond to the last sentence of paragraph 3.59 (“Comments are sought on all the broad locations including those in South Cambridgeshire to assist the Councils to take a co-ordinated approach on this important issue.”) specifically in respect of Option 17: Broad location 8: Land east of Gazelle Way.

In reference to Broad location 8 you refer to the “Cambridge Green Belt Study” published in September 2002 for South Cambridgeshire District Council and with regard to the land east of Gazelle Way the conclusion of that report as summarised is:  “Large scale development east of Airport Way around Teversham, Fulbourn and east of Cherry Hinton, would have adverse effects on the setting and special character of Cambridge, and should be resisted.”

In paragraph 3.54 you say: The NPPF states that the Government attaches great importance to Green Belts whose essential characteristics are their openness and permanence. Five purposes for Green Belts are set out, the key one for the Cambridge Green Belt being: “To preserve the setting and special character of historic towns”. The Cambridge Green Belt is one of the few to which this criteria applies. The purposes and functions of the Cambridge Green Belt are intended to help achieve the preservation of the setting of Cambridge and its special character.

I draw your attention to paragraph 7.3.5 of the “Cambridge Green Belt Study” which concludes that “a substantial part of the detailed study area around Teversham, and west of Fulbourn, is classified as supportive landscape.  Areas of supportive landscape are key elements of the distinctiveness of Cambridge and its setting, and a fundamental quality of the setting and special character of the historic city.”

In addition to this, on the point of views, while there is a key low level view of Cambridge from Teversham and Fulbourn, from Airport Way and the east side of Cherry Hinton the land east of Gazelle Way affords a view of the historic Fulbourn Windmill and the Fulbourn Hospital Conservation Area, and of Teversham parish church and of the rural setting of Teversham village which is of benefit to the wellbeing of those living in the “urban” environment of Cherry Hinton.

I therefore consider that Broad location 8 is unsuitable for development and should remain in the Green Belt for the reasons above.

3.  Having worked with parish councils along the route and Fulbourn Forum, I am delighted that a replacement bus was up and running when Stagecoach withdrew its popular service to Newmarket. The A&P Travel bus (numbered 16) runs on Tuesdays and Fridays. It follows route 17 from Teversham and departs the Six Bells at 10.30 am.  It returns from Newmarket bus station at 1.30 pm.  However, this is an “interim” arrangement until September and the officer concerned has not confirmed what will then happen.  A meeting has been arranged for later this month.

4.  Following discussion with Terry Holloway of Marshall Aerospace, the airport will be providing aircraft tracks to the consultative committee.

5.  The commercial manager for Stagecoach East has apologized to me for having the wrong timetables and route numbers on the bus stops in Fulbourn village on the first day of the new timetable for routes Citi 1 and Citi 3.  And Stagecoach agreed my suggestion, made after talking with those waiting at the stops on the first chaotic day, to have the buses change routes upon entering the village, instead of in the High Street.  I have also asked the Traffic Commissioner to investigate the robustness of the new timetables and the way they are being operated.

My report to the June 2012 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

At the annual meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council on Thursday 24 May I was reappointed to the council’s Corporate Governance Committee and to the Joint Traffic Management Committee which includes Cambridge City and Cambridgeshire County Council.

Apologies for not getting this report to you sooner, but as some of you will know I have been busy with presenting our case for funding from the county council’s Minor Highways Improvements Scheme for repositioning the 30 mph limits in Balsham Road, Wilbraham Road and Teversham Road (I got a fair hearing and am hopeful that we will get some funding), representing this council on the working group set up to get an alternative Newmarket bus service (this has been agreed, but as I write this the Traffic Commissioner had yet to give approval) and preparing for the Ida Darwin public meeting.

Other matters that I should report on include the erection the 13 wind turbines at Wadlow Farm which is going on now.  I am a member of the community fund panel which has set the criteria for and will oversee the running of the fund by the Cambridge Community Foundation.  Also, once again environmental health has contacted Fulbourn Mill about night time noise.

I also attended the Windmill Estate Steering Panel and am delighted that Carter Homes has been selected for the construction of the next phase of the redevelopment.

You will also see from correspondence that I have been in touch with Metropolitan Housing Trust regarding its poor response to flooding in Hinton Road.  You will also see that it has also been criticized for not maintaining street lighting in Roberts Way.  Interestingly the company responsible for its repairs is Mears – the company that SCDC has contracted out its housing repairs to.

Finally, the latest homes for rent on the redeveloped Windmill Estate have been let and although they nearly all went to families with a Fulbourn connection, a great many other Fulbourn families on the housing waiting list were left disappointed.  South Cambs has a housing crisis and the only sure way we can ensure homes for Fulbourn people is through Exception Sites, which give us the right to ring fence them for local families in perpetuity.

My report to the May 2012 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

  1. At the full meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council on Thursday 26 April 2012 the Environment portfolio holder agreed to my request that parish councils be able to add street lights to the current SCDC contract for the maintenance and power supply of their street lights should they wish to retain existing county council lights earmarked for removal by the PFI.  Also the portfolio holder confirmed that the council had raised the matter of the design of new lighting in conservation areas.
  2. The meeting also agreed to look at the current SCDC policy regarding litter and dog bins and litter picking, given it has now been four years since SCDC took responsibility for this from parish councils, but are no nearer having a standard service with common workable criteria.  As a result, some small villages have better litter collection arrangements, than bigger ones. SCDC says it empties a total of 37 litter and dog bins in Fulbourn.
  3. I also attended the county council’s South Area “In Your Patch” meeting on 30 April.  The items discussed were the introduction of super broadband in South Cambs, the withdrawal of subsidised bus services and the future of the police liaison meetings.
  4. On the super broadband my concern that the £50,000 blank cheque given to the county council by SCDC would go into the pockets of the service providers was justified.  Taxpayers money will be used to upgrade infrastructure that will then become the property of the service provider.  There’s no incentive in the scheme for BT and Virgin Media to upgrade using their own money.  As to the timescale for the delivery of super broadband, the county is in competition with a great many other councils and it  depends upon the amount of demand expressed by each; in Cambridgeshire this is being based upon the public expressing their support during a consultation exercise this summer.
  5. As to the withdrawal of the bus subsidy, it was admitted that not only are the two Cambridge Future Transport staff who were promised to help local communities such as Fulbourn not in post, their jobs had not been advertised yet!  We have just four weeks to find a temporary replacement for the popular Newmarket service and then a permanent solution for September.

My report to the April 2012 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

  1. During March SCDC held two workshops for councillors to gauge opinion and receive feedback on what the South Cambridgeshire Local Plan should contain.  Both workshops were well attended. The first workshop looked at the big picture, while the second considered key policy issues.  Due to the relative short notice given about these workshops I was unable to attend the first one, but I have received a full brief on it.  Unfortunately, the workshops did not have the benefit of knowledge of the published National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
  2. The first workshop gave some fundamental direction to officers regarding the need to retain the present rural character of the district while meeting serious growth challenges and the need for affordable homes.  In particular, the possible development of a new community to take pressure off existing villages, providing employment as well as new homes.  Also public transport provision came in for criticism.  It was confirmed that councillors wanted the present Green Belt boundary unchanged to protect the necklace villages around Cambridge from development creep.
  3. The second workshop considered particular policies and there was a clear desire to drop the current settlement hierarchy of rural centres etc which had led to too many exceptions having to be made, particularly regarding allowing medium development in in-fill villages to safeguard the future of local amenities, and an over concentration of development on Rural Centres.  Interestingly the NPPF requires the local planning authority to retain this hierarchy.  On the question of design, heritage and the environment, whilst the was some concern about how the guidance is applied, there was general agreement that the current level of control and protection had delivered a much sought after environment.  On travel there was an acceptance that given the high reliance on commercial services public transport resources had to be focused on the main radial routes, with community transport feeding these routes.  There needed to be more cycling provision particular at public transport interfaces and cross boundary cooperation.  On village services and facilities there was concern that changing socio-economic circumstances were leading to the loss of amenities in the smaller villages (pubs, shops etc) and that development control needed to take this into account, encouraging home working facilities and the possible used of section 106 monies and/or the community levy to support local employment.
  4. There is a workshop planned for parish councillors and I would strongly urge Fulbourn Parish Council to participate.
  5. In addition to the Local Plan workshops I also attended a briefing by Mears plc on its takeover of council housing repairs.  I was somewhat concerned to learn that performance targets had yet to be finalised and disappointed at the meagre apprenticeship opportunity given the financial size of the package.

My report to the March 2012 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

  1. At its budget meeting on February 23 South Cambridgeshire District Council agreed to freeze its council tax for this year.  However, the government grant of 2.5% falls short of the 3.5% increase it planned to make and as a result some £450,000 of additional savings will have to be found over the following two years to bring the general budget back into line to keep future rises to 3.5%.  The council also agreed to borrow up front £205 million to pay the government to keep all council rent income (last year some £12.5 million had to be given to the government).  This will enable money to be available in future years to build new council housing and bring current stock up to date (including environmental improvements to reduce energy consumption by tenants).  While SCDC council tax is being frozen, council rents are increasing by about 7%.
  2. I also attended a meeting with Cambridgeshire County Council on February 13 at which I was informed of the intention to withdraw subsidy from three popular local bus services this September (routes 16,16A and 17), which our public transport survey showed are used by over 300 village residents on a regular basis, and effects of changes to street lighting which will have a financial implication for the parish council.  On this latter point, the parish council is advised by SCDC to consult its insurer on the new contract it has with SCDC with regard to the replacement of damaged lights it is responsible for; and in future additional street lights requested by the parish council will need to be funded by the parish council, which would then be “responsible for all installation and on-going maintenance, power and replacement arrangements and costs.”  As to the highway lighting that is the responsibility of the county council, the PFI with Balfour Beatty will see on average one in three street lights being removed.

My report to the February 2012 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

  1. Since the January parish council meeting I have attended the full council meeting on 26 January. I spoke at the meeting in support of the district council taking a much tougher line on the county council’s removal of subsidies from rural bus services which is affecting planning and community well being both the responsibility of South Cambridgeshire.
  2. At the full council meeting it was decided to push for parish councils to have emergency plans in place to deal with matters such as cable theft.
  3. The council also agreed a new senior management structure, with four directors under the chief executive covering the areas of Corporate Services, Affordable Homes, Planning and New Communities and Health and Environmental Services.  This change will deliver savings, but does require making two senior staff redundant.
  4. An updated timetable for preparing the South Cambridgeshire Local Plan has agreed by the  Northstowe and New Communities Portfolio Holder at his meeting on 25 January 2012.  The new Local Development Scheme shows the planned key stages for preparing the new South Cambridgeshire Local Plan.  The Plan will incorporate a review of the Core Strategy Development Plan Document (DPD), Site Specific Policies DPD and the Development Control Policies DPD.  The Local Plan will also include policies and proposals for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation, rather than preparing a separate Gypsy and Traveller DPD as had previously been intended.  Public consultation is to commence this summer.
  5. A plain English version of its annual accounts has been produced by South Cambridgeshire and it can be downloaded from its website

My report to the January 2012 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

  1. I apologise for not having this ready to circular with the agenda and papers for the parish council meeting, but I have attended a couple of meetings following the dispatch of the papers which I wished to report back on.
  2. Firstly, you will know that the Government has offered to increase its grant to local authorities for 2012/13 by 2.5% if the councils agree not to increase their council tax in return.  However, you will appreciate that this increase is well below the current rate of inflation and as a result of this year’s freeze on council tax, South Cambridgeshire along with many other district councils had budgeted for a 3.5% rise for this coming financial year just to keep essential services afloat.  Therefore if it accepts the Government’s offer it will be short and have to make further savings.  As you may also know South Cambridgeshire council tax rate and level of spend is already nearly the lowest in England, so has very little wriggle room.  To increase above 3.5% would trigger a referendum under the new Localism Act.
  3. On Monday I attended a presentation by the Chartered Institute of Housing about the changes to rents and tenancies under the Localism Act.  Basically the act gives more freedom to councils and private registered providers (housing associations to most people) to set tenancy conditions and rent levels.  As I have explained before private registered providers will be able to set “affordable” rents up to 80% of the local market rate in order to raise capital to build more homes, while councils with their own property such as South Cambridgeshire will be able to charge a “social” rent up to 60% of the local market rate.  With Cambridge and its hinterland being a growth area market rents are high and at the maximum levels set for “affordable” and “social” housing they will above the new housing benefit maxims due to come into force in 2013 – putting more pressure on “social” council housing.  As to tenancies, councils and private registered providers will be able to introduce for new tenants after 31 March this year a minimum five year tenancy (in place of a life time tenancy) and in exceptional cases a two year minimum.  It will also allow them to introduce more criteria to qualify for a tenancy.  Some private registered providers have already said they will increase rents and shorten tenancies.  We do not currently know where the three housing associations covering the village stand on this, but they will have to produce and publish their tenancy policy by 31 March.
  4. On Tuesday I attended the Windmill Estate Steering Group and am pleased to report that there is optimism that the previous issues have been resolved and that the redevelopment is on course again.  The very high numbers applying for the available rented and shared ownership accommodation demonstrates the serious housing shortage in the village for affordable properties.  For example there were 120 bids to rent eight three bedroom properties and all will be let to families with local connections.

My report to the December 2011 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

1. Since the November parish council meeting I have attended a council workshop on local accountability and governance and the full council meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council on Thursday 24 November 2011.

2. At the full council meeting I asked a question about the reimbursement of service charges for sheltered accommodation on behalf of council leaseholders.

3. At the same meeting I also supported a motion which committed councillors not to increase their allowances for the coming financial year.

4. It was clear from the workshop that under the Localism Act parish councillors will be expected to more transparent, be scrutinised more by their parishioners and be more accountable and responsible for more planning matters.

5. South Cambridgeshire District Council has set the tax base for 2012/13 at 60,793.00 band D properties an increase of 1.3% on last year. This is used to calculate the basic amount of council tax to be raised.  The tax base for Fulbourn parish council has been set at 1,961.7 equivalent band D properties.

6. South Cambridgeshire District Council is taking over responsibility for the maintenance and replacement of parish council street lighting which is not covered by the county council PFI contract.

7. Further to previous reports the Samaritan signs have been attached to the fence line along the railway between Fulbourn Old Drift and Yarrow Road.  Further signs are to be placed at the level crossing.

8. I have got agreement from South Cambs for a litter bin and trial recycling bin for Teasel Way.

9. I attended a Cambridgeshire County Council workshop on HCV management held at Swavesey Village College on 29 November 2011 on behalf of the parish council.  Following a number of trials involving parish councils across the county the proposed strategy has been slightly altered to make it more difficult to justify formal action against lorry movements.  It is clear that the county council will only take legal action as the very last resort and then reluctantly.

My report to the November 2011 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

  1. On 24 October I attended a briefing on the future of Cambridge Airport at Marshall’s which included a tour of the business aviation centre and Marshall Aerospace.   Clearly the defence cuts by the UK and other governments is having an impact on Marshall’s business.
  2. The plan to install solar panels on council homes has had to be abandoned because the Government has brought forward to 12 December the reduction in the tariff paid for electricity supplied to the national grid, which now makes the scheme unaffordable.  Fortunately the council had made no financial investment in this to date.
  3. As you know I am a member of the British Transport Police Fulbourn Safety Group looking at ways to make the railway line safer between Yarrow Road level crossing ad Fulbourn Hospital and I am pleased to inform you that signs produced by the Samaritans are now being fixed to the fencing along the cycle path adjacent to the railway and that Network Rail are carrying out an assessment i to making trespass more difficult.
  4. The government has just launched consultation on plans to to end the mandatory discount on empty homes, and provide councils with the ability to decide for themselves whether to charge full council tax on an empty property, or offer a discount of up to 100%. The consultation also outlines plans to allow local authorities to charge an Empty Homes Premium – up to an extra 50% of council tax – on any property that has been vacant for two years or more. The exemptions for properties empty as a result of the death of an owner, or if the owner has moved into hospital or to give or receive personal care will be retained.

My report to the October 2011 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

  1. Since the September parish council meeting I attended the full meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council on 22 September 2011 and the Corporate Governance Committee on 30 September 2011.  I also attended a meeting of the BT Police public safety group and the Windmill Estate Steering Group.
  2. The government has withdrawn funding for new affordable housing and instead registered social landlords are now able to increase rents to 80% of the comparable open market rent to fund new build.  This means that we now have two types of subsidised rented accommodation – social rented provided by local councils with rents set at around 60% of the full market rent and affordable rented provided by housing associations set at 80%.  It is not clear if housing associations will increase their rents on existing properties to the new affordable rent level as tenants move. A further twist to this is that in South Cambridgeshire because of the high market rent levels housing benefit will not be sufficient to cover all the affordable rent level for three bed properties and above and that this will worsen significantly should housing benefit be capped as proposed.  South Cambs council will be taking over the responsibility for housing benefit but so far the government is not providing sufficient resource or time for this and officers fear it will be a shambles.
  3. A task force set up by the council’s Scrutiny and Overview Committee to review planning services has produced 18 recommendations accepted by the council’s cabinet. Two recommendations which I am pleased to see concern the lack of balance by officers when it comes to dealing with historic buildings in accordance with national planning guidance and the inconsistency in dealing with the highway authorities.
  4. SCDC has approved its Climate Change Action.  The plan will be used for helping communities achieve climate change aspirations up to 2013, responding to the needs of businesses to achieve more sustainable energy use and help the council provide its services in a more sustainable way.  The document looks at climate change from the prospective of how we can all improve our lifestyles and communities by following more sustainable activities.  The Sustainable Parish Energy Partnership and the fitting of photovoltaic panels to council homes are examples of this.
  5. Finally, in July last year the government withdrew money paid through the county council for local community projects.  This left South Cambs without nearly £500,000 that it had committed to projects and with a £57,121 overspend owing to payments already made.  Now the county council has received £4.5m from the government to complete the projects, but it has decided to keep the money and not pass it onto district councils.  This will eventually have a serious effect on South Cambs ability to fund community projects going forward.  The county council and Tory district council leaders claim this money is being spent on super broadband, but it is not.  The super broadband is being paid for from a 30 year loan, while the government money meant for community projects is being used on county council services.

My report to the September 2011 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

  1. Since the July parish council meeting I attended as a district councillor a meeting of the Windmill Estate Steering Group and the full meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council on 21 July 2011.
  2. At the time of writing this report and as reported in the Cambridge News, SCDC has provisionally awarded the housing repairs contract to Mears plc a building company based in Gloucester, which mainly carries out maintenance work for social registered landlords including property in Linton.  This is a controversial decision given that in 2009 the council actually voted against the tendering of the in-house housing repairs service given that it has made a profit for the housing revenue account, but this was overturned by the cabinet of the council.
  3. SCDC has agreed to extend the installation of solar photovoltaic cells to all council tenants.  A consultation pack is being sent to all tenants and meetings are being organised to enable tenants to meet with Savills Solar the contractor.  Not all homes will be suitable, but the income received from selling the surplus electricity will be used to benefit all tenants.
  4. The planning application by Tesco for a customer collection pod and canopy in the customer car park of its Fulbourn store was withdrawn the day before the planning committee met.  This coincided with me providing photographic evidence that the customer collector point at Tesco Extra Romford upon which Tesco had based its evidence was not the same as that applied for.  I was looking forward to taking them on!  I await its revised application
  5. SCDC has yet to respond to the government’s consultation on its national planning policy guidance.  I my view this is a thoroughly ill thought through document which by putting the presumption in favour of development goes against the principles of the Town and Country Planning Acts and will lead to a more complicated local plan and planning process as LPAs attempt to cover every possibility to avoid litigation by developers.
  6. SCDC has produced a Community Transport leaflet which has been distributed to the library, health centre and Twelve and copies of which I have given to the clerk.

My report to the July 2011 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

  1. The Boundary Commission has asked SCDC and Cambridge City if they wish to continue with the review of the boundary between the two authorities, given it has been three years since the referral and that the housing developments envisaged then – which included the development of Cambridge Airport by 2021– will not now happen as then expected.  This proposal included the Beechwoods Estate transferring to the city, with significant financial ramifications for Fulbourn Parish Council given that the estate makes up one quarter of the households in the parish.  South Cambs’ electoral arrangements committee has considered this and has decided that circumstances have changed significantly enough that the council should no longer proceed.  I am fairly confident that this decision with be ratified by the full council meeting.
  2. Following the monitoring of night time external noise levels.S&B Herba the operator of Fulbourn Mill has been told by SCDC Environmental Health to reduce the noise of its night operations by 5 decibels.
  3. Network Rail has carried out a route crime risk assessment along the railway at Fulbourn Hospital.  It has met with Cambridgeshire County Council to seek to have some street lamps along the cycleway relocated away from the railway boundary fence to prevent them being used to access the railway.  I’ve urged that anti-climb material be applied as an interim measure.  Also, the Samaritans have been asked to provide signs offering advice and Network Rail is to replace the boundary fence to match the higher one on the other side of the line opposite The Firs.
  4. South Cambs is objecting to the Government’s proposal to allow a change of use from business premises (and possibly warehousing) to residential without planning permission.  I don’t know of any local planning authority that has supported this proposal.
  5. In response to the Government’s proposal to change its guidance on gypsy and traveller sites South Cambs is asking that there be a less prescriptive directive on Green Belt development (no surprise there) and has objected to the use of historical data to judge the need for sites, which will put more burden on councils like South Cambs which have a history of gypsies and travellers wanting sites.
  6. And finally, at this week’s full council meeting I am asking the council to seek assurances from Marshalls that flights associated with the Olympics will not operate during the night.

My report to the June 2011 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

At the annual meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council on Thursday 26 May 2011 I asked the following question:

Given the position the council is at with its proposed gypsy and traveller policies and taking account of current adopted development control policies, why has the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mental Health Trust been told by planning officers that it must at this time include a traveller site in its masterplan for developing the Ida Darwin Hospital site for housing?

 The reply from the portfolio holder for new communities was rather disturbing because it implied that all remaining gypsy and traveller site options were now considered available, despite the absence of any draft gypsy and traveller policy document let alone an adopted policy.

I therefore asked the following supplementary:

How will the officers’ action not prejudge the eventual development policy to be adopted by this council given that the government’s current consultation Planning for Travellers Sites says protecting the Green Belt from development is paramount and proposes to remove the word “normally” from current guidance and thus clearly state that gypsy and traveller sites are inappropriate development in the Green Belt?  Of course the Ida Darwin site is a major developed site in the Green Belt, with no plans to remove it from the Green Belt.

 Moreover, in our gypsy and traveller site options and policies consultation document published in July 2009 we suggest that in relation to major developments sites in the Green Belt gypsy and traveller sites would be inappropriate unless exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated at the master planning and planning application stage.  Surely, by instructing the developer to include a gypsy and traveller site in its master plan, is the council not contradicting its position as the determining local planning authority?

As to the supplementary question, in my first point I’m referring to the government’s draft consultation which proposes to remove the loop hole regarding development in the Green Belt.  This is relevant to the Ida Darwin site because in SCDC’s site specific policies document adopted in January 2010, policy SP/9 which concerns Ida Darwin states: Fulbourn and Ida Darwin hospitals have been designated as a major developed site in the Green Belt, and development must reflect the principle established by DCP DPD policy GB/4.  This is supported by the Gypsy and Traveller Development Plan Document Issues and Options published in July 2009 which in referring to the Ida Darwin site says: The site is located in the Green Belt.  It is proposed that even when it is redeveloped it remains designated as a major developed site in the Green Belt. (option OPT1).

As to the second point of the supplementary, what I was referring to was the fact that the GTDPD Issues and Options document Option OPT6 says that ….Sites in the Green Belt would not be appropriate, unless exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated at the master planning and planning application stage.

At the New Communities Portfolio Holder’s meeting held on 14 December 2010 the following two recommendations were approved:

Recommendation 1 – Sites suggested through the consultation by, or with the support of, landowners, are subject to public consultation at the next stage of the plan making process, identifying whether or not they should be proposed as site options or rejected; and

Recommendation 10 – Review the approach to the GTDPD in 2011 when the new Needs Assessment has been completed and further information regarding government policy in particular the localism bill and the new guideline regarding planning for gypsy and traveller accommodation is available.

The Ida Darwin site was neither suggested by the Mental Health Trust nor has its support and we are still awaiting the Needs Assessment and the outcome of the government consultation on its proposed planning for traveller sites. I therefore suggest that the council is contradicting itself by asking at this time for the Ida Darwin master plan to include a gypsy and traveller site, bearing in mind that it is also the determining local planning authority.

Also at the annual meeting I was reappointed to the council’s Corporate Governance Committee and to the Joint Transport Forum which includes Cambridge City and Cambridgeshire County Council.

 

My report to the 2011 Annual Public Meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

This past year has been very eventful both for South Cambridgeshire District Council and for me locally.  The district council has had to face a significant reduction in the grant it receives from central government to pay towards its services, a change in the way it pays the government towards the cost of its council housing which will place it in debt for the first time in its history and the county council cutting services with an expectation that the district council will pick up some of them.  Locally, the stalemate that was threatening the Windmill Estate redevelopment had to be tackled, as did the nuisance being caused to local residents by Fulbourn Mill and the appalling number of deaths on the railway near the Yarrow Road level crossing (averaging two a year).

With nearly a 30% reduction in grant in real terms, South Cambridgeshire District Council agreed to freeze its council tax for this year by raiding its reserves in order to receive a 2.5% increase in its grant from government.  However, council taxes will have to rise by 3.5% next year and for the following three years.    The council reserves fall from £6.8 million to £2.9 million over the 4 year period.  At the budget meeting I proposed that the council seek assurances that the next round of consultation by central government would be more inclusive which was approved unanimously.

The previous Government consulted councils on a proposal to allow them to keep all housing rents and Right to Buy receipts in return for them making a one off capital payment to the Government to off-set the national housing capital debt. The new coalition government decided to continue with this, with the result that the district has to find £205 million which it will do by borrowing the money over 30 years.  In return the council will be keeping the £12 million it was giving to the government every year from its council rent income.

Following my election to the district council I was shocked to find the Windmill Estate redevelopment was on the brink of collapse because of members’ opposition to CPO powers.  At the first opportunity I asked a question of the Leader of the Council if he agreed that the council needed to review its previous decision not to use compulsory purchase order powers for the redevelopment of the Windmill Estate.  The Leader responded that should the parish council, Windmill Estate residents and local councillors wish this then it would be looked at again.  After securing the backing of the Liberal Democrat group a motion was put to the full meeting of the council asking councillors to agree that in an exceptional circumstance compulsory purchase powers can be used, in order to support current and future residents in ensuring the successful completion of this major housing provision.  This motion was carried.  Officers now have CPO powers in their toolkit.  I hope it will not be necessary to use them and if it does officers will need to seek the approval of the full council to implement the procedure.

Despite trying to reach an informal agreement with Fulbourn Mill over its operations, events earlier this year have led to formal action being taken by Environmental Health and this is ongoing.

Following a further death on the railway near Fulbourn Hospital last year I raised concerns with the county coroner and as a result I am now on a working group led by the British Transport Police and including Network Rail and the Cambridge and Peterborough Health Trust looking at security along that stretch of the railway.

I am pleased that following my objection, Tesco revised its plan to build a bulk store extension to its Fulbourn store to ensure parent and toddler and disabled parking spaces lost by the plan were relocated.

Finally, in addition to numerous individual case work, mainly to do with planning and housing matters, I have also been involved with the parish council in getting a post office back and representing the parish on the Wadlow Wind Farm community liaison group and the setting up of its community fund.

My report to the April 2011 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

  1. Since the last Parish Council meeting I have attended a meeting about railway security at the Yarrow Road crossing, the Wadlow Wind Farm Community Liaison Group, a meeting of SCDC’s Corporate Governance Committee and a workshop on risk management.
  2. To incentivise home building and the use of empty properties the Government announced on 4 April the New Homes Bonus and final allocations to local planning authorities.  For each addition to the district’s housing stock, including dwellings brought back into use, South Cambridgeshire will receive match funding for the council tax paid on the property for each of the next six years.  The council will be able to use the money in whatever way it likes, although the bonus should also make development more acceptable to local people so I expect it will go to benefit the community where the development is located.  Moreover, the council will receive an additional £350 per year for each new affordable home, again for the following six years.
  3. As part of a strategic housing review following the Government’s decision to scrap regional housing targets, over the summer SCDC will be asking the public to put forward potential sites for housing development.  Proposals will be judged against the council’s current Local Development Framework, but will also be mindful of changes proposed in the Localism Bill (due to become law in the autumn of next year), which includes the opportunity for Local Neighbourhood housing developments (up to 200 homes) on all but Green Belt designated land subject to a local public referendum.
  4. SCDC is currently undertaking a survey to update its social housing stock database and to assist in the preparation of its 30 year business plan.  Some 35 council properties in All Saints Road, Cambridge Road and Chaplins Close are being surveyed in Fulbourn.
  5. The Government has introduced the Community Infrastructure Levy which can replace Section 106 agreements.  However, the local planning authority will need to conduct an audit of existing facilities and demonstrate and quantify short falls in infrastructure arising from a new development.  It also has to set a universal charging schedule for the levy based on the floor area of any development.
  6. And finally a non housing matter, SCDC’s environmental health team are monitoring night time noise levels from Fulbourn Mill.

My report to the March 2011 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

  1. South Cambridgeshire District Council is to freeze its council tax for this year by raiding its reserves in order to receive a 2.5% increase in its grant from government.  However, taxes will have to rise by 3.5% next year and for the following three years.    The council reserves fall from £6.8 million to £2.9 million over the period.  At the budget meeting I put forward the following motion which was approved unanimously: “This council recognizes the important part that local government has to play in tackling the country’s financial deficit. Contrary to national government, local government has made efficiency savings of three per cent in each of the past eight years. However the government settlement this council and others have received is so structured to make its biggest hit in this coming financial year and this front loading means we have not had the lead in time necessary to re-engineer services on a lower cost base in a planned and measured way. The settlement is for two years only out of the five year period of the national government and therefore this and other councils could be faced with a similar situation in two years time. We therefore agree that this council should write to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to draw attention to the difficulties caused by the current front loading and ask that before the next local government settlement takes place in 2013 there is extensive consultation with local authorities on its implementation to minimize its impact on vulnerable communities and front line services.”
  2. I am pleased to report that SCDC has agreed to give Fulbourn PC a grant of £2,300 towards the cost of providing adult exercise equipment on the recreation ground and £125 to Fulbourn Primary School for bat and swift boxes.
  3. Cambridge Horizons is to consult on its Green Infrastructure Strategy at Cambourne Library on March 10.  The strategy includes a network of outdoor spaces and places such as country parks, historic sites, woodlands and rights of way.  SCDC is in broad agreement with the objectives of the strategy.
  4. I have been invited to participate in a working group led by the British Transport Police into security along the railway following my contact with the county coroner over deaths on the railway at the Yarrow Road level crossing.
  5. SCDC’s Environmental Health is investigating serious noise issues at Fulbourn Mill following complaints made to it by local residents over a particular incident on March 19.  This follows a number of noise incidents since Christmas, including unacceptable night time noise levels (as report last month), which has tried the patience of its neighbours.
  6. Following my objection to the loss of parent and toddler parking spaces for a proposed bulk store extension to its Fulbourn store, Tesco has changed its plan and will now retain all but two parking spaces in a revised plan.

My report to the February 2011 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

1. Since the January parish councl meeting I have attended the Corporate Governance Committee of SCDC on 12 January, the full council meeting on 27 January and a local government finance workshop on 3 February.  In addition I spoke at the planning committee meeting on 12 January in support of the parish council’s recommendation that a planning application be approved.

2. At the full council meeting it was decided to give back to officers the opportunity to seek to use Compulsory Purchase powers in order to complete the Windmill Estate redevelopment as planned.  Officers will have to obtain the approval of the full council should they wish to apply a Compulsory Purchase Order against a particular owner occupier.  This decision was not taken likely, but after a lengthy debate the vote was decisive with well over two out of three members voting to give back the CPO powers.

3. At the Corporate Governance Committee meeting we were given a presentation on the work of the internal audit team and received the last external audit report on SCDC from the Audit Commission.

 4. At the planning committee meeting I was able to persuade members to go against the officer recommendation that the planning application for a property in Coxs Drove be rejected and instead agree with the parish council that it would not adversely affect the conservation area and be approved.

5. After Christmas Fulbourn Mill received a complaint about night time noise levels and after investigation it found that equipment used for processing peas needed further noise reduction measures.  Work is now in hand to deal with this.

6. I am concerned about the funding of the 16 and 17 bus routes and I have been contacted by a number of users.  Should the county council decide to withdraw its subsidy Stagecoach say they will withdraw the service in April as most users are bus pass holders.  These routes are well used and it raises the issue of how the government money for the concessionary bus pass scheme is allocated between routes.

My report to the January 2011 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council 

            

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

1. South Cambridgeshire District Council has been wrong footed by the government taking into account the money raised by parish councils when settling the amount of money it will give the district council for the next two financial years.  As a result it is proposed the district council will receive a formula grant £1.7 million less than it had expected to, with the result that further serious cuts in services will have to be found. The inclusion of parish council tax comes about because its argued that urban authorities such as Cambridge City do not have parish councils and therefore the taxes the parish councils raise for services should be taken into account in the rural councils’ settlements to produce a level playing field.  As a result, the reduction in the proposed government grant to South Cambridgeshire is around 30% in real terms over the period from April this year to March 2013.  Given that the district is already a low spending authority there just isn’t the wriggle room to avoid cuts in front line services.

2. Following discussions with officers and councillors, I shall be putting forward a motion to the full meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council asking councillors to agree that in an exceptional circumstance compulsory purchase powers can be used for the Windmill Estate redevelopment, in order to support current and future residents in ensuring the successful completion of this major housing provision. Previously, the council had ruled out the use of compulsory purchase orders believing the estate could be redeveloped without resort to such powers.  But this has proved impossible to accomplish.  Failure to obtain the freehold of all existing properties will lead to the redevelopment being unfinished and over 70 families not having new homes and the new estate being blighted by derelict houses, because they are unrepairable and unmortgagable. We have many families not just in Fulbourn but across the district wanting decent affordable homes.  The use of compulsory purchase orders as a last resort must be faced now and those residents whose support has made the redevelopment a success should be backed by the council.

3. The Chief Financial Officer of SCDC has calculated the tax base for the Fulbourn parish precept for 2011/12 at 1,978.4 band D equivalent properties.

My report to the December 2010 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

1. Since the November parish council meeting I have attended a council workshop on corporate governance and the full council meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council on Thursday 25 November 2010.  Before the parish council meets on Wednesday 8 December 2010 I am due to attend a finance workshop and the inaugural meeting of the Wadlow Wind Farm Community Fund steering group on Monday 6 December 2010.

2. At the full council meeting I was pleased to be able to amend a motion to ask the government to consider requiring a new retail outlet to seek planning permission where it will duplicate an existing retail outlet even if the building it intends to occupy has planning approval for such activity.  This will enable the local community and the parish council to make their views known to the local planning authority, which can then take these views into account when determining the application in regard to its planning policies.  To my mind this is in line with the coalition government’s aim of giving local communities the responsibility and the trust to make the right decisions for themselves.

3. At the same meeting I also asked a question of the Leader of the Council if he agreed that the council needed to review its previous decision not to use compulsory purchase order powers for the redevelopment of the Windmill Estate.  The Leader responded that should the parish council, Windmill Estate residents and local councillors wish this then it would be looked at again.  This will be discussed at the Windmill Estate Steering Group meeting planned for Wednesday 15 December 2010.4. The Liberal Democrat council group also attempted to overturn the council’s proposal to change the contracts of existing council employees to reduce redundancy payments, but we were out voted.  We consider this is morally wrong.  I expect that this decision will lead to industrial action.

    My report to the November 2010 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

1. Since the October parish council meeting I have attended two workshops of the Joint Transport Forum.  The Forum is made up of members and officers representing Cambridgeshire County Council, Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council.  Currently the Forum is considering ways to further pedestrianise streets in the historic city centre and reduce the environmental impact of traffic in the central area.  This has to be balanced with maintaining good public transport access and the needs of businesses (including shops) and the university.  In due course the Forum will be looking at the wider traffic problems in the city and the effect that further restrictions within the inner ring road may have on traffic flows in the surrounding villages such as Fulbourn; this will also include reviewing public transport links.

2. Otherwise I have been much involved with parish council related issues including finding a replacement home for the Post Office, the relocation of the Day Centre (and I wish John Rickett and the other carers the very best for the future in the setting up of a charity to run a day centre facility at Chaplins Close), the Wadlow Wind Farm Community Fund and representing the parish council at the South Cambridgeshire District Council Liaison Meeting.

3. Following the tragic death of a man at the Yarrow Road level crossing last month I have asked the coroner to consider whether this death (and the three others in two years at this crossing) may have been avoided if the Samaritans telephone previously provided at the former Fulbourn Old Drift crossing had been relocated to the Yarrow Road crossing.

 My report to the October 2010 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

1. Since the September parish council meeting I attended the full meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council on 23 September 2010 and the Corporate Governance Committee on 24 September 2010.

2. In accordance with rules set for it by the Tenants Services Authority, SCDC has published its first annual report to its tenants setting out its performance as a landlord, against tests set by the TSA, and the commitments it proposes to make to tenants in the coming year.  The TSA sets out tests for the following areas: tenant involvement and customer care; maintaining your home; letting homes; looking after your neighbourhood and communal areas; and value for money.  The TSA requires councils to tailor services around what tenants actually want – known as “Local Offers”.  The SCDC report has been produced in consultation with the Tenants Participation Group and a tenants’ forum and in the coming months the council will be working with its tenants to agree the “Local Offers”.

3. A task force set up by the council’s Scrutiny and Overview Committee to review how effectively the council works with partners to meet the needs of children and young people has published its findings.  The report makes 10 recommendations covering the areas of transport, consultation with young people, health, active participation and general working with partnerships.  These recommendations should now be taken into account in future SCDC policy and strategy.

4. SCDC has embarked on its Climate Change Action Plan consultation.  The plan will be used for helping communities achieve climate change aspirations up to 2013.  As a result the document looks at climate change from the prospective of how we can all improve our lifestyles and communities by following more sustainable activities.  The Sustainable Parish Energy Partnership is an example of this through engagement with parish councils.

5. Finally, from 1 October 2010 SCDC is required by the Buildings (Local Authority Charges) Regulations 2010 to bring in a new scheme of charges for planning matters.  The new fees are structured to be clearer and more reflect the cost of the level of work required to process the different types of planning work.  They cover full plan applications, building notices and regularisation applications.  Also supplementary charges are now made for additional administration work such as writing to solicitors or searches.  Some building regulation applications solely for providing accommodation for disabled people in dwellings or in public buildings may not attract a charge.

My report to the September 2010 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

1. Since the July parish council meeting I attended the full meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council on 22 July 2010 and the following matters of interest to Fulbourn arose, two of which came from questions to the administration.

2. The New Communities Portfolio Holder confirmed that with the revocation of the Regional Spatial Strategy by the Government there were no longer any regional targets for gypsy and traveller sites and that in future it would be up to SCDC to make its own decisions regarding this.  SCDC was therefore now waiting to new guidance and regulations rom the Government to ensure that whatever it did next would be sound in law.

3. The new Government is to abolish the East of England Development Agency and replace it with Local Enterprise Partnerships.  The Government wants LEPs to set the right conditions for growth and business and to tackle such issues as housing, planning, transport and employment on a more local basis.  SCDC aims to work with the city council, the county council and the business and academic communities to submit a proposal for an LEP by the deadline of 6 September 2010. 

4. The response to the Government’s consultation on a proposal to give councils back the right to keep all money from council house rents and right-to buy purchases in return for a one off payment to offset its £29 billion housing debt has turned into a complete fiasco.  As I have mentioned before, SCDC has to give the government over £10 million a year from its council house rents, mainly to subsidise public housing elsewhere.  Being able to keep that money for repairs and new build would have a significant impact on the council housing stock.  However, in return the government wants a one of payment from SCDC of about £190  million.  The council doesn’t have that sort of money and would have to borrow it.I think everyone agrees that the formula for deciding upon the one off payment is unjust on SCDC and there needs to be some hard bargaining done.  Also the interest will need to be fixed for the duration of the loan.  But I consider having control over our own housing finances outweighs the cost of a loan.  Generally speaking, based on a 7% rate of interest keeping the rent money will off-set the loan repayments in the first ten years of a 30 year loan, after which the council will be better off as the income from rents and right-to-buy will exceed the loan repayments – giving the council much needed money for repairs and new homes for rent.The Housing Portfolio Holder decided to make a personal response to the consultation on the pretext that the council could not meet until after the consultation date which was set for 6 June 2010.  The letter said it supported in principle the proposal, but opposed the level of debt asked of SCDC.  But when he put his response to the full council meeting on 22 July he said was opposed to what he had  written and following a vote the response to the consultation was rejected.   The council is now having to tell the government that it doesn’t support the letter sent to it by its Housing Portfolio Holder.

 5. And finally SCDC has a new Chief Executive – Jean Hunter – formerly the CX of South Ribble Borough Council, Lancashire.  Jean has worked in the private sector including running her own companies as well as in local government. 

 There was no parish council meeting in August.

 My report to the July 2010 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council

1.  I attended the Corporate Governance Committee on 29 June 2010.  The council’s draft statement of accounts for 2009/10 was approved with minor amendments to go before the full council.  We should be concerned that for next year the council has budgeted for an 18% reduction in its Revenue Support Grant from central government, whereas this is likely now to be in the region of 25-30%.  Also, the staff pension fund is now taking a significant proportion of council tax money – half of last year’s council tax rise. 

  2.  As I mentioned in my last report the previous Government consulted councils on a proposal to allow them to keep all housing rents and Right to Buy receipts in return for them making a one off capital payment to the Government to off-set the national housing capital debt; and that in light of the new coalition government’s programme for Government and the Queen’s Speech, both of which referred to a forthcoming review of the housing revenue account, it was unanimously agreed at the full council meeting to defer a decision on the response to the consultation pending clarification of the situation from the new Secretary of State.However, the SoS has asked that councils do respond to the consultation and given the deadline for this is before the next full council meeting on 22 July, the housing portfolio holder has now submitted his own personal comments, which broadly agree to the government proposal subject to changes to the proposed formula for determining the council’s capital payment.  Although I am broadly in favour of the proposal because of the freedom it gives in future years for SCDC to develop its social housing stock, given the serious financial implications of the scheme it is a pity that all councillors will not have the opportunity to debate this before a submission is made.

3. SCDC will not now be publishing planning applications on line until August due to the need to make changes to the new IT system.  Registrations and completions targets will not be affected I am assured.

4. Environment Health Officers are working with Network Rail to over-come a serious rodent infestation along the railway embankment in Cherry Hinton which is affecting certain parts of the Beechwoods estate.5. And finally I hope that parish councillors residents will wish to join me in thanking Greg Harlock for his many years of service as Financial Director and Chief Executive Officer of South Cambridgeshire District Council. The recruitment process for his successor is underway and it is hoped an appointment will be agreed by Council on 22 July 2010. My report to the June 2010 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council1.  I attended the Annual General Meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council on May 27 and was appointed to the council’s Corporate Governance Committee and the Joint Transport Forum.  Three items on the agenda had particular implications for Fulbourn, namely the Council’s model petition scheme, the Government review of council housing finance and the council’s policy for charging fees for street naming.2.  The council’s proposed model petition scheme would have meant that 100 names would have been required for the council to consider the representation as a petition and 500 names (to take account of the possibility of e-petitions) would have been required for the petition to have been debated by the council.  Lib Dem and independent councillors challenged this and the numbers required were reduced to 50 and 100 respectively.3.  The previous Government consulted councils on a proposal to allow them to keep all housing rents and Right to Buy receipts in return for them making a one off capital payment to the Government to off set the national housing capital debt (estimated at around £29 bn).  The payment for SCDC was estimated by officers to be around £160 to £200 million to be written off over 30 years with a loan.  This would have meant the council being in debt for the first time.  However, officers were recommending that the council agree to this proposal, subject to continued negotiations to reduce the council’s payment, because even with a worst case interest rate level, after one year the council would be repaying less than the amount it would have paid the Government from housing rents and after 10 years the council would be in a position to have capital for new council houses.  Responding to the consultation did not commit the council, but it could influence the formula that would be used to calculate the repayments.  However, in light of the new coalition government’s programme for Government and the Queen’s Speech, both of which referred to a forthcoming review of the housing revenue account it was unanimously agreed to defer a decision on the response to the consultation pending clarification of the situation from the new Secretary of State.4. As to charging fees for street naming, the council decided to give notice of intent to adopt the provisions of section 64 of the Town Improvement Clauses Act 1847 to enable it to charge developers for the costs incurred in street naming and numbering , in line with most other local planning authorities.

6.  I also attended a meeting with S&B Herba concerning noise from Fulbourn Mill and was shown new air extraction vents which have reduced external noise levels.  However, at times there continues to be above background level noise at night and further noise measurements and investigations into noise sources are to be undertaken by the company.
5. As to other matters, I have been in discussion with carers over the closure of the Healthcare Homes Day Centre at Home Close, and I have had contact with the Operations Manager for Co-op Stores and the Reverend Rhiannon Jones over finding an alternative location for the village post office.