Sizewell C consultation – my response

NO “mitigation” or “compensation” could mitigate or compensate for the permanent impact of this road-led strategy on Suffolk landscape and way of life

Suffolk County Council submitted a response to this Stage 3 consultation, as did Woodbridge’s Town Council. This is mine, written specifically as Woodbridge County Councillor – and as LibDem Green and Independent group county councillor representing a Suffolk Coastal division

My concerns are both general and specific.Putting to one side the question of whether the development of Sizewell is still desirable or economic, I wish to raise concerns about the following overarching issues about this Stage 3 pre-Application:

  1. The inexplicable decision to favour a road-led strategy for development over both sea and rail. This change to the narrative of previous schemes is in no way explained or explicable. Indeed, the complete fatuity of plans which eschew a marine-led strategy because of “damage to the marine environment” yet which trample over an AONB takes some beating. Such a strategy is not green. It damages a vital resource for Suffolk Coastal – the age-old countryside it relies on for income. It is not convenient – for us, the residents of Suffolk Coastal. Using Suffolk roads is clearly the cheapest and most convenient option for the developers.  What is in this for the people living in Suffolk Coastal?
  2. The adverse impact of a road-led strategy is not only on the area around Sizewell, but on all the feeder roads in Suffolk Coastal, and the communities they serve. The impact of traffic displaced by significant HGV traffic on the A12 onto rural routes will affect all rural communities in the path. What is in this for the people living in Suffolk Coastal?
  3. Despite the damage to the surrounding area  – an area which brings Suffolk Coastal its most significant longterm income  (from tourism) because of this choice of a road-led strategy – we gather it will still be necessary for you to build a jetty to bring heavy machinery in by sea. So what price “protecting the marine environment”?
  4.  All this being so, what we appear to see is the wanton destruction of countryside, habitat, environment and way of life for the people of Suffolk Coastal for the benefit of urban areas that want electricity without risk to themselves.  Suffolk has 1.4% of the UK population. It will sustain 100% of the damage of this scheme. Words like ‘mitigation and compensation’ fall very short of addressing the destruction of an historic way of life for everything for the foreseeable future
  5. Development plans for significant housing near Leiston suggests that many or most of the workers, even at the building stage, will not be sourced locally, but will be incomers to Suffolk. What is in this for the people living in Suffolk Coastal?
  6. If rail is used it will involve apparently the destruction of many existing crossings and rights of way, at great detriment to residents and tourists, who come specifically to walk and enjoy the countryside. Trains, both for delivery of construction materials and for operational uses afterwards will be in excess of the current East Suffolk line usage and will have an impact in both noise and impact on other traffic for residents along the line. Again, what is in this for the people living in Suffolk Coastal?
  7. Where is the acknowledgement of the impact of climate change on the coast of Suffolk? Suffolk County Council declared a climate emergency last week. Rising seas are predicted to put Sizewell under water within a relatively short space of time. What plans have been mafe to guard against this?
  8. Why is there no marine strategy for the delivery of energy? The current scheme will have a massive impact on the people of Suffolk Coastal in order to benefit a large tranche of the UK population. If we in Britain can get our energy from France via undersea cables, surely London can get its energy from Suffolk by the same route?

Specifically to Woodbridge, I want to raise concerns about :

  1. the increase to the volume of traffic that a road-led strategy would displace along the A1438 – the first convenient turnoff from the A12, and travelling immediately through Woodbridge town. This would take non-HGV drivers to places along the coast up as far as Leiston. The impact is likely to be considerable, as many drivers decide to eschew the congested and dangerous A12 for a more scenic, more pleasant journey.
  2. The double whammy caused by a) the increase in HGVs on the A12, passing next to Farlingaye High School, where 2,000 young people from a 400sq mile catchment area will disbenefit from the increase in N02 and particulate matter; while the increase in ‘fugitive’ traffic along the B1438 in Woodbridge, which has a hugely significant number of sheltered, retiremenit and old people’s housing built along it, will affect these residents who will also disbenefit from the increase in N02 and particulate matter. N02 and particulate matter are known to have a particularly poor impact on the young and the old. The impact of air pollution will be added to the obvious issues caused by an increase in traffic on a small town with a particularly large number of elderly residents, and six schools.
  3. Should a rail-led option be included, I must point out that when a Sizewell train passes through Woodbridge it can be heard throughout the town. An increase in rail traffic through the town will result in added noise pollution for the people of the town, in addition to potential loss of crossings and rights of way.

As I said before, I dislike the words “mitigation” & “compensation” when addressing the destruction of the countryside and people’s way of life. If Sizewell C is to go ahead, I hope that EDF energy investigate a marine-led solution for both construction of the site and delivering energy, because no “mitigation” or “compensation” could mitigate or compensate for the impact of this road-led strategy on either Suffolk Coastal as a whole or Woodbridge in particular.

Caroline Page

County Councillor for Woodbridge

Deputy Leader Suffolk County Council LibDem Green and Independent Group; Leader Suffolk County Council LibDems; LDGI Spokesperson for Women, Highways and Adult Care

SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL VOTES TO FAIL WOMEN!

EADT coverage of SCCs failure to address gender data gap

Following International Women’s Day I put a motion at a full meeting of Suffolk County Council calling for a pdp*  to be formed to improve outcomes for girls. The motion also called for more detailed data by gender. Suffolk has an embarrassing gender gap and  much useful information is either not stored  or not collated by sex.

The motion recognised IWD ‘s  #BalanceforBetter campaign

Unfortunately Suffolk’s Tories – while claiming they backed the principal of the motion – voted against it on the specious grounds that “positive discrimination” would not help.

Er?  Since when was “establishing facts” confused with “positive discrimination”? Only in the woolly minds of those predetermined to pretend such discrimination exists.

Suffolk County Council currentky has 29% women councillors, less than the 33% national average. The percentage of Conservative women councillors is smaller than the total average.

This  off-beam decisionmaking  above demonstrates in all its inglory Suffolk’s Tory party insistance on deciding  – and whipping – their vote before listening to the argument.  Since when was equality and balance the same as positive discrimination?

Failing to support this motion is a major step backwards for gender equality. During the meeting  I said it was “disheartening and shameful” that the motion was voted down, and expressed my disappointment that my Tory colleagues opposite were so reluctant to look reality in the face.

The motion was talking about #BalanceforBetter which is a gender neutral term. Modern Suffolk has a high gender pay gap, high violence against women.

It seems that Suffolk’s Tories are  yet to fully engage with women and what they have to offer

*Policy development panels (PDPs) are formed of a crossparty selectionof councillors who meet to examine data, and look at ideas and solutions to tackle a specific problem, and present recommendations to cabinet.

SUFFOLK: What’s been going ON, Feb-March 2019

Suffolk CC 2019/20 budget. Suffolk County Council’s 2019/20 budget was agreed on Thursday 14 February, voted in by the Conservative majority despite significant opposition concerns. This will see an increase in council tax of 3.99%, and savings (cuts) across the council’s directorates totalling £10.1m.

I am concerned by a number of these cuts, in particular:

  • The decision to remove all grant funding from Citizens Advice. This will be phased over two years, with a 50% reduction in the 2019/20 budget (£0.184m);
  • Reducing the amount spent on Housing Related Support, which supports those at risk of homelessness (£0.45m);
  • Reduced funding for sponsored bus services (£0.34m) and cessation of the provision of roadside bus timetables (£0.1m);
  • Reduction in highways maintenance, including no road sign cleaning (£0.1m), only maintaining mandatory road markings (£0.075m) and less frequent weed treatments in rural areas (£0.055m);
  • Staffing reductions across all directorates, which may result in less efficient services (£2.968m).

Suffolk CCGs to pick up Citizens Advice funding for 2019/20 As mentioned above, the budget includes a cut to the grant funding provided by Suffolk County Council to Citizens Advice. This grant will be cut by 50% in 2019/20 (£184,000) and removed entirely in the 2020/21 budget.

Thankfully, the CCGs have stepped in and agreed to provide Citizens Advice with £184,000 in funding this year, to make up for the 50% funding cut from Suffolk County Council. Although this means Citizens Advice will not lose funding this year, it does not address the longer-term problem of funding in the future. The CCGs have been clear that this funding is only available for 2019/20.

Reduction in Suffolk’s 2018/19 predicted overspend Suffolk County Council’s latest budget monitoring report suggests the 2018/19 budget will be overspent by £5.9m – an improvement on the overspend of £7.5m predicted after quarter 2.

The £5.9m overspend is 1.2% of the net budget and is made up of £3.8m on base budget and £2.1m on Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) spend.

Although it is positive to hear the overspend is reducing, I am concerned by where these savings are being achieved. The majority are due to ongoing staff vacancies at the council, particularly in social work teams. This is clearly not a long-term solution and is a dangerous false economy. Without adequate staff, the county council will struggle to properly and efficiently provide services in Suffolk.

Respublica report into housing costs Suffolk County Council £66,000. Last year Suffolk County Council commissioned the thinktank Respublica to undertake a study into housing growth in Suffolk at a cost of £66,000. The final report was published on 21 February. At just 14 pages long, it cost the authority almost £5000 per page and failed to discuss the issues in any great depth.

Ofsted inspectors conclude Suffolk’s SEND service is inadequate Inspectors from Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) returned to Suffolk in January to see how SEND services had progressed since their inspection in December 2016.

Following that visit, inspectors ruled Suffolk was not effectively meeting the needs of children and young people with SEND.

In their report last week, the inspectors acknowledged that some improvements have been made, but say children and young people relying on SEND services have not yet felt the benefit.

The inspectors concluded that while sufficient progress had been made regarding governance and leadership of the strategic planning and delivery of the 2014 national SEND reforms, they ruled that insufficient progress had been made in the three other areas requiring improvement.

These were:
• the poor timeliness, integration and quality of SEND statutory assessments and plans and the delivery of subsequent individual packages of support
• the lack of understanding among parents and carers of the support available, and the inadequate quality of the local offer, including access to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), and
• lack of joint working to monitor, quality assure and maximise the effectiveness of work undertaken to improve outcomes for children.

Suffolk Free School Travel – new opt-in for funded transport Following changes to the school travel policy, which will take effect in September 2019, eligible families must now “opt-in” to receive free school transport – pupils will no longer be automatically signed up.

If a child is eligible for free transport, parents will need to apply this year and each subsequent year, even if they have never needed to apply in the past. The application window for this year is 1 March 2019 to 31 May 2019. There is more information available at www.suffolkonboard.com/optin.

I must emphasise that pupils’ eligibility for free travel is statutory, and restricted to under 8s living more than 2 miles and over 8s living more than 3 miles from their nearest school, together with some pupils eligible on grounds of disability, safety and special circumstances.

Jetty Lane Community Youth and Arts Centre gains planning permission At the end of February Suffolk Coastal District Council planning committee unanimously granted planning permission for the proposed Woodbridge Jetty Lane Community Youth and Arts Centre on 21 February. They have already awarded it £188,000 CIL funding.

When the previous Community Youth Centre was pulled down in 2017, many local groups were forced to move out of Woodbridge simply because there was nowhere to house them. The Jetty Lane site (Jetty Lane being the original name of The Avenue) – has been used uninterruptedly for Youth and Community clubs and meetings since 1949: that’s SEVENTY years! It is now the last site suitable for such a centre in Woodbridge, designed to serve the needs of the community in and around Woodbridge, designed to be sustainable, selfsupporting and affordable for community groups – and funded hopefully by charity bids.

The County Council have had such faith in the need for this project to have offered a 125y lease on the land at peppercorn rent. As Chair of Jetty Lane we are thrilled that the district council has demonstrated similar faith!