Planning application for Deli@65

As previously reported, Deli@65 in the High Street in Sutton has applied for a variation in opening hours which would enable it to open earlier in the mornings, later in the evenings, and for six hours on Sundays.

In view of the high level of interest in this application from local residents, both for and against, I have ‘called in’ this application so that it will be considered in public by the council’s Planning Committee and not delegated to a council officer.

It’s now been confirmed to me that the application will go to the Planning Committee, but not when. It’s possible that the next meeting of the committee (1 April) will be too soon, and the following meeting, on 29 April, is likely to be reserved for discussion of a single item.

Comments on this application (to the council, not to me) are still open for another couple of days: you can use the council’s planning pages, or email the Planning Department.


Grants for home energy improvements

From midday on Monday 16 March, up to £70 million will be available for home energy efficiency grants to domestic properties through the government’s Green Deal Home Improvement Fund (GDHIF).

The Government has announced the third release from the Fund, with up to £5,600 available to households to help with the cost of installing energy saving measures such as solid wall insulation, double glazing, boilers, cavity wall and floor insulation.

More information including a grants calculator and contact details for enquiries is available here.

Business grants for superfast broadband

Government grants for superfast broadband are now available for businesses in East Cambridgeshire.

Connection vouchers provide funding of up to £3000 to pay for the installation cost of getting superfast broadband to offices. Businesses with fewer than 250 employers, sole traders, and charities are eligible for funding.

The scheme was initially for businesses in Cambridge and the South Cambridgeshire but has now been extended to the wider economic region until March 2016. The county council’s Connecting Cambridgeshire scheme has awarded over 170 connection vouchers so far and more are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Businesses can apply and find out more about the connection voucher scheme on the Destination Digital website.

Bus update

Last night saw a meeting for district and parish councillors across the north east of Cambridgeshire to hear about the county council’s plans to drastically reduce its subsidy to bus services across the county. This process has been going on for about three years now and has finally reached us.

There was a short presentation followed by questions and answers.  Although statistics and other information were provided about the No 9 route through Sutton from Chatteris to Cambridge, it was clear that the county council is thrashing about for what, if anything, to do with it. At £1.53 per passenger journey, the subsidy on non-commercial journeys on the No 9 is not as large as for some routes, and the route clearly serves a purpose – predominantly for people to do their shopping but also to get to work or college, or visit friends and family. Messing about with it is unlikely to save much money, but very likely to make life very difficult for anyone without a car.

I raised the potential of linking Sutton by bus to Longstanton, to connect us to the Guided Busway and make for a more straightforward journey into Cambridge than that offered by the No 9. However, it’s clear that the county council’s process is interested only in trying to save money on the non-commercial routes; anything else, including any prospect of evening and Sunday services, they are leaving entirely to the energies of the commercial transport providers such as Stagecoach.

What was interesting was the survey table showing that around half of all journeys on this long route started in Sutton, making our village the single biggest market for this service.

There will be a further meeting in a few months’ time which will bring forward some proposals for people to consider. The meeting lasted only a little over half of the time allotted to it.

Street light changes

Tonight the parish council held an extraordinary meeting to hear details of the changes to Sutton’s street lighting which are about to take place.

In July 2011 the whole of Cambridgeshire County Council’s street lighting was transferred to contractor Balfour Beatty under a 25 year Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract, in return for cheaper maintenance and energy costs. The contract included replacing over the first five years of the PFI all street lights that Balfour Beatty considered had fewer than 30 years of life left in them, and the removal of one out of every ten street lights to save money.

A total of 45 lighting columns will be switched off in Sutton’s streets and estates, as part of this programme. More details are available here while the Parish Council’s website here includes a very helpful set of detailed maps for downloading.

Work on the street lights will begin in March.  In the event of any queries, contact Balfour Beatty directly on 0800 7838 247 or text 07800 140782 or email

The parish council will need to make some decisions about the eighteen ‘heritage’ lighting columns in the high street conservation area. The county council is offering either to replace them free of charge with ordinary non-heritage columns; or to renew them at a cost to the parish council; or to allow the parish council to take on the responsibility (and the cost) of maintaining them.

It is somewhat surprising to say the least that the county council and its contractors appear to have no duty to have regard to an area’s conservation area status, and can simply remove heritage lighting columns and install ‘bog standard’ ones in a conservation area if other ‘lower tier’ councils don’t pay up. After all, any private citizen living in a conservation area who installed uPVC windows in their home would find planning officers descending on them like the proverbial ton of bricks.

No change to council’s recycling arrangements

The council has decided to make no change to the way our recycling is collected, following a review of whether it would be ‘technically, environmentally and economically practicable’ to move (back) to collecting recyclable materials in separate containers.

The review is the result of an EU directive on recycling, adopted into UK law. The directive says that recyclable materials should be collected separately from each other unless it is not ‘technically, environmentally and economically practicable’ (‘TEEP’, in the jargon) to do so. East Cambs District Council has carried out a review that shows that it’s not ‘TEEP’ to collect them separately, so it won’t be.

It’s clearly technically possible to collect recyclable materials in separate containers – East Cambs used to do so, and many other councils still do. However, it’s likely that making recycling harder work for households would increase the amount of recyclable waste just being put in with the general rubbish – remember how much our recycling rate improved here after the introduction of the wheelie bins – so it’s not environmentally practicable. And collecting all the different materials separately would cost more money – a lot more money – so it wouldn’t be economically practicable either.

So it’s no change. Carry on. As you were.

Housing condition survey

A study is to be carried out for the council of the condition of housing in East Cambridgeshire – private as well as social.

This won’t however mean people in muddy boots trudging into our living rooms to inspect the radiators. It’ll be a desk-based study by BRE Ltd (formerly the government’s Building Research Establishment), done by gathering together existing data from a variety of sources in a way that establishes relationships between them. These sources will include the English Housing Survey but also information such as census and credit rating data.

The report will provide useful information on the state of our district’s housing, from disrepair and inefficient heating to fuel poverty and fall hazards.

The council has a legal obligation to review the condition of its area’s housing from time to time – and the last survey, done in a very different way, was in 2009. This one will cost half as much, but provide better quality information which can then be updated by the council in real time.

Massive rise in cash for school places

The Government has announced that schools across Cambridgeshire will receive £32.7 million in 2017 to fund new school places, a rise of £28.9 million.

In contrast, this coming year the county will receive just £3.7 million, and in 2016 they will get only £3.8 million.

This extra funding will make a big difference to schools across Cambridgeshire. It means the County Council will be able to plan early for the number of school places it needs and hopefully we can also avoid the situation we have seen in the past where we have too many children starting school and too few places for them. Not only will this result in more schools being built across the county, it will allow the expansion and improvement of existing schools too.

Heavy vehicles update

This evening I attended the latest meeting of the group which is trying jointly to address the problem of heavy vehicles thundering through our villages.

As I’ve reported before, the group consists of parish councillors and others from villages including Sutton, Haddenham, Earith, Bluntisham, Cottenham and Hilton.  Its primary aim is to achieve a traffic regulation order restricting lorries cutting through the villages.  It’s been meeting now for over seven years.

I’m very pleased that there appears to be some progress towards the group’s goal, with a lot of evidence prepared.  I’m keen to ensure that the momentum continues, which will require the support of the various parish councils.  However, as many of these have elections on 7 May, the next stages will need to wait until then, so that the group can engage with the newly elected councils.

Concerns were expressed by the group at two planning applications in neighbouring areas: one at Dimmock’s Cote, Wicken which runs the risk of more than doubling the movement of heavy vehicles along the A1123 through Wicken and Stretham, and the other at Latta Farm in Colne which will add to the traffic joining the A1123 at the T junction in the middle of Earith.