Recent planning applications

The following local applications have been published recently by East Cambridgeshire District Council:

17/00264/FUL
Little Downham
62A Ely Road, Little Downham CB6 2SN
Demolition of existing single storey garage building and erection of 1.5 storey garage building with home office and shower room above.

17/00281/FUL
Mepal
Land adjacent to Springleys Paddock, Witcham Road, Mepal
Construction of four bed dwelling.

17/00268/FUL
Witchford
Plum Tree House, 163 Main Street, Witchford
Single storey rear extension.

17/00279/FUL
Witchford
1 Main Street, Witchford CB6 2HG
First floor extension to side.

17/00261/OUM
Witchford
Land south of Main Street, Witchford
Erection of up to 46 dwellings, together with associated public open space, landscaping, highways and drainage infrastructure works.

Further information can be found on the district council’s planning pages.If you would like to respond formally to the council about any planning application, comments should be addressed to the district council and not to me.  Comments may be made

  • online using the council’s public access webpage (the link above);
  • by email to plservices@eastcambs.gov.uk;
  • or by post to the Planning Department, The Grange, Nutholt Lane, Ely, CB7 4EE.

Two events for community groups

Are you involved with a local community group or organisation and looking for funding or support?  Cambridge Council for Voluntary Service is a charity funded to help and support local community and voluntary groups.  They are running two free events for local community and voluntary groups on Wednesday 8 and Wednesday 15 March:

Please follow the links above to book your place.

Storm Doris: a message from UK Power Networks

UK Power Networks has issued the following note about what to do if you experience a power cut tomorrow during Storm Doris.


You may have seen that bad weather is on the way and we are likely to see high winds in parts of the East of England tomorrow (Thursday, 23 February).

Our electricity network is built to be resilient but extreme weather can damage overhead power lines resulting in some customers losing their electricity supply.  Where this happens we work to restore power as quickly and safely as possible, and we have organised for additional staff in our contact centre and more engineers on the ground to be available to help customers whose electricity supply might be affected by the predicted weather.

You will be able to find regular updates on our website www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk and social media @ukpowernetworks throughout this period.

Anyone experiencing a power cut should:

  • Call 105 to report power cuts and damage to the electricity network
  • Visit ukpowernetworks.co.uk for the latest update
  • Visit ukpowernetworks.co.uk/powercut and type in their postcode to view our live power cut map
  • Tweet @ukpowernetworks to report a power cuts or to receive updates

UK Power Networks has a Priority Service Register for customers who may be more vulnerable and require extra assistance in a power cut. You can find out more information on our website: ukpowernetworks.co.uk/priority.

We advise people to stay clear of power lines and report damaged power lines immediately by calling 105 – free to call from a landline or a mobile phone. If they see electricity lines that are down or causing significant risk to the public they should call 999.

Preparing for a power cut

Below is some additional advice on how you can prepare for a power cut:

  • Keep our freephone number handy
  • See the website for some useful videos offering you advice during a power cut.
  • Keep spare batteries for radios and torches – local radio stations often broadcast helpful information
  • Keep an old-fashioned corded phone which you can plug in, as cordless phones won’t work in the event of a power cut
  • Take care if using candles, tea-lights and other naked flames
  • Keep fridges and freezers closed, with a blanket over as they will stay cold for many hours
  • Switch off all your electrical equipment, except one light which will let you know when the power comes back on
  • Remember the street lights may also be off so take care if you go out
  • Look out for elderly neighbours and other vulnerable people; please consider taking them round a flask of hot water or hot food

Stay safe at home

Crime reduction officer Sue Loaker, police sergeant Phil Priestley, and community safety officer Charlotte Homent gave a very useful presentation tonight at the Pavilion in Sutton about staying safe at home.

Sue Loaker started by explaining what makes a property a target for criminals: high walls and hedges in front so that it’s not obvious if criminal activity is in progress, and easy access to the back of the house.

So do go for

  • low fences and planting in the front of the house
  • a good lockable gate (at least 6ft) to deter entry to the back
  • motion sensor lighting as high as possible on the building
  • ‘dusk till dawn’ bulbs in fittings
  • padlocked sheds and outbuildings with obscured views of the contents
  • trellis which is difficult for intruders to climb on, and which snags fingers and fabric.

Home CCTV can be a deterrent, though often intruders will just pull up their hoodie.  And burglar alarms can also work, provided you actually use them.  But the most important thing you can do to keep your home safe is to deny unwelcome visitors easy access to the back of your home.

Doors and windows need good locks (remove the keys), and you can also obtain window shock alarms from Sue at the police station for a small charge.  They can be fitted for older residents through the Bobby scheme.

Intruders will visit the bedrooms first, looking for items including cash, jewellery, photography equipment, and small TVs.  Sue can supply useful solutions for keeping items safer at home; but the best place for large amounts of cash is always the bank.

If you are worried about a nearby premises which looks as if the occupants might be vulnerable to crime, the new Community Eyes and Ears scheme is worth a visit.  Phil Priestley also recommended following ‘Policing East Cambridgeshire’ on Facebook, and you can also sign up to eCops to receive regular email updates from the local policing team.

Charlotte Homent from the county council gave a useful over view of scams: unsolicited contacts from people making false promises to con you out of money.  This can be on the doorstep, by phone, by email.  On the doorstep, it can be rogue traders or distraction burglars, using time pressure and plausible patter, arriving in unmarked vans, with no landline phone number to give out.  Watch out for neighbours who may have fallen for their wiles, and call 101 if you need to.  Scammers can be persistent, aggressive – and it’s not rude for you to refuse to answer the door, or to put the phone down on them.  If you’ve been tricked before, it’s more likely that your number will be on lists circulated among dodgy dealers.

Only about one in twenty scams is reported, whether through embarrassment or just that the victim doesn’t realise they have been scammed: through text messages or ‘phishing’ emails allegedly from your bank, or people posing as Microsoft or BT Openreach.  Every year between £5 and £10 billion is lost in the UK to scammers, and half of over-60s have been targeted.

Keep your door locked, and if someone knocks, use the chain before opening, and check the ID of visitors (don’t phone the number on the ID card as it could be bogus).  Many utilities offer a scheme whereby they will agree a password with you which their staff must give when they visit.

If you really do need work done on the house or garden, get three quotes, and use workmen from schemes like Buy With Confidence, Trusted Trader, or Rated People.  Don’t pay up-front.

If you’re being pestered on the phone, one member of the public recommended BT Call Guardian.

Charlotte and her team can help local residents set up ‘Good Neighbours’ schemes to help communities look out for themselves and each other, and can supply door stickers, leaflets and other materials.

But for all this, we were reminded that East Cambridgeshire does have one of the lowest rates of crime in the country. So while we need to be vigilant, we should try not to have nightmares.

Recent planning applications

The following local applications have been published recently by East Cambridgeshire District Council:

17/00184/FUL
Mepal
Site west of Broadmead, Witcham Road, Mepal
Construction of 2no bungalows.

17/00167/FUL
Sutton
14 West Lodge Lane, Sutton CB6 2NX
Single storey extension.

17/00108/FUL
Sutton
1 Bury Lane, Sutton CB6 2BB
Construction of single storey log cabin style annex.

17/01790/FUL
Wentworth
Denbigh House, Ely Road, Witcham Toll
Single storey rear, front and side extension and garage conversion.

17/00187/FUL
Witcham
Park Farm, Market Way, Witcham
Demolition of existing dwelling plus outbuildings and erection of a four bed detached dwelling, garaging and associated site works.

17/00177/FUL
Witchford
123 Main Street, Witchford CB6 2HP
Single storey rear extension.

17/00153/SCREEN
Witchford
Land South of Main Street, Witchford
Screening opinion – proposed development of 46 dwellings.

17/00093/FUL
Witchford
17 Sutton Road, Witchford CB6 2HX
Ground floor extension for sun room and new internal layout.

Further information can be found on the district council’s planning pages.If you would like to respond formally to the council about any planning application, comments should be addressed to the district council and not to me.  Comments may be made

  • online using the council’s public access webpage (the link above);
  • by email to plservices@eastcambs.gov.uk;
  • or by post to the Planning Department, The Grange, Nutholt Lane, Ely, CB7 4EE.

Valentine’s Day at Shire Hall

Wrapped Notes

County councillors know how to spend Valentine’s Day.  No romance, no flowers or dinner for two – instead we’ll be at Shire Hall trying to agree a council budget for the twelve months starting in April.

(Last year, the budget setting meeting started in the morning, and finished after 9:30 in the evening.  This year could be similar.  And if the council doesn’t agree a budget tomorrow, we’ll be back on Friday until we do).

Financial pressure
The county council is under financial pressure.  There is inflation, cautiously predicted to be one per cent.  And there is the overall increase in the size of the population, and in particular the increase in those requiring expensive services such as social care.  These include vulnerable young people and the elderly – and the important services the county council provides for these groups of people account for over 60 per cent of what the council spends in total.  The crisis in adult social care across the country has been regularly reported in the national news.

Government funding
Traditionally central government has allocated a grant to the county council to support the cost of providing basic services. This grant is being phased out. This year it was £33m; in the year starting in April will be £15m, in two years’ time it will be zero. This increases the pressure on local councils.

Council tax
Half of what the council spends on its services (£254m out of £509m) comes from what we all pay through council tax.

The government restricts how much councils can increase their local tax. They can increase the basic level of council tax by up to 1.99 per cent each year, and on top of that they can also charge a further six per cent for adult social care over three years – which could be two per cent each year, or three per cent in the first two years and nothing in the third, for example.  If councils want to raise any more than this they must hold a referendum.

The alternatives
Council officers have prepared a ‘business plan’ for the council which assumes the council will agree a two per cent increase in council tax for adult social care, but no other increase. This would mean the council would need to be more efficient in the way it does things (because of inflation and the growing population), but would also need to cut some services.

The different political groups on the council have come up with different proposals for how much council tax should be increased this year – from 0 per cent to 5 per cent in total – and how the council should spend any extra money raised in extra council tax.  There are five different budget proposals for discussion tomorrow, which are likely to be considered in the following order:

  1. UKIP is proposing a total freeze on council tax and to use the council’s savings to keep up spending this year.
  2. The Liberal Democrats are proposing a two per cent increase for adult social care, and a 1.99 per cent increase for other services.  This would reduce the cuts to services for children and vulnerable adults, make improvements in rural bus services, community transport and road maintenance, and end parking charges for the Park and Ride sites around Cambridge.
  3. Labour propose increasing adult social care by three per cent, and the general council tax by 1.99 per cent.  Their proposal also aims to scrap Park and Ride parking charges.  It would restore the Cambridge City Centre shuttle bus service, remove the cut to buying new books for public libraries, reverse cuts for mental health disabilities and autism, and set up a county council fund to invest in commercial property.
  4. The Conservatives are proposing the two per cent increase for social care but no more. They propose increasing expenditure on roads, pavements, and mental health, and say that the money for this will come from achieving more savings in council spending from next year onwards.
  5. Finally, a joint Liberal Democrat and Labour amendment (if all the above are defeated) proposes a two per cent increase for adult social care, and a 1.99 per cent increase for other services. This amendment combines some of the proposals in (2) and (3) above.

It could be a very long day!

Review of Cambridgeshire’s pharmacy services

health-capsules-tablets-thermometer

Cambridgeshire Health and Wellbeing Board has published a review of pharmaceutical services in Cambridgeshire, and is consulting the public about what it says.

The review will help in the commissioning of pharmaceutical services, and will be used by NHS England when making decisions on applications to open new pharmacies.

The public consultation runs from 30 January to 30 April.  A short summary and the full report are available at www.cambridgeshireinsight.org.uk/JSNA/PNA where there is also a short questionnaire.

Anyone who cannot complete the questionnaire because they have special needs (for example, problems with vision or language) and has no one to help them do it can contact 01480 379493 in office hours for someone to help them respond to the consultation.

Overall, the review finds that Cambridgeshire is well provided for, with 110 pharmacies across Cambridgeshire and 43 dispensing GP practices.  This may change as population grows, so the Board will monitor developments to consider where new pharmacies might be needed.

The review seems to show that opening hours are good, and 96 per cent of pharmacies (and 62 per cent of dispensing GP practices) offer some kind of home delivery service to those who have no car or cannot use public transport.  84 per cent of community pharmacies offer flu vaccinations.

The review finds that ‘stop smoking’ activities in community pharmacies in Cambridgeshire have decreased since 2014, and there are still many community pharmacies that do not provide this service. The Board thinks there is potential for further development in this area.

Only 26 of the 100 pharmacies offer a chlamydia screening programme, and 28 provide emergency hormonal contraception.  34 pharmacies provide specialist drug and alcohol treatment and support, including access to sterile needs and syringes and supervising the administration of some drugs to reduce drug dependence and misuse.

All pharmacies support six Public Health campaigns every year as part of their NHS contract.  Many pharmacies currently offer weight management advice and advice on physical activity, and the Board thinks that more pharmacies could help with alcohol screening and advice on reducing alcohol consumption.

Pharmacies are encouraged to bid for local health improvement contracts to provide services, and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society recommends that pharmacists collaborate with each other and with other healthcare professions to provide ‘joined-up, patient-centred health and social care’.  The review says the Health and Wellbeing Board should encourage the involvement of pharmacies and pharmacy teams in developing local plans and systems of integrated working for health.

The Local Plan and … GP facilities

This morning, Cambridgeshire county council’s Economy & Environment Committee will be discussing its response (Item 6 with two appendices) to East Cambridgeshire district council’s revised draft local plan.

The county council isn’t responsible for providing GP facilities.  GP practices are individual businesses, and the responsibility for ensuring there are enough of them to serve their communities, and that they are funded to do what the NHS needs, rests with NHS England together with our local Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group.

(There is a ‘rule of thumb’ that each full time GP should serve around 1,800 patients.  Most GP practices will operate at this level because, as businesses, they will want to operate as close as they can to full capacity).

The draft local plan for East Cambridgeshire mentions only three specific sites for expanded health facilities:

  • Enhanced health facilities in Ely including the Princess of Wales Hospital
  • Extension to Staploe Medical Centre in Soham
  • Expansion of GP medical services in Sutton

The county council’s draft response recommends that the district council should consult with NHS England and the Clinical Commissioning Group to make sure this fits with their plans.

It also warns that the smaller sites in the draft local plan will have a ‘cumulative impact on health services’ and that the infrastructure development plan should take this into account.

The Local Plan and … schools

One of the concerns most frequently expressed by local residents is the effect of thousands of new homes in East Cambridgeshire on local schools.

The county council is responsible in law for ensuring that there is a school place for every child of school age.  This morning, Cambridgeshire county council’s Economy & Environment Committee will be discussing its response (Item 6 with two appendices) to East Cambridgeshire district council’s revised draft local plan.

So what does the county council think of the revised draft plan for our area?

There will be ‘real challenges’ in supplying school places

It’s clear that the county council thinks we shouldn’t be starting from here.  It responded to the first draft of the district council’s local plan last year, to say that it preferred ‘growth in the main settlements where the proximity to existing infrastructure could be utilised and expanded and the scale of development on individual allocations could support on-site provision of infrastructure’.

But instead of concentrating development in this way, the district council has decided to spread it evenly across East Cambridgeshire, in proportion to the size of each town and village.  The county council says that ‘this option would pose real challenges to managing the effective provision of infrastructure, particularly school places, to meet the additional demands of the new Plan’, and that there will be ‘major implications for the delivery of school places as a consequence of the new spatial strategy’.

A lot of the proposed developments will not be big enough to require a ‘Section 106’ financial contribution by the developer, nor to enable new schools to be built on-site.

Children may have to travel further to school

In the proposed new local plan, a lot more houses are due to be built in smaller villages, and in larger villages such as Fordham, Isleham, Stretham and Witchford where primary schools have no room to expand.  The county council warns that ‘the limited scope for expansion coupled with increasing pupil roles [sic] may in certain settlements result in the need to travel further to access school places’.

The local plan could mean

  • Pupils attending schools outside their own village
  • Money from developers going to expand schools in neighbouring towns and villages rather than in the community where the houses are being built
  • Loss of ‘community cohesion’ as children are bussed to different schools.

A list of primary schools with no room for expansion is at the end of this post.

Providing more secondary school places will be difficult

The revised draft plan will mean four more forms of entry at secondary schools in Ely, four in Soham, and two in Witchford.  A new secondary school will open at Littleport in September.  But even on top of this another two more forms of entry to secondary school may be needed.  The county council says this too will be a ‘real challenge’ in terms of costs and of finding a suitable site if our secondary schools cannot expand enough where they are.

‘In the longer term,’ the county council says, ‘the level of growth in the plan and the impact of future services will have significant capital and revenue implications for a range of Council service.’

Primary schools with no room for expansion

  • Cheveley
  • Ely St John’s
  • Fen Ditton
  • Fordham
  • Great Wilbraham
  • Isleham
  • Isle of Ely
  • Kennett
  • Kettlefields (Dullingham)
  • Little Thetford
  • Mepal and Witcham
  • Spring Meadow Infants and Ely St Mary’s
  • Stretham
  • Swaffham Bulbeck
  • Swaffham Prior
  • Teversham
  • Rackham (Witchford)
  • Weatheralls (Soham)
  • Wilburton

Some schools – but not all – hit by apprenticeship levy

The government’s new ‘apprenticeship levy’ is a levy on UK employers to fund new apprenticeships.  It’s due from all employers with an annual pay bill of over £3 million – who will have to put 0.5 per cent of their pay bill into the fund.

If you’re a school that’s run by the council, whether as a community school or a ‘voluntary controlled’ school, the pay bill that matters isn’t yours, it’s the county council’s as they are the employer of your staff.  So even the smallest local authority schools in Cambridgeshire will have to pay 0.5 per cent of their pay bill to the Government.

However, if you’re an academy or a voluntary aided school, it might be a different story.  If the trust that runs you is too small to reach the £3 million pay bill threshold, you won’t have to contribute to the apprenticeship levy, even if you’re the same size as (or even bigger than) the next door local authority school that does.  And that doesn’t seem fair to me.

There are a lot of other changes to education funding going on this year which will increase or decrease the cash going to individual schools.  The government is short-changing schools by not inflation-proofing the grant it gives them (bad news).  On the other hand, the government is proposing a national funding formula (good news) whose effect has been to move money away from relatively well funded urban areas into rural areas. On the third hand, they have increased the deprivation component and reduced the lump sum that goes to all schools, so some small rural schools serving non-deprived areas will see a small loss.

So it’s a complicated picture of swings and roundabouts, not just a slide.  But it seems wrong that all local authority schools, however small, will have to pay the apprenticeship levy, while the same rules won’t apply to some academies.

With thanks to Huntingdonshire’s Cllr Peter Downes for advising on the technicalities of the rules. Any remaining errors are mine.