Post Office changes: five days to have your say

There are still five days for residents to comment on proposed changes to Post Office services at the Sutton One Stop.  You can take part in the consultation here.

I’ve just added my comments.  This is what I said in response to the questions asked.

“I use this Post Office predominantly to post parcels, mail shots and large letters; buy postage stamps; and withdraw cash.  I like the convenience of the location; the usually short queues; and the friendly, knowledgeable and helpful staff.

Extended hours of access to Post Office services would be helpful.  However, I am concerned at the proposal to locate Post Office tills on the retail counter, as this affords little privacy to customers enquiring about personal financial matters. It may also lengthen waiting times and increase queue volumes at the main retail counter which can already be lengthy on some occasions.  I would also be very concerned at losing the facility to collect missed parcels or letters from Sutton rather than going to Ely.  And while dedicated Post Office counters usually have plenty of postage stamps, retail tills often run short of the books of 6 or 12, or of first or second class stamps altogether.  I do sometimes buy the books of 100 stamps and not being able to do this will be mildly irritating.

Longer opening hours will be useful; it would be even better to have these without loss of service.

The greatest loss would be no longer being able to collect parcels or missed letters from the local branch; it is not clear whether residents will be able to continue to do this.

I would hope that any disruption to services during the transition would be kept to the absolute minimum.  Many residents do not drive, and though there is a bus to Ely in the daytime this will be inconvenient for some.”

Ely Road build-out petition

I’ve just signed the petition asking Cambridgeshire County Council to support our parish council’s bid to remove the build-out on Ely Road near the turning into Tramar Drive, and replace it with a more suitable traffic management scheme.  Evidence of local support is important in persuading the county council to back the parish council’s bid, so please sign the petition too if you would like to see an improved scheme in place here.

Postal services in Sutton: have your say

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Like a number of other Sutton residents, Mark Inskip and I are concerned about the consultation that appeared in the One Stop just before Christmas about the future of postal services there.

The plan is to close the dedicated post office counters at the shop, and provide post office services from the general counter. This would have the advantage of enabling longer opening hours for postal services, which would be available seven days a week from 7am to 10pm. However, it would have disadvantages, including potentially longer queues while complex queries are dealt with, lack of privacy when dealing with benefits issues, and increased vulnerability for staff.

It’s also possible that we may no longer be able to collect parcels from the One Stop, and will need to go to Ely and pay a £1.50 collection fee.

The consultation closes on 15 January, and the changes are proposed to be implemented from February. If you want to have your say about the proposals you can do so online – and leaflets are available in-store.

£62,400 for Sutton Primary School

Sutton Primary School is set to receive £62,400 next year through the pupil premium – the money given to schools to support pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. By 2015 our local primary school will have received £143,820 in pupil premium funding since the scheme was introduced by the Liberal Democrats in government. The pupil premium is intended to help children from less advantaged background catch up academically with their peers – and new figures suggest this is working.

Young people in work

Very pleased to hear the announcement in the Autumn Statement today that employers will no longer have to pay employers’ national insurance contributions on behalf of any employee under the age of 21. Here in East Cambridgeshire that’s 1,700 young people – a real boost for the businesses that employ them, and hopefully an encouragement to get more young people into work.

A14 toll

The Financial Times reports today that the Government is set to drop its proposal for tolling on the A14 after the proposed widening is put in place.  If so, that is truly excellent news, as it will give hauliers no incentive to avoid the A14 and thunder through villages such as Sutton and Haddenham.

However, it does make one wonder: if the Government is in a position to forgo the estimated £300 million in income from tolling, the £1 million East Cambridgeshire district council is giving the Government from our taxes towards the A14 project does rather pale into insignificance.  Even more so in view of the overall cost of the scheme, estimated at £1.5 billion.  But that £1 million, small change to a national government in a context like this, will make a huge dent in a small district council’s finances – something for which local council tax payers here in Sutton and across East Cambridgeshire will be paying for years to come.

Planning application: the old butchers’ shop

A planning application (reference number 13/00333/FUL if you want to look it up) is waiting for consideration by East Cambridgeshire District Council for the old butchers’ shop in the High Street. The application is for ‘Change of use from A1 (previous Butchers Shop) to Deli with hot food retail, and installation of extraction, to include ancillary seating. Mixed usage, mainly Deli with some hot food retail – A5, A1 & A3’.

This application would allow the building to be used as a shop (A1), café (A3) – or, controversially, as a hot food takeaway (A5).  (A list of ‘use classes’ can be found here).

There is huge support for the plans outlined by the applicants to operate a deli and café in the High Street. However, the planning application as it stands would allow the applicants to change their minds and open a fish and chip shop instead, or a kebab house, or a takeaway pizza outlet, or sell the building on to anyone else to do any of those things, without any further applications being required. That would leave the building wide open to exactly the kind of use that residents have been vocal in opposing ever since the butchers ceased operation.

The parish council has, as always in the case of planning applications, been asked for its view.  It has – rightly in my view – taken the approach that while the A1 and A3 use classes would be very welcome, planning permission for A5 use would leave the village at risk of a standard takeaway-only business opening in the middle of our high street, with no further planning application being required.

As has already been said, a planning application can’t be made specific to one applicant – planning permission for a hot food takeaway would be applicable to the current applicants, or to anyone else they sold the building to. It seems to me therefore that the Parish Council is doing exactly the right thing – supporting strongly the parts of the application that would enable a deli and café to open in the high street as residents wish, but opposing the parts of the application that would leave the field open for it to become yet another takeaway.

Wheelie bin update

Recycling leaflet

The leaflet from the council announcing the new recycling service is now arriving on residents’ doormats.

You can find out whether you’ll be getting wheelie bins from this list – find your street and if your specific address doesn’t appear below ‘view the collection calendar’ you should be getting the new bins.

If you’re not getting the new bins, your alternative collection arrangements are described here.

If you’re going to be getting wheelie bins, you can find out when they’ll arrive from this list.